Friday we took a look at the geo-economic forces driving Moscow and Beijing's aversion to actively joining Washington's drive to pressure Tehran over it's nuclear programs. Today, let's turn our attention to the strategic and geopolitical issues which compel the two to buttress the mullahs with their vetoes in the United Nations' Security Council to the exacerbated dismay of their American counterpart. As noted in regards to Beijing's position on Pyongyang's nuclear program, China maintains a principled and long-standing apprehension towards internationally-sanctioned actions that infringe on a state's sovereignty. Accordingly, there is a natural inclination to defer to Tehran and defend it even to the brink of Iran's potential withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This conveniently coincides with larger geopolitical concerns including a desire to repay Washington for what at one time appeared to be an attempt to counterbalance a rising China with a nascent strategic partnership with India. In what initially appeared to be a masterstroke of geopolitical chess, the Bush administration entered into a nuclear technology agreement with New Delhi. In addition to unilaterally absolving India of it's nuclear proliferation pariah status, the move was viewed in Beijing as a not so subtle part of a new American containment policy directed against the Middle Kingdom. Looking across the region, the Chinese saw American allies in Japan, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan, improving relations with Washington's former foes in Vietnam and now a burgeoning strategic relationship with Beijing's nemesis on the subcontinent. The subsequent unspoken quid pro quo is clear - if Washington can extend it's political patronage to New Delhi to the detriment of China's strategic interests, Beijing can do likewise with Tehran at America's expense. In similar fashion, the Kremlin seeks geopolitical retribution for what it considers to be Washington's recent interloping in it's "near abroad" in Ukraine and Georgia. Having supported anti-Russian "color revolutions" in the two former Soviet Republics, the Bush administration went as far as suggesting the two be considered for membership in NATO. Extending NATO's reach to the borders of the Russian heartland, the proposal was considered blatantly provocative and a direct threat to Moscow's territorial security. Revealing the limits of America's abilities to defend it's would-be alliance members, the Kremlin took advantage of Georgian adventurism and overconfidence to unequivocally reassert it's influence over it's former comrades last summer. Mercilessly mauling the tiny republic, the Bear displayed both it's military might and political resolve. Hamstrung by a lame duck president in the midst of a presidential campaign, it's military stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan with it's allies divided over what the appropriately inoffensive, symbolic response should be, America watched passively as Russian forces crushed the outnumbered and beleaguered Georgian defenders. Regardless of it's military victory in the heart of the Caucuses, Moscow feels Washington has meddled in a region vital to it's long term geopolitical interests as well as it's prestige. Accordingly, it now seeks to return the favor. It views the Middle East and Iran as a means to that end. Having withdrawn as a peer competitor for regional hegemony in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, the Kremlin now sees an opportunity to reassert itself in what had essentially become America's exclusive sphere of influence. Nurturing close political, intelligence and economic ties with Tehran, Moscow hopes to ride the cresting wave of it's influence across the region - a wave it believes will bring it lucrative economic and strategic opportunities while washing away the waning remnants of America's geopolitical dominance. This coincides with the belief in Beijing that America will be forced to dramatically scale back it's strategic commitments and military deployments globally over the coming decades, opening up similar opportunities for those poised to take advantage of them. In the end, the Bear and the Dragon believes a graying Eagle will be forced to return on weakened and fraying wing to the comforts of it's North American nest. In it's wake, they intend to fill the political and strategic void left by it's absence. That being the case, one wonders why it is in Beijing and Moscow's strategic interest to assist Washington with a recalcitrant and nettlesome Tehran, thereby alleviating some of the very pressures that may ultimately drive it from it's position of geopolitical prominence on the world stage? The answer is simple - it is not. Therefore, in the end, they will not. Why is it the words to one of Joe Walsh's classics keep ringing in my ears, faithful readers? I can't help the feeling, we're living a life of illusion. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and we see if America remains backed up against a wall of confusion.