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Cards for last minute PF prep — January Topic

January 10, 2017
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No plausible Iran threat to close the Strait of Hormuz

John Glaser is Associate Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, National Interest, 1-9-17, Does the US military actually protect Middle East oil? http://nationalinterest.org/print/blog/the-skeptics/does-the-us-military-actually-protect-middle-east-oil-18995

Might U.S. forces in the region serve usefully as an insurance policy, just in case?

Probably not. The extent to which an active U.S. military presence actually secures the free flow of oil is very likely overstated. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and daily patrolling of the Persian Gulf supposedly serves as the principal deterrent stopping a state like Iran from attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz. But Iran would run unacceptably high risks [15] in attempting to do so [16] even absent the U.S. naval presence. To begin with, closing the strait would be severely damaging to Iran’s own interests, as it represents a critical source of national income, especially now that many sanctions have been lifted in the aftermath of the nuclear deal. Only if Iran found itself in the midst of some regional conflagration in which the survival of the regime was at risk would Tehran do something so reckless. Moreover, any sustained attempt to close the strait would likely mobilize an overwhelming international military coalition against Iran, like the one that was generated in response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, a prospect that would itself threaten the survival of the regime.

And there are practical obstacles to closing the strait. The waterway is wide and deep enough to make full closure exceptionally difficult, given Iran’s capabilities. Fully mining the strait (to the extent necessary to actually disrupt traffic) without early detection would be hard, but even if successful [13], “mines would only harass shipping rather than close the waterway,” and even then only partially and temporarily. This happened during the Tanker War in the 1980s, which slowed, but didn’t halt, shipping. An Iranian attempt to supplement mines with antiship missile attacks would not be terribly effective against resilient oil tankers, and “the heavy ship traffic through the strait would quickly consume Iran’s entire arsenal.” Finally, the U.S. military could ably respond to such an unlikely scenario with offshore, over-the-horizon forces.

Transition away from US global power dominance and Western global institutions now

Uri Friedman, January 10, 2017, The Atlantic, What the World Might Look like in 5 years, According to US Intelligence, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/us-intelligence-world-trends/512561/?utm_source=atlfb

Every four years, a group of U.S. intelligence analysts tries to predict the future. And this year, in a report released just weeks before Donald Trump assumes the presidency, those analysts forecast a massive shift in international affairs over the next five years or so: “For better and worse, the emerging global landscape is drawing to a close an era of American dominance following the Cold War,” the study argues. “So, too, perhaps is the rules-based international order that emerged after World War II.” The National Intelligence Council (NIC), a unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is essentially marking the potential end not just of America’s status as the world’s sole superpower, but also of the current foundation for much of that power: an open international economy, U.S. military alliances in Asia and Europe, and liberal rules and institutions—rules like human-rights protections and institutions like the World Trade Organization—that shape how countries behave and resolve their conflicts.

Attempting to contain Russia and China risks conflict escalation

National Intelligence Council, January 2017, https://www.dni.gov/index.php/global-trends/the-future-summarized Global Trends: The Paradox of Progress

Meanwhile, states remain highly relevant. China and Russia will be emboldened, while regional aggressors and nonstate actors will see openings to pursue their interests. Uncertainty about the United States, an inward-looking West, and erosion of norms for conflict prevention and human rights will encourage China and Russia to check US influence. In doing so, their “gray zone” aggression and diverse forms of disruption will stay below the threshold of hot war but bring profound risks of miscalculation. Overconfidence that material strength can manage escalation will increase the risks of interstate conflict to levels not seen since the Cold War. 

