Saturday, January 21, 2017

M.N.: "The US - Russia - China triangle and the traingulation are the long term reality and phenomenon. The Big Boy at the head of the triangle should deal with it playfully, skillfully and adroitly..." | "The signs... are hard to ignore." - Weaving the Threads of a Possible Trump Doctrine - Geopolitical Diary - JANUARY 20, 2017

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Weaving the Threads of a Possible Trump Doctrine - Geopolitical Diary - JANUARY 20, 2017

Quotes: 

Indeed, there is a serious argument to be made that even as Russia, still but a pale shadow of its Soviet-era self, threatens various secondary interests, it does not fundamentally threaten the core strategic interest of the United States: to prevent the emergence of a competing hegemon. Therefore, the argument goes, it is ultimately not in America's long-term strategic interest to isolate and alienate Russia, especially when there are bigger fish to fry. Instead, according to this view, Washington should set aside its ideological clash with Russia to focus on other matters.
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Failure to work with Russia, on the other hand, risks pushing it even further into Beijing's strategic and economic orbit, making effective containment of China more difficult.
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And whatever Trump's intent, any effort at cooperation with Russia will face intense domestic scrutiny and possibly resistance from large segments of the electorate, not to mention U.S. congressional leaders, the country's foreign policy and national security establishments, and from U.S. allies abroad.
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To borrow from the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, it signals that the "normal" politics of the past three decades could be giving way to something new and revolutionary. At such times, the structures and alliances that grounded the status quo — in this case, the post-Cold War world order — collapse and are replaced by new and sometimes surprising alignments, dynamics and conflicts.
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 the signs... are hard to ignore. 


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Moscow, Beijing and Washington: A Complicated Triangle


M.N.: The US - Russia - China triangle and the traingulation are the long term reality and phenomenon. The Big Boy at the head of the triangle should deal with it playfully, skillfully and adroitly, as the experienced and unchallenged in his reading and the interpretation of the score conductor, letting the second and the third fiddles follow his baton at all times and letting them to compete for their places in the pecking order of their endless attraction, admiration, and fascination, in order to produce the meaningful and harmonious music, as he sees, feels, and finds it fit. 

It is hard to see how all three of them will manage their menage if they decide to jump into a sack together and with each other; it will look ridiculous, and probably will never happen. However, the one of the second row tier might feel and be perceived as the more suitable and the more natural partner for the occasional interactions on a strictly as needed basis. The details of their activities are the secondary matter and subject to the modern give and take, as long as it is enjoyable to both. 

The other factors that come into this play are the imitational, copying  nature of the junior partners' characters and attitudes: one is the huge and the attractively inexpensive repair shop operating on foreign licenses and the stolen designs and depending on them entirely, for its creative intellectual dick is long past its development time and is limited by its developmental nature, while the other goes through the inevitable process of decline, shrinkage, and a certain degeneration from its slavish Viagra erected heights, due to the unstoppable outflow of blood, brains, and sexy talents. 

Kuhn made an interesting observation: the adherents of the old paradigms never change their views, they simply die out, with their false, erroneous, but staunchly held concepts buried with them. Therefore, The Time, with its generational changes and the revolutionary evolution, is the most simple and efficient factor, as it was in the "containment" strategy, and the Big Boy should consider, include, and play with this important factor also, in his construction and design of the new long term paradigm and strategies, while not ignoring the short or near term arrangements, goals, needs, and considerations. 

All this might look a bit cynical but appears to be the unavoidably pragmatic. 

