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The Globalist's Top Ten Books in 2016: The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer


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The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer is one of the weightiest, most revelatory, original and important books written about sport"

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James Corbett, Inside World Football


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Towards a New World Order in Eurasia: The 21st Century’s Great Game (Part 1)



By James M. Dorsey

Abstract

The 21st century’s Great Game is about the creation of a new Eurasia-centred world. It locks China, Russia, India, Japan and Europe into what is an epic battle. Yet, they are not the only players. While US President Donald J. Trump’s policies are still largely shrouded in mystery, early indications suggest a closer alliance with India in a bid to counter potential Chinese dominance.

Middle Eastern rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are key players too. As they vie for big power favour, they compete to secure the ability to shape the future architecture of Eurasia’s energy landscape, enhance leverage by increasing energy and oil product market share, and position themselves as the key nodes in infrastructure networks.

With China and a US-backed India as the heavy weights, the Great Game is unlikely to produce an undisputed winner. Nor do key players perceive it as a zero-sum-game. The stakes in the game are about ensuring that China despite its vast resources, economic leverage, and first starter advantage in infrastructure linkage, does not emerge as the sole dominant power in Eurasia’s future architecture.

For players, such as Europe, Russia and Japan, the game is about ensuring that they remain influential stakeholders. Efforts to restrain China’s rise are enhanced by growing anti-China resentment in key nodes of the Middle Kingdom’s 65-nation, $3 trillion One Belt, One Road initiative and increased questioning of China’s business practices.

Some of the alliances in the shaping of Eurasia’s future are opportunistic rather than strategic. This is particularly true for Russian ties to China and Iran. The contours of potential conflicts of interest are already evident and likely to impact the degree to which China will have a free reign.

A game of Risk

The game’s outcome is unpredictable. Economic power, population size, assertiveness, and military might are key factors but may not be enough for China to become the unrivalled dominant power in Eurasia. It will, however, no doubt be a player. One Belt, One Road virtually guarantees that with a budget projected to be 12 times what the United States spent on its history-changing Marshall Plan that helped Western Europe rise from the rubble after World War Two. Nonetheless, the question is how multi-polar Eurasia will turn out to be.

Predicting how the game will end is complicated by volatility, instability and uncertainty that has sparked violence and widespread discontent across a swath of land that stretches from the Mediterranean into the deep recesses of Asia. The violence and discontent complicates China’s grandiose plans for infrastructure and economic zones designed to tie Eurasia to the Middle Kingdom, threatens Russian aspirations to position itself as a global rather than a regional power, and scares off risk-adverse investors.

The game resembles Risk, a popular board game. Multiple players engage in a complex dance as they strive for advantage and seek to compensate for weaknesses. Players form opportunistic alliances that could change at any moment. Potential black swans threaten to disrupt. The stakes, however, could not be higher.

Wracked by internal political and economic problems, Europe may not have the wherewithal for geopolitical battle. Yet, despite a weak hand, it could come out on top in the play for energy dominance. US backing of India in the Great Game and efforts to drive wedges into mostly opportunistic alliances such as cooperation between China and Russia and Russia and Iran could help Europe compensate for its weakness.

The Great Game is played not only in Eurasia but across the world map.[1] Like Risk, it is a game that not only aims to achieve dominance of infrastructure and energy, but also to reshape political systems at a time that liberal democracy is on the defensive and populism is growing in appeal.

Players like China and Russia benefit from the rise of populism, authoritarianism, and illiberal democracy. Russia, tacitly backed by China, has sought to harness the new winds by attempting to undermine trust in Western democratic structures, manipulate elections, and sew domestic discord in the West Populism and the Trump administration’s economic nationalism have, in a twist of irony, allowed China, led by a Communist party, to project itself as a champion of free trade and globalization.[2]

Suggestions that Russian President Vladimir Putin was bent on undermining Western democratic institutions were initially viewed as a crackpot conspiracy theory. Yet, the notion has gained significant currency against a backdrop of assertions that Russia is waging a cyber war against the West. The United States has accused Russia of interfering in its electoral process.[3] German intelligence has sounded alarm bells about Russian efforts to manipulate public opinion.[4] Putin couldn’t supress a smirk when French National Front leader Marie Le Pen visited him in 2017 weeks before French elections in which a Russian bank loan had helped fund her campaign.[5]

East European leaders fear Russian bullying and encroachment.[6] Whether conspiracy theory or not, western intelligence agencies and analysts see a pattern in Russian moves that would also serve Chinese interests. That would be particularly true if the United States under Trump steps back as a guarantor of the international order and de-emphasizes US promotion of democratic values and human rights.

