The Trump u-turn on China and Russia is welcomed policy: Why the United States should be wary of Russia, and not China.

During the presidential race, political commentators were equally dismayed and puzzled by the developing relationship between then candidate Trump and President Putin. All sorts of explanations were offered to explain the apparent goodwill, from naked business interests to an alleged sex tape. But whatever the reason, Trump complimented Putin on a regular basis, referring to Russia’s president as a “strong leader” and “smart,” and stated that he intended to have a good working relationship with Russia’s president.

China, however, would be the center of a Trump administration’s ire. Trump accused China of “raping” the United States and promised that on day one he would label China as a currency manipulator and erect steep trade barriers. During his confirmation hearing, his nomination for Secretary of State suggested denying Beijing access to their artificial islands in the South China Sea.

That was then but this is now. After 100 days of Trump, the expected rapprochement with Russia has cooled and Chinese-American relations have apparently warmed. President Trump has directed 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Russia’s ally Syria, accused Russia of complicity in Syrian war crimes, has made no attempt of removing the sanctions imposed after Crimea, and has publicly stated he expects the peninsula to be returned to Ukraine.

Trump, however, has failed to label China as a currency manipulator, reneged on trade barriers, and restricted Navy patrols in the South China Sea. Xi Jinping, apparently, is even President Trump’s friend.

This u-turn is highly welcomed news for the simple fact that Russia is the troublemaker, and China, not so much.

Russia is the bigger problem for American foreign policy primarily because Russia is seeking to undermine 50 plus years of European economic integration and political liberalism. As articulated in a 2013 Center for Strategic Communications policy paper titled “Putin: The New World Leader of Conservatism,” Putin’s strategy of gaining influence in Europe is by assuming the leadership role of a transnational movement that defends and renews traditional social values, both in side Russia in Europe. This means supporting positions that are anti-immigrant, homophobic, and Eurosceptic, among other anti-liberal policies. This essentially makes Russia a proselytizing power as Putin seeks to export these policies to Europe by hacking elections, funding far right parties, and spreading fake news. The French presidential election offers ample evidence of this strategy in motion.

Compare this to China which has no designs on the political makeup of foreign states, doesn’t seek to export any particular culture to its neighbors and, despite lifting 800 million people out of poverty, doesn’t pressure others to adopt its version of state sponsored capitalism. They do hack, but not to influence election outcomes, and the fake news it produces is mainly for Chinese consumption and not to influence foreign elections.

The Chinese and Russian objectives for their respected neighborhoods are in contrast to one another. Russia’s objective is to sow political and economic uncertainty throughout their neighborhood, as a Europe divided by nationalism and economic populism is a plus for Moscow. But where Russia is deliberately stirring up tensions throughout Europe, China’s number one regional goal is stability. From their policy towards North Korea to their relationship with the United States, China’s number one goal is to avoid destabilizing the region. This is because unlike Russia, China has experienced legitimate economic gains and political consolidation over the past 30 years and would prefer not to upset this trend.

When one also considers that Putin’s Russia has also invaded two countries, committed war crimes in Syria, has sold arms to the Taliban, and violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, it is rather clear that Russia, and not China, should be considered the bigger problem for American. American priorities and rhetoric should reflect that.

 

 

Avoiding a Sino-American Confrontation: Why the US Should Accommodate a Rising China.

Many good points made in a Christopher Layne brief discussing how to manage China’s rise.

Here is one.

First, without delving too deeply into the arcane details of nuclear weapons strategy, we know that, because of the “stability/instability paradox,” although nuclear armed states are deterred from using nuclear weapons against each other, they are not stopped from fighting a conventional war. This isn’t speculation: in the 1999 Kargil conflict, India and Pakistan — both armed with nuclear weapons — fought each other with conventional forces.

 

It is ungated and can be read in it’s entirety here

China as the non revisionist power.

