Eurasia Rising – Part III – Iran, Turkey, India and Other Eurasian Jigsaws

 

Already having covered China in Part I, Russia in Part II, I will now explore what other countries in Eurasia are set to be key players in the rising Eurasian bloc and the coming multipolar world order. We will also explore their relations with China, Russia and the US, and their various interactions. The next part will cover how the pieces fit together and the various Eurasian projects and institutions that are set to strengthen the world’s biggest landmass and secure its place as the next large power bloc on the globe.

Iran

Having already covered some background on Iran here, the first thing we can say about Iran is that it lies right in the middle of the Middle East itself. If you wish to travel from China to Europe by land, there are only two countries that you must pass through – Iran and Russia. Thus Iran’s strategic position is of vital importance for China – having Iran “in the fold” is important for upcoming Eurasian projects which I will cover in the next article.

China is Iran’s top export destination, and China imports about 14.5% of its crude oil from Iran. In early 2016, the first direct freight train connecting China and Iran arrived in Tehran after a 14 day trip. Russia is also in an increasingly strategic military alliance with Iran in the Middle East, as both countries share similar security threats from the US and Saudi Arabia. Iran and Russia have partnered in Syria very successfully, helping Syria fend off regime change. Russia has also helped bring Iran and Turkey into deeper cooperation over Syria. And thanks largely to American military blunders such as the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, this has had the inadvertent effect of removing some of Iran’s greatest arch-enemies, – Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Iran has therefore seized on the chance to become closely aligned with the new government in Iraq, and has steadily rose to prominence in the Middle East ever since 2001, now a powerful key player that commands millions of Shia fighters from across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, willing to mobilise and defend against provocation.

One of the most important recent developments has been the lifting of trade sanctions on Iran in exchange for de-escalating its nuclear program in 2015, thanks to the Obama administration teaming up with a broad working group that includes Russia and China. Given America’s hostility towards Iran, the massive Iranian domestic market is hungry for infrastructure upgrades after being shut off from global business, and will likely see contracts awarded to mostly European, Turkish, Russian and Chinese businesses. European businesses have been lining up prior to the lifting of sanctions, sensing big opportunities in the Iranian market. Iran also boasts one the world’s largest crude oil reserves, however largely due to sanctions, it has not been able to develop the refining capacity to tap most of these reserves. With the lifting of sanctions, Iran stands to upgrade its refining capacity dramatically, to cement a key place in global energy markets. Thus Iran is set to further strengthen its hand in Eurasia, and enjoy ever more powerful regional clout, while China and Russia both sense this could well be the final impetus needed to bring Iran into the SCO, while pouring investments into the country.

Iranian oil and gas reserves, one of the world’s largest yet most underutilized. This is set to change as Iran opens up to Eurasia more.
The engine of Eurasia – China, and its appetite for energy

Turkey

Turkey has been inching steadily away from the embrace of the West in the last two decades, particularly recent years. While still a NATO member, its utility for NATO lies mainly in being used as a potential launchpad against Russia ever since the cold war, when the US positioned nuclear missiles on Turkish soil that triggered the subsequent Cuban missile crisis. Having adopted a “Zero Problems” policy with its neighbours in the 2000s, the brainchild policy of Ahmet Davutoglu for Turkey will probably be looked back on as the good old days; relations with the EU have been frayed ever since President Erdogan came to power in 2003 as Prime Minister with an agenda of transforming Turkey away from the Kemalist secular role model Europe had hoped for, and into an Islamist model based loosely on the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey’s support for the Ikhwan, or Muslim Brotherhood, along with Qatar, have stoked regional tensions with Israel, Saudi Arabia and various Gulf emirates, who feel their absolute monarchical system of power under threat. In 2009, relations with Israel hit rock bottom with the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, resulting in Turkish support for Hamas, the Palestinian offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Israeli heavy-handed tactics resulting in 9 Turkish deaths.