Burdensharing Answers

-Carrying a larger share of the burden directly benefits the US

Cambanis, January 7, 2017, Politico, Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is a columnist for the Boston Globe and blogs at thanassiscambanis.com., Why it Pays to be the World’s Policeman, Literally, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/why-it-pays-to-be-the-worlds-policemanliterally-214605

The essential fact is that the United States sits at the pinnacle of a world order that it played a central role in designing, and which benefits no other country so much as it does — you might have guessed — America itself. America runs a world order that might have some collateral benefits for other countries, but is largely built around US interests: to enrich America and American business; to keep Americans safe while creating jobs and profits for America’s military-industrial complex; and to make sure that America retains, as long as possible, its position as the richest, dominant global superpower. Rather than global cop, it’s more accurate to call America the world’s majority shareholder, investing its resources in global stability less out of charity than self-interest. What this means is that as Trump develops his foreign policy — a dealmaking approach whose ultimate outlines we can only guess at — he will eventually have to walk back his promise or confront its real costs. It’s easy to paint America as the rich uncle whom the world takes advantage of. That caricature certainly resonates with Trump’s voting base. But if Trump really tries to deliver on his promise and walk away from the world, the biggest price is likely to be borne by America itself. The United States and its allies, in the wake of World War II, built a web of institutions that had an ideological goal: to reduce the risk of another murderous global conflagration. The United Nations would serve as a political-diplomatic talk shop that would reduce the chance of accidental superpower war and create avenues for managing the conflicts that did break out. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were designed to minimize the risk of another Great Depression. An acronym soup of other institutions sprang up along the same lines. When memories of fascism were fresh and Washington feared the allure of communism, it made some far-sighted, pragmatic moves. It funded the Marshall Plan for Europe, paying so the continent could recover economically and emerge to become a pivotal U.S. ally–and a profitable market for US companies. U.S. military occupiers in Japan and South Korea decreed progressive reforms and land redistributions in order to outflank communists In some cases, America really has underwritten most of the funding for international institutions, whether their purpose is to monitor ancient ruins (UNESCO) or inspect nuclear sites (IAEA). It hasn’t done so out of altruism. The investment has paid itself back many times over. These institutions have worked imperfectly, but they build goodwill and reduce risk. That’s good for the world in general, but it’s great for America It’s true that America’s role is expensive. In 2015, America spent more than the next seven nations combined on defense. Worried about this gap in the years after 9/11, some American officials and neoconservative ideologues complained that “Old Europe” should pay more for its defense. Like Trump, they argued that Europe has been able to reap an economic windfall because America shoulders so much of the NATO security umbrella. At best, this analysis is a dangerous exaggeration; Europe could and probably should shoulder more of the cost, but the US investment in NATO is worthwhile for its own sake. At worst, by threatening NATO, the “free-rider” trope sets up America to shoot itself in the foot – shaking its security and breaking up a system with huge direct benefits to Americans. Rather than a nation rooked by crafty foreigners, it makes more sense to see America at the center of a web of productive investments.

-Defense spending generates millions of jobs

Cambanis, January 7, 2017, Politico, Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is a columnist for the Boston Globe and blogs at thanassiscambanis.com., Why it Pays to be the World’s Policeman, Literally, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/why-it-pays-to-be-the-worlds-policemanliterally-214605

Here’s how it works:

First, most of America’s defense spending functions as a massive, job creating subsidy for the U.S. defense industry. According to a Deloitte study, the aerospace and defense sector directly employed 1.2 million workers in 2014, and another 3.2 million indirectly. Obama’s 2017 budget calls for $619 billion in defense spending, which is a direct giveback to the American economy, and only $50 billion in foreign aid – and even that often ends up in American pockets through grants that benefit American farmers, aid organizations, and other US interest groups. The U.S. military, and the Veterans Administration, are an almost socialist paradise of equality, job security and full health care when compared to life for Americans not on the payroll of the Defense Department and its generously (even absurdly) remunerated contractors. The defense budget, by playing on America’s obsession with security rather than social welfare, allows Washington to pump a massive stimulus into the economy every year without triggering another Tea Party.

US leadership means its objectives in many regions are met

Cambanis, January 7, 2017, Politico, Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is a columnist for the Boston Globe and blogs at thanassiscambanis.com., Why it Pays to be the World’s Policeman, Literally, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/why-it-pays-to-be-the-worlds-policemanliterally-214605

Second, America’s steering role in numerous regions — NATO, Latin America, and the Arabian peninsula — gives it leverage to call the shots on matters of great important to American security and the bottom line. For all the friction with Saudi Arabia, for instance, the Gulf monarchy has propped up the American economy with massive Treasury bill purchases, and by adjusting oil production at America’s request to cushion the effect of policy priorities like the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

All foreign policy issues are rigged in favor of the US

Cambanis, January 7, 2017, Politico, Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is a columnist for the Boston Globe and blogs at thanassiscambanis.com., Why it Pays to be the World’s Policeman, Literally, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/why-it-pays-to-be-the-worlds-policemanliterally-214605

Third, and most importantly, if you listen the biggest critics of the new world order, what you’ll hear is that it’s rigged – in America’s favor. America’s “global cop” role means that shipping lanes, free trade agreements, oil exploration deals, ad hoc military coalitions, and so on are maintained to the benefit of the U.S. government or U.S. corporations. The truth is that America puts its thumb on the scale to tilt the world’s not-entirely free markets to America’s benefit. Nobody would be more thrilled for America to pull back than its economic rivals, like China.

Trump won’t retreat

Cambanis, January 7, 2017, Politico, Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is a columnist for the Boston Globe and blogs at thanassiscambanis.com., Why it Pays to be the World’s Policeman, Literally, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/why-it-pays-to-be-the-worlds-policemanliterally-214605

Perhaps that’s why analysts in the business of predicting world affairs don’t think Trump is going to abandon America’s “world policeman” portfolio once he looks at the bottom line. “Trump wants to be seen as projecting strength around the world and intends to expand spending on U.S. defense,” wrote Eurasia group’s Ian Bremmershortly after the election. He might be more abrasive, and he might pressure some of America’s bottom-tier allies. But if he wants to be a strongman, he’ll have to keep America’s stick. Obama, too, apparently thinks Trump will like being the world’s policeman even more than he’ll like being Putin’s friend. “There is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America’s commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship and a recognition that those alliances aren’t just good for Europe, they’re good for the United States. And they’re vital for the world,” outgoing President Obama said on his valedictory trip to Europe, claiming confidence that Trump shared that view of global alliances. Within Trumpworld, there’s no question a real rift exists on this question. Isolationist-nationalist America-firsters, like Steve Bannon, really do want to see America pull back, and downplay the costs in the interests of their ideological goals. Profit-driven internationalists like Rex Tillerson, however, are intimately acquainted with the benefits of keeping an American hand in global affairs. Trump might like the sound of handing in America’s resignation as global cop. His voters might like it even more. But if pulling back makes America poorer and more vulnerable, the costs will land squarely on Trump. When it comes time to choose between the two camps, Trump might find himself torn between an isolationist camp he connects with emotionally and an internationalist one that will — in the gross calculus of profits and power — be more of a winner. That’s a feeble rationale for a sound international order, but it might be the best one going in the age of Trump.

War with North Korea triggers millions of deaths and collapses relations with China

Depetris, January 7, 2017, National Interest, Should Washington Strike North Korea’s Dangerous ICBM’s before it’s too late? http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/should-washington-strike-north-koreas-dangerous-icbms-before-18975 Daniel R. DePetris is an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., a geostrategic consulting firm, and a freelance researcher. He has also written for CNN.com, Small Wars Journal and The Diplomat.

Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell should simply ignore it. And if the GOP brings it up for a floor debate, Senate Democrats should do everything in their power to prevent such a resolution from passing. A preemptive strike on North Korea would be an unmitigated disaster—a military action that is much more likely to escalate into a full-blown regional confrontation with a million-man North Korean army than force Kim to tremble in his basement.

