Opinion | Putin’s War in Ukraine Is a Watershed. Time for America to Get Real.

At the same time, taming an interdependent world will require working across ideological lines. Washington should curtail its promotion of democracy and human rights abroad, and the Biden administration should refrain from its tendency to articulate a geopolitical vision that divides the world too clearly into democracies and autocracies. Strategic and economic expediency will at times push the United States into association with repressive regimes; Moderating oil prices, for example, may require collaboration with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.

Although the United States will continue to team up with its traditional democratic allies in Europe and Asia, many of the world’s democracies will avoid taking sides in a new era of East-West rivalry. Indeed, Brazil, India, Israel, South Africa and other democracies have sat on the fence when it comes to responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia clearly represents the most immediate threat to geopolitical stability in Eurasia, but China, due to its emergence as a true competitor of the United States, still represents the greatest long-term geopolitical challenge. Now that Russia and China are coming together regularly, together they could constitute a far more formidable opposing bloc than its Soviet predecessor. Consequently, the United States should seize opportunities to put distance between Moscow and Beijing, following the example of quintessential realists Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who in the 1970s weakened the communist bloc by driving a wedge between China and the Soviet Union. .

The United States must play both sides. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks a fundamental break with the Atlantic democracies, but the West cannot afford to turn its back on Russia entirely; There is a lot at stake. As during the Cold War, Washington will need a hybrid strategy of containment and engagement. Russia should remain in the dock for now, with the US rejecting the Kremlin’s territorial expansionism and other aggressive behavior by bolstering NATO’s eastern flank and maintaining tough economic sanctions.

But Washington must also remain vigilant for opportunities to engage with Moscow. Its invasion of the Ukraine has just made Russia an economic and strategic dependency on China; Putin will not like being Xi Jinping’s partner. The United States should exploit the Kremlin’s discomfort with becoming China’s junior partner by signaling that Russia has a Western option.

Assuming an eventual peace agreement in Ukraine that allows sanctions to be eased, Western democracies should remain open to cautious and selective cooperation with Moscow. Areas of potential collaboration include promoting nuclear and conventional arms control, sharing best practices and technologies on alternatives to fossil fuels, and jointly developing rules of the road to govern military and economic activity in the Arctic.

Russia needs China more than China needs Russia, so Washington should also seek to draw Beijing away from Moscow. Beijing’s ambiguous response to the Ukraine invasion suggests at least some discomfort with the economic and geopolitical disruption that Russian recklessness has produced. However, Beijing continues to benefit from Russia’s strategic and energy cooperation and from the fact that Putin is forcing the US to focus on Europe, thus halting America’s “pivot to Asia”. Nonetheless, Washington should be alert to opportunities to work with Beijing in areas of common interest — trade, climate change, North Korea, digital governance, public health — to improve relations, address global issues, and potentially weaken the China-China bond. and Russia. .

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