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Is Trump embracing aggressive withdrawal?
#21
(02-05-2017, 05:01 PM)SomeGuy Wrote:
Quote:The US must know this, so it seems curious that Trump shows so much more deference to the weaker of the two.

This was already addressed.  Why did the US ally with the Soviet Union against the Nazis?  Why did Britain ally with its long-time rivals France and Russia versus Germany?  Why did Nixon/Kissinger pursue rapprochement with Maoist China to balance the Soviet Union?

This is basic balance-of-power.  The British did this for centuries.  If you're number 1, you're most concerned about number 2 (and vice versa), and so you pursue relations with numbers 3 & 4, especially if they're neighbors with number 2.  If you are concerned with a rising China becoming a major maritime power and pursuing a bid to displace you from the Western Pacific, you prop up Japan, you back Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and if you're really smart, you try and pick of major flank powers like Russia.  Russia doesn't have the means to threaten to displace the US anymore, China does.  We're already threatening China's naval supply lines, and China is responding by bumping up its investment into overland rail and pipelines, and threatening to displace Russian influence in Central Asia.  

It's smart, sensible policy.  I doubt Trump could or would formulate it like that, but he obviously has good instincts to have won the way he did, and I don't think all of his advisers are stupid, either.

OK, except for the blowback.  Is leveraging Russia important enough to us that we can thumb our communal nose at NATO, because Trump has done some of that too.  No, I think there is something else at play here than global chess.  I don't claim to know what it is, but Trump's refusal to show his tax returns may be indicative.
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#22
Mike,

Huh

Quote:It seems to be that Chinese hegemony would be much more acceptable to the Russian than American hegemony.

Quote:China borders Russia, a land-based great power with an enormous nuclear arsenal, and India, with a population roughly similar it is own. China does not have the luxury of friendly neighbors allowing them to focus on power projection.  They will have to remain a considerable land power.


These two statements do not got together.

Dave,

Nato is obsolete.  The Europeans are more than capable of taking care of themselves, considering that they are collectively much richer, more technologically advanced, and more populous than Russia. I also doubt very seriously that Russia has the resources or inclination to do more than nibble around the edges, if that.

Attacking Iran would be really dumb, and it is a very serious concern of mine.  The Iran deal was about the only major initiative of Obama's that I really liked, and breaking it would be mind-numbingly foolish and likely to lead to very serious blowback, and not just in the Middle East.  A land war in Iran, a naval conflict with China, and a failure to improve relations with Russia (exacerbated by the former) is pretty much the definition of my failure state for this administration.

As for the "Siberian Candidate" speculation, in the absence of actual evidence it is not my default hypothesis.
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#23
(02-07-2017, 11:52 AM)SomeGuy Wrote: Mike,

Huh

Quote:It seems to be that Chinese hegemony would be much more acceptable to the Russian than American hegemony.

Quote:China borders Russia, a land-based great power with an enormous nuclear arsenal, and India, with a population roughly similar it is own. China does not have the luxury of friendly neighbors allowing them to focus on power projection.  They will have to remain a considerable land power.


These two statements do not got together.
China will always be a powerful nation on Russia's borders, just as America is for Canada or Mexico (both of which America has invaded in the past).  An America focused on the outer world (i.e. the concerns of a great power seeking hegemonic status some day) was less of a threat to its neighbors than when it was a regional power and focused on its own backyard.  A China that finds seeking what it wants through oceanic trade frustrating because of American opposition may adopt a closer focus.  Not all great powers choose the maritime route (Russia does not, neither did Germany or even Spain, who were forever intervening into central Europe instead of developing their global empire).  As a local, Russia might prefer a China focused externally (i.e. as a hegemon). 

Since Russia is not a neighbor of America it does not benefit from America's outward focus. America's subsidies of NATO powers are a problem for them similar to British subsidies to lesser European powers were for France in the 18th and early 19th centuries. That is, America's outward focus resulted in a greater threat to them from NATO (twice before the West has invaded Russia) than China has ever been.  I see no reason why Russia cannot have a good relation with China with each pursuing their own non-conflicting spheres.

It won't be like the US-Canada relation.  Russia is expansionist, and so China will have to maintain strong land forces as a deterrent.  But if Russia can help China give the US a sufficient bloody nose so as to encourage retreat into an isolationist stance, then China's focus will be elsewhere and Russia will have a free hand to recover some of the empire it lost, and keep their ruling class in power through nationalism.  If Russia aids the US, then China is frustrated and is pissed at them, and America won't let them have their empire.
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#24
Mike,

Quote:China borders Russia, a land-based great power with an enormous nuclear arsenal, and India, with a population roughly similar it is own. China does not have the luxury of friendly neighbors allowing them to focus on power projection.  They will have to remain a considerable land power.

