In the era of Donald Trump important events are sometimes pushed into the background.
The same thing happened with the performance of the heads of American intelligence services on Capitol Hill, during which they presented their assessment of world threats, writes Bloomberg commentator Hal Brands.
This event attracted media attention mainly because National Intelligence Director Dan Coates and CIA Director Gina Haspel openly opposed Trump’s policy toward North Korea and Iran in their reports. According to Coates and Haspel, Kim Jong-un is not going to part with nuclear weapons, while the Iranians, as if they did not want to, now do not build it.
At the same time, Coates’s testimony caused predictable hysteria in Trump: he scolded his own intelligence officers and advised them to “return to school.”
“However, by and large, because of this clash, the most interesting aspects of the intelligence community report were lost, although they shed light on three trends that can seriously change the world situation for the worse,” the author believes.
The first aspect is the rapprochement between China and Russia. For several years, Washington’s relations with Beijing and Moscow have deteriorated, and the performance of representatives of the intelligence community can say something about what they think about this. Russia, as the journalist believes, is “a declining, but aggressive player who is likely to be increasingly trying to intervene in elections and wage an information war against the United States and other democracies.”
At the same time, China, Brands continues, is not just a “revisionist power”: Beijing is pursuing a “long-term strategy to achieve world domination.” It is worth noting that the report on America’s two “authoritarian rivals” states: “China and Russia are more coordinating their actions than ever since the mid-1950s.”
According to the author, these countries will converge even more on the basis of the same attitude towards democratic values and world leadership of the United States. Russia and China are now cooperating in areas such as military exercises, arms sales, energy, the economy, and are also trying to “undermine international standards in terms of respect for human rights.” Such cooperation enables each of these countries to confront the United States.
China, for example, has improved its military system of restricting and prohibiting access and maneuver, buying (and sometimes copying) Russian technologies. Even in those sectors where Moscow and Beijing do not cooperate directly – for example, in terms of supporting “authoritarian regimes and undermining the democratic form of government abroad” – their efforts overlap each other.
Considering that the “Moscow-Beijing axis” collapsed as early as the 1960s, Chinese-Russian relations may have limitations in the long term. If China is really set to seize world domination, then Russia will have to deal with an aggressive colossus on its border. However, in the medium term, the United States will face a confrontation with a quasi-alliance of its two main rivals.
The second aspect is the allies of the United States. On the very first page of the report, Coates warns: “Some US allies and partners are trying to gain a greater degree of independence from Washington in response to what they see as changes in US security and trade policies; they are becoming more sympathetic towards new bilateral and multilateral partnerships. ”
The statements in this document are rather streamlined, the browser acknowledges, but even this one sentence shows all the alarm that has engulfed the geopolitical coalition.
This anxiety arose even before Trump, although the American president aggravated it. For many years, US allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region were worried that the will and potential of the United States to protect international order was drying up.
Incidents such as the 2013 fiasco in Syria and China’s success in establishing control over a significant part of the South China Sea raised questions about US intentions, and changes in the military balance in Eastern Europe and the Western Pacific warmed up concerns about the decline of American potential. .
In addition, Trump’s anti-allied rhetoric, his tendency to wage trade wars against America’s closest friends, and his indiscriminate actions forced many US allies and partners to consider creating a backup plan – even though the US has increased defense spending and is putting efforts to contain Russia in Eastern Europe.
What political scientists call hedging, or risk mitigation, is becoming more common: from Australia and Japan to France and Germany, countries are trying to develop new relationships in order to soften the blow in case it turns out that Washington cannot be counted on. Talking about the European army, Japan’s attempts to establish closer relations with Australia and India, hints of the willingness of the Philippines to reconcile with China are all elements of the same paradigm. Moreover, these trends will get even more pronounced color if Trump or another skeptic of American globalism wins the elections in 2020.
And, finally, technological development plays a big role here. The American intelligence community has not deprived of attention and this question. China can now carry out cyber attacks, which can inflict enormous damage on the critical infrastructure of the United States, which can take days or even weeks to recover, while Russia “has cyber activities at its disposal that allow it to sow serious unrest in American society in the event of a crisis”
In a broader sense, the development of the international economy and world politics will be determined by new technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and synthetic biology. That country, which will seize domination in these areas, will get a huge advantage over its rivals. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have been talking about this for many years; American intelligence has also pointed this out.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that the United States will take the lead in this race. American intellectual leadership in science and technology is no longer as great as before. In 1996, more than 50% of academic quotes were accounted for by American researchers, but now this figure has fallen to 35%. At the same time, the share of China rose from insignificant to more than 20%.
Therefore, Beijing already could well overtake the United States in terms of artificial intelligence and other innovative technologies.
“For many decades, Americans considered their technological advantage a geopolitical ace in the hole. However, now technological breakthroughs threaten the withering of American power and troubled times for the whole world, ”the author believes.
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