Russia: The Road Not Taken

News AnalysisRussia and China have a long land border, both countries have an ostensibly strong military and nuclear weapons, and both have large populations that it seems their regimes don’t mind sacrificing for their own survival. Both were ruled by communist regimes; one still is. During the Cold War, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger intended to split the communist regimes in China and Russia, thus weakening Russia, then the senior “partner.” They initiated diplomatic and commercial relations with China, and de-recognized Taiwan. All this against the backdrop of the “Cultural Revolution,” a decade in which the regime worked hard to erase all of China’s 5,000 years of culture, heritage, and morality—with parents and children ratting each other out for having incorrect thoughts. This bet worked only partially in weakening the USSR. President Ronald Reagan worked with his unambiguous “evil empire” speech and actions. But it opened the door for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to gain legitimacy and assets in the world up to today where it now threatens the current world order, which, despite all its flaws, tries to uphold people’s basic rights and freedom of thought and belief. So does the idea hold in reverse? Both the Obama White House and Trump White House seemed to think so, for a while. Both wanted to “reset” relations with Russia and Vladimir Putin, not for the love of either. Some say the first failed because of naivete, and the second because the “Russiagate” fake made it almost impossible to seriously attempt thawing relations. Now with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West’s relatively strong reaction, and the CCP’s mostly friendly attitude, it seems inevitable that the “axis of authoritarians”—as it’s being called—will strengthen, and the way for Russia to have better relations with the West will be sealed off forever—with senior officials in both regimes expressing such sentiments publicly. It’s probably inevitable that every nation will soon face a fork in the road—whether it aligns with the CCP and ties its fate to that regime’s destiny, or chooses to stand against it. This latter side is not the “American side,” rather, it’s taking a stand in support of universal values. But shouldn’t current or future leadership in Russia be given another chance to make this choice as well? From a practical standpoint, the CCP always treats its allies as vassals to be discarded, so even superficially there’s no long-term benefit for the Russian people in such an alliance. Furthermore, if there’s one thing that might get the United States and Europe to “forgive and forget” Russia’s attack on Ukraine, it would be realigning itself against the CCP. It could happen pretty fast. Maybe too fast for some tastes. Also, the price tag for this transformation need not be a bigger or smaller chunk of Ukraine. This was an error of Nixon and Kissinger’s realpolitik: The willingness to ignore the CCP’s atrocities and Taiwan’s alternative—the “decoupling” of human rights from trade started then—showed the communist leaders in China the path to power. However, the CCP then (and Russia now) was economically weak and could only win the game of “chicken” with their demands (or projected demands in the case of Russia) when Western leadership was not strong enough, and too eager. With its northern neighbor less than friendly, with lots of natural resources, and nukes, the CCP would have to devote more energy to its long border with Russia, and more money to buy gas, oil, and minerals. This probably wouldn’t be the magic weapon to derail the CCP’s campaign for world hegemony, but it would be a weakening factor, and not a minor distraction—just like Russia’s invasion is now distracting the West’s attention from the CCP’s machinations, as intended (and at a terrible human cost for both the Ukrainian and Russian peoples). This would also give the Russian people a better outlook for their future, and the safeguarding of their fundamental long-term interests. One hopes leadership in the United States, Europe, the Quad, etc. keep that path open, and that Russian leadership takes it. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Follow Tamuz Itai is a journalist and columnist who lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Russia: The Road Not Taken

News Analysis

Russia and China have a long land border, both countries have an ostensibly strong military and nuclear weapons, and both have large populations that it seems their regimes don’t mind sacrificing for their own survival. Both were ruled by communist regimes; one still is.

During the Cold War, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger intended to split the communist regimes in China and Russia, thus weakening Russia, then the senior “partner.” They initiated diplomatic and commercial relations with China, and de-recognized Taiwan. All this against the backdrop of the “Cultural Revolution,” a decade in which the regime worked hard to erase all of China’s 5,000 years of culture, heritage, and morality—with parents and children ratting each other out for having incorrect thoughts.

This bet worked only partially in weakening the USSR. President Ronald Reagan worked with his unambiguous “evil empire” speech and actions. But it opened the door for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to gain legitimacy and assets in the world up to today where it now threatens the current world order, which, despite all its flaws, tries to uphold people’s basic rights and freedom of thought and belief.

So does the idea hold in reverse? Both the Obama White House and Trump White House seemed to think so, for a while. Both wanted to “reset” relations with Russia and Vladimir Putin, not for the love of either. Some say the first failed because of naivete, and the second because the “Russiagate” fake made it almost impossible to seriously attempt thawing relations.

Now with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West’s relatively strong reaction, and the CCP’s mostly friendly attitude, it seems inevitable that the “axis of authoritarians”—as it’s being called—will strengthen, and the way for Russia to have better relations with the West will be sealed off forever—with senior officials in both regimes expressing such sentiments publicly.

It’s probably inevitable that every nation will soon face a fork in the road—whether it aligns with the CCP and ties its fate to that regime’s destiny, or chooses to stand against it. This latter side is not the “American side,” rather, it’s taking a stand in support of universal values.

But shouldn’t current or future leadership in Russia be given another chance to make this choice as well? From a practical standpoint, the CCP always treats its allies as vassals to be discarded, so even superficially there’s no long-term benefit for the Russian people in such an alliance.

Furthermore, if there’s one thing that might get the United States and Europe to “forgive and forget” Russia’s attack on Ukraine, it would be realigning itself against the CCP. It could happen pretty fast. Maybe too fast for some tastes.

Also, the price tag for this transformation need not be a bigger or smaller chunk of Ukraine. This was an error of Nixon and Kissinger’s realpolitik: The willingness to ignore the CCP’s atrocities and Taiwan’s alternative—the “decoupling” of human rights from trade started then—showed the communist leaders in China the path to power.

However, the CCP then (and Russia now) was economically weak and could only win the game of “chicken” with their demands (or projected demands in the case of Russia) when Western leadership was not strong enough, and too eager.

With its northern neighbor less than friendly, with lots of natural resources, and nukes, the CCP would have to devote more energy to its long border with Russia, and more money to buy gas, oil, and minerals. This probably wouldn’t be the magic weapon to derail the CCP’s campaign for world hegemony, but it would be a weakening factor, and not a minor distraction—just like Russia’s invasion is now distracting the West’s attention from the CCP’s machinations, as intended (and at a terrible human cost for both the Ukrainian and Russian peoples).

This would also give the Russian people a better outlook for their future, and the safeguarding of their fundamental long-term interests.

One hopes leadership in the United States, Europe, the Quad, etc. keep that path open, and that Russian leadership takes it.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Tamuz Itai is a journalist and columnist who lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.