With regard to the nature of the Sino-Russian relations, there is an old, the Soviet times joke, that illustrates them well. There are two passengers, one the Russian, another the Chinese on the Moscow-Peking express train. The Russian passenger performed all sorts of pranks on his fellow traveler. Finally, when the train approached their destination, he, overwhelmed with guilt and remorse, while his counterpart exhibited the ostensibly saintly, stoic, magnanimous and forgiving behavior in response, ignoring them, the Russian admitted his pranks and asked him for his forgiveness: "Forgive me, brother!" To which the Chinese replied: "Nitzevo, nitzevo, a ya tebe vsyu dorogu v tzai pisil...": "Do not worry about it too much, I pissed into your tea the whole trip..." The story published in the recent VOA article (and probably many other stories to come in the future) about the delivery of the Su-35 planes with their engines welded shut, is in the same category: 
"A recent report that Russia had welded shut the engines of Sukhoi-35 fighter jets it sold to China had some enraged. So much so that some were arguing online that it was Russia, not America, that was China’s main adversary."
The mutual hatred, intense competition, and the deep hypocrisy is at the heart of the Sino-Russian relations, behind the nice, sweet, loving, foxy smiles. The Chinese cyber espionage against the US is another type of the examples in the same vein.

This "romantic love triangle" is fully loaded and counterbalanced with mutual suspicions, distrust, resentments, competition, anger, and deeply seated hate, which makes it more of the complex love-hate triangle. 
The issue of the "temporary" and passing nature of these relations, with their ever shifting, adjusting and readjusting alignments and realignments, appears to be their most stable and constant feature. 

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Links and Quotes

The New China-Russia-U.S. Triangle - Elizabeth Wishnick - December 2015

"Sino-Russian economic relations remain anemic, negotiations over energy deals remain fraught, and regional economic cooperation between the Russian Far East and northeast China has yet to live up to its potential." 

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping smile prior their talks during the summit in Ufa, Russia, July 8, 2015.

Prospect of Warming US-Russia Ties Worries China - VOA - January 17, 2017

Moscow, Beijing and Washington: A Complicated Triangle - FEDERICO PIERACCINI | 06.08.2016 | OPINION 



"The failure of the global hegemonic aspirations of Washington, and of the strategies adopted against China and Russia, have ended up isolating the United States rather than Moscow and Beijing.

The hysteria that has plunged the American oligarchy has produced devastating results in America. Donald Trump and his strategy to accelerate the withdrawal of the US from the world stage in favor of a domestic recovery has had an unexpected success and could be the last chance to save the American empire from a future collapse." 

Turbulent Triangle: US, Russia, China Relations - By Ted Galen Carpenter - Cato Institute - This article appeared on Aspenia Online on June 17, 2015.

"The events in Moscow were only the latest signal of a Russian-Chinese rapprochement that seems heavily motivated by a joint desire to curb America’s global dominance. Bilateral economic agreements between Moscow and Beijing are on the rise, including a May 2015 $400 billion deal to sell Russian natural gas to the voracious Chinese economy.
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Significant arms sales agreements involving Russia and China are also becoming more common. Included in the latter category is Moscow’s recent commitment to sell the sophisticated S-400 air defense system to China. 
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These diverse developments have one feature in common. Moscow and Beijing now seem to worry more about Washington than they do about each other, and that shared apprehension is driving them to cooperate against the United States and its allies. That trend should greatly concern US policymakers. 
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The language coming out of both Washington and Moscow is characterized by a hostility not witnessed since the end of the Cold War. 
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The United States is committing a cardinal sin in foreign policy: allowing relations to deteriorate with two major powers simultaneously. That development violates a specific admonition that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made during the Cold War. Reflecting on the Nixon administration’s decision to normalize relations with China, Kissinger emphasized the important underlying geostrategic rationale. “Our relations to possible opponents,” he wrote in White House Years, the first volume of his memoirs, should be such “that our options toward both of them were always greater than their options toward each other.” In other words, Washington should make certain that its ties to both Beijing and Moscow are always closer than their ties to each other. It was good strategy then, but it is imperative strategy now.
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The last thing we should want to do is inadvertently help reverse the deep split between Moscow and Beijing that began in the late 1950s. 
A reasonably adept US foreign policy would reduce the chances that the current rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing would endure.
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Moreover, there are long-standing bilateral grievances between Russia and China. They include bitter border disputes going back into the 19th century (which exploded into armed clashes in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and at times bruising political and economic competition in Central Asia.
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The Obama administration’s clumsy, at times needlessly abrasive, diplomacy threatens to produce a most unsatisfying result. A more cautious, calculating approach is needed." 


Ted Galen Carpenter is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.







