Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Medvedev makes his mark

Medvedev makes his mark
By Susenjit Guha

Russian President Dmitry Medevedev’s China visit should be an eye-opener to the US Presidential hopefuls that nearly two decades of untrammeled power with blatant unilateralism in the last decade may be on the wane. With more powerful consumers than ever for scarce and fast depleting global energy resources, alternative power structures and alliances may finally threaten the so - far - unchallenged ‘Great American way of life’.

The world has traveled a long way since Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to China in 1971 in a bid to contain the Soviet Union. Now, a fractured Russia and China are coming together to contain United States’ irresponsible interventionism displayed by George Bush.

And there is no surety that pathological hatred of some of US’ enemies---fallout of Bush’s actions--- will not lead to terrorist strikes on its global interests and not get the next President mired in the mess.

Although Medevedev and the Chinese President Hu Jintao condemned terrorism in all forms believing its ideological expansion cannot be de-linked from global crimes and drug-trafficking, they emphasized combat should be within the ambit of UN’s multi-lateral frameworks and principles of international relations.

Dmitry Medvedev said Russia and China would work to shape global security even at the cost of disapproval by other powers and enhance cooperation in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN regional Forum and APEC on the way.

And it is anybody’s guess why Medvedev wanted cooperation to be enhanced in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Set up by in 2001 with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to combat terrorism, the SCO has also become the stage for Russia and China to offset US’ influence in the Central Asian energy hub.

SCO’s decision to bring in Iran as observer in 2005 perhaps set Bush mulling about missile defenses systems in EU nations which were part of the former Soviet Union. Several Chinese quake victims--- middle and primary school children--- were invited to recover in Russia. Not only Russian aid flowed in out of the way for quake victims, a $1 billion deal was struck for supplies to China’s nuclear power industry. Orders worth $500 million for supply of semi-enriched uranium and construction of a fuel enrichment plant were also inked.

Future diversification into myriad areas of IT, space, energy, forestry, tourism, aircraft building and hi-tech between the two countries are also on the agenda. During Vladimir Putin’s time, trade between Russia and China had already galloped fivefold to $48 billion and is expected to reach $80 billion by 2010.

It was no wonder why Medvedev chose Beijing for his inaugural foreign tour and why the US should be concerned about slow erosion of American power.

Thomas Friedman was only echoing popular fears when he wrote in the New York Times “The failure of Mr. Bush to fully mobilize the most powerful innovation engine in the world — the U.S. economy — to produce a scalable alternative to oil has helped to fuel the rise of a collection of petro-authoritarian states — from Russia to Venezuela to Iran — that are reshaping global politics in their own image.”

Bush’s experiment with alternatives like ethanol has already created a global food scarcity---the blame for which he passed on to the burgeoning Chinese and Indian gluttons.

Power with increasing wealth is not only bound to follow as Friedman felt, it has already started following. And the counter balance to US by nations clubbed together can give the necessary fillip to the EU to finally wriggle out of a trans-Atlantic alliance rendered long redundant with the end of the Cold war.

Barack Obama’s idea of friendship with China, not competition, may be visionary, but then again, will it be possible to “ask the American people to drive 55 miles an hour, buy more fuel-efficient cars or accept a carbon tax or gasoline tax…..”, as suggested by Thomas Friedman?

Another visionary US President Jimmy Carter tried, but drew flak from Americans not willing to settle for half a loaf when they craved for the entire bakery produce. And didn’t Ronald Reagan play on the American psyche of ‘more the merrier’ to ride to power after Carter had to do a re-think when US interests were harmed?

But this is the most challenging era for the US. Faced with a Presidential election, it is no mean task for the next White House occupant to steer clear of a clear and present danger of having to play second fiddle to stumbling power blocks not willing to shy away at using similar tactics used so far by the US only to maintain global supremacy.

Former chairman of the state run behemoth Gazprom, Medvedev, an economic liberal, believes ‘freedom is better than non-freedom’. He is not Hollywood’s comic Russian character. It was a dream fulfilled for him---as was buying jeans, records of Pink Floyd and Deep Purple--- when the rock group Deep purple played at the Kemlin last February to mark the 15th anniversary of Gazprom.

And counter balance with not only the requisite power but freedom and obviously moves towards more accountability and democracy in Russia and China---some of it displayed by the nine member Chinese politburo standing committee during the earthquake---will sustain the firewalls to any future US imperial Presidency revival.

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