We can’t predict with certitude how Kim Jong-un would respond to such an American attack, but we can say with a reasonable amount of confidence that any North Korean retaliatory action would have deadly consequences. In case Senator Graham forgot, just shy of eighty thousand U.S. troops are stationed in Northeast Asia (fifty thousand in Japan and 28,500 in South Korea), meaning that Kim’s regime has approximately eighty thousand targets to choose from. United States Forces Korea, along the DMZ, would be on the immediate firing line, as would Seoul, a city of around ten million people in the constant dark shadow of North Korean artillery attack. Assuming that Kim would receive the message and hesitate to launch a barrage of artillery towards Japan and South Korea, utilizing some of his medium-range Musudan missiles in the process, goes against much of what we know about the young leader’s temperament and behavior over the past five years. There’s always the hope that Kim the Third would calculate that retaliating isn’t in his regime’s best interests, but hope is a pretty terrible barometer to base a strategy on.

Second, any U.S. military attack against Pyongyang’s missile silos would all but close the door to any prospect of dragging North Korea back to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. If the possibility of resurrecting diplomacy with the North Korean leadership is slim today, it would be all but impossible after a military strike that convinces Kim that his belief about an aggressive and warmongering United States was correct all along. As any North Korea watcher will tell you, the Kim regime is by nature an incredibly paranoid specimen; indeed, as the execution of Jang Song-thaek [4]showed, the regime is constantly on the lookout for subversives, enemies of the state and traitors in its midst. Uncle Sam is the ultimate enemy; you can forget about a diplomatic resolution to the North Korean nuclear weapons problem if Kim’s country is under attack.

Lastly, it would be prudent for proponents of U.S. military force against Pyongyang to remember a simple but Confucius-like mantra: force should always be used as a last resort. As much as hawks in Washington argue to the contrary, the diplomatic option with the North Koreans still hasn’t been exhausted to its full potential. Previous diplomatic initiatives dating back to the Bill Clinton administration have been more interim and issue-oriented than comprehensive, with the ultimate carrot—a peace treaty (however tough that is to swallow)—promised sometime down the line but never substantively part of the discussion. With the exception of a short-lived moratorium-for-aid deal in the Obama administration’s first term, the last eight years of “strategic patience” have amounted to ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away. Washington would have a much better argument to make for the use of force if the diplomatic path was shut entirely. That simply isn’t the reality today.

The editor of this magazine, Jacob Heilbrunn, advised President-elect Donald Trump to sit down with Kim [5] and hash out “peace in our time.” That’s a far better way to go than a preemptive war that would not only put tens of thousands of U.S. troops and an entire South Korean city at risk, but would negatively affect America’s relationship with China.

Navy Aegis modernization solves A2/AD problems

Chris Osborn, January 10, 2017, National Interest, Get Ready, Russia and China: The U.S. Navy has big missile defense plans, http://nationalinterest.org/print/blog/the-buzz/get-ready-russia-china-the-us-navy-has-big-missile-defense-19003

Aegis radar, a technology now on destroyers and cruisers, is aimed at providing terminal phase ballistic missile defense and an ability to knock out or intercept attacking enemy cruise missiles. The Navy is modernizing its destroyers and cruisers with Aegis radar technology equipped with new multi-mission signal processors, kill assessment systems, radio frequency upgrades and various on-board circuits, service officials said. The upgrades are part of an intense service effort to better arm its fleet of destroyers and cruisers with modernized Aegis radar technologies engineered to both help the ships better attack adversaries and defend against enemy missiles. Aegis radar, a technology now on destroyers and cruisers, is aimed at providing terminal phase ballistic missile defense and an ability to knock out or intercept attacking enemy cruise missiles. Raytheon has been awarded a $20 million deal extension to perform these Aegis upgrades. The Navy is both modernizing current Aegis technology on board existing ships and also building upgrades into ships now under construction. These new upgrades are designed to build upon the most current iteration of Aegis technology, called Baseline 9. The Aegis modernization program hope to achieve combat system upgrades that will enhance the anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and CG 47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers. aytheon has been awarded a $20 million deal extension to perform these Aegis upgrades. The Navy is both modernizing current Aegis technology on board existing ships and also building upgrades into ships now under construction. These new upgrades are designed to build upon the most current iteration of Aegis technology, called Baseline 9. The Aegis modernization program hope to achieve combat system upgrades that will enhance the anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and CG 47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact Pentagon discussion about how potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastlines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles. Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could. The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons. The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years. During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques. More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

