Russia and China: Arms around the Middle East

EDITOR’S NOTE : Readers, I am  pleased to bring you Sharmine Narwani’s first analysis for the brand new BRICS Post, a media venture backed by the five BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries. A News & Views website of enormous significance considering the events that are unfolding today not just in the Middle East, but also Africa and Asia and the role that the five BRICS states will play in shaping the global political and economic balance of power. Sharmine Narwani always provides crisp and poignant commentary. She is always on the money. You will always learn something from reading her articles.


By Sharmine Narwani


Leaders raise their arms together during the group picture for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) 2012 Summit in New Delhi, India (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Russia and China have drawn a great deal of censure this past year for resisting UN Security Council resolutions to intervene in the domestic affairs of Syria and Iran.

Why, many ask, would this duo leverage their growing global political clout for two Mideast states that have been so actively marginalized by the other UN Security Council permanent members – the US, UK and France?

And do these new Russian and Chinese positions place them on a collision course with Washington – in the Middle East and elsewhere?

While the US has typically viewed this Russo-Chinese activism as a direct challenge to its global hegemonic interests, neither Moscow nor Beijing have any specific strategy to slay the American behemoth.

On the contrary, the non-confrontational positions they take in the Middle East are “reactive” ones, designed to slow down, halt or counter US economic, political and military aggressions heading in their direction.

Russia and China have good reason to be concerned about US initiatives in the international arena in the past few years.

Empire confronts Emerging Powers

The UN Security Council has morphed into little more than a rubber stamp for Washington’s foreign policy ambitions. Instead of acting to preserve international peace and security, the UN body has either sponsored or tacitly accepted one too many US-backed regime-change adventure for the liking of the world’s newly emergent political and economic powers, the BRICS.

But for obvious reasons, it is Russia and China who have been tasked to do the heavy lifting.

For one, Washington’s hostility is focused most heavily on these two BRICS states.

The end of the Cold War marked the beginning of a uni-polar world dominated in all spheres by the United States. Most threatening to this US hegemony today is China, whose dizzying economic growth has accompanied an American decline.

Not only has the US racked up unprecedented financial debt with the Chinese, but Beijing – favorably positioned in a region that will most likely enjoy explosive growth in the next few years – appears to be going from strength to strength.

Economic hegemony is the driver of political power, so Washington has used every threat in the book to crash China’s party. Narratives now abound about the danger China poses in its direct neighborhood, so American warships head into the South China Seas to offer protective cover.

In yet another anti-China storyline, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2011 warned shrilly about China’s “neo-colonialism” in places like Africa, ostensibly to shift business away from the enterprising Chinese back to the original colonial and imperial powers.

Clinton directly confronted the Russians in a no less aggressive manner when, in the aftermath of the 2011 parliamentary elections, she incited Russians to take to the streets and protest against “electoral fraud.”

The incident was seen by US-nemesis Vladimir Putin as a color-revolution tactic to scuttle his anticipated victory in the upcoming presidential elections. By the time he won the poll, frigidity had seeped into bilateral relations.

But American tactics have misfired. US confrontation has not marginalized Russian and Chinese power – instead it has helped give it “direction.”

Forming Alliances for Protection

Unwilling to take these undeserved hits, Russia and China have been forced to form protective alliances against US aggression in various arenas. The most obvious of these is the BRICS, once nothing more than a convenient acronym to characterise four disparate emerging economic powers. In no small part because of US aggressions, this grouping suddenly found its feet, and began to collude on defence, economic and financial projects.

And then on November 24, 2011, the BRICS announced their first joint foreign policy statement – on the Middle East of all places – urging, among other things, the rejection of foreign intervention in Syria’s internal affairs.

This is no coincidence. For reasons of timing, geography, urgency and threat, Syria became the de facto “line in the sand” for the BRICS. There would be no more tolerance for the military and regime change adventures of the United States and its allies.

REBELS SYRIA CRISIS : In 2012 Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution proposing further sanctions on Syria. [AP]

By virtue of their geopolitical and economic weight, these nations decided to decisively insert the concept of “soft power” into the dangerous Syrian crisis, and force the international community to grow up and find a political solution. Russia and China put their “arms around Syria,” so to speak.

While this was an important step forward for all involved, it was particularly urgent for Russia and China to intervene. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, these two wielded the most clout, but they also had the most to lose if the unpredictable tsunamis spinning in the Middle East did not stop at Syria’s borders.

