The Empire Strikes Back
Every day we see signs in the press of ancient empires springing back to life.
The Ukrainians were under the Polish Empire longer than they were under the Russians. Today Poland and Ukraine are realigning again. Poland alone may about to have the largest standing Army in Europe with its recently announced commitments to defense spending. I have argued that Washington is worried that any peace deal that might be brokered between Russia and Ukraine could be blown apart by Poland’s desire to get what it wants. Russia will be worried about an alignment that runs from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire is reappearing as a surprising alignment between Austria and Hungary to stand together against arming Ukraine against Russia. They both say that their policy of cooperation, which also implies mutual self-defense is “robust,” which seems awkward given that one is a member of NATO (Hungary) and one is not (Austria).
The Danish Empire may have fallen away hundreds of years ago, but a Danish-led High North is making a comeback. Denmark is set to be the center of a new policy and defense cooperation strategy amongst the various Scandinavian and Baltic nations. We forget that Denmark is the second largest country in Europe thanks to Greenland, which is itself an increasingly contested space. Denmark occupies extremely strategic locations from a Russian perspective, particularly the GIUK Gap and the passages around Denmark and its Faroe Islands, as well as a central position in the Arctic.
The “Stans” of Central Asia have aligned over the centuries to produce many expansionist empires, including the Mongols, the Timurid, the Huns, and the Scythians. As the allegiance toward Russia fades and the disinterest in being ruled by Beijing increases, we are already seeing a resurgence of Central Asian local power. Note that Mongolia has just announced it is going to restore the nation’s ancient capital of Karakorum. Their ancient empire is also restoring its past.
I can’t help but think that the US and Britain look set to have much deeper ties and a closer alliance than ever. It’s as if the clock has turned back, and the Tea Party has been forgotten. Britain is America’s closest defense ally. The US is now demanding that Britain behave like one by spending more to upgrade defense capabilities.
Other alignments and alliances that we’ve long taken for granted are now starting to split apart: