US-China-Rus­sia ties will shape the fu­ture

China Daily - - VIEWS - The au­thor is vice-sec­re­tary gen­eral and se­nior re­search fel­low at China Arms Con­trol and Dis­ar­ma­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

Let’s have a look at the global strate­gic land­scape and the US-Chi­naRus­sia tri­lat­eral ori­en­ta­tions as we wel­come a new year. First, uni­lat­er­al­ism poses a chal­lenge to mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in the in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal field, and trade pro­tec­tion­ism to in­ter­de­pen­dence in trade and eco­nomics, although most of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of and con­trib­u­tors to glob­al­iza­tion are sup­port­ing the ex­ist­ing global se­cu­rity, eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial sys­tems, in­clud­ing the United Na­tions and the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion. This has be­come one of the es­sen­tial el­e­ments of the ma­jor coun­try re­la­tion­ship.

Sec­ond, due to the con­stant ad­vances in mil­i­tary sciences and the up­dated weapons’ pro­grams of the ma­jor pow­ers, while talk­ing about the role of nu­clear weapons and strate­gic sta­bil­ity to­day, we have to con­sider the non-nu­clear fac­tors, too, which in­clude mis­sile de­fense, pre­ci­sion guided lon­grange mis­sile sys­tems, hy­per­sonic wa­verid­ers, outer space pro­grams and cy­ber ca­pac­ity. Which in turn have given rise to the con­cept of cross-do­main de­ter­rence.

Grow­ing role of re­gional com­pe­ti­tions, con­flicts

Third, re­gional com­pe­ti­tions and con­fronta­tions or con­flicts are play­ing a prom­i­nent role in global and re­gional strate­gic sta­bil­ity in Europe, the Mid­dle East, South Asia and the West­ern Pa­cific. Thanks to the Ukraine cri­sis and the war in Syria, ten­sions be­tween Rus­sia and the West have risen, with Moscow and NATO hold­ing their largest mil­i­tary ex­er­cises since the end of the Cold War.

Rus­sia says the NATO mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in Europe, com­pat­i­ble with that in the US home­land, is a for­ward de­ploy­ment which could un­der­mine the re­gional strate­gic bal­ance and ob­struct ne­go­ti­a­tions on strate­gic and tac­ti­cal nu­clear arse­nal.

Mak­ing power com­pe­ti­tion a na­tional strate­gic fo­cus, the US has ac­cel­er­ated its mil­i­tary buildup in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, in­clud­ing the mis­sile de­fense net­work in Ja­pan and the Repub­lic of Ko­rea. The con­cen­tra­tion of more than 50 per­cent of its naval long-range strik­ing forces in the re­gion makes the US strat­egy to pro­mote ex­tended de­ter­rence in North­east Asia in both con­ven­tional and nu­clear fields even more im­por­tant. Against this back­ground, China is ac­cel­er­at­ing its in­vest­ment in ma­jor weapons pro­grams, so as to strengthen its self-de­fense and main­tain re­gional strate­gic sta­bil­ity.

And fourth, a widen­ing ide­o­log­i­cal gap be­tween the two strate­gic ap­proaches to nu­clear de­ter­rence and nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment has be­come more ev­i­dent. For ex­am­ple, on July 7, the United Na­tions passed the Treaty on the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Nu­clear Weapons with 122 coun­tries vot­ing in its fa­vor. But only four months later, the US de­clared its in­ten­tion to with­draw from the In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nu­clear Forces Treaty, in­di­cat­ing the begin­ning of a new nu­clear arms race be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Moscow.

Also, in its first Nu­clear Pos­ture Re­view re­leased in Fe­bru­ary 2018, the White House vowed to en­hance its nu­clear power, by de­vel­op­ing low-yield sea-launched nu­clear mis­siles, thus low­er­ing the nu­clear thresh­old. In re­sponse, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin an­nounced on March 1 that Moscow was de­vel­op­ing new types of strate­gic weapon sys­tems, com­pris­ing hy­per­sonic mis­siles, nu­clear pow­ered cruise mis­siles and un­manned un­der­wa­ter ve­hi­cles.

Given these facts, those re­view­ing the Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty on its 50th an­niver­sary may find it dif­fi­cult to reach a con­sen­sus on a joint com­mu­niqué.