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US - Russia - China triangle - 1.21.17

The U.S. and Global Security Review: M.N.: "The US - Russia - China triangle and the traingulation are the long term reality and phenomenon. The Big Boy at the head of the triangle should deal with it playfully, skillfully and adroitly..." | "The signs... are hard to ignore." - Weaving the Threads of a Possible Trump Doctrine - Geopolitical Diary - JANUARY 20, 2017
Weaving the Threads of a Possible Trump Doctrine | Stratfor
Containment - Wikipedia
containment strategy - Google Search
Thomas Kuhn - Google Search

US - Russia - China triangle

Turbulent Triangle: US, Russia, China Relations | Cato Institute
The New Great Power Triangle Tilt: China, Russia Vs. U.S. « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary
The New China-Russia-U.S. Triangle
BALANCING THE RUSSIA-CHINA-U.S. TRIANGLE – Perspectives on Peace and Security
Moscow, Beijing and Washington: A Complicated Triangle
US - Russia - China triangle - Google Search
US - Russia - China traingulation - Google Search
Russia-China relations - Google Search
News - Russia-China relations - Google Search
globalisation and the rise of china - Google Search
globalisation and china economy - Google Search
globalisation and china cheap labour - Google Search
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Prospect of Warming US-Russia Ties Worries China

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BEIJING — 
President-elect Donald Trump's hints ties with Moscow could improve after he assumes office has been a source of controversy and heated debate in the United States. And that is unlikely to go away after his inauguration later this week.
Across the Pacific, in China, it is an increasing source of hand-wringing and worry for Chinese officials because some believe if ties between Russia and the U.S. improve that could only be bad for Beijing.
“In the West, people have been extremely concerned about Russian involvement in the U.S. elections, and Trump’s commitments, but very few people take seriously the idea that he could lure Russia away from the partnership with China,” says David Kelly, research director at China Policy, a research group in Beijing.
“In China, it’s taken much more seriously and is a subject of daily speculation.”
Scales tipping
At influential think tanks in Beijing and in state media publications online it is clear many are concerned.
Chinese state propaganda outlets have been playing up ties between Russia and China, and playing down the possibility of some sort of U.S.-Russia rapprochement.
Articles argue that while Moscow and Washington might be able to find some common ground on issues such as Syria and the need to work together to fight Islamic State, deciding how to divide up power after the conflict was over would not be as simple.
One long article on China Russia relations in the People’s Daily, under the pen name Zhong Sheng, which is seen as reflecting the views of high-ranking party officials, noted what it calls the “ballast role” Beijing-Moscow ties play in global affairs.
At the same time, however, there is concern that the scales could be tipping away from Beijing’s favor and in a direction that could further challenge China’s regional and global ambitions.
Three kingdoms
Kelly notes that there is a cultural tendency in China to view diplomatic relations in terms of triangular relationships. That, he says, traces back to the popular Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
One of the many strategies the novel popularized was that in a three-way struggle, you generally want to be two against one and not the one who is the odd man out.
“It’s something that people understand, like an Olympic event,” he added.
If President-elect Trump can find a way to move beyond sanctions and smooth over ties with Moscow, Beijing could end up on the weaker side of the triangle. From Beijing’s perspective that would not be good, especially at a time when China is looking to forward an ambitious trade agenda for the region and Europe, and struggling under the pressure of a slowing economy.
FILE - A cargo ship is anchored at a port in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, Feb. 14, 2016.
FILE - A cargo ship is anchored at a port in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, Feb. 14, 2016.

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council says that for many in China, closer U.S.-Russia ties implies that relations between Beijing and Moscow would be affected.
"There is a lot of anxiety in Beijing that Russians who have all along taken an anti-U.S. stance may start to think differently," said Blank.
Until now, "the China-Russia relationship has been based in a large measure on their rejection of U.S. interests in the global order. This would be affected if there is improvement in U.S.-Russia relationship,” he noted.
Temporary partner?
Ever since Russia’s invasion of Crimea, relations between Beijing and Moscow have been improving. Sanctions cut Moscow off from Western markets and investment and opened the door for Beijing to step in and grow ties. Chinese President Xi Jinping has invested much political capital into the relationship with Vladimir Putin, making a state visit last year.
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping smile prior their talks during the summit in Ufa, Russia, July 8, 2015.
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping smile prior their talks during the summit in Ufa, Russia, July 8, 2015.