As a key conduit into Europe, relations further frayed with the EU over the migrant crisis and Erdogan’s bazaar haggling approach, demanding billions of extra euros to absorb millions of Syrian refugees Europe wasn’t keen on taking in, while at the same time playing an active role in the Syrian regime change war. As a result of the overwhelming refugee influxes into Europe during the summers of 2015 and 2016, anti-Islam backlashes ensued, and Europe began to slowly close the door on Turkey’s EU accession. Turkey intervened during the war in Syria on the same side as the foreign backed terrorists against the Syrian government, pitting it at odds with Syria, Iran and Russia. The Erdogan family even had close business ties with ISIS, regarding them as lesser threats than the PKK, and having no qualms about buying illegally trafficked Syrian oil from ISIS. This invited a ferocious Russian response, annihilating ISIS oil convoys en masse throughout Syria.

Not phased by the EU’s backtracking on the South Stream pipeline, Putin seized the moment to pull Turkey into the Russian fold by offering Erdogan the prize he wanted most: to become a regional energy hub. As a further incentive to not deal with ISIS in Syria, and on the back of warming relations, a monumental gas pipeline deal was signed between Russia and Turkey in October 2016, – “Turkish Stream”. This pipeline deal stood to hard-wire relations. But in November 2015, a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian Su-24 bomber flying allegedly in its airspace near Syria. This was a very suspicious act that intended on deliberately setting up a major clash between Turkey and Russia. The Turkish air force was well-known to be very pro-NATO, and this event came suspiciously on the heels of the signing of Turkish Stream. The following month in December, Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated. It seemed like a clear agenda was at play to ruin Russian-Turkish relations. And while relations did subsequently nosedive, with Russia imposing hefty economic sanctions on Turkey, blocking further energy investment and tourism, it wasn’t until half a year later that relations would thaw again. This would be in the aftermath of a tumultuous event that would change Erdogan’s mind about the West, and began his decisive drift east, towards Eurasia.

In the summer of 2016, there was a coup attempt in Turkey, with various segments of the Turkish armed forces unsuccessfully attempting to overthrow Erdogan. Russian President Vladimir Putin allegedly warned Erdogan ahead of the coup, and Erdogan managed to call on millions of his supporters to come out onto the streets and resist the coup, to which they did. As a result of the failed putsch, Erdogan oversaw a massive purge of Gulenists inside and outside of Turkey, resulting in tens of thousands of suspensions and incarcerations. To Erdogan, the many pro-Gulen accomplices in the coup signalled a conspiracy that the Gulenist ‘parallel state structure’ was a big threat to the AKP. Fethullah Gulen, once close to Erdogan, and the founder of the movement, became the centrepiece in a diplomatic row between the US and Turkey. As he was living in exile in the state of Pennsylvania, the US refused to extradite him on Turkey’s demand, fuelling further Turkish suspicions of Western involvement in the coup. The US base at Incirlik was surrounded at one point and temporarily suspended over fears of a resurgent coup. The US in the meanwhile ignored Turkish entreaties and began arming the Kurds in Syria, the SDF. The arming of Kurdish groups with heavy weapons was a big red line for Erdogan, and thus Turkey began to drift evermore east towards Eurasia, sensing betrayal from the West.

Within the next year, Russia had lifted sanctions on Turkey and Erdogan had changed the constitution with widespread support, solidifying his grip on power. Adding to NATO’s frustrations, Turkey signed a huge deal to purchase the Russian S400 anti-missile defence system, and became a key guarantor of the Eurasian-led “Astana peace process” in Syria, coordinating closely with Iran and Russia. Meanwhile, it kicked out German forces from Incirlik base and had the accession door slammed in its face by Europe. If the West was willing to lose Turkey, Turkey was willing to go east. And east it went; in the wake of the US-Saudi blockade on Qatar, another Muslim Brotherhood backer, Turkey sent troops to one of its few foreign bases in Doha, sending a strong signal of support for Qatar. President Erdogan has also repeatedly called to join the SCO. Turkey therefore plays its unique hand at holding the revolving door between East and West, and is testing how much payoff going East will bring, while the West shuns its aspirations and fails to listen to this powerful emerging power. Russia has cleverly seized the opportunity to bring Turkey into the Eurasian fold, where business trumps ideology.

