In the new Great Game, America is on one side, who is on the other?
China and India — according to Oxford lecturer Mark Almond who believes that the next Great Game will be between the United States on one side, and China, India and Latin America on the other.
If Ukraine falls into the Nato orbit, Russia will lose her access to Black Sea naval bases and Russian oil and gas export routes will have to pass an American stranglehold.
Yet Russia is a bit player in this new global competition. The Pentagon is really aiming at Beijing in its grab for the old Soviet strategic space around Russia. China is booming, but energy is her Achilles heel.
If South America, south Asia and China begin to coalesce, then Washington could find itself confronted by an alternative axis not seen since before the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s. Maybe India and China are business rivals, but their old frontier disputes in the Himalayas are frozen. Latin America has nothing to fear from either superpower of the future, nor do Latin Americans nurse visceral resentments of Beijing or Delhi that are in any way comparable to their deep-dyed anti-Yankee feelings.
America’s drive to dominate the old Soviet Union represents a gamble by today’s only superpower to seize the highest-value chips on the table before China and India join the game. If China can add access to post-Soviet energy to the Chinese hand, it will be game on for a real new cold war.
Oil entered China’s foreign policy calculus just over a decade ago, and India is only beginning to think about energy security in a proactive sense. In time, the two Asian giants are likely to compete with each other for natural resources, markets and influence.
Even if India and China are able to set aside political differences and resolve territorial disputes, it is unlikely that they would come together in some form of anti-American alliance. Almond is right on one point — the new Great Game will pit America against China, but India is likely to remain ‘non-aligned’ and not permanently join any camp. Values and economics will bring India closer to the United States, but at the same time sheer proximity will ensure India does not end up too much on China’s wrong side.
Almond’s analysis misses out one major player — the European Union. Ukraine’s Orange revolutionaries are already looking to the EU for inspiration; in future they may even joint its fold. In any case, the EU is likely to have a profound influence in the former-Soviet republics, and perhaps in Russia itself. If the trans-atlantic rift gets much wider, the complexion of the Great Game is likely to be very different.