Undermining confidence in democratic structures legitimizes Russian and Chinese efforts to rebalance global geopolitical power arrangements. They are aided by the fact that relations between the United States and many of its allies are testy. Trump’s apparent affinity to illiberal and authoritarian leaders like Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not stop them from gravitating towards Moscow and Beijing.

Erdogan, who has repeatedly accused the West of supporting a failed coup attempt in July 2016 as well as a mysterious international financial cabal that allegedly seeks to undermine the Turkish economy, has applied for Turkish membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that groups Central Asian states with China and Russia.[7] Bent on enhancing his personal power, 

Erdogan is not about to fully rupture relations with the West anchored in Turkish membership in NATO and the European Council. But he is happy to play both ends against the middle by publicly aligning himself with Russian-backed Eurasianists. Iran, whose relations with the United States have worsened since the rise of Trump, is already aligned with Russia and China.

The notion of a Eurasian-dominated world order was initially propagated in Turkey by Dogu Perincek, a left-wing secularist who spent six years in prison for allegedly being part of a military-led cabal that sought to stage a coup. Perincek has since become a player in Turkey’s hedging of its bets. Together with the deputy leader of his Homeland Party, Ismail Hakki Pekin, mediated the reconciliation between Moscow and Ankara following the Turkish air force’s downing of a Russian fighter in 2015. The two men were supported by Turkish businessmen close to Erdogan and ultra-nationalist Eurasianist elements in the military.[8] Pekin is a former head of Turkish military intelligence with extensive contacts in Moscow that include Putin’s foreign policy advisor, Alexander Dugin.

Eurasianism in Turkey was buoyed by increasingly strained relations the Erdogan government and the West. Erdogan has taken issue with Western criticism of his effort to introduce a presidential system that would grant him almost unlimited power. He has also blasted the West for refusing to crack down on the Hizmet movement led by exiled imam Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan holds responsible for the unsuccessful coup.[9] Differences over Syria have intensified pro-Eurasianist thinking.

Circumventing sanctions

Turkey’s embrace of the Eurasianist idea takes on added significance with Russia and the European Union slapping sanctions on each other because of the dispute over Russian intervention in Ukraine.[10] The EU sanctions halted $15.8 billion in European agricultural supports to Russia.[11] Russian countermeasures prevent shipment of those products via Russia to China.

To solve their problem, China and Europe have focused on an alternative route that would bypass the Russian landmass, which stretches from the Bering Sea to the Baltics.[12] Turkey as well as Caucasian and Central Asian nations, eager to seize the opportunity, fast-tracked port projects in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, Poti in Georgia, Aktau in Kazakhstan, and Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan as well as a rail line linking Baku and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi with Kars in eastern Turkey.[13]

The sanctions notwithstanding, Russia and China appear so far to be scoring the most points in the Great Game. They have benefitted from the rise of populism in an era of defiance and dissent in which significant segments of the public in the West and beyond no longer have confidence in traditional politics or leaders. To cement their gains, Russia and China will have to go beyond focusing on geopolitics, public diplomacy and cyberwarfare. They will have to address concerns of disaffected social groups who feel marginalized by globalization and shun aside by elites. Already, much like traditional politicians in the West, China is encountering resistance. Its massive investments frequently generate opposition by population groups that feel left out.

China is nevertheless better positioned than Russia to meet Eurasia’s infrastructural needs despite the fact that has deep historical and cultural roots in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Moreover, Russia’s strategic assets are also liabilities. Even without European sanctions and counter sanctions, rail transport through Russia is easier said than done. Using Russian rail with its unique gauge increases cost and makes linkages south of the Russian border more attractive.

