Transcript: The United States, China and Russia: Relations Between the World’s Great Powers in the Age of Trump
The United States, China and Russia:
Relations Between the World’s Great Powers in the Age of Trump
July 27, 2017
Richard Nixon Presidential Library
Ambassador Karl Eikenberry is the William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and a distinguished fellow with the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from May 2009 to July 2011 and had a thirty-five year career in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of lieutenant general.
Dr. Thomas Fingar is a Shorenstein APARC Fellow and was the inaugural Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He was the Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford during January to December 2009. From May 2005 through December 2008, he served as the first deputy director of national intelligence for analysis and, concurrently, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He served previously as assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (2004–2005), principal deputy assistant secretary (2001–2003), deputy assistant secretary for analysis (1994–2000), director of the Office of Analysis for East Asia and the Pacific (1989–1994), and chief of the China Division (1986–1989).
Dr. David Holloway is the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History, a professor of political science, and an FSI senior fellow. He was co-director of CISAC from 1991 to 1997, and director of FSI from 1998 to 2003. His research focuses on the international history of nuclear weapons, on science and technology in the Soviet Union, and on the relationship between international history and international relations theory. His book “Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956” (Yale University Press, 1994) was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of the 11 best books of 1994, and it won the Vucinich and Shulman prizes of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.
Dr. Kathryn Stoner (moderator) is a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, as well as (since 2010) the Faculty Director of the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies at Stanford University. She teaches in the Department of Political Science at Stanford, and in the Program on International Relations, as well as in the Ford Dorsey Program. Prior to coming to Stanford in 2004, she was on the faculty at Princeton University for nine years, jointly appointed to the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs.
Jonathan Movroydis: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. My name is Jonathan Movroydis. I’m with the Richard Nixon Foundation. Again, welcome to the Nixon Presidential Library. Last year we opened the new Nixon Library in spectacular fashion and their reinvigorated new library with 70 new interactive galleries. It has enjoyed scores of new visitors to this past year, including schoolchildren as well as people from all around the world.
With the new library now opened, we are now engaged in an ambitious effort to establish the foundation and library as a center and beacon for scholarships, education, and outreach. We’ll soon be launching a fellowship program with Chapman University’s Master Program in War and Society. And starting this fall, one State Department, a Foreign Service officer and US military officer will be selected from a group of distinguished candidates to study for one fully-funded year at Chapman University, and complete their master’s thesis on an aspect of President Nixon’s grand strategy in foreign policy using the vast collection of primary materials from the Nixon Presidential Library.
Keeping with President Nixon’s commitment to the veterans of the armed forces, we will also be working with Camp Pendleton to help military veterans ,who gave so much for a country, to find meaningful work in civilian life. As well as that, we’re keeping an active schedule of lectures, discussions and debates. There are plenty of conference this year to discuss the current state of environmental policies that President Nixon enacted in the 1970s, as well as two more panels on foreign policy, specifically the state of U.S. China relations, which the 37th president forged more than 45 years ago.
Now to introduce our distinguished panel. Thomas Fingar is the Shorenstein APARC Fellow and was the inaugural Ocksenberg-Rohlen Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He was the Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford during January to December 2009. And from May 2005 through 2008, he served as the first Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, and, concurrently, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He served previously as Assistant Secretary of the State Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Analysis, Director of the Office of Analysis for East Asia and Pacific, and Chief of the China Division.
David Holloway is the Raymond Spruance Professor of International History, a professor of political Science and an FSI senior fellow. He was co-director of CISAC from 1991 to 1997, and director of FSI from 1998 to 2003. His research focuses on the international history of nuclear weapons, on science and technology in the Soviet Union, and the relationship between the national history and international relations theory. His book “Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy,” was chosen by “The New York Times” review as one of the 11 best books of 1994, and it won the Vucinich and Shulman prizes of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.
Karl Eikenberry is the Ocksenberg-Rohlen Fellow, the Director of U.S.-Asia Security Initiative and faculty member at the Shorenstein Pacific Research Center, Stanford University. He is a Stanford University Professor of Practice, and an Affiliate at the FSI Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law, Center for International Security Cooperation and the European Center. Prior to his arrival at Stanford, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011, where he led the civilian surge directed by President Obama to reverse insurgent momentum and set the conditions for a transition to full Afghan sovereignty.
Kathryn Stoner, who will moderate the program this evening, is a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies also at Stanford, and at the Center of Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, as well as International Policy Studies at Stanford University. She teaches in the Department of Political Science at Stanford and in the Program for International Relations and the Ford Dorsey Program. Prior to coming at Stanford in 2004, she was appointed on the faculty at Princeton University for nine years and was jointly appointed for the Department of Politics at the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs.
Tonight’s topic is about the triangular relations between the U.S., China, and Russia. The world’s great powers. And we thought it would be appropriate to hear President Nixon’s voice and views on this matter 45 years ago. The clip you’re about to hear is from the Nixon White House tapes, and this is President Nixon talking to his National Security Advisor, Dr. Henry Kissinger, in January of 1972 just a month before the historic trip to China that February.
President Nixon: We are playing a game without being too melodramatic. Whatever happens with the election [inaudible 00:05:50] is going to change the face of the world. And it just happens that we are the only administration with the willingness, the only country in the world at this time. Now “the China move” I’ve made not because of any concern about China, because I have none, not for 15 years. But I think we need to do something about the Russians and to have another specter over ’em. We are part of the game, which is.
Jonathan Movroydis: Before we start the program, I just wanted to introduce a special guest in our audience today. President Nixon’s younger brother, Ed Nixon. And with that, Dr. Stoner, the stage is yours.
Kathryn Stoner: Thanks, thank you very much, Jonathan. Thank you very much, Mr. Nixon, for having us here. We had a wonderful tour this afternoon of the library and then we all enjoyed it very much. I’m going to start our discussion by picking up on the tape that Jonathan just played for us, which was Nixon’s idea of formulating friendly relations with China to counterbalance Soviet power in the early 1970s. And he turned out to be very prescient in terms of not worrying about China necessarily in 1972, but worrying about China farther down the road. And so we find ourselves now in 2017 in an interesting and new situation where both China and Russia are important to the United States in global affairs.
And since Mr. Nixon was President of the United States, of course, and opened relations again with China, rather infamously, we’ve had the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, we’ve had uprisings in Tiananmen Square, of course, in 1989, we’ve had the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, we’ve had a period of weak Russia through the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin as it struggled to recover from both the trauma of 70 years of communism, and the rather unexpected and sudden collapse of communism.
We have 15 successor states as a result including Russia who are forging their own global relationships and partnerships. And in 2000, Russia began a rather dramatic recovery economically, and Mr. Putin came into office and has proclaimed that Russia is once again a great power, a power to be reckoned with. In 2014, Russia seized, or if from their perspective, took back Crimea, the Crimean Peninsula, have been sanctioned as a result since by the United States, by the European Union but not by China, rather famously.
In the intervening period between 2014 and 2016, China and Russia signed agreements on oil, Russian oil sales to China perhaps as a counterbalance to American power. In 2011, United States began a pivot, or re-pivot, to Asia from Europe to counter Chinese power in the China Sea, South China Sea. In 2016, of course, we elected a new president here in the United States which has further thrown into question this trilateral relationship that Mr. Nixon, President Nixon, was obviously concerned about and very prescient about.