And business will be the prime lure for Turkey, a very business-savvy nation, the home of the famous Turkish bazaar. Turkish companies, particularly construction and engineering companies, have a global reach and are known to be involved with large-scale projects, much like Chinese companies. Turkish construction/engineering companies are second only to Chinese contractors, in terms of monetary volume of construction contracts. Turkey will find ample room to expand its businesses in a Eurasia that is friendly to its interests. For this reason, China is also expressing deep interest in Turkey, as it lies on a highly strategic pathway for its OBOR, with Greece next door as its prime maritime ally in Europe for its Maritime Silk Road. China now majority-owns Greece’s Piraeus port and will leverage off its good maritime relation with the Greeks, who host the world’s largest maritime merchant fleet, and thus having both Turkey and Greece friendly to China will ultimately be great for its main entry point into European markets.

Turkey is at strategically important crossroads between East and West, and is finding itself a bigger role in the East rather than the West

Pakistan and Afghanistan

Since its split from India in 1947, Pakistan has allied with the US in the cold war against the USSR, hosting various US bases. This dynamic was partly why Indo-Soviet relations flourished at the same time. Since the 2001 September 11 attacks, Pakistan remained officially ‘allied’ with the US in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in neighbouring Afghanistan, hosting US forces and even committing its own forces against the Taliban, under US pressure. However in reality, Pakistan’s notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and various segments of the armed forces, have been hedging their bets and double-playing the US. There is strong sympathetic support for the Taliban in Pakistan, with many reports of the Pakistani Taliban hosting Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban figures. After-all, Osama bin Ladin was ultimately found and killed in Pakistan, in the wealthy military-town of Abbottabad. While traditionally a Pashtun resistance movement, the Taliban – for majority Punjabi Pakistan, are a useful proxy in Afghanistan. This is because Pakistan traditionally fears Indian influence in Afghanistan, and India has indeed been eyeing closer relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan is also hosting two important and competing natural gas pipelines – the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline and the Iran-Pakistan pipeline. The former connects Turkmenistani Caspian gas to India, via Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the latter connects Iranian South Pars gas to Pakistan, and then possibly onto India. The US has been supportive of the Caspian pipeline, but objected to the Iran-Pakistan pipeline fearing closer cooperation between Iran and Pakistan. Despite this imperial pressure, Pakistan signed the deal and hedged its energy bets.

As the US unwinds its costly and destructive war in Afghanistan, a country with potentially more than a trillion dollars in untapped mineral resources, some speculate that the US is prolonging its presence in Afghanistan as a pretext to exploit them, and to keep a geopolitical fire raging in the midst of China’s ambitious new Silk Road initiative. However, the Taliban are far from being defeated, and will remain an underground force to be reckoned with. The Taliban have survived the might of the world’s two greatest superpowers since WWII – the USSR and the USA, both having failed to eliminate this local Pashtun resistance movement. As such, pragmatic realism has swept the attitudes of Eurasian giants Russia and China, who have been upgrading their relations with Pakistan recently, sensing some leverage Pakistan holds over the Taliban, but more importantly, the trio sharing common security concerns in Afghanistan. The trio have been deepening talks with the Kabul government in Moscow, although Kabul insists that future talks concerning the inclusion of the Taliban should be held in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, there seems to be a mutual understanding in Eurasia about the pragmatic need to find a political settlement in Afghanistan that includes the Taliban. Having a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan is important to regional security within the framework of the SCO, and this common issue is bringing Russia, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan closer together, much to the chagrin of the US. Peace in Afghanistan also stands to benefit India, which has seen an increase in its Afghan investments. As such, the US is looking increasingly like the odd one out of the equation, insisting on more war, refusing to talk with the Taliban and demonstrating sheer imperial brutishness.