Trust between the two, however, has never been easy.
Social media blogs and online commentaries about Russia are often skeptical of cooperation between the two countries.
A recent report that Russia had welded shut the engines of Sukhoi-35 fighter jets it sold to China had some enraged. So much so that some were arguing online that it was Russia, not America, that was China’s main adversary.
Global Times opinion writer Gao Fei, the director of the Russian Research Center at China’s Foreign Affairs University, stepped in to calm the masses, asking who benefits the most from sabotaging China Russia relations. He also noted that with any commercial deal comes “legal and other safeguards against IP theft.”
Although Chinese opinion writers have been talking up the crucial role the two play in global affairs, they have also openly worried about the political ambitions of Putin, noting that Moscow may be just a temporary partner.
And that stretches back to even before Trump was elected.
Saibal Dasgupta also contributed to this report. 

The New Great Power Triangle Tilt: China, Russia Vs. U.S. « Breaking Defense

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Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin sign $400 billion gas deal
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin sign $400 billion gas deal
WASHINGTON: The careful diplomatic stagecraft behind President Barack Obama’s recent European visit to celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day and to rally the Western alliance against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was all but swept aside by strong new currents in geopolitics. While Obama talked tough in Poland to reassure NATO’s vulnerable eastern members, Russian President Vladimir Putin happily visited with his Western European friends who buy huge quantities of natural gas from him.  French President Francois Hollande not only hosted Putin at a dinner, he refused to cancel a $1.6 billion sale of warships to Moscow.Meanwhile, as Putin and Hollande dined in comfort at the Elysee Palace, Russian special forces were supporting an offensive by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine that overran a key border control headquarters and threatened to open a land corridor between Russia and the recently annexed province of Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
The Chinese, sitting on Russia’s southern and eastern flanks, did not miss this split in the NATO alliance. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin agreed in Shanghai on a joint statement papering over any concerns that the PRC might have about Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, and the two countries signed a massive $400 billion energy deal to seal what both sides hope is a budding counterweight alliance to the West.
While Obama spoke in Europe of Russia’s perfidy and the need to strengthen NATO, Beijing celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators by eliminating virtually all domestic dissent. Perhaps most tellingly, as Putin attended D-Day celebrations, a high-ranking Chinese general told a regional security conference in Asia that U.S. inaction in Ukraine was an unmistakable symptom of America’s strategic “erectile dysfunction.”
“Withdrawing from wars, especially where there is not a clear-cut victory, is tricky business,” and it’s difficult to “avoid sending the signal that you’re disengaging not just from the wars, but from your broader international responsibilities,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations. Former President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger managed it for a time after Vietnam with their bold diplomatic outreach to China, effectively splitting the communist bloc at a moment of U.S. vulnerability. “We had better relations with the Soviets, and better relations with the Chinese, than they had with each other,” noted Gates, a Kissinger protégé. “There are no such opportunities now.”
Indeed, Moscow and Beijing have rejected what they view as the United States’ aggressive post-9/11 doctrine of regime change and democracy promotion. With the US withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and our failures to act boldly in Syria and Ukraine the Chinese sense an opportunity to push back against U.S. power. That is also the subtext to Putin’s forceful move to keep Ukraine in Russia’s strategic sphere of influence as a buffer against the West, and China’s aggressive actions in pressing claims to disputed islands and airspace in its near abroad.
Still Indispensable
