Donald Trump clearly sees that it is not Russia but China that poses the biggest threat to the US supremacy, and that Beijing is the revisionist power
Professor M D Nalapat
The increasing probability of a war in East Asia involving the US, South Korea and Japan against North Korea and China is growing. Within five to six years, the Kim Jong Un regime’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and delivery systems will reach the stage when severe damage is feasible against the three allies, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington.
Thereafter, secure in its home base, the Kim regime is likely to pursue a destabilising policy of proliferating nuclear weapons and associated delivery systems to Wahabbi states and groups that by then will be in a state of low intensity conflict with major democratic states, including India and the US. The only western leader who has understood the centrality of the need to ensure that the Kim Jong Un regime be stopped — through persuasion if possible and through force if not — is Donald Trump. Given the rising likelihood of a war centering around the Korean peninsula, the logic of a reachout to Moscow and Taipei is impeccable. Were Taipei to take the side of Beijing in the conflict, the security of Japan and South Korea would be severely compromised. And if Russia could be prised away from backing China in a future East Asia war, that would make victory for the Seoul-Tokyo-Washington alliance certain. During the 1950s Korean war, it was Moscow’s assistance that enabled Mao Zedong to hold US troops at bay, that and the policy of fighting with both hands tied that was adopted by President Harry Truman in opposition to the counsel of General Douglas MacArthur, who was removed from command rather than allowed to unify Korea by force of arms through fuller use of US military assets than had been permitted by the haberdasher-President of the United States. Those looking beyond the superficial will be able to discern a clear pattern in the foreign policy thinking of Donald Trump: should an East Asia conflict be inevitable, reaching out to Taipei and Moscow becomes essential, and this is what is being attempted even before the 45th President of the United States takes office on January 20, 2017.
While forecasting the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential elections of November 8, 2016 it was obvious that the billionaire represented a welcome and needed break from decades of Cold War-anchored foreign policy. Focussed as this was on Moscow, such an Atlanticist focus suited both the European as well as the US eastern coast elites, both of whom continued to frame policy on the basis of a Euro-centred globe. Barack Obama saw the absurdity in this, but lacked either the courage or the political capital to seriously challenge an orthodoxy that had nourished both Wahabbism as well as the authoritarian challenge to US global primacy represented by the Second Superpower, China. Although Obama separated some aspects of his administration's foreign policy during his second term, towards the close, what was perceived to be the inevitable succession of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the White House made the present US administration revert back to the Euro-centred “Weltanschauung” (World View) embraced by both the Bushes and the Clintons. With his business acumen and ear to ground realities, it took Donald Trump to challenge the Atlanticist orthodoxy in foreign policy, in the process generating waves of hysterical commentary on the “dangers” of a Trump Presidency. In actual fact, only the foreign policy now being enunciated action after action, statement after statement (or tweet after tweet) by President-elect of the United States Donald John Trump has the potential to delink the US from the disasters that the Euro-centred Cold Warrior foreign policy of the State Department and the eastern seaboard policy elites have caused.
The collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991 created an opportunity to integrate Moscow into a collaborative world order. However, this would have meant the ceding of paramountcy to Russia in Europe, an outcome that is anathema to Atlanticists.
Encouraged by France and Germany, neither of whom wished to integrate Russia into Europe, the Clinton administration made use of mafias close to Boris Yeltsin in an effort at ensuring the “pastoralisation” of Russia i.e. converting that country into a supplier of agrarian and industrial raw materials, lacking an independent technological base.
The attempt at the forcible conversion of a tech giant into a pygmy created a backlash against the Atlantic Alliance
(including NATO) within those policymaking groups within the Russian Federation that were not under the control of individual or several NATO member-states, and in Vladimir Putin, the country found a leader with the brainpower and determination needed to ensure that Moscow emerge out of its post-1991 chaos into the front rank of global powers, a task that has been achieved despite opposition from NATO member-states led by the US. Should Russia not be Enemy Number One, the very foundations of the classic Euro-centred foreign policy will dissolve, hence the fury of this establishment at the efforts of Donald Trump to effect a genuine reset with post-Soviet Russia, a country that has the same Christian majority as does the US, and which faces the same elevated threat of Wahabbi extremism as do the US and India.
The 45th President of the United States has anchored his policies not in the past but in the future, when China may seize global primacy away from the US, especially under the leadership of “Han Nationalist” Xi Jinping.
