By Jacob Bosen
The United States is summoning a great power competition where it faces an increasingly resolute Chinese and Russian coalition. Visits to Taiwan by a top U.S. official, the presence of military forces in the far Pacific, and targeted economic competition have signaled to China that the United States is not looking for a partnership.
Meanwhile, the continued expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) despite the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, power projection in Ukraine, and misleading acts have all signaled to Russia that the United States is not looking for cooperative relations. The United States, therefore, should not have been surprised when China and Russia issued a joint statement of cooperation against it earlier this year. Despite this growingly hostile grouping, the United States seems undeterred by the Great Power Competition it is helping create.
Despite pushback from the Biden Administration and military establishment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s followed through on her planned visit to Taiwan, which has incensed China. In response, China cut communication ties with the United States on key issues such as climate change, the military, illegal immigration, and drug trafficking. In addition, the Chinese government has sanctioned Pelosi and her family members and begun military exercises around Taiwan, which may result in a blockade.
Worse still, Russia is standing in solidarity by supporting China’s reactions, as they are developing a hostile coalition against the United States. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was a strategic failure that illustrated Taiwan’s role as a security liability that cannot provide the United States with a fraction of the benefits that cooperation with China can.
Earlier this year, the United States also ramped up its targeting of Russia after it invaded Ukraine. Russia’s brutal invasion has forced millions of people to flee Ukraine and has completely destabilized the Eastern European nation.
The United States has projected its role as a neutral third party in the conflict, but this could not be further from the truth. Before the invasion and during the negotiating period, the United States and its NATO allies labeled Russia’s security proposals for Eastern Europe as “non-starters” and assisted Ukraine in its efforts to take back control of Eastern separatist regions.
The United States is further antagonizing Russia by continually supplying Ukraine with arms, while many United States officials have directly called for the dramatic reduction of the Russian state. The United States is pushing past Russia’s red line and dragging its allies with it, notwithstanding the danger of potentially causing conflict with the world’s largest nuclear power. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov seems to be achieving neutrality and even rallying support behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly from African nations. Increasingly, Ukraine is becoming a security liability for the United States.
Each country has the right to sovereignty and self-governance. Still, it is not a sound policy for the United States to use countries seeking self-governance, like Ukraine and Taiwan, to project power, containment, and dominance under the guise of spreading democracy. It is not moral to put innocent civilians in these countries at increased risk because there is a sense that its grip on global power is being lost.
The Western public has been spoon-fed the fundamental attribution error for decades. Many think that China and Russia do what they do simply because of an essential quality, but this is false. Even if Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine and China’s in Taiwan are unacceptable, the United States must better understand their goals and viewpoints. The United States must also engage with Russia and China in mutually beneficial ways, avoiding great power competition.
While the United States’ strategic goal should be to split the Chinese and Russian coalition, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan shows foreign policy decision-makers exactly what not to do. Relations need to be reset with Moscow to pull Russia out of China’s camp. To create this schism, the United States must pursue sincere efforts for negotiation to stop the war in Ukraine, develop security arrangements that benefit both parties, and gradually lift sanctions based on the de-escalation verification adopted. The harder the United States squeezes its grip on its diminishing status as the single global power, the more power it will lose.
Jacob Bosen is a graduate student of statecraft and international affairs at the Institute of World Politics. He participated in the Russian American Cooperation Initiative in Moscow in December 2021.