For one, they believed the US would not rein in its interventionist behaviors until it had effectively landed at the doorsteps of Beijing and Moscow.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger points to the obvious in a Washington Post Op-Ed he penned last June about the repercussions of overzealous American interventionism: “Intervention that is unilateral or based on a coalition of the willing evokes the resistance of countries fearing the application of the policy to their territories (such as China and Russia).”

But there have been other critical considerations, some of these gleaned from more than a decade of watching American-led regime change operations in Afghanistan, then Iraq and more recently, in Libya – all disasters.

Under the deceptive guise of “humanitarian intervention,” Kissinger argues that the United States is in effect undermining the existing world order, which is premised on the territorial inviolability of the sovereign nation-state:

“In reacting to one human tragedy, we must be careful not to facilitate another. In the absence of a clearly articulated strategic concept, a world order that erodes borders and merges international and civil wars can never catch its breath.”

Political, not Military, Solutions

Sanctions, interventions and military escalations have proven to be destabilizing in the extreme, not just in the Middle East, but also with global ramifications sometimes.

Given the already debilitating effects of the 2008 global financial crisis, the human and economic cost of further conflict has the potential to plunge entire populations into depravation overnight.

Russia, China, and other fast-growing, heavily-populated middle states have argued that these are critical times, and that active diplomacy must be employed to find political solutions and avoid military ones.

But Washington seems unable to take the long view in the Middle East, and continues its escalations with Syria, Iran and other regional players unwilling to cater to US interests.

China’s ambassador to Lebanon Wu Zexian told me last year: “Part of our divergence with the West is that they think that the problems cannot be solved by [those] in the region.”

Arguing that Iraq and Afghanistan showed that “intervention is not successful,” the Chinese want a “dialogue and consensus to be an essential part of the political process.”

The Russians – and to a lesser extent the Chinese – also fear the ramifications of borders torn apart, lawlessness and chaos in a region where Islamic extremism can take hold and spread. Both states have had their own negative experiences with radical Islam, but more importantly, have proactively reached out to moderate Islamists to counter and mitigate the spread of extremism.

Russia and China watch with growing concern American interaction with the Muslim world, where moderates – Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, for instance – are marginalized, and where in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, US short-term interests appear to be increasingly aligned with those of Al Qaeda and other radical Sunni militants.

Worse yet, the militarization of conflicts in many of these countries are unraveling the only authorities and borders that kept extremism in check for decades.

For months now, western media pundits salivate over every hint that Russia is about to abandon Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or any suggestion that China is prepared to forsake Iranian oil.

Neither will happen, and here’s why.

Iran and Syria are the only two regional countries with the collective will, interest and power to halt US hegemonic pursuits in its tracks, and have done so with relative success over the past decades. In a sense, Damascus and Tehran stand guard in the Middle East as important buffers against an increasingly militarized US – and as a valuable distraction keeping Washington from nipping at Russia and China’s heels.

Soft Power Leads New Global Order

Russia and China have continued to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [AP]

But Iran and Syria also share some fundamental values with the BRICS and other emerging regional power blocs.

They believe in the value of soft power, diplomacy and trade as essential tools of statecraft.

They believe that peace and stability, domestically and regionally, are vital for development and economic growth.

More importantly, they also believe it is past time for middle states around the world to have a seat at the decision-making table – whether at the IMF, World Bank, WTO, UNSC or whatever emerges in the aftermath of this uni-polar order.

For Russia and China, backing a political alternative to military conflict is a clear and compelling first choice in any region of the world. But in the strategically important Middle East, the threat of multiple confrontations has made it all the more vital for Moscow and Beijing to step up and engage in de-escalating crises.

The stakes are extremely high and come at a time when the world is also awaiting fundamental shifts in the global political and economic balance of power.

Whatever the short-term inconvenience, there is little chance that Russia and China will be swayed from their current positions in the Middle East, particularly in relation to preventing foreign intervention in Syria and unilateral sanctions against Iran.

They understand full well that this is the Waterloo of the current global order – what comes next will be worth the wait.

Original article:

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on RedditShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Related Posts:

All content herein is owned by author exclusively. Expressed opinions are not necessarily the views of VNN, VNN authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners, technicians or Veterans Today Network and its assigns. In addition, all images within this post are the full responsibility of the author and NOT Veterans Today Network.
Legal Notice - Comment Policy

Posted by on January 18, 2013, With 0 Reads, Filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

FaceBook Comments

2 Responses to "Russia and China: Arms around the Middle East"

  1. Debbie Menon  January 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm


    I raised the same issue with Sharmine about Kissinger. I tend to agree with her response though becoz I use the same logic when I quote ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI.

    “Yes, I know. But his words helped me cast my theories in stone 🙂 Sometimes you have to use the enemy to cement your case…” Sharmine

    I have always thought that the way to save the Middle East from US interference and Israeli aggression is for Iran to have alliances with powerful friends. The emergence of BRICS may be along those lines. We will see. ( Saud & Qatar regimes are too insecure with their own people at home to be of any use to WORLD PEACE initiatives at the present moment.)

    One commenter raised a legit concern, “but they (Israel+US) will still cause mischief as always.”

    A year ago, I recall Alan Sabrosky whose strategic thinking I appreciate (now familiar to VNN readers), wrote something along the lines a bilateral trade & mutual defense treaty between Iran and China was the one sure way to stave off just that type of mischief & aggression. He reckoned a few Chinese fighter squadrons based in southwestern Iran would close off a US-Israeli military option absolutely, not so much because of their inherent capability (although the Chinese air force is no slouch, by a long shot) as because of the obvious political and strategic linkages. He reckoned, for instance, that a US-Israeli strike on Iran that embroiled Chinese air/air defense forces would spark a full-scale Chinese assault on Taiwan….for openers…..And the US would understand that and not go there in the first place. This would be even better, because the addition of BRIC would be a powerful counterweight.

  2. RexW  January 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    What an interesting piece of writing.

    The article quotes Kissinger. His past contributes nothing to his current day credibility. His ability to make any impact on the problems he now criticises is well past. It seems to be that in old age all the old disgraceful (by their past actions) war horses, in most cases with a record they would rather ignore, pontificate on subjects that are now counter to their own actions when in power. That’s hypocritical, surely. From someone like Kissinger, such detours from past policy comments should be disregarded, whether in 2013 they seem to have relevance or not. He is a criminal. Kissinger is quoted in this article as saying ““In reacting to one human tragedy, we must be careful not to facilitate another. In the absence of a clearly articulated strategic concept, a world order that erodes borders and merges international and civil wars can never catch its breath.” Profound, but a little late, Kissinger.

    The shooting gallery Gulf War and its syndromes became sitting duck Iraq, the most unnecessary and cruel war in history; this turned into Afghanistan; Afghanistan hopefully for him and his Zionist friends, will turn into Iran. After that, who knows?. Depends on Israel’s priorities. Whatever it is would already be on the Tel Aviv drawing boards as well he knows. Yes, a little late. Henry and his dirty coat of many colors. Let us not even mention his claims to fame or better put, infamy. I would rather not have seen such comments.

    Nothing he has done in my recollection brings him any credit in any way at all. Certainly no forgiveness. Remember Cambodia, Chile and East Timor, just for starters. As with the feckless George Bush, criminal / murderer, naive servant of the Neocons, along with Cheney and Rumsfeld, there is no such thing as forgiveness. How do you forgive over two million unnecessary deaths? 6,000 from the US. Hopefully, just retribution and soon.

    Leaving that aside then, the theory and suggested motivations for this article seem very well-founded. There is no doubt that something has to stop the American juggernaut from destroying itself and the world. This group, BRICS, has that potential, no doubt about it. Nothing else on the horizon.

    Recently, however, 15 US churches asked Congress to stop supporting Israel. Like Kissinger, about four decades too late and much too little. The Christian input. Raised its head once, created a minor Jewish bout of indigestion for a few days, but not a squeak since. Still, it is refreshing for the soul to go through the motions, then slink back to the real game in town, influencing the Congress, an easier game to play. Perhaps the greatest need is for countries like the US to lose their arrogant control in the UN Security Council. The veto they have used so many times in the past is an ongoing (never-ending) example of support for the pariah state of Israel, directed by that 70% of the Congress and perhaps 60% of the Senate who are corrupted by Israel and its unholy fifth column, AIPAC.

    This disloyal foreign fifth column has been tolerated year after year as an unregistered lobby, who, in their own cunning way, bring the host countries they have penetrated and now spread their poison, the US and almost every other developed country, into unwanted wars and deadly dalliances in which they make certain that they “stand apart”, from danger, unharmed by their own mischievous activities while all the time representing themselves and their masters, Israel, as a ‘hard done by’ little country, (“oh, woe is me”), surrounded by enemies. Out comes the ‘begging bowl’, $3.5 + billion at the last count. Yes, annually. Is there any reader, anywhere, who thinks that but for the US veto used on Israel’s behalf in the disgraced Security Council on 66 occasions there would not have been a resolution of the Palestine question? Perhaps even 50 years ago? Does anyone believe otherwise? Well, that bias has to go. If not, the UN finally will come to realise that nothing will ever be the same again and those with a veto in this new alliance, BRICS, Russia and China, will use their vetos as a matter of course to counter everything that has the support of the US, just as the US has done for 50 years for Israel.

    In other words, if the US wants something, the vetos will bring it down. That’s the way it could develop. We have all seen enough of this kind of action from the US, now the recognised big bully in the world, per courtesy of the veto. Of course, there are times when they even ignored the UN. Can anyone ever forget the sight of a jubilant US Congress cheering and congratulating each other on the announcement of the commencement of the invasion of Iraq? Makes you proud. The alternative. Close the doors of this anachronistic UN social club. It has really passed its use-by-date. Just look at Palestine, (66 years of nothing); Rwanda (a total disgrace), Iraq (WMD, lies). It is nothing more than a mouthpiece and rubber stamp for the United States with an occasional muscle flex by Russia, as in the case of Syria. Any political or military alliance with a country like Iran, an exchange of weapons, joint military exercises, cultural exchanges and on, can do nothing less than keep the US in check and make those corrupt and not-so-corrupt members of the US Congress very wary of the implications of their total or part subservience to Israel. It will never stop the Neocons, the Zionists, thick on the ground in America, from their continued efforts to manipulate foreign policy for their own selfish benefits. Some of those could never be called Americans, have never donned a uniform and never have, nor will ever engage in pro-American activities. But the dangers would become much more evident in this new climate, should it develop.

    Perhaps, the US people may even get to understand what Zionism is doing for their country other than expanding the tourist traffic between Tel Aviv and New York. How many Holocaust Museums can one see in a lifetime? I, for one, have always advocated an arrangement whereby a country like Iran, perhaps the most capable and intelligent country in the region, developed relationships that make it impossible for even the US big bully and his UK, Canadian, Australian and European sycophantic followers to risk any confrontation with such a powerful group. Another stand-off “cold war” environment is better than war after war, the current history and direction of the US and its followers. The US needs wars, or so it seems, to survive economically but it is self-defeating. A cold war could just as easily fill the bill, surely without a shot being fired.

    There is an alternative, of course. The US can dictate to its manufacturing industries, who use China as its cheap labour source so that they can make more corporate profits, to return its manufacturing back to where it came from, the little towns and cities in the US, where unemployment is so high. The downside is that it would be forced to become more efficient (as it once was) but risk losing its competitiveness across all industries and then fade into yet another self-generated financial crisis. The formula of uemployment + low production (non-military) + uncompetitively priced products + good old US corporate greed + naive government is all they can look forward to.

    That’s why they need wars. Even Israeli-induced wars are better than no wars at all. Just ask the Neocons. Two million Iraqis killed? Just collateral damage to them. Will anyone in the US ever realise that when you spend $0.53 cents out of every dollar on military spending, you create a climate where you are almost excluded from the world markets and those dollars from which you want to extract $0.53 cents to continue supporting the military / industrial complex, dry up very quickly and you fast become a shadow of past glories. All the signs point that way.

    So, if there’s a better solution for peace than BRICS, name it! You cannot have ONE country, like the warlike US, running rampant, a country totally controlled by a foreign, arrogant state like Israel. We have all seen what that brings. Foreign policies based on sanctions, the failure that was Vietnam, the Gulf War fiasco, the disgrace that was Iraq, the futility of Afghanistan, flexing the muscles and issuing threats against Iran via the Israeli weekly press releases, covert undercover activities throughout the Middle East, propping up the Arab Kingdoms against democratic reforms, then the 66 year old open wound, Palestine, together with any number of never-ending self-serving mischief-making. All in a years work. It is what the Israel / US consortium do best. They know nothing else. So it’s early days for BRICS, but it has a good smell about it. That is, for people who think that international peace, friendship and cooperation is worth some effort. Yes, even at the risk of another cold war climate.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login