'The US has undone all that Nixon accomplished'

President Richard Nixon was a serious student and successful practitioner of global geopolitics. The greatest foreign policy achievement of his presidency was his skillful exploitation of the Sino-Soviet split.  Nixon's strategic conception of "triangular diplomacy," which positioned the United States to have better relations with China and the Soviet Union than they had with each other, was a diplomatic masterpiece.  Thereafter, China's participation in the U.S.-led anti-Soviet alliance tilted the global chessboard in America's favor and set the stage for the Reagan administration's victory in the Cold War.  Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, all of that has been undone.

Nixon's achievement was undone in part by successive U.S. administrations in the post–Cold War world that seemingly stood idly by as the defeated Russia gradually grew closer to a rising China — in part because America was distracted after the 9/11 attacks by the global war on terror, and in part due to the unbounded greed of America's financial and corporate class that grew wealthier as it fueled China's economic and military rise.

In the early years of the Cold War, the U.S. National Security Council, faced with the emergence of the Sino-Soviet bloc, issued NSC-68, which called for a massive defense build-up and a strengthening of America's alliances to confront the specter of a Eurasian landmass dominated by the two communist giants.  Today, the United States needs a successor to NSC-68 that will outline a geopolitical strategy to once again confront a Eurasian landmass potentially dominated by the hostile alliance of Xi Jinping's China and Vladimir Putin's Russia.

That Sino-Russian alliance appears to be stronger than ever, despite the musings of our so-called foreign policy experts, who assured us that Putin's flawed and unpopular aggression in Ukraine was splintering that relationship.  Writing in The Diplomat, Hemant Adlakha, the vice chairperson at India's Delhi Institute of Chinese Studies, notes that on June 15, Xi celebrated his 69th birthday by calling Putin to "reassure the Russian leader that bilateral relations have maintained a sound development momentum in the face of global turbulence and transformations."  Significantly, Xi pledged to support Russia on issues of "sovereignty and security," which translated means Russia's interest in Ukraine as well as China's interest in Taiwan.  According to Adlakha, Xi also reiterated the deepening "strategic coordination" between China and Russia.  Adlakha believes that the Chinese foreign policy reality is "far removed from ... [the] Western understanding" and points out that Xi's support for a Sino-Russian strategic partnership "enjoys both the full backing of the CCP Political Bureau and the support of the country's strategic affairs community."  Adlakha quotes from a recent Chinese commentary: "[only] strengthening China-Russia strategic alliance will help China avoid Western designs to isolate and contain China." 

America's "new" NSC-68 should explain to the American people the security dilemma created by the still solid Sino-Russian strategic partnership.  It should recommend a conventional — especially naval — arms and nuclear weapons build-up.  It should call for strengthening and expanding our Indo-Pacific alliances.  It should call for diplomatically and politically countering China's Belt and Road Initiative.  And above all, it should call for a return to the Nixon geopolitical strategy of seeking ways to facilitate and exploit potential Sino-Russian differences.

If only we had an administration in Washington that understood the world the way Nixon did.

Image: David via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 (cropped).

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