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I thought carefully about putting the president's name in the title of this diary. The shifting realities of US foreign policy would pose a challenge for anybody who was POTUS at this particular point in history. However, Barack Obama does occupy that office and he is inevitably the focal point of and the person ultimately responsible for government policy. His current Asian tour brings critical issues to center stage.

FDR had aspirations of expanding the new deal to embrace the rest of the world. When he and Churchill signed Atlantic Charter even before the US had entered WW II, they laid out a vision of a United Nations. During the war the US was actively engaged in drawing up plans for a post war world. Roosevelt sought to take up where Woodrow Wilson hit the wall in international idealism. From these activities the United Nations Organization and the Bretton Woods economic institutions which included the IMF and World Bank emerged. Truman was forced to confront the reality that the world really wasn't ready for this vision of Pax Americana.

His frustrations in dealing with the push by Stalin and the USSR to become the dominant power in Europe resulted in the Truman Doctrine. The US took on a very different kind of role in an effort to maintain world order and what became known as the cold war was underway. When the chaos of post war China resulted in the triumph of Mao Zedong and the PRC the power confrontation became fully global. From the late 1940s until the 1990s international relations were shaped by it. It was not just a military standoff but also an economic one. Both the USSR and China kept their economic dealings with the west to a minimum.

The USSR collapsed mostly of its own internal weight at the same time as China was becoming a player in the global economy. With Russia in a state of disarray and decline and China looking more like a trading partner than an enemy, the US and Western Europe declared the cold war to be over. These developments certainly represented a major sea change in international relations. As leaders of the world's sole surviving super power US presidents tended to focus on micro managing world affairs. Clinton was embroiled in the security fallout from the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Bushes made Iraq a family project. Bush II focused foreign policy on the intractable problems of the middle east to the exclusion of much of what was going on in the rest of the world. His muscular approach to this quest had so alienated much of the world that Obama was awarded the Nobel peace prize basically because he wasn't Bush.

Obama has been heavily embroiled in domestic political issues and the worst economic crisis since the great depression. During his first term Secty of State Hillary Clinton captured of the media attention on foreign policy. The foreign policy of that administration seems to have been characterized more by disengagement and style that clear global initiatives. They were basically trying to climb out of the hole that Bush had dug. The Middle East continued to get most of the attention.

The beginning of Obama's second term has found him forced to deal with a broad global focus that is very reminiscent of the cold war. Russia under the forceful leadership of Putin has entered a phase of belligerent nationalism. It has been investing heavily in beefing up its military capabilities and has responded to the upheavals in Ukraine in a very aggressive manner. Conflicts of both policy and personality between Obama and Putin are creating a basic reset  in the relationship between the two nations.

Even as the crisis in Ukraine continues to defy easy resolution, President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.

Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state.

Mr. Obama has concluded that even if there is a resolution to the current standoff over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin, aides said. As a result, Mr. Obama will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, preserve whatever marginal cooperation can be saved and otherwise ignore the master of the Kremlin in favor of other foreign policy areas where progress remains possible.

Concurrently with Russia's effort to assert its interests in once again being taken seriously as a world power, China seems to be following a similar path of asserting its newly acquired global power.

China Challenges Obama’s Asia Pivot With Rapid Military Buildup

President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia this week will be dominated by a country he’s not even visiting: China.

Each of the four nations on the president’s itinerary is involved in territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China. And years of military spending gains have boosted the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army faster than many defense analysts expected, casting a shadow over relations between China and its neighbors and sparking doubts about long-term prospects for the U.S. presence in the Pacific.

“There are growing concerns about what China is up to in the maritime space,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There’s a widely held view in the region that the U.S.-China relationship is tipping toward being much more confrontational.”

While China spends on its military less than one-quarter what the U.S. will devote to the Pentagon this year, China’s outlays are rising as the U.S. cuts back. This year’s Pentagon budget is less than in fiscal 2007 and is probably headed lower as Congress seeks to curb federal deficits.

Rising spending over more than a decade has transformed China’s once-primitive military into a more capable, though still limited, force. And even as China’s economic growth slows, the military expansion is likely to continue.

State-owned Xinhua News Agency reported last month that Yin Zhuo, director of the Chinese navy’s expert-consultation committee, said China’s military spending remained “far from the level it needs to be as the country faces increasingly severe security challenges.”

The conflicting territorial claims in the China Sea require some in depth exploration and I plan to tackle that in a separate diary.

