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Tags: vacuum | unitedstates | influence

China, Russia Fill Vacuum Created by US Mideast Departure

puzzle of china and russian flags over map with middle east beneath them

Micah Halpern By Tuesday, 23 March 2021 09:47 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The influence of the United States has diminished throughout the Middle East. The vacuum is being filled by China and Russia.

It has been a slow and steady process, not the work of one president, of one administration. The withdrawal of the United States from the Middle East began with the Obama administration. Candidate Trump ran on a platform of getting U.S. forces out and allowing locals to handle their own security – and he lived up to his word.

Although still in its infancy, it is clear that the Biden administration will not be sending forces into the region.

What began as a trend has become reality, it is fact on the ground.

The impact of this new reality has had and will continue to have a huge impact on the region. China and Russia are not, to state the obvious, the United States. And the impact of the U.S. withdrawal from the area affects the safety and security of all Western allies in the region, most of all, Israel.

It did not have to be this way. Once the decisions to leave the region militarily were made, the United States could have retained influence in the Middle East through assistance and advice. The United States could have – would have, been able to wield tremendous influence without putting boots to the ground or planes in the sky, but chooses, administration after administration, not to.

To the chagrin of China and Russia, and I'll add Iran to that list, the United States is still the only superpower in the world. And most countries in the Middle East would have welcomed continued involvement in whatever form the United States wished to offer their assistance. Being included in the sphere of the superpower offers both protection and respect from other countries. But that is a thing of the past.

It will not be easily restored. In the Middle East, United States influence evaporated. The equation has changed. The rules of engagement have changed. Whereas the United States played the role of big brother to little brother states in the region, China and Russia play the role of boss – big boss, and underling. For non-Western countries that works. It is a relationship they feel comfortable with.

Russia and China have opened their arms and several countries, most notably Turkey and Iran, have rushed into their embraces knowing full well all that it entails.

Turkey and Iran imagine themselves to be in the image of Russia and China. Not content to exist side-by-side with their neighbors, they are big believers in expansion. And now, knowing they will get no blowback or pushback from big brother The United States, they are biding their time waiting to pounce and expand their borders.

Turkey has set its targets on Syria. It has already created a temporary security zone on Syrian land and will take it a step further and encroach directly into the country. Iran has set its sights on Iraq. Because both Syria and Iraq are too weak to repel or even to challenge these interlopers, it is a done deal. Russia and China are not concerned about border expansions of this nature. In their worlds, it is commonplace.

Israel, on the other hand, works off the Western model where security – not just their own security but the security of the entire region – is paramount. Israel needs to figure out what its next steps are given the changes taking place all around it. And it has a plan.

Israel has embarked on a creative mission experimenting with new models of interaction and new global alliances. We've watched it happen over the last few months. Israel is creating alliances with non-hostile Arab nations. And more and more alliances are on the horizon. Jumpstarting the process with the Abraham Accords was, it turns out, an unanticipated parting gift from the Trump administration.

These alliances are not only significant for the economic benefits they bring to Israel and her new partners; they will also provide significant security benefits to the lone Jewish state in the region and even offer backup and support in reigning in Iran, Turkey and the non-nation actors who want to destroy Israel and upset the region.

Israel is, diplomatically and militarily, friendly with Russia and China, but Israel knows that they are untrustworthy. Israel understands that they each act purely in their own interests. There are no ideals and no ideologies in Russian or Chinese foreign policy, there are only goals and strategies.

The United States often makes decisions based upon ethical and moral principles. They tended to lecture and preach from a high and mighty moral ground and that insulted many regional players. Many countries in the Middle East are not distressed that the United States is gone. They welcome their new reality implemented by China and Russia.

China and Russia have similar interests. They act together and they act independently, oftentimes, both at the same time. Israel will use this. Israel needs to be friendly with the major influencers in the region. Long before this shift in power became reality Israel had established good working relationships first with Russia and more recently with China. Israel is now engaged in expanding those relationships.

Israel wants to show that they can be useful to both China and Russia in helping them achieve their goals in the region. Israel also wants to impress on them both the importance of reigning in Iran or any other country intent on destroying the status quo of the region.

The relationships are mutually beneficial. Certainly, there is the security issue. Dovetailing with that are expanding and expansive markets. Russia and China will gain access to Israel's great intellectual capital, technology and creativity.

It is not an ideal situation. It is the situation. And if the United States continues in this vein, it will be the blueprint for the future of more and more countries around the world.

China and Russia should thank the United States. But that's not their style.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.

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The influence of the United States has diminished throughout the Middle East. The vacuum is being filled by China and Russia.
vacuum, unitedstates, influence
Tuesday, 23 March 2021 09:47 AM
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