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Is rapprochement possible with Russia and China?

Should rapprochement take hold, a real “America first” economic renewal would be possible.

Putin, Xi
Russian President Vladimir Putin shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting on the sideline of the 11th edition of the BRICS Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil, on November 13, 2019.
Sputnik/Ramil Sitdikov/Kremlin

During the impeachment hearings Americans repeatedly heard allegations that Russia and China pose threats to U.S. “national interests.” We should be skeptical of such rhetoric coming from political and national security officials who have led our nation into unnecessary and endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the disastrous regime-change ventures in Libya and Syria.

The Trump administration’s reasoning for assassinating Gen. Qasem Soleimani should also be suspect. It escalates the possibility of a wider war and the prospect of more U.S. casualties. Iran is approachable, but it will not be bullied. It is time for trust-building initiatives on the part of the U.S., not military action and sanctions. It is time to leave Iraq.

Polls show Americans are sick and tired of endless war, the casualties and the drain on our national wealth. The best that can be said of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy is that, unlike the past four presidents, he has not started another war, yet.

Beyond Trump’s misguided war with Iran, Americans are being led to believe Russia and China are aggressors. However, nothing in their foreign policies and actions indicate this is the case. What our officials allege is aggression, from their perspective, are defensive responses to U.S. and NATO actions. It’s the United States that began numerous wars and conflicts, not Russia or China. To them the U.S. is a threat.

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The U.S. and its NATO allies have systematically expanded NATO up to the border with Russia,  exacerbating Russia’s legitimate security concerns. During the House impeachment hearings officials lobbied for bringing Ukraine into NATO. To Russia this is an act of aggression. The U.S. has installed weapons in Romania and Poland and is training Ukrainian armed forces and imprudently selling them offensive weapons. U.S. bases and Navy armadas nearly surround China. Can you imagine how the U.S. would react if Russia or China were building bases or installing weapons in Mexico, Venezuela or Cuba?

Neither Russia nor China is looking for a conflict with the U.S. Their people have vivid memories of horrific wars on their own soils. In Russia, against Nazi Germany and in China, against Japanese imperialist occupation.

Should rapprochement take hold, a real “America first” economic renewal would be possible. The wasteful, expensive empire of U.S. bases around the world could be decommissioned and replaced with peace treaties, mutually beneficial trade agreements and cooperation on the climate crisis. Why not see what is possible?

To Trump’s credit, he demonstrated these possibilities by opening face-to-face meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un. However, unreasonable U.S. expectations and resistance hailing from military and intelligence officials have derailed negotiations. Any solution will require the U.S. to accept that North Korea will retain a nuclear deterrent for some period.

Resolving U.S. conflicts with both Iran and North Korea must be integrated into any initiative for rapprochement with Russia and China. Both countries have significant commercial links and strategic geographical relationships with Iran and North Korea.

Instead of conciliatory initiatives, however, U.S. political forces and the news media are attempting to draw Americans into another multi-decade Cold War. The most extreme are grouped around former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and a host of former military, national security and academic war hawks aligned with both major political parties. Nothing could be more dangerous to our national interests than following these hawks into another wasteful Cold War. Our nation must now learn to live in a multi-polar, political world. Neither China or Russia will be cowed.

Wayne Nealis
Wayne Nealis
The so-called “New World Order” ushered in by the first Bush presidency was arrogant, unrealistic and costly. The only way forward is to reach an understanding that ensures the sovereignty and self-determination of each country from outside interference or aggression. In the case of China that means accepting the role of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) that has led the successful development of the nation. The future of China is up to the Chinese people. It is not our business.

The ridiculous allegations that Chinese development was spurred by stealing U.S. technology is just that, ridiculous. Science and technological knowledge is global. No country owns it. A global response to the climate crisis will demand that all nations cooperate and share innovation and technology. Cooperation will yield the greatest return, not competition —  and certainly not a cold or hot war.

Should we find a path to easing tensions and building trust, both of these nations, along with our European friends, could take systematic, transparent steps to reorient military industries to peaceful production to tackle the climate crisis and end uneven development and poverty in the world.

Rapprochement would allow the U.S. to truly put America first. To rebuild our nation’s industrial capacity, create millions of productive jobs, and in so doing make it possible to upgrade social benefits like health care for all, affordable education and training, child care and family leave, so we could live more secure and less stressful lives.

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Is this utopian, naïve thinking? No, it is an unexplored possibility. Americans should demand that our political leaders take the initiative, as the problem lies with our foreign policies. We have nothing to lose and much to gain.

Wayne Nealis is a writer and longtime peace and labor activist living in Minneapolis.

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