China has been using its growing economic power to assert influence in developing countries and to meet the need for raw materials in its manufacturing industries. It has become competitive with the US for influence in Latin America, with Europe in Africa and Japan in Asia. Now it has a systematic program for adding military muscle to its profile.

Relations between Russia and China are equivocal. They are next door neighbors and have the potential for cooperation in economic relationships. The growing Chinese demand for gas and oil could blunt the impact of European economic sanctions on Russian policy. However the two countries have a long history of conflict and the heightened Russian nationalism sees China's vast population as a threat to Russian space.

Obama and his administration face unenviable binds in trying to meet these challenges. There are still neocons in congress who demand that the US reassert its status as the super power. Yet US military resources are in decline. Administration efforts to get Europe to spend more resources on picking up the slack have met with little success. It is very questionable as to whether the US can or should attempt to play the role that it assumed in the immediate post war era.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm currently reading The Brothers, (7+ / 0-)

    Steven Kinzer's book about Allen and John Foster Dulles, the original Regime Changers and architects of the Cold War. The parallels with our Neo-Cold War are striking. I was born during the first one, I ducked and covered with the rest of the kids. By the time Ronald Reagan tried to revive the Cold War the first time I was well enough informed to know it was bullshit and I'm damned sure not buying it this time around. From The Brothers:

    During the late 1940s and early 1950s, many Americans projected the worst images of their of their World War II enemies, including the Nazi campaign of mass murder, onto Soviet Communism. Americans were told, and came to believe, that Soviet leaders were actively plotting to overrun the world; that they would use any means to ensure victory; that their victory would mean the end of civilization and meaningful life; and that therefore they must be resisted by every means, no matter how distasteful.

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:00:18 AM PDT

    •  I read a biography of Allen a while back. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, PatriciaVa

      He was a more interesting personality than his brother. I think that the beginning of the cold war was very much a bipartisan undertaking. The Robert Taft wing of the Republican Party wanted to go back to isolationism.

      •  Yes, it was bipartisan the first time around, (3+ / 0-)

        but there was originally a difference in how the two parties approached it. Truman couldn't stand Foster Dulles and preferred a passive containment strategy to active regime change. Once Ike was elected and the Bros. were essentially running US foreign policy, well, we all know the results of their more active policy, if only from the blowback.

        The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

        by Azazello on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:16:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Where I feel sorry for Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    Is in the past when the US was challeged mostly congress lined up behind the president for better or worse.

    Even most dems voted for the Iraq war though you have to know they did it for political purposes because anyone truly reading and wanting to know would realize they probably weren't going to find any WMD.

    What is really interesting, and unique now is that the GOP has sort of abandoned their hawkish stance to a stance that involves just denying the president any cooperation.

    They tended dovish in Syria even though the older republicans still supported intervention.

    They have trended hawkish in Ukraine even to the point that they appear to be siding, or admiring Putin.

    It's sort of sad to see them actually put partisanship above country even.

    •  while i agree that the GOP is utterly rudderless (4+ / 0-)

      in its abandonment of any foreign policy principles save for opposing obama, i disagree that it is a good thing for the government to move in lockstep, or for politics to end at the water's edge. foreign policy is an inherently political thing, and it is entirely appropriate in a democracy for politicians to contest and debate matters of strategy. the unanimity of the cold war, or for that matter the iraq wars, was not a good thing, IMO.

    •  The GOP seem to be split on this. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The libertarians are opposed to aggressive foreign policy while the centrist are generally boosters of the MIC.

  •  with respect, we're (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, jrooth, Azazello

    not close to two fronts and the Cold War was fought on the same number of fronts

    If there's going to be a front it will emerge back in the same places: Central and Southwest Asia

    and we're going to have global drone warfare in the coming years

    israeli drone:

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:11:51 AM PDT

    •  Yes, the next revolution (0+ / 0-)

      in the technology of war is upon us.

      "Turns out I'm really good at killing people." - President Obama

      by jrooth on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:17:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Perhaps two opponents (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, Azazello

      might be more accurate. Right now the confrontations are coming on the borders of Russia and China, but Latin America and Africa have lots of potential for becoming footballs.

      •  Regime Changers are at work in Venezuela. (5+ / 0-)

        The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

        by Azazello on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:22:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Russia and China.... (0+ / 0-)

        ....are both doing their best to be hated and suspected by all their neighbors. This sort of "expansion" is self-compensating.

