Something much much bigger than the Taliban is taking place on the dusty plains of Central Asia. News that Russia and China have formally commenced joint military exercises should fill all of us with deep disquiet. Brad Lendon of CNN  tries to put an optimistic gloss on things. He says that the interests of the two counties do not converge. China has no interest in Crimea, nor Russia in the South China Sea. Perhaps. But by the same token, analysts of the 1930s would have alleged that Imperial Japan had no interest in Belgium, nor Nazi Germany in Hong Kong. Power finds its own reasons nonetheless.
It is easy to see what China gains from this for they are the overwhelmingly superior partner. But Russia? No one can penetrate the inner workings of the Kremlin. But someone there must have looked at the map and seen the enormous, resource-rich lands of Siberia and how vulnerable they are to a thrust from below. Better perhaps to make friends and supply the resources peacefully, before they are taken by force. It was the thinking followed by Joseph Stalin between 1939 and 1941, and it did not end well.
Western nations, where a flicker of freedom is still alive, have much to fear. We cannot wait in the hope of others falling out. However disastrous the loss of Afghanistan, at least it frees up money and resources to be better deployed elsewhere. Above all it shows how self-defeating our own little quarrels over borders and tariffs really are, when vaster issues are at stake.
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