So my first question to get our conversation rolling to our panelists is what is the state of this trilateral relationship in almost August of 2017? Are we heading toward conflict? Is conflict inevitable among these three powers? Or is an alliance of two against one inevitable? Or is it possible that we might be able to actually cooperate with either China or Russia?
There are issues that should unite all three powers, North Korea being one and its acquisition of nuclear weapons, yet it doesn’t seem as though that has happened. So, I’d like you all to comment, if you can, on the state of the trilateral relationship now. Tom, should we start with you?
Thomas Fingar: Sure. Let me first thank Jonathan, the other organizers, thank Mr. Nixon for coming, and all of you for your interest in the program this evening. Let me approach the question that Kathryn asked by posing one for all of us to think about, which is the extent to which the strategic insight that President Nixon had and acted on in the late 1960s was essentially a one-shot reap tremendous advantage from complicating Moscow strategic calculus by opening up the relationship with China, or is one that had continuing consequences for the way in which the countries interacted.
I think it was mostly a frontend loaded. The US reaped very, very substantial benefits from that relationship. Narrowing my answer to China, it was very useful to China’s leaders to be able to pretend that they could use the strategic relationship to counterbalance the United States as China entered into its reform and opening program, and accepted a high degree of dependence on the United States and the US-led liberal international order. It was very useful for domestic political reasons to be able to say, “We can counterbalance the Americans with, first, the Soviets and, now, the Russians.”
I think then and now are quite different. I think both Russia and China are far more at stake in their relationship with the United States than they do with one another. The area in which I see them having the greatest congruents of issues is in the United Nations, in the Security Council, where both of them have a statutory seat and their desire to have issues in the United Nations. But I don’t think there’s a lot for Americans to worry about in terms of a two against one alignment in which we are the odd man out.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay. David?
David Holloway: First, let me add my thanks to Jonathan for inviting us here this evening, to Mr. Nixon for being here, and to all of you for coming to the panel. Let me pick up that exactly the point that Tom finished about…he said, “The U.S. shouldn’t be too worried if Russia and China had good relations.” And I think the first point to make is Russia and China probably have better relations now that at any point since 1972 when President Nixon made that remark. In fact, in 1969, the Soviet Union and China had very nearly come to war partly over border disputes, but also rather deeper ideological divisions. I spent the morning here working in the archive, looking at documents relating to the U.S. policy towards the Sino-Soviet conflict of 1969.
And, of course, it was very difficult to know how dangerous the situation was, but we do know at the time, but we do know from subsequent testimony that, in fact, the Chinese leadership was very worried about the possibility of a Soviet attack. And so I think President Nixon’s move to draw, first of all, in the short term to use relations with China as an instrument of pressure on the Soviet Union, as I agree with Tom, that worked. And in the longer term, it was a very wise decision because his argument was 15 years when China is a very powerful and important country, we have to have lines of communication open to it. And I think that was extremely important element in the policy.
So, if we look from there to the present, we see as I mentioned Russian relations with China much closer than at any point since 1969, 1972. And in fact, earlier this month, before the G20 meeting in Hamburg, there was a separate meeting in Moscow where the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, spent two days in talks with Vladimir Putin. And they did make that comment that Russian-Chinese relations were better than they had, really than they had ever been.
The question is what is the nature of that relationship and is it harmful to the United States? So let me not go on too long, but I think the nature of the relationship is that, for Russia, China has become an important market for energy and for arms. It’s also a big and important neighbor with whom it’s…from a Russian point of view, it’s certainly in Russian interests to have good relations with China and not to get into situations of conflict which might threaten war. But it’s also in many ways, a default relationship. Russia is much weaker than China economically, not militarily, not in terms of nuclear weapons, but economically, certainly, much weaker. And its relations with the West are really in a terrible state, partly…it’s mainly as a result of Russia’s own policy in Crimea and in Ukraine.
And I think that from a Russian point of view, this isn’t an entirely satisfactory situation. They would like to have good relations with the West and good relations with China. It’s not a matter of saying, “Oh, yes, in the early post Soviet years we wanted to be strategic partners with the United States. That’s not worked out. Now, let’s be strategic partners with China.” I think they would like not to be forced into a relationship which is really I think a somewhat subordinate relationship to China.
Kathryn Stoner: Right, thank you. Karl, do you wanna talk about China?
Karl Eikenberry: First, thank you again, Jonathan, and the Nixon Library. And thank you, Mr. Nixon, for being with us this evening. So, perhaps three points to go back to the tape from President Nixon. As we talk tonight about this triangular relationship between Russia and China and the United States, important to look back in history even as we talk about partnerships and alliances today, and remember that we can often get it quite wrong and we have gotten it wrong.
So, President Nixon in 1972, had the wisdom and the strategic courage to go to Beijing, but it was evident to many scholars and I think many in the intelligence community in the 1950s, that there already was an opportunity at that point as China and the Soviet Union at that time were having very sharp differences which were just missed until the 1960s. Indeed, the United States’ relationship with China through the 1980s, there was a kind of romantic notion of this relationship with China which the United States has periodically had through its history from the 17th to late 1700s when we began to trade with China in the World War II period.
And then these wild swings from World War II to the communism to the Korean War. So with the opening of China, then a more romantic view of China, which was not sustainable, and indeed was not at all sustained as the events of Tiananmen. And then the strategic rationale for the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The second point is that the diffusion of global power that is ongoing today. So we talk about the rise of China properly, but there’s a rise of India, there’s rise of many others. And on a relative basis, certainly, Europe is going down. We can have a debate about the United States in a relative basis. So, any talk today about the triangular relationship also needs to come to grips with this triangle is in a greater strategic context and it’s not just the three of us. It’s a lot more than that.
And then the third point is with regard to the relations between the United States, Russia, China today, and here I would have a different take than my colleague Tom Fingar, where I do have perhaps more concerns than he had expressed and maybe we can have a conversation about this this evening. So, clearly, Russia and China, the strategic relationship has evolved since the 1990s and there it was called “the axis of convenience.” And now it’s a strategic partnership and there’s real security cooperation going on. There’s arms sales from Russia to China that continue, there’s military to military dialogues, there’s military joint exercises. I don’t want to overstate that, but there is an idea about trying to cooperate globally to preclude the United States from gaining global hegemony, trying to push back.
Now as that translates out, they have their own differences about how you should operationalize that, so to speak, in different parts of the world. But something that I think is understated and I’ll finish here is that I do believe that there’s an ideological component to this relationship at least between Mr. Xi Jinping and Mr. Vladimir Putin. They’re both tough autocrats and both of them, whether it’s Vladimir Putin looking at Maidan in Ukraine or whether it’s Xi Jinping looking at democracy in Hong Kong, they find a comfort in each other in terms of looking at the United States as potentially undermining with democratic subversion their grips on power.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay. Thank you, okay. I like that there’s some disagreement so we can mix it up a little bit. I wanna get back to this issue of the trilateral relationship, and whether we’re in a multipolar world now or unipolar world in the Cold War era. We were obviously always thought of ourselves in a bipolar world. And so Mr. Nixon, President Nixon’s introduction of China into the relationship with prescience to see that China would be important globally in a few decades. It is interesting to think about when he really made that decision in the context of a bipolar world in distribution of global power and authority between the Soviet Union and the United States.
