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A war is brewing in the Pacific Will Aukus make the same mistakes as Nato?

A submarine off the coast of Australia (LSIS Leo Baumgartner/Australian Defence Force via Getty Images)

A submarine off the coast of Australia (LSIS Leo Baumgartner/Australian Defence Force via Getty Images)


April 19, 2024   6 mins

The US may be losing ground to new global powers in many respects, but when it comes to the business of sowing conflict around the world, it remains unrivalled. As it slowly abandons Ukraine to its own fate, after playing a crucial role in triggering the conflict in the first place, and as it contributes to the dangerous escalation in the Middle East, it is also laying the ground for a future war with China in Asia.

For much of the past half-century, the US and its Asia-Pacific allies shunned a collective Nato-like approach to security in the region, opting instead for a so-called hub-and-spokes system: with the United States as the hub and various bilateral and multilateral alliances as the spokes of an ideal “wheel of security”. In recent years, amid growing tensions with Beijing, these initiatives have multiplied, with overlapping political, military and economic deals creating, in the words of The Economist, “an ever-thickening lattice on China’s periphery”.

The US, however, now appears determined to take this approach one step further, by transforming its patchwork of arrangements into a full-blown military alliance: an Asian Nato. The first major step in this direction was the creation, in the early days of the Biden administration, of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States pact (Aukus), a new trilateral military partnership that included, as its central pillar, the provision of nuclear-powered (but not nuclear-armed) submarines to Australia. The project was initially met with scepticism and hostility — especially, as one might have expected, from China, which said that the partnership risked “severely damaging regional peace”.

While this led to a sluggish start for the new alliance, Aukus has gained momentum in recent months. The three countries recently announced the launch of Pillar II of the pact, which will see its members collaborate on next-gen military technologies — including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons and undersea capabilities — and decide whether to invite new members, such as South Korea, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. Earlier this month, the US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, wrote that Japan was “about to become the first additional Pillar II partner”.

Over the past year, the US and its allies in the region have emphatically denied that these moves are aimed at establishing an “Asian Nato”. However, such reassurances don’t carry much weight these days — especially in China. After all, the US is very open about the fact that it considers China to be its major “pacing threat” — and several high-ranking US officials have argued that they consider a US-China war in the coming years to be all but inevitable. Indeed, Nato itself has declared China to be a “systemic challenge”. Meanwhile, US allies in the region are deepening their relations with Nato itself through so-called Individually Tailored Partnership Programmes (ITPPs), and the leaders of Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand were invited as guests to a Nato summit in Lithuania last year, whose communique called out China more than a dozen times for coercive and destabilising military and economic actions.

The Western narrative is that the military build-up in the Asia-Pacific is merely a response to China’s increasingly assertive posture in the region — and is therefore about deterrence, not escalation, and shouldn’t be perceived by China as a threat. But should we expect China to take our word for it? Indeed, Beijing has made it very clear that it views Aukus, and the growing US military presence in the Asia-Pacific, as a threat — especially in light of the new US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s admission that “Aukus submarines are intended for a potential war with China over Taiwan”.

In this context, Campbell’s argument that Aukus will “strengthen peace and stability more generally” in the region appears naïve at best, and deceiving at worst. Indeed, it’s hard to see how pouring military machinery into an already volatile region won’t lead to the escalatory spiral that Aukus’s strengthening and expansion is ostensibly aimed at preventing: an all-out US-China war.

If all this feels familiar, that’s because it is. In many respects, what is happening with Aukus in the Asia-Pacific is reminiscent of Nato’s post-Nineties expansion towards Russia’s border. Even then, Nato claimed that its expansion was defensive in nature and shouldn’t be viewed as a threat by Russia. Yet, countless US politicians and diplomats, including George Kennan and Bill Clinton, understood that Nato expansion would become a self-fulling prophecy: regardless of Western assurances, it would create a security dilemma for Russia, and invite a retaliatory response from the latter at some point, thus engendering the very security threat that Nato expansion was purportedly defending against. This is, of course, exactly what happened, eventually leading to the tragic events still unfolding in Ukraine.

“If all this feels familiar, that’s because it is.”

Today, a similar self-fulfilling prophecy is unfolding in the Asia-Pacific. With regard to the expansion of Aukus, the US is once again adopting the same incremental, or “salami”, tactic as it did during Nato’s expansion: it is cutting off thin slices gradually — moving in small steps — so that no single action can be used by the other side to justify a major response, while over time achieving the desired (and officially denied) outcome.

