Saturday, April 29, 2006
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Notes from Brussels
John McCain gave the opening speech of the Brussels Forum yesterday. It was notable in two ways -- an off-hand comment that he thhought the global war on terror would last "for the rest of this century", and some pointed comments about the decline and fall of Russian democracy.
The general tenor of the conference so far has been to focus less on transatlantic frictions and more on the geopolitical and geoeconomic difficulties that Russia and China are posing to the West as a whole.
More later, but a question to readers -- will the realpolitik of a rising China and a renegade Russia (though click here for an intriguing development) be the ultimate driver for a closer transatlantic partnership? And should that be the main driver?posted by Dan on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM
It depends on the kind of political integration Europe achieves.
If Europe fails to build more centralized institutions, then it wouldn't surprise me if it became a battleground on which the US and China battle for spheres of influence.
Or at the very least try taking advantage of internal cleavages like the US did - with the help of Britain - during the march to the Iraq war.
As for whether is should be the main driver, I think it's worth a try but there is a difference between the cold war and an ascendant China. China is far away and Europeans won't fear her like they feared the Soviet Union.
Which in turn gives way to the thought about what kind of role Russia is going to play. The way things are now, Russia seems to enjoy the role of the wild card shifting her allegiances depending on the situation and the issue at hand.
Therefore, a Russia that seems threatening to Europe should galvanize an atlantic partneship. A russia which balances against Russia could allow for intra-european quarells.
Perhaps, more likely, a convoluted landscape emerges on which policy stances depend on the issue.posted by: Nick Kaufman on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
The sentence before last should read " A Russia which balances against China".posted by: Nick Kaufman on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
We might be able to build some sort of transatlantic partnership in a few years. For the moment that's a dead issue.
If Russia becomes the "wild card", does it follow that it will end up in something like the role the U.S. had up until Nixon: playing the other two powers off each other to maintain control? Isn't that where we want to be?
Maybe Rumsfeld was on to something when he talked of "old" and "new" Europe. If both the U.S. and (old) Europe are essentially the big consumers of the world, there is bargaining value in that with the new rising powers. But ours are aging societies fraying at the edges and these are not necessarily long term cards to play.
Our current tiff with Europe will end with the current U.S. administration and when Europe also gets new leadership; we are natural allies. Efforts should go into becoming the "wild card" again.
What's with the nemesis jones that we apparently have?
Its a self fulfilling prophecy to always walk into a bar looking for a fight.
We've spent the last three years trying to forcibly democratize a country and people who are perhaps the worst candidate for such an experiment both culturally, historically and geopolitically. Meanwhile Russia, a nation still on the edge of its own transformation, and brimming with copious amounts of loosely watched WMD, is treated as a backburner afterthought and then with disdain when it tries to exert some influence.
Apparently we neither gained nor learned anything from the Cold War.
posted by: Babar on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
China is a such country,who is lack the ambition of expand and whose interest is only in his own unionize and becoming rich. So it needn't to fear of ascendant chinaposted by: mrqt on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Some perspective about Russia is in order. I'd hesitate to call Russia under Yeltsin a true democracy at any time. Let's not forget that the "democratic" Yeltsin was in open violation of the Russian Constitution in 1993, when both the legislature and the Russian Constitutional Court tried to impeach him. Yeltsin responded with plenty of "democratic" force, shelling the Parliament building and storming it. This was all in order to pursue "liberal" reforms which, looking back, succeeded in transferring much of Russian wealth into the hands of the oligarchal class and little else. This is without even reckoning with the utter atrocity that was the First Chechen War or the rather dodgy tactics used to win the 1996 election.
What Putin has done is not so much about reinstating authoritarianism in Russia, but rather organizing it more effectively. Russia, sadly, never really had any genuine organized shot at liberal democracy.posted by: tequila on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
There are many reasons for a closer partnership between Europe and America that have little to do with Russia or China. This coin also has two sides, the other one being the relationship between Russia and China.
Part of the reason for the rivalry between these two powers that the United States was able to exploit during the 1970s -- competing claims to be the standardbearer for world Communism -- does not exist anymore. But ideology was never the only basis for distrust between Russia and China. China's vast population and dynamic economy, viewed over the long term, must look threatening to Russia with her thinly peopled Far East and aging population. The threat is masked for now by the massive income from Russian petroleum reserves, but this will not last forever.