Russia is nonetheless working to connect Moscow and Beijing by high-speed rail that would cut travel time to a mere two days.[14] Russia has also expressed interest in linking its Trans-Siberian Railway to the Chinese-controlled Pakistani port of Gwadar.[15]

To further hedge its bets and bolster its leverage, Russia has forged strategic ties to China and partnered with China in areas such as aerospace, science, and finance.[16] Russia has also sought hook-ups to Chinese networks where possible and struck energy, commodity and construction deals beyond Eurasia with Middle Eastern and North African nations such as Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Egypt, and Libya. Russia was considering bidding for offshore drilling rights in Lebanon.[17] In Libya, Russia has politically and militarily supported General Khalifa Hafta, who is fighting a United Nations-backed government that Western states see as the vehicle to restore stability.[18] Forces loyal to Haftar captured in 2017 key oil-rich areas of eastern Libya and associated ports.[19] Russian intervention appears to acknowledge de facto partition of Libya.

Like with China, the longevity of Russia’s alliance with Iran is far from certain. Iranian-Russian competition is already visible in Syria,[20] the Caucasus and Central Asia. How Iran deploys its strategic advantage in determining Eurasia’s energy infrastructure is likely to feed into a potential divergence of Chinese and Russian interests. Strains in relations with Iran could complicate another Russian hedging strategy: projecting Russia as the go-to-mediator in the Middle East. Russia believed it had a strategic advantage, particularly with Iran, given that it, unlike the United States, had good relations with all the region’s players.[21]

Recognizing opportunities, Gulf states have sought to ensure that Russia has a greater stake in their survival by digging into their deep pockets to invest at a time when Moscow’s embattled economy struggles with lower oil prices. Qatar’s investment arm, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), bought in a joint venture with Swiss oil trader Glencore a 19.5 percent stake in Russia’s state-owned oil group Rosneft. The stake was worth an estimated $11 billion.[22]

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, additionally put tens of billions of dollars into Russia’s sovereign wealth the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).[23] The UAE has, moreover, bought Russian military equipment and services, including anti-armour missiles, training and support for $1.9 billion.  It also agreed to develop together with Russia a fifth generation, joint light fighter aircraft while a consortium of Middle East investors acquired a 12 percent stake in defense manufacturer, Russian Helicopters.[24]

Microcosms of the Great Game

A microcosm of the Great Game is being played out a mere 70 kilometres west of Gwadar with Iran’s southernmost port city of Chabahar having become the focal point of Indian efforts to circumvent Pakistan in its access to energy-rich Central Asia. India sees Chabahar as its Eurasian hub linking it to a north-south corridor that would connect it to Iran and Russia. Investment is turning Chabahar into Iran’s major deep water port beyond the Strait of Hormuz that is populated by Gulf states hostile to the Islamic republic. Chabahar would also allow Afghanistan to break Pakistan’s regional maritime monopoly.

Gwadar and Chabahar have much in common. Both are long neglected, sleepy Indian Ocean port towns that lived off minor trade and have been given a potential new lease on life as trans-national chokepoints backed by regional rivals. The current Great Game has echoes of the 1970s when the Soviet Union looked at Gwadar as a possible naval base and the United States weighed similar plans for Chabahar. Instability in Pakistan dissuaded the Soviets while the Islamic revolution in Iran thwarted US aspirations.

Instability may, however, prove to be Gwadar’s Achilles Heel in a competition with Chabahar in which at first glance the cards are stacked in the Pakistani port’s favour. Indian investment dwarfs that of China while China’s engagement with Gulf states outstrips that of India. For geopolitical as well as commercial reasons, potential Gulf investment in refineries and pipelines is likely to target Gwadar, Asia’s deepest natural harbour, rather than Chabahar. Pakistan licensed Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) in 2016 to build a refinery near Gwadar[25] and six months later agreed that Kuwait would construct a petroleum products pipeline from Karachi to north of the country.[26]

Pakistan will have to manoeuvre nimbly to avoid the pitfalls of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran as it plays out in the Indian Ocean. Iran has a vested interesting in connecting Chabahar and Gwadar and has found an ally in the foreign affairs committee of the Pakistani senate. The foreign affairs committees of the two parliaments planned joint visits in 2017 to Gwadar as well as Chabahar to emphasize that the two would complement rather than compete with one another.[27]

Security and political threats to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative stretch far into Gwadar’s hinterland. The first freight train traversing the newly inaugurated  Sino-Afghan Special Transportation Railway that links the Yangtze River port of Nantong  with the Afghan river port of Hairatan ran into political problems on its maiden voyage.[28]

The train brought Chinese electrical supplies, clothing and other goods to Afghanistan but returned to China empty. Uzbek officials refused to allow Afghan goods to traverse their country charging that the train could be used to smuggle narcotics and precious stones, which fuel criminal and terrorist networks in the region.  

