In my old vernacular, the “Gap-shrinking” continues, it is just more obviously and geographically divvied up, with Asian great powers (China, India, Japan) nonetheless forced into some competitive thrusts into the Center (particularly Africa) for reasons both immediate (resource access) and long term (tomorrow’s biggest cheap-labor – and consumer – pool).
I think the idea of “Gap-shrinking” has long been proven dead. The mechanism of a “Gap” only works if the structure is the same for each position on either side of the gap, and, in most cases, it never is.
Ok, the structure of the UK, Japan, Saudi Arabia, US and many other nations in Europe, MENA, South America, with a strong sense of a center of gravity are nearly the same. Other nations who rely more on a center of mass, such as Russia, Turkey, Iran and others, the structure of their networks are quite different. For these two different network structures, when crossing the “gap” the key doesn’t fit the lock.
So what does Putin seek? He seeks to take advantage of any position in his favor between the two networks, i.e. the distributive network of the East and the decentralized network of the west.
If he doesn’t (take advantage), the center of mass in Russia will change, and, most likely than not, Putin will be crushed in the process.
Mother Russia is hard on fathers as well as daughters.