        "They bash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago volume 3)

        by sagesource on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 01:46:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  What confrontations on the Russia/China border? (0+ / 0-)

        Russia and China have been pushed closer to each other due to US sanctions. There is a huge gas deal that will be finalized in May. The US "Pivot to Asia" and encirclement of China makes an overland gas supply even more strategically important.

        Because China wants to internationalize their currency, they are doing currency swaps with the BRICS as well as with Europe. This means the US dollar is not required for international trade which will significantly reduce the effects of any sanctions the US can impose.

        The new Silk Road being discussed is also good for China/Russia trade. Russia will stand in the middle of three of the greatest economic regions in the world, Germany, China and India with none of their business being done in US dollars.

        China is now the world's largest lender - more than USAID and the IMF combined. The effects of this can be felt all around the world, from South/Central America, Central and South Asia and Africa.

        While the US has been busy filling coffins in the last two decades with it's ill conceived wars, China has been busy filling coffers.

        Unfortunately America is so busy navel gazing it has failed to realize it has been falling behind the rest of the world in practically everything - including space.

        Senators Told Road to Mars Leads Through Russia, China

        •  That is not what I said. (0+ / 0-)

          I was talking about the western borders of Russia and the eastern borders of China. I think there is potential for Russia and China to form a closer alliance, but it is by no means automatically assured.

          •  I misread it. (0+ / 0-)

            Relations between Russia and China have never been better, thanks to Obama's sanctions against Russia and his posture against China in the South China Sea. The Chinese media show many pictures of Putin and Xi Jinping glad handing each other.

            Thursday 17 April 2014

            However, this growing concern did not apparently cool the warmth of the welcome given to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Beijing on Tuesday. President Xi said that relations between China and Russia "are at their best" and have played "an irreplaceable role in maintaining world peace and stability". The Chinese foreign ministry pronounced China-Russia to be the "major-country relationship that boasts the richest contents, the highest level and the greatest strategic significance".

    •  Drone technology is frightening. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, corvo

      When you think about, drones are not much more than RC model planes. Anybody can build them, Hell the North Koreans could probably master drone technology and you know damned well China and Russia can.

      The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

      by Azazello on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:25:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For the sake of peace on earth (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Richard Lyon, Azazello, Sunspots, Lepanto

        -- which seems possible only by means of a balance of terror [the term we all used before we started defining everything in terms of terrorism] -- perhaps we should wish the Chinese and the Russians and the Venezolanos and who knows who else godspeed in the development of drones.

        If we (and of course our bestest buddies the Israelis) are the only ones with weaponized drones, then we get to play HiroshimaNagasaki with the rest of the world.  If our "enemies" have them, we'll think twice about using them so liberally.  That's just how it works.

        Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

        by corvo on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:38:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Iran has one of our stealth drones n/t (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, Claudius Bombarnac
  •  I think Obama is gradually approaching (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, Catte Nappe, Lawrence

    the right formula in response to Russia and as you say, it's containment 2.0. There's some validity to criticisms that his response is too slow and too weak, but only a little. There's nothing simple about this. I certainly don't envy him this problem.

    Unfortunately, this also throws a spanner in the works with regard to coming to a final nuclear deal with Iran and moving towards some kind of resolution in Syria. Russia is an important player in both.

    "Turns out I'm really good at killing people." - President Obama

    by jrooth on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:13:45 AM PDT

  •  Focus on Southeast Asia (0+ / 0-)

    Half of the world's commerce passes through the South China Sea, territory which belongs to US allies.

    Recently, China has begun to assert territorial claims in that area, using military force against US allies in the process.

    Ukraine is Germany's problem.

    The US should focus on assisting allies in Southeast Asia.

    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

    by PatriciaVa on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:16:02 AM PDT

  •  where i think the cold war analogy breaks down (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spit, Catte Nappe, sagesource, Lawrence

    is that obama's foreign policy approach has consistently refrained from treating countries as absolute enemies, and has always looked to separate policy and strategic rivalry from other aspects of international policy where common interests and cooperation might be possible.

    i see this as part of a broader strategic repositioning of american foreign policy towards an anticipated multipolar world, where america cannot simply dictate terms (like in the post-cold war hyperpower period), and where cooperation and rivalry with other powers are not done alone a single fracture (like the cold war), but are governed instead by a web of shifting alliances between relatively more equal powers. the neocon strategic mindset is exceptionally ill-suited to this reality, for obvious reasons.