Throughout Nato’s gradual enlargement, this strategy enabled Washington to dismiss any complaints and to depict Russia’s responses as disproportionate. A similar argument is used today to dismiss Chinese concerns about Aukus’s Pillar II: the latter, the US claims, simply implies greater military-technological collaboration between allied countries, not the creation of a full-blown military alliance. But of course increasing “joint capabilities and interoperability” between countries — just as the US was doing in Ukraine in the lead-up to Russia’s invasion — is a step in that direction.

Another tactic plucked from Nato’s playbook is the “deterrence-cooperation dichotomy” — a term coined by the Norwegian political scientist Glenn Diesen to describe the way in which Nato expanded while continuing to promote cooperation with Russia in several domains. A similar approach today has been adopted in countries like Australia and New Zealand: while deepening their relations with the US and Nato in the context of avowedly anti-China military-security alliances, they continue to express their keenness to maintain solid economic ties with China.

Now, this may seem understandable: China today is the top trading partner for most US allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand. But it also speaks to the irrationality of this approach to China. After all, it’s unclear exactly how China represents a “threat” to these countries — unless one construes the end of American dominance of the Asia-Pacific region, and the rise of a more policentric order, to be an instrinsic threat, which indeed seems to be the case. As the former New Zealand PM Helen Clark asked of reports that the government is considering joining Aukus: “Why do we need a military alliance ostensibly aimed at defending us from our major trading partner? This somehow doesn’t quite add up.”

In response, local politicians might tell themselves — and their citizens — that military alliances such as Aukus don’t compromise their country’s sovereignty, and that they remain in charge of their foreign policy. However, the history of Nato tells a different story: US-led military alliances of this kind create a path dependency that makes it very hard for individual members to disentangle themselves from the foreign-policy decisions taken in Washington, even if they disagree with them. Again, the history of Nato expansion is instructive here. When President Clinton attempted to advance the deployment of strategic missile defence systems in Eastern Europe, he met strong opposition from several European countries. But Washington, as the de facto leader of the dominant security system in Europe, methodically used the demand for “alliance solidarity” to mute criticism from allies. Eventually, Nato allies fell in line — just as they did following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In this sense, countries such as Australia and New Zealand would be naïve to think that they could avoid getting dragged into a future US-China conflict. Aukus means effectively surrendering their foreign policy to the US. After all, the Americans have been pretty open about the fact that they view Aukus as a Nato-like means to assert US hegemony over the region. Campbell, the chief architect of Biden’s Asia strategy, has openly admitted that Aukus is about “locking [Australia] in for the next 40 years” — i.e. subordinating it to America’s geopolitical strategy.

The Australian government has often stated that Aukus “does not involve any ante facto commitment to participate in, or be directed in accordance with, the military operations of any other country”. But they were recently rebuffed by none other than Campbell himself, who, according to the Financial Review, confirmed that “Washington would not transfer the jewel in its crown — nuclear-powered submarines — if it did not have ultimate say over their operational use, especially if a conflict arises with China”. As The Economist recently observed, Australia isn’t destined to become a sovereign partner, but “America’s military launchpad into Asia”.

Our allies in Asia are thus faced with a choice: they can either choose to exploit their unique geographical position and act as a bridge between East and West; or they can choose to become tools of American militarism and great-power confrontation. To see how the latter might end up, they only have to look to Europe.


Thomas Fazi is an UnHerd columnist and translator. His latest book is The Covid Consensus, co-authored with Toby Green.

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Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 month ago

Sadly accurate, as always. Helen Clark’s comment sums it up. When Australia’s PM at the time blew up Australia’s rural industries and coal trade with China, to please his American Happy Clappy pals, and to satiate his own sense of religious mission, which country instantly took all that trade with China from us? The US.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

Campbell, the chief architect of Biden’s Asia strategy, has openly admitted that Aukus is about “locking [Australia] in for the next 40 years”.
Speaking as an Australian, I don’t have a problem with that. After all, Australia has participated in most of the US’ wars from the middle of the 20th Century to the present day, and I doubt any war with China will be in a different category.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 month ago

