Friday, December 21, 2007
Let's You And Him Fight
In an Asia Times Online article, M K Bhadrakumar argues that Russia's tactical alliance with Iran must principally be understood in the context of the rivalry between Washington and Moscow for Eurasian energy supplies and transit points. Specifically, Europe's growing dependence on gas that either comes from or travels through Russia runs the risk of splintering the strategic interests of the Atlantic alliance. That's why Washington has been intent on encircling and containing Russia's resurgence, and Moscow on tightening its grip on gas fields and pipelines leading to Europe.
Iran represents a potential wedge, since by directing their gas supplies to the European market they weaken Russia's leverage. Russia's cooperative line with Tehran on bi-lateral energy policy is designed to divide the pie (Russian gas to Europe, Iranian gas to Asia) in such a way to maximize both countries' influence and triangulate America's strategic alliances.
But nothing about the Russian-Iranian tactical arrangement gives the impression that it's an indelible longterm alignment. So strategically, it seems intuitively obvious that Washington's got to decide on one of two options: either a broad deal with Russia, or a broad deal with Iran. But to ratchet up the pressure on both of them simultaneously will surely result in driving them even further into each other's arms.
Which leads me to wonder if American strategic thinking isn't at a natural disadvantage compared to countries where instead of a two-party system in domestic politics, there are multi-party parliamentary coalitions that make a political calculus of "You're either with us or against us" inconceivable.