    •  In general I think your description is accurate. (0+ / 0-)

      However, Russia is beginning to look like and exception to that. I don't see anything that looks like nuance in his approach there. He is still trying for some kind of balance in his dealings with Asia, but he is in danger of getting backed up against some rocks in the middle of the ocean.

      •  the relationship with russia is strained (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but even then i find it very unlikely that it goes to a cold war footing. for one thing, russia's not at the head of a vast global alliance right now, it's increasingly isolated by its own belligerence, and distrusted by its neighbors, in large part due to the logic of basing their foreign policy on nationalist sentiment (which rarely appeals to other countries) instead of universalist principles. their approach today is quite different from the soviet foreign policy, and less likely to gain it allies, IMO. OTOH, they have a big military and oil/gas reserves, so they're still a major power.

         even if the US and russia fall out geopolitically, it won't be as opposing superpowers at the heads of huge alliances, but as two poles among many, appealing to other powers for cooperation.

        for various reasons, i think china is a very different case.

        •  That is why I put cold war (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wu ming

          in quotes in the title. Whatever this turns out to be it will be something different because this is now a different world.

        •  Obama seems to be taking this very personally (0+ / 0-)

          Russia, that is. Casting aside the Neocon Hawks snipping at his feet, which I think he's doing a pretty good job of deflecting, it looks like divorce time for Obama-Putin.

          On the other hand, I had dinner with an American corporate type last night who made the point that, despite all the acrimony, American trade deals with Russia inked before the Olympics hang in the balance and the MNCs are in no hurry to declare Russia a pariah state.

          But I do detect pretty strong personal animosity between Barack and Vlad.

          for various reasons, i think china is a very different case.
          Humm ... care to elaborate? I'd be genuinely interested in your thoughts.

          No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

          by koNko on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 05:47:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  But that thesis kind of crashed this week. (0+ / 0-)

      Obama's statements in Japan and a fresh 10 year defense agreement with Philippines are pretty much the end of that political charade,

      We should give credit where credit is due: Secretaries Gates and Clinton quite successfully played a game of divide and conquer in East Asia rehabilitating the American military hegemony left fallow by the Bush Administration, reclaiming Philippines as a US military client state and steering a listing Japan back into the fold.

      Diarist uses the "containment"; what in heavens name is he talking about, I wonder.

      Seriously, Obama should be sharing the stage with Gates & Clinton and congratulating them for a job well-done, he is powerless to swim against their wake.

      DoD must be pleased. But too bad about the Corporate State, though, looks like the TPP is dead for now, absent Japanese endorsement.

      No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

      by koNko on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 05:31:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Odd, When I've Visited Europe, Much of It'd Taken (4+ / 0-)

    New Deal type ideas (ours and their own) farther than FDR through LBJ could ever manage here, not less than Truman wanted.

    We really seem to be being hit with an avalanche of denial that the prime of human accomplishment of civilization never even happened.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:18:27 AM PDT

  •  Just a couple points. (0+ / 0-)

    Not even meaningful, really. But FDR and Churchill did not sign what came to be known as the Atlantic Charter-there was no official document.
    As to the plans for a postwar world, that wasn't quite so straightforward. In 1942, a study of postwar issues was proposed, but Congress killed it. Too early in the war, perhaps.  

    •  Whether they issued a joint policy statement (0+ / 0-)

      whether they put actual signatures to it or not. There was extensive post war planning going on during the war. The plans for the UN were developed over the entire period and the San Francisco conference was held before the surrender of Japan. Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White had an extended series of negotiations to plan the Bretton Woods conference which took place in 1944.

  •  To say that Obama "faces" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    enhydra lutris, protectspice

    "cold war" is to insult him ever so slightly by denying him agency in the matter.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:39:26 AM PDT

    •  Could you explain that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't quite follow what you are saying. Are suggesting that the term faces implies that the situation was imposed on him without his participation? That is certainly not what I meant. He finds himself in a situation and was a participant in the processes that created it.

      •  I like your last sentence. (5+ / 0-)

        Given the current Administration's attempts to steer us into confrontations (Libya, Syria), and given some astonishingly provocative actions (most recently the announcement we will be delivering Apache helicopters to a profoundly bloodthirsty and undemocratic Egyptian coup regime), I think that any hint that we've been passively saddled with conflicts needs to be avoided.

        Unless, of course, one means to imply that our leadership is profoundly clueless and incompetent.   But agency and cluelessness/incompetence aren't mutually exclusive, of course.

        Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

        by corvo on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:51:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A knight dying inside its armor is how (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, corvo, Sunspots

    John le Carre described the Soviet Union just prior to its collapse. The U.S. is on a similar trajectory.