While I find TF very readable normally, on this occasion the suggestion that the US alliance-building/strengthening in the western Pacific is analogous to the eastward expansion of Nato is open to question.
For one, and I’ve lived in east Asia for three decades, the PRC has in the last ten years become aggessively expansionist, claiming, against all international law and precedent, vast tracts of ocean, and building fortified bases in places that are way beyond what anyone else considers Chinese territory.
They have every right to build a blue water navy if they wish, but this combined with their claims to almost all of the South China Sea (the nine-dash line) and indeed there’s a tenth dash east of Taiwan now, does rather give the impression that they are staking a claim (deemed illegitimate by everyone else) and putting together the muscle to make it real. In this context it is to be welcomed that the US is prepared to work with other countries as a counterweight to this.
It is worth noting that not only on sea, but on land have atavistic Chinese impluses to expansion threatened neighbours, be it Ladakh where they are clashing with India, and even quibbles with the Russians over an island on the Amur/Ussuri rivers.
Need semiconductors? then you need Taiwan to remain outside the PRC. Never mind any moral or ethical reasons you might want to defend a democracy from an autocratic state that wishes to seize it, Taiwan must remain functionally independent of the PRC. Hong Kong found out the hard way that one-country two-systems doesn’t work. It’s one country, or it’s two countries.
The expansion and consolidation of US alliances in the region is necessary to deter military threats to Taiwan, including possibilities such as a blockade that might stop short of war.
These countries are not tools of American militarism, they would be beneficiaries of its military capabilities. The fear is not that America would provoke China, it’s that it wouldn’t fight if the ***t hit the fan.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 month ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Now, I make the following comments as a life-long anti-communist and more particularly, anti Western pseudo-Marxism, which is of far more relevance to me than any need people seem to have in interfering with how a successfully capitalist China is for now governed in her transitional period.
The US-Chinese naval standoff in the South China Sea lasted decades. You might trace the inflection point to the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, as part of the unilateral Cold War with Russia down, and in the Chinese knowledge of how Russia was being treated as we tried to simultaneously disbalance the CCP.
Of course, after WWII, Taiwan originally had an unwelcome liberator after the Japanese were defeated with some help from the CCP, in General Chiang, who killed many Formosans and set up a military dictatorship. Chiang had been too busy fighting the communists and sympathizing with Japanese and German militartism to really fight the Japanese. Which is why we (the US) dumped him. Except for getting him to Taiwan.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago

So you are still carring on your mission of defending dictators either Russian or Chinese.
Even if China was capitalist country it would not be in the West interest to allow China to change current economic and political model.
As to your claims to being life long anti-comunist?
Well, your posts clearly show otherwise.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
29 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Political and religious ideologues account for 99% of the world’s political problems. Realism requires that rather than immolate or bombard people we disagree with, harming countless more in the process, we adopt a more realistic and effective approach.

After all, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. What we want is not violent action and reaction, but that most valuable of all things, within which people are able to thrive, stability. As Adam Smith wrote in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, ‘The best is ever the enemy of the good’.

As for the “credentials” that I’m not the closet communist or fascist you in your zealotry demand, not possible.

My “mission to support dictators.” Wow.

As another dictator wrote in Mein Kampf, using the lessons he learned well from a Madison Avenue guru, ‘Never confront your political adversary head-on. You merely need to get him to doubt his own first premises’. And no, I’m hardly an admirer of Hitler, as my published work from decades ago in national media shows. Just a believer in ‘Know your enemy’, as the only tenable starting point in any war.

Work it out.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
28 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

No, Andrew. I’m just anti-ideology of every kind, and pro-stability in almost any format. With Soviet communism suddenly gone, it was a tragedy that our political class, which as for so long its foil had become a mutated version of classic 19th century liberalism, was unable to quite respond functionally due to its own victorious – or at least at that point nominally undefeated – legacy.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
1 month ago

I prefer a different analogy. Instead of NATO’s misguided drive east in the last thirty years why not NATO’s initial establishment in the late 1940s which helped deter Russian expansion and “contain” the USSR until it became a less aggressive player on the international scene?

China is in an intensely nationalistic phase. American led military containment may help rechannel Chinese energies into diplomatic, economic and scientific competition for the next few decades.

In the long run, I suspect the choice will be between a US / China war – as the Thucydides enthusiasts argue – or the gradual emergence of new peaceful multi centric order resembling the nineteenth century Concert of Europe (with China, US, Europe India and perhaps Russia as the main players). If a US led military containment of China provides a bridge to the second, then I am all for it.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

That’s an optimistic take.
My take would be that the couchant American Empire is becoming more reckless, lashing out against the very multipolarity you suggest. China will not invade Taiwan unless badly provoked to do so. Why? Because they don’t have to. They will cut it apart with a million tiny stabs, and in the end, the Taiwanese will welcome the CCP onto the island.
The American Empire is the one that will feel itself forced to bring to a head this war.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

But concert did not last, did it?
I think your analogy is wrong.
Post 1815 settlement was based on common ideas and shared values (among leaders, obviously not societies, especially Russia).
It does not apply to current rise of China, which aims to subvert existing order with the help of other dictatorships like Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
29 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

