Foreign policy is important to the leaders and People of a country, because an effective, successful foreign policy helps secure the nation from external threats and offers citizens greater access to economic opportunities beyond their borders. A foreign policy is not, however, successful or effective when it causes harm at home, e.g. the hazards of “free trade,” or ignores problems. US foreign policy under the leadership of Donald Trump will likely focus on rebalancing the economic interests of nations, which makes America’s massive trade deficit with China a focal point for Trump’s foreign policy.
Because Beijing’s aggressive foreign policy against its neighbors threatens US interests in the region and across the globe, China must also be a focal point of Trump’s policy foreign for security reasons. In comprehending and recognizing the threat China aggressive posses to America’s global interests, including the interests of US allies, it becomes clear that China is not the only threat. Where countries like North Korea represent an ever-present danger, Russia’s domineering military and foreign policy stance against Western allies and neighboring states under the leadership of Vladimir Putin is a major problem that cannot be overlooked. To understand the threat of China is to understand the threat of Russia and vice versa.
It is always important to recognize 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 fulfill their responsibilities as world powers in order to serve their broader national interests. 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. In rejecting their responsibility in order to focus the pursuit of their own interests, their power makes them a threat to the world.
Despite Barack Obama’s attempt to reset US-Russian relations, which declined under the George W. Bush Administration and after the Russia’s 2008 invasion of George, the Obama Administration was forced to confront Russia over the Ukraine Crisis. Given Donald Trump’s apparent admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, many fear the Trump Administration will choose to abandon the confrontation and ignore the threat of Russia’s domineering behavior in order to reset relations with Russia as Obama initially tried. To understand Russia's actions in Ukraine, including and beyond its theft of Crimea, it is necessary to understand the psychology of Putin. Because Putin's leadership style is authoritarian in nature, his thinking truly drives the policies of the Russian state.
As Putin is overly-aggressive to abusive in the pursuit of his and Russia's perceived interests, i.e. he is unwilling to balance the interests of others unless forced to do so, the Russian leadership solely acts to fulfill its perceived interests. Only when there is a perceived interest to respond to critics and respect international norms will the Russian power elite try to respond in a measured way. More often then, however, there is a tendency for Russia to legitimize its behavior. Looking back at Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia, Russia justified its actions by focusing on America's faulted rationale for invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Any time America does something wrong or seemingly hypocritical, Russia uses it to legitimize its bad behavior instead of just criticizing the US, when it does wrong, and responding to American criticism.
Even though there are a myriad of other critical issues unfolding around the world that must be addressed, Russia's seizure of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea is a serious issue that cannot be overlooked. What drives the strong reaction to Russia's decision to provoke this military, not political, conflict is the world's fear of Russian influence and eventual dominance, along with the need to protect the credibility and the rules of the International Community. As Russia tends to be a nation that aggressively pursues its interests at the expense of other, instead of striving to balance the interests of competing nations, the Ukraine Crisis reinforces fears that Russia will use any influence it has over weaker nations to suppress them.
Russia's actions are those of a traditional government. In other words, Russia is simply using its power to get what it wants, which is a thoroughly alien concept to the modern political scientist, diplomat, and policymaker. During the Cold War, US power and America's sphere of influence grew with the support of an ever-increasing number of allies. This is because American power was never predicated on exercising power to force US allies to serve American interests. Because the Cold War forced nations to choose between the US and Russia, America's balancing of interests approach won out over Russia's traditional pursuit of a nation’s own interests as it protected weaker countries from oppression by superpowers.
When America has used its power to suppress, versus protect, the interests of other nations, American power has been undermined. Where America's poorly justified 2003 invasion of Iraq weakened American influence and ally support, Russia's hostile actions now weaken Russian influence and drive backlash that helps strengthen American influence. Similarly, Chinese aggression weakens Chinese influence and strengthens American influence. At the same time, the nature of Russian and Chinese aggression invites confrontation. In order to maintain international stability, security, and prosperity, the US must confront such aggression.
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. Even though the US is trying to simultaneously confront Russia and China as the International Community relies on these two global powers to address threats like the Islamic State and North Korean, it is necessary.
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