Interviu Christopher Layne şi Gabriela Marin-Thornton | publicatii - Politica La Est

Interviu Christopher Layne şi Gabriela Marin-Thornton

Politica la Est deschide rubrica de interviuri cu două nume de experţi în relaţii internaţionale care au o legătură intensă cu România: Christopher Layne şi Gabriela Marin-Thornton. Soţii Layne au avut amabilitatea de a oferi un interviu în vara anului 2014 în timpul unei vizite în ţara noastră. Datele lor biografice precum şi interviul propriu-zis sunt prezentate mai jos:
 
 Christopher Layne  deţine catedra Robert M.Gates din cadrul Bush School of Government and Public Service a Universităţii A&M din Texas. Adept al curentului realist din relaţiile internaţionale, profesorul Layne se regăseşte printre inventatorii noţiunii de off-shore balancing (Offshore Balancing Revisited, The Washington QuarterlyVolume 25, Number 2, Spring 2002 pp. 233-248) . De asemenea autorul lucrărilor The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell University Press, 2006) şi American Empire: A Debate (Routledge, 2006), în co-autorat cu Bradley A.Thayer. Prima dintre a fost tradusă şi în limba română de către Simona Soare la Editura Polirom: Pacea iluziilor. Marea strategie americană din 1940 până în prezent, Polirom, Bucureşti, 2011
Suplimentar, scrierile sale se pot găsi în publicaţii periodice precum International Security, International History ReviewSecurity StudiesInternational Politics, Review of International StudiesJournal of Strategic StudiesThe National InterestForeign PolicyThe Washington Quarterly.
 
Christopher Layne is a University Distinguished Professor, Robert M. Gates Chair in National Security, and professor of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Disciple of the Realist school of thought in International Relations, professor Layne is one of the inventors of the off-shore balancing theory (Offshore Balancing Revisited, The Washington Quarterly
Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 2002 
pp. 233-248). He is  also the author of The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell University Press, 2006), and American Empire: A Debate (Routledge, 2006), co-author Bradley A.Thayer. The former book was also translated in Romanian by Simona Soare and published at Polirom as: Pacea iluziilor. Marea strategie americană din 1940 până în prezent, Polirom, Bucureşti, 2011.
Additional, his columns can be found in world renowned publications such as International Security, International History ReviewSecurity StudiesInternational Politics,Review of International StudiesJournal of Strategic StudiesThe National InterestForeign PolicyThe Washington Quarterly.
 
Gabriela Marin-Thornton, originară din Târgovişte, este o scriitoare de origine română stabilită în Statele Unite ale Americii. Absolventă a Facultăţii de Automatică a Institutului Politehnic din Bucureşti (1984), îsi va face debutul scriitoricesc cu texte de proză scurtă în publicaţiile „Luceafărul”, „Convorbiri literare”, „Lumină lină” (New York), „Origini – Romanian roots”. Ulterior va urma romanul „În largul sufletului”. În Statele Unite a absolvit un program masteral (2002) şi unul doctoral în studii internationale (2006)  la Universitatea din Miami. Actualmente, doamna Marin-Thornton predă în cadrul Bush School of Government and Public Service a Universităţii A&M din Texas cursuri despre teoria relaţiilor internaţionale, Uniunea Europeană şi procesul de extindere al NATO. Printre publicaţiile sale se numără:
 “The Outsiders: Power Differentials between Roma/Gypsies and non-Roma in Europe”, Perspectives on European Politics and Society, Vol.15, Issue 1, 2014, p. 106-119. “The Paradox of the Transatlantic Security Project: From Taming European Power to Dividing It,” International Politics, 45:3, May 2008. “The Future of the European Union External Relations,” in Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series 1:3, University of Miami, 2002.
 
Born  in Tâgovişte, Gabriela Marin-Thornton is a Romanian born writer based in The Unites States of America. After graduating the Faculty of Automatics within the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest (1984) her literary debut comes in the form of short stories in journals such as „Luceafărul”, „Convorbiri literare”, „Lumină lină” (New York), „Origini – Romanian roots”. The novel „The depth of my soul” established her as a new born writer. Further on in the United States she graduated an MA program (2002) followed by a Phd (2006), both in International Studies at the University of Miami. Today  Mrs. Marin-Thornton teaches classes of International Relations Theory, European Union and NATO enlargement process. Amongst her publications:
“The Outsiders: Power Differentials between Roma/Gypsies and non-Roma in Europe”, Perspectives on European Politics and Society, Vol.15, Issue 1, 2014, p. 106-119. “The Paradox of the Transatlantic Security Project: From Taming European Power to Dividing It,” International Politics, 45:3, May 2008. “The Future of the European Union External Relations,” in Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series 1:3, University of Miami, 2002.