To be fair, it lasted from 1815 to 1914 and there was a lot of tension between the authoritarian Russians and Austrians and the more liberal western powers. In the modern world, a “concert” approach will only work if there is a multipolar balance of power. We are not there yet which is why, for the time being, we are need US led deterrence of China. It seems to be working. After the 2012-18 period of Chinese hubris, expansionism and wolf diplomacy, they appear to have calmed down a bit after Trump’s economic sanctions and the U.S. military build up. Touch wood.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

‘If it feels similar it’s because it is’ – yep Fazi switching from mouthpiece of the FSB to mouthpiece of the MSS. We didn’t need the Article to know he holds this view – US bad, Putin and Xi innocent and justified in their designs on nearby neighbours.
Said it before – ‘weakness is provocation’. The best you can say for the Author is he holds the reverse position.
It’s also interesting that the Article does not mention the Philippines once yet if you follow the latest in this region closely this is where the current clashes are most pronounced. China trying to insist tracts of sea near the Philippines are it’s and regular naval clashes which could generate a spark to a bigger clash. It’s for reasons like this Philippines, Japan, S Korea, Taiwan of course, are reaching out to Aukus. Let’s also be clear the CCP supports Putin and the Iranian Theocracy. They have an alliance against the West and won’t settle down if we just adopt a weaker response.

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago

The author lives in a peaceful utopia where China never invaded Vietnam, Tibet or South Korea and isn’t building military bases throughout the South China Sea.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 month ago

“The purposes of British naval power are essentially defensive. We have no thoughts, and we have never had any thoughts of aggression, and we attribute no such thoughts to other great Powers. There is, however, this difference between the British naval power and the naval power of the great and friendly Empire – and I trust it may long remain the great and friendly Empire – of Germany. The British Navy is to us a necessity and, from some points of view, the German Navy is to them more in the nature of a luxury. Our naval power involves British existence. It is existence to us; it is expansion to them. We cannot menace the peace of a single Continental hamlet, no matter how great and supreme our Navy may become. But, on the other hand, the whole fortunes of our race and Empire, the whole treasure accumulated during so many centuries of sacrifice and achievement, would perish and be swept utterly away if our naval supremacy were to be impaired.”

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, 9 February 1912

History might not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 month ago

No country in the Pacific wants an alliance with China. The fact that these countries are scrambling to form a military alliance with any other country but China is quite telling.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 month ago

Except for those small impoverished ones who can’t see beyond the dangled Chinese cash to the subservience which inevitably follows.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
1 month ago

I got as far as “….but when it comes to the business of sowing conflict around the world, it remains unrivalled.”
and stopped.
He’s a marxian algorithm. Apply it to any situation and out comes the inertness, agencyless things that are acted upon by the guilty western agents — all of which proves how bad the West is.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
1 month ago

‘ As the former New Zealand PM Helen Clark asked of reports that the government is considering joining Aukus: “Why do we need a military alliance ostensibly aimed at defending us from our major trading partner? This somehow doesn’t quite add up.” ‘

I’m pretty sure Britain was just a trading partner of India, until it wasn’t.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
1 month ago

Britain has no national interests at stake in the Pacific. Britain should stay well clear of this one…but, as ever, won’t. The USA’s streetwalker (hat tip to Le Carré…) will do what it is told, for no benefit to itself.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
1 month ago

It is interesting to consider the analogy of post-communist Russia to peak-Xi China, but I think China’s aggressions in the Pacific area are a lot more provocative than Russia’s in the late 1990’s, even into the early days of Putin. I think it’s fair to say that AUKUS and other moves to counter China are responses rather than provocations.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

