Brzezinski Zbigniew - The geostrategic triad

Author : Brzezinski Zbigniew
Title : The geostrategic triad Living with China, Europe, and Russia
Year : 2000

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HOW SHOULD THE UNITED STATES DEFINE ITS INTERNATIONAL engagement with the rest of the world? More than a decade after the abrupt collapse of the Soviet Union, and more than a decade after the renunciation of authoritarian political systems and statist economic policies in key developing countries, a national consensus on how the United States as "hyperpower" should navigate in the world is as elusive as ever. How can we explain the irony that the United States, at the moment of uncontested geostrategic preponderance, has no comprehensive basis for engaging the rest of the world? There are a number of reasons. First, much of the public debate on American international engagement is cast in iconic terms that may satisfy embedded political interests but do little for positioning the United States to capitalize on a dynamic global environment. In the post-Cold War period, the critical issues have become increasingly complex. New challenges have been superimposed on traditional issues. A constellation of global forces is calling long-standing sovereign prerogatives and capabilities into question. All this defies bumpersticker articulation. Second, the absence of a broad consensus has provided a greater opportunity for special interest groups to impose their priorities on the policymaking process. The result is a centrifugal process that cuts into the capacity of leaders to formulate and carry out balanced and consistent policies. Third, in the context of today's real-time news culture, political leaders are confronted with making complicated decisions based on a multitude of factors in ever shorter time frames. The "CNN effect" makes crises across the world immediately relevant to leaders who in the past would not have been affected by those developments. The pressure for instant policy declarations and formulation has grown tremendously. As a consequence, leaders have less time to think carefully about longer-range trends, confer with knowledgeable individuals, and contemplate approaches that are longer term and integrated in nature. Fourth, the organizational "stovepipe" phenomenon of specialized jurisdictions, competencies, and interests across the U.S. government (as well as other governments) is creating increasingly segmented analyses of developments across the world. It is also generating turf battles and gridlock, infighting and paralysis, and lack of constancy of purpose. The constraints created by these organizational rigidities certainly apply to the range of traditional national security and foreign policy issues confronting the United States. But they are most pronounced when it comes to crosscutting global issues such as globalization, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS and the cross-border movement of other infectious diseases, and other similar forces. Fifth and last, the debate in both academia and the public policy community on how to position the United States relative to the rest of the world has been no more productive. Despite Herculean attempts to identify paradigms for U.S. engagement within a broader strategic framework, no overarching theory has emerged, no comprehensive strategy has succeeded in attracting political consensus, and no approach has enabled the systematic prioritization of American interests and objectives. Together, these five elements have limited the capacity of leaders to think in "strategic" terms—to assess relations with key states in a comprehensive fashion, weigh both primary and derivative effects of proposed policies, cast relations in a long-term time frame, and develop nn integrated approach to how Washington can and should define its relations with the world. The challenge is clear: American leaders must weigh all dimensions of complex relationships, assign priorities to highly complex and sometimes competing objectives, and fashion a strategy through which those priorities can be achieved. For these reasons, Zbigniew Brzezinski's unique geopolitical insight is all the more valuable. Over the course of his remarkable career in government and the public policy arena, Dr. Brzezinski has consistently distinguished himself as a truly strategic thinker by grounding his analysis in historical understanding, exploring how sets of relations between countries can and should be calibrated with other sets of relationships, advancing conclusions that are global in scope, and focusing on longer-range developments and trends. In addition, he has consistently attacked the questionable assumptions and iconic thinking that have characterized public debate on some of the big issues of our times. Dr. Brzezinski's analysis is testament to the fact that even in today's real-time decisionmaking environment, it is possible to formulate and prosecute a strategy based on a forward-looking, interdisciplinary approach. This monograph captures such an approach. The conceptual staging point for the analysis that follows is that the success of U.S. international engagement in the early twenty-first century will be conditioned largely by the United States' relations with Eurasia—the world's central arena of world affairs—and in particular with China, Japan, Russia, and Europe. In short, Dr. Brzezinski asserts, the United States needs a well-defined transcontinental strategy to maneuver effectively in the twenty-first century. More specifically, he points to two "Eurasian power triangles" that Washington must develop as an organizing structure for its future engagement: the first between the United States and the European Union and Russia, and the second between the United States and Japan and China. This monograph lays out Dr. Brzezinski's thinking on the considerations that should underlie each of these power triangles. For obvious reasons, each of these relationships involves separate and independent considerations. But they also share an important characteristic: Of the two countries other than the United States in each triangle, only one recognizes its stake in international stability. In the United States-Japan-China triangle, Tokyo clearly is pursuing regional and international policies that reflect an interest in security. Beijing, however, continues to favor more or less drastic alternations in the geopolitical calculus. The same applies to Russia in the context of the United States-European Union-Russia triangle. The European Union, conversely, serves with the United States as the axis of global stability. Also significant, as Dr. Brzezinski notes, is the important contrast between the two "non-stake" countries in the respective triangles. Beijing's economic progress suggests an altogether different set of priorities than the dire challenges—ranging from economic to health and demographic—facing Moscow. In managing these differing sets of relationships, the challenge to Washington is to fashion a longer-range vision of its interests and role in Eurasia. That implies, of course, an outward-based strategy building on relations with our allies in Europe and Japan. In this context, a number of looming policy issues—NATO expansion, European integration, the development of an autonomous European defense capacity, the balance between Washington, Tokyo, and Beijing, cross-Strait relations—are likely over time to test traditional security, political, and economic relations. A longer-range vision also implies detailed and differentiated strategies for dealing with Russia and China. What makes Dr. Brzezinski's analysis so significant is the clear and comprehensive conceptual road map he offers to address these issues. With these essays, he has articulated a strategy for the cornerstone of U.S. policy—our relations with Eurasia—as we move forward into the millennium. In so doing he has made a significant contribution at ë significant time, and CSIS is pleased and proud to be able to publish this volume. The three chapters that make up this volume were first published in successive issues of the National Interest, and we thank its editor, Owen Harries, who is also a senior associate at CSIS, for permitting us to incorporate those separate articles into a single volume. JOHN J. HAMRE President and CEO, CSIS January 2001. ...

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