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Silviu Petre: How do you assess the future of Realism as a Theory of International Relations, given the fact that it has been the subject of intense criticism ever since the 1990s? Does it continue to accurately describe the world of today or does it remain only a catechism of prudence?
 
Gabriela Marin-Thornton: The critics of Realism became more vociferous in the 1990s, after the structure of the international system changed and we entered the great liberal internationalist era labeled as <the end of history>. However, the Realist paradigm has been criticized for a long time, particularly after Kenneth Waltz wrote Theory of International Politics (1979).  Waltz’s theory has been labeled as reductionist and simplistic. It was criticised because it deals primarily with the distribution of military capabilities and discards other factors such as domestic politics, for instance. In my opinion, it is not fashionable to criticize Realists anymore. Everybody did that in the past. There is nothing new one can say about Realism. However, since China aquired great power status, we have seen a certain resurgence of Realism. We may return to the realist-liberal internationalist debate; the recent exchange between John Ikenberry and Walter Russel Mead in Foreign Affairs is an illustration of this. However, I do not think any particular theory accurately describes the world. Realism is the one paradigm that describes great power politics the best. Most recently there is a new version of Realism, called Neoclassical Realism that opens ”the box” and takes in consideration domestic factors too. One could argue that Neoclassical Realism brought about a resurgence of the Realist tradition.
 
Christopher Layne: The first thing you have to understand is why Realism has always been unpopular in the United States. In the The Soldier and the State, (1957) - Sam Huntington called the United States a hard equilibrium nation, which does not fit the fundamental political philosophy that dominates in America. Bob Gilpin wrote an article long time ago: ”No one loves a political realist” and I think his assertion is true. In America realism is not the dominant paradigm. Also, we have to understand that no single theory explains everything. Each theory tries to focus on explaining something of worth, as Gabriela pointed out. I don’t think you would ever find any serious realist denying that liberal institutionalism is important - people like Keohane and Ikenberry describe important realities; people in IPE [International Political Economy] describe an important reality, but they are trying to explain different phenomena, different parts of international politics than realists are. Kenneth Waltz made that very clear in his Theory of International Politics - his theory is describing the behavior of great powers. I also believe that realism is experiencing a bit of a comeback today for the reasons Gabriela mentioned, like the rise of China and great power politics which never truly went away. Moreover, realism came back with a vengeance. It’s back in the United States, it’s back in Europe with the resurgence of Russia. Summing up, Realism is not an all-encompassing theory that explains everything that is happening in the world but explains important parts of international politics, that is, competition between great powers.
 
Bianca Berna: There are many different theories in International Relations that speak about power, of the manner in which power is produced, and, most of all, of how power is exerted. In your opinion, as theorists, how would you describe the specificity of today’s contest for superiority? 
 
 
 
 
CL: This is a hard one. During the Great Depression we have seen many attempts at multilateral cooperation. There is a debate about how successful they’ve been. There is a lot of concern with reforming the international institutions in order to reflect the rise of China and other emerging markets. I still think, as a realist, that right now the most important thing that is going to define international politics going forward is the competition between the United States and China. Realism does a better job at explaining this competition than other theories do. But, I will offer a caveat: you have to look at Ikenberry, look at the ”Liberal Leviathan” and some of his articles: he makes a very strong argument that China will not try to overturn the current international order because that order has enabled China to rise. Beijing will be content to stay within the present international order.
 
GMT: I am going to disagree with something you said. I agree with Professor Ikenberry’s argument that the present international order allowed China to rise, and that China has integrated itself – more or less- into the present international order. However, with all due respect, I differ a little bit from professor Ikenberry. Being integrated into a particular order does not mean that a player will not try to change that order.  The factors that brought China to power will not necessarily be the same factors that will keep China in power. Assuming it aquires enough power, China could reform the international order by changing the order’s norms. Professor Ikenberry believes that China will play by the norms of the liberal international order that the United States of America created. It is true that those rules brought China to power, but China is trying to change them by creating new institutional arrangements. At the moment China does not have the resources to build another international order. But China is looking for openings to change the current order.
 