So here we are in 2017, and when I was recently teaching a course I guess last spring, I mentioned to some international policy students at Stanford that I thought we were in a unipolar world. Sometimes, I do these things to try to trigger a reaction. And the reaction was, “What?” Half of our students are foreign students in this particular program and their perspective was, “No, we are in a multipolar world. United States is not as powerful as it once was.”
I happen to be working on a book now on Russia’s resurgence in how we understand power and so I was a little bit sympathetic to that argument. But another argument was that China is now overtaking the United States in terms of its percentage of the global economy. And Russia stayed relatively flat around 3% of the global economy, I think China is now up around 26%, the United States is about 19% of the global economy. So that’s not per capita GDP, where the United States is still a leader, but China is has long been said is on the rise, although maybe stable or cresting now.
Is the United States still much more powerful than these two countries? What does power mean? In 2017, when, you know, Russia is a much poor country, spends less on its military, is very dependent on oil revenues for its budget, and yet what we are talking about now in the United States is how it was able to, “Shake the foundations of American democracy,” by allegedly hacking into the Democratic National Committee and possibly even into local electoral offices.
So what kind of world are we in? Is it now multipolar? Are these the three big powers that we should be thinking of and watching? And is this trilateral relationship particularly important now? Or is the U.S., on the other hand, still the preeminent power? David, you’re looking at me. So, you start. Yeah, you made the mistake of making eye contact.
David Holloway: I won’t make it again. I think this actually is an absolutely key question, “What kind of world are we living in? Are we seeing the formation of some kind of new international system? And what will it look like if and when it emerges?” There’s a huge amount of commentary and discussion on this. I’m not sure what the new system will look like, but I think we’re not in the old system. It’s not bipolar. It’s not I think the unipolar moment that was invoked after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s not quite multipolar I think trending in that direction. In their meeting in early this month, Putin and Xi called for a multipolar system. And I think the fact that they’re calling for it means we’re not quite there, at least to their satisfaction.
The second thing is that, yes, we can talk about the triangular and I think the triangular relationship is important. But, yes, India is potentially an enormously important power in the coming decades. The European Union at the moment is economically powerful but very inward looking trying to cope with its own problems and, therefore, not I think a major force internationally. Japan is also preoccupied with its problems. But I think we’re seeing a world where we shouldn’t…and I agree with Karl on this, we shouldn’t focus just on the three this triangle, it’s a broader picture. That’s one thing.
The second thing is that we’re still…so the first thing is it’s not bipolar or indeed the unipolar world. Secondly we have a changing cast of characters in terms of the states that matter. And the third thing is that I think when we think of China today it’s not China in 1969. When we think of Russia today, it’s not Russia of 1970. I mean these are much more open societies. Yes, they’re all authoritarian, but nevertheless, technology has made an enormous change, information technology.
So, in Russia, it’s not today like the Brezhnev years, when it was very difficult to find out information about what was going on outside the Soviet Union. Now everyone has access to the Internet or actually it’s very high Internet using in Russia. Also in China and yes there are sites that are blocked more so in China than in Russia I understand, but nevertheless, clever people find ways around those. So, I think even the category of a state and the kind of control a state can exercise, that’s being challenged by technologies and that’s another factor I think of great importance.
So, I think one other thing is that whether this President Trump is a symptom or a cause of a shift in American thinking about world order. At least some of his statements of called into doubt, two of the very important pillars on which the liberal order that the U.S. largely created after World War II dependent, namely alliances. I mean questions about NATO or the commitment to South Korea and Japan. I know they’re reversed but nevertheless there is an issue has been raised or multilateral trade agreements which are also an extremely important part of American policy.
Now, we don’t know will it be a reaction to this? Is this a symptom of a longer term change? Because that’s always the question when you’re in the middle of change is you don’t know, you know, what’s transitory or what’s long-term? But I think those are issues that we have to confront and I think that then the question is, say for U.S. policy or for Russian or Chinese policy is what kind of world order do we want? What kinds of relationships would we like to have with China in 10 years time or with Russia in 10 years time?
What would be most advantageous say to the United States? Each country has to think in that sense of its own interests. What degrees of cooperation are important? What degrees…are we headed for protectionism? Which I doubt we’re heading for in a very serious way. But nevertheless, these issues are raised and I think to decide on one’s own position on these questions one has to have some sense of what would be an acceptable or more than acceptable world order to foresee let’s say in 15 years. So President Nixon is looking 15 years ahead. Can we look 15 years ahead?
Kathryn Stoner: Great question. Karl, do you wanna look 15 years ahead?
Karl Eikenberry: Well, the question about Russia and China and the United States just assessing the other relations now through different indicators, in the area of Defense military you’d given some metrics on economy. So the United States spends with its defense budget 40% of the world’s total on military spending United States of America. China is number two, and it’s about 15% of global spending but coming up steadily. Russia is number three. Now, just military spending is not the sole indicator, very important is what is that money being spent on and what context for what kind of contingencies.
So it’s true that in the case of Russia, we do have very sharp differences that are of security concern and those are mostly on Russia’s periphery. So in Eastern Europe, to an extent in the Caucasus, it has historical interest in Syria and the Middle East, and Putin’s playing that out. And it’s simply because of the expanse of Russian territory, that is Russia looks at all its border areas, I guess in a sense it’s global in its security concerns. In the case of China, China in terms of the way it looks at its security is primarily a Asian power at this point, starting to get global interests, but primarily in Asia concerned with the Korean Peninsula as we are and with some area [inaudible 00:33:24] claims in the Western Pacific. And the United States, we’re truly a global power in every sense.
In this domain of security though globally, as I talked about who is spending what on defense, of the top 10 defense spenders, well, you have China and Russia, two and three, but the other 10 led by the United States are either allies with the United States, or they’re close partners and friends of the United States. Second point on the economy, and Kathryn had led with that, and so the United States and China together were about 40% percent of the world’s GDP right now. And if you look at global trade and investment, although the Chinese are moving ahead in trade between the two of us still pretty dominant. Russia is number eight in the world in its GDP. So as in a way during the Cold War where we concentrated on its military and on security issues like the Soviet Union, it’s playing a very weak economic hand.
The third point would be on then our soft power that we have to or bring to bear. And the United States still today, with all of our difficulties that we’re facing, still is a pretty inspirational model. There is no inspirational Chinese model, some talk about a development model, but no one embraces a Chinese political model. And the same, of course, is true for Russia. So, I think at times especially as we’re having difficulties at this moment in our history that we can tend to start to take stock of our fears and not recognize still today how strong that soft power is if the United States still wants to show the leadership to continue to try to manage the remarkable set of economic and diplomatic institutions that put in place at the end of World War II.