As it slowly abandons Ukraine to its own fate, after playing a crucial role in triggering the conflict in the first place, and as it contributes to the dangerous escalation in the Middle East, it is also laying the ground for a future war with China in Asia.
This will likely trigger many who believe the West, especially the US, is never at fault. We, America, pushed for years to expand NATO despite repeated warnings from the Russians – who, despite the prevailing narrative, have failed to march into Europe during Putin’s 20+ years in power. We fund Israel with the one hand while funneling money to Hamas through UNRWA with the other. And now the phantom of Chinese military aggression.
The Chinese are not going to invade Taiwan. There is no reason to, plus there are miles and miles of wide open ocean between the two that complicate the logistics of an invasion. In typical fashion, people talk of war while ignoring three vital things: 1) the presence of a plan, goal, or mission, take your pick of word choice; 2) no idea what ‘victory’ would look like, making it impossible to recognize if it were to be achieved; and 3) no idea of how our latest target would respond or what the aftermath would be.
Ignoring those three things has become formulaic with US halls of power. We deposed Saddam, and Qaddafi, and made Iraq and Libya more unstable rather than less. Years back, we ousted Iran’s democratically-elected govt, installed an autocrat, then clutched out pearls when he was chased out and replaced by something worse. There is a consistency here: govt remains the one arena in which abject failure is more likely to be rewarded than punished, and any lessons that could be gained from the past are ignored because we’ll get it right this time.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I am sorry, but your take on NATO expansion is nonsense.
Nations neighbouring Russia jump at the chance to join alliance due to centuries of Russian genocidal imperialism.
Why do you think Sweden and Finland joined NATO?
Because Russia is friendly and trustworthy neighbour?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Fazi clearly has no idea how closely the Australian and NZ defence forces have been cooperating with the US for the past 80 years. AUKUS is not a radically new initiative.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Alternative title for this article: “Another ridiculous geopolitical fantasy is brewing in Thomas Fazi’s head”.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

The important thing is to get people to think. This is why the comments are probably more important than the article itself. Perhaps the author should be thought of as ‘an introductory commenter’ who sets the tone.

Timothy Baker
Timothy Baker
1 month ago

China is extending her territorial waters by expanding small atolls to become military stronghold. They have a massive armed fishing fleet that is constantly threatening Philippine territorial waters, they have deliberately broken the treaty by which Hong Kong was handed back to them.
China has systemically stolen trade secrets from Western countries, has planted spies in British universities and sanctions MPs and their families if they dare speak out about China. I could go on, but I think it is clear that China is not acting in good faith.
Yet again the standard of journalism in Unherd has dropped. So disappointing.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Timothy Baker

Come on.
Fazi is a commie.
He always writes articles justifying dictatorships actions and blaming the West.

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago

“War is brewing in the Pacific “

Time to bury our heads again.

Francis Twyman
Francis Twyman
1 month ago

There won’t be a war between the US and China, it’s a mutually suicidal idea, 1) both have massive militaries which would lead to mass casualties in the tens or hundreds of thousands
, excluding a nuclear war 2) both are well equipped nuclear powers who can annihilate each other with tens of millions of deaths and societal collapse 3) both are economically intertwined with huge imports and exports and investments 4) it would lead to global economic collapse and depression 5) they both know neither side can win 6) unless they are madmen they will do everything to avoid it. Not to say the heated competition at many levels won’t continue, or some kind of contained proxy war in the future. It’s the same situation with Russia, neither side can win, they both lose. Mutually assured insanity.

Michael Lipkin
Michael Lipkin
1 month ago

The West’s problem is its openness. Soon millions of people will be buying Chinese made EVs which will be full of surveillance and control functions linked to the CCP. There are many other aspects, international institutions, other technologies where the West is wide open to China’s undermining techniques.
If the West was like China (a totalitarian state with a great firewall) then insouciance r.e. China’s activities would be fine. But it isn’t.

Peter Knight
Peter Knight
29 days ago

The article seems to ignore Beijing’s blatant actions such as building “ahem” fishing ports in the South China Sea around the Spratley Islands, which under nobody else’s definition of what is Chinese territory Beijing have deemed to be so. Beijing has past form in this too, think the annexation of Tibet, which is now effectively part of China and is rarely referred to as Tibet any more. Taiwan falls into this category too. And look what happened in Hong Kong; after assurances that the 50 year transition period for the Special Economic Zone would be allowed to run its course, it has effectively been upended in a little over 20. Japan is on China’s doorstep so they have every reason to be concerned and hence their keenness to join the pact.
Beijing have also locked up supply of rare earth minerals processing such that only China has access to them. Rare Earth Minerals are widely used in the building of, among other things, electronic devices such as smartphones etc, and more disturbingly, missile guidance system electronics. Other world powers, namely Europe and the US, deem it so serious that they wish to direct public money to invest in processing facilities in Australia which has significant reserves of rare earth minerals, as well as lithium, nickel and cobalt, in order to ensure future supply.
There are numerous other examples of Beijing flexing its muscles in the region, and in other more subtle ways around the world. The Belt and Road initiative is an example; China provides funds (and quite often the physical means) to countries which don’t have the funds or means to build infrastructure projects, and when said countries cannot repay the debt, China assumes control of said asset.
This has all largely transpired since the installation of the current PRC President and CCP leader in 2013, who it must be highlighted has also made himself the leader of these bodies for life. Prior to that, for the PRC Presidency at least, it was a 10 year cycle.
One last thing, I don’t think anything Helen Clark has to say about this can be taken seriously. By all accounts she was a disaster for New Zealand.
I don’t trust the CCP, and living in the region (Australia) the feeling of foreboding is palpable.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
27 days ago
Reply to  Peter Knight

“I don’t think anything Helen Clark has to say about this can be taken seriously. By all accounts she was a disaster for New Zealand.” Perhaps you’re confusing her with Jacinta Adhern.