CL: To pick up on what Gabriela said - she was very polite in terms of her criticism. With all due respect to Ikenberry, I think he’s quite wrong. What is his basic argument? His basic argument is that: ”I do not agree that America is in decline and that twenty years from now, probably even sooner, the world won’t be unipolar. The current international order will survive”. However what is that international order? It is the Pax Americana created after World War II. Ikenberry suggests in „After victory” that there will be a major transformation in the international system going from unipolarity, through bipolarity, without affecting the international order. He seems to say something like: ”The US is going to lose the two things that underpinned its position- economic power and military supremacy and, yet, the international order is to remain the same and China will accept it.” I think that is a sort of zombie hegemony. How is the US going to assure that China, along with the other emerging states, wants to play by American rules once America is no longer in power? We already see signs that China does not accept the current international order. They are not in the position yet to change it but they have made it pretty clear; they’ve telegraphed their intention. Just this past week, there was talk about China accelerating the internationalisation of its currency. Why is that? Because ultimately they want to displace the dollar. One can see that the Chinese are building new institutions: they are trying to build a new development bank and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is already in place. Here is the bottom line: we have heard the Chinese talk  about a new international order. There is also a lot of talk about China`s rising. Well, China has risen and it will want to use its power to fundamentally restructure the international order, so as to reflect its norms, its values, its interests. There is no historical precedent to justify that China, once it has become equal or even superior to the US, is going to accept a US-made international order.
 
 
GMT: Certain internationalists assume that it does not matter if the US loses its power because the order created by the US has a life of its own. Look at [what] Keohane [says]: institutions have a life of their own. So, once in place, those norms and institutions propagate the values embedded in them even if the US is not the hegemon anymore. This is what professor Layne calls zombie hegemony. The US is not a hegemon anymore but its values  are still shaping the world. If there is no American hegemony, there is no American international order. This is what realist authors, like Professor Layne, claim. However, China is not yet in the position to put in place an ideology that will appeal to the world. The liberal internationalists speak of democracy, human rights, international law, and market economies. These are the fundamentals of the US international order. China is not ready to create a total different order. It is hard to know how the rules of the game will be changed in the future. I am sure China will have an impact on the present international order. I just do not know how big of an impact it will be. I do not believe right now that China can generate an ideological appeal.
 
CL: China’s big advantage is its economy and growing military power. There is another fact - China shares an experience that other countries went through: being a victim of Western imperialism and Western colonialism. I think that, as time goes by, and China emerges, it will become the spokesman for its part of the world, that finds itself under the domination of the West. I am not sure that China is not capable of generating an ideological appeal. There is another thing that comes to my mind, since we started talking about Realism. I think that everybody should go back and read E.H.Carr’s Twenty Years Crisis because we are going through what I would call an ’E.H.Carr moment’ and that is when the distribution of power and the international order no longer supports the dominance of the state or states that have created that international order. These demands for change ultimately happen every time. You can’t expect China, if it becomes the most important state in the system, to accept to play by US rules.
 
BB: Everybody is talking about the US’s loss of hegemony, the US’s loss of power. Some talk about America going through a period of ontological insecurity. Other say that, quite the contrary, China is experiencing an ontological state of insecurity. What is your opinion here?
 
GMT: Let’s be clear about one thing: in my interpretation when we talk about ontological security we mostly talk about identity. Ontological security goes to who you are, what is your role in the order....
 
BB: What you are practicing, role-identity - meaning a social construction that reverberates the functions of the Self-Identity in interactions with the others` expectations upon it - in the international system. The power to propagate a cultural role, ideology or something that can be matched up...
 
GMT: I would argue that China is going through a resurrection. It had a period of humiliation; a century of humiliation. Now it is on the rise. Sure, the Chinese are experiencing security tribulations. But that is not necessarily a sign of weakness. They can exercise a lot of power - in Asia. In fact, they have a lot of economic power all over the world. China is the number one trading partner of the European Union; it trades in all continents; it gained traction in Africa and Latin America. There is a Chinese resurgence and like any resurgence it has tribulations. China does not know exactly how much power it can amass, but I don’t think this means it is insecure. The Chinese know they are on the rise. They are emerging from their century of humiliation and they are doing it very nicely. Chris?   
   