US military forward presence not needed to secure oil supplie

But scrutiny of U.S. foreign policy in the region should go beyond a potent skepticism of regime change or exasperation with chasing after terrorists. In addition to our ill-fated nation-building effort in Afghanistan and the fight against ISIS, the traditional rationale boils down to oil. As it turns out, though, forward deployment isn’t all that useful in securing the free flow of oil.

Overall the United States has approximately 35 thousand troops in the Middle East. Those that are based in Kuwait (about 13 thousand) and in Bahrain (about five thousand) are most explicitly about energy security, although various U.S. bases across the region cooperate in that role. This  forward deployed military presence is supposed to achieve four basic energy security objectives: (1) protect against the rise of a regional hegemon that could gain control of energy resources; (2) deter any external power from gaining a foothold in the region; (3) dampen regional rivalries and stave off a war that could disrupt supply; and finally, (4) deter or rapidly reverse any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, a critical chokepoint through which 30 percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes.

But do permanent peacetime military forces really serve these objectives? According to Charles L. Glaser and Rosemary A. Kelanic [7], “the conventional wisdom, which holds that U.S. oil interests in the Persian Gulf are so large and threatened that the United States must dedicate large military capabilities to their defense” is wrong. Danielle F. S. Cohen and Jonathan Kirshner go so far [8] as to call the belief in “energy insecurity”—common among policymakers and some academics—“a myth,” and “an erroneous belief that national security requires ambitious and vigilant foreign policy measures to assure adequate access to energy.”

Indeed, the United States today is far less reliant on foreign oil supplies than it once was. In 2015, only about 24 percent [9] of the petroleum consumed by the United States was imported from foreign countries (the lowest level since 1970), and only about 16 percent [10] of that was imported from the Middle East. This is largely because U.S. domestic production has significantly increased thanks to technological advances in exploiting shale reserve areas. Since 2008, annual U.S. crude production has grown by about 75 percent [11] and net import volumes are projected to decline by 55 percent by 2020. Canadian oil output is also expected to double by 2040, meaning North America is on track to be a net oil exporter by 2020 and to remain so through 2040 [12].

More importantly, oil is a fungible commodity traded on global markets and subject to the laws of supply and demand. Supply disruptions from one source impact the overall price, but can quickly be offset by an increase in output from another source. In every oil shock since 1973, global energy markets adapted quickly [13], by increasing production from other sources, rerouting existing supplies and putting both private and government-held stockpiles around the world into use.  These market adjustments mitigated the ramifications of the shocks and stabilized prices and supply. U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf did not prevent the disruptions, nor did it ease the resulting economic pain.

In addition, the balance of power globally and in the region today is favorable for energy security. First, an external power gaining a stranglehold over the Persian Gulf region is implausible. The Soviet Union is long gone and today’s Russia suffers from systemic economic problems that hinder its potential to project power in the Middle East. China, while increasingly powerful in its own sphere, lacks the political will to dominate the Gulf [14].

The regional balance of power is also favorable. According to Joshua Rovner [7], “the chance that a regional hegemon will emerge in the Persian Gulf during the next twenty years is slim to none. This is true even if the United States withdraws completely.” No state in the region possesses the capabilities necessary to conquer neighboring territories or gain a controlling influence over oil resources, and most are bogged down and distracted by internal problems. Overall the region is in a state of defense dominance: while too weak to project power beyond their borders, the major states do have the capability to deter their neighbors, making the costs of offensive action prohibitively high.

