China, Russia and Iran coordinating a “shock and awe” attack on the neoliberal world order?

Reuters:

In Russia-Ukraine faceoff, both sides stage combat drills

“In Wednesday’s exercises in the Black Sea, Russian fighter planes and ships practiced repelling air attacks on naval bases and responding with air strikes, Interfax reported.”

“Separately, the news agency quoted Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying the need for Russia to further develop its armed forces was dictated by “the complicated military and political conditions in the world and the growing activity of NATO countries near Russia’s borders”.”

“He said raising the armed forces’ capabilities, supporting the combat preparedness of nuclear forces and strengthening the potential of non-nuclear deterrence are among the priorities.” (…)

“”It feels… more like another piece of coercive leverage that the Russians are heaping onto this strategic situation in Eastern Europe,” said Samir Puri, senior fellow in hybrid warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.”

“”It may well have value in that alone, rather than having to be followed through with a full-scale invasion which would be politically disastrous for Putin.””

I guess the leaders in Kremlin are like desperate bank robbers debating internally whether to do a very risky heist or not. They have very good geopolitical reasons to really want to either occupy (eastern) Ukraine or at least kick NATO and EU out of Ukraine. They must act before Ukraine’s military becomes too powerful. But the risk is high and the international punishment will be predictably severe. After having spent years on carefully analyzing the situation it’s possible that it one day boils down to a snap decision, a “What the hell, let’s do it!” Or maybe nothing ever happens. The person best able to predict whether an invasion will occur or not is probably an individual who knows the degree in which Putin and his inner circle have become hedonistically corrupt and/or mesmerized by the high-flying 4IR (fourth industrial revolution). A real down-to-earth tzar or a totalitarian gulag communist would have sent in the tanks. We know that from history. All scholars of geopolitics agree that it makes very good sense from a Russian perspective to secure Ukraine as a buffer zone. George Friedman for example discusses this political realism in a video published by GEOPOP (03:16 – 05:36):

Russia’s Last Dance | George Friedman Interview June 2021

Perhaps the most interesting question is whether it will be Russia, China or maybe even Iran (or some asymmetrically engineered black swan event in Africa or Latin America) that will first start a conflagration drawing all the attention of the West, opening up an opportunity for the other two Eastern powers to act while America is busy elsewhere.

Russia, China and Iran know there is no going back if one of them crosses the red line of the West, by attacking Ukraine, invading Taiwan or building a nuke. Their reputation for being relatively civilized and peaceful, or what remains of that reputation, will then instantly evaporate. Their economies will be blocked, similar to what happened to Japan before Pearl Harbor. So in this situation it’s maybe best to level the playing field by destroying almost all international supply chains in 2-3 successive big bangs hitting the globalized West quickly.

But if Putin and Xi are not willing to think big and take huge risks, like Napoleon and Caesar did, nothing but noisy posturing will be on the horizon the next decade. Because they probably realize that half-hearted military attempts don’t work against the US. America is decadent, but not that decadent. It will fight, unless deterred by a real prospect of WW3.

Supply chains are unhappy today, after many of China’s ships went dark. CNN:

China’s disappearing ships: The latest headache for the global supply chain

Maybe that’s a headache for Taiwan too?

But imperial leaders in the West and East are not necessarily into realism. They are maybe delusional, blinded by ideology and wishful thinking. If one of them thinks a war can be localized, and not escalate until mushrooms pop up, this naivety can be a slippery slope to a nuclear winter. The Hill:

The US can’t deter an attack on Taiwan

“… the political cost of allowing Taiwan to remain outside the fold, now that China is relatively wealthy and powerful and thus able to compel its return, is growing. Indeed, if Chinese public opinion is any indicator, the political benefits of forcibly compelling Taiwan’s reunification now clearly exceed the costs. Doing nothing – the official policy for most of the period before China’s rise and Xi’s accession – is a decreasingly viable option.” (…)

“And that leads us to the final, and decisive, shift in the strategic correlation of forces – changes in the nuclear balance. As China has expanded its nuclear missile force and otherwise taken steps to realize strategic parity with the U.S., Washington’s nuclear backstop has become less credible (that’s the whole point of China’s nuclear buildup).”

“In fact, we have now reached a point in the nuclear relationship where the so-called “stability-instability paradox” has begun to kick in. The stability-instability paradox holds that as two states achieve rough nuclear parity (or at least the ability to inflict mutual assured destruction on one another), they feel more confident in engaging in conventional military competition and even conflict.” (…)

“Does this mean that the PRC will “liberate” Taiwan anytime soon? Probably not. The PLA is not yet ready to launch a full-scale amphibious assault and will likely not be ready for a few years. But it does mean that Washington cannot count on the policies and platitudes of the past to deter Beijing for much longer. It means that when it comes to Taiwan, the United States must decide: take steps now to restore deterrence or prepare to see Taiwan “liberated” in the not too distant future.”

The Hill also has this opinion piece by David Sauer, a retired senior CIA officer who served as chief of station and deputy chief of station in multiple overseas command positions in East Asia and South Asia:

America must prepare for war with China over Taiwan

“Taiwan is of vital geopolitical importance to the United States. Its thriving democracy is one of the freest societies on the planet. As World War II U.S. Navy Adm. Ernest King said, Taiwan is the “cork in the bottle” for Japan. Whoever controls Taiwan will control Japan and the Republic of Korea’s shipping lifelines. Chinese control of Taiwan will give it enormous influence over both Japan and Korea, fundamentally altering the strategic calculus in East Asia and give China its long sought-after opportunity to Finlandize both countries.” (…)

“Xi will strive to ease tensions in Sino-American relations to ensure a successful Winter Olympics in Beijing in early 2022 and through his selection again as the head of the party in fall 2022. Once his position is secured, Xi will ratchet up pressure on Taiwan in advance of the Taiwan presidential election in early 2024, leaving 2023 as a potentially dangerous year.” (…)

“Taiwan has been trying to transform itself into a “prickly porcupine” with indigenous production of asymmetric weapons, as well as purchases of new U.S.-made systems. Based on announced weapon sales agreements, many of these new U.S. made systems will not be active in the Taiwan services until the mid- to late-2020s, giving Beijing a window to try to take Taiwan in 2023 or 2024. Speeding up delivery of key asymmetric systems may help change Beijing’s calculus.” (…)

“Nevertheless, geographic space and logistical issues will make a timely U.S. military response difficult; it may take several weeks for the U.S. to have sufficient forces in the region to challenge the PLA in the battle space around Taiwan. Having more forces stationed in the Pacific may help speed a U.S. response.”

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