Saber rattling intensifies in Washington, Moscow and Beijing

U.S. House Chamber, Jan. 12, 2016: President Obama delivers his final State of the Union Address (source: dpa)
U.S. House Chamber, Jan. 12, 2016: President Obama delivers his final State of the Union Address (source: dpa)

The world received diverging messages at the start of the year from the three capitals, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

“The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period,” said President Barack Obama in his final State of the Union address on January 12.

He continued: “No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us.”

These statements show a self-confident position. However, that last sentence clearly singles out China and Russia as adversaries. If we listen to signals from Moscow and Beijing, the picture is mirrored.

On December 26, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a document that overhauls his country’s military doctrine. Simply put, the policy provides for closer ties with China, a reinforced presence in the arctic and especially an increased response to NATO. According to the new doctrine, NATO’s presence in Central Europe constitutes a threat.

The document specifically mentions the importance of nuclear weapons and allows Russia to set up anti-missile defense batteries together with other countries. This was not the case previously.

The People’s Republic of China announced at the beginning of the year that it had begun construction on a second aircraft carrier. That China continues to strengthen its naval capabilities is changing the balance of power in the Pacific and should underline China’s claims on hegemony in the region.

This runs counter to U.S. interests, as well as to those of countries in East and Southeast Asia. China intends to boost its control over a number of territorial waters and gain stronger influence over shipping routes, again giving the U.S. and other Asian nations cause for concern.

The world is becoming more dangerous and troubled. Saber rattling is increasing. We risk returning to a state of affairs that many believed had been overcome at the end of the Cold War: a highly armed bipolar world with the U.S., NATO and America’s Asian allies on one side, and a Chinese-Russian bloc on the other.

Related statements:

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Baltics need NATO support to stem Russia’s military might

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Rift between U.S. and Europe may pose security risk in Asia

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An American perspective on intersecting interests in the Asia Pacific

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