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Foreign Policy Today
Back in 2000, as the presidential campaign was heating up, Condoleezza Rice, then a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush, wrote of her vision for the United States and its relationships with the world in the periodical Foreign Affairs. You might recall then that Bush himself was talking of a humble foreign policy. 9/11 then changed all that.
So in the July/August 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs, written mid-June, to apply the proper context, Secretary of State Rice writes of how her “admonition in 2000 that we should seek to get right the ‘relationships with the big powers’ – Russia, China, and emerging powers such as India and Brazil – has consistently guided us. As before, our alliances in the Americas, Europe, and Asia remain the pillars of the international order, and we are now transforming them to meet the challenges of a new era.”
Well, in light of recent developments, particularly on the Russia/Georgia front, I thought we’d look at Sec. Rice’s essay of today. Following is but a small passage.
By necessity, our relationships with Russia and China have been rooted more in common interests than common values. With Russia, we have found common ground, as evidenced by the “strategic framework” agreement that President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed in Sochi in March of this year. Our relationship with Russia has been sorely tested by Moscow’s rhetoric, by its tendency to treat its neighbors as lost “spheres of influence,” and by its energy policies that have a distinct political tinge. And Russia’s internal course has been a source of considerable disappointment, especially because in 2000 we hoped that it was moving closer to us in terms of values. Yet it is useful to remember that Russia is not the Soviet Union. It is neither a permanent enemy nor a strategic threat. Russians now enjoy greater opportunity and, yes, personal freedom than at almost any other time in their country’s history. But that alone is not the standard to which Russians themselves want to be held. Russia is not just a great power; it is also the land and culture of a great people. And in the twenty-first century, greatness is increasingly defined by the technological and economic development that flows naturally in open and free societies. That is why the full development both of Russia and of our relationship with it still hangs in the balance as the country’s internal transformation unfolds.
The last eight years have also challenged us to deal with rising Chinese influence, something we have no reason to fear if that power is used responsibly. We have stressed to Beijing that with China’s full membership in the international community comes responsibilities, whether in the conduct of its economic and trade policy, its approach to energy and the environment, or its policies in the developing world. China’s leaders increasingly realize this, and they are moving, albeit slowly, to a more cooperative approach on a range of problems. For instance, on Darfur, after years of unequivocally supporting Khartoum, China endorsed the UN Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force and dispatched an engineering battalion to pave the way for those peacekeepers. China needs to do much more on issues such as Darfur, Burma, and Tibet, but we sustain an active and candid dialogue with China’s leaders on these challenges.
The United States, along with many other countries, remains concerned about China’s rapid development of high-tech weapons systems. We understand that as countries develop, they will modernize their armed forces. But China’s lack of transparency about its military spending and doctrine and its strategic goals increases mistrust and suspicion. Although Beijing has agreed to take incremental steps to deepen U.S.-Chinese military-to-military exchanges, it needs to move beyond the rhetoric of peaceful intentions toward true engagement in order to reassure the international community.
Our relationships with Russia and China are complex and characterized simultaneously by competition and cooperation. But in the absence of workable relations with both of these states, diplomatic solutions to many international problems would be elusive. Transnational terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change and instability stemming from poverty and disease – these are dangers to all successful states, including those that might in another time have been violent rivals. It is incumbent on the United States to find areas of cooperation and strategic agreement with Russia and China, even when there are significant differences.
Obviously, Russia and China carry special responsibility and weight as fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council, but this has not been the only forum in which we have worked together. Another example has emerged in Northeast Asia with the six-party framework. The North Korean nuclear issue could have led to conflict among the states of Northeast Asia, or to the isolation of the United States, given the varied and vital interests of China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Instead, it has become an opportunity for cooperation and coordination as the efforts toward verifiable denuclearization proceed. And when North Korea tested a nuclear device last year, the five other parties already were an established coalition and went quickly to the Security Council for a Chapter 7 resolution. That, in turn, put considerable pressure on North Korea to return to the six-party talks and to shut down and begin disabling its Yongbyon reactor. The parties intend to institutionalize these habits of cooperation through the establishment of a Northeast Asian Peace and Security Mechanism – a first step toward a security forum in the region.
The importance of strong relations with global players extends to those that are emerging. With those, particularly India and Brazil, the United States has built deeper and broader ties. India stands on the front lines of globalization. This democratic nation promises to become a global power and an ally in shaping an international order rooted in freedom and the rule of law. Brazil’s success at using democracy and markets to address centuries of pernicious social inequality has global resonance. Today, India and Brazil look outward as never before, secure in their ability to compete and succeed in the global economy. In both countries, national interests are being redefined as Indians and Brazilians realize their direct stake in a democratic, secure, and open international order – and their commensurate responsibilities for strengthening it and defending it against the major transnational challenges of our era. We have a vital interest in the success and prosperity of these and other large multiethnic democracies with global reach, such as Indonesia and South Africa. And as these emerging powers change the geopolitical landscape, it will be important that international institutions also change to reflect this reality. This is why President Bush has made clear his support for a reasonable expansion of the UN Security Council.
Also in the same issue of Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Economy and Adam Segal, both of the Council on Foreign Relations, had a piece on what the Beijing Olympic Games meant for China. Following is their conclusion.
“The barrage of criticism China has endured prior to the Olympics may have brought a short-term gain in forcing the Chinese leadership to agree to meet with the Dalai Lama’s envoys, but real reform of China’s Tibet policy or a broader willingness to embrace domestic reforms is unlikely to follow in the near term. Nevertheless, the current controversy could yield positive results in the long run. Beijing’s Olympic trials and tribulations could provoke soul searching among China’s leaders and demonstrate to them that their hold on domestic stability and the country’s continued rise depend on greater transparency and accountability and a broader commitment to human rights. Already, some Chinese bloggers, intellectuals, and journalists, such as Wang Lixiong and Chang Ping, have seized the moment to call for less nationalist rhetoric and more thoughtful engagement of outside criticism. The nationalist outburst has provided them with an opening to ask publicly how Chinese citizens can legitimately attack Western media organizations if their own government does not allow them to watch media outlets such as CNN and the BBC. Similarly, they have used the Olympics as a springboard to discuss the significance of Taiwan’s thriving democracy for the mainland’s own political future, the need for rethinking China’s approach to Tibet, and the desirability of an open press.
“Whatever the longer-term implications of the 2008 Olympics, what has transpired thus far bears little resemblance to Beijing’s dreams of Olympic glory. Rather than basking in the admiration of the world, China is beset by internal protests and international condemnation. The world is increasingly doubtful that Beijing will reform politically and become a responsible global actor. The Olympics were supposed to put these questions to bed, not raise them all anew.”
Between Sec. Rice’s and the Economy/Segal pieces, compared to what has transpired in the interim, it’s safe to say that in the case of U.S. relations with Russia and China, in particular, Rice was unprepared for Russia’s power play in Georgia, while Economy and Segal are, in the opinion of your editor, spot on as to their view that the Olympic Games have only served to raise further questions as to China’s future.