Afghanistan supplies most of the world's opium, made from poppies, and about a quarter of that is trafficked to global markets through Central Asia. The crop is mostly grown in insurgent-held areas and is a major source of revenue for the Taliban and other militant groups. Production rose more than 40% in Afghanistan last year, according to the United Nations.[29]

The Uzbek action, however, reflects deeper concerns. Uzbekistan, despite a raft of deals worth $6 billion, fears that it may feature primarily as a link in railways connecting China to Europe rather than as a partner with a real stake in the game. It also highlighted the fact that regional tensions and lack of trust threaten to increase rather than decrease travel time and cost of shipping goods across Eurasia.

Similarly, a $3 billion acquisition in 2007 by China Metallurgical Group Corp of a 30-year concession to a huge copper deposit south of Kabul, along with a concession in 2011 for oil and gas blocks in the north, has largely remained idle because of turmoil in Afghanistan. Security concerns have for all practical matters called into question China belief that economic engagement will substitute stability for volatility. China’s economic footprint in Afghanistan despite the investment remains miniscule. Afghan exports are primarily geared toward Pakistan, Iran and India. Similarly, Chinese trade with the Central Asian nation is negligible. To complicate things, Pakistan in February 2017 closed its border with Afghanistan, accusing Kabul of hosting militants who caused havoc in Pakistani cities with a wave of suicide bombings.[30]

Expanding security engagement

Diverging Chinese and Russian interests remain for now muted. The rise of populism, economic nationalism, and a reduced Western focus on human rights is likely to keep their interests aligned at least for the immediate future. Those interests, however, are potentially threatened by emerging Chinese-Russian rivalry in Central Asia, greater Chinese engagement in security beyond its borders and mounting anti-Chinese sentiment across Eurasia.

Chinese concerns about unrest in Xinjiang and fears that violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan could spill into the resource-rich and militarily strategic province that is China’s gateway to Central Asia has already prompted China to move beyond its traditional reluctance to engage militarily beyond its borders. Those concerns have also sparked fears in some Chinese government agencies such as the ministry of public security and authorities in Xinjiang that One Belt, One Road’s integration of the province with its Muslim hinterlands in Central and South Asia would fuel rather than undermine Uighur religiosity and nationalism.[31]

China by now, has, however, too much at stake in One Belt, One Road for it to back away. Protection of Chinese investment and personnel rather than retrenchment is the name of the game. In a rare cross border operation, China sent personnel and military vehicles in 2016 to patrol the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan’s eastern tongue that barely touches China’s borders. The patrols suggested that China expanded beyond providing military aid to the tune of $70 million Afghanistan and training of security forces to conducting counter-terrorism operations.[32]
Chinese engagement on the Afghan side of the border as well as closer military cooperation with Tajikistan appeared to be driven by concern in Beijing that Uyghur militants had moved from Pakistan into Badakshan, a region in northern Afghanistan that borders on China and the Central Asian state. The engagement also constitutes a response to President Barak Obama’s drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan and uncertainty over what policy Trump would pursue.

