By: Alec Vandenberg
President Trump is playing Russian roulette all across the globe and all the world can do is sit, wait, and inevitably gasp as heavy-handed deterrence and tweets collude to weaken American influence and national security.
As you can tell by the comforting title, the world seems to be on a collision course with itself, but this too shall pass. With a little diplomacy and economics, the U.S. can avert disaster –that is until the next crisis emerges.
Let’s first start off in Syria, where Trump’s mostly popular decision (at least at home and in the West) to bomb Syrian airfields set off alarm bells in the Russian camp, which immediately threatened to cease cooperation over airspace in the Middle East. Even the oil-slick Secretary of State Rex Tillerson couldn’t ease tensions when he visited Moscow, as the Russian Order of Friendship recipient recently told Vladimir Putin that U.S.-Russian relations were “at a low point.” And to make matters worse American planes intercepted Russian bombers near Alaska on Monday night, the first time Russian bombers have flown off the Alaskan coast since 2015. So much for another Russian reset.
Failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney may have hit the Russian bear on the head when he labeled Russia as America’s greatest threat back in 2012, but in the current moment, North Korea, and thus by extension China, poses the greatest worry. After years of nuclear tests and the deployment of countless ballistic missiles, North Korea once again is testing the waters –or rather launching more missiles into the water. After continued missile testing and some presidential Twitter ultimatums, tensions continued to rise between North Korea and the U.S., with China forced to play intermediary between trading partner and global power.
At first, China preached caution, pleading with the U.S. not to embark upon a rash course of action, but yesterday it began to conduct live-fire exercises on a destroyer in the Yellow Sea, sending a clear signal it will protect its ally North Korea amidst North Korea asserting that it will pursue weekly missile tests. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence rushed to Asia this week to reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to its allies, especially South Korea, and President Trump misleadingly reported that an armada was deployed to the region despite its actual course of sailing towards the Indian Ocean rather than the Yellow Sea.
Korean Central News Agency, via Reuters
But there’s reason for hope. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently appealed for calm, stating that he believes that the U.S. will seek a diplomatic resolution. But this resolution necessitates Chinese mediation, as only China can bring North Korea, which relies on China economically, to the table.
China has recently joined much of world in terms of sanctioning North Korea, as weeks ago it restricted imports of North Korean coal and sales of jet fuel for example. It’s unclear whether China will escalate these sanctions, but the Chinese know that in this case, war is bad for business.
Perhaps Trump will put his business cap back on and strike a deal, but the hope is that Pence, Tillerson, and others, such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis, can make diplomacy a priority again and deescalate tensions from the Middle East to the Korean Peninsula. Until then, let’s keep refreshing Twitter and hope for the best.