World powers enjoy influence over global affairs, because they have responsibilities in maintaining a stable International Community. When failing to uphold these responsibilities, world powers lose the privileges they derive from the International Community, particularly when global instability reigns. Although struggling with economic crises and conflict with the United States, both China and Russia must still fulfill their responsibilities as world powers in order to serve their broader national interests.
Russian hostility, e.g. the Ukraine Crisis, continues to be an imminent threat to the US and Europe while Chinese aggression, e.g. the South China Sea Crisis, continues to be an imminent threat to the US and Asia. That said, Russian intervention in Syria has drawn attention away from the Ukraine Crisis, shifted the war against the Free Syrian Army as Western-backed factions distract the Islamic State from their fight with Assad, and forced the West to rely on Russian influence. North Korea’s recent nuclear test has empowered China by forcing the US and its allies to rely on Chinese intervention against its ally.
A superficial analysis of the situation would lead one to conclude this is an opportunity for Russia and China to force the US and its allies to choose their priorities. After all, the United States is trying to simultaneously confront Russia and China as the International Community relies on these two global powers to address the Islamic State threat and the North Korean nuclear threat. In trying to leverage their international obligations as world powers, however, Russia and China undermine their influence in the International Community.
In honoring the responsibilities of their positions, they secure their positions in the International Community and the ability to build influence over their would-be allies. Although nations like South Korea need China to diplomatically shield them from North Korean nuclear attacks and other aggressions, they can only tolerate so much Chinese influence over their state affairs. After all, China can easily be just as much a threat to South Korea as North Korea. Due to the presence of US forces in South Korea, it has the leverage needed to balance its interests with China and develop a healthy relationship with the world largest country.
For those wronged or angered by US policies, America’s hegemonic influence over the International Community is often met with resentment. When the world needs to prevent a crisis from turning into a catastrophe, however, US intervention is expected. It is, after all, the ability of the US to lead its allies in the struggle to maintain global stability that empowers America, as well as China and Russia. In order to maintain global stability, the interests of weaker nations must be balanced with the interests of stronger nations. US involvement in the Ukraine Crisis and the South China Sea Crisis is necessary for balance to be reached.
In the case of North Korea, the US alone lacks the ability to balance regional interests. Short of military intervention against the North, the US and its allies need China. It is, of course, in China’s interests to prevent the fallout from such a conflict as well as to disarm the nuclear threat against itself. In the case of Syria, Russia has an interest in disarming the threat of globalized terrorism, bolstering influence in the Middle East, and repairing ties with the West. This will not happen so long as Russia supports the Assad regime and undermines Ukrainian sovereignty, because these positions promote imbalance.
All nations must pursue their interests, but they also have broader interests that must be taken into consideration. Only when world powers like the US, Russia, and China seek international stability by supporting balance do they fulfill their obligations as world powers and secure their global influence. Consequently, world powers must pursue their national interests as members of the International Community; however, they must do so by balancing their interests with the interests of weaker countries. When they do not, they undermine their status as global powers.
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