Analogies to other rising powers with shallower histories — France, the United States, Germany, Japan, the USSR — are not helpful in predicting the consequences of China’s rise. China has no messianic ideology to export; no doctrine of “manifest destiny” to advance; no belief in social Darwinism or imperative of territorial expansion to act upon; no cult of the warrior to animate militarism or glorify war; no exclusion from contemporary global governance to overcome; no satellite states to garrison; no overseas colonies or ideological dependencies to protect; no history of power projection or military intervention beyond its immediate frontiers; no entangling alliances or bases abroad.

This is supportive of the logic of accommodation and against  the logic of confrontation.

You can read the rest here.

Perspective on American Defense Budget

The 2015 (fiscal year) American defense budget is approximately 600 billion.

If the American defense budget were a state’s GDP, it would be ranked twentyfirst in the world.

Rank Country 2017
1 United States 19,417.14
2 China 11,795.30
3 Japan 4,841.22
4 Germany 3,423.29
5 United Kingdom 2,496.76
6 India 2,454.46
7 France 2,420.44
8 Brazil 2,140.94
9 Italy 1,807.43
10 Canada 1,600.27
11 Russia 1,560.71
12 Korea 1,498.07
13 Australia 1,359.72
14 Spain 1,232.44
15 Indonesia 1,020.52
16 Mexico 987.303
17 Turkey 793.698
18 Netherlands 762.694
19 Saudi Arabia 707.379
20 Switzerland 659.368
21 United States Defense Budget 650
22 Argentina 628.935
23 Taiwan Province of China 566.757
24 Sweden 507.046
25 Poland 482.92
26 Belgium 462.715
27 Thailand 432.898
28 United Arab Emirates 407.21
29 Nigeria 400.621
30 Norway 391.959
31 Austria 383.509
32 Islamic Republic of Iran 368.488
33 Israel 339.99
34 Hong Kong SAR 332.266
35 Philippines 329.716
36 South Africa 317.568
37 Malaysia 309.86
38 Colombia 306.439
39 Denmark 304.216
40 Ireland 294.193
41 Singapore 291.86
42 Venezuela 251.589
43 Chile 251.22
44 Bangladesh 248.853
45 Finland 234.524
46 Vietnam 215.829
47 Peru 207.072
48 Portugal 202.77
49 New Zealand 198.043
50 Czech Republic 196.068
51 Greece 193.1
52 Romania 189.79
53 Iraq 189.432
54 Algeria 173.947
55 Qatar 173.649
56 Kazakhstan 157.878
57 Kuwait 126.971
58 Hungary 125.297
59 Angola 122.365
60 Sudan 115.874
61 Morocco 105.623
62 Puerto Rico 99.727
63 Ecuador 97.362
64 Ukraine 95.934
65 Slovak Republic 89.134
66 Sri Lanka 84.023
67 Ethiopia 78.384
68 Dominican Republic 76.85
69 Kenya 75.099
70 Myanmar 72.368
71 Oman 71.325
72 Guatemala 70.943
73 Uzbekistan 68.324
74 Luxembourg 59.997
75 Costa Rica 59.796
76 Panama 59.486
77 Uruguay 58.123
78 Belarus 54.689
79 Libya 54.411
80 Lebanon 53.915
81 Bulgaria 52.291
82 Tanzania 51.194
83 Croatia 50.084
84 Macao SAR 45.728
85 Slovenia 43.503
86 Lithuania 42.826
87 Ghana 42.753
88 Turkmenistan 42.355
89 Democratic Republic of the Congo 41.098
90 Jordan 40.506
91 Tunisia 40.289
92 Bolivia 39.267
93 Azerbaijan 38.583
94 Serbia 37.739
95 Côte d’Ivoire 36.873
96 Bahrain 34.31
97 Cameroon 29.547
98 Paraguay 28.743
99 Latvia 27.795
100 El Salvador 27.548
101 Yemen 27.189
102 Uganda 27.174
103 Estonia 23.422
104 Nepal 23.316
105 Zambia 23.137
106 Iceland 22.97
107 Honduras 21.79
108 Trinidad and Tobago 21.748
109 Papua New Guinea 21.189
110 Cambodia 20.953
111 Afghanistan 20.57
112 Cyprus 19.648
113 Bosnia and Herzegovina 16.78
114 Botswana 15.564
115 Senegal 15.431
116 Zimbabwe 15.285
117 Lao P.D.R. 14.971
118 Mali 14.344
119 Jamaica 14.272
120 Gabon 14.208
121 Nicaragua 13.748
122 Georgia 13.723
123 Brunei Darussalam 12.326
124 Albania 12.294
125 Burkina Faso 12.258
126 Mauritius 12.245
127 Namibia 11.765
128 Equatorial Guinea 11.686
129 Mozambique 11.17
130 Malta 11.164
131 FYR Macedonia 10.951
132 Armenia 10.741
133 Madagascar 10.372
134 Mongolia 10.271
135 Chad 9.636
136 The Bahamas 9.172
137 Rwanda 8.918
138 Benin 8.792
139 Republic of Congo 8.341
140 Haiti 7.897
141 Niger 7.674
142 Moldova 7.409
143 Tajikistan 7.242
144 Guinea 6.936
145 Kyrgyz Republic 6.854
146 Kosovo 6.809
147 Malawi 6.182
148 Eritrea 6.051
149 Mauritania 5.063
150 Fiji 4.869
151 South Sudan 4.812
152 Barbados 4.759
153 Togo 4.554
154 Montenegro 4.185
155 Sierra Leone 4.088
156 Swaziland 3.938
157 Suriname 3.641
158 Guyana 3.591
159 Maldives 3.578
160 Burundi 3.384
161 Timor-Leste 2.727
162 Lesotho 2.439
163 Bhutan 2.308
164 Liberia 2.215
165 Djibouti 2.088
166 Central African Republic 1.992
167 Belize 1.829
168 Cabo Verde 1.637
169 San Marino 1.551
170 Seychelles 1.475
171 Antigua and Barbuda 1.454
172 St. Lucia 1.428
173 Solomon Islands 1.245
174 Guinea-Bissau 1.166
175 Grenada 1.089
176 The Gambia 1.041
177 St. Kitts and Nevis 0.951
178 Samoa 0.843
179 Vanuatu 0.829
180 St. Vincent and the Grenadines 0.809
181 Comoros 0.654
182 Dominica 0.539
183 Tonga 0.422
184 São Tomé and Príncipe 0.355
185 Micronesia 0.334
186 Palau 0.315
187 Marshall Islands 0.188
188 Kiribati 0.173
189 Nauru 0.114
190 Tuvalu 0.036
191 Egypt n/a
192 Pakistan n/a
193 Syria n/a

