What is the #1 threat facing the Western world in general and the United States in particular? Back in 2012, Mitt Romney said that it was the threat from Russia. He was scoffed. Everybody at that point seemed to think that it was militant Islam that posed the main threat. Remember, this was more than 10 years after 9/11, and Russia seemed like an ossifying relic of what it used to be while Islamic radicalism was clearly on the rise. ISIS became the new terror group instilling fear in the Western world. Russian threats to Ukraine seemed like mere posturing. Today, Putin has been unmasked.
Little more than four years later, Donald Trump entered the political fray and declared that China was the big issue. He was ridiculed on multiple levels. Today, the Democrat Party and the Republican Party do not agree about many things. But one thing they all admit is that Chinese worldwide expansion, especially through their innocuous sounding Road and Belt Initiative, is gradually but consistently taking over more and more of the transportation arteries of the world.
Is this so bad? Well, it doesn’t need to be. But it most certainly will have dire consequences if China’s power is not checked. Mitt Romney was not wrong when he claimed that Russia posed the #1 threat to the world. From the perspective of who had the most offensive nuclear weapons potential, Russia indeed had and still has the most firepower that the United States needs to contain. That will probably switch to China in the coming decade or two. But one of the key lessons of the 19th century is to not ignore threats from dictators. Ask any 10 Russians if Putin is a dictator or a democratically elected leader.
But the larger issue is Russian-Chinese cooperation. As long as Russia goes it alone, they will not be able to deal with tough sanctions from the West. As long as China is isolated from the West, they will also not be able to withstand worldwide support for Taiwan, Australia, and other neighboring countries that feel threatened by China. But when the two behemoths join together, Russia becomes more immune to financial pressure, and Chinese aggression may indeed be overlooked by the more immediate threats of Russian aggression in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
Triangulation is the number one foreign policy need that the West needs to implement. Russian and Chinese cooperation is the #1 threat to the West. Donald Trump may be correct about focusing on China. But it is not China alone that needs to be focused on. It is the China-Russia cooperation that must be knocked off it’s solid footing. These days, nobody on the Democrat or Republican side seem to be focused on this. But therein lies the key to stability in the world theatre.