Look at this statement again.  Think about it.  A China worried about a powerful US and its allies in the Western Pacific is a China focused in the direction Russia would prefer, ie away from Russia and its sphere of influence.  An America fixated on China is not one pushing back against Russian assertion in its near abroad.

A China secure in its own sphere of influence and maritime supply lines is one that may get distracted in SE Asia and the Indian Ocean, but may just as easily push its influence into Central and North Asia.  It becomes a competitor and risk for Russia.

One of the major reasons why I would like to see an "aggressive withdrawal" on the part of the US is that, in the absence of US pressure on both ends, countries like China and Russia are more likely to compete than cooperate.  We're a maritime power, they are continental ones who share a long border.

Of course, as you said, war with Iran would be likely to screw this up.
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#25
Quote:I see no reason why Russia cannot have a good relation with China with each pursuing their own non-conflicting spheres.


Why do you assume the spheres would stay non-conflicting?

Quote:It won't be like the US-Canada relation.  Russia is expansionist, and so China will have to maintain strong land forces as a deterrent.  But if Russia can help China give the US a sufficient bloody nose so as to encourage retreat into an isolationist stance, then China's focus will be elsewhere and Russia will have a free hand to recover some of the empire it lost, and keep their ruling class in power through nationalism.  If Russia aids the US, then China is frustrated and is pissed at them, and America won't let them have their empire.

If the US continues to behave as it is done, Russia has an incentive to do as you suggest.  If America retreats into its hemisphere on its own, this incentive goes away.  Russia and the US aren't competitors, provided the US does not continue with maximalist claims regarding its influence.  Russia and the US would have ample room to cooperate by propping up countries like Japan and India, in order to keep China's attention focused in that direction.
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#26
Some Guy Wrote:Why do you assume the spheres would stay non-conflicting?
Because China is actively developing economic relationships in Africa and Latin America.  This says to me that China is seeking a maritime/trade version of great power expression, like Portugal, the Netherlands, Britain and the US.  Russia has been and continues to act like a Dehio hegemonic power like Spain, France, and Germany, who sought more old-fashioned territorial empires.  Russia is huge and can source most raw materials from within its own borders. Were the US removed from the scene, Russia could install friendly regimes in Europe and have privileged access to European markets.  That’s probably all she would need or want.

China should have no concern over what happens in Europe if the global south (the future of humanity) is left open to them.  It’s a win-win relationship, there simply is no basis for conflict.  Unlike America, who has to worry about electoral politics, China and Russia are in a position to behave like rational actors.  I am assuming they will.
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#27
Some Guy Wrote:If the US continues to behave as it has done, Russia has an incentive to do as you suggest.
OK
 
 
Quote:If America retreats into its hemisphere on its own, this incentive goes away.  Russia and the US aren't competitors, provided the US does not continue with maximalist claims regarding its influence. Russia and the US would have ample room to cooperate by propping up countries like Japan and India, in order to keep China's attention focused in that direction.
 
If the US retreats into its own hemisphere, it has decided not the play the great game anymore. In that case, China and the US cease to be competitors and the US has no incentive to assist Russia in meddling with China.  The US is not going to become a pipsqueak.  In addition to maintaining an adequate home defense against India and Russia, they will need to expend considerable resources to maintain hegemony in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans against India, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Pacific nations.  Even mid century, the US will still have more than half the military potential of China and this would be concentrated in the Western hemisphere.  The multiplicity of tasks, plus the daunting logistics means China will just leave the US be if it chooses to withdraw. 
 
Remember, a US that retreats into is hemisphere has given up on the globalization project, (i.e Empire).  It will no longer care what happens in the Old World. And as I pointed out there is no rational reason for either China or Russia to come into conflict.  China is not of the West.  They set out on voyages of exploration fifty years before the West.  You probably have read of the voyages of Cheng Ho.  What the Chinese did with the inferior cultures they encountered was quite different from what the Westerners did.  I believe this difference shows how approaches to geopolitics may be culturally dependent.  We may be relying too much on a Western model for what non-Western powers might do.
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#28
Quote:Because China is actively developing economic relationships in Africa and Latin America.

Also Central Asia, Mongolia, and Europe.