US military presence won’t solve the overthrow of the Saudi government

John Glaser is Associate Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, National Interest, 1-9-17, Does the US military actually protect Middle East oil? http://nationalinterest.org/print/blog/the-skeptics/does-the-us-military-actually-protect-middle-east-oil-18995

The other nightmare contingency that could do serious damage to U.S. energy interests is some kind of collapse or radical overthrow of the Saudi regime. But this scenario is even less susceptible to remedy by a forward military presence. Indeed, the presence may itself create the tensions that could destabilize the monarchy. Any mission to stabilize a severe case of civil unrest in Saudi Arabia would require a massive military occupation on the order of Iraq 2003-2011. But Iraq showed that counter-insurgency campaigns are costly and often ineffectual in serving long-term U.S. goals. Military intervention would be so risky and fraught with potential negative consequences that the pain of a price spike or temporary shortage is likely to be easier to endure than the costs and risks associated with military action. In any case, the likelihood of an internal collapse of the Saudi regime or of its ability to export oil is, according to Thomas W. Lippman [7], “so unlikely that it can be disregarded from strategic planning.”

In general, the case for using bases and troops to protect the free flow of oil is weak. A large and permanent military force in the region is not particularly useful for oil security and has often been counterproductive [17]. Even if the United States was forward deployed prior to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, it’s not clear it would have deterred Saddam Hussein. Nor would a hegemonic presence have done much to prevent the OPEC oil embargo of 1973.

Improving ties with Russia reduces the risk of a Russia-China alliance

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, January 4, 2017, National Interest, A Nixon Strategy to Break the Russia-China Axis, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/nixon-strategy-break-the-russia-china-axis-18946

The brief Sino-Russian shooting war apparently convinced Mao that he needed to reduce tensions with at least one of the PRC’s potential adversaries, opening the way for the Nixon administration. Rapprochement between the United States and China began with Richard Nixon relaxing trade and travel restrictions on the PRC in 1969. The same year, Beijing and Washington resuscitated the Sino-U.S. ambassadorial Talks. Nixon also used Pakistan as a diplomatic intermediary, which reported Chinese interest in improving bilateral ties. In 1971 the two countries engaged in so-called “ping-pong diplomacy,” with the visit of an American table tennis team to China, while Nixon eliminated the last travel limits. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger surreptitiously visited Beijing as part of an official trip to Pakistan in July 1971, setting in motion a second visit in October and U.S. support for the PRC’s entry into the United Nations and possession of the Chinese Security Council seat. Richard Nixon’s famed visit to China came in February 1972. He told Mao [3]: “You are one who sees when an opportunity comes, and then knows that you must seize the hour and seize the day.” Actually, both leaders did so. Although formal diplomatic ties (which required ending official relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan) did not come until 1979, under President Jimmy Carter, the United States and PRC continued to expand contacts and commerce. In no way were the two countries military allies. But Washington effectively neutralized one potential security threat and prevented the recreation of a Sino-Soviet coalition against the United States. Geopolitically, America gained flexibility and leverage in confronting the USSR. Washington could enjoy global preeminence, if not dominance, at lower cost. Chinese-Russian relations improved as the Cold War ended and ideological conflicts waned. But tensions remain real. Beijing shows as little respect for intellectual property when it comes to Russian weapons as it does for Western consumer goods. The Central Asian republics were part of the Soviet Union, but increasingly are drawn to China economically. Russia’s Far East is virtually unpopulated, giving rise to fears of Chinese territorial absorption. However, under President Barack Obama, the United States has courted conflict with both powers. To constrain China, the administration staged the “pivot” or “rebalance.” Washington strengthened alliance ties, added troop deployments and increased military maneuvers. The resources involved have been sufficient to irritate but not enough to scare the PRC. Beijing perceives that Washington hopes to contain China, whether or not the former is willing to admit the obvious. Against Russia, the United States has followed what appears to be an overtly hostile policy: dismissing the former’s Balkan interests, especially breaking apart historic Slavic ally Serbia (which imperial Russia backed in World War I); bringing old Warsaw Pact members and even Soviet republics into NATO, with invitations seeming likely for Georgia and Ukraine (the latter an integral part of both the Russian Empire and Soviet Union); supporting “color” and street revolutions against Russian-friendly governments in Georgia and Ukraine; pushing regime change, including by Islamist insurgents, against Moscow’s Syrian ally; imposing economic sanctions against Russia; and building up U.S. military forces in Europe. Washington might believe all of these policies to be warranted, but no serious Russian patriot could view them as friendly. The result has been greater cooperation between China and Russia. They are not formal military allies, but have found their dislike and distrust of Washington to be greater than their bilateral disagreements. In the short term, that means cooperating to limit American influence. Ultimately the objective could become to deter U.S. military action against both nations. Although Washington, with allied support, today should be able to simultaneously defeat the two (short of unconditional surrender), American dominance will fade. Should Russia and China forge closer military bonds, the United States eventually might find itself facing a much less hospitable international environment. That likely would constrain Washington’s responses, and increase the costs and risks if conflict resulted. America is a great power. But it should not needlessly create enemies and encourage them to ally with each other. If Donald Trump succeeds in improving relations with Russia, he would have the salutary side effect of discouraging creation of a common Russo-Chinese front against the United States. Richard Nixon’s China policy offers a model for the incoming Trump administration: Make up with at least one of the important powers potentially arrayed against America. The United States should not feel the need to take on the rest of the world.

