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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

At the Edge of the Middle Kingdom

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The Holy Alliance formed in 1815 by the emperors of Russia and Austria and the king of Prussia was an attempt to protect the existing social order in Europe from the "orange" plague of the day, bourgeois revolution.

Though Alexander I instigated the alliance, it was his brother, Nicholas I, who put its principles into practice. Intoxicated with his role as the gendarme of Europe, Nicholas regularly sent his armies of serfs dressed up in soldiers' overcoats to crush uprisings on the fringes of his empire.

It all ended badly, however. Intent on playing its imperial games, Russia slept right through the Industrial Revolution. Following its humiliating defeat in the Crimean War, the country fell into decline as a world power.

A century and a half later, the ruler in the Kremlin is just as anxious about orange revolutions as his distant predecessor in the Winter Palace was. Only now the revolutions are taking place in Ukraine and Georgia, not Hungary and Saxony. The urge to crush these uprisings is as strong as ever, but over the last 150 years, the hordes of foot soldiers at the ruler's disposal have dwindled, and Russia's women are in no hurry to replenish them. The ruler in the Kremlin might not get to be anything so grand as the gendarme of Europe, but at least he'll have the chance to defend the status quo in Central Asia.

In the fateful summer of 2005, everything fell into place for the current Russian emperor's "Holy Alliance": seething hatred of the West; the ruling elite's need to find a way to hang on to its power and newly acquired wealth; its social kinship with the doomed dictators of Central Asia; and its attempt to preserve at least the semblance of a "near abroad" by backing these dictators.

China, on the other hand, has taken a purely pragmatic approach and has already set to work on its historical mission to swallow Russia both economically and demographically. For China, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not an end in itself, but the means to an end. By drawing Russia into a hard-line anti-American bloc and severing Russia's ties with the West, China intends to simplify the task of eventually swallowing us whole.

Confrontation with the West and the development of a "strategic partnership" and effectively a military alliance with China will leave Russia not only marginalized but also subject to China's strategic interests. And it will lead in the end to the loss of control over the Far East and Siberia, first de facto and then de jure.

In an op-ed piece that appeared in Vedomosti in mid-July, Alexander Dugin, head of the International Eurasian Movement and one of Russia's leading apologists for "Asiope" (as opposed to Eurasia), called this a "great opportunity for Russia." In an earlier manifesto, Dugin wrote with pride: "In the 16th century, the Tatars passed the torch of Eurasian empire-building to Moscow."

Muscovy's Asiopeans have carried this torch for centuries now. But if they're honest with themselves, Asiopeans like Dugin have to understand that we're now in the process of handing it off. Five centuries is a good long stretch, after all, and in the 21st century, the time has come for Russia to make way for a much more promising builder of empires, the Middle Kingdom. Apparently, this is exactly what the leadership is preparing to do.

The Holy Asiopean Alliance of emperors Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao is the alliance of a rabbit and a boa constrictor. Its outcome is inevitable, and it will be swift.

We've been so desperate to hold together the tatters of our own "near abroad" that we failed to notice that we have now become part of China's "near abroad."

Andrei Piontkovsky, an independent political analyst, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.