U.S.-Rus­sia-China Big Three — or World War III

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - By Ed­ward Lozan­sky Ed­ward Lozan­sky is founder and pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Univer­sity in Moscow.

An ex­pected meet­ing this week­end be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin at a Paris com­mem­o­ra­tion of the end of World War I has been thrown into doubt, though a side­line en­counter may still take place. A more sub­stan­tive dis­cus­sion be­tween the men who con­trol the world’s big­gest nu­clear ar­se­nals is ex­pected at the G20 Buenos Aires sum­mit later this month, when Mr. Trump will also meet with China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

In view of the new re­al­ity in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, where the Democrats will def­i­nitely un­leash a re­dou­bled wave of anti-Trump in­ves­ti­ga­tions, many pre­dict that Mr. Trump will have no time or en­ergy to con­cen­trate on for­eign pol­icy. How­ever, it is ac­tu­ally in for­eign pol­icy where he can­not only turn the ta­bles on his op­po­nents but be­gin his 2020 re-elec­tion cam­paign — as well as sav­ing all of us from a nu­clear holo­caust.

In re­cent weeks, se­nior of­fi­cials of both the Rus­sian and Chi­nese gov­ern­ments have is­sued state­ments that should send chills into ev­ery­one. An­drei Belousov, deputy direc­tor of the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry’s Depart­ment of Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion and Arms Con­trol, said: “Yes, Rus­sia is pre­par­ing for war, I can con­firm it. Yes, we are pre­par­ing to de­fend our home­land, our ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, our prin­ci­ples, our val­ues, our peo­ple. We are pre­par­ing for such a war.” Mr. Belousov’s words echo Mr. Putin’s own re­cent prom­ise to use nu­clear weapons if nec­es­sary: “Any ag­gres­sor should know that ret­ri­bu­tion will be in­evitable and he will be de­stroyed. And since we will be the vic­tims of his ag­gres­sion, we will be go­ing to heaven as mar­tyrs. They will sim­ply croak and won’t even have time to re­pent.”

Sim­i­larly, Mr. Xi him­self stated in ref­er­ence to U.S. naval ma­neu­vers in wa­ters claimed by China, “We have to step up com­bat readi­ness ex­er­cises, joint ex­er­cises and con­fronta­tional ex­er­cises to en­hance ser­vice­men’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and prepa­ra­tion for war.”

It is sur­pris­ing how lit­tle at­ten­tion these dire warn­ings have gen­er­ated in the West. To the ex­tent they have been no­ticed, they were dis­missed as bel­liger­ent blus­ter from sec­ond-rate pow­ers. To con­clude that would be trag­i­cally wrong.

It is a very long time since even U.S. diplo­mats — much less politi­cians and jour­nal­ists — prac­ticed the art of look­ing at things from “the other guy’s point of view” to un­der­stand how other coun­tries might per­ceive what we re­gard as rea­son­able ac­tions. From Rus­sia’s and China’s per­spec­tive, there’s noth­ing rea­son­able about Amer­ica’s seek­ing dom­i­nance in ar­eas vi­tal to their se­cu­rity but of neg­li­gi­ble to nonex­is­tent U.S. na­tional in­ter­est.

From their van­tage point, the U.S. is seek­ing full-spec­trum dom­i­nance right up to their borders and lit­toral wa­ters: ever-in­creas­ing sanc­tions, mil­i­ta­riza­tion of outer space, the Arc­tic, Europe (with­drawal from the INF treaty), Syria, Ukraine, the South China Sea, the Tai­wan Strait, Xin­jiang, and else­where. Nowhere is there a hint that the U.S. con­cedes re­gional se­cu­rity to Rus­sia or China — or re­ally, any other coun­try — of the kind the U.S. has claimed in our neigh­bor­hood for al­most 200 years.

Back to what Mr. Trump’s next move might be, there are some who sug­gest a “tri­an­gu­la­tion,” in which the U.S. would seek to en­list Rus­sia as a coun­ter­weight to China. The pat­tern would be Henry Kissinger’s coun­sel to Richard Nixon in “play­ing the China card” against the USSR.

Since, it is sug­gested, Rus­sia is a de­clin­ing power it makes sense to get them on our side against a ris­ing China.

The no­tion of play­ing the Rus­sia card against China is an ab­surd fan­tasy. First, it’s im­pos­si­ble to woo Rus­sia on the ba­sis of un­remit­ting hostility, threats and in­sults. That shows no sign of chang­ing with new sanc­tions kick­ing in later this month.

Sec­ond, any hints at a pos­i­tive shift in U.S. be­hav­ior would not be taken se­ri­ously by Moscow, which re­mem­bers pre­vi­ous bro­ken promises, such as NATO ex­pan­sion or the ABM treaty ab­ro­ga­tion. Third, Moscow has lots of good rea­sons to get along with a mas­sive neigh­bor­ing coun­try that is in­her­ently more im­por­tant to Rus­sia than the U.S. is or ever will be.

The other op­tion is to re­al­ize that a sta­ble global or­der can only rest on a “troika” of the U.S., Rus­sia and China, and per­son­ally on a Trump-Putin-Xi ac­cord. This means aban­don­ing the as­pi­ra­tion of U.S. unipo­lar, global dom­i­na­tion and con­ced­ing that other coun­tries have their own se­cu­rity in­ter­ests as well.

The re­main­ing al­ter­na­tive is to seek to main­tain a unipo­lar world at all costs. Judg­ing from Mr. Trump’s pre-elec­tion pledges and speeches, he ap­pre­ci­ates this point but his na­tional se­cu­rity team — com­posed of the kind of neo­con­ser­va­tives, Bush-era glob­al­ists and other Swamp-crit­ters whose dis­as­trous hand­i­work Trump de­cried in 2016 — does not. Hence, the warn­ings cited in the head­line.

The U.S. now has a stark choice. We can go down the cur­rent road whose ter­ri­ble end is all too clear. Or we may hope that the mas­ter of the “art of the deal” sug­gests a dif­fer­ent road when he meets with his Rus­sian and Chi­nese coun­ter­parts.

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