I had a trip to Singapore several years ago and I met with a very good Singaporean diplomat named Tommy Cole, who Tom Fingar knows well. And I was talking to Tommy about the United States in Asia worry about competing with China he said, “What’s your advice?” And betraying my military background, I thought the Tommy Cole would say, “Well, Karl, you need to get three more aircraft carriers out here.” And Tommy said, “Karl, you need to get the New York Philharmonic Orchestra here.” And that was his point entirely to play the New York Philharmonic Orchestra that representing what is very good about the United States in terms of who we are as a people and these institutions which we’ve established.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay, Tom, do you wanna comment on this and I wanna get back to some of these issues.
Thomas Fingar: I do. I think I’d like to both address the question you posed and build on what Karl and David had said. I think these are important points and I’m being more underscoring than sort of a challenging. What kind of a world is it? That it’s certainly not bipolar, that sometimes it’s multipolar depends on what the issues is. It depends on what the relevant questions are, sometimes they’re no pole, this is sort of nobody’s in charge it’s a free for all.
But to pick up on points that Karl was making, if we think of a pole as the organizing center about which other countries align themselves in group that, militarily, the U.S. alliance system has no equal, nothing even close. China has one ally, former ally, it’s North Korea, doesn’t add much to China’s national power. Russia has I think only Syria. If that’s qualifies as an ally. The cross point is we’re gonna think about military power and the uses of the elements of national power related to the military which are not just fighting ability. The amount of transparency, of inter-operability, connectivity, integration that is necessary to undergird these alliances that are terribly important to political integration, to economic integration. The second type, of course, is economic integration.
That back in President Nixon’s day, it truly was a bipolar world. You were in the free world and the liberal order or you were in the Soviet socialist order of technology transfer, investment economic, integration or you were in the very large category of the nonaligned states that kind of floundered with a pox on both of your houses that want to join in. Now there’s one game in town, and that is the liberal order that is the extension of what was the free world order. And almost all countries participate in it, almost all benefit from it. It is a rules based order not an ideologically based order. And the interconnections and overlapping relationships are very very numerous.
And the third as Karl…soft power. The power to attract and also we assert to underscore the U.S. still has enormous soft power. People would like to be sort of like us, they’d like to have their political act together perhaps better than we do now. But the total package of individual freedoms, civil rights, human rights protections, political participation, economic prosperity, military strength. Who would you like to be like? You’d like to be like the United States more than you’d like to be like China or Russia. So there’s not much positive appeal there.
The importance of economic ties that China remains enormously dependent on the United States and on the United States allies for its sustained economic growth. China is the largest trading partner of most countries in the world. That point is often made. Seldom made is the relevant next point. Most of that trade is in the form of intermediate goods that go to China for final assembly to be put in a box to go to the North America, Japan and Europe.
Which way do dependencies go? 25% of China’s exports come to the United States, 40% of China’s exports go to the United States, Japan and South Korea. 80% of China’s exports go to those three countries plus the European Union. 7% of U.S. exports go to China. That’s a very, very disproportionate kind of interdependence. And for China and for Russia, they can’t do much for one another that would really accelerate sustain step function transform their economic strength, their ability to bring prosperity, their ability to fundamentally change their military capabilities. They both need factors, relationships available in the West more broadly. Do each of Russia and China seek to gain some opportunities and advantages by dangling, will become closer friends with one another? Of course, they do.
We don’t have to fall for that. Look at the hard numbers. I would disagree with Kathryn. It’s a different set of numbers. I think yours were based on PPP and those numbers. But the World Bank numbers show the U.S. share of world economy is still around 24%. That’s down a whopping 2% since 1979 when China began its fabulous rise, so we’ve dropped 2%. China’s share of world economy by the World Bank numbers is about 17% which is almost exactly the same as China’s share of world population. The U.S. 24% of world economic product was achieved with 4.5% of the world’s population. Measured with those kind of indicators, the gap is widening.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay, yeah so I’m when he says PPP everyone knows purchasing power parity. So, if you went and bought a basket of goods in China and Russia it’s trying to compare how much those would cost relatively speaking. So, yes, I was using purchasing power parity numbers, not gross domestic product numbers. But, you know, undeniably, China is on the rise and the worry and certainly I think part we get part of the explanation one often hears for the rise of Mr. Trump and populism here in the United States is a concern that we don’t make anything in the United States anymore.
And that we’ve lost manufacturing and instead this is being outsourced to places like China but also to other countries in Southeast Asia that maybe produce things more cheaply than we can here in the United States. So that’s a concern. I also wanted to ask, get at this issue about soft power that Karl raised, which is the power to attract as opposed to force, right, in hard power and military power. So when we think about the rise of China, if there is a rise, and we think about a resurgence of Russia and certainly a more aggressive foreign policy. I wanna raise the issue that perhaps actually that Russia has more allies and China, but Russia in particular has more allies than you mention.
So Turkey could be one. Another budding autocracy. Syria you mentioned, not exactly a winner but for Russia it’s important because it is reinserting interests in the Middle East. And a concern that the United States was running roughshod and in Mr. Putin’s words, “Basically messing up,” making a mess of the Middle East. Iran, Russia is now anxious to sell even more arms to Iran than it has in the past. Brazil, that is one of the few countries that Russia has no visa regime with. Russia also and Mr. Putin has more recently presented Russia as a conservative populist alternative to hedonistic, as he would call it “Gay Europe.” It is anti liberal and proudly so. And there is a certain pull to that in countries, like for example, Turkey or at least the government of Turkey.
It also has developed relatively sophisticated methods as I think we felt here in the United States on soft power in terms of inserting the opinions of the Russian government into our own political discourse. I’m always surprised because I actually watch Russia Today, which is RT if you’ve ever watched RT. You may not know that that’s [inaudible 00:46:06], Russia Today. By the way, the Ukrainians is a sort of honey-aside [SP] started their own network called Ukraine Tomorrow in reaction of Russia Today, and what they were saying about Ukraine.
But their present in some ways subtle but in some ways very slick, in other ways very slick alternative to a U.S. Western liberal perspective on the world and this is broadcasted globally. You can if you’re in Dubai in a hotel you’ll see RT, you can see it actually and probably in your local cable package here. There is also, you know, news and information trolls. I have had the pleasure of being trolled on Twitter by Russian trolls, cyber hacking. Some people, one person of importance in particular is very doubtful that the Russians have this capability of cyber hacking. And his friend Mr. Putin told him, “They don’t and if they did they’d never be caught.”
So, there’s also this other sort of poll of order versus the chaos of Europe in migration and two open societies. So, you know, one could argue that there is this soft power component that Russia has, but in a way the Soviet Union didn’t. You know, the Soviet Union…the dispute in a bipolar world between the Soviet Union United States was really one of communism versus capitalism. And that’s not exactly the dispute now. It’s one of conservatism and order verses liberalism run-a-muck and disorder. So I wonder about that. I wonder if you’re worried about that, and whether they’d makes a difference that these are autocracies, whether Russia and China are the same kinds of authoritarian governments.
And the United States is still, you know, the shining light on the hill that it once was, or is the United States international presence. It doesn’t have the same power, do we have the same pullas we had perhaps in the 1970s and 1980s anymore? Karl, you made eye contact briefly. He looked at me sideways.