China has traditionally viewed Islamabad as a regional ally, in part to offset Indian ambition, but in a larger part due to its key geopolitical position for its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Since Nawaz Sharif became Pakistani Prime Minister in 2013, relations with China, and Russia, have been deepening. China has increased its investments in Pakistan to mammoth proportions and ties between both countries are flourishing. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is one such example that proves the hard-wiring of the relationship, with mind-blowing estimates at about $50 billion in Chinese infrastructure projects. Pakistan also features prominently on China’s OBOR initiative, with China overhauling Gwadar port, which could serve as a future naval base, and a key trading hub on its Maritime Silk Route (MSR). But it is not only China that has been embracing Pakistan, – Russia too has seen a surge in interest. Russia, like China, sees potential in embracing Pakistan, as India flirts with Washington. Pakistan and Russia have also been upgrading relations to new heights under Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan has offered port access to Russia at Gwadar, and Russia has won big arms deals to upgrade Pakistan’s military. Both countries have even held unprecedented joint military drills, despite Indian opposition. Russia too is investing in upgrading Pakistani infrastructure, signalling the importance of Pakistan not only to China. It is currently constructing the North-South pipeline, which will provide Pakistan with vital infrastructure to link up natural gas terminals at the port city of Karachi with Lahore. In a landmark double accession, Pakistan and India both became full members in the SCO in 2016, and were founding members of China’s new development bank, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), which will be bankrolling Beijing’s Eurasian initiatives and rivalling the Japan-led Asian Development Bank (ADB).

As India flirts with Washington sensing insecurity, Pakistan edges closer as a key lynchpin in an emerging Eurasian bloc, under the embrace and guidance of Russia and China. Afghanistan in the meanwhile, looks to this Eurasian bloc even more, as the US shows its ulterior motives that fall out of line with regional security and stability.

Pakistan is securing new energy deals and is a vital link in China’s One Belt One Road vision for Eurasia

India

India ever since the cold war, has been officially one of the big “non-aligned” countries. However in reality, it has maintained very friendly and strong relations with the USSR, and this has carried through to today with Russia. During Soviet times, the USSR and India signed a strategic pact of cooperation, the “Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation”. While not going so far as a military pact, it nevertheless signalled the depth of Indo-Soviet relations. India’s first prime minister after independence from the British Raj in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, was attracted to both democratic principles and socialism. He looked up to the Soviet Union and was a fundamental figure in bringing India close to the USSR. The Soviets appreciated the relationship too, and during India and Pakistan’s brief border war in 1965, the USSR served as a broker.

Russia post-USSR has continued to maintain close relations with India. But one of the deepest levels of cooperation between India and Russia has been in the military-technology spheres. India is one of the largest markets for Russian arms, and despite New Delhi taking steps to diversify its defence needs with the US, Russia still remains its chief arms supplier. Indo-Russian technological cooperation has produced some impressive joint projects, such as the BrahMos hypersonic missile, the 5th generation Su-57 multirole fighter, the Su-30MKI multirole fighter and the Kamov-226 helicopter. India in return has been able to develop endogenous defence technology under Russian guidance, with Hindustan Aeronautics taking strides to manufacture many of these systems in India, for India’s defence specification needs. India and Russia also hold bi-annual military drills. Ties also span into cultural, economic and even space cooperation. Russia, India and Iran are also cooperating on the North-South Transport Corridor, which is an ambitious 7000km rail, sea and road network intended to facilitate inland trade between India and Russia, through Iran and central Asia.

To China however, India poses more of a competitive threat, with the two most populous states in the world often having clashing spheres of influence in Asia. Despite these inevitable differences that have arisen between both culturally rich nations, the two have had a history that goes back for thousands of years, ever since Indian influence found its way to China via the silk road, and Buddhism split from Hinduism and moved north to Tibet and beyond. These days however, China is the more dominant force, being India’s largest trade partner. Economic relations remain deep, but militarily, both are somewhat suspicious of each other, having had a long history of border clashes and disputes, particularly over the western region of Jammu and Kashmir and the eastern region of Sikkim. Ever since China annexed Tibet in 1950 to act as a buffer between itself and India, it has resulted in contention between the two. In 1959 during Tibetan uprisings, India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama fleeing China. Tensions bubbled during the 1960 Sino-Indian war at the border of Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in a Chinese victory. Its interesting to note the power dynamic between India, Pakistan, Russia and China during the cold war. China began to seek close relations with India’s arch nemesis, Pakistan, since the 1960s, to offset Indo-Soviet closeness, and backed Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. The two further clashed along their contentious border at Sikkim during the 1960s and 70s, with the most recent incident being the Doklam border standoff in 2017, near Sikkim and Bhutan, an Indian ally. The two however, managed to put aside their differences shortly before a BRICS summit, highlighting the mutual change in attitudes of Eurasia’s two giants from the cold war era, who now aim to seek closer cooperation as multiple multilateral Eurasian projects and institutions are taking shape.

