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Itar-Tass, Russia

Who Chooses the US President

By Evgeny Bazhanov

Translated By Rina Hay

30 January 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer


Russia - Itar-Tass - Original Article (Russian)

One Russian analyst argued recently at a conference that the modern world is unipolar and America rules the world. It is true that America continues to lead in terms of GDP, defense spending and achievements in various fields. It has had great success in transatlantic mass culture. It's a shame, but it's true: In the popular TV show “The Voice,” contenders for the title of best national singer usually sing American hits.

But all this does not necessarily mean that the world really is unipolar. Washington is in no position to give orders to every participant of international relations. This joke is being told in China nowadays: A citizen asks the Beijing Radio, “What is the U.S. presidential election?” Answer: “It is when the children of high-ranking Chinese parents, studying in the New World, choose the leader of the United States.” The citizen asks: “What is the election of the PRC Chairman?” Answer: “When the high-ranking Chinese parents choose the leader of China.”

That is to say that the Chinese start from the premise that they now dictate the rules of the game to the Americans. In fact, China holds a majority of U.S. government bonds — if it were to sell them, the American financial system could collapse. Without cheap goods from China, the American middle class could find itself in difficulty. China is oppressing U.S. markets all over the world. In the military-political field, Beijing is either openly challenging Washington, particularly over Syria, Iran and disputed islands of the Pacific Ocean, or forcing America to seek partnership with China on the North Korean nuclear issue, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and so on.

And China is not the only one who does not accept U.S. hegemony. Does the U.S. really command Russia? Moscow, of course, is interested in having a normal relationship with Washington; where America is willing, the two powers are cooperating. But in situations where America has acted contrary to us, the Russian Federation has fought back — on missile defense, NATO expansion, the South Caucasus, Syria, human rights.

Washington is unable to dictate its will to many other states, not only the large and powerful such as, say, India and Brazil, but even those of modest potential, such as Cuba and North Korea. Most post-Soviet African and Latin American countries have a multi-vectoral policy, not a one-sided pro-U.S. policy.

There are, of course, a significant number of states which follow in the wake of U.S. policy, but they almost all do it because they are aware of the existence of other centers of power seeking protection from the White House. As such, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic countries all see the U.S. as their defense from Russia; Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asian countries and Australia are trying to rely on overseas power to deter the muscles of the Chinese dragon.

If one of these partners disagrees with Washington, it more and more frequently dares to argue with its patron. Germany and France refused to support U.S. intervention in Iraq, arguing with Washington about a number of issues. And European countries snarl at their transatlantic friend more quietly, as do Pakistan, South Korea and the members of ASEAN.

Even the U.S. has started to realize that there are many groups of humanity who do not wish to bow to its dictates. As early as 2008, the report of the U.S. National Intelligence Council recognized that the international system was becoming more and more multipolar; moreover, a “historic redistribution of power from West to East” was occurring. It noted that “although the U.S. is likely to remain the most powerful individual actor, the comparative strength of America, even in the military sphere, will decrease, and its impact will become more limited.”

And so, it seems clear that the world is becoming multipolar. But multipolarity does not guarantee peace. On the one hand, it is obvious that the growth of a number of mutual problems, from the proliferation of nuclear weapons to climate change, coupled with a deepening interdependence among nations, mean that a collective leadership is necessary. On the other hand, there are still barriers on the path to co-operation.

Perhaps the U.S. has rejected rude, powerful hegemony, but it still has ambitions of leadership. Other players also have these ambitions: Russia, China, the European Union. And if this ambition is left, it remains fertile ground for rivalry, friction and conflicts.

Another negative factor for cooperation between world powers is their need for an external enemy. As far back as the fifth century BC, Chinese philosopher Shang Yang promoted war as a means of rallying and subjugating one's own people, as well as consolidating power. 2,500 years later, in the 21st century, American political scientist Samuel Huntington confirmed: “As long as Americans believe that their country is threatened, their sense of national identity is great. If the sense of danger is dulled, other identities will again take precedence over the national identity.”

Following these thoughts, politicians are sometimes tempted to strengthen the state and their own personal power by exploiting external threats. The military complex especially tries for this: The presence of the enemy justifies their existence.

The economy is a separate source of conflict. It is difficult to overcome the competition for control over the sources and routes of energy supply. And this could put ideological contradictions on the agenda.



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