Jonny, a blogging traveller, reported encountering Afghan, Chinese and Tajik soldiers at a military checkpoint in Little Pamir in October 2016. “We had a fun adventure hanging with Afghan commanders, Chinese military and Tajik soldiers,” Jonny wrote.[33] The encounter served as a first indication that a Chinese proposal for four-nation security bloc that would include Pakistan, 

Afghanistan and Tajikistan was taking shape.[34] The grouping would compete with the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Tajikistan, like Kyrgyzstan home to a Russian military base, is already a CSTO member. The presence of Chinese forces in Afghanistan suggested a broadening of the definitions of China’s foreign and defense policy principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of others. The Chinese units reportedly crossed twice a month from Tajikistan into Afghanistan.[35]

The patrols fit an emerging pattern of China using law enforcement and its mushrooming private security industry for counter-terrorism and anti-crime operations beyond its borders. Chinese and Pakistani special forces held a joint military exercise in November 2016 in a bid to strengthen cooperation in countering political violence.[36] Similarly, the Afghan patrols resembled joint police operations with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand along the Mekong river[37] and border controls in Central Asia in cooperation with Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Tajik forces. Chinese private security companies were also expanding operations in and around Gwadar.[38]

China created the legal basis for cross-border operations with the adoption in 2015 of an anti-terrorism law that allows the government to deploy troops beyond the country’s frontiers.[39] The Chinese defense ministry nonetheless indicated that the patrols in Afghanistan were being carried out by private security companies with close ties to the Chinese military rather than by the People’s Liberation Army itself.[40] Greater Chinese engagement in Afghan security reflected concern in Beijing of the fallout of Obama’s withdrawal of the bulk of US forces from Afghanistan.

China’s new assertiveness signalled a potential first step toward restructuring of tacit understandings whereby Russia acted as Central Asia’s security guarantor while China focused on regional economic development. Paving the road to greater assertiveness that would put China in competition with Russia was Beijing’s first arms sales to Central Asian nations, including its HQ-9 air defence system to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. China also supplied Pterodactyl drones to Uzbekistan.[41]

Chinese plans to increase its marine corps five-fold from 20,000 to 100,000 men would allow it to station more of its own military personnel in Gwadar as well as in Djibouti, home to China’s first overseas military facility at the crossroads of key trade routes linking Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. “Besides its original missions of a possible war with Taiwan, maritime defence in the East and South China seas, it’s also foreseeable that the PLA Navy’s mission will expand overseas, including…offshore supply deports like in Djibouti and Gwadar port in Pakistan,” said Liu Xiaojiang, a former navy political commissar.[42]

A visit to Central Asia by Putin in early 2017, signalled Russia’s intention to stand its ground against what it saw as encroachment on its military position in the region.[43] Putin’s focussed on security rather than on the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union that Tajikistan has wanted to join. CSTO and Russian bases in Central Asia are central to Moscow’s efforts to counter Islamic militancy in Afghanistan as well as drug trafficking. In Dushanbe, Putin announced that Russian troops would again be patrolling Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan.[44]

Chinese concerns about unrest in Xinjiang and fears that violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan could spill into the resource-rich and militarily strategic province that is China’s gateway to Central Asia has already prompted China to move beyond its traditional reluctance to engage militarily beyond its borders. In a rare cross border operation, China sent personnel and military vehicles in 2016 to patrol the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan’s eastern tongue that barely touches China’s borders. The patrols suggested that China expanded beyond providing military aid to the tune of $70 million Afghanistan and training of security forces to conducting counter-terrorism operations.[45]

Chinese engagement on the Afghan side of the border as well as closer military cooperation with Tajikistan appeared to be driven by concern in Beijing that Uyghur militants had moved from Pakistan into Badakshan, a region in northern Afghanistan that borders on China and the Central Asian state. The engagement also constitutes a response to President Barak Obama’s drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan and uncertainty over what policy Trump would pursue.

Jonny, a blogging traveller, reported encountering Afghan, Chinese and Tajik soldiers at a military checkpoint in Little Pamir in October 2016. “We had a fun adventure hanging with Afghan commanders, Chinese military and Tajik soldiers,” Jonny wrote.[46] The encounter served as a first indication that a Chinese proposal for four-nation security bloc that would include Pakistan, 

Afghanistan and Tajikistan was taking shape.[47] The grouping would compete with the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Tajikistan, like Kyrgyzstan home to a Russian military base, is already a CSTO member. The presence of Chinese forces in Afghanistan suggested a broadening of the definitions of China’s foreign and defense policy principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of others. The Chinese units reportedly crossed twice a month from Tajikistan into Afghanistan.[48]

The patrols fit an emerging pattern of China using law enforcement and its mushrooming private security industry for counter-terrorism and anti-crime operations beyond its borders. Chinese and Pakistani special forces held a joint military exercise in November 2016 in a bid to strengthen cooperation in countering political violence.[49] Similarly, the Afghan patrols resembled joint police operations with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand along the Mekong river[50] and border controls in Central Asia in cooperation with Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Tajik forces. Chinese private security companies were also expanding operations in and around Gwadar.[51]

China created the legal basis for cross-border operations with the adoption in 2015 of an anti-terrorism law that allows the government to deploy troops beyond the country’s frontiers.[52] The Chinese defense ministry nonetheless indicated that the patrols in Afghanistan were being carried out by private security companies with close ties to the Chinese military rather than by the People’s Liberation Army itself.[53] Greater Chinese engagement in Afghan security reflected concern in Beijing of the fallout of Obama’s withdrawal of the bulk of US forces from Afghanistan.

China’s new assertiveness signalled a potential first step toward restructuring of tacit understandings whereby Russia acted as Central Asia’s security guarantor while China focused on regional economic development. Paving the road to greater assertiveness that would put China in competition with Russia was Beijing’s first arms sales to Central Asian nations, including its HQ-9 air defence system to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. China also supplied Pterodactyl drones to Uzbekistan.[54]

Chinese plans to increase its marine corps five-fold from 20,000 to 100,000 men would allow it to station more of its own military personnel in Gwadar as well as in Djibouti, home to China’s first overseas military facility at the crossroads of key trade routes linking Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. “Besides its original missions of a possible war with Taiwan, maritime defence in the East and South China seas, it’s also foreseeable that the PLA Navy’s mission will expand overseas, including…offshore supply deports like in Djibouti and Gwadar port in Pakistan,” said Liu Xiaojiang, a former navy political commissar.[55]