And while India begins to flirt with the US, sensing insecurity as Russia and China edge closer with Pakistan and China exerts considerable influence in neighbouring Myanmar, Sino-Indian relations remain critical in the smooth operation of Eurasian peace and prosperity. The US will find it difficult to penetrate India’s long history and reliance on Russian arms as well as their strong bond; it has a better chance at trying to provoke long-standing Indo-Chinese suspicion and hostilities instead. For this reason, China and Russia must also strive to accommodate Indian interests, to ensure that India remains satisfied with its place in Eurasia. To this end, both India and Pakistan have been admitted to the SCO in 2016, suggesting that China senses the importance of India in the Eurasian fold despite being a regional competitor. China has also admitted India as a founding member into its Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), the institution that will bankroll development projects across Eurasia and its massive One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. However, India remains sceptical of the OBOR and has not invested as much interest as Pakistan. Seizing on its relative coolness towards OBOR, Chinese adversaries such as Japan and the US have been trying to console India and push their own agendas.

Thus, China and Russia must be weary of the potentially weak point India represents in the BRICS, – being vulnerable to US and Japanese influence if it feels too left out and isolated in the Eurasia that China and Russia wish to forge. In this instance, Russia could play a more constructive role to help bring India more into the fold and allay its insecurities over Pakistan’s closeness with China, leveraging off their traditionally strong bilateral ties. China and India should eventually learn to put their differences aside and find mutual interest to work together in Eurasia, rather than against each other. India has always been the more coy power, treading carefully not to jeopardise its relationship with its powerful northern neighbour, and understanding that perhaps with some Russian re-assurance, it can belong to the club without having to curry US and Japanese ‘help’, which will always be laced in ulterior motives, as both remain offshore powers.

India and China, the two Asian heavy-weights, share a long border open to dispute, however they will learn to manage their differences

Central Asia and the Caucuses

The “stans” – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan are quite firmly under overlapping Russian, Turkish and Chinese spheres. During the USSR, all “stans” were basically under the aegis of what is now Russia, and Russian remains a lingua franca in almost all these nations, in addition to the presence of significant Russian ethnic minorities and speakers. Post-USSR, the “stans” have remained more or less under Moscow’s orbit. For example, during the US-led war in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, one of the heavy-weight central Asian states, evicted the US from its K2 airbase in 2005, a base initially used by the US to assist the Northern Alliance in toppling the Taliban. However, Russia is not the only one which has influence here. Turkey, being the most powerful Turkic-speaking nation of all, maintains close relations with its Turkic brethren, and co-chairs the Turkic Council. Turkey also has large investments in Central Asia and has traditionally wrestled with Russia for influence in Western Asia, namely, the Caucuses. Moreover, with China’s declaration of its ambitious OBOR project, Russia will probably need to lessen its grip and accept an inevitable increase in Chinese influence and interest in what it regards as its backyard in central Asia.

In the Caucuses, Azerbaijan remains close with Turkey and Russia, while Armenia remains closer with Russia than Turkey. Azerbaijan has been historically rich in oil, a knowledge going back to the times of Marco Polo, and post-USSR, Azerbaijan has courted Western technology firms to service its oil and gas fortunes. As a result, US and European politicians have sought Azeri oil and gas in a bid to sidestep Russian pipelines. One such notable Western-Azeri-Turkish project is the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Another long standing project, which seems to be lingering, is the Nabucco pipeline. However, aggressive Russian moves to push its own pipelines into Turkey have stalled the project. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan remains a key interest for the US empire, in its quest to diversify energy supplies into its European playground.

Georgia too has been flirting with Washington, to its own detriment however. Unlike Azerbaijan, which remains only open for energy, Georgia possesses no such energy surplus, and has had a somewhat more romantic affection for the US. This was surely bound to disappoint after 2008, when Georgian President Mikhail Sakashvilli, most likely under US guidance, miscalculated and invited a swift Russian military response, forcing Georgia to its knees, and the US ultimately backing down and not willing to fight over Georgia any further. This was the US attempting its age-old strategy, as I’ve outlined here, unsuccessfully in the Caucuses. Attempted color revolutions and regime change have broken out in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, Iran in 2009 and Armenia in 2016. One can only speculate about the possibility of US Neocon hands behind them. They were all unsuccessful, highlighting Eurasian resistance to known US tactics. However, one cannot rule out possible future US attempts at stoking unrest in Eurasia’s underbelly.

While Russia, China and Turkey sharing historic influence in central Asia and the Caucuses, this is unlikely to lead to any serious mishaps among them, as they mutually understand the need for cooperation, and this is exactly the kind of spirit Eurasian initiatives stand to further foster. The US will have a hard time penetrating these regions any time soon.

Azerbaijan is a key energy hub in the Caucuses

South-East Asia

With Bhutan and Nepal under the Indian sphere of influence, Taiwan, North Korea, Hong-Kong, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Myanmar remain under mostly Chinese influence. Hong-Kong and Taiwan however, also share a Western influence, with Hong-Kong being a former British colony until 1997, and Taiwan being a bastion for China’s anti-Communist Nationalists, lead by Chiang Kai-Shek, who lost the war in 1948 to Mao and fled to Taiwan. As such, Hong-Kong and Taiwan have flirted with the US, however, losing these to the US would be China’s red-lines, and the US would risk serious Chinese anger if it pressed ahead with regime change there. Myanmar since British independence has been ruled mostly by a strict military junta, and has experienced much ethnic strife and civil warring between its various ethnic factions. It is a country rich with minerals and energy and China has been its strongest investor and supporter, forming a close military and economic bond in the face of Western sanctions to the country. However, Myanmar has also courted New Delhi to try to lessen full dependence on China, and faces a brewing problem with it’s Muslim Rohingya minority, a conflict recently spilling over to Bangladesh. China is emerging as an important mediator to this crisis, hoping to stem the instability.

Bangladesh, or East Pakistan, used to be part of Pakistan for 24 years after the British Raj, until a war of independence in 1971 against ‘West’ Pakistan resulted in the modern emergence of Bangladesh. India helped Bangladesh in its war against Pakistan, and this assistance has helped win sympathy towards India. Nevertheless, both Bangladesh and Pakistan are tied together as Muslim-majority nations, while India stands out of this dynamic. Bangladesh therefore is not fully within the embrace of India, nor Pakistan, despite the improvement in ties since the war of 1971. Bangladesh has been much more receptive towards China and its OBOR than India. This is because Bangladesh and China have developed good trade and military ties to offset Indian influence, and China supplies Bangladesh with defence equipment. Perhaps being caught in the middle of Indian and Pakistan hostilities has made Dhaka turn towards China more, as it now stands to gain heavy Chinese investment, in return for having strategic port access on the Maritime Silk Route.

In other areas of Indo-China, Thailand has been historically neutral and not colonised by any European power, acting as a neutral buffer between British and French colonies in Indochina. It has had an enduring military rule through-out most of the 20th century, however, not as insular as Myanmar’s. During the Vietnam war, Thailand hosted US bases and was largely pro-US. The country began purchasing American weapons and became a Western tourist hotspot. In the 2000s, it was plagued by multiple political crises, scandals, coups and finally, having had enough of the instability, it is now ruled by a military junta. Ever since the junta came to power by a coup in 2014, relations with the West have cooled, and Thailand has been moving to improve relations with China and Russia, seeking new weapons and trade deals.

Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam on the other hand, have all been former French colonies, and all three are still ruled by Socialist governments generally friendly to China and Russia. Laos and Cambodia have traditionally been much closer to China, than say, Vietnam, which as had a chequered history with China. Laos and Cambodia see heavy Chinese investment, and Laos in particular lies on an important route for China’s OBOR, with a high speed rail link being constructed by China, linking itself with Laos and possible further extensions into Thailand and Malaysia, as this route afterall is one of China’s economic corridors in the OBOR – the Indochina corridor. Vietnam on the other hand, has clashed with China multiple times within the last 2 millennia. More recently during the cold war, Vietnam was a battleground where the Sino-Soviet split emerged, an ideological clash between the two biggest purveyors of Communism in the world, the CCCP and the CCP. This paved the way for China’s gradual drift towards the US beginning with Nixon’s visit to China in 1971. While North Vietnam received support from both China and the USSR against the US and its South Vietnam proxies, China became suspicious of the closeness the Viet Cong developed with the USSR and its brand of Communism, in what it regarded as its sphere of influence. After a painful and humiliating defeat, the US left Vietnam, to have it fall fully under Viet Cong control in its wake.

The Vietnamese Viet Cong then went to war with Cambodia’s Khmer Communists, the Khmer Rouge, in 1977. China decided to side with the Khmer Rouge against Vietnam as punishment, and found itself supporting the genocidal Khmer Rouge, while the USSR supported Vietnam and Cambodia. This mini cold war between China and the USSR was not very well known, and in the end, the Khmer Rouge was deposed and Vietnam won the war in 1979. It then occupied Cambodia until 1991, provoking international backlash and isolation. The occupation almost ruined the Vietnamese economy, as it did its relations with many countries. The USSR steadfastly supported Vietnam all through-out its crisis, until it too dissolved in 1991, ultimately forcing Vietnam to withdraw and normalise relations with the rest of the world, including China. Vietnam has since improved relations with China, and China wields the strongest economic influence over Vietnam, being its prime trading partner. However relations remain tense, as the two spar over territorial disputes. Russia on the other hand, has maintained good, steadfast relations with Vietnam since the cold war, and yields a greater influence on its military than China. Vietnam is a long-standing buyer of Russian weapons and needs regular Russian technical support to service its arms. In return, Vietnam hosts one of very few foreign bases to Russia, the Cam Ranh Bay base. This goes back to Soviet times, however, more recently, the Russian navy is planning a return, while Vietnam looks to Russian technological expertise to upgrade the facility. The US of course, is unhappy about this.

The Philippines have also recently drifted away from the grips of the US empire under President Rodrigo Duterte to diversify its relations away from traditionally pro-US. Originally being a US colony seized from Spain in 1898, the Philippines has had a long-standing relationship with the US ever since, however, this occupation has not gone down without resistance. More recently, President Duterte has made overtures to China signalling he is willing to put aside territorial disputes to strengthen ties, and also with Russia as well. This is all happening to the frustration of the US, with Duterte perhaps sensing the tide turning towards a more multipolar world, and also due to the fact that Russia and China are more than happy to support his war against drug traffickers, while the US remains ambiguous.

US bases in South-east Asia “ringfence” Eurasia from the East

Japan and Korea

Japan and South Korea remain staunchly pro-US, and remain the US empire’s eastern-most client states and military launch-pads to contain Eurasia from the east. North Korea meanwhile continues to be backed by China and Russia ever since the 1950s. But with the 2017 North Korean missile crisis, South Korea has been relenting towards more outreach towards the North, and the election of Moon Jae-in in South Korea dampened US expectations of more escalation. South Koreans thus signalled in a landmark election, of the need to work with North Korea and displayed scepticism over US THAAD deployment, which is all but an attempt to slip anti-missile systems on the doorsteps of China and Russia. China and South Korea have enjoyed relatively good relations during the cold war, with South Korea staying mainly neutral and not doing anything to provoke a serious Chinese backlash. Today, the main issues of contention stand with South Korea hosting the second largest US troop contingent outside of the US, with 28,000 troops stationed in the country, and South Korea’s decision to allow the US to host the THAAD missile system. Under the pretext of protecting against North Korean missiles, the US hopes THAAD could extend into Chinese and Russian territory, providing a nuclear first strike capability.

