Weekend Roundup: Realpolitik Destabilizes the World

What lurks behind the incapacity to resolve the destabilizing crises of North Korea’s latest nuclear test and Saudi Arabia’s frontal clash with Iran are the realpolitik considerations of Russia, China and the United States.

Writing from Vladivostok, only 180 miles from North Korea’s nuclear test site, Artyom Lukin points out that “just like Beijing, Moscow is exasperated about Pyongyang’s nuclear tests, but at the same time it does not want to see the North being annexed by the pro-American South. Moreover, Russia and North Korea currently share intense anti-Americanism, which makes them allies of sorts. … Russia’s and China’s stances on North Korea are not so much different from how the United States treats Saudi Arabia — a brutal regime sponsoring the ideology of violent jihadism, but one with which Washington needs to maintain friendship for realpolitik reasons.” As Brian Dooley notes, the U.S. response to the Saudi execution of a Shia cleric and others was predictably muted since it is loathe to further damage already strained relations with Saudi Arabia, the long-standing oil-rich pillar of its Mideast policy, even though the Sunni kingdom wants to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal and its Wahhabist ideology inspires jihadism.

One of Australia’s top China experts, Euan Graham, is more optimistic than Lukin on China’s role. “North Korea is the one regional security issue where Washington consistently courts greater Chinese assertiveness. If Beijing sees this as a timely source of leverage in Sino-U.S. relations, Pyongyang’s latest nuclear escapade may not be entirely unwelcome,” he writes. Harvard’s Jieun Baek calls for a new strategy: information “fracking” to create fissures in North Korea’s rock hard ideological substructure. Writing from Seoul, HuffPost Korea editor Dohoon Kim explains why South Koreans are so nonchalant over yet another —> Read More