45 years ago, US President Richard Nixon returned from China where he was on a visit, which shocked the world and alarmed the Soviet leadership, which a few months later had to receive Nixon in Moscow.
The Soviet leaders think about how did not born Chinese-American Alliance, which they feared from the beginning of 1960-ies, when he destroyed the Alliance between the USSR and China.
Today, Washington and the media are shaking in convulsions whenever Moscow creates a new outrage, and the President of trump constantly repeats: “It would be great to get along with Russia.” In this environment, U.S. policymakers face the same choice between Russia and China, as before, though this time the stakes can be even higher.
Sustained tensions between Russia and China suggests that there are two options: to find a compromise and come to terms with Russia in order to create a counterweight to China, which is a great power, or to enter into an Alliance with China to protect the rules-based international order from his biggest enemy — Russia.
It is now clear that we can not simultaneously confront both Russia and China. This way may seem natural and rather tempting, given the longstanding desire of American foreign policy to protect territorial integrity, to defend human rights and to create conditions for free trade; but it is for us an impossible task.
At least, it will require decisive U.S. action in Syria, solid military support for the government in Kiev, a sharp buildup of NATO forces in Eastern Europe and the more confrontational strategy in the South China and East China sea. This will further overtax the strength of the American army, which are already lacking personnel. It will also increase the burden on the American people that he does not want to carry.
In the discussion about what it means boastful statement trump’s “America first” — militarism or isolationism, we somehow forgot that the options for us, predetermined by the previous administration.
We are only beginning to pay for the foreign policy of Barack Obama, but he definitely contributed more to our current predicament in the world than a tramp. When the foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey in recent weeks, the Obama stay in power, met in Moscow to resolve the Syrian crisis, they gave a resounding beep. Without a country that once declared itself indispensable, today it is possible to do. Since pearl Harbor has never been such that when resolving serious international crises American interests ignored so blatantly and shamelessly.
It is very difficult to identify those factors that brought us to this. What it is: just the inevitable result of relative or even absolute decline of America? Or is it the result of the actions of the President, who sought to “lead from behind” and who believed that in foreign policy free of the crime is always worse than the involuntary? Maybe Obama has decided that his country already exhausted by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no longer wants to bear the burden of protecting the free world? Anyway, Trump inherited America, which cannot and does not want to play a leading role in world Affairs.
Where to go next? If we cannot confront Russia and China, from one of these countries we have to compromise.
To become friends with Russia?
In favor of relations with Moscow, said the idea that China today is more damaging to us interests around the world than Russia. China is harming the economic interests of the United States, conducting unfair trade policy. It weakens our position in Asia, undermining our alliances. It deprives us of the opportunity to promote democracy, particularly in Africa, offering aid and investment even to those countries where there is no responsible state governance. And since China is constantly increasing and acts more and more aggressively, his attempts to squeeze the US out of East Asia and the challenges it throws to us interests around the world, sooner or later turn into a full-blown problem threatens the US position in the world.
Unlike China, the challenges that Russia is throwing us interests, it is a trifle. Moscow is not able to transform Eastern Europe and the middle East in its sphere of influence. She loses to China in the struggle for economic influence even in its former Soviet fiefdom, which is Central Asia.
Putin is not likely to be an evil dictator, struggling seeking to inflict as much harm to the West. Rather, he rejected the pragmatist, realistically assessing Russia’s position in the world. Initially, he hoped to cooperate with Western leaders, but then got mad at them, since they badly treated him. Consequently, Putin’s Russia is not a deadly threat to the world order, but rather a missed opportunity that can still be saved.
Maybe it is better to choose China?
We can also unite with China against Russia.
This approach makes sense if you believe that Putin started out as a pragmatist, but this was only a temporary ploy, given its previous work in the KGB, as well as nationalist and authoritarian tendencies. Seeing how weak his opponents are, and what chaos he can create, Putin has decided that it is possible to threaten on the bigger. 15 years ago he could not imagine that he will be able to split NATO and the EU, but now it seems that everything is within reach. Now he will stop at nothing, and he uses his chance to fulfill a cherished dream of his Soviet predecessors. Why should we let him? He will revel in the chaos that will arise as a result of his actions.
But the leaders in Beijing don’t want no chaos. The Foundation of the Chinese development and is strengthening world peace and trade, and peace in the world ultimately provides American military power. So China wanted to destroy this order, he will have to believe that he is able to play the role today played by the United States, and to make this transition without chaos-filled interlude. Chinese leaders are sane people, and they do not want to go on such an adventure. And in any case, they do not see the need to rush things and to wait for such a transition will ripen all conditions.
In any case, President XI Jinping thinks more about how to ensure the power of the Communist party indefinitely. And the global chaos and economic disaster is the biggest threat to such power.
If we ever make a decision?
With Russia against China? Or China against Russia?
Of course, to make such a choice is very frustrating. Any choice will require difficult moral confessions. But the fact that the United States would have to choose, implies the inability of the U.S. to protect the world order that they have long supported and defended. This reality is very difficult to recognize.
But even if we assume that such a choice for US, this brings us to the more difficult issues.
Will it be possible at all to convince Russia to unite with the US against China, or China to unite with the US against Russia? What we can offer one side or another? And what will be the consequences for our allies, especially in Europe and East Asia? The last question is not so intractable as it seems, as our allies have long foresee such a scenario. But if we can’t and don’t want to play the role played before, we will have to reckon with the consequences.
Jeremy Friedman is an associate Professor of the business school of Harvard University, who teaches global Economics, business and public administration.