Through the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, Xi Jinping is seeking to convert China into the backbone of global commerce, using infrastructure to link Asia and Europe together, much the same way as the Roman Empire did two millenia ago. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is less a part of OBOR than it is a means to ensure that Chinese military assets can reach into the heartland of India (Punjab and Rajasthan) in a decisive manner and within days of the launching of a war against India together with Pakistan. Given the neglect of indigenous weapons systems by successive governments in the Lutyens Zone, in both aircraft as well as in armour, China poses a military challenge to India that can only be mitigated should the US move into India's corner in a far more decisive way than was the case during the 1962 border hostilities between the two neighbours. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy in India is as much Cold War-oriented as is the case with the European counterparts they so admire, and thus far, not even the logistics agreement with the US (LSA) has been operationalised, much less than those dealing with Communications Security (CISMOA) and with Basic Exchange (BECA). Whether it be the heightened military threat posed by the CPEC or the need to ensure that the Kim Jong Un regime does not reach the stage of irremediable lethality in its nuclear preparations, or indeed the broader conflict involving Wahabbi groups, close cooperation between the US and India is essential for both sides, but despite this, both bureaucracies are slowing down and attempting to sabotage such a military alignment of the world's two biggest democracies.
Donald Trump is not an amalgam of North America and Europe the way Hillary Clinton or the (US) eastern foreign policy establishment is. The businessperson turned leader is very much a child of his country and the present. He sees clearly that it is not Russia but China that poses the biggest threat to US primacy, and that it is Beijing rather than Moscow that is overturning a global order that has maintained US primacy since the close of the 1939-45 war. Aware that the US has only a narrow window of five or six years before it will be too late to challenge China effectively in theatres such as East Asia and the South China sea, seeing for himself the imminent threat that North Korea poses to the US and its allies in Asia, the newly elected President of the United States is seeking to cobble together a geopolitical order that can reverse the decades of decline that the Euro-centred, Russia-phobic, China-boosting policies of the Clintons, the Bushes and the McCains have created. Unlike his predecessor, whose courage falls far short of his objectives, Donald Trump has been candid on the need to effect foundational change in US foreign policy.
Small wonder that Euro-ized elites such as House Speaker Paul Ryan are seeking to slow down or to halt altogether the shift away from the toxic legacy of the past. However, once sworn in as President of the United States, it is likely that Trump will deploy his formidable communications skills to warn the population that it is not Russia but China that represents the biggest threat to continued US global primacy. Taiwan is crucial to success in a future East Asia war, and Trump has therefore broken with the Kissingerian doctrine of pandering to the Communist Party of China through accepting its eventual supremacy over Taiwan. The incoming President has publicly said that he no longer intends to follow an East Asian diplomacy that is geared not to the core interests of Washington but of Beijing. In such a context, the most important global partner will be India, but the question is whether Lutyens Delhi will permit a reconfiguration of defense policy so as to ensure a partnership with the US that would checkmate the China-Pakistan alliance and its ongoing program to create infrastructure that would permit the Peoples Liberation Army to intervene in a Pakistan versus India conflict not just across the Himalayas but prospectively into Punjab and Rajasthan as well through the tank and artillery highway that is the CPEC Donald Trump, with his focus on core US interests and on actual rather than fancied conditions, can be expected to continue to work to ensure that the accomodation given to Beijing since Nixon-Kissinger (and which enabled a new superpower to emerge) get discontinued. His choices for Secretary of State, Defense Secretary and National Security Advisor reflect the next US President's awareness that war may be needed in the Korean peninsula if Kim Jong Un is to be prevented from posing an existential threat to the US, Japan and South Korea. The outreach to Tsai Ing-wen ( who incidentally is a close friend of India) in Taiwan reflects such hard-nosed calculation, as does his reaching out to Vladimir Putin in an effort to ensure Moscow’s neutrality in a future East Asia war. The role of India will be crucial in the emerging security scenario. Donald Trump will move with more despatch against Beijing the surer he is of a partnership with Delhi. Prime Minister Modi needs to move beyond the Lutyens Zone in identifying strategies needed to maximise benefit for India in the emerging geopolitics of a world that will soon witness a Trump Presidency. What is needed is to ensure that the economy of India move into double digit growth so that there will be the means to ensure that the defense sector be adequately provisioned. What is needed is to work out strategies designed to prevent any
erosion in security as a consequence of the CPEC. What is needed is to position India as a reliable and effective partner in the War on Terror as well as in
ensuring the security of democracies in Asia. President-elect Donald Trump has made his stand clear. In the months ahead, especially on India, Russia and China. It is to be expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will in the months ahead move beyond the Cold War paradigm that the Lutyens Zone has for so long espoused, including in an early start to direct conversations between the leaders of the two biggest democracies in the world.
(The writer is Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian)