Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rumors of War - King of the North - Kings of the East

Russian aircraft barrel rolls U.S. Air Force plane, second time in a month -
UPI reports: "A Russian fighter jet performed what the United States considers an unsafe arial [aerial?...Ed.] maneuver over a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane while flying over the Baltic Sea, the second such maneuver in a month. CNN reported a Russian SU-27 flew within 25 feet of the U.S. Air Force RC-135 and performed a barrel roll, by flying over the U.S. plane from one side to the other in an inverted position."

China denies U.S. Navy carrier port visit to Hong Kong -
UPI reports: "China denied a U.S. aircraft carrier entry into a Hong Kong port, Pentagon officials said Friday. A spokesman for the Hong Kong Security Bureau would not comment on the decision to deny entry to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and its escort ships access to the port. [...] The denial came as tension rise between the United States and China after Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter visited the Stennis while it was stationed in the South China Sea. The United States is attempting to challenge Beijing's claim to more than 80 percent of the maritime area."

Comment: Probably one of the most important changes in the last few years has been the pivot. No, not the U.S. pivot to Asia but the Russian pivot to China. The profound impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy have driven Russia to seek a new economic partner in China. This is entirely understandable and represents a lost opportunity to fulfill the dream of a new Europe that included Russia. As that door closed, Russia acted to open new doors with new partners like China. Trade deals have been HUGE, weapons deals have been HUGE, and more importantly, the strategic understanding between the two has been HUGE.  The two share a determined resolve to end the unipolar post-Cold War era in world affairs and replace American leadership with a new international order that is more responsive to their interests.  The two countries have an informal agreement to join in challenging American global presence in both small ways and large. These two incidents today represent only the most recent examples of this shared effort. The U.S. response under Obama has been uneven, at times accommodating and at other times, resolute in pushing back against challenges. Although commentators and talking-heads are reluctant to admit it, Obama has been far more pragmatic than most observers expected. He has avoided conflict with Russia and China while seeking to preserve and maintain the current international order. It is growing increasingly evident that the effort to maintain the Pax Americana will eventually lead to conflict with one or both of these countries. It will take shrewd diplomacy and clear strategic vision backed by overwhelming military power to maintain the current international order. We can only hope - and pray - that the next American president will have the skill and wisdom to safely navigate the ship of state through this gathering storm.

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