Shifting Alliances: US Allies Line Up Behind Russia and China
By PNW StaffOctober 25, 2016
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Since the end of the Cold War, the position that the United States has enjoyed as the world's superpower has not been seriously challenged, but that may be starting to change.
The rise and later decline of the European Union did nothing to unseat the United States, as the two maintained a strong alliance through NATO. Venezuela, Iran, Pakistan and other nations have not come close to upsetting the cart either, as each has lacked the strong web of alliances that the US possesses.
But now, with the continued rise of China as an economic and regional power and the expansionist ambitions of Russia at their height, there has come a hint of a reorganization of global power structures.
In recent weeks, four formerly strong allies of the United States have either publicly broken ties with Washington and aligned themselves with Russia or China, or they have moved hard in that direction.
Much of the soft power of the United States is built upon a strong network of economic, cultural and diplomatic ties, not to mention the natural military alliances they naturally bring.
Could this be the start of a major move to the East for global power structures?
The Philippines has long been a close ally of the United States, that is until the election of Rodrigo Duterte who took office as the new Philippine President on June 30th of this year.
The outspoken Duterte, who has a history of violence, has worked to live up to his campaign promises to stamp out drugs with a bloody campaign of extra judicial killings by the police. Following US criticism of the nightly killings of drug suspects, Duterte lashed out at both President Obama and the US.
In a recent summit with Chinese officials in Beijing, Duterte clarified the new direction for the Philippines when he said, "I announce my separation from the United States. America does not control our lives. Enough bull**."
China and the Philippines have been locked in a dispute over territorial boundaries and fishing rights in the South China sea, but this change of course seems to have smoothed over many of their problems as China has announced it will be lifting the trade sanctions imposed on 27 Philippine fruit exporters and offering the Philippines a $9 billion loan on development projects.
The Philippines has canceled the joint military exercises planned with the United States and has also announced they will be expelling the US troops currently assisting the Philippine military in the fight against Islamic militants in the country.
In addition to cementing his new alliance with China, Duterte called President Obama a "son of a whore" and spoke to the US directly when he warned, "For as long as I am there, do not treat us like a doormat because you'll be sorry for it. I will not speak with you. I can always go to China." And go to China he has.
Recent talks held on Syria in Lausanne, Switzerland gave an indication of the shifting loyalties within Egypt, a country that has enjoyed a long friendship with the United States.
Iran invited Egypt to the negotiations in an attempt to have another pro-Assad voice at the table to balance out the US-backed coalition of Arab states. As the largest Sunni Arab nation in the Middle East, Egypt can act as a powerful counterweight to Saudi Arabia.
Pulling closer to both Iran and Russia, most visibly on the question of Syria, can be seen as strengthening regional alliances but also a demonstration to the US that Egypt has other options now, according to HA Hellyer, a fellow at the Atlantic Council and London's Royal United Services Institute.
In response to Egyptian backing of the Russian-Iranian support for Assad, Saudi Arabia cut off its 700,000-ton monthly shipment of refined petroleum to Egypt. Is it any coincidence that Egypt is now looking forward to the first joint Russian-Egyptian military drills on Egyptian soil at the end of this month?
These preliminary exercises, that go by the name "Protectors of Friendship 2016", will involve 500 soldiers, 15 helicopters and fixed-wing craft and 10 ground-based vehicles and will feature the first parachute drop of Russian troops in history on Egyptian territory.
Russian news agencies have also reported that Egypt has offered the possibility of granting Russia the use of military bases across the country. Furthering its territorial ambitions, Russia is also looking forward to renovating a disused Soviet naval base in the Egyptian town of Sidi Barani, not far from Libya.
Russia would use it as an air base and plans are underway to have it operational by 2019, a move that would strengthen its striking power in the region.
It also shouldn't be overlooked that Russia is offering nuclear power to Egypt in exchange for its alliance or that ties have also grown closer between Egypt and China after a series of multi-billion-dollar development projects underwritten by China, including the $20 billion investment in a new Egyptian capital and $1.7 billion in financing for 15 major infrastructure projects across Egypt.
Iraq has been dependent on the United States since its capitulation after the invasion and the US has provided unprecedented military and economic support.
Yet it is now in the fight against ISIS in Mosul that the former Prime Minister and current Vice-President Nuri al-Maliki has begun more openly to advocate for closer relations with Russia.
According to one Arab intelligence official once the battle for Mosul is over and the Islamic state is eradicated, the Iraqi government plans to enhance ties with Russia and possibly even create a strategic alliance.
Asking for closer ties with Russia will mean distancing themselves from the United States. Thus the Iraqi government has begun to walk a tightrope between the two powers.
As with Egypt, perhaps they see the opportunity to play rivals against each other, hoping that both the US and Russia will vie for their friendship.
What is clear though is that as Iraq moves closer to Iran and Russia, its alliance with the US weakens and Western influence is further pushed aside.
Perhaps the most extreme and even shocking reversal of loyalty is taking place in Turkey, a nation that was just a year ago on the path to EU membership and had been held up as a strong ally of the United States.
Despite the downing of a Russian fighter last November, relations have begun to warm between Ankara and Moscow. The US refusal to surrender cleric Fethullah Gulen after the July 15th coup attempt has incensed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish military is ranked second only to the US within the NATO alliance, so its pivot towards Russia and China is no small matter.
Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon official, recently told reporters that "the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia launches a new dynamic, not in relations between Ankara and Moscow, but also in the whole Middle Eastern region.
"I think Turkish President Erdogan, basically, has given up on NATO and even the EU and is pivoting more towards the East," he us quoted as saying.
The United States may still be the sole world superpower, but this position is being steadily undermined by a shift in alliances that promise to have a profound impact on global politics in the years to come.
It is difficult to predict which nations will be the next to draw closer to Russia and China, but for every one that does, the world view of authoritarianism grows stronger.
Someday soon, we may wake up to a world that turns on the whims of Moscow and Beijing and in which the cultural, political and economic models are Russian and Chinese.
Then, again, perhaps the stage is being set and the cast is assembling in the wings, preparing to take their places in fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 38.