Quote:This says to me that China is seeking a maritime/trade version of great power expression, like Portugal, the Netherlands, Britain and the US. 

But as you already pointed out, it can't fully play this role.  It is not a flank or insular state.  A hegemonic China would be a hybrid power like France, never able to fully invest in the maritime realm because it always has to look watchfully at its own borders.


Quote:Russia has been and continues to act like a Dehio hegemonic power like Spain, France, and Germany, who sought more old-fashioned territorial empires.

One, France was a hybrid power (Bourgeois, Braudel, Kennedy, etc.), not a continental one.  And territorial empires always have frictions with each other.

Quote:Were the US removed from the scene, Russia could install friendly regimes in Europe and have privileged access to European markets.  That’s probably all she would need or want.

Which a Trump/populist moment could help them with anyways.  And they'll still remained concerned about their position in Central Asia and the Far East.

Quote:China should have no concern over what happens in Europe if the global south (the future of humanity) is left open to them.

I'll believe Africa is the future of humanity the moment they manage to feed themselves on a consistent basis, or sustain an economic boom outside commodity exports.

Quote:It’s a win-win relationship, there simply is no basis for conflict.

Other than two large continental empires sharing the largest land border in the world with each being able to cite historical claims to control/influence in Central Asia, Mongolia, and the Russian Far East?

Quote:Unlike America, who has to worry about electoral politics, China and Russia are in a position to behave like rational actors.  I am assuming they will

Autocracies are not exactly a new phenomenon in world history.  Are you familiar with history at all?  I would have said yes, but you say something like this and I am not sure.

Quote:If the US retreats into its own hemisphere, it has decided not the play the great game anymore.  If the US retreats into its own hemisphere, it has decided not the play the great game anymore. In that case, China and the US cease to be competitors and the US has no incentive to assist Russia in meddling with China.

I really dislike this recent tendency for people these days to deny the existence of any gradations between full-scale global hegemony (or the attempt of it, at least) and autarky.  The US is a maritime power, secure in its own region, it will always maintain interests outside its own region.  I would have sworn somebody here agreed with me...

Quote:The US is not going to become a pipsqueak.  In addition to maintaining an adequate home defense against India and Russia, they will need to expend considerable resources to maintain hegemony in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans against India, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Pacific nations.

AHA!  FOUND 'EM!

Why would a US secure in its own hemisphere NOT meddle?  More subtly than now, of course, but what leading country would not take the opportunity to keep its greatest rival occupied?

Quote:Remember, a US that retreats into is hemisphere has given up on the globalization project, (i.e Empire).  It will no longer care what happens in the Old World.

Again with the all-or-nothing approach.  No great power acts like this.

Quote:And as I pointed out there is no rational reason for either China or Russia to come into conflict

No, you have asserted this.  It's not the same thing.

Quote:What the Chinese did with the inferior cultures they encountered was quite different from what the Westerners did.  I believe this difference shows how approaches to geopolitics may be culturally dependent.  We may be relying too much on a Western model for what non-Western powers might do.

Wait, I have been banging my head against the computer arguing with you that a hegemonic China would not look like Gladstone's Britain and you give me this?

Quote:They set out on voyages of exploration fifty years before the West.  You probably have read of the voyages of Cheng Ho.

And what political distraction canceled those voyages, again?  Do you know?

China is fairly unique in that for almost all of their history they were the regional hegemon, so we have an idea what that would look like, culturally speaking.  Not a perfect one, by any means, but an idea nonetheless.  They are far more likely to be concerned with their immediate neighbors than they are with mucking about in Africa or Latin America.  This is not the same as Xenakis' nutjob idea of them going to war in the next couple of minutes, but it's not your idea of perfect amity either, particularly in the absence of a common threat.
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#29
My main point is that there isn’t, today, a rational reason for China and Russia to engage in a land war, provided both sides maintain adequate conventional forces so as to make a war not a sure thing. You point out that history shows a huge number just such wars. You’re right of course. But this doesn’t address my rational actor argument. The Arabs conquered the Persian Empire and huge chunk of the Byzantine empire. This was hugely profitable for them. Not only that, but it forged an Arab through the use of the cultural innovation of jihad. The Mongols conquered China and then went on the build the largest land empire ever. These are objectives well worth fighting for.