David Holloway: My eyes are covered.
Kathryn Stoner: No next time we do this, you all wear sunglasses.
Karl Eikenberry: Well, a couple of points. First of all, with regard to Russia and its friends and its appeal I hesitate sitting between two very distinguished Russia experts. But the history of Russia would indicate and today’s Russia would indicate how those on its borders which have long histories with Russia react to it that I don’t believe that it has a lot of appeal. If you look at how Eastern Europe is reacting, trying to get NATO to get more involved…
Kathryn Stoner: Although, we have Poland. We have Hungary. Authoritarian rollbacks arguably, but okay.
Karl Eikenberry: Right. But not pushing towards Moscow. If you look at the Caucasus, if you look at Central Asia… Central Asia with their own concerns about Russia. Now, I think getting back to the triangle, if we talk about Russia’s security relations that Central Asia is going to pose a great challenge for the Russia-China relationship, because none of the Central Asian republics, the five stands so to speak, particularly, persuaded by the models of either Beijing or Moscow but certainly responding to Chinese investment which is going into central Asia in a big way. So if you compare Russia’s trade with Central Asia to China’s, you compare the levels of investment of Russia and China. It’s Moscow as being eclipsed and that’s historically been a sphere of influence one time it was part of the Soviet Union. So I think there’s going to be contradictions between Russia and China geopolitically in that region and never mind the models that they offer.
So, yeah, I tend to be optimistic in looking at the United States and looking at our way of government, looking at the European model and our traditions. And that at the end of the day the systems that have evolved supported by robust institutions in our institutions here in the United States are still proving to be robust that they have much more staying power than the rule of man. So rule of law usually trumps, they…maybe that was a bad choice of words. The rule of law usually does prevail. I think for the United States though that we can’t have our head in the sand. So as we look at China right now, do we say smugly, “That’s a system that’s doomed to fail.” Well, people for about 30, 40 years now have been saying consistently China is gonna run out of steam politically, economically. There’s too many contradictions and still today it’s doing well. So for the United States whether we look at Russia or China, I think that getting our political house and orders important but it goes beyond that, too.
So if I go to China to most of their airports, their airports look much better than our airports. If I am on a Chinese high speed rail, I’d much rather be on that high speed rail going from Beijing to Shanghai in terms of comfort and indeed safety than I would like to be on an Amtrak train rolling from Washington, DC to my home in Raleigh, North Carolina. If I look at education in the United States, we’ve got some severe problems and we don’t have a monopoly on doing it right. There’s things that are going on in China probably for that matter in Russia which I don’t know well that are things that we should perhaps emulate. When I look at how much money China is putting into research and development and focusing, I worry about that, too.
So I think in my view, it’s a dual problem here. It’s a problem politically that if we can get the house back in order great confidence. But part of that political will also has to be in getting our house in order. Prioritizing, what needs to be done so our sons and daughters and our grandchildren are gonna have the basic infrastructure and capability in this nation to take then the advantage of these wonderful political institutions and carry it forward.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay, thank you. David?
David Holloway: I think the argument about soft power is true. American culture, the American experience and example has had an enormous influence around the world, and Russia does try to excess exploit soft power in terms of religion, in terms of art and so on. But it doesn’t stretch nearly as far as U.S. popular culture does. On the other hand, I am somewhat surprised by the…maybe I shouldn’t be, by the number of political rulers who seem to admire Putin. I don’t get it myself. But, you know, yes he’s a strong man a strong leader and, you know, he seems to be in control of things. And there are lots of states where actually that’s an issue, you know, what kind of control does the government have? Whether they’re up in the barriers to the emergence of dictators.
And they may say, “Well, here we have an example.” You know, successful ruler who has pulled Russia…I mean this I’m gonna criticize this person in a minute, but who’s pulled Russia out of the kind of chaos of the 1990s to introduce stability, reassert Russia’s place in the world and so on? And so there are ideological differences, and Kathryn mentioned, they’re kind of Russian critique of Europe as totally decadent permitting gay marriage and things like that. That’s certainly there is an element in Russian culture but it’s not offering the kind of alternative it did in the Cold War where, you know, central planning was going to be the answer to economic growth and a kind of equitable distribution of goods and of standards of living.
In fact, a few months ago, former Finance Minister in the Russian government, a man who’s close to Putin Alexei Kudrin, actually gave an absolutely scorching devastating analysis of the state, not only of the Russian economy but of the Russian state. He said “We now have, we seem to be growing at an economic rate of maybe 2%. That’s what we can look forward to. And we can’t blame sanctions and we can’t blame external things it’s all to do with us ourselves. Failures of institutions, the failures of structure that totally inadequate state administration, the fact that people are not in a civil society is not allowed to take any kind of initiative.” I mean absolutely scathing criticism of the existing order in Russia, it’s not saying “Oh, we’d be fine if only the sanctions were listed and so on so.”
And what he’s offering is not some panacea based on different principles it’s offering or recommending good management of, you know, a market based society in which entrepreneurship is allowed to play an appropriate role. And it’s very striking that when Russians who want to set up businesses go to Israel or come to California they do extremely well, but not in Russia where the conditions are very difficult. So I don’t think that we’re not on an ideological conflict, except maybe around authoritarianism, whether authoritarian governments can do more than democratic governments. But I don’t think Russia is a good example for that because it’s not carrying through the reforms that most economists would say are desperately needed.
When you look at Russian arguments about international politics, it’s all about geopolitics. It’s kind of a realist view and there’s a whole critique developed by Putin about the West, in particular, taking advantage of Russia’s weakness after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, of course, NATO enlargement being part of that but also democratic values are seen as a threat. So the color revolutions in Georgia and in Ukraine seeing this extremely dangerous for Russia.
I remember after the Ukrainian..the Orange Revolution I was went to Moscow on a visit and a friend of mine said, “Oh yes this is your trial run for Russia, you know, you’ve done it in Ukraine now you’re going to do it in Russia.” And that’s an extremely dangerous mentality I think. So I think there are elements just to talk about Russia at the moment that are rather dangerous or at least present real problems for Russian neighbors in particular for the West. One is the notion that Russia really is a great power. Russia cannot be Russia unless it’s a great power.
And I remember in 1990s very often hearing Russians say to me “Oh, we’re very weak now but Russia is condemned to be a great power.” And the second is this sense of the fragility of the social basis of the order that might be threatened by Democratic ideas. And I think in China, I don’t know as my colleagues have far that’s seen as a threat, but they’re certainly a move against Western ideas coming in. And I think, if I mention one more point, we talk about the collapse of the Soviet Union and we think, “Oh collapse of the Soviet Union totally natural process.” Of course, people will choose freedom but the way it’s regarded in Russia or I think in China is to take it very seriously especially in China, because that has relevance to our regime what was it that caused the Soviet Union to collapse?