China and Japan on the other hand, have been historic enemies and a deep mutual distrust exists between the two to this day. Japanese atrocities against Chinese Manchuria in WWII are well known, and the post-WWII rivalry between both has been increasingly economic in nature, albeit there being some mutual territorial disputes in the East China Sea. China overtook Japan as the second largest economy in the world in 2010 and has been rising ever since, leaving Japan behind, in a state of terminal stagnation ever since it has not been able to fully structurally recover from its stock market crash of 1989. Japan hosts a multitude of US bases, most notably in Okinawa, which has also seen local Japanese resistance emerge towards them. Japan poses a threat to China in the East China Sea over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, as well as being a US client state. Thus, Eurasia faces its most serious eastern threats coming from US power projection from Japan and South Korea. The US also has bases in Guam, Philippines and Australia. Taiwan remains a possible entry point for US projection as well, however this is a known red line for China.

Russia and Japan historically have also had fraught relations ever since the Russo-Japanese wars of the early 20th century. Japan defeated Tsarist Russia and was then briefly used by the British empire to contain Russian power in the east. Thus it becomes clear that Japan has been a notable bulwark used by both Anglo-American empires in containing Eurasian power from the east. In WWII, Russia and Japan fought on opposing sides, and technically never officially ended WWII between themselves over the contentious Kuril Islands, a subject of constant Japanese attention, with Japan laying claim to the islands seized by Russia over the course of the war. Post-WWII, Japan became a US pawn, and an incident in 1976 fuelled Soviet suspicion of Japanese subservience to the US, after a Soviet pilot defected and landed then top-secret fighter, the Mig-25 Foxbat, in Japan.

In more recent times, Japan and Russia have been improving ties, and stand to potentially resolve the Kuril Islands dispute, formally ending WWII. However, Russia has been expanding its presence in east Asia by strengthening military outposts on the Kuril Islands, in light of US aggression and posturing on its east flank. Russia has also been hosting talks in Vladivostok in a bid to mediate between South Korea, North Korea and Japan over dialling down Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear tests. Russia opposes US sanctions and bully tactics over North Korea, and together with China, vehemently opposes the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, viewing it as a strategic encroachment and threat. Russia and South Korea have had generally good ties, with the low point in relations reached during the Korean War of 1953, when the USSR supported China and North Korea. Both plan on building an inter-Korean rail extension that links up with Russia’s Trans-Siberian railroad, connecting South Korean goods to the European market, via North Korea and Russia. Thus this project stands to bring together Russia and the two Koreas.

Russia and Japan rub shoulders on the Kuril Islands

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7 Comments on "Eurasia Rising – Part III – Iran, Turkey, India and Other Eurasian Jigsaws"

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Muslim Dude
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Well done on another excellent and very comprehensive piece of work which may become a reference article for people reading on the web or even university students in international relations courses. I have to go now but one thing I would have to disagree with is your notion that Bangladesh is under the “influence of India”. 1. This is a lie peddled by Pakistani-backed Islamist groups and their allies in Bangladesh, who wish to promote the Pakistani agenda of superimposing the India-Pakistan hatred and conflict on to Bangladesh and ensure a Bangladesh perpetually hostile to India rather than seeking a… Read more »
Muslim Dude
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Hi again, this is my second post. There is so much that can be said about each topic but to summarize. 1. The Iranians, like the Chinese and Russians, are very savvy. They’ve successfully defended a pro-Iran ally in Syria whereas other middle eastern states experienced regime change e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. That’s pretty impressive. Syria was essential for them in retaining leverage against any possible Zio-American military attack through the retaliatory ability which Hizbullah posed to Iran. The Iranian regime has been around for 38 years now including in the 80s when virtually the whole Arab world backed Saddam’s… Read more »
CHEVI789
Guest

You both have great stories and knowledge, learning from both of you, thanks MD and AJ, Aj it’s all good with your articles, we all cannot know everything my friend, MD is enlightening you on certain facts, we can all learn from each other.

regards to both.