Monday, September 08, 2008

Russia's Antidemocratic Alliance

In the latest, tit-for-tat move between the US and Russia, Russia has announced that it may hold joint naval exercises with Venezuela. This is a clear (though unacknowledged) move to send a message to the US regarding its current naval activities in the Black Sea.

How many similar, anti-US regimes of consequence can the Russians reach out to? One potential step for Russian escalation of their defiance of US hegemony would be to strengthen Russia's ties to Iran. This would cause concern for Russia, though, as it fears Iran's nuclear ambitions and Islamic radicalism. Russia itself has Islamic minority nationalist movements that it sometimes struggles to control.

Fortunately for the West, Russia's connection to Venezuela does not have strong ideological underpinnings. Venezuela, ironically, is now the more 'socialist' of the two countries (Russia's is a brand of state capitalism.) and its brand of demagogic populism is likely to unnerve Russia's more austere leadership.

Another interesting development for the West is that Russia appealed for, but did not receive, support for its Georgia moves, from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, whose only other weighty member is China. The Chinese, suspicious of all foreign interventions and protective of the perception of their neutrality, recognize at the same time that the future of their economic system (and of the Communist Party, whose legitimacy rests on economic growth) is tied up with the globalized market system as supported by the United States and the West. Is it possible that a resurgent Russia could, once again, push China closer to the more stable and predictable Western powers?