It is doubtful that any enduring partnership between Russia and China can be sustained. This does not mean their two governments will not line up on the same side on certain issues, as they appear to with respect to Iran. But even now they are taking the positions they do for subtly different reasons. Ten years from now the number of issues on which Russia and China stand together is likely to be smaller than it is now, while elements of a rivalry borne of Russian insecurity about its enormous neighbor and China's aspirations to dominate East Asia will have become apparent. These things will happen regardless of the direction of American foreign policy.posted by: Zathras on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
I see some discussion's getting over more to the security side. It's probably going be to China's development that will foment closer trans-Atlantic ties. Russia's strategic decline has to be nearly unprecedented, at least for a state that was not occupied after a general systemic war. One key element in the emergence of U.S. nuclear primacy, recall from Lieber and Press in the March/April Foreign Affairs, is how dramatically Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has deteriorated. China's growing wealth and the state leadership's catch-up mentality, on the other hand, places Beijing much more along the path of a power transition, affecting the U.S. and its key European allies, and not to mention Japan. The one caveat I would say is to remember how we had that big dicussion on the "coming war with China" in the late 1990s, and talk of the "Pacific Century" after the end of the Cold War is virtually forgotten nowadays. So, we'll see what counterbalancing trends are generated be developments in both countries. Pentagon policy is in any case shifting major elements of contemporary basing strategy to the Pacific region, with Guam for example essentially becoming a permanent aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. Is that due to the threat from China primarily, or is it the need for more flexibility in confronting arising contingencies in the GWOT?posted by: Donald Douglas on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
"Our current tiff with Europe will end with the current U.S. administration and when Europe also gets new leadership; we are natural allies. Efforts should go into becoming the "wild card" again."
I'd like to think this but I'm not so sure. I was in Europe recently and there's a lot of very bad blood there among the populace that's deep-rooted, not just a passing fad. Even worse, I found that the most intense anti-Americanism wasn't in Rumsfeld's so-called "Old Europe" (though it was indeed manifest there). Rather, our "allies," at least in the sense of their populations, really had it in for us. I met up with many Eastern Europeans, and by and large on an independent sampling basis, I was surprised at how irate they were at the US. People from the Czech Republic and Poland had more anti-American bile than folks from France-- many Poles in particular, are furious about their garrisoning of troops in Iraq and think they're being insulted by the US.
In Italy, there was very serious anti-Americanism across the board. In the Netherlands and the UK-- the two countries that I thought would be friendliest to the US-- I found the most angry and embittered attitudes of all. They're incensed not only about the war, but what they see as dismissive US attitudes to global warming, which *does* affect the Dutch and British in a fundamental way. Remember, it may be an inconvenience for us (or maybe not, if Katrina and her future cousins are causally related to temperature increases), but for an island nation like the UK and a country like the Netherlands, built on reclaimed land, it's a matter of survival. I'm sorry to say it, but throughout Europe there's a picture of the US as a messianic, imperialist, thoroughly arrogant power that needs to be restrained from the outside if necessary, among the vast majority of the population if not among all the government officials. I found that by and large, people on the ground are actually quite happy that Russia, among others, is acting as a counter to us in the Security Council. People don't fear an invasion from Russia anymore, but they despise the notion of the US having nuclear primacy. We have 10,000 nukes at the ready, and until we reduce those to below 500 or so (in tandem with Russia of course), we will have little traction with the European rank and file in confronting Iran, for example. They see us as hypocrites.
"It is doubtful that any enduring partnership between Russia and China can be sustained."
I'm not so sure about this either. Russia and China have had some tensions with each other, but it's notable that they've never fought a major war. The Manchus pretty much ceded a portion of their territory to Russia around 1860 with the Treaties of Aigun and Peking when the government was weak, and there was a nasty clash over Mongolia in the 1920's (though it was against the White Russian forces under Ungern-Sternberg who, remember, soon lost the Russian Civil War). There certainly is the potential for conflict over the old Manchu regions, but it's probably rather small overall.
For one thing, the old Manchu territories are *not* the regions of the Far East with the oil, coal or other resources. Furthermore, that region is resource-poor overall and not even very useful for farming, it can't support more than a few people with its harsh weather and poor soil. So in general, it's not very desirable territory to begin with-- ownership of it is if anything more of a national pride issue. The exception is the region surrounding the Amur and Ussuri river valleys, but China has already secured full navigation and agriculture rights on both sides of the river through recent treaties that also ceded some small but valuable territory (islands and some shoreland) to China, so that casus belli has now disappeared. The area to the north is rather useless land overall, and in fact Russia has even been mulling a sale of it to China and possibly also to Korea and Japan. This in many ways would be the best of both worlds for Russia-- they'd get considerable profits from the sale of the not-very-valuable territory (by appealing to Chinese national pride), but Russia would still be retaining the oil- and resource-rich territories to the north and northeast. Again, I imagine that Russia would further hedge things by selling different portions of the resource-poor territory to China, Korea and Japan each, thus further enriching themselves with little cost while holding on to the oil-rich regions further northward.