    Being a regional hegemon is considerably less expensive, more cost effective and geographically more feasible than maintaining global superpower status. Russia and China are not Afghanistan and Iraq. They are calling our bluff. Think Gulliver among the Lilliputians.


    The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

    by Wolf10 on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 11:47:22 AM PDT

  •  Excellent diary, thank you for this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    My friend, Yahuda, is originally from the Ukraine and he is, naturally, very concerned about what is going on. He is a very pragmatic man and doesn't really "take sides". As he says, there are no real "good guys" in any of this. Of course, as a Jew, he's particularly concerned about his relatives. History hasn't treated the Ukranian Jews very well, as we all know.

    As always, very powerful, wealthy and connected people play their games and the regular man and woman on the ground always ends up getting hurt.

    IMHO, Obama has been a very mediocre president, at best. It is my fervent hope that he rises to the occasion in this situation and does whatever to minimize human suffering. He could go down as a great man in history if this is handled properly...or not.

    Again, thank you.

    A society consisting of the sum of its vanity and greed is not a society at all but a state of war. - Lewis Lapham

    by joegoldstein on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 12:54:58 PM PDT

  •  What justifies our agitating on their borders? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    protectspice, Lepanto

    And what business did our CIA have promoting ANOTHER COUP against ANOTHER ELECTED GOVERNMENT, in Ukraine (however screwed up it may have been)?  That's how we got a hostile dictatorial regime in Iran, among many other countries.  

    Ukraine's elected government is hiding out, and our CIA has been reported to have been urging the rightwing coup leaders to attack protesters in its east (calling them "terrorists") who are doing exactly the same thing that the coup leaders in Kiev just did themselves.

    Who is the aggressor here?  Has the KGB supported the overthrow of Canada or Mexico?  How the hell does this drumbeat for war benefit us or anyone else?  Are we going to fall for another Iraq invasion?

    It's a good distraction from climate change, our loss of democracy, and our disastrous economy, though.

    •  When I remember the protests.... (0+ / 0-)

      leading up to the overthrow of Yanukovich, I have a hard time believing that such a thing could have been orchestrated by the CIA.

      CIA coups tend to follow the pattern of encouraging some segment of the military to sneak up on the existing government, arrest and/or kill them and then declare themselves the new and legitimate government.

      I can think of no cases where our spooks were able to ignite an organic protest like Ukraine, Phillipines 1986, etc., where everyday people battled riot police/soldiers until the soldier's bosses collapsed.

      I seriously doubt if the CIA ever had or ever will have the ability to do that.

  •  Russia is a dying tiger (0+ / 0-)

    Russia reminds me of a dying tiger, unable to survive but lashing out when it thinks it is under attack.

    In truth, the latest conflict has already determined the EU government leaders to become energy self-sufficient as far as possible. Already there is a growing amount of renewable electricty generation - Germany has even managed to generate all its needs on particular days from wind. There will be fracking to replace the gas Russia currently supplies although it appears that at least in the UK this will be much more strictly controlled in terms of what chemicals can be added together with a requirement to treat the used water until it is suitable for release into the river (In addition, a report from the Public Health Inspectorate suggests much of the problems in the USA have been from spillage rather than water intrusion, the geography means the gas bearing layers are further below the water table and, unlike the USA, virtually everyone has a mains water supply.) In Germany it could well replace the exploitation of their lignite or brown coal reserves, most of which are open strip mined. There will also be some new nuclear plants in some countries although these may well just replace the output from the older stations that are due for decommissioning.

    Russia's current economic power is almost entirely dependent on export of its natural resources. The design of its consumer goods can at best be described as agricultural. (Sometimes Russia Today has little documentary pieces extolling the virtues of Soviet, err Russian technology. Most appears to be housed in polished mahogony cases.) The sanctions imposed because of Crimea will not be lifted and Russia will become more eastward looking, towards India, China and Japan.

    China as always is a connundrum. Currently it looks like an environmental basket case in extreme danger of a lending crisis after its hypergrowth. Whether this will restrain its ambition to have the Pacific as its ocean from its expansion of its navy remains open. There is a growing middle class and the factory workers are increasing demanding more wages. Jobs are being lost to cheaper countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh. Others are being "re-shored" by companies in the West which now see advantages in having only marginally more expensive labor costs offset by the proximity of production. (An example of the latter being Motorola making cellphones in the USA again).

