Managing a World of Great Powers
Great-power competition – like that playing out today among a long-dominant US, a more active Russia, and a rising China – is nothing new. But its persistence does not – indeed, must not – prevent cooperation on major security issues, like the crisis in Syria.
MADRID – Today, great-power competition is a fact: The United States now competes with an increasingly active Russia and a rising China. The Middle East, the South China Sea, and Ukraine are just three theaters where this new reality is playing out.
Upon rereading former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott’s book The Great Experiment, I was left with the impression that the seeds of some of the dynamics at play today were sown some time ago. The book describes a conversation that took place in December 2000 between President Bill Clinton and President-elect George W. Bush. Clinton says that, judging by Bush’s electoral campaign, the security issues that seemed to concern him most were Saddam Hussein and the construction of a large-scale antimissile defense system. “That’s absolutely right,” Bush responds.
These issues were put on hold when tragedy unexpectedly struck, in the form of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US, which brought a period of international cooperation during which solidarity against terrorism reigned. It was a time when we were all Americans, and when Bush described Putin as “very straightforward and trustworthy.”