Who made the pivot to Asia? Putin

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: On Wednesday, it finally happened—the pivot to Asia. No, not the United States. It was Russia that turned East.

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In Shanghai, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a spectacular energy deal—$400 billion of Siberian natural gas to be exported to China over 30 years.

This is huge. By indelibly linking producer and consumer —the pipeline alone is a $70 billion infrastructure project—it deflates the post-Ukraine Western threat (mostly empty, but still very loud) to cut European imports of Russian gas. Putin has just defiantly demonstrated that he has other places to go.

The Russia-China deal also makes a mockery of US boasts to have isolated Russia because of Ukraine. Not even Germany wants to risk a serious rupture with Russia (hence the absence of significant sanctions). And now Putin has just ostentatiously unveiled a signal 30-year energy partnership with the world’s second-largest economy. Some isolation.

The contrast with President Obama’s own vaunted pivot to Asia is embarrassing. He went to Japan last month also seeking a major trade agreement that would symbolize and cement a pivotal strategic alliance. He came home empty-handed.

Does the Obama foreign policy team even understand what is happening? For them, the Russia-China alliance is simply more retrograde, 19th-century, balance-of-power maneuvering by men of the past oblivious to the reality of a 21st century governed by law and norms. A place where, for example, one simply doesn’t annex a neighbor’s territory. Indeed, Obama scolds Russia and China for not living up to their obligations as major stakeholders in this new interdependent world.

The Chinese and Russians can only roll their eyes. These norms and rules mean nothing to them. They see these alleged norms as forms of velvet-glove imperialism, clever extensions of a Western hegemony meant to keep Russia in its reduced post-Soviet condition and China contained by a dominant US military.

Obama cites modern rules; Russia and China, animated by resurgent nationalism, are governed by ancient maps. Putin refers to eastern and southern Ukraine by the old czarist term of “New Russia.” And China’s foreign minister justifies vast territorial claims that violate maritime law by citing traditional (“nine-dash”) maps that grant China dominion over the East and South China Seas.

Which makes this alignment of the world’s two leading anti-Western powers all the more significant. It marks a major alteration in the global balance of power.

Putin to Shanghai reprises Nixon to China. To be sure, it’s not the surprise that Henry Kissinger pulled off in secret. But it is the capstone of a gradual—now accelerated—Russia-China rapprochement that essentially undoes the Kissinger-Nixon achievement.

Their 1972 strategic coup fundamentally turned the geopolitical tables on Moscow. Putin has now turned the same tables on us. China and Russia together represent the core of a new coalition of anti-democratic autocracies challenging the Western-imposed, post-Cold War status quo. Their enhanced partnership marks the first emergence of a global coalition against American hegemony since the fall of the Berlin wall.

Indeed, at this week’s Asian cooperation conference, Xi proposed a brand-new continental security system to include Russia and Iran (lest anyone mistake its anti-imperialist essence) and exclude America. This is an open challenge to the post-Cold War, U.S.-dominated world that Obama inherited and then weakened beyond imagining.

If carried through, it would mark the end of a quarter-century of unipolarity. And herald a return to a form of bipolarity —two global coalitions: one free, one not—though, with communism dead, not as structurally rigid or ideologically dangerous as Cold War bipolarity. Not a fight to the finish, but a struggle nonetheless—for dominion and domination.

To which Obama, who once proclaimed that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation,” is passive, perhaps even oblivious. His pivot to Asia remains a dead letter. Yet his withdrawal from the Middle East— where from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, from Libya to Syria, US influence is at its lowest ebb in 40 years—is a fait accompli.

The retreat is compounded by Obama’s proposed major cuts in defense spending (down to below 3 percent of GDP by 2017) even as Russia is rearming and China is creating a sophisticated military soon capable of denying America access to the waters of the Pacific Rim.

Decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice, Obama’s choice. And it’s the one area where he is succeeding splendidly.

© 2014, The Washington Post Writers Group

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7 Comments

  1. victor m. hernandez on

    It’s an economic reality that impact most on the decision of Obama to disengage that results in less intervention in the affairs of other nation. Looks like a resource allocation of guns and butter. USA is over indebted, from China mostly. Its economy is still struggling to recover. It is trying to recover from the economic doldrums. Its military power is sufficient for its security concern. Yes the ‘decline’ is a choice, which is not necessarily to the disadvantage and deleterious to the US. Other countries who rely on USA’s doles and defenses shall be better off to be self-reliant to address the concerns of their economies and security; and take firm resolve to take care of their own national interest.

    • Decline is a ”choice” but only by those whose choice is to see America decline, and world order demise as well, and then the takeover of the Chinese, Russians ans the Iranians. A very pretty picture to behold… congrats for a job well done.

  2. Guess who’s the most dangerous man in the world today?It’s Obama.He is encouraging every despot in the world.North Korea and Iran might as well join the China/Russia duo in grabbing territories.

  3. Mr. Krauthamer has beautifully unmasked Obama’s severe lack of leadership and glaring weaknesses. These incursions in the Ukraine and in the South China sea are no accident. They were deliberate and calculating. Russia and China took an advantage of those weaknesses. With that being said Obama has placed the whole world in grave danger.

  4. This is the type of write you want in the philippines. Charles is one of my favourite contributors on fox news. Everything he says is so easy to understand & its right to the point. There is no smoke & mirrors that gets past him. So take note philippines & man up, your country will be better for it.

  5. *** :”The retreat is compounded by Obama’s proposed major cuts in defense spending (down to below 3 percent of GDP by 2017) even as Russia is rearming and China is creating a sophisticated military soon capable of denying America access to the waters of the Pacific Rim:” ***. Really ??? The fact is that the US out-spends the top ten highest military spending countries. These are as follows (in Billions of dollars):
    1 United States United States 640.0
    2 China People’s Republic of China[a] 188.0
    3 Russia Russia[a] 87.8
    4 Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia[b] 67.0
    5 France France 61.2
    6 United Kingdom United Kingdom 57.9
    7 Germany Germany[a] 48.8
    8 Japan Japan 48.6
    9 India India 47.4
    10 South Korea South Korea 33.9
    11 Italy Italy[a] 32.7
    The US also has the largest number of bases and military structures all over the world. And the author is afraid that the US is declining? It is definitely not – the US is still top imperialist monster !!!