Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Russia, China and Iran: the geopolitical alliance we don't want to talk about

I had a very interesting conversation with a friend from college the other day. Turns out she works for the Air Force doing political research and analysis.

My first response was "wow, do you know anyone in the industry who needs social media help?" The answer was no, but coincidentally the conversation prompted me to become a fan of Stratfor. If you have been keeping up with the news you will know why this caught me off guard.

The most interesting thing to come out of our conversation was when I said that "I have probably been flagged as a dissident so I probably won't ever be able to work in this industry" and she responded with "yeah the military was very skeptical of my foreign travel so I can't ever visit Russia, China or Iran."

That statement got me thinking. In the mainstream media China, Russia and Iran are all independently discussed and usually maligned, but rarely does the US news media draw any connections between these American rivals. Unlike the infamous Axis of Evil speech, it seems that our foreign policy objectives are being carried out clandestinely with assassinations and sabotage in the case of Iran and the media doesn't want to talk about the wider geopolitical implications of our belligerence.

However, the war drums seem to be beating louder and louder and many war hawks in the United States and Israel are calling for an all out military strike to prevent the Iranians from building nuclear weapons. It would be foolish to think such a strike would lead to anything but total global economic meltdown since the Iranians have been preparing for such an attack since 1979 and certainly learned from Iraq's mistake and constructed all of their facilities underground. Moreover the Iranians have been practicing closing the Strait of Hormuz which would prevent much of the world's oil from leaving the Persian gulf if they are attacked.

But beyond Iran's ability to survive and retaliate against such an attack, it seems to me that Russia and China have a lot to gain from the US and Israel (and whatever other Sunni autocracies we can get to go along with an attack plan) failing to destroy Iran.

China's first Aircraft Carrier
Sure China would suffer temporarily from the supply shortage just as everyone else would, but the propaganda victory of having the Iranians rebuff an attack by the world's sole remaining superpower would both embolden China and potentially deal a devastating blow to the US 5th fleet in the Gulf.

China clearly plans to exert more influence in the coming decades and a power vacuum in the Indian Ocean / Persian Gulf area would suit them quite nicely. The fact that they have activated their own GPS system means they are ready to track our naval forces around the world all by themselves.

Moreover, Russia has sent an Aircraft Carrier group to the Eastern Mediterranean to potentially help the embattled Syrian regime or merely as a deterrent to any NATO led Libya-esque style attack on their ally. Putin has a lot to gain from a confrontation with the West before the Presidential "election" that will be happening in March. Putin's carefully crafted image as a strong man capable of defending the Russian people from outside threats could be reinforced by a successful confrontation with the West.

Moreover, Russia as the world's top producer of oil (surprised?) stands to benefit enormously if the world oil price doubles or triples in the wake of the Strait of Hormuz closing.

I know Americans aren't particularly fond of acknowledging that other countries exist, but in an age of increased global competition, we can't afford to pretend that we can keep acting with impunity anytime and anywhere we like regardless of the consequences.


  1. Erik, great blog, great points, and although I write for the civilian side of the travel sector, it's always nice to have the geopolitical itch scratched. Well done sir.

  2. Thanks Kyle, I am always jealous reading your posts.