The planet and humankind are undergoing one of the periodic phase changes that bring so much turmoil and trauma to the global ecosystem. The geopolitical situation is characterised by the intensifying conflict between the Atlantic-centric power structure, hegemonic since more than four centuries, and some new or resurgent civilisational (national and ideological) force fields.
The incipient world war is taking place between the US and its NATO/EU confederates on one side and the China-centric system, encompassing Russia, Iran and a number of “developing” nations. Some outlying allies of the West: Arab and African countries, Turkey, Japan, South Korea and South East Asian nations are torn between opposite gravitational pulls in the growing tug of war.
In their disdain for the enfeebled post-Soviet state, the US and the EU sought to reduce Russia to vassal status and pushed the Kremlin in reaction to form an alliance with China. Backed by Beijing, President Vladimir Putin was able to resist NATO/EU encroachments into the Russian periphery, while defeating ongoing attempts to destabilise his country through not so covert regime change strategies. However, Russia cannot afford to be too closely aligned with China and must rebuild agreements with the West as successive Muscovite states did, under the Tzars and in the soviet days. On the other hand, many American decision-makers feel that they cannot afford to let Russia and Europe come together.
China’s expansion is reaching a limit as it rubs against the US sphere of influence in the Pacific and China Sea and meets with a western pushback in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Beijing’s policy of flooding the world with exports and capital, while building up power on all continents, relied on access to a relatively free global market and on the steady decline in US strength. China is changing course and seeks to beat America at its own game by taking the lead in technological innovation. Obama’s “leading from behind” doctrine, which accords well with this President’s indecisive and deceptive personality, manifests in the underhanded support given by Washington to Syrian rebels since well before 2011, to the pro-American Ukrainian putschists of 2014 and, more recently to the “soft coups” against leftist governments in Honduras, Paraguay and Brazil and to the sabotage driving Bolivarian Venezuela to the brink of collapse.
The post-modern interventionist doctrine rests on the concept of “R2P” (responsibility to protect), used to override the legal doctrine of state sovereignty, but it does not always succeed. In Syria, Iraq and Libya, Washington has illegally supported a nebula of fighting groups, mostly inspired by hardline Sunni radicalism and devoid of any unified leadership or programme, with the exceptions of the Kurdish factions and the self-styled Islamic Khalifate. The victory of those sundry protégés of the West can only bring about the fragmentation of these countries into warring enclaves, but the US government, heavily influenced by Israeli policymakers, may prefer continued chaos in the region to a settlement it would find humiliating for itself. Out of frustration, the West has repeatedly broadcast unproven accusations against the Syrian government, often related to the use of chemical weapons which appear indeed to be a weapon of choice for the local US-Saudi-Qatari surrogates.
The Obama administration also miscalculated, if it had a hand in the failed 15 July army coup in Turkey, which widened the rift between that critically important NATO member and the western coalition. There are doubts about US involvement in the botched military operation against Erdogan AKP’s regime, but as a NATO component the Turkish armed forces are closely supervised by the Pentagon and the CIA, which could hardly have failed to notice the preparations for the coup that extended to the Incirlik base, home to American nuclear weapons and US/European NATO contingents. The ostensible instigator is the Hizmet organisation headed by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a favourite of the US intelligence system, which sees him as the archetype of a reformist and moderate, Israel-friendly “Good Muslim” (in the dichotomy used by Mahmud Mamdani). Erdogan parted ways with the Americans when he broke up with his former ally Gulen and cracked down on his supporters, while claiming to be the real Islamic leader. This policy has now led to the transformation of Ataturk’s republic into a virtual dictatorship. It may also force Turkey to step out of NATO, come closer to Iran and join the emerging Eurasian bloc represented by the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. That deals a crushing blow to the western alliance at a time when, post-BREXIT, Britain is working to establish a free trade agreement with China and to reconstitute an “Economic Community Light” on the flanks of the EU. London has long intended to break the monolithic German-run EU into a two-tier system, in which a peripheral free market Euro-free area would cut down to size the Franco-German Eurozone. In parallel, Russia is pressing Germany to restore the Bismarckian Berlin-Moscow axis, while betting on a possible Trump presidency to secure a balancing role between the US and China, thereby neutralising NATO.
