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Press the rewind button by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Developing foreign policy is an interesting line of work. Sometimes totally unrelated acts could have far reaching consequences on the bilateral relations. During his first term of President Obama then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously pressed the reset button to melt the diplomatic ice with Russia. At that time the relations between the two were at low ebb because of planned expansion of NATO to the backyard of Russia during the volatile Bush administration. In the second term of President Obama the most appropriate button to press would be a rewind button. Rewind back to the times of cold war when the two world powers jockeyed with each other for allies, satellites and dictating the direction of world order.

The Geneva conference this week between the two powers to discuss Syrian crisis was the formal acceptance of USA that Russia is again a formidable diplomatic and military power. It was also relegation of Syria and Turkey to the status of satellites of the two powers. There are no indications from any news or diplomatic report that opinions and interests of Turkey, a NATO member country, were considered in the negotiations. On the other hand Syria gave the reins of its destiny in the hands of Russia. France and England emerged as allies of US in Europe. Israel retained its place as a pressure point in Middle East to counter the influence of Russia’s own pressure point Iran. Egypt went back to the status quo of being the voice of USA in Middle East. Saudi Arabia retained its status as the client country for US arms and remains under her security umbrella.

There are some undecided players in this emerging new world order. These are Germany, Brazil and China. The diplomatic victory of Russia could have far reaching consequences for China. It can now assume the role of a regional power in Asia pacific, market for energy & commodities and a factory floor of the world. This role is commensurate with the historical behavior of China in which she was contented with her dominant position in her own neighborhood and did not concern herself with issues in other parts of the world. In the foreseeable future China may allow Russia to play the role of a second pole on the world stage and augment this status through her economic muscle.

Brazil considers herself the rightful dominant player in South America and always envied that USA never allowed her to play that role. That might change as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff showed independence of action by postponing her much anticipated trip to USA because of NSA leaks. These leaks revealed that Presidential communications were intercepted. Brazil also learned to its surprise that her largest company Petrobras was subjected to trade espionage. In retaliation President Rousseff demanded a formal apology and postponed her upcoming visit to Washington in October. This breach of trust could provide an opportunity for Brazil to increase its cooperation with Russia and China. Argentina has been a trusted friend and ally of Brazil in South America. Cooperation between these two along with prodding by Russia-China could result in emergence of a Southern American block which is diplomatically and militarily not under influence of USA. Mexico in that situation will become important and pivotal ally for United States.

In last few years Germany has been collecting data and developing linkages through its embassies around the world. It was in preparation for an eventual launch of a diplomatic course that is not under the shadow of USA. The NSA leaks that USA spied on a friendly country has provided the popular support for Germany to take steps to delink its diplomacy from USA. The dilemma for Germany is its lack of military power that is needed for successful diplomacy. The French could provide that muscle to Germany if only they could align interests. They have been discussing this last few years and inching closer to each other. Their cooperation in stabilizing the Eurozone is one such example. If this alliance emerges then Germany can exert her influence on UN Security Council through France. These relationships are still in the making and their final shape will emerge in next few years.

It is a set-back for the Muslim block that Arab Spring failed and did not produce the much needed social and political changes in their host countries. Turkey was economically, politically and diplomatically emerging as a champion of Muslim causes on the world stage. That opportunity is now lost as Turkey has developed a cancer like situation on its southern borders. It also lost its appeal on the Muslim street by supporting an armed uprising in a neighboring country. This lack of a strong power to speak for Muslim interests could push Muslim majority countries to seek protection from the two powers Russia and USA. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait will become clients of USA. Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Central Asian states will come under Russia’s security protection. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh might seek China’s cooperation and security guarantees.

USA will try to use India as a counter to China’s growing influence in South Asia. The recent revelations of Indian intelligence’s involvement in terror incidents have tarnished its image as a responsible state forcing it to rely on USA for diplomatic influence. The development of unnecessary tension with a nuclear armed Pakistan at Line of Control (LoC) for the consumption of domestic politics is another example of her narrowly focused foreign policy approach.

Economic indicators of United States of America (USA) continue to show signs of stress. Reuters reported this week that number of people living in poverty in USA edged up to 46.5 million. On the other hand, gaps in security establishment are brought to light by NSA leaks, Bradley Manning leaks, Nadal shooting and recent shooting at a Naval yard. This may require USA to pull back and take a serious look at its internal systems rather than projecting its power outward. There are concerns that there might be rogue elements in other military facilities that could ignite an unintended war or initiate a disaster that is much wider in scope.

There are no sureties in foreign policy and things can take an unlikely course if an event like 911 happens. Regardless it is important for foreign policy practitioners to develop scenarios so that they are prepared for all eventualities. That is what I have tried to do here and I hope this will make you think.

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