J.L. Wall, John’s colleague at Upturned Earth, has written a sober response to one of David Goldman’s recent odd posts. I confess I stopped paying attention to “Spengler” around the time he wrote this (to which I responded here), and I don’t think I’ve been missing anything since then. From a quick browse of his recent posts, I find that Goldman’s abandonment of anonymity has somehow led him to become even more unreasonable. It seems that Goldman has no use for M.K. Bhadrakumar, except when the latter happens to write something that reinforces Goldman’s own views, but he has no trouble using Bhadrakumar’s latest report as the basis for this claim:
Never in history has a great power [i.e., the U.S.] cast away so much influence in so short a period of time.
Of course, anyone who bothers to read Bhadrakumar’s report would come to a rather different and much more balanced conclusion. Bhadrakumar described Biden’s visit to Ukraine and Georgia and the statements he made there much as I have:
Plainly put, Biden’s stark message was that the Obama administration intends to robustly challenge Russia’s claim as the predominant power in the post-Soviet space.
Far from casting away influence, Washington seems intent on retaining and expanding that influence, and engagement and “reset” be damned. I may regard this as folly, but there is no question that it is happening. Indeed, it is plausible that Erdogan’s supposed troublemaking in Central Asia and Xinjiang, which could work to the detriment of both Russia and China, is either something that Washington has been encouraging or it is something that Washington does not find particularly upsetting.
It might also be relevant to this discussion to note that the Uighurs did not see Abdullah Gul’s visit to Urumqi before the riots as a gesture of pan-Turkic solidarity, but instead as a signal to Beijing that improved Sino-Turkish relations need not be held hostage by any feelings of ethnic kinship with marginalized Uighurs. According to Gul, the Uighurs were to be a “bridge of friendship” between Turkey and China, which sounds pleasant enough until one remembers that being a bridge can mean getting trampled on.
It is true that Erdogan has sharply criticized China in even stronger terms than he criticized Israel over Gaza, which suggests a pattern of catering to a domestic audience at the expense of influence and good relations abroad. As it happens, Turkish public opinion is even more hostile to China in the wake of the riots, and the government is navigating very choppy waters as it tries to express some outrage over the treatment of Uighurs without destroying its relationship with China entirely. Everything AK has been doing for the last decade has pointed to internal consolidation, not Enver-esque adventures to unite all Turks. AK’s Islamism is as moderate or immoderate as ever, but it is not the issue here.
If one of our allies is stirring up trouble in the backyard of two rival powers, how could this possibly bother Goldman? Apparently he is deeply concerned that China has gained a foothold in the oh-so-vital market of Moldova. What he seems to have missed entirely is that Russian and Chinese moves in Moldova are pre-emptive moves designed to prevent Moldova from falling into NATO’s orbit, which means that this new projection of Chinese economic power is partly a response to the continued aggressive policy of NATO expansion that Biden’s trip just re-confirmed. Bhadrakumar comments:
Moldova is a country where China has historically been an observer rather than a player. This is Beijing’s first leap across Central Asia to the frayed western edges of Eurasia. Why is Moldova becoming so terribly important? Beijing will have calculated the immense geopolitical significance of Moldova’s integration by the West. It would then be a matter of time before Moldova was inducted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), before the Black Sea became a “NATO lake” and the alliance positioned itself in a virtually unassailable position to march into the Caucasus and right into Central Asia on China’s borders.
What we may never quite know is the extent of coordination between Moscow and Beijing. Both capitals have stressed lately of increased Sino-Russian coordination in foreign policy. The joint statement issued after the visit by the Chinese President Hu Jintao to Russia in June specifically expressed Beijing’s support for Moscow over the situation in the Caucasus. Clearly, a high degree of coordination is becoming visible across the entire post-Soviet space.
In other words, the continuation of misguided hegemonic policies in eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia has worked to solidify and strengthen Sino-Russian ties and elicited a series of responses designed to thwat further advances of U.S. influence. From all of this, Goldman has managed to find evidence not only of diminishing American influence, but of the fastest decline in the influence of a great power in All Of History. This is plainly ludicrous, and it has nothing to do with what Bhadrakumar has written, nor has it very much to do with the real world.