Aug 19, 2008 1:22 pm


Pundits are tripping over themselves praising Vladimir Putin's mastery checkmate of the West. Sorry, but I could not disagree more. Indeed, as I look at the front page of the paper and see pictures of Chinese athletes winning gold medals alongside pictures of Georgia burning, I cannot but wonder how much is Hu Jintau paying Vladimir Putin for making China look so good in comparison and doing so during the best of times, the Beijing Olympic games. When I wrote that the era of China's surreptitious rise was over I failed to take into account that Putin's Russia will be so kind as to distract the world from scrutinizing the Hu's China by bombing democratic Georgia. Who can afford to worry about Tibetans, Wighurs, arrests of Chinese protestors or even trade imbalances when Russia lets loose rockets carrying the messages:"This is for America,""This is for NATO" and"This is for Bush?"

Atlanticists must be celebrating and Pacificists must be despairing. For here we go again. Soviet aggression in the Middle East during the Vietnam War forced the US to chose between confronting the USSR and China during the 60's. That was the reason Nixon sent Kissinger to Beijing in the first place. True, the US left Vietnam but the real loser was the Soviet Union and the real winner was Mao's China which was then not only in the midst of a brutal Cultural Revolution but was also testing H-bombs.

Having learned nothing from the past, Putin is repeating Brezhnev's mistakes. For China, the Russian bear is just a gift that keeps giving. After all, even the obvious solution to a problem called Russia, an end to the reign of King Oil, cannot but benefit China. In other words, yes, Putin's rash actions may be discomiting the West but they are also uniting it like little else could and, hence, are far from benefiting Russia.

In fact, Putin and company can use some lessons in a Chinese game called GO, also known in the US as Othello. You win when you turn your enemies into friends, not the other way around.

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