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke
29 days ago

The endless talk about war in the Far East being all but inevitable echoes the same armchair general talk in Europe about war with Russia. Even allowing for the fact that Western leadership is on the floor, such claims are insane, particularly as the West effectively engineered the Ukraine War, a war it is going to lose. Why would the West want to repeat the same mistake in the Far East? They would be better off exploring the fact that US bankruptcy is all but inevitable.

El Uro
El Uro
29 days ago

As it slowly abandons Ukraine to its own fate, after playing a crucial role in triggering the conflict in the first place, and as it contributes to the dangerous escalation in the Middle East, it is also laying the ground for a future war with China in Asia.
.
Thomas, I wash my hands of this.
I don’t claim to be a genius, but as a person who lived for quite a long time in three countries, not counting working visits to many others, who lived in three social systems, who learned reading in three days at the age of 4, who had an IQ 145 in his youth, who graduated from one of the best universities in Moscow, PhD, I still understand something in this life. Now my intellect is certainly weakening, but I am sure that I am still wiser than you.
Most of the participants in this forum are no less, and I am ready to agree, more intelligent and wise than me.
Since the moderators here are liberal, you have a rare opportunity to listen to participants’ arguments and learn something. Alas, I do not see in you the ability and desire to learn. This seems to be a common problem among modern activists, of which you count yourself. They do not know how to think, because they are sure that they know everything, knowing almost nothing and understanding absolutely nothing.
I feel sorry for you, because activism is not a profession, but an activity for idiots.
PS. Try to understand that I did not intend to offend you, even if my words sounded rude. I’m just asking you to look at yourself from the outside. It can help.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
27 days ago

To me it’s fascinating that so many readers who comment on geopolitical matters seem to hold not merely an inherently hostile, pessimistic view of foreign relations, but something more. On the one hand, it’s as though they secretly crave the entertainment value we get from games of conflict, garnished with cliches. ‘Well, that’s the history of mankind for you, read it and take note’, or ‘If you wish for peace, prepare for war,’ or ‘Trust in God, but keep your powder dry’. Precisely of course as military strategy is taught. The rosy-fingered dawn, Homer, Greek and Roman wars. Every state is, to these guys, the criminal next door, just waiting for a sign of vulnerability to break in and satiate their lusty greed. But there’s something more. Boredom with stasis? A need for thrill spilling over from online games? Revenge for what happened to my great grandpa? It’s quite maladjusted and very Boer War / World War I. Sure, force is real, and the appearance of strength often necessary. But this … ? It’s a little weird.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
20 hours ago

You are on fire Andrew, such a pleasure reading your sagacious and sensible comments, and the way you handle your detractors, I am impressed. Why do you walk among the red necks on unherd? You are right these people think life is a Hollywood film, they question little and believe almost all they are told by the US elites and their media puppets.
Did you say you wrote a book?

John Riordan
John Riordan
27 days ago

There’s one important difference here, which is that whatever expansion is presently taking place isn’t happening in contravention of any agreement made with China already. In the 1990s, the Budapest Memoranda included commitments to Russia as well as the security guarantees to Ukraine: there was to be no eastwards expansion of NATO.

These commitments were broken by the USA, and as George Kennan memorably observed at the time, this would lead to provocation and escalation with Russia as a consequence. I think we can agree that Kennan was right about this, but the point is that there is no similar agreement in place with China. The reality is that China is a rising power that is making its neighbours nervous, and this is happening quite without any need for the USA to keep reminding the world that this is the case.

Now, just because the USA has made no official promises to China doesn’t mean that things won’t escalate. But it does stand as one example of how there are key differences as well as similarities to NATO and Ukraine, and more generally there is little reason to believe that the USA has learned nothing in recent years about how it should project force globally.

As for the notion that it’s somehow absurd to say that a nation needs protection from its largest trading partner, well that’s an oversimplification, isn’t it? China has been a major trading partner with the USA for decades and yet the USA cannot stop China stealing valuable intellectual property from the USA (and anywhere else, in fact), or stop it continuing to commit serious human rights abuses against its own people and those of its neighbours. China has made it clear that it does not respect the rules-based order that the West does, and while we could probably argue about the rights and wrongs of that, the main point here is that we can’t rely on any rules-based order here. We can’t take for granted the assumption that trade with China makes China a friendly entity, as India, Tibet, Vietnam etc will attest readily.

