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CWA # 129, 12 June 2019

Global Politics
The Russian Resurgence: Is the US supremacy waning?

  Mahath Mangal

Russia and China together would form a formidable opposition to US and its world hegemony, causing a reshuffle without an iota of doubt

The United States of America under the Trump administration has been intervening in several international regions and issues including Russia, Venezuela, trade conflicts with China, North Korea and also its NATO ally Turkey. This is not atypical of the hegemon. The US has continuously intervened covertly and overtly in several regime changes and has exercised its stature as leverage to push other states to bow to its whims and wishes.

The question at hand is if the effectivity is declining, if the countries worldwide are showing reluctance to abide by Uncle Sam's policies even under the age-old threat of sanctions from the behemoth.

While the bipolarity of the world between the US and the USSR ended and the US emerged the victor, today Russia seems to be on a path to discretely reclaim some of its former glory and strength. The intent is obvious from Russia's increasing disregard for American sanctions and overt support to countries facing US sanctions and threats.

What is the background?

Turkey recently entered into a deal with Russia for procuring S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft defence systems and the US tried to force Turkey to pull out of the deal threatening to end the F-35 training program the Turkish pilots were undergoing in the US. Ankara did not budge. When they went ahead with the deal, the US kept its word.

In the trade conflict between the US and the rising Asian giant China, following a show of escalating tariff rates between the two countries, US also went ahead to ban the Chinese company Huawei from conducting business with American companies and in the US soil. The decision was a blow to the MNC of which the Chinese state is a partner. China retaliated by reminding its domination over rare earth production accounting for nearly 70% of the global output. This is Beijing's trump card against Washington.

In Venezuela, wanting a regime change, the US supported the leader of opposition Juan Guaido for a coup, which was foiled when the Venezuelan army switched alliances at a crucial period.

In each case, while the US was taking an offensive stance, there was a country extending support -Russia. It is looking to fill in the vacuum left by the US, appearing to be an all-weather friend to many.

Russia, following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 has been under sanctions from the US as well as the European Union. While Russia had even planned to join NATO in 2001, and the then American President Bill Clinton had no objections to it. The countries instead drifted apart and today, with allegations against Russia that they meddled in the 2016 presidential elections, resentment is high in the States among the people and Congress than President Trump himself.

In each of the cases above where the US intervened, Russia also made its own moves. With Turkey, the sale of the sophisticated defence system itself was the cause for the US to worry. In the case of China, following the Huawei ban and trade conflicts, Russia just signed a deal for the Chinese manufacturer to implement its 5G network in association with MTS, Russia's largest mobile operator.

With Venezuela, Russia supported Nicolas Maduro by sending military planes, materials, and advisors in March. This was a clear message that any intervention in Venezuela would also lead to Russian intervention. Though they have withdrawn the support now that Maduro has proven to be futile to be propped up for any Russian interests.

What does it mean?

While Russia is clearly making attempts to establish that everyone need not necessarily abide by the rules set down by the US, Russia does not have the economic might to take US head-on. At least not alone. While the nuclear arsenals are comparable due to the Soviet Inheritance, the Russian expenditure on defence is around $61 billion, far behind the spending of US at $648 billion and China's $250 billion.

Russia's offers are but proving attractive for several nations including the likes of Germany, which will benefit from the Russian oil pipeline Nord Stream 2 which would make a cheaper and safer gas supply. Turkey, a NATO partner of the US is following an independent defense strategy and seems to be moving towards Moscow.

Russia's current strategy involves partnering with China in various fields like technology, trade, defence et al, in the longer run, Beijing would benefit from the partnership.

Russia is aiming this alliance with China with the goal of counterbalancing the US, which seems to be increasingly finding it difficult to continue effective cooperation with Europe which is being pulled apart by several forces.

The ambition of Moscow is to attain its lost glory, the path to that is indeed causing ripples in world politics. In order to become a counterbalance to the US, Russia has to continue the cooperation it is building with its region. Reinforcing the Eurasian Union will be of an advantage and the dragon in the east is undoubtedly Moscow's greatest option. China is also looking forward to increasing ties. While in the long run, there may be a decline in the stature of US, Russia would not be an entirely equal partner to China.

Looking back to MacKinder's ‘Heartland Theory' where he stated that the nation(s) which could dominate the "world island" (Eurasia and Africa) would ultimately dominate the world, Russia and China together would form a formidable opposition to US and its world hegemony, causing a reshuffle without an iota of doubt.

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