And I think the conclusion that’s been drawn is weak leadership and the dangers of trying to begin to reform kind of an authoritarian system or systems in power. And that makes the prospect of reform politically extremely difficult because it seem to raise enormous dangers for the system.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay, thanks. Tom, I don’t wanna take away your opportunity to comment on this but I also wanna just touch on the issue of military strategic balance and areas of cooperation possibly among these three relatively different powers, but my other point is I see Jonathan coasting around with a microphone, and I’m anxious to get some questions from the audience as well. So I think maybe we’ll let Tom make his comments on what’s been said and if you can also just comment briefly on areas of cooperation and then we’ll open to the audience in our remaining 15 or 20 minutes or so. So, Tom.
Thomas Fingar: Let me try to tie together some of the themes from the discussion thus far. One is to underscore that the world is very different than when President Nixon made the remarks that were played at the beginning. Today’s world is not a bipolar world and among the consequences of that if we still have all thinking that I call the seesaw view of international relations, if somebody is rising somebody else must be going down. It’s clear, that’s not what’s going on. We’ve got multiple countries doing much better, that doing better in some areas than other areas. We have friends, we don’t really have enemies, we have competitors, we have partners, we have frenemies, that it’s a very much muddle.
The model where the structure of the international system is different. We’re in transition from something that was to something that is undefined. We don’t have a consensus in our own country about what the future order will look like, what our role ought to be in that system, what role we would like other countries to play in that system, how we might help to shape that future? And that makes it very difficult to have the kind of strategic vision, derivative policies that are very well represented in President Nixon’s opening to China as a way of complicating Soviet calculus.
So we run into a trap when we use concepts and terminology from yesterday to talk about the world of today and tomorrow. That the U.S., in my judgment, clearly does not have the influence the soft power, the attraction that we once did. That’s our fault that’s not the fault of somebody else. It doesn’t mean that somebody else has got more traction than we do. It reflects the somewhat chaotic certainly ill defined structure of the international system. And within that, still in Kuwait, still forming, still in transition from what we had to what comes next, shame on us if we are so complacent that we don’t take an activist role. Shame on us if we don’t seek to take advantage of opportunities to collaborate which are many that we don’t address the points of friction before they become more serious tensions or possible military clashes.
That there’s in my judgment nothing about the current structure of the international order. Screwed up as it is or as uncertain as it is, or having nobody in charge on many issues as it is, that dooms us to conflict with China or with Russia, dooms Russia to conflict with China. We have enormously more areas of congruent interesting cooperation with China than we have areas of conflict. We have far fewer with Russia. We could talk about the reasons, but the possibilities are greater. And as point made by David, it’s a good thing that China and Russia have better relations than they’ve had in a long time. That is stabilizing, not destabilizing factor.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay. Great, thank you. In fact, one of our colleagues has written a book called “Doomed to Cooperate” about Russia and the United States with respect to nuclear powers. So, Jonathan, I know you have the microphone open there, shall we?
Jonathan Movroydis: Sure. Thank you very much. We’ll take a couple of questions from the audience. I’d like to first start off by asking, we have three pretty big personalities in the U.S., China, and Russia. U.S. being Donald Trump, China being Xi Jinping, and Russia being Vladimir Putin. How do these big personalities play a role in influencing tri-lateral relations?
Kathryn Stoner: Who wants to take that? I can start. I think…
Male: Why don’t you…this is your turn, Kathryn.
Kathryn Stoner: Okay, wow, thank you. Okay. I made eye contact. So I actually think with…I will just comment on Putin and Trump because I have met Mr. Putin as I think David has. And I think this matters to a significant degree. As a cold-hearted social scientist, I was trained to think that personalities don’t matter and that states have interests, not friends. But I do and I do think that’s true. We have interests ultimately, but clearly, this matters. Relationships matter a great deal to the current president of the United States and he wants people to like him. And he evidently wants Vladimir Putin to like him.
Now, why that’s the case I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist. But this I think Mr. Putin is intrigued, but he’s also he is many things and we can use negative adjectives about him. But one thing Mr. Putin is not is stupid. He’s very smart and he’s not necessarily strategic but tactically he’s very smart. So I think that he will use Mr. Trump’s seeming eagerness to be liked and to be friends to Russia’s advantage. Mr. Putin is always very cognizant of what Russian interests are. And right now Russian interests are getting rid of sanctions. They very much want those sanctions off even though Mr. Putin will insist that they’re not making any difference to the Russian economy.
They’re not helping the Russian economy and one way that they’re not helping is in attracting Western investment. And I think maybe Tom mentioned or oh, no sorry, David mentioned that Alexei Kudrin recently pointed out that the best Russia can do in future is grow about 2% a year and they haven’t hit that yet. They’re about 4.5% right now for this quarter. So the only what Russia’s going to grow safe from what has happened in the past, which is a huge spike in global oil prices and that doesn’t look like claiming the imminent near future, is Western investment.
Well, with sanctions on, it can’t get that investment. And so this is a tremendous problem in the one to three to five-year terms and what we will see happen in Russia is in 2018 there will have to…there will be in another presidential election and my guess is Mr. Putin will run even though he’s kind of not sure. And he has to win and I will predict going out on a limb that he will, but he has to make it look legitimate, right?
So in order to make it look legitimate, he has to be the defender of Russian interests, that is, Russian interests against Western hedonism and culture and therefore, he must stop what is going on in Ukraine and keep Crimea. But he must also make the economy grow. People cannot eat prestige, right, people cannot eat Crimea, frankly. They actually will need to see real incomes go up again or his ability to maintain order and stability in this country and the regime that he has built which is cronyistic. And so he benefits as to those around him immediately from the state and controlling the state, they must perform. So there is some, you know, some domestic politics obviously involved in their international stance.
So I would say the relationship matters. My concern as somebody who watches Russia and Mr. Putin is that we have a political neophyte as our president, who is very confident and perhaps overly confident in dealing with Mr. Putin who has been in office for 17 years and quite successfully. So, and who really knows what his country’s interests are and knows how to work people. So, you know, I think that personal relationship matters quite a lot and I think we, as Americans, have reason to be a little concerned about it to make sure our country’s interests are served.
Karl Eikenberry: Maybe to say a word about the U.S. China relationship and that is, point number one, is it’s very clear that Chinese senior leadership beginning with Xi Jinping, they were hopeful that Donald Trump would win. Secretary Clinton, Hillary Clinton was extraordinarily unpopular with the Chinese senior leadership. She was looked at as the architect of America’s so called rebalance to Asia…
Kathryn Stoner: And the same, of course, in Russia, right.
Karl Eikenberry: …in 2011, 2012. And so I think that they were then happy when they saw what the election results are. Second point would be that Xi Jinping and his team are facing a very consequential five-year party congress this fall. So, one of the things that Xi Jinping does not want going into that congress is a prostate or very difficult relationship with the United States and part of his score card is how is he managing that relationship? So, is it possible we’ll see a different relationship or a different set of policies from Xi Jinping with regard to the United States? After what I don’t think we’d seen abrupt change, but currently, that’s in his mind.
Then the third point is with regard to President Trump. I think that as many world leaders right now, Xi Jinping is looking at President Trump and they’ve heard a lot of rhetoric, a lot of policy goals stated, but they’re, at some point, going to start to take stock of how many of those policy statements that he’s making and the policy goals that he’s trying to set, how many are being realized? And if not many are being realized or none are being realized then at some point they’re going to begin to discount.