[1] James M. Dorsey, Towards a New World Order in Eurasia? The Role of Russia and China, RSIS Commentaries, 22 December 2016, https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/rsis/co16310-towards-a-new-world-order-in-eurasia-the-role-of-russia-and-china/
[2] World Economic Forum, President Xi's speech to Davos in full, 17 January 2017, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/01/full-text-of-xi-jinping-keynote-at-the-world-economic-forum
[3] Luke Harding, What we know about Russia's interference in the US election, The Guardian, 16 December 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/16/qa-russian-hackers-vladimir-putin-donald-trump-us-presidential-election
[4] Natalie Nougayrède, Watch out, Europe. Germany is top of Russian hackers’ list, The Guardian, 13 January 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/13/europe-germany-russian-hackers-bundestag-angela-merkel-election
[5] Shaun Walker and Kim Willsher, Putin tells Le Pen Russia has no plans to meddle in French election, The Guardian, 24 March 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/24/vladimir-putin-hosts-marine-le-pen-in-moscow
[6] James Kirchik, The Plot Against Europe, Foreign Policy, 6 March 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/06/the-plot-against-europe/ / Joe Parkinson and Georgi Kantchev, Document: Russia Uses Rigged Polls, Fake News to Sway Elections, The Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-does-russia-meddle-in-elections-look-at-bulgaria-1490282352
[7] The American Interest, China Eyes Turkey For Shanghai Cooperation Organization, 22 November 2016, http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/11/21/china-eyes-turkey-for-shanghai-cooperation-organization/
[8] Mustafa Akyol, What the 'Russian lobby' in Ankara wants, Al-Monitor, 15 December 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/12/turkey-russia-what-russian-lobby-wants.html
[9] Michelle Martin, German spy agency chief says does not believe Gulen behind Turkey coup attempt, Reuters, 19 March 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-germany-idUSKBN16P0LQ
[10] Daniel Gros and Federica Mustilli, The Effects of Sanctions and Counter-Sanctions on EU-Russian Trade Flows, Center for European Policy Studies, 5 July 2016, https://www.ceps.eu/publications/effects-sanctions-and-counter-sanctions-eu-russian-trade-flows
[11] BBC News, Russia hits West with food import ban in sanctions row, 7 August 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28687172
[12] Alexander Gabuev, Did Western Sanctions Affect Sino-Russian Economic Ties?, Carnegie Endowment for Peace, 26 April 2016, http://carnegie.ru/2016/04/26/did-western-sanctions-affect-sino-russian-economic-ties-pub-63461
[13] Wade Shephard, Reconnecting Asia: The Story Behind The Emerging Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Rail Line, Forbes, 15 December 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/12/15/reconnecting-asia-the-story-behind-the-emerging-baku-tbilisi-kars-rail-line/print/
[14] Wade Shephard, 2 Days From China To Europe By Rail? Russia Going For High-Speed Cargo Trains, Forbes, 14 January 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2017/01/14/2-days-from-china-to-europe-by-rail-russia-going-for-high-speed-cargo-trains/print/
[15] Gwadar News, Russia formally requests access to Gwadar Port, 25 November 2016, https://gwadarnews.com/2016/11/25/russia-formally-requests-access-to-gwadar-port/
[16] RT, Russia-China trade up almost 10% in May, 8 June 2016, https://www.rt.com/business/345827-russia-china-trade-turnover/
[17] Henry Foy and David Sheppard, Rosneft takes key step in push into Middle East, Financial Times, 3 April 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/5417e004-13a4-11e7-80f4-13e067d5072c
[18] Maria Tsvetkova, Exclusive - Russian private security firm says it had armed men in east Libya, Reuters, 10 March 2017, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-russia-libya-contractors-exclusive-idUKKBN16H2EI
[19] BBC News, Libya's Khalifa Haftar 'retakes oil ports from Islamist militia, 14 March 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-39266509 
[20] Ibrahim Hamidi, Syrian Regime’s Delay in Sealing Economic Agreements Cause Row with Tehran (طهران«غاضبة» من بطء تنفيذ اتفاقات استراتيجية مع دمشق), Al Hayat, 8 March 2017, http://www.alhayat.com/m/story/20602223
[21] Mark N. Katz and Hussein Ibish, Can Moscow Be an Effective Mideast Mediator? Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, 24 March 2017, http://www.agsiw.org/can-moscow-effective-mideast-mediator/
[22] Katya Golubkova, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Stephen Jewkes, How Russia sold its oil jewel: without saying who bought it, Reuters, 25 January 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-rosneft-privatisation-insight-idUSKBN1582OH
[23] Theodore Karasik, Why is Qatar Investing so much in Russia? Middle East Institute, 8 March 2017, http://www.mei.edu/content/article/why-qatar-investing-so-much-russia
[25] Zafar Bhutta, Kuwait wins approval for setting up oil refinery in Balochistan, Dawn, 10 September 2016, https://tribune.com.pk/story/1179648/kuwait-wins-approval-setting-oil-refinery-balochistan/
[26] Zafar Bhutta, Kuwait agrees to build oil pipeline in Pakistan, Dawn, 10 March 2017, https://tribune.com.pk/story/1351241/kuwait-agrees-build-oil-pipeline-pakistan/
[27] Dawn, Pakistan, Iran on verge of establishing strong economic ties, 9 March 2017, https://www.dawn.com/news/1319360/pakistan-iran-on-verge-of-establishing-strong-economic-ties
