Obama has shifted the US military's focus from the Middle East to Asia in an attempt to 'contain' China [GALLO/GETTY]
Let's celebrate the end of an eventful 2011 with a fable.
upon a time in the young 21st century, the eagle, the bear and the
dragon took their (furry) gloves off and engaged in a New Cold War.
When the original Cold War ended -- in theory -- in late 1991, in a dacha in Belarus, with the bear almost in coma, the eagle assumed the bear's right to an independent foreign policy which was also cancelled.
That was more than clear between 1999 and 2004 -- when NATO, against all promises made to former top bear Gorbachev, expanded all the way to Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.
So the bear started wondering; what if in the end they take away all my security space and I'm geopolitically starved?
In the young 21st century, the key tug-of-war between the eagle and
the bear concerns missile defence. Not even the eagle itself knows
whether this immensely expensive gimmick will work. And even if it does,
it will probably be financed by a reluctant dragon, which holds over US
$1.5tn in eagle debt.
The bear has repeatedly argued the deployment of interceptor missiles and radars in that land of the blind leading the blind -- Europe -- is a threat. The eagle says no, don't worry -- this is to protect us from those rogue Persians.
Yet the bear is not convinced. So, in a global TV message with English subtitles, the bear announced it has already deployed to the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad a new early warning system to monitor missiles launched either from Europe or the North Atlantic. And the Iskander missile system may follow.
The bear is frustrated. It says it has repeatedly offered to
co-operate with the eagle and its minions for the development of a joint
system -- to no avail. The bear insists the door remains open for a
compromise. They will have to talk again -- after the fractious 2012
presidential campaign in Eagleland. Meanwhile, the dragon wearily
And the blind shall lead the blind
Roughly two decades after what top bear Putin defined as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century," he has proposed a USSR light -- as in the Eurasian Union, a political/economic body already subscribed by snow leopard Kazakhstan and Belarus, soon to be joined by Eurasian cubs Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
As for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, they are far too worried about how to balance pressure by both the eagle and the bear. And then there's the Ukraine; will it choose the bear or the blind leading the blind?
The eagle wants something completely different; a New Silk Road under its control. The eagle seems to forget that the original Silk Road linked the dragon with the Roman Empire for centuries -- with no interlopers outside of Eurasia.
The eagle is also literally fuming about the fact that the top bear for the next six years (and perhaps 12) will be, once again, Putin. The bear, for its part, is trying to manage for its own benefit the dragon's inexorable push towards global preeminence.
That's why the bear is betting on an economic space "from Lisbon to Vladivostok" -- that is, intimate co-operation with that motley crew in crisis-hit blind leading the blind. The problem is the blind are, well, blind, and can't seem to get their act together.