There’s one other aspect of President Trump’s administration that everyone here knows. There’s not a lot of appointments being made right now. So, if you go into the ranks of the Department of State, the Department of Defense, all those departments, Treasury, all those departments that are consequential in really managing the relations, not only with China but all of our partners around the world, Xi Jinping doesn’t micro-manage Chinese foreign policy nor does President Putin, Russian policy nor does President Trump or any president of the United States able to micromanage policy. Broad visions and then the diplomats, the soldiers, the intelligence, those are the ones that go out and take the broad vision and they implement. And right now, the seats are empty.
And I think that’s worrisome. And to get back to Xi Jinping, I know he’s got a bureaucracy that’s telling him that they’re just not certain, right now, what is the policy of the United States. And generally by this time, they’d have a system secretaries of state, undersecretaries of state, that they’d be meeting with and then the policies of the two presidents, the two countries would start to take shape.
Kathryn Stoner: Jonathan, what should we do, throw it back?
Jonathan Movroydis: We have a question in the back row.
Audience Member: President Obama reportedly told President-Elect Trump that North Korea would be his single most difficult foreign policy issue in his first term as president. How do you understand how Russia and China to what extent they’re willing to help the United States or understand or to what extent do the president understand how fraught the Korean issue is with the president and a possible miscalculation? And is it really in their interest ultimately to get a solution that’s favorable to the United States or to let it fester with the possibility that things might get out of control?
Kathryn Stoner: Great question, Tom?
Thomas Fingar: Let me take the China piece of it. North Korea is truly an intractable problem. There are no good options. There are no magic bullet solutions as when I worked on from the ’80s until last week. That it would be nice to think that China or Russia could solve the problem for the world, for the region, it’s not possible. Now, China has more leverage over North Korea than anybody else. That and three bucks will get you a cup of coffee. They don’t have enough leverage to produce results. The Chinese worry that in trying to pressure or prod an outcome around the nuclear weapons, around the nature of the regime, around the missile program, has a greater danger of destabilizing than of stabilizing the situation.
It is better not to try or not to try very hard. Try just enough to keep the Americans off your back, but not hard enough to produce a real danger of regime collapse, a danger of use of conventional weapons that can escalate into a nuclear exchange. That the need for cooperation in managing the diplomatic dimensions of this, the human suffering dimensions of this, China, the United States, I believe Russia, have to play a collective role. But at the moment, there is a lack of willingness to talk in specific terms about managing consistent, no, contingencies for fear that word that we are talking to one another about possibilities in North Korea will trigger unwanted events in there.
This is a real dilemma that doesn’t have an obvious quick fix solution. The bottom line here for China is we need to talk to the Chinese continuously about North Korea so that there is good understanding of how each of us sees developments, understands what each is doing or not doing, and why. But not to have very high expectations.
Male: If I could say something about the Russian attitude which has received much less attention than the Chinese, and I think for good reasons. I think Russia, although it has an interest, has, for example, I was much not very active in the, as I understand it, in the six party talks that took place over a number of years. This is for them a worrying issue but it’s really…China has the kind of major role to play in dealing with it.
And I think some of the Russian apprehensions about action against North Korea would be the same as the Chinese. So one fear, of course, is destabilization on the Korean Peninsula. That’s one aspect. Another, which some of my China specialist friends tell me is more important than we think, is that for China to assert where Ditch are cooperating and moving against North Korea is difficult because that is for all the hostility that exists between them, an ally, and another communist state.
But also this third element I think was probably more…is more important for the Russians is what if indeed there is some kind of collapse of the regime in the North and the unified Korea with some American presence there, a unified Korea allied with the United States. Now, so, I think the Russian’s have tried not with huge success somehow to integrate themselves into the economic dynamism of Northeast Asia. But on the security front, they are happy to have, I think, a quiet…they have a good relationship with China.
I think they wouldn’t want to get out of step with China on the issue of North Korea. So let’s leave for China to deal with it. I think China is the key actor. And Russia, I think if China wanted and the US wanted, Russia would play some role. It wouldn’t be in their interest I think to oppose what the Chinese want given the current state of relations between Russia and China.
Kathryn Stoner: Karl.
Karl Eikenberry: Just to briefly…so, to follow-up on what David had said back to the Chinese perspective. So, I think whether it’s the United States, Russia, China, all agree denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is in each country’s interest, global interest. The idea about putting a premium on stability but the breakpoint between the United States and China and I believe Russia as well, is that in the uncertainty then of a collapse of a North Korean regime, chaos, what would follow. Then the Chinese worry, and I think that the Russian worry is that the peninsula be reunified and it be reunified on Seoul’s terms.
So as today in Seoul, they worry about North Korea. I think a reunified peninsula, they would celebrate for about 24 hours and then they would start worrying about China. China’s goal is to push back US presence in the Western Pacific over the next five, 10, 15, 20 years. Not tomorrow, but longer term. And so they worry about the Korean Peninsula which they’ve always seen in their vital national interest as if there should be chaos. If, it should then lead to reunification and the United States still an ally of the Republic of Korea. That would be worrisome and I think it would be worrisome to the Russians.
A final footnote to this is we talked about triangles, probably informed by my two tours of military duty in the Korean Peninsula, is that as we talk about China, the United States, Russia, Japan, North Korea, never to forget South Korea. Because at the end of the day, any U.S. policy is only gonna go as far as our democratic Republic of Korea allies want us to go because they’re the ones that live in the neighborhood.
Kathryn Stoner: Great.
Jonathan Movroydis: Another question right here.
Male: Getting back to tonight’s theme. If President Trump articulated anything both in the campaign subsequently taking over, I think it’s safe to say he wanted more confrontational approach to China and a controversially a less, perhaps, a less confrontational approach to Russia. And earlier this year, I saw Fareed Zakaria’s show. He had on a Russian journalist whose name escapes me and was clearly a Russian…was a Putin surrogate who said remarkably, I thought, he said he didn’t think that would go very far because he thought that the rapprochement with China was so terribly important to Vladimir Putin.
So I’d like you to comment on that. And I guess if President Trump takes the kind of “go it alone” approach that he’s making our Americas first, I think all of us would agree it was ironic that…I think that the Chinese clearly like the current world order. And I think it’s ironic that Davos, which has sort of become symbolic of the world order or what not, the keynote speaker was President Xi.
David Holloway: Let me just say something about the Russian attitude to President Trump. There was a lot of coverage in our press about champagne bottles being popped in the doomer when the election results came in. And I think actually, yes, they were popped but I was in Moscow. Not so recently but in December after the election and nobody I talked to took that point of view. They said, “You know, we’re very uncertain. Yes, he says nice things, but we don’t know what that means.” And one friend who’s served in the Ministry of Defense said, “Yes, he’s saying these nice things, but he’s promising the build up the defense budget by enormous means. So what’s this about? What’s going on here?”
So the best, kind of the most favorable prognostication I heard was the one that the television channel has made. Namely, that yes, we might have a short honeymoon period but then a lot of issues will emerge. But I don’t think we’ve had a short honeymoon period or at least it’s been a very tempestuous honeymoon. Well, it’s not a honeymoon at all actually. So, and I think the reasons are complex. It’s not just because China’s more important to the U.S. I think, but I’m not gonna go into all the complicated aspects.
Thomas Fingar: I had a couple of things on China. To frame the issue, one of the things that need our 2016 election unusual was that the business community which for eight administrations was the strongest advocate of stability in U.S. China relations. That sort of you can have your rhetoric for elections but afterward, this is about money, this is about some costs. But the business community basically sat this out. The business community is not happy with…she’s basically China first policy, theft of intellectual property, changing the rules, the game of not according to national treatment to investment, that made in China 2025 is in some ways a mirror image of made in America for Mr. Trump.
Under that, there really are some fundamental issues having to deal with reciprocity. Their global issues, because of the approach of the United States has followed since 1947, ’48 of accepting unequal trade relationships, our market is more open than others because it made our partners strong and made our own alliances strong and made us rich. It was a very smart policy, but the public clearly says, “Why are we still doing that?”
We won the Cold War. We’re not getting richer anymore, the inequitable. So the demands for reciprocity including by the business community make China a legitimate target for U.S. You want to invest in the United States only those areas that you allow us to invest in. I think we’re gonna see that, which is different than the kind of campaign examples that Mr. Trump used but it’s going to be there. That there are things that it’s hard for me to imagine Mr. Trump making issues in human rights.
The defense of constitutionalism does not seem to be high on his agenda and I’m sure that makes the Chinese happy. Taiwan, I don’t think would despite some developments right after the election, the phone call. I don’t see a prospect for changing U.S. policy towards Taiwan or the men who are making that an issue. The key here is the economic interdependence and the inability to collaborate on a whole range of transnational issues.
Does China like the United States is either a part of every problem or must be a part of any solution on climate change, on water, on globalization, on demographic, on urbanization, it goes on and on. So we really don’t have any sensible prospect except to cooperate. I haven’t got a clue which way Mr. Trump wants to jump on this.
Ed Nixon: I have a suggestion. Being a geologist, and most people because of that they would say I have rocks on my head. But I’m hearing the idea of axis of centers of rotation and so on. And if we think about the world, looking at it from a distance and looking at the centers of influence everywhere, you’re pointing out the three that are most obvious to us all today. But what is it that changes the rotation? What disturbs an axis of rotation and makes it pre-assess? Somebody like our Trump makes a lot of the cuff notes that saw some people wonder about it, but that has an influence. It affects things, and I hope that while you folks, you’re so generous with your thoughts, I just hope that we can keep old folks like us to keep an eye on it and warn the youngsters that, “Look the rotation is changing and is coming from people we never thought would change it.” So read the news and keep an eye on it and listen to those who have experience. I’m glad you’re here and I’m very appreciative of you being here. Thank you very much.
Kathryn Stoner: Thank you.
Male: Hi, thank you for being here. So, my question is more related to long-term not necessarily in with current situation. So besides soft power and financial interdependence, what elements would help the US maintain its allies? So, what are your thoughts on that?
Kathryn Stoner: Who wants to open that up. I have thoughts.
Thomas Fingar: I think Karl pointed at it earlier, which is getting our own house in order. That it’s very hard to be a shining example for others when we have partisan political paralysis. When we can’t seem to address issues from fixing the problems in our healthcare system to an aging infrastructure, to an inadequate education system, to the failure to retrain people who have been displaced by automation and movement of jobs to some other location. These are fixable problems. We have it within our financial and political capacity to do it. That we need to do it for ourselves.
If we do it for ourselves, we go, in my view, a long way towards burnishing our credentials for leadership in the international system, the strength of the magnetic appeal of soft power, and have the capacity to provide the kinds of leadership that the world really needs. I have one sentence which comes from Chinese a few years ago. I’ve been interacting with China for literally since the Ping Pong initiative that followed President Nixon’s trip in 1972. The observation was the United States must continue to lead.
We’re not ready to lead, nobody else is ready to lead. If we make a proposal, it’s dead on arrival because we make it. You have thick skins. You’re used to getting beat up. Our leaders can’t afford to propose something that is laughed out of court. We worry about suffering economically, suffering in terms of the limited amount of international influence that we have if we make a proposal that doesn’t accept it or even worse we launch an initiative that fails. So, you have to take advantage of the technological, innovative, economic capacities as well as the greater political capacity. I agree with that, but the pre-requisite is physician heal thyself.
Kathryn Stoner: Karl.
Karl Eikenberry: Two points on this. One would be that if there is a diffusion of global power that’s underway right now and indeed there is. Tom’s point is well-taken though. It gets overstated about how much ground the United States has lost. If you look at the percentage of global wealth, the United States over the last 20 years has not lost a lot, but there has been a diffusion that has gone on away from allies and partners to other parts of the world.
So one would be given that and I think that probably our standing economically in the world over the next 50 years would be one where it may come down further. So that’s prioritization then and the idea that in the ’50s or ’60s or ’70s, that we could move anywhere at will and center priorities as we wished, those days I think are over.
So when we look at places in Central Asia or parts of the Middle East, parts of the world, should we be more discriminating? And are there other regional powers that have much more vested interest and with credit and will credibly apply force than the United States. The second point is with the use of force by the United States of America. So we’re gathered here in this library. The many accomplishments of President Richard Nixon was the establishment of the all-volunteer army and the all-volunteer force.
I graduated from West Point in 1973 and the Army that I entered was broken. And President Nixon knew this. And the move towards the all-volunteer force was a brilliant move. And President Nixon, he lived long enough to see how magnificent our Armed Forces became. But now, I worry that far removed from this whole volunteer of force creation in 1972 and 1973, we’ve had several changes of generations in the United States since that era and I worry about the disconnection of our Armed Forces with the American people.
So to ask you the question that had we had a conscript force, a draft force, would we have gone into a rock in 2003? And I think a case could be made, maybe not, because a lot of mothers and fathers would have been calling up their Congressman asking what is this about. Certainly, I know that 10 years after 911 we would not have had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan which we did. And the reason for that is, is because it’s an all-volunteer force and mothers and fathers, they don’t call because it’s all volunteer.
And so this breaking of the tissue between the American people and our Congress and our Armed Forces, I do worry about increasingly. So it’s not to say that the volunteer force model was at all a mistake. By no means could we restore a draft, but we do as a nation. We have to start to think through this. How can you, us, do we get more skin in the game for the American military so that we don’t end up with the phenomena which we have today in which, before the all-volunteer force was established and a break point after the all-volunteer force was established, we’ve had five times per annum the amount of military deployments into combat zones than we did before the volunteer force. And this is something to get back to your question that also needs to be addressed. We need the rejuvenation of America that Tom Finkel talks about. We also have to think about our face to the world right now.
And I’m afraid that too often as we go around the world and we do our travels, there’s a lot of the world that sees the primary face of the United States. Not as Tommy calls New York Symphony, but in battle groups, marines and aircraft carriers.
Jonathan Movroydis: Thank you, Kathryn and to our distinguished panel. Please give them a round of applause. Thank you for your enlightening insights, thank you to our audience. We’ll see you at our next event. Thank you so much.