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From Consortium News
President Donald Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping to a state dinner during their summit at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, on April 6, 2017.
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Top Russian and Chinese leaders are busy comparing notes, coordinating their approach to President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg this weekend. Both sides are heralding the degree to which ties between the two countries have improved in recent years, as Chinese President Xi Jinping's visits Moscow on his way to the G20. And, they are not just blowing smoke; there is ample substance behind the rhetoric.
Whether or not Official Washington fully appreciates the gradual -- but profound -- change in America's triangular relationship with Russia and China over recent decades, what is clear is that the U.S. has made itself into the big loser.
Gone are the days when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger skillfully took advantage of the Sino-Soviet rivalry and played the two countries off against each other, extracting concessions from each. Slowly but surely, the strategic equation has markedly changed -- and the Sino-Russian rapprochement signals a tectonic shift to Washington's distinct detriment, a change largely due to U.S. actions that have pushed the two countries closer together.
But there is little sign that today's U.S. policymakers have enough experience and intelligence to recognize this new reality and understand the important implications for U.S. freedom of action. Still less are they likely to appreciate how this new nexus may play out on the ground, on the sea or in the air.
Instead, the Trump administration -- following along the same lines as the Bush-43 and Obama administrations -- is behaving with arrogance and a sense of entitlement, firing missiles into Syria and shooting down Syrian planes, blustering over Ukraine, and dispatching naval forces to the waters near China.
But consider this: it may soon be possible to foresee a Chinese challenge to "U.S. interests" in the South China Sea or even the Taiwan Strait in tandem with a U.S.-Russian clash in the skies over Syria or a showdown in Ukraine.
A lack of experience or intelligence, though, may be too generous an interpretation. More likely, Washington's behavior stems from a mix of the customary, naïve exceptionalism and the enduring power of the U.S. arms lobby, the Pentagon, and the other deep-state actors -- all determined to thwart any lessening of tensions with either Russia or China. After all, stirring up fear of Russia and China is a tried-and-true method for ensuring that the next aircraft carrier or other pricey weapons system gets built.
It's almost like the old days when the U.S. military budgeted to fight wars on multiple fronts simultaneously. Recent weeks saw the following:
--The guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem on Sunday sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-claimed Triton Island in the Paracels in the South China Sea. The Chinese Foreign Ministry immediately branded this "a serious political and military provocation."
--The U.S. last week announced a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, placed sanctions on a Chinese bank for its dealings with North Korea, and labeled China the world's worst human trafficker.
--On June 20, President Donald Trump sent off a condescending tweet intimating that, at his request, China had tried but failed to help restrain North Korea's nuclear program: "It has not worked out. At least I know China tried." (Over the centuries, the Chinese have had bad experience with Western condescension.)
Common Concern: Missile Defense
On the eve of his arrival in Moscow, Xi gave an interview to Russia's TASS news agency, in which he focused on missile defense -- an issue particularly close to Vladimir Putin's heart. Xi focused on U.S. deployment of Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles to South Korea as "disrupting the strategic balance in the region" and threatening the security interests of all countries in the region, including Russia and China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015.
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