There are, frankly, other areas of possible cooperation between China and Russia, as well. China will be looking for a supplier outside of the Middle East for oil and natural gas, and Russia could be a potentially reliable partner there, with a symbiotic relationship evolving. Furthermore, remember that the Russian Far East territories are often 9 time zones away from Moscow, and it's incredibly expensive (a big net loss, IOW) for Russia's central government in Moscow to supply these regions. So they trade mostly with China, which helps to keep the Far East economy afloat. Without this China trade, those regions would collapse economically, so once again there's a mutually beneficial relation between China and Russia here.posted by: Wes Ulm on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Not to put to fine a point on it, but what would the US get out of such a closer transatlantic partnership? Closer partnerships with Japan and India would certainly help us against "a rising China and a renegade Russia", but what, exactly, would be the payoff of getting the EU on our side? Brussels seems constitutionally designed to avoid action or reform, the populaces seem to like it that way, and the economic and demographic trends are pretty clearly toward European desires becoming less and less important in any case.
Outside of the UK, why exactly should we bother with Europe?posted by: Dave on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Sorry but you haven't persuaded me otherwise, either, Wes.
Unfortunately we are each using our own anecdotal evidence for lack of hard evidence (polls?) or something: you from recent travels and me from living mostly overseas. My experience has been that much of the world has an ongoing love/hate relationship with the U.S., and Hate is winning right now only because of current administration policies; say "Clinton" to anyone overseas and you'll hear the gushing. But the majority of the world lives in such chaos and lawlessness that America is also much admired, and a change of policies will change the tide back towards Love. Just a matter of time.
Dave, it turns out that History didn't end as predicted back in 1989 by Fukuyama and we haven't achieved the universalization of Western liberal democracy -- as seen by 911. Hence history goes on and we need diplomacy and muscle and friends, be they Old Europeans or not.posted by: St. James the Lesser on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Regarding the hyperlink about a possible US-Russia nuclear agreement, if achieved this will probably do nothing to stop Iran's advance to nuclear weapons. Fully fuelled from Russia, the Bushehr reactor could begin producing plutonium for a bomb very quickly. But Iran's uranium enrichment program will eventually produce the fissile material necessary for uranium bombs without Russian assistance. The same program will eventually produce the uranium needed to fuel the Bushehr reactor.
Hence history goes on and we need diplomacy and muscle and friends, be they Old Europeans or not.
If Europe had muscle, I wouldn't have questioned their usefulness. Instead, they've been specifically and systematically de-muscling, not just militarily but economically, demographically, and ideologically. At this point, the EU is barely able to protect it's own interests in it's own backyard, as their fecklessness in the late Yugoslav folderol showed. And without muscle, diplomacy doesn't buy you much but delay.
The EU isn't looking to be friends. They are looking to be a veto power on world events without paying the buy-in that that sort of power entails. Even if we were to play into their delusions, it is extremely unlikely that Russia and China will.
Zathras and Wes Ulm,
You may both be right if you are talking about different timescales. In the next twenty years, if the price is right, it will make more sense for China to buy the energy it needs from Russia rather than try to seize it. But there are aspects of the Sino-Russian relationship that point to eventual conflict.
Although it is true that both states have adjusted their borders by treaty in the last two centuries, and confirmed them in 1950 and again in the early 1990s, the two states nearly came to blows in 1969. It is not just the old Manchu territories that are understood by both sides to be at issue but the whole of Siberia. The on-again, off-again nature of tension suggests that the present border is far from permanent.
Russia's non-Muslim population is going to fall by one-third over the next generation, and Chinese immigrants are replacing European Russians in Siberia. As China's power rises and Russia's declines, nationalist anxieties in the latter could grow more acute, and in the former national demands could grow stronger. In addition to the energy and arable land of western Siberia, northern Siberia has fresh water (eg. Lake Baikal) that China may badly need in a couple of decades.
Apart from Taiwan, an American war with China is unlikely anytime soon. China gains nothing by trying to expand to the east and south: in both directions, adjacent islands and lands are densely populated by hostile peoples and any Chinese attempt to project maritime power would be effectively resisted. The water and energy resources and arable land that China could most readily use lie in northern and central Asia, where there are fewer barriers to Chinese expansion.