In a recent speech at West Point, Obama made a strong case that the United States still stands firmly atop the global pecking order. The U.S. military has no peer, our economy remains the largest in the world, new drilling technologies make the long-sought goal of U.S. energy independence suddenly plausible, and, as Obama noted, from Europe to Asia “we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.”
“So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation,” Obama said, resurrecting a description of American power coined by the Clinton administration in the unipolar moment of the post-Cold War 1990s. “That has been true for the century past, and it will be true for the century to come.”
In arguing that rumors of American decline are in some cases greatly exaggerated, Obama has a point. In his recent book, “Still Ours to Lead: America, Rising Powers, and the Tension between Rivalry and Restraint,” author Bruce Jones notes that of the top 20 economies the world, 15 of those countries are U.S. allies. Equally important, the potentially challenging powers often referred to as the “BRICs,” (Brazil, Russia, India and China) face a dilemma as they attempt to elbow their way into more prominent positions in international affairs: their economic ascent and well-being is dependent on a stable world order underwritten by U.S. power. Thus they cannot successfully challenge U.S. leadership without undermining their own interests.
“I think the Obama administration is right to play the long game, recognizing that when it comes to managing the challenging ascent of the BRIC countries, even the most powerful country in the world must make tough choices in terms of when to lead, and where to focus its resources and energies,” Jones, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in an interview. “It’s important to note, however, that in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the only effective deterrence to regional rivalries and conflicts is still U.S. military power, and the willingness to use it.”
Putin apparently believes it when he says the breakup of the former Soviet empire was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” He rejects outright the post-Cold War expansion of Western military and economic alliances (NATO and the European Union, respectively), as well as the U.S. strategic goal of a “Europe whole and free” that undergirds it. He opposed U.S. actions against allies and has drawn a red line against what he sees as Western encroachment in Russia’s “sphere of privileged interests” in the former Soviet space. With Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and this year’s annexation of Crimea, Putin has demonstrated a willingness to use military force to defend those red lines.
“Putin is the single most powerful leader in the Kremlin since [Joseph] Stalin, because he doesn’t even have to deal with the [communist-era] Politburo,” said Strobe Talbott, who helped manage U.S.-Russian relations in the 1990s as a senior State Department official in the Clinton administration. “So the largest country on the planet in now engaged in territorial expansion and aggressive nationalism, and that country also happens to be one of the two major nuclear weapons powers,” said Talbott, speaking recently at the Brookings Institution where he is president. “That’s taking us back to the geopolitics that got us into two World Wars in the 20th century, and made a hash of the late 19th century.”
A Rising China
Eurasia map CIA
While Russia rejects the U.S.-led world order, China is challenging it as a rapidly rising power that demands more influence in international affairs. With its sustained and meteoric economic growth China has replaced Japan as the world’s second largest economy, and it may surpass the United States as the number one economic power this decade. Beijing has increasingly thrown that power around by staking claims to disputed islands in the South and East China Sea, proclaiming an air defense zone that no one recognizes, and pushing back against the U.S. military presence in Asia.
On a visit to China last year, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, witnessed first-hand the complexity of maintaining a stable Asia-Pacific order at a time when Beijing is chaffing against its constraints.
