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PostRusso-Chinese-Iran "Axis" and the Crisis in Diplomacy (Hall Gardner, France, 04/06/19 3:45 am)
Thanks to JE for his question of January 22nd, and I am sorry not to respond earlier.
My basic argument in IR Theory, Historical Analogy and Major Power War is that IR terminology, particularly that involving concepts of unipolarity, bipolarity, and multipolarity, is not at all useful in helping to understand the multi-dimensional geostrategic, political economic-financial, military-industrial-technological, socio-cultural ideological-religious conflict today, which likewise involves a deep crisis in diplomatic skills and capabilities, as illustrated by the general global turn toward authoritarian-style leadership, including that of Donald Trump.
My argument is that contrary to the hype raised by Trump's presumed neo-isolationism (which is seen as implicitly anti-NATO) and his America First nationalism, Trump's actual policies are now trying to tighten US alliance bonds between NATO, Japan and other states vs. a new Russo-Chinese-Iran Eurasian "axis."
Concurrently, the US-NATO-Japan alliance is competing with the Russia-China axis for closer alliance ties to India, Pakistan, and even states such as Venezuela. While the US and NATO fear the "loss" of NATO-member Turkey to Russia, Moscow fears the "loss" of Ukraine, and potentially Belarus and other states to NATO and the EU.
This tension between competitive alliance expansion and fears of alliance disintegration can generate a global conflict. Trump has argued that his Peace with Strength doctrine and the assertion of America First predominance (with the supposed willing support of US allies) will lead to peace with North Korea, Iran, China and Russia, but his diplomatic style, as indicated by the failed Hanoi summit with North Korea, in which arch neo-conservative National Security Advisor John Bolton evoked the Libya analogy, does not inspire confidence and trust.
Likewise, despite his ostensible promises to improve relations with Moscow (for which Trump has been highly criticized), Trump's decision to drop out of the 1987 INF treaty without first engaging in negotiations aimed at building confidence measures and at controlling, if not reducing, differing forms of nuclear weapons (tactical, intermediate and long-range), as well as new forms of conventional weaponry, including hypersonic and drone systems, coupled with the US and Russian inability to find ways to cooperate on the deployment of missile defense systems, forewarns of a new arms race.
If Trump cannot soon change course and begin to engage in truly concerted diplomacy, the threat of major power war is real.
JE comments: Great to hear from you, Hall, and thank you for this excellent analysis of Trumpian foreign policy. This might sound tangential to your main point, but how is Belarus at risk of leaving the Russian sphere of orbit? I thought it was absolutely within the Putin camp.