    China however has a real problem. It's "one child" policy has been effective in reducing the population growth but it has also skewed the demographics. Male children were preferred and the ratio of the sexes has changed. More importantly, the population's average age is increasing. This is a problem that is already being encountered in Japan where much of the robotics research is aimed at producing means for supporting frail and elderly.

    Both countries then will not become the military threat that either Western fears or their own ambitions would currently point towards. Both are huge countries and will remain significant players. A lot will depend on the situation for the ordinary people - will either government actually start to meet their demands for better economic circumstances etc. All this is going to play out over several decades.

    Personally, I would isolate Putin and the Russian economy as far as possible until the invasion of Crimea is reversed. Putin is unlikely to be deposed while Obama is in office so a robust policy needs to be continued. On the other hand, China should be approached as a possible partner in protecting the trade routes in the northern part of the Pacific. (Australia and other Australasian naval powers could co-operate with them for the other parts of the ocean.)  The Chinese have an extremely strong self-image - much like the self view of Americans in the late 1940s. Obama seems to understand these dynamics and seems willing to engage. Growing economic inter-dependence (which would mean more US exports too) is the mechanism the EU has used to ensure peace in Western Europe, with a far greater degree of integration of course but the principle increasing ties through trade and other exchanges remains.

    "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 02:26:12 PM PDT

  •  When it comes to foreign policy I doubt that (0+ / 0-)

    President Obama really knows what elements in his admin. get up to, until things reach boiling point and he intervenes at the last minute to cool things down.

    Remember his last minute change of plans when it came to bombing Syria? A last minute change which still remains to be explained...

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 03:21:11 PM PDT

    •  Syria seemed like (0+ / 0-)

      he had been listening to Semantha Power and suddenly remembered there was a congress and a public. It certainly didn't look like a well oiled machine.

      •  I suspect that President Obama's foreign policy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Richard Lyon

        was naive in the extreme: it would just take the form of a few brilliant speeches and the world would respond adoringly...

        Remember the Cairo speech at the beginning of the first term? Acclaimed by one and all - then Bibi came to Washington and (to the repeated applause of our Congress) put that to rest, and we haven't heard anything since...

        We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

        by Lepanto on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 04:31:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  There have been other power struggles (0+ / 0-)

    besides the cold war, some of which may provide better analogies for the confrontations we'll likely be having with Russia and China over the coming years.

  •  Seems overblown to me (0+ / 0-)

    The U.S. military budget is at low point of GDP, with the bulk of it dedicated to pensions, health care, and salaries.  So it's not the Cold War at that level.  

    As far as I can tell Russia, China, Europe, and the U.S. have a backdoor deal not to screw around with trade and such too much.  So it's not the Cold War at that level, either.

    I have read of unnamed Chinese leaders admitting to major American journalists that liberal democracy lies in China's future., though there are still a lot of historical problems and legacies to overcome until that's a reality.  Putin is not likely to admit anything of the kind, but Russia isn't immune to the world it sees on satellite TV channels and what average Russians see when traveling abroad.  It too has problems and legacies to overcome but those won't take forever.  So it's not the Cold War on that level either.

    There does seem to be an agreement to play the influence game and generally let those chips fall as they may.  

    I don't see the arithmetic adding up for those folks who would like  to see the U.S. and its allies defeated in the hegemony containment schemes toward Moscow and Beijing now operative in Europe and Asia.   If you had to choose between the hand of cards that Moscow and Beijing hold in the game, and the hand held by Washington, the EU, and the democracies of eastern and southern Asia, the latter is really preferable despite vulnerabilities.   Both Russia and China have large ones also, deficient technological creativity and dependency on overseas markets the obvious ones.  They couldn't prop each other for long. and remain competitive.

    he trump card is, of course, that the youngest generations in Russia and China have no desire to live out all their lives in the slew of toxic, retrograde, and reactionary crap that defines much of civil life in those countries today.  In one sense the Cold War does recapitulate: time works in favor of the West/Modernity, again.  This time due to internal sociopolitical evolution rather than the economic kind.  

  •  "CONTAINMENT" (0+ / 0-)

    Please don't use those words, the Administration insists it does not aim to do so and it plants flowers of peace surrounding China and Russia.

    Well, at least in the case of China.

    As sanctions pile-up along the Eastern Front, I sense a wafting cloud of testosterone drifting from the general direction of Pennsylvania Avenue so I won't be totally surprised if Obama bares the pecs soon.

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 04:53:27 AM PDT

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