Russia is not a threat, their evidence is based on false premises and ideology

Nicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He has written widely on Russian politics and foreign policy, and served as special assistant for policy on the Soviet Union in the U.S. Department of State from 1989–90, January 9, 2017, National Interest, Blaming Russia Will Only Hold America Back, http://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/blaming-russia-will-only-hold-america-back-18997

Donald Trump may have thought that his first task as president would be to “drain the swamp” of domestic bureaucrats, but it will actually have to be asserting control over the direction of American foreign policy. If this can be accomplished (a very big “if”), then the casually dismissive and often simply inaccurate rhetoric about Russia that characterized the previous administration could be replaced by a professional and businesslike tone. Second, Red Scares form an integral part of any Cold War scenario, new or old. Without the former, the latter is unsustainable. Previous Red Scares meshed well with the official Soviet ideology of Marxism-Leninism, which provided an ideological framework within which to understand Russian foreign policy. Even as Sovietologists debated its relevance, its implications were apparent to all. There is nothing of the sort today. While many find Russia’s annexation of Crimea, intervention in eastern Ukraine and support of Assad deplorable, few imagine that they constitute an ideological agenda. In each of these instances, the problem is not that Russia is playing by different rules, but that it is playing by the same rules as the West, only doing it better. Those who, like Hillary Clinton, see the Eurasian Customs Union as an effort to “re-Sovietize the region,” are stymied by the fact that, in practice as well purpose, the Customs Union strives to be a carbon copy of the European Economic Community. It adopts EU standards, whenever possible, precisely because its ultimate objective is a free-trade zone from “Lisbon to Vladivostok.” If there is any ideological component here, it is the expansion of free trade, a value that most Americans share. Finally, there is Russia’s striking unpopularity in the United States, which seriously undercuts the argument that the West is somehow being “outgunned massively by the Russians and the Chinese” in the information arena. It is a telling relic of Cold War thinking that such claims still help in securing government funding. Many rightly note that Western media outlets are losing their credibility. But if so, it is clearly not due to their lack of funding. In sum, the current Red Scare is most likely to follow the trajectory of its predecessors. First, reveal the Kremlin’s designs to undermine American democracy. Second, the government implements programs to save democracy, some of which will target “unpatriotic” ideas and opinions. Finally, skeptics of this approach are labelled “dupes,” “useful idiots,” or “Kremlin agents.” But since skepticism is at the heart of proper academic and journalistic inquiry, it is highly contagious. The list of “dupes” eventually grows to include nearly everyone, and the entire narrative implodes. That might be a good time to ask ourselves why, more than a quarter century after the end of the Cold War, it is still so easy to view Russia as America’s enemy, and to consider the benefits that a policy of friendship, which once characterized our relations, might bring to both countries and to the world.

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