CL: Yes. We have a phrase we use colloquially in America: ”The 800 pound gorilla in the room.” I don’t think China is the 800 pound gorilla yet, but it is a 600 pound gorilla growing its way to becoming a 800 pound gorilla; a gorilla with a chip on its shoulder from the so called century of humiliation. It seems sort of strange to me when you go to conferences. There was one the other week sponsored by the Norwegians. At the conference there were so many Americans dismissive of China’s rise but, in the last four years, China has passed the US as the world’s largest manufacturing agent (this was a crown the US held for over a century), the world’s largest trading nation, and just a month and a half ago there was a big headline on the front page of the Financial Times - ”China set to surpass US as the largest economy this year.” People find ways to say that this doesn’t matter. It’s purchasing power parity, not measured by market exchange rate. This doesn’t count. They are not really passing the US. But the evidence, the handwriting is on the wall and I think the Chinese have a different opinion about what their role in the world is. They surely regard themselves as the Middle Kingdom, as the dominant power in Asia. Therefore, I don’t see them experiencing ontological insecurity. What you hear when you talk to Chinese officials - they do not talk about the rise of China - they talk about the restoration of Chinese power.
 
SP: They see their existence in long durée, in terms of millennia and not restrict themselves to only what happened after 1911, or something like that.
 
BB: What kind of role would you attribute to emerging powers in shaping the future international order?
 
GMT: I really think that we do see a certain type of regionalism and the assertion of regional hegemony. There are signs that the US is in decline: China asserting its power in its neighbourhood, Russia asserting itself in its neighbourhood, how powerful Germany is in Europe. Yet when people say emerging powers they immediately think of Brazil, India and the other BRICS. Yet that combination is unusual. Lumping Russia and Brazil together is unusual. The idea of „BRICS” was created as a push back to Western institutions. Will the BRICS countries play an important role? I don’t think they will necessarily play an important role collectively but we’ll have to wait and see. I could be wrong. There are not many common interests between Russia and China, or between India and China. Therefore I do not think one can look at them as a whole; perhaps it is better to look at them individually. Moreover, I don’t think that India will ever be a great power. Brazil, on the other hand, is faring better. To quote Henry Kissinger, Brazil has the potential to be a hegemon and always will have. I won’t say those powers will not shape the international order. Yes, they will try to shape the international order, especially if American hegemony is dissipating. What I’m saying is that I am not sure how the world will exactly look. It is possible it will look like how Charles Kupchan describes it: it will be no one’s world.  Power is going to be diffused among regions, each with its own strong center. America is going to be only one of those strong centers.
 
SP: So you basically see a multipolarity.
 
GMT: In the US, when policy makers use the term ‚mulitpolarity’ they associate it with warfare. Some scholars prefer to use the term diffusion of power. American policymakers look at European history, and think Europe was a multipolar system and that kind of system ended in several wars. Therefore most policymakers in America do not like multipolarity. However, the international system right now approaches multipolarity.
 
CL: I do not think the system looks that multipolar yet. There are two powers competing in Asia and US tries to dwarf all the other competitors, so it is not a real multipolarity, but certainly it is not unipolarity either. The thing we should keep in mind is the decline of American power, the [overall] diffusion of power. The real challenge right now is China. In the literature you hear all that talk about whether China is ever going to stand as a global superpower, but if we look at history, we see that all competitions for global hegemony in the past were actually competitions for regional supremacy. So, the competition between US and China is, first and foremost, about Asia. Depending on how that develops, there will be consequences in other regions. Now just a comment about the BRICS. It is interesting how the BRICS started as a figment of the imagination of some economists at Goldman Sachs. And Gabriela is absolutely right: there is little these states have in common. They are in different regions, have different states of economic development, different geopolitical clashes in some cases. However, we do see now how the BRICS have summits, they are trying to institutionalize their groupings with headquarters and a secretariat. They are united by a grudge against an American-dominated world.
 
SP: Now we are going to explore a place where theory meets policy-making. You often talk about off-shore balancing. Off-shore balancing is an arch-important notion in different places all across your work. If you could please explain the notion at length and use it to judge American foreign policy?
 
