US-Russia Relations: Domestic Debate Vs National Security – Analysis

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By Dr Subhash Kapila

In mid-July 2018 the United States stands uncertainly poised at both geopolitical and strategic crossroads where due more to domestic political compulsions the United States is seemingly unable to discern as to where the major national security threat to United States exists—-China or Russia? Long years of Cold War mindsets have conditioned US policy makers to persist in demonising Russia and thereby blinding them to the China Threat, both in terms of intentions and military capabilities.

Global stability crucially is dependent on the positive health of US-Russia relations and that seems to have impelled US President for the Helsinki Summit recently and now President Trump contemplating inviting Russian President Putin for a Summit Meet in Washington in September. It is a courageous step for President Trump in face of stiff domestic opposition including from his policy establishment.

In 2018 when global uncertainties stand generated by China’s defiance of international laws/conventions manifested by China establishing ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ in the South China Sea and China’s ‘Grand Design’ of geopolitically straddling Asian Continental landmass and maritime expanses with its One Belt One Road tentacles, it is high time that the policy establishment and domestic debates within USA recognise that China has primarily put the United States on strategic notice.

China is a ‘Revisionist Power’ intent on rewriting the international order which is US-centric and Russia-centric in nature. China intends to craft a new bipolar world where China is the second Superpower ranged against the United States. Chinese grand strategy has no place for Russia except as a chess-piece for bargaining with the United States.

Russia at best can be designated as a ‘Competing Power’ with the United States for global geopolitical influence. Russian resurgence under President Putin in the last 18 years may have been aimed at restoring Russia as an alternative power-centre in global affairs but it is my assessment that Russia is realistic enough to realise that Russia cannot displace United States as the global Superpower.

Contextually therefore, in light of the above, the US domestic opposition to an effective and substantial reset of relations with Russia is grievously misplaced. The US domestic opposition to good US-Russia relations arises more from vested US interests in play rather than a realistic assessment of prevailing g global eopolitical realities.

In the run-up to President Trump’s election as President and thereafter there have been fiery domestic debates within United States that Russia had hugely interfered and influenced the outcome of the presidential elections in favour of President Trump. Legal proceedings are still on. Surprisingly, there is no similar outcry or calls for investigation of Chinese interfering in the outcome in US presidential elections.

It is my sense that China had larger stakes in the outcome of 2016 us presidential elections than Russia. China, more than Russia, did not want Hillary Clinton to emerge as the next President of the United States. However, China seemingly adopted more subtle methods of doing so by spearheading their campaign through the vast and powerful ‘China Lobby’ comprising powerful Senators, US Big Business Majors with sizeable investments in China, Former Secretaries of State and diplomats etc.

Within reasonable bounds of speculation, one would not be surprised that the Anti-Russia campaign within US domestic politics is being bank-rolled by China or through China’s prominent lobbies in USA.

Arguably therefore, it is high time that domestic political debates within the United States start focussing intensely on which of the two countries, namely Russia or China, is the most potent national security threat to USA?

To arrive at an objective conclusion on this vexed question, the factors that need comparative analysis is that within the 21st Century what has been the demonstrated record of Russia and China in terms of aggression and conflict escalation detrimental to US security and global influence and more crucially Russian and Chines stances on the global threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

In the first decade of 21st Century, Russia was virtually prostrate following the disintegration of Former Soviet Union and with resurgence just about taking shape and which came into more prominence in the present decade. In the same time span, China following First Gulf War in early 1990s embarked on exponential military expansion. China’s militarism and aggressive instincts thereafter followed in military aggression in the South China Sea wit occupation of Paracels and Spratly Islands. The rest is recent history leading to declaration of Chinese sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.

In terms of scale and extent, China’s strategic intentions and aggressive military operations against vital US National Security interest far exceed those of Russia which can be accused only in terms of annexation of Crimea. Western Pacific in which rest vital US national security interests both in terms of steadfast Allies like Japan and South Korea and these nations hosting US Forward Military Presence in mid-July 2018 are under Chinese siege.

On the global threat of terrorism of the Islamic variety, with both the United States and Russia having been subjected to barbaric brutalities and loss of thousands of innocent lives, there is a strong convergence between USA and Russia to combat this scourge. China’s attitudes on Islamic terrorism contrastingly are best exemplified by China shielding noted Pakistani Islamic Jihadi terrorist leaders from indictment at UN forums. China’s actions prove that in terms of political expediency it can sacrifice and condone terrorism carnage and atrocities.

Islamic terrorism have declared Islamic Jihad against the United States and it is only the hawk-eyed surveillance and intelligence capabilities of US intelligence agencies that have prevented a repeat of the horrific 9/11 terrorist bombings on the American Homeland.

No wonder that at the Helsinki Summit, both President Trump and Russian President Putin underscored this pronounced threat and the imperatives for the United States and Russia to cooperate in combatting this menace.

Can the anti-Russia lobbies within the United States be oblivious to the fact that the stabilisation of Afghanistan by the United States is being seriously impeded by China’s nuclear weapons state of Pakistan through use of Islamic Jihadi groups as proxies. They operate with impunity from safe sanctuaries provided by Pakistan Army in Pakistan’s borderlands. China as strategic patron of Pakistan rmy has not once sought fit to restrain Pakistan Army from such destabilising operations against Afghanistan.

Moving to the next global threat of nuclear weapons proliferation to unstable ‘Rogue State’ designated as such by the United States, it is once again China that stands prominently as the accused in the dock. Pakistan and North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal are China-gifted undoubtedly with the single Chinese strategic aim of creating nuclear weapons proxies in two crucial strategic sub-systems of Western Pacific and South Asia, vital for US national security interests.

The overall deductions that arise from the above analysis is that China is the most significant threat to the United Sates security and its global influence and interests. Russia pales into insignificance. It is this reality to which US policy establishment and domestic debates favouring China within USA have to become alive to.

In terms of cooperating with the United States for maintenance of global security and stability in a G-2 Condominium the point forcefully made in my last Paper and in my Book on China is that the global community will never accept a US & China G-2 Condominium. The global community however has no problems in accepting a US-Russia G- combination. This cannot be ignored by the US Establishment.

Concluding, it needs to be stressed that all cross-sections within the United States need to learn from the history of World War I and World War II in the 20th Century when the United States became belatedly alive to emerging and existing military threats impinging on global security and stability. Pearl Harbour should be a grim reminder. The United States needs to decide as to which is the most potent threat to US security in the 21st Century — Russia or China?

Dr. Subhash Kapila

Dr Subhash Kapila combines a rich and varied professional experience of Indian Army Brigadier ( Veteran), diplomatic assignments in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan. Served in India's Cabinet Secretariat also. He is a Graduate of Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley, UK, Msc Defence Studies from Madras University and a Doctorate in Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Papers have been presented by him in International Seminars in Japan,Turkey, Russia and Vietnam. Credited to him are over 1,500 Papers on geopolitical & strategic topical issues and foreign policies of USA, Japan, India, China and Indo Pacific Asia. He has authored two Books : "India's Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis" and "China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives"

One thought on “US-Russia Relations: Domestic Debate Vs National Security – Analysis

  • July 24, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    The premise that “Russia has no place in China’s geopolitical calculations except as a bargaining piece” is completely false. Russia is the most critical (though not the only) & economical land bridge to Europe in the OBOR project, which is vital to China REGARDLESS OF the state of Sino-US relations. American hostility toward the PRC simply exacerbates the need for trade diversification through OBOR.

    Moreover, we’ve already seen what kind of a “place” Russia has in the US-centric world order – a resource appendage & a de facto vassal state of ever diminishing influence. Even if relations improve between the US and Russia, the latter has ZERO incentive to change its multi-vector foreign policy, which strives for good relations with both China and the West. It’s simply the most pragmatic approach to maximizing benefits gained by playing off one power against another.


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