Regarding Europe, the real issue there will be relations with Muslim immigrants and with the wider Islamic world. Over the next thirty years, Muslims will double to twenty percent of the French population and ten percent of the European population elsewhere. Nuclear weapons will probably spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa by then as well. The situation could be extremely combustible if tensions remain at present levels.
The danger in the next three or four decades is not that other countries will attack the United States but that they will come into conflict with each other. Any nuclear conflict, though, will have environmental consequences worldwide. If this is to be prevented, the familiar structures of North Atlantic cooperation will need to be renewed as part of a more ambitious strategy to integrate and stabilize the entire eastern hemisphere.
Both the Chinese and the Russians are flaming racists. Neither one trusts the other farther than they can throw them. China wants Siberia, badly. Almost as much as it wants Taiwan, parts of Vietnam, and a bluewater Indian Ocean port. China's expansive alright, make no mistake. Russia's losing population too fast to be expansive anymore, just holding onto what it's got against China and the muslims will be tough.posted by: Buffy on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Dave, the EU you describe also sounds a lot like the U.S. (except the de-muscling of the military of course).
Yeah the Europeans see the world differently than Americans do; like you said they still have veto power and they also still represent a big chuck of the world economy -- and will likely remain that way for a couple more generations at least. Friends worth having in the short run, no?
Add to that the slow but clear islamization of Europe and you have a continent that the U.S. should be trying to work with to maintain influence in the long run as well.
I fully agree that Europe is more often than not a pain in the ass (especially the French leadership), but consider that America is currently at least as annoying to them these days.
And having a lot of firepower -- while better than the alternative -- isn't the only way to effect change and influence the world. We Americans really have become a militarized society and it is in our best interest to see that in ourselves and correct it. At the risk of generating much hatemail/postings, we are helping to create our own problems.
posted by: St. James the Lesser on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Renegade applies being on the run or even defecting (For example, 'renegade' was the term for Europeans who went into the pay of the Ottoman Sultans during the long years of conflict with the Turks.) So..
What, exactly, is Russia a 'renegade' from? They retain their permanent seat and veto on the UN security council, so its not from that esteemed organization. They haven't invaded any countries unilaterally lately. As for democracy, I would put Russia up against its neighbors (esp. Ukraine). In 'the West', Tony Blair has a virtual dictatorship with something like 33% of the popular vote for Labour last election. So, whose the renegade, and where is the democracy deficit?posted by: Mitchell Young on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Even with the Iraq war, defense spending is too low as a percentage of gdp. The war on terror hysteria has failed has failed to get spending back to cold war levels. There is money to be made by promoting a "new cold war"...the only question in who. Hmmm who should we line up against?posted by: centrist on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
"In 'the West', Tony Blair has a virtual dictatorship with something like 33% of the popular vote for Labour last election. So, whose the renegade, and where is the democracy deficit?"
UKs first past the post system goes back to the 19th century. Tory govts and "old Labour" govts have benefited from it. It wasnt designed to help Blair. Unlike the constitutional changes Putin has made in Russia.
And more important is the press. "Virtual dictator" Tony is regularly lambasted in the British press. Putin has completely cowed Russian broadcasting, and, IIUC, much of the print press as well.
And yes, Ukraine is definitely more democratic now than Russia.posted by: liberalhawk on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
Tony Blair has made huge changes in the UK's 'Constitution', most noteably in the House of Lords, designed to increased the power of the prime minister and the ruling party more generally. He has systematically removed obstacles to his power. Second, there is a strong suspicion that high Labour officials have been instigating a police campaign against the BNP -- a far-right party which appeals to many traditional Labour voters.
As for Ukraine, I submit any country that is so influenced by an orchestrated campaign designed to influence its elections as Ukraine was is simply not a democracy. I think the way the 'Orange Revolution' is turning out (i.e. one more oligarch in fighting) is showing out how fake that event really was.
I don't read much Russian press -- though I could -- by exile.ru seems to feel free to print criticism of Putin.posted by: Mitchell Young on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
In Italy, there was very serious anti-Americanism across the board. In the Netherlands and the UK-- the two countries that I thought would be friendliest to the US-- I found the most angry and embittered attitudes of all. They're incensed not only about the war, but what they see as dismissive US attitudes to global warming, which *does* affect the Dutch and British in a fundamental way. Remember, it may be an inconvenience for us (or maybe not, if Katrina and her future cousins are causally related to temperature increases), but for an island nation like the UK and a country like the Netherlands, built on reclaimed land, it's a matter of survival.
You'd expect people who have been keeping a close eye on the sea level for a couple of centuries to know better, but apparently that's not the case.posted by: rosignol on 04.29.06 at 06:37 AM [permalink]
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