“When I met with my Chinese military counterparts they said, ‘This is great, we’re going to take a blank sheet of paper and build a new relationship.’ And I replied, ‘Well, not so fast.’ It just so happens the United States already has some writing on our paper, so it’s not blank,” Dempsey told me in a recent interview. For starters the United States boasts historic treaty alliances with South Korea, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines. “And I said, ‘Surely you wouldn’t ask us to ignore those relationships?’ Well, of course the Chinese would love for us to ignore them!” said Dempsey. The United States has no choice but to try and manage those complicated relationships and a patchwork of controversial territorial issues in the Asia-Pacific region, he said, “with a China that’s rising in the international order, and Chinese leaders who may not feel that they’ve had a sufficient voice in establishing that order.”
A Sino-Russian Alliance
In times of East-West tensions in the post-Cold War era, Moscow and Beijing periodically flirted with a strategic partnership as a counterweight to the U.S.-led transatlantic alliance. Most notably that occurred during NATO’s Kosovo campaign in 1999 against Moscow’s ally Serbia, which included the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade; in the run-up to the Iraq invasion that was opposed by both Moscow and Beijing; and during the current crises in Ukraine and the South China Sea that prompted the recent signing of an energy pact between Russia and China.
Natural impediments have prevented a lasting strategic alliance between China and Russia, including their own territorial disputes in Siberia; economic trade between Russia and Europe, and between China and the United States, that far outweigh their trade with each other; and the strategic dichotomy between a revisionist power intent on reversing the current world order, and a rising power focused on bending it to Beijing’s will.
“In the 21st century of globalization, the major powers like the United States, Russia, China and Europe are bound together by tightly integrated web of mutual economic interests,” said Nicholas Burns, director of the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a former senior State Department official. As a declining power Russia is going to discover that it can’t realistically divorce itself from Europe, he said, just as China as a growing power understands that it’s most important relationship is with the United States. “Though balancing that relationship with Beijing will be the most important strategic challenge we face,” said Burns.
The current crises in Ukraine and the South China Sea that have driven Moscow and Beijing into each other’s arms also underscore the fundamental weakness in the Russia-Chinese alliance:  both have led neighbors in Europe and Asia to seek strategic partnerships with the United States and to strengthen their military capabilities.
“I think the energy deal between Russia and China does represent geopolitical pushback against the United States, but the hegemonic impulses behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea and China’s aggressive claims to disputed islands and airspace are pushing their smaller neighbors to embrace the United States,” said Thomas Pickering, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and number-three in the State Department. “That’s why I still think the United States’ geostrategic position remains strong relative to Russia and China.”
Despite those natural advantages the very fact that a revanchist Russia and a rising China have found common cause in opposing the status quo power of the United States is a worrisome development, especially at a time of war-weariness and retrenchment in Washington. Even Richard Nixon’s post-Vietnam outreach to China didn’t deter a Middle East crisis in 1973 that very nearly had the United States and the Soviet Union fighting on different sides of the Arab-Israeli war.
New Alliance May Not Last
“The Obama administration is probably right that a geopolitical alliance between Russia and China will not prove lasting, but we should be worried that Moscow and Beijing are both reacting to what they perceive as a combination of American provocation and weakness, which is dangerous,” said Dmitri Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest. Before World War II, he noted, Western politicians and commentators rightly predicted that an alliance between a communist Soviet Union and a fascist Nazi Germany was unlikely and unsustainable. “And they were right, the Hitler-Stalin alliance only lasted a couple of years,” he said. “But in that short time Germany conquered Poland and occupied France, and created an entirely different geopolitical reality. Likewise, even a short-term Sino-Russian alliance, if mishandled by the United States, could cause us huge problems.”
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Turbulent Triangle: US, Russia, China Relations