Obviously not all the attempts by nomadic warriors were successful. But the potential for huge reward made such efforts rational. The only defense against such attempts by an agrarian state was scale: large disciplined armies, fortifications, organization etc.. When an agrarian polity had its shit together it had a reasonable chance of dealing with such threats. When it lost its shit, as happened every couple of hundred years (secular cycle) it became a lot more vulnerable.

My point is these wars are rational. They were pursued because they made sense to pursue. Polities governed by rational actors would engage in large-scale wars whenever it made sense, which was often.

In a world of nukes neither side can totally defeat or conquer the other. It is no longer clear that large-scale war makes sense. If this is true then then is less reason to believe China and Russia will decide to go at it, because what would they gain? Of course, this excludes irrational actors like the US or ISIS, which make their wars on a theological basis. But Russia and China do not strike me as such.
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#30
I think you are depending on a thesis of authoritarian states as being inherently rational (in contrast to democracies) that I don't feel is sound.

The USSR and Mao's China had nukes, and they still fought border conflicts and had many divisions of troops on their respective borders.

Note that I never posited as all-out war as certain, only that in the absence of outside pressures their relation is unlikely to be one of perfect amity the way you keep proposing.
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#31
(02-07-2017, 09:18 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: And what political distraction canceled those (Chen Ho) voyages, again?  Do you know?

China is fairly unique in that for almost all of their history they were the regional hegemon, so we have an idea what that would look like, culturally speaking.  Not a perfect one, by any means, but an idea nonetheless.  They are far more likely to be concerned with their immediate neighbors than they are with mucking about in Africa or Latin America.  This is not the same as Xenakis' nutjob idea of them going to war in the next couple of minutes, but it's not your idea of perfect amity either, particularly in the absence of a common threat.

Past is no longer truly prologue, because the world is a lot smaller now.  China still has needs, and it has needs that mandate access to materials found outside their borders.  If I have to guess, they will start to conquer some of the Farthest East areas of Russia, by proxy.  Russia can't fully populate the area, and the Chinese have plenty of extra people close at hand.  It's the same game the Russians played in their near-west.
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#32
Conquer might be too hard a word.  But yes, there are lots of lands to their north that are underpopulated, resource-rich, and to which they have historical claims.  They are also beginning to eclipse Russia in Central Asia as well, at least in economic terms.

Over the longer term, as resource limits and a warming climate begin to bite, jockeying for influence, if not formal control, of valuable regions will put strain in their relationship.
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#33
(02-08-2017, 05:18 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: I think you are depending on a thesis of authoritarian states as being inherently rational (in contrast to democracies) that I don't feel is sound.

The USSR and Mao's China had nukes, and they still fought border conflicts and had many divisions of troops on their respective borders.

Note that I never posited as all-out war as certain, only that in the absence of outside pressures their relation is unlikely to be one of perfect amity the way you keep proposing.

I did not propose perfect amity. I challenged your idea that Russia would prefer American hegemony to Chinese hegemony.
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#34
I think the Russia would prefer Russian hegemony, but since that isn't a realistic possibility at this point, the next best thing would be multipolarity.

A US that was willing to be one power among many would be the goal.
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#35
(02-10-2017, 01:09 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: A US that was willing to be one power among many would be the goal.
And how does backing the US against China, ISIS, etc. achieve that goal?
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#36
(02-10-2017, 02:16 PM)Mikebert Wrote:
(02-10-2017, 01:09 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: A US that was willing to be one power among many would be the goal.
And how does backing the US against China, ISIS, etc. achieve that goal?

Cooperating with the US against ISIS is something the Russians have been asking about for a while, because it effectively means that the US is helping them eliminate threats to their clients/allies in the Middle East versus trying to topple them.

I never said anything about backing the US vs China.  I doubt very much that they would be willing to do that, and I have been arguing with Xenakis about that very thing in the other thread.  I am willing to bet that if we allow them their sphere of influence that they would be willing to sit on the sidelines versus actively helping the Chinese, though.

There are at least three possible states for Russia in the event of a US-China conflict (listed in order of benefit to US):

Russia aids the US vs China (extremely unlikely)
Russia sits the conflict out (I think this is possible)
Russia aids China vs the US (something to be avoided)

I don't think we can get to number one, 3 would be really bad for us, but two might be feasible.

NOTE: As always, I would prefer NOT coming into conflict with either, but I am not sure that is in the cards.
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#37
(02-10-2017, 03:02 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: Cooperating with the US against ISIS is something the Russians have been asking about for a while, because it effectively means that the US is helping them eliminate threats to their clients/allies in the Middle East versus trying to topple them.
My understanding is Russia has been mostly interesting in help Assad in Syria.  Assad has been focused on the so-called moderate opposition.  So most of Russian activity had been against them and not ISIS-held positions.