[28] Mariam Amini, China’s 'Silk Road' railway hits a snag in Afghanistan, CNBC, 13 October 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/13/chinas-silk-road-railway-disrupted-by-uzbekistan-security.html
[29] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghan opium production up 43 per cent: Survey, 23 October 2016, https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2016/October/afghan-opium-production-up-43-percent_-survey.html
[30] James M. Dorsey, Challenging the state- Pakistani militants form deadly alliance, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, 17 February 2017, https://mideastsoccer.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/challenging-state-pakistani-militants.html
[31] Mohammed Al-Sudairi, Changing State-Religion Dynamics in Xi Jinping’s China: And its Consequences for
Sino-Saudi Relations, King Faisal Center For Research and Islamic Studies, January 2017, http://kfcris.com/pdf/32a413c468c1b66c84d974e0b34c1efa58d77ebe4d1a1.pdf
[32] Giles Gibson, Exclusive: Chinese security forces caught patrolling deep inside eastern Afghanistan, WION, 3 November 2016, http://www.wionews.com/south-asia/exclusive-chinese-security-forces-caught-patrolling-deep-inside-eastern-afghanistan-8008/ / Franz J. Marty, The curious case of Chinese troops on Afghan soil, The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3 February 2017, https://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/13424-the-curious-case-of-chinese-troops-on-afghan-soil.html
[33] Jonny, The Complete Adventure Guide To The Afghanistan Wakhan Valley And Pamir, Backpacking Man, 24 October 2016, http://backpackingman.com/afghanistan-wakhan-hiking-little-pamir/
[34] Ting Shi, China Moves Closer to Afghan Security Role, Bloomberg, 12 April 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-11/growing-terrorism-risk-leads-china-to-boost-role-in-afghanistan
[35] Ibid. Gibson
[36] People’s Daily, China, Pakistan hold joint anti-terrorism drills, 7 November 2016, http://en.people.cn/n3/2016/1107/c90000-9138367.html
[37] Andrew R.C. Marshall, Led by China, Mekong nations take on Golden Triangle narco-empire, Reuters, 17 March 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-southeastasia-drugs-mekong-idUKKCN0WH2ZW
[38] Email interview with Chinese private security scholar Alessandro Arduino, 8 March 2017
[39] BBC News, China passes controversial new anti-terror laws, 28 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35188137
[40] Ministry of National Defense, Defense Ministry's regular press conference on Feb.23, 24 February 2017, http://eng.mod.gov.cn/Press/2017-02/24/content_4773551.htm
[41] Sputnik International, China Supplies Air Defense Systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to Uzbekistan, 2 February 2015, https://sputniknews.com/military/201502021017650004/
[42] Minnie Chan, As overseas ambitions expand, China plans 400 per cent increase to marine corps numbers, sources say, South China Morning Post, 13 March 2017, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2078245/overseas-ambitions-expand-china-plans-400pc-increase
[43] Rostilav Ishcenko, Putin’s Central Asia Tour? What’s at Stake, Fort Russ, 1 March 2017,
[44] Sputnik, Russia to Help Boost Tajik-Afghan Border Protection Using Russian Base – Putin, 27 February 2017, https://sputniknews.com/russia/201702271051082505-russia-tajikistan-afghanistan-putin/?mc_cid=0f7c66561d&mc_eid=f8da4b6ebe
[45] Giles Gibson, Exclusive: Chinese security forces caught patrolling deep inside eastern Afghanistan, WION, 3 November 2016, http://www.wionews.com/south-asia/exclusive-chinese-security-forces-caught-patrolling-deep-inside-eastern-afghanistan-8008/ / Franz J. Marty, The curious case of Chinese troops on Afghan soil, The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3 February 2017, https://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/13424-the-curious-case-of-chinese-troops-on-afghan-soil.html
[46] Jonny, The Complete Adventure Guide To The Afghanistan Wakhan Valley And Pamir, Backpacking Man, 24 October 2016, http://backpackingman.com/afghanistan-wakhan-hiking-little-pamir/
[47] Ting Shi, China Moves Closer to Afghan Security Role, Bloomberg, 12 April 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-11/growing-terrorism-risk-leads-china-to-boost-role-in-afghanistan
[48] Ibid. Gibson
[49] People’s Daily, China, Pakistan hold joint anti-terrorism drills, 7 November 2016, http://en.people.cn/n3/2016/1107/c90000-9138367.html
[50] Andrew R.C. Marshall, Led by China, Mekong nations take on Golden Triangle narco-empire, Reuters, 17 March 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-southeastasia-drugs-mekong-idUKKCN0WH2ZW
[51] Email interview with Chinese private security scholar Alessandro Arduino, 8 March 2017
[52] BBC News, China passes controversial new anti-terror laws, 28 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35188137
[53] Ministry of National Defense, Defense Ministry's regular press conference on Feb.23, 24 February 2017, http://eng.mod.gov.cn/Press/2017-02/24/content_4773551.htm
[54] Sputnik International, China Supplies Air Defense Systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to Uzbekistan, 2 February 2015, https://sputniknews.com/military/201502021017650004/
[55] Minnie Chan, As overseas ambitions expand, China plans 400 per cent increase to marine corps numbers, sources say, South China Morning Post, 13 March 2017, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2078245/overseas-ambitions-expand-china-plans-400pc-increase

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