Nearly thirty years after the fall of the Soviet Union and Moscow is firmly back in the military game. It is conducting its largest-ever war games since its lost its empire. And it is not alone. China is tagging along.
The week-long Vostok-2018 drills are taking place in eastern Siberia, close to the Chinese border. Some 300,000 Russian troops are participating; or, nearly one-third of the country’s one-million-strong army. In addition, there are more than 1,000 aircraft and around 36,000 tanks. And while Beijing’s contribution pales somewhat in comparison — just 3,2000 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft — experts note that this is significant for a country that has not been involved in military combat since its 1979 war with neighbouring Vietnam. Indeed, Chinese state media have touted the ‘deployment’ as representing the country’s largest-ever when it comes to joint war games.
Naturally, the West and NATO are on high alert. Possibly irked at now having to surrender a unipolar world order — that has long seen the US as the only power at the helm — for the inevitability of a multipolar one. For to be clear, such a scenario is no longer a vague possibility but a stark reality. And the Russian-Sino strategic partnership is the driving force behind this.
Many will welcome the end of the US reign as the world’s lone superpower. And it is hard not to see why. After all, the decades of unilateralism that have been characterised by American exceptionalism have failed to make the world safer in a way that had perhaps been envisioned. Indeed, it brought about a paradoxical situation whereby Washington was able to launch wars with or without UN-backing in a bid to consolidate control over as many of the world’s natural resources before the Russian bear awoke for the second coming. Though it never quite went it entirely alone, of course. Britain has for the most part been obediently snapping at its heels. Yet the biggest facilitator to US military adventurism, that some describe as being evidence of an empire on the march, has been that old Cold War rhetoric: NATO.
The rise of the Russian-Sino alliance ought to counter the unbridled power of the US. Though pundits have expressed concern that China’s focus on these joint drills are aimed at making it operationally ready in the event of any aggression it could encounter over lingering territorial disputes.
That being said, in the short-term at least, the emergence of a multipolar world will benefit countries such as Pakistan that have suffered at the hands of American caprice. Meaning that those wishing to usurp the US will have to strive harder to reassure; either in terms of military training or say, huge infrastructure projects. Or even by way of support at certain multilateral forums. Though caution must be advised here, too. For bloody and increasingly violent conflict appears to be part and parcel of global capitalism; and as war becomes privatised for maximum profit the stakes naturally become higher. Thus weaker nations would do well to refrain from picking a definite side. After all, it is surely in the national interest to make as many friends and as few enemies as possible. *
Published in Daily Times, September 16th 2018.