The prosperity, security, and stability of the International Community are threatened by the polarizing conflicts surrounding Russia and China. On the Chinese front, developments in the South China Sea Crisis and the escalation of the restarted Korean War are fostering animosity between US-aligned nations and China. On the Russian front, the Ukraine Crisis and Russian support of the Assad regime in the Syrian Civil War are driving the US, Europe, and the Middle East to treat Russia as an enemy.
Where Beijing frames developments like China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles on the artificial islands it built in the South China Sea as a response to alleged US aggressions in the form of freedom of navigation patrols, the US and its Asian allies see such explanations as nothing but justifications. US-aligned nations have long believed Beijing had already planned to militarize the artificial islands in order to seize and defend the South China Sea territory it claims as its own.
From Beijing’s perspective, China is simply using its renewed strength to assert its rightful ownership over the South China Sea. As the modern leaders of China, the Communists feel they are reclaiming the stolen-legacy of their predecessors that they are entitled to control. China’s neighbors see Beijing’s efforts in the South China Sea and elsewhere as an effort to invade their territories. While Beijing frames the US as a regional interloper siding with illegitimate governments of stolen Chinese territories, the US sees Beijing lacking the legitimacy of a democratically elected government.
Russia’s seizure of Crimea, which started the Ukraine Crisis, continued intervention on behalf of the Assad regime, and new weapons deal with Iran, which recently used the Iranian Nuclear Deal to free itself of sanctions, are analogous to the situation with China. Although the Putin governments claims all its policies were made necessary due to Western meddling, the West believes Russia planned these events long before Western reactions to developing situations justified these Russian policies.
From the Russian perspective, the Ukraine Crisis and Western criticism of Russian intervention in Syria fits nicely into the Cold War narrative. The Putin government frames both situations as necessary responses to NATO expansion, Western interference in the domestic affairs of other nations, and US efforts to overthrow unfavorable governments. The West, however, sees the Ukraine Crisis as a response to Russian dominance while Russian support of the Assad regime is seen as a destructive move to support a regime that provoked a civil war for the sake of maintaining power.
With that in mind, these deepening conflicts between major world powers did not start a few years ago nor are they solely rooted in current disagreements. Whether these conflicts were engineered or predictable reactions to the leaders of the US, China, and Russia pursuing their perceived interests, what really matters is how to confront and resolve these conflicts. Instead of obsessing over who is to blame for these current threats to International Community, it is more important to recognize why these conflicts have just now emerged as serious crises.
Since the world emerged from the Cold War, the International Community has emphasized the need to foster positive relationship and the development of the global economy. By engineering an International Community where there was a mutual interest among all governments to sustain peace and stability, the hope was that armed conflicts could be avoided. What happened was that legitimate conflicts of interests and grievances were repressed when they needed to be confronted in a constructive manner.
Where maintaining the status quo benefited the United States and its powerful European allies, rogue nations like North Korea and Iran quickly realized the desire of world powers to avoid armed conflict afforded them an opportunity to improve their influence within the International Community. Observing the appeasement of rogue nations, as well as efforts to avoid confrontation and armed conflict at all costs, Moscow and Beijing saw opportunities to improve their position as global powers by defying the will of the United States and the International Community.
Because the legitimate grievances from the Cold War were ignored, leftover Cold War sentiments have been revived to foster distrust between the Western and Russian Peoples. Fixated on their resentment of efforts by groups like the CIA to engineer coups, for example, the Russian People are quick to overlook the wrongs of their leaders. Thanks to the misbehavior of the CIA and NSA as revealed by the Edward Snowden revelations, the Putin government has been able to act in Ukraine and Syria by framing its actions as a response to Western provocation in order to avoid public outrage.
Seeking to garner public support for its agenda and avoid civil unrest, the Beijing has also tried to use the wrongs of influential Americans to reawaken nationalistic and anti-American sentiments at home. Viewing the US government as just another form of government where special interest groups replace authoritarian officials, the Chinese leadership sees only the need to govern. Consequently, it hopes to replace United States as a hegemonic power in order to foster global stability and improve global governance with strong authoritarian oversight.
As Cold War relations thawed, Beijing forced the Chinese People to embrace a role as the world’s factory in order to secure Chinese prosperity. Where Western political leaders had hoped the economic embrace of China would force Beijing to embrace democratic ideals and help address human rights issues, the plutocratic Chinese leadership has used its entanglement in the global economy to gain influence in order to pursue its agendas. Instead of democracy, Beijing seeks to rule the Peoples of the world as they have ruled their own Peoples.
Due to increased competition from the economic woes of the Great Rescission, civil unrest as exemplified by the Arab Spring Revolutions, and the inability of Western militaries to cope with all global crises, the leaders of Russia and China see an opportunity to resolve their Cold War grievances in a way that favors them the most. In other words, leaders stuck in a Cold War mindset believe they have been able to seize upon strains in the International Community to assert their influence and use fear of conflict to empower their nations.
Unfortunately, the only means to avoid armed conflict at this point is the embrace of cold war polarization. By their very nature, cold wars are wars of attrition where proxy wars, like the Syrian Civil War and the Korean War, are used to weakened competitors. In order to win a cold war, the victor must outlast its opponents, which the US did by building a network of allies larger than that of Russia. As this approach can take decades, there is a need to resolve the grievances fueling such conflicts far quicker.
Consequently, the International Community should embrace the reality that a new cold war era has begun by moving away from China and Russia, thereby weakening their ability wage war, as world leaders seek to rapidly resolve the underlying grievances fueling the conflicts between major global powers.
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