CL: First, I’d like to clarify what off-shore balancing is. In American academia there are not many proponents of off-shore balancing. Myself, John Mearsheimer, Barry Posen. But, if you ask the question to each of us individually you would not get the same answer. Nonetheless, we have a core concept about off-shore balancing that we all agree on, although we do not necessarily agree how to apply it in the real world. So, I am not sure if there is one single interpretation of off-shore balancing but, there is a broad  debate about whether the US is in decline, whether or not there is the need for a sort of strategic retrenchment. Off-shore balancing argues for the shifting of burdens to other powers and for forcing those powers to take more responsibility for their own security rather than having the US guarantee their security. In my case, off-shore balancing is based on the recognition that a lot of the commitments that the US makes are pretty dangerous for us. Take the East China Sea. I understand that these islands, whether you call them Diaoyu or Senkaku are important to Japan, however they are of no importance to the United States and yet both Robert Gates and Chuck Hagel went to Japan in recent years and said: ”These islands come under the rubric of US-Japan alliance and we will defend them!” First of all, why would China think that Washington would risk a conflict with another nuclear power to defend those rock piles? During the Cold War, there were many occasions on the brink of escalation precisely because the NATO alliance was based on the assumption that the US would risk nuclear war to defend Europe. There was an episode when Kennedy met French president De Gaulle. They met in Paris in 1961 and Kennedy was trying to dissuade de Gaulle to develop a nuclear arsenal. Kennedy said: ”Why do you need this?” De Gaulle replied: ”Because you Americans won’t trade New York or Chicago to protect Hamburg and Paris.” It gets increasingly difficult for our allies to be reassured and for our adversaries to believe that we would really do what we say we’ll do! And you see that in Europe today. I understand that the Baltic states are nervous about their security after what happened in Crimea.
I would make an argument here that is not going to be popular, but I never searched for popularity. Expanding NATO was a huge strategic mistake for a number of reasons, least of which was to put the US in the position to guarantee the security of certain countries that are not really important to the US.
 
GMT: I think that off-shore balancing is a theory that makes sense. I don’t believe that the policy-makers in Washington, given their ideological orientation, will go for it. Regarding NATO expansion: I do not think it was a mistake to expand NATO. What was controversial was the effort to bring Ukraine into NATO. The push for Ukrainian membership in NATO at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 signaled to Russia that the United States of America was ready to step into territories that Moscow sees as belonging to the former Russian empire. I am not saying that the Russians did not care about Hungary or Poland and that they did not scream and kick after each NATO expansion, but they did not do anything because, at that time, they were weak. The US had the opportunity to extend NATO into Eastern Europe and it did. NATO’s expansion was a way of reassuring the Eastern Europeans and guaranteeing their security. Eastern Europe was not left in a geopolitical vacuum. Again, the success of the Eastern expansion was  predicated  on the fact that NATO enlargement took place at a time when Russia was weak.  In 2008, Russia was not weak anymore. Mr. Putin was back in the game, therefore the Ukranian situation was different from that of Poland, Hungary, or Romania. I do not think it was a mistake to expand NATO with Romania or Hungary, however, it was a miscalculation to try to bring Ukraine into the alliance. Chris and I disagree here.
 
CL: Way back in 1991 or 1992, I published an article in Foreign Policy Journal and my argument was that policy makers in Washington were pushing then to take advantage of the Soviet weakness. The Soviet Union had not quite collapsed at that point, but it was clearly heading in that direction. We are missing an important historical point – isn`t that what happened in the 1920`s and then in the 1930`s with Germany? The Versailles Treaty humiliated the Germans and left them longing for revenge. I think there was little concern among neoconservatives in America, and within the American foreign policy establishment, about avoiding the possibility of a Weimar Russia. After Sweden collapsed, not just Ukraine but also the Baltic states were part of the Russian Empire. But the idea that these assurances were given to the Soviets, to Gorbachev, during the negotiations over Germany`s reunification and then the United States just forgot about them...because: „Why do we need to remember when Russia was so weak?...after the Soviet Union collapsed?”. But, we have a saying in America: „What goes around, comes around”.  And, everybody is talking about Obama`s intention to pivot to Asia.Well, maybe, we should talk about Putin`s pivot to China. You know, the big gas and oil deal Russia and China signed last month (May 2014) is an indication that we basically pushed Russia out into China`s arms and this is not a very smart thing if you think that China is your emerging competitor geopolitically. Why would you want to push Russia into China`s arms? And that`s what US has done.
 
SP: But, at the same time, you said that Russia and China are destined to clash and that they do not have many things in common, except for rivalry over land, resources and...
 
CL: Or a beef with the United States. They both have a problem with the American hegemony – American dominance in the world. And, we know that this is what brings states together in alliances: this fear of a common enemy. We have made ourselves a common enemy for both China and Russia. So they are putting on the back burner whatever long-term or not so long-term issues that they may have between them and are focusing on common problems with the United States.
 
GMT: I find it very interesting that a Realist like you - to come back to the subject of NATO expansion-  tells me that Russia was weak, that the US was powerful and that`s why the US pushed into Eastern Europe. You claim that the whole NATO expansion was a mistake. But from a Realist perspective, the powerful does as it pleases and the weak does whatever it can. So why was NