Saturday, August 2, 2008

U. S. Foreign Policy, Part II

The Bush Administration is continuing to make what I view as major foreign policy blunders and the presumptive Republican Party nominee, Senator John McCain, seems to be prepared to make another related big one, should he be elected President in November. The issues for this posting primarily relate to the U. S. sponsored eastern European missile defense system, NATO expansion and the G8 countries, and concerns our relationships with Russia and China.

In April of this year I published a posting on U. S. foreign policy, emphasizing that our relationships with Russia and China should, in the area of foreign affairs, rank among the top priorities for the country's next president. Very few foreign policy experts would disagree with this. It's therefore hard to understand what the Administration has been doing recently and what Senator McCain is apparently urging.

Like it or not, Russia and China are already, or will be in the near future, among the world's super powers, together with the U. S. Russia must be considered a super power because of their large and powerful military establishment, their vast energy production and reserve levels, and their sizeable nuclear weapons arsenal. China should be considered because of their fast growing military might, their leading manufacturing prowess, their very large economy with incredibly strong financial muscles, and the world's largest population at 1.3 billion.

The U. S. badly needs their ongoing strong support in dealing effectively with many of the world's most important issues. These include, among others, combatting world-wide terrorism, containing Iran and North Korea, nuclear non-proliferation, global warming, international pollution, trade, providing aid to poor countries, population control, and energy conservation and independence.

Why then has the Administration knowingly greatly angered and provoked the Russian government by negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic to build missile defense system shields in those countries. Arguing that the shields are necessary to repel potential missile attacks from North Korea and Iran is not very credible.

The same goes for plans to continue to expand NATO from its current nineteen members to add a greater number of countries from the former Soviet Union, including the sensitive country of Ukraine. NATO was established in 1949 among countries primarily bordering the north Atlantic as a international security alliance against the threat of the old Soviet Union. The Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, and most of the recent new member countries and those now short-listed for membership lie many hundreds of miles from the Atlantic.

Senator McCain has recently made it clear in his campaign for president that he favors expelling Russia from the exclusive club of G8 countries which includes, besides Russia, Canada, the U. S., the U. K., France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, in addition to the European Union. The reported reason for his view is that he wants to penalize them for "poor behavior," including the several autocratic steps taken in recent years by Russia's dominant leader, Vladimir Putin. While we have reason to be unhappy with some of the steps he has taken, we're not going to have a good chance to get their needed cooperation on the above more important issues if we were to work towards expelling Russia from the G8. Isn't this a no-brainer?

A number of foreign policy experts, including noted author and columnist Fareed Zakaria, have stated they strongly disagree with Senator McCain's position on Russia and even propose that China be seriously considered for G8 membership. Given China's virtual super power status, I agree with them, though the G8 countries were intended at the outset of the group's formation in 1973 to be reserved for major industrialized democracies. While China certainly qualifies as a major industrialized country, it clearly is not a democracy. Nevertheless, given the importance of the global issues that currently face us, China should definitely be considered for membership. It's a matter of realism and pragmatism over ideology.

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