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Rapidly warming relations between China and Russia culminated last month in a powerful visual seen on television sets around the world. Chinese President Xi Jinping not only attended the celebration in Moscow marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, he occupied the position of honor at the elbow of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The image was all the more potent because the United States and several other major Western powers pointedly refused to attend the event to show their continuing displeasure with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the aid to rebel forces in eastern Ukraine.
The events in Moscow were only the latest signal of a Russian-Chinese rapprochement that seems heavily motivated by a joint desire to curb America’s global dominance. Bilateral economic agreements between Moscow and Beijing are on the rise, including a May 2015 $400 billion deal to sell Russian natural gas to the voracious Chinese economy. The prevailing assumption in the West that Russia and China would become geopolitical competitors, if not outright adversaries, in Central Asia also may need to be reassessed. Following the May 8th Putin-Xi summit in Moscow, the two leaders signed a new declaration announcing the coordinated development of the so-called Silk Road Economic Belt in Central Asia. Although Russian and Chinese ambitions in that region are still in competition over the long run, it appears that both governments have declared a truce for the time being.
Significant arms sales agreements involving Russia and China are also becoming more common. Included in the latter category is Moscow’s recent commitment to sell the sophisticated S-400 air defense system to China. Rebecca Miller, Assistant Editor at The National Interest, notes that China’s possession of such a system is likely to cause uneasiness in at least two prominent US allies, Japan and Taiwan, which have ongoing disputes with Beijing.
Washington’s conduct appears to be pushing Russia and China together, causing them to mute their own serious differences to deal with more pressing worries about the United States.
These diverse developments have one feature in common. Moscow and Beijing now seem to worry more about Washington than they do about each other, and that shared apprehension is driving them to cooperate against the United States and its allies. That trend should greatly concern US policymakers.
Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea has created a deep freeze in relations between Moscow and the West that were already somewhat frosty. There were growing sources of friction even before that episode, including sharp disagreements over policy toward Syria and Iran. The Crimea episode and Moscow’s subsequent support for secessionist rebels in eastern Ukraine have made matters dramatically worse. Washington and its European Union allies have imposed a series of increasingly harsh economic sanctions on Russia, and the Kremlin is responding with provocative military air flights and other measures near the frontiers of NATO’s eastern members. The language coming out of both Washington and Moscow is characterized by a hostility not witnessed since the end of the Cold War. 
At the same time, tensions have been on the rise in US-China relations. Beijing is increasingly irritated at the US stance on a variety of issues. Washington’s position regarding China’s territorial disputes with neighboring states in both the South China and East China seas is an especially prominent grievance. From Beijing’s perspective, the Obama administration has exhibited an unsubtle backing of Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other rival claimants. Conversely, US leaders are uneasy about the steady growth in Beijing’s military spending and capabilities. That worry is exacerbated by Beijing’s increasing assertiveness, especially China’s extraordinarily broad claims in the South China Sea — a region through which pass some of the world’s most important commercial transportation lanes. Beijing’s recent large-scale land reclamation projects involving semi-submerged reefs in the South China Sea, and Washington’s escalation of its air and sea patrols there in response, have brought bilateral tensions to a simmer.
The United States is committing a cardinal sin in foreign policy: allowing relations to deteriorate with two major powers simultaneously. That development violates a specific admonition that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made during the Cold War. Reflecting on the Nixon administration’s decision to normalize relations with China, Kissinger emphasized the important underlying geostrategic rationale. “Our relations to possible opponents,” he wrote in White House Years, the first volume of his memoirs, should be such “that our options toward both of them were always greater than their options toward each other.” In other words, Washington should make certain that its ties to both Beijing and Moscow are always closer than their ties to each other. It was good strategy then, but it is imperative strategy now.
Ideally, the United States should seek to repair relations with both countries. If Obama administration officials cannot achieve that goal, they should at least focus their efforts on containing one major power while taking steps to placate the other. It would be unproductive, and potentially disastrous, to end up on bad terms with both governments, yet that is where we are headed. The last thing we should want to do is inadvertently help reverse the deep split between Moscow and Beijing that began in the late 1950s.
A reasonably adept US foreign policy would reduce the chances that the current rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing would endure. China especially has a crucial, wide-ranging economic relationship with the United States that it would be reluctant to endanger for casual reasons. Moreover, there are long-standing bilateral grievances between Russia and China. They include bitter border disputes going back into the 19th century (which exploded into armed clashes in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and at times bruising political and economic competition in Central Asia.
But Washington’s conduct appears to be pushing Russia and China together, causing them to mute their own serious differences to deal with more pressing worries about the United States. The Obama administration’s clumsy, at times needlessly abrasive, diplomacy threatens to produce a most unsatisfying result. A more cautious, calculating approach is needed.
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Weaving the Threads of a Possible Trump Doctrine