I am not a China hawk: I hope China will get richer, and that it’s citizens achieve advanced nation status (presently it’s still only a middle-income nation). If the only consequence of the rise of China is that US warships can’t float about the South China Sea with impunity, then I’d be perfectly happy to conclude that the Americans should just suck that one up. But the idea that China only wants to get richer and has no other plans? You’d have to be daft to believe that.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago

I love Fazis reasoning on global politics. Russia can carve large tracts of land from Georgia and Ukraine, but it’s the wests fault that those other eastern bloc countries want join NATO for their own protection.
Likewise China can threaten Taiwan, claim other nations maritime areas in the South China Sea, harass its neighbours, threaten to sink its fishing vessels and keep a million Uighers in concentration camps but again its those other nations that are to blame for banding together with each other to form a defensive pact.
If both China and Russia are upset that other nations are forming alliances against them, perhaps they need to ask themselves why their neighbours feel the need to do so in the first place

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well, there’s the standard line. And yet, having laid out optimistic ideas to some people about the possible end of the Soviet era in the late 1980s, with a subsequent opportunity to work for US clients such as AT&T GIS on Russian banking & finance reform in 1992-3, my own experience was of high hopes on all sides. Russian feeling toward the US and Western Europe was positively euphoric, from Presidents to peasants, so to speak. It didn’t take long for the clouds to form. From 1989, plans in DC had been laid out for Yugoslavia in the event of 1991, which we hoped would come. Shock Therapy was mandated with Yeltsin, leading to Strobe Talbott’s statement, “What we need is less shock and more therapy.” Russian NATO membership was refused. And after many other unhappy events, a dying Yeltsin realized he’d been fully had, as the Cold War continued to roll on unilaterally in Europe and the Middle East, with our idea of a unique opportunity to undo the totality of Russian Cold War geostrategic influence, with the theory that a rapid liquidation of Russian power would eliminate the associated risk. Which for decades, it did. The totality of Russian sentiment inverted 100%, as our own political pollsters know. But you had to be there. Our standard, one handed view, is about as useful as the Evil Kaiser theory was leading into WWI. Everyone keeps incorrectly citing WWII. This is far more like the first war.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago

So not only is the west guilty of provoking Russia by allowing those eastern bloc countries terrorised by Russia in the past to join their defensive pact, they’re also responsible for Russian oligarchs acquiring Russian assets at the fall of communism in Russia?
You don’t allow much agency for the Russians themselves do you? They’re just pawns of the evil west in your version of events aren’t they

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
29 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No, BB, the West was not responsible for the Russian oligarchs, though we also did pretty well for ourselves. A lesson about wounded gazelles and lions. Our man Yeltsin facilitated the process in an alcoholic haze within his opportunistic venal incompetence, within a framework we established. What Putin accomplished was all he could accomplish while resuscitating the Russian economy, which was to reign in an anarchic new nobility, to give the Russian people what they needed to survive, to enable a desired reintegration with the West. In our zealous desire to show just how much we care about the former Soviet bloc, and stamp “Never Again!” on that dismal history, and coincidentally maintain our own supreme influence in Eurooe, we plunged Europe into the wars we sought to guard against. You don’t and won’t believe it, but history will.

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
28 days ago

Using your terminology, there were more “wounded gazelles” than just Russia. The Baltic states, Poland, indeed, the entire Eastern European empire of the USSR qualified. Given your position respecting Russia’s evolution, it seems inconsistent that these other countries are often doing well. In historical fact the framework the US proposed (not imposed) appears to have a direct positive correlation with how well the former members of that empire have done.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
27 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Holmes

Andrew, you are so right in much of what you initially say. And there were many internal failures within Russia, much as in Ukraine.
We did not, however, deal with those former Soviet states as with Russia. In some ways, yes we certainly did. A policy initially suggested in the US embassy in London became operational post-1991. A policy of courting not the old elites in these countries, but their most effective opponents. It had radically different results in Russia than elsewhere for a variety of reasons.
Russia was our big bogey, the major power that, despite our winning the Cold War, could quite easily have supplanted US influence across Europe. Worse, having failed to win our old Cold War objectives of hedging Russian power in Europe and the Middle East, Russsian economic and political power – militarily, she wanted to join NATO, though obviously even that eventuality would have dramatically diluted the dominant US military influence – would have been boosted everywhere via her reintegration with Europe.
All slightly analagous to how we won WW II militarily, yet vis a vis Japan and Germany winning then losing the peace.
Our people weren’t going to let that happen with Russia.
I had written background papers on just how naturally wealthy Russia was, despite their crisis, for my US client, AT&T GIS, suggesting AT&T structure their US 1 Bn deal with Russia in commodities. Turned out our team was far more pleased and optimistic for the Russians than folks in geostrategy.
I could elaborate, but I won’t, and no one is remotely interested.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
1 month ago

