How to lose a cold war
Senior Fellow Brantly Womack offers ideas about how President-Elect Biden can deal with China
One of the few certainties facing president-elect Joe Biden is the prospect of an enduring rivalry with China, and casting the task as a new cold war has a certain allure. After all, the old one unified us and our allies for a noble purpose—and the communists lost. But could we be the losers this time?
Of course, in nuclear war all would lose, but what were the strategic mistakes of the Soviet Union that put it on the losing side? What did they do wrong, and what was President Donald Trump doing that is similar?
- Proud as Josef Stalin was of Russia’s decisive contribution in defeating Adolf Hitler, Stalin was afraid of the consequences of peace. He needn’t have been. Russian prestige was at an all-time high after the war, and not just among the various communist parties around the world. But Stalin’s self-centered commitment to making (only) Russia great again defaulted the opportunity of global leadership to the United States. We are blessed with a heritage of global institutions and responsibilities, but by abandoning them, Trump was creating a vacuum for others to fill.
- Stalin plundered Eastern Europe and by 1947 he had installed his puppets. He respected neither the autonomy of allies nor their interests, thus surrounding himself with resentful peoples under illegitimate governments while scaring the rest of Europe. In today’s globalized world, our Asian allies do not want to choose between us and China, and to the extent that we—or China—force them to choose, we push them to the other side.