Keep in mind that this doesn’t even include the vast intelligence apparatus created after 9/11.

All data are in current, USD. The scale is billions.

You can see the original data here.

 

 

Background on Policy Options for a Nuclear North Korea.

With the end of “strategic patience,” I wanted to direct attention to Doug Bandow’s recent work on the North Korea problem. Nothing about the paper is libertarian (I think the stock libertarian response would be that a nuclear North Korea is either 1) rational NK policy to preserve the regime or 2) none of America’s business) but the paper is the one of the best introductions to how complicated the situation is.

Below is the introduction. A longer read but it is so well written you can get through it within one sitting.

Northeast Asia is perhaps the world’s most dangerous flashpoint, with three neighboring nuclear powers, one the highly unpredictable and confrontational North Korea. For nearly a quarter century the United States has alternated between engagement and containment in attempting to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons.

 

Unfortunately, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has accelerated its nuclear and missile programs since Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011. Washington has responded with both bilateral and multilateral sanctions, but they appear to have only strengthened the Kim regime’s determination to develop a sizeable nuclear arsenal. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has grown increasingly frustrated with its nominal ally, but the PRC continues to provide the DPRK with regime-sustaining energy and food aid.

 

The United States and South Korea, in turn, have grown frustrated with Beijing, which is widely seen as the solution to the North Korea problem. However, the Obama administration’s approach has generally been to lecture the PRC, insisting that it follow American priorities. Unsurprisingly, successive Chinese leaders have balked.

