Right now there is something pretty profound going on in Eurasia. The interesting thing is that is seems that people are not talking about it, even, as far as I can see, the analysts or at least they are not online. You see there is a 'war for the soul' going on and that war may end up either sundering the efforts of politicians of the last five years or sealing the fate of the eastern part of the continent for the next fifty years or even the rest of the century. So where is this 'war of the soul' taking place? Within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Right now there are two heavy weights within the SCO: Russia and China. Russia has been acting as though it was the leader, since it helped to found the whole shinding. China has been trying to steer the organization its way, whatever that is, since it feels it is the heavy weight in the org. In some ways, it looks like a case of what Germany did with the Soviet Union: the weaker power, but believing itself a greater power held down, allied with the up and coming power that the older, weaker, even fading power felt was its peer. Russia continues to think that even with its demographics, economics, and fallen technological state that its rightful place in the sun is the peer of the United States as the Soviet Union was. China, on the other hand, is very cognizant of its place as the up and coming power to rival the US. Russia had been trying to steer the SCO to its own ends. China has been trying to steer the SCO to its own ends. Neither of these should be a surprise. Every state tries to bend things to its own end. The question is what end is each seeking?
The 1990s were emphatetically not kind to the Russian vision of their place in the world. NATO crept eastern despite their cries of foul. Their former client states paid homage to Brussels and Washington. Then after Sept 2001 events, even the Near Abroad went on pilgrimages to the United States and then, to add insult to percieved injury, the US swept away the Taliban was shocking ease, taking and largely to the extent that the US wanted to, held down that country with very few causalties compared to what the Soviet Union did.
The Chinese were suddenly nervous about the US sitting on its relatively vulernable backdoor. The geopolitical balance had suddenly shifted with the US basing all over Central Asia. This added another intelligence front that the Chinese had to watch. Bringing Central Asia squarely into the American Hegemony rather than under the weak Russian one was not in China's interest. Under the Russians, little was to fear since Russia was so weak and looked to remain so. Under the Americans, who were anything but...
Hence, they came together to build the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a way to push the US out of Central Asia. The Russians thought that they could steer the whole thing their way. The Chinese felt they could their way. These visions are about to run into each other rather roughly. Right now China wants to invite more nations into the SCO.Russia does not
. Russia has stated
what they have in mind for the SCO. They want to leverage it as a way to push the US out of the Near Abroad and to limit the damage done by the so-called Color Revolutions
to Russian interests. Note the difference in trajectory between Kyrgyzstan and Georgia, frex.
China would like it to be the anti-USA camp, as far as I can tell, in world affairs. One aligned with its interests. It would like to invite a few nations
into the fold. Most notably and especially Iran
. This doesn't necessarily mean that China is headed to a position, in the near term, as the Enemy Of The United States (*cue appropriate music*), but rather to protect itself with a nice buffer around it with the anti US voices simply in harmony. What was interesting was that Russia and China exercised their military forces together a number of times already. Even Belarus went to Beijing to inquire about joining the SCO...without consulting Moscow.
What contradicts this PoV is that India is involved. China could be looking for the idea that they are simply trying to make this into an antiterrorist rather than a NATO of the East
. It could also be that India is simply trying to negate the potential of the SCO being an anti-India alliance. At the same time, China has been rather angered by the Indian moves
closer to the US. It may subtly withdraw the offer or make it one that India can't accept. If that happens, life gets...interesting.
If it does happen, Russia is stuck in the bed of its own making. The Chinese population is growing rather quickly. It's faced with lots of unhappy and demographically expanding minorities. It's ethnic 'Russian' demographics are as bad as they come. I have to question whether or not Russia's going to win this Eurasian war for the soul, but...we'll see. I have made comments
that some have called 'cheap shots'
, but, honestly, I have to stand by them. I think Russia's in trouble and they signed up fro something that they're not going to be able to control.
If I were predictive, I'd say the indicator would be when China opens a military base in Belarus. Doesn't have to be a big one, just a small one, but it'd be pretty profound if it happened. We'll see. I'd be happy to be wrong, really. I would, but...I have serious doubts.