Thank you for the insight into how that budding relationship went sour. However, I don’t think you should ignore the election of Putin and his desire to aggresively make Russia great again. Similarly with China, things were going fine until Xi came to power.

We are where we are, regardless of the rights and wrongs of it.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Putin has been in power for more than 20 years. No invasion of Europe that we have been repeatedly told would happen. Perhaps his desire to ‘make Russia great again’ is contained to inside its current border.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Hm – so he invaded Georgia. That’s in Europe. And Ukraine twice. Also in Europe.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
29 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

And you imagine we weren’t playing around in Georgia with our guy there, encouraging and precipitating his pretty stupid moves, whereupon Russia responded and withdrew? How about Russia or China seek to put their guy into Canada and Mexico and have their senior diplomats go hand out cookies in the Canadian and zmexican election cycle? No problem, right?

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Polonium in London; Novichok in Salisbury, but as you say; no invasion yet.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
28 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Ah, yes, the gay couple, the former would-be assassins of James Bond, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. How could we be allowed to forget? They were the sole assets, it seems, of the FSB fir some time. Showing up like that, soon afterward, in the old Eastern Bloc. It’s so comforting for it to be like 1959, all over again.

El Uro
El Uro
29 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Perhaps his desire to ‘make Russia great again’ is contained to inside its current border.
You are absolutely right, taking into account Putin’s own phrase “Russia’s borders don’t end anywhere“.
This is a quote, buddy, so your spiteful critics can shut up.
“Nowhere” means “nowhere”! Today in Kyiv, tomorrow in Paris or Lisbon

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago

Russian membership of NATO?
Russia never met any conditions to be part of NATO.
And former Soviet Block countries had no reason to join NATO?
Apart from centuries of Russian genocidal imperialism.
Then tell us why Sweden and Finland joined NATO?

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
28 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Andrew, you seem to hate Russians whatever the circumstances, in whatever era. Where does that come from? Never forget, never forgive, hatred springs eternal, bearing strange fruit.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

PS – We killed two successive Uyghur ETIM leaders in northern Pakistan with Reaper drones, and captured many in Syria, in the not long past days of our close and highly successful collaboration with both Russia and China against a common threat. Then with a shift of policy, they became useful as an oppressed minority. But of course I understand if you feel as one with the Uyghurs. They’re like brothers to us, right?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago

Are you suggesting that the million that China have locked up in the camps are all terrorists? Or that they’re guilty due to the actions of some of that share their ethnicity?
Most civilised countries don’t really agree with collective punishment, it rather went out of fashion due to the actions of a German regime of the 1940’s

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
29 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Hardly. And naturally, I admire your heartfelt views on collective punishment, a perpetually recurrent evil that clearly did not end with Hitler. The political use to which the Uyghurs have been put in the West is a problem that merely leads to more collective punishment. Work it out.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

After the Berlin Wall fell, the US said “not one inch eastward” regarding NATO. How’d that work out? It’s a bit rich to point fingers at the other guy when your own side is disingenuous at best.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There was also a written agreement signed by Russia to respect Ukraines territorial integrity in exchange for them giving up the nuclear arsenal that was stationed there

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There is no written agreement about not expanding NATO.
But former Polish Prezident Walesa agreed with Yeltsin that Poland can join NATO.
Anyway, it is not for Russia to decide which alliance sovereign countries join.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
28 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

So a verbal lie isn’t dishonourable or dangerous? Because there’s no written agreement, just our absolute, uncategorical, repeated verbal assurances? How extraordinary. Hope if you’re married, she got it in writing.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There was indeed no enthusiasm within NATO for eastwards expansion but the former Warsaw Pact countries were very insistent. Very patronising of Fazi to think he knows better than those who suffered 45 years of occupation how best to protect them from Russian expansionism.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago

There was quite an enthusiasm in Germany, regardless of their official statements.
Just look at the map.
Germany is no longer frontline state.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
28 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

So only the French need worry. I recall how nervous their diplomats were at the prospect of German reunification in 1989.