25 June 2022

Saturday, 12:47

WAR OF FORMATS

Eurasia is going through a major transformation and regrouping of existing alliances

Author:

15.11.2021

Global politics has always been known for its turbulence. Some forms of interaction were replaced by others, more adapted to the current conjecture, shaping the architecture of international security. Today is no exception. Regrouping of forces, and the emergence of blocks strengthening the rivalry between the leading centres of power continue to take place in the system of international relations.

Meanwhile, some alliances that have existed for decades are undergoing a serious transformation, while others are losing their relevance.

 

Great Britain as a catalyst for processes in the West

Britain's withdrawal from the EU, the gradual suspension of American tutelage of the Western civilisation led to the emergence of noticeable political fault lines in the West. Thus, the division of the geography of the collective West into the Anglo-Saxon and Eurocentric poles becomes increasingly obvious these days.

Brexit and London’s active involvement in the creation or reconstruction of alliances according to its new foreign policy also rehabilitated the idea of developing the CANZUK format of cooperation, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK. It assumes that these four countries will agree to cooperate on free trade, mutual migration, and foreign policy. Although the idea yet to be institutionalised, there is every reason to believe that the British diplomats are already actively working in this direction.

On the other hand, the creation of the trilateral defense alliance AUKUS (Australia, Great Britain, USA) on September 15, 2021 formally outlines a fault line within NATO, since it involves the development of a common security system between the leading countries of the alliance (the US and the UK) without relying on its ‘defensive framework’...

This split deepens due to the crisis in relations of Paris with London and Washington. It was caused by Australia's refusal to implement a multibillion-dollar contract for the purchase of French submarines. “The recall of our ambassador for consultations for the first time in the history of relations between the US and France is a serious political act that shows the strength of the crisis between our countries, as well as with Australia,” the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said.

Despite the telephone conversation with his French counterpart initiated by the US President, which stabilised the relationship between the parties to some extent, the situation does not seem to be completely settled. Rather, it is only an interim solution, before the next expected crisis.

Another consequence of AUKUS may be Switzerland's refusal to buy French Rafale fighters and purchase of American F-35 fighters instead. Berne’s move also caused serious outrage in Paris.

Apparently, all these events have most likely pushed Paris to refresh the issue of common European army through its tools of influence in the EU.

On September 15, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered her second annual State of the Union speech. Among other things, she addressed the public to prepare for the intensification of competition in the international arena. She also put forward arguments in favour of the development of the European Defense Union. When von der Leyen was the head of Germany's defense department, she was considered one of the ardent lobbyists for the creation of a pan-European army, with Germany and France being in the lead. Now, in the absence of one of the main critics of this project, Great Britain, the implementation of the idea becomes more realistic.

Eastern European countries are more or less sceptical about the project, as they are largely afraid of military-political domination of Berlin. That’s why they closely coordinate their actions with the US. The more people in Brussels, Paris, and Berlin promote the idea of the common European army, the more actively Poland, Hungary, and Romania interact with the US in military and political issues. This helps Washington, through its supporters in the EU, to block or seriously impede the process. Ursula von der Leyen is also forced to admit that the military and diplomatic weakness of Europe is not due to a lack of opportunities, but due to a lack of political will among the member states.

While the conventional alliances in the West are separating, relatively young formats in the East, in Asia, on the contrary, are strengthening, forming an anti-Western bloc.

 

The East is looking for ways to get closer

The recent CSTO and SCO summits showed the interest of member states in the ongoing processes in global politics. At the same time, the situation around Afghanistan was sort of a litmus test. It showed that the risks associated with Afghanistan are caused by the actions of the US and its partners. Therefore, these risks should be interpreted in a broader context that goes far beyond Afghanistan.

On September 21, in his interview to the newspaper Аргументы и факты the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Patrushev, categorically stated that “the United States is ready to jeopardise the entire security architecture in Asia just to establish greater control over the promising Asia-Pacific region”... The interview with Mr. Patrushev can be regarded as a reaction of the Russian political leadership to shifts in the international security system and Moscow's intention to fix its role in this process.

Patrushev made it clear that the poles of confrontation are obvious for the Russian side. On the one pole are the US, UK and their partner states, on the other are Russia, China, Iran, which oppose them. Among the formats listed above, Patrushev added the association called QUAD, which includes the US, India, Australia, and Japan. He called it the Asian counterpart of NATO, which aims to pursue anti-Chinese and anti-Russian policies.

Interestingly, India is an active member of the SCO and positions itself as a conductor of Washington's anti-Chinese line, which contributes to increasing contradictions not only between Beijing and Delhi, but also within the SCO. They regard Moscow, Beijing and some others as obstacles impeding the spread of Western influence in Asia.

Among the formats hostile to Russia, Mr. Patrushev also called the Three Seas Initiative and the Crimean Platform.

At the same time, the inclusion of such an anti-Western actor as Iran in the SCO actually makes it possible to consolidate Washington's Eurasian opponents around a single platform within a common geography. Thus, it turns out that in its new format, the idea of Heartland coined by Halford Mackinder becomes relevant in a specific way. Considering that Eurasia is the hub of global political processes, it was Mackinder who formulated the concept of Heartland, that is the heart of the world, as opposed to the surrounding world.

Today, the processes taking place in this geography resemble the search for ways for active cooperation. Many analysts refer to these processes as the drive for integration. However, in a number of cases, they are dictated by geopolitical expectations and are aimed at creating a solid foundation for realising their own interests, provided that their identity is preserved.

 

Turkey as an award in the struggle for spheres of influence

Today, as well as decades ago, the main struggle between the centres of power goes on for the expansion of spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aligned states, such as Azerbaijan, Turkey, and other states conventionally considered as such.

On September 21, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held talks in New York. The media reported that the meeting took place behind closed doors and lasted 40 minutes. Topics of discussion were not disclosed to public. It can be assumed that the leaders discussed the prospects for cooperation, including amid the ongoing geopolitical fragmentation.

Great Britain may be impressed by Ankara's actions to limit the influence of Paris in the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, London has long-standing interests in this region as well. Great Britain retains its military bases in Cyprus and is interested in dialogue not only with Nicosia, but also with Ankara in order to remain part of the regional security system. At the same time, while Ankara does not object to the presence of British military bases on the island, then politicians in Nicosia have repeatedly stated that they were interested in London’s removal of its military from the island. These circumstances further contribute to the strengthening of dialogue between London and Ankara.

With the UK officially leaving the Suez Canal and granting independence to Malta, Cypriot bases remain the most important factor in ensuring the presence of the British in this strategic part of the world. Ankara is among the few regional capitals that do not oppose the presence of the British bases.

Of course, the dialogue between Ankara and London is not necessarily limited to this topic. Both countries are trying to play an active role in the Middle East. Ankara and London have their interests in northern Africa and the Persian Gulf, in the Red Sea and in the Arabian Seas.

Remarkably, London does not urge Ankara to follow the same line in foreign policy, but only tries to determine the general rules of the game, to limit the possibilities of their geopolitical competitors, but to increase their own, which means that they strengthen their real political weight.

The US can support this dialogue while making sure that it does not violate its own interests. In turn, the success of cooperation between London and Ankara can have a positive effect on strengthening ties between London and Baku, which have their own agenda.

Israel can become an indirect participant in this common dialogue, which has its well-established and effective ties with Great Britain, including in the field of security.



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