Meanwhile, the antipiracy operations off Somalia have produced a new combination of naval power: a joint antipiracy operation by China, Japan, and India, which kicked off in February 2012. South Korea joined the Asian-navies operation last month.
These four nations have conducted antipiracy operations for over three years now, but until this year had not created a vehicle for a joint effort. South Korea was participating in the multinational task force, CTF 151, and has held command of it on multiple occasions since its inception. The other three nations have operated tactically outside of the multinational framework, although all are participants in the overarching deconfliction forum, SHADE. China – along with Russia – has consistently preferred performing escort of merchant ships to conducting general security patrols, and it appears that the Asian-navies operation will focus on escort.
That may be the main reason the four Asian nations have decided to combine forces. Conspicuously absent from the group, meanwhile – which may be informative – is Russia. In theory, there is nothing wrong with the other nations combining. But such new combinations are always evidence of a perceived inadequacy – for security concerns or other national interests – in the existing combinations. And that, in turn, is always the harbinger of a season of instability.
Russia and Israel
Circling back to the other side of Asia, we may conclude with another strange-bedfellows combination: that of Russia and Israel. Vladimir Putin visited Israel at the end of June, and engaged in some of the most startling activity ever seen from a Russian leader (h/t: Emet m’Tsiyon):
On President Putin’s visit to Jerusalem, he donned a kippah and went to pray at the Western Wall of the ancient Temple. As one press report has it, at the close of his visit, Putin turned to one of the Russian Jews present and said:
‘I came here to pray that the Temple should be rebuilt, and I wish that your prayers will be fulfilled.’
Putin had more honeyed words for his Israeli hosts. Touring the Wall, he said “Here, we see how the Jewish past is etched into the stones of Jerusalem.” This is not quite a formal recognition of Israeli claims to the Old City, but it is much more than Israelis usually hear.
Walter Russell Mead attributes this pounding torrent of amity to Israel’s oil and gas discoveries, but there is more to it than that. Since the earliest days of the Arab Spring, Russia has seen Israel as a natural ally in the fight against Islamism. Bibi Netanyahu had met with little encouragement from Moscow since he became prime minister again in 2009, but when he visited Medvedev in March of 2011 he was received with acclaim, as I wrote at the time:
But in the meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday, Medvedev was uncharacteristically enthusiastic and chatty…
Medvedev’s main message from the meeting illuminates the reason for this friendly tone. His primary concern is Islamist terrorism and the increased likelihood of it in the wake of what he calls “tectonic shifts” in the Middle East.
“We are more than right to hold this meeting, as the terrorists must know that they do not achieve their wicked goals,” the Russian leader said, while also expressing his condolences for the terrorist attack in Jerusalem, “which harmed innocent people.”
Medvedev ended the meeting by urging Netanyahu to fight the terrorists, after both men had spoken of that as their common objective.
If Russia hopes to settle matters in Syria to her advantage, she may need some selective passivity from Israel. There’s no saying whether she will get it, at least on those particular terms. But in their opposition to the spread of Islamism, Russia and Israel do have an important interest in common.
The unpleasant truth about all these nations and their common interests is that none of them has the power to advance those interests without increasing the world’s instability. As long as all the momentum lies with them and their efforts, instability will be with us for quite a while.
Originally published at http://hotair.com/greenroom/archives/2012/07/08/tumultus-post-americanus/