 

China does possess an unusual degree of influence in Pyongyang, but Beijing fears an unstable DPRK more than a nuclear DPRK. From China’s standpoint, the possible consequences of a North Korean collapse—loose nukes, mass refugee flows, conflict spilling over its border— could be high. The Chinese leadership also blames Washington for creating a threatening security environment that discourages North Korean denuclearization.

 

Thus, the United States should change tactics. Instead of attempting to dictate, the United States must persuade the Chinese leadership that it is in the PRC’s interest to assist America and U.S. allies. That requires addressing China’s concerns by, for instance, more effectively engaging the North with a peace offer, offering to ameliorate the costs of a North Korean collapse to Beijing, and providing credible assurances that Washington would not turn a united Korea into another U.S. military outpost directed at the PRC’s containment.

 

Such a diplomatic initiative still would face strong resistance in Beijing. But it may be the best alternative available.

 

What Trump Calls Strength, China Calls Stupidity

That is the title of James Palmer’s recent FP piece.

Here is one bit

Trump might have thought he was signaling a bold willingness to use force to his visitor, but China regards U.S. military might as early U.S. statesman Elbridge Gerry once did the prospect of standing army: “Like a standing member; an excellent assurance of domestic tranquillity, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.” China’s happy to gradually extend power elsewhere, especially in its own neighborhood. But it hasn’t gone to war for 38 years, since the last spasms of the Maoist era produced a blundering invasion of Vietnam in 1979. (In that time frame, the United States has gone to war in well over a dozen countries, and Russia in close to a dozen.) Beijing views Washington’s scatter-shot, flip-flop approach to foreign policy — especially in the post-Cold War era — as destabilizing, foolish … and useful.

 

As with all of American blundering in the Middle East, China is the biggest beneficiary of the recent airstrikes in Syria. Not only does it divert attention away from the “region of the future,” it also heightens the suspicions of potential regional rivals, Russia and China. If you want to know why geopolitics has returned, the American use of force in nonstrategic areas is a start.

You can read the rest here.

 

 

Ignoring Diplomacy’s Past and Its Future Promise

That is the title of a NYT editorial.

It writes,

Diplomacy doesn’t always prevent war, Syria being one example, but war becomes far more likely if there are not enough diplomats to work with other countries to resolve disagreements. Compelling examples of diplomacy working include the 2015 deal that is preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnia War; and the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Other examples include several treaties that committed America and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals significantly. American diplomats have strengthened alliances, built new partnerships with countries like Cuba and Myanmar, promoted democracy so that countries are less likely to go to war with one another and created jobs by helping to open overseas markets to American business.

A Less Than Splendid Little War.

That is the title of a 2014 Wilson Quarterly piece by Andrew J. Bacevich in which he discusses the impact of the Gulf War on the public views towards the military and the role the military should play in the world.

Here is one instructive section.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the legacy is the war’s powerful influence on how Americans now view both the immediate past and the immediate future. When it occurred near the tail end of the 20th century, just as the Cold War’s final chapter was unfolding, the victory in the desert seemed to confirm that the years since the United States bounded on to the world stage in 1898 had been the “American Century” after all. Operation Desert Storm was interpreted as an indisputable demonstration of American superiority and made it plausible to believe once again that the rise of the United States to global dominance and the triumph of American values were the central themes of the century then at its close.

 

In the collective public consciousness, the Persian Gulf War and the favorable conclusion of the Cold War were evidence that, despite two world wars, multiple episodes of genocide, and the mind-boggling criminality of totalitarianism, the 20th century had turned out basically all right. The war let Americans see contemporary history not as a chronicle of hubris, miscalculation, and tragedy, but as a march of progress, its arc ever upward. And that perspective — however much at odds with the postmodernism that pervades fashionable intellectual circles — fuels the grand expectations that Americans have carried into the new millennium.

Bill Clinton has declared the United States “the indispensable nation.” According to Madeleine Albright, America has become the “organizing principal” of the global order. “If we have to use force,” said Albright, “it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further than other countries into the future.” Such sentiments invite derision in sophisticated precincts. But they play well in Peoria, and accord precisely with what most Americans want to believe.

You can read the ungated version here.