The new US National Security Strategy document says Russia and China are resolute in making economies less fair and free to strengthen their militaries and challenge American influence, values, and wealth. Terrorism, which was till recently the top priority of the United States, has been replaced by strategic competition with Moscow and Beijing, both the states being overtly declared as rival powers in the document. This is going to have profound practical implications which paint a confrontational future scenario.
The report proclaims the two countries as revisionist powers that threaten US’ economic and political interests that’s why, from now on, the US will focus more on rebuilding military and defence capabilities along with advancing its influence throughout the world. In all likelihood Russia and China would do the same out of fear. Does this mean another arm race in the offing? In fact, the prospects look very grim with a capricious and unilateralist President in the White House.
No doubt, Vladimir Putin is striving to expand the Russian power enormously. A state which didn’t cast a single veto from 1996 to 2003 in UN Security Council has blocked 20 resolutions in the last 16 years. It has placed itself once more at the heart of global politics. A powerful Russia under strong leadership has been flexing its muscles so as to be able to bid defiance to the US and the West.
Following a successful referendum in March 2014, Crimea was annexed by Russia on the grounds that it had large Russian population and long history of being its territory. But others were instead taking into account the strategic importance of the peninsula and the temerity of Moscow to challenge the West again. The situation was further aggravated over Russian support of rebels in the Eastern Ukraine which erupted another row between the Cold War era enemies.
The old foes are also on opposite sides in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Had it not been for the unqualified support of Russia which sprang to Asad’s defence against the US and its coalition partners, the Syrian regime would have seen its last days since long. Besides, the defiant Moscow is also accused of interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency are collectively of the view that Russian agencies under the orders of Putin manipulated the last election in favour of the Republican candidate Donald Trump.
The two powers are at odds over Afghanistan conundrum as well. The US blames Russia for bolstering and arming Taliban while Moscow feels threatened by the rise of ISIS to the detriment of regional powers under the watch of Washington DC. The situation got almost out of control when a Russian spy Sergei Skirpal was poisoned with a nerve agent in the United Kingdom. The British government put the responsibility for this on his native country, leading to expulsion of Russian diplomats by UK along with many other NATO countries to which Moscow paid in the same coin. For the Cold War allies the Russian federation is once again rearing its head as a global force.
Likewise, the economic rise of China and its massive bilateral trade surplus with the US gave enough reasons to the new POTUS for bearing a grudge against Beijing. The trade war has been kicked off by the Trump administration which blames China for unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property resulting in a huge trade deficit of over 350 billion dollars. The china’s Belt and Road Initiative and its formidable South China Sea strategy has instilled further fears in the US about loss of its overwhelming influence in many parts of the world including the Asia Pacific.
Moreover, withdrawal of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (also known as Iran Nuclear deal) adamantly by President Trump, whom many Western leaders tried to convince of staying in the deal, is going to have terrible consequence for international politics. Although Germany, France, and UK have decided to stick to the deal, there is no guarantee they wouldn’t yield to US pressure in the future. But on the other hand, China and Russia are staunch supporters of this agreement and are unlikely to pull out in any circumstances.
As “China and Russia” and the US find themselves face to face in many scenarios, there are high chances that the situation may escalate into breaking out of a new Cold War . Such a warfare would neither be advantageous to the powers themselves nor to the rest of the world.
Any unwarranted approach could push the world into another dark era where weak states would suffer at the cost of rivalry between the stronger ones. Should the world wait for unfolding of new hapless Vietnams, Koreas, and Afghanistans or the powers would put an end to their confrontational rhetoric, only time will tell.
The writer is a freelance contributor.