Are you saying otherwise?  Can you provide some links showing evidence of Russian attacks on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria?
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#38
(02-10-2017, 03:16 PM)Mikebert Wrote:
(02-10-2017, 03:02 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: Cooperating with the US against ISIS is something the Russians have been asking about for a while, because it effectively means that the US is helping them eliminate threats to their clients/allies in the Middle East versus trying to topple them.
My understanding is Russia has been mostly interesting in help Assad in Syria.  Assad has been focused on the so-called moderate opposition.  So most of Russian activity had been against them and not ISIS-held positions.

Are you saying otherwise?  Can you provide some links showing evidence of Russian attacks on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria?

Russia has the official position that the whole opposition are pretty much ISIS.  They have bombed actual ISIS strongholds where they have threatened Syrian government positions (like in Palmyra or Deir-ez-Zour.

Here are some links of examples.  Hypothetically, Russia would like for the Assad government to control all of Syria again, though in a crunch they would settle for what they have now.  So bombing ISIS is not really something they would have a problem with, though they have been concentrating on the fighters closer to Syrian government positions.
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#39
(02-10-2017, 03:02 PM)SomeGuy Wrote:
(02-10-2017, 02:16 PM)Mikebert Wrote:
(02-10-2017, 01:09 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: A US that was willing to be one power among many would be the goal.
And how does backing the US against China, ISIS, etc. achieve that goal?

Cooperating with the US against ISIS is something the Russians have been asking about for a while, because it effectively means that the US is helping them eliminate threats to their clients/allies in the Middle East versus trying to topple them.

I never said anything about backing the US vs China.  I doubt very much that they would be willing to do that, and I have been arguing with Xenakis about that very thing in the other thread.  I am willing to bet that if we allow them their sphere of influence that they would be willing to sit on the sidelines versus actively helping the Chinese, though.

There are at least three possible states for Russia in the event of a US-China conflict (listed in order of benefit to US):

Russia aids the US vs China (extremely unlikely)
Russia sits the conflict out (I think this is possible)
Russia aids China vs the US (something to be avoided)

I don't think we can get to number one, 3 would be really bad for us, but two might be feasible.

NOTE: As always, I would prefer NOT coming into conflict with either, but I am not sure that is in the cards.
Here is perhaps more "food for thought" from the Project Syndicate, as it relates to your and Mike's discussion here.  As for me, I'm butting out...

"China Needs a New Grand Strategy"
https://www.project-syndicate.org/commen...ail2friend
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#40
(02-10-2017, 04:13 PM)SomeGuy Wrote:
(02-10-2017, 03:16 PM)Mikebert Wrote:
(02-10-2017, 03:02 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: Cooperating with the US against ISIS is something the Russians have been asking about for a while, because it effectively means that the US is helping them eliminate threats to their clients/allies in the Middle East versus trying to topple them.
My understanding is Russia has been mostly interesting in help Assad in Syria.  Assad has been focused on the so-called moderate opposition.  So most of Russian activity had been against them and not ISIS-held positions.

Are you saying otherwise?  Can you provide some links showing evidence of Russian attacks on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria?

Russia has the official position that the whole opposition are pretty much ISIS.  They have bombed actual ISIS strongholds where they have threatened Syrian government positions (like in Palmyra or Deir-ez-Zour.

Here are some links of examples.  Hypothetically, Russia would like for the Assad government to control all of Syria again, though in a crunch they would settle for what they have now.  So bombing ISIS is not really something they would have a problem with, though they have been concentrating on the fighters closer to Syrian government positions.
 This has been my observation, Russia is mostly assisting Assad.  That means targeting regime opponents be they ISIS or others (mostly others).  That is, Russia does not perceive a threat from ISIS, they only are concerned with threats to their allies/clients.

This is largely consistent with your statement "cooperating with the US against ISIS is something the Russians have been asking about for a while, because it effectively means that the US is helping them eliminate threats to their clients/allies in the Middle East versus trying to topple them".

Since Russia, which has a large Muslim population, is not concerned with ISIS per se, shouldn't they wonder why the US says that it is?  Given the lack of "skin in the game" in the Mideast and that Trump is a serial liar, might not Putin decide the less it has to do materially with the US, the better?  I mean, if I were Putin, I would think Obama an irritation and Trump a tool.
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