The Russian Bear Is Rising

The karmic consequence of imperial hubris stares America in the eye. Every battlefront from Syria to China in the western pacific offers a preview of an empire in irreversible decline. Of all the upheavals reflecting America's diminishing global influence, a potential war with Russia could spill over into something of earth-shattering proportions. Read the last sentence metaphorically at your peril.

At the recent International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Putin warned of the impending danger caused by NATO's fateful decision to launch missile defence systems on Russian borders. He accounted western journalists for their nonchalant reporting of such deliberate provocations. I don't blame him. Shockingly, NATO's increasing military presence in the Baltics is hardly a major news item. God forbid, if the US continues sabre-rattling in Eastern Europe, can we really fault Russia for mobilising forces in Kaliningrad and countering with a ground invasion in the Suwalki Gap, which links Poland to the Baltic states? As unsettling as it sounds, I'm shuddering at the thought of us sleepwalking into a nuclear war by ignoring such combustible geopolitical realities.

Since the Second World War, we've all grown up on a steady diet of cultural, economic and political pax-Americana, but the balance of power is rapidly shifting. One thing which should make the West stand up and take notice is the military hardware at Putin's disposal. The New Tsar, as many label him, boasts a formidable arsenal that can easily penetrate U.S. and European defense shields. It is now generally accepted among military experts that the U.S. lags behind Russia in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The impressive array of state of the art weaponry range from fifth-generation stealth fighters to hypersonic gliders equipped with warheads capable of reaching a speed of Mach 5 and a distance of 10,000km. It begs the question: Have the defense specialists at Lockheed Martin finally met their match in the battle for engineering ingenuity? Regardless, Russia is no pretender and this is clearly recognised by General Mark Miley, the new Chief of US Army Staff who warned that conventional deterrence will not be enough to eliminate the existential threat posed by a nuclear Russia.

But limiting Russia's strength to a burgeoning martial reputation obscures an equally significant reason for why neocon hawks are genuinely fretting over a globalist demise: A Russia-China axis.

Yes, the unprecedented partnership between Moscow and Beijing has huge implications for U.S. hegemony and has gone from strength to strength in the wake of sanctions following Russia's annexation of Crimea. What was Putin's response? In his words, an 'epochal' $400bn gas pipeline with China, effectively leaving Europe out in the cold. To rub further salt into American wounds, the Eurasian alliance set about aiding and abetting 'rogue' nations like Iran, North Korea and Syria, judging by their numerous trade agreements, military cooperation and cyber-security arrangements threatening to disrupt the new world order.

It goes without saying that Putin is exploiting the current stalemate in US-China relations, which oscillate between conflict and cooperation. Despite being one of America's largest trading partners, President Xi Jinping has stationed anti-aircraft towers and helipads in the South China Sea to thwart any American designs on the disputed archipelagos. The People's Liberation Army is also threatening to place its nuclear arsenal on alert to safeguard its maritime rights. Ever the opportunist, Putin has conveniently aligned Kremlin to Chinese national interests as the global policeman looks helplessly on at this bilateral powerhouse from across the Atlantic.

My doubts about Putin's political savvy were certainly laid to rest after he capitalized on Washington's apathetic response to last month's failed coup attempt in Turkey. By offering immediate consolation to Erdogan-embittered by the U.S. for dragging its feet over condemning the coup plotters-he charmed one of Washington's most strategic allies into questioning the long-term sustainability of Turkey's NATO membership, striding closer towards upending American exceptionalism.

I still suspect that Erdogan's overtures to Putin are a mere phishing expedition for a nefarious NATO agenda. But as it stands, Turkey is veering towards multipolarity, much to the chagrin of the U.S. military industrial complex. By halting the YPG advance west of the Euphrates, opposing the creation of a U.S.-backed semiautonomous Kurdish statelet and warming to the idea of Assad remaining President for a brief interim period, Erdogan's reassessment of foreign policy places him on the Russian side of the Syrian quagmire.

The Pentagon is fuming. After all, more than fifty US B-61 hydrogen bombs are stored in the underground vaults at Turkey's Incirlik Airbase. The Russian bear must be licking his chops.