Even before Donald Trump got inaugurated, his position on the US foreign policy was attracting widespread attention since it has much bearing on other countries. Judging by the amount of attention paid by various analysts, one can safely assume that the most interesting topic concerning Trump’s policies has been the alignment of forces in the triangle of US-China-Russia, since any steps made by a player in this triangle will inevitably affect the other two powers, along with their politics, economy, and armed forces.
It’s curious that Trump promised right away after being nominated as Republican candidate that he will start a trade war with China, while making steps to find points of common interest with Russia, thus bringing relations in the US – China – Russia triangle to the center stage of international politics.
Trump has already proposed a set of measures that threaten the prosperity of China. It’s been noted that his tax-cutting and infrastructure-building initiatives, for instance, could create a boom in America, which would lead to an increase in interest rates. The rise in rates in turn will attract even more money when China is already bleeding cash.
Of course, the fact that there’s a new US President in office opens up a window of opportunity for the improvement of Russian-American relations, that took an abrupt dive in recent years due to straightforward Russophobic position that was occupied by the Obama administration and its allies across the EU. Given Trump’s election manifesto and diplomacy team, the US-Russian relationship, which has dropped to its lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War, is very likely to see notable improvements now that Trump has been sworn in. As it’s been noted by numerous media outlets, in Trump’s new lineup of foreign policy advisers, pro-Russian members account for a majority. So, after all, a standoff benefits neither the US nor Russia, and both Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have the will to mend bilateral ties.
At the same time, under the current circumstances, many worry that the improvements will raise China’s external pressure and break the joint efforts of China and Russia to counterbalance the West. Yet, we must not forget that the very concept of the “Big Three” powers was developed in the US to describe the strategic rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing, against the background of anti-Russian sanctions. For a long while Western think tanks failed to understand the obvious – the more pressure Washington tries to put on Moscow, the faster it is moving east by strengthening the Russian-Chinese alliance, the movement that was set in stone through a number of bilateral deals signed back in 2012-2013 by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
Back in 2009, the US invited China to create a “Big Two” – to address international challenges together. But back then Beijing rejected the proposal due to the absence of trust towards Washington that it had. The Asia pivot that followed this development was widely perceived in China as a transition to the tactics of containment of China. Therefore, Russia and China started working together after the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis.
Today, however, with the new president sitting in the White House, there can be a lot of political games to be played, since Trump as a supporter of a strong nation-state can be determined to try to negotiate the creation of a “Big Three”, to establish mutually profitable relations with both China and Russia.
But to achieve this goal with Russia Trump will first have to settle a number of issues in the Middle East, while quiting the tactics of pushing Russia away from its spheres of influence in Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union.
To achieve the same goal with China, he has to change the nature of economic and trade relations with this Asian giant. But it is quite possible that the format of the “Big Three” will become a viable way of addressing most pressing global problems: a new system of global finance, the rules of world trade, global security architecture (including NATO and the US military alliances with Japan and South Korea), about the new world order.
According to numerous observers, Trump can move decisively to restore stability to a global order that has been spinning out of control. It is a good sign that he held cordial phone conversations with both Putin and Xi soon after his victory. It’s time to cement mutual goodwill with both Russia and China, which have established a de-facto alliance in response to the mishandling of American policy under Trump’s immediate predecessors.
Grete Mautner is an indepenent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”