Having more empathy for potential opponents isn’t a weakness, it’s smart – InsideSources

Although bipartisanship appears to be rare in polarized Washington, after Donald Trump was defeated for a second term as president, the coast was free for Republicans to join Democrats in bashing both Russia and China. For a Republican, Trump’s policy toward the autocratic regime in Russia had been unusually friendly, and his policy toward Chinese authoritarians had initially been favorable but turned south as his presidential term progressed due to disappointment over trade negotiations and the COVID outbreak. This lack of Trump’s orthodoxy has been replaced by the start of a bipartisan, ill-advised cartoon cold war against both countries simultaneously.

Otto von Bismarck, Germany’s Iron Chancellor at the end of the 19th century and master of realist diplomacy, would have been appalled. Even American realists, such as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s, realized that they needed to improve their relations with a then weaker, but more radical, Maoist regime in China to offset a stronger Communist Soviet Union, but more oriented towards the status quo. .

So even when the relative economic power of the United States was much greater vis-à-vis each of these potential adversaries, the United States did not simultaneously attempt to pursue a harsh policy against them. Yet since Nixon made his diplomatic opening to an isolated China in 1971, the relative economic power of the United States has declined dramatically. If we couldn’t afford to have bad relations with China and Russia back then, this policy is even more questionable now. The United States could now reverse Nixon’s policies, repairing relations with weaker Russia to help balance against the now rising China.

But if these two countries are no longer bastions of traditional communism, aren’t they still essentially autocracies which have allowed a certain crony capitalism? Yes, but it is a mistake that internal authoritarianism and external aggression are necessarily correlated. Research shows that democracies are no more peaceful than autocracies. For example, since 1945, the United States has been the great champion in terms of the number and importance of military interventions in the world. In addition, the British and French have led a multitude of global military adventures. Both China and Russia, for very good historical reasons, care about their near abroad. Yes, the great powers, including the United States in Latin America, still expect spheres of influence on security matters, despite protests from the awakened “international community” that the concept is “if yesterday” .

Russia, throughout its history, has been invaded many times, with many invasions coming from its flat and vulnerable West – Napoleon and Hitler come to mind, the latter devastating the Russian homeland and killing 25 million people. From 1918 to 1920, even the United States stepped into the act by joining Britain and France in invading the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik Revolution, which kick-started US-Soviet relations. As for China, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was fragmented and humiliated by Western powers, including the United States, for the purpose of forced trade. The United States joined with other great powers in militarily suppressing an anti-imperialist Chinese Boxer uprising in 1900.

Russia and China, despite all their internal violence, kleptocracy and human rights abuses, have legitimate security concerns. When the United States extended NATO’s historically hostile alliance to Russia’s borders, and then recently reaffirmed its threat to admit Georgia and the traditionally strategic country (for Russia) that is Russia. Ukraine in this alliance, US policymakers should not be surprised that Russia has acted; Likewise, China, with its history of exploitation by the great powers, bristles when the United States deploys aircraft carrier battle groups in the Chinese coastal seas and which a United States administration publicly advocates and then retracts, changing the officially ambiguous position of the United States towards the security of Taiwan to one of defending the island in any war with China. Periodically recalling the history of these two powers could help the United States understand their points of view.

Empathy is not sympathy. Even barely weak Bismarck and Napoleon realized that putting yourself in your opponents’ shoes was vital in trying to determine their goals and motivations. We don’t have to agree with Russia’s invasion of Crimea or Ukraine’s subversion or China’s desire to reunite with Taiwan, but we have to realize that these countries perceive these areas as being of crucial importance to them. More importantly, it is important to remember that none of these areas should be included in the vital interests of the United States.

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