U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while addressing a joint news conference with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, April 30, 2018..
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
Two great powers are now challenging the position of the United States as the world’s leading power. As a powerful economy with global ambitions, China has invested billions of dollars to increase its soft power. Due to recent failures in its conduct in democratic countries, China has turned to using authoritative influence around the world, or a policy of sharp power.
The policy of sharp power is based on subversion and intimidation, threats and pressure. At the same time, it takes advantage of the open characteristics of democracy and its slow reaction in order to gain political influence and manipulate its target audience by distorting the information that reaches it.
This policy is combined with China’s economic expansion in the global arena based on acquired marine power. Following this policy, China takes control of commercial ports around the world through their acquisition or construction, as a basis for its “One Belt One Road Initiative.”
Russia, too – as a poor but well-armed power seeking to make its way back into the international arena – has adopted the dark-power policy and behaves like a frightening bully. It has expanded its influence in former Soviet Union states (Ukraine) and increased its presence in former client-states in the Middle East (Syria), using indiscriminate firepower against civilian populations and damaging civilian infrastructure.
Moscow also operates cheap cyberwarfare to promote its global interests, such as its involvement in the recent elections in the US and France. It has also sought to eliminate Russian spies in democratic countries, such as the recent attempt to assassinate a Russian spy and his daughter in England.
Faced with these challenges, the current US administration has yet to develop a comprehensive and coherent global policy and is maneuvering between focusing at home (“America first”) and the restoration of a status of a superpower (“Make America great again”), or in an integrated way (“focus on home and return to superpower status.”)
The American attack in April (in cooperation with France and the UK), against Syria’s chemical weapons development and production sites, leads to a number of key conclusions. The United States is still the world’s leading superpower with unrivaled military power. The US, led by President Donald Trump, has the ability to quickly set up an international coalition to carry out an effective military operation. In this case, a coalition of three permanent members of the UN Security Council against Russian interests and ignoring China, the other two permanent members of the UN Security Council.
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Moscow has global ambitions but its capabilities are low. In its will, the US will dwarf Russia to its true dimensions while operating everywhere in the world, even in areas where Russia is present, such as Syria. But the message is clear: If it chooses, Washington will be able to act against the Russian presence in the Crimea or at least severely curtail its steps.
Although China is also a global economic power, its global military capability is immature and does not constitute a balance against the great American military power. Therefore, its ability to use North Korea to advance its interests against the US is also limited.
The conclusions in the military context are numerous but can be summed up: Russia and China have not yet pushed the US out of the global arena, and Washington is able to realize the goal of return for leadership, as defined in the US National Security Strategy Document of December 2017. Economic and moral factors are no less important tools that America must use to regain its status as the first among equals.
The United States has been built to a large extent by an international free economy and its supporting institutions (the IMF and the World Bank). The American nation still serves as a moral beacon for many in the world. Therefore, America should not abandon these areas, and it does so by re-establishing its status as the world’s leading power. The question of whether President Trump can achieve this goal still requires proof.
The writer is a geostrategist, international security policy and Middle East expert and a member of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at IDC Herzliya.
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