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At noon on Friday in Washington, Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. He enters office at a time of dynamic change, not only in U.S. political and economic life but also in the structure of the international system. At this point, how Trump plans to manage and channel changes underway within the United States is somewhat clear, at least in its broad strokes. By comparison, how his administration will approach foreign policy — whether it will follow through on some of Trump's less orthodox suggestions — is unknown. There is, as yet, no Trump Doctrine. There are threads of a worldview, and there is an understanding that Trump is not bound by the same ideological commitments as his immediate predecessors. That means that while Trump will face many of the same political, institutional and geopolitical constraints as outgoing President Barack Obama, he will face them differently and, perhaps, achieve very different ends.
Of the many unanswered questions surrounding foreign policy under Trump, few are more significant than the future of the U.S. relationships with Russia and China. For all its social and economic difficulties, Russia remains a major military power and a key force in the affairs of the world's most strategically significant regions: Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. China has likewise entered a period of economic and political uncertainty marked by slowing economic growth and a political centralization effort under President Xi Jinping. But China has the world's second-largest economy and boasts military forces that are growing increasingly capable. Though China is both much weaker and far more geographically constrained than the United States, it is the only country outside America with a plausible path to regional hegemony in the not-too-distant future. How the Trump administration engages these countries will have important implications for such pressing issues as European fragmentation, the future of NATO, the emergence of a new political order in the Middle East, America's role in the Asia-Pacific and, not least, the fates of the current governments in China and Russia.
Trump has said he hopes for a friendlier relationship with Russia under his administration, and in particular for greater cooperation with Moscow in managing chaos in the Middle East. He has also made it clear that he plans to strike a hard line with China on issues such as trade and Chinese island building in the South China Sea. He has even threatened to abandon the One China policy, a move that would fundamentally alter U.S.-China relations and upset the strategic balance in East Asia. On the face of it, these are distinct thrusts. In practice — at least to the extent that they are put into practice — each separate policy would likely steer the direction of another. Just as important, they could influence the relationship between Russia and China.
Trump's comments about China and Russia have given way to murmurs that his administration may seek to ease tensions with Russia not only to pave the way for cooperation in the Middle East or detente in Eastern Europe but also and more fundamentally to enlist Moscow in an effort to hamper China's rise to East Asian hegemony. Indeed, there is a serious argument to be made that even as Russia, still but a pale shadow of its Soviet-era self, threatens various secondary interests, it does not fundamentally threaten the core strategic interest of the United States: to prevent the emergence of a competing hegemon. Therefore, the argument goes, it is ultimately not in America's long-term strategic interest to isolate and alienate Russia, especially when there are bigger fish to fry. Instead, according to this view, Washington should set aside its ideological clash with Russia to focus on other matters.
Adherents to that line of thinking would have the United States take advantage of the fact that, thanks to Russia's lengthy border with China and its deepening economic dependence on its neighbor, Moscow has powerful incentives to keep Chinese power in check. Even a modest rapprochement with Russia that gave way to only limited cooperation in the Middle East and Europe would free the United States to devote greater resources to its security interests and allies in the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, it could serve to weaken the links between Russia and China. Failure to work with Russia, on the other hand, risks pushing it even further into Beijing's strategic and economic orbit, making effective containment of China more difficult.
It is worth emphasizing that none of this necessarily reflects the foreign policy direction that Trump's team will take. It is merely one logical extreme to which his thus-far disconnected comments on China and Russia might lead. In addition, it rests on a number of potentially faulty assumptions — for example, that China's military and economic power will grow largely unimpeded or that Russia would put its trust in a shaky rapprochement with the United States when it needs to tighten economic ties with China.
And even if these assumptions bear out, it is important to remember the numerous political and geopolitical constraints that limit the ability of the United States and Russia to actually realize some form of grand bargain. Russia's growing dependence on China as an oil and natural gas export destination alone will make Moscow wary of any move that upsets China's leaders, especially if it involves an alignment with the United States that enables actions increasingly and openly antagonistic to Chinese interests. And whatever Trump's intent, any effort at cooperation with Russia will face intense domestic scrutiny and possibly resistance from large segments of the electorate, not to mention U.S. congressional leaders, the country's foreign policy and national security establishments, and from U.S. allies abroad.
But if the prospect of U.S.-Russian cooperation to constrain China remains distant, that such cooperation appears feasible at all is, in itself, significant. To borrow from the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, it signals that the "normal" politics of the past three decades could be giving way to something new and revolutionary. At such times, the structures and alliances that grounded the status quo — in this case, the post-Cold War world order — collapse and are replaced by new and sometimes surprising alignments, dynamics and conflicts. Though it is possible that now is not the dawn of such an era, the signs that it is — the Brexit vote, Trump's election, the rise of populist and nationalist movements threatening to fragment Europe, China's emergence as a leader and defender of global interconnectedness, and much more — are hard to ignore.
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Message to the Department of Defense from Secretary of Defense James Mattis > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

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