US re­sists chal­lenges to its global supremacy

The US’ na­tional strate­gic ob­jec­tive is to pre­vent any coun­try or group of coun­tries across Eura­sia to chal­lenge its supremacy. The US tar­get now seems to be China, although Rus­sia re­mains very much on its radar. And the cen­ter­piece of US for­eign pol­icy is still the pro­mo­tion of col­lec­tive de­fense and re­gional se­cu­rity through co­op­er­a­tion with its al­lies in Europe and the Asia-Pa­cific. But the fact that Wash­ing­ton is now ask­ing its al­lies to pay more and speak less has made it less pop­u­lar with the al­lies.

Soon af­ter be­com­ing US pres­i­dent in Jan­uary 2017, Don­ald Trump said the US should re­gain its nu­clear supremacy. So ex­perts doubt that the in­cum­bent US ad­min­is­tra­tion would give up its ap­proach of “ma­ture and bal­anced re­duc­tion” of nu­clear arse­nal and agree with Rus­sia, as pre­vi­ous US ad­min­is­tra­tions did, to re­duce their re­spec­tive nu­clear stock­pile.

Be­sides, the US se­cu­rity pol­icy to­ward North­east Asia and the Korean Penin­sula is based on two pil­lars: to pur­sue co­or­di­na­tion with its al­lies, with Ja­pan and the ROK in par­tic­u­lar; and to pur­sue di­plo­macy with coun­tries such as Rus­sia and China.

China en­ters pe­riod of ad­just­ments

As for China, it is en­ter­ing a pe­riod of ad­just­ments, not eco­nomic re­ces­sion or geopo­lit­i­cal con­ces­sions, largely due to the re­silience it has built in the decade since the 2008 global fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Some an­a­lysts be­lieve China’s pe­riod of ad­just­ments, in­clud­ing its trans­for­ma­tion from an ex­port-de­pen­dent econ­omy to a con­sump­tio­nand in­no­va­tion-driven econ­omy, may last about five years.

China has made it clear time and again that it is not a ma­jor threat to the US. In­stead, as a ben­e­fi­ciary of the ex­ist­ing world order, China prefers to be a co­op­er­a­tive part­ner or stake­holder in re­gional and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.

De­spite ris­ing chal­lenges and dif­fi­cul­ties, China will con­tinue mak­ing ef­forts to main­tain stable re­la­tions with the US and its neigh­bors, while safe­guard­ing its sovereignt­y, ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, and geopo­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. Why? Be­cause China be­lieves its ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to global and re­gional peace and strate­gic sta­bil­ity lies in pro­mot­ing joint devel­op­ment and univer­sal se­cu­rity.

And there should be no doubt that Rus­sia re­mains a big global power be­cause of its unique strate­gic and mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity. But de­spite that, Rus­sia doesn’t be­lieve in a con­fronta­tion with the West, be­cause its fun­da­men­tal na­tional ob­jec­tive in the fore­see­able fu­ture is to re­main a re­spected power in Europe and beyond.

Within the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion and BRICS, Moscow will con­tinue play­ing its sig­nif­i­cant role to strengthen its strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion with the other mem­bers, es­pe­cially with China, based on their un­der­stand­ing of the se­cu­rity chal­lenges and mu­tual re­spect for each other’s core in­ter­ests. En­ergy and arms sales will re­main im­por­tant as­pects of Rus­sia’s re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion with other coun­tries, though.

Pe­riod of ‘Cold Peace’, not ‘new Cold War’

And since Rus­sia plays a crit­i­cal role in on-shore bal­ance as well as off-shore bal­ance in North­east Asia and the West­ern Pa­cific in case of an un­ex­pected cri­sis, or in cri­sis man­age­ment, the pos­si­bil­ity of a “new Cold War” seems re­mote. It is more likely that the new pe­riod will be one “Cold Peace” be­tween the US and Rus­sia, and be­tween the US and China, partly be­cause do­mes­tic is­sues are ex­ert­ing greater pres­sure on the ma­jor pow­ers’ for­eign poli­cies.

The Sino-US part­ner­ship has reached a low level, so the devel­op­ment of a new Si­noUS par­a­digm will have a huge im­pact on the world — just as Sino-US re­la­tions did in the past 40 years. More­over, the spec­trum of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween or among the US, Rus­sia and China will be driven by their com­mon in­ter­ests as well as par­al­lel in­ter­ests, although par­al­lel in­ter­ests could be found only in spe­cific and con­di­tional cases, which could lead to frag­ile co­op­er­a­tion.

There­fore, pro­tect­ing the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion regime, fight­ing ter­ror­ism and com­bat­ing drugs and arms traf­fick­ing will re­main sig­nif­i­cant parts of bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, as global and re­gional gov­er­nance seem to worsen.


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