Europe is again a battlefield between various internal and foreign forces. France is at risk of being eventually overtaken by the rapidly growing internal Muslim factor, foreshadowed since the 19th century by her annexation of North and West Africa. During the Renaissance, encircled by the Habsburg Empire, King Francois I invited the Turkish Sultan to set up base on the Mediterranean coast of the country, brushing aside accusations from the Pope and the Emperor that he was allying with the Muslims who had only recently been pushed out of Spain. Germany was also targeted by the Ottomans from the southeast until the imperial general Prince Eugene of Savoy decisively defeated them in the late 17th century. Several Muslim religious and political leaders now openly forecast the gradual absorption of Europe into a wider Afro-Asian Islamosphere. Under the watch of strategically inept “business managers” like Angela Merkel and with the blessings of a politically correct establishment that is not a far-fetched outcome, absent a well organised reaction which, many feel requires an alliance with Russia, rather than depending on a distant and ambivalent US.
In the United States, industrial production and job creation have long taken a back seat to consumption-driven financial expansion made possible by debt creation to fund imports from low-income countries to which industry has been outsourced while MNC profits are parked away in tax-free havens. This “growth” is tied to the defence and security economy, which requires feeding regional wars, militarising society and ratcheting up tensions by harnessing the fear of terrorism. There is a split in the body politic between mainstream Democrats (minus the sidelined pro-Bernie Sanders wing) who, under the DNC-vetted Clinton leadership, want to double down on those policies, and the grassroots Republicans who wish Trump to close borders to protect the country and the domestic industry, reduce the country’s global military footprint and cold war tensions by establishing amiable relations with Russia, if only to better resist China’s economic juggernaut. Despite all the often justified excoriation and ridicule heaped on Trump, one must give him credit for overthrowing the oligarchic elite of the GOP, including calamitous and despised figures as the Bushes, Cheney, Romney and McCain while containing extremist Christian Evangelists and militant Israel-First Zionists in the Party. There are some parallels between the new GOP personified by Trump and the “Bull Moose” reform started by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and his opposition to “open borders globalization” reflects an almost universally rising anti-free market trend.
Many neo-conservative ideologues, responsible for the disastrous military adventures of the last 20 years have endorsed Hillary Clinton, in whom they see the heiress of George W. Bush and his belligerent team. Apart from most of the national establishment, increasingly determined to defeat Trump by any and all means, she also carries the hopes of the Arab Sunni oil potentates, who rely on her to continue undermining Iran and supporting Islamist rebels in “Syraq”. The Chinese, concerned about Trump’s protectionistic tendencies, also prefer Hillary, who has benefited from Riyadh’s and Beijing’s generous financial support, only matched by contributions from pro-American Ukrainian oligarchs. Whoever is elected in the US this year, will start as a tarnished and discredited President. In this turmoil, India remains seemingly unperturbed as the putative friend to all. Instead of openly criticising Delhi’s accession to BRICS and the SCO, Washington hopes that India will have a moderating influence in those conclaves perceived as harmful to US dominance. It remains to be seen how India will manage to remain relatively disengaged in keeping with her very ancient diplomatic traditions of universal but detached goodwill: karuna with vairagya.
Come Carpentier de Gourdon, convenor of the International Board of World Affairs, The Journal of International Issues, is the author of various books — the most recent being Memories Of A Hundred And One Moons: An Indian Odyssey (2015) — and of many published papers about such topics as history of culture and science, geopolitics, exopolitics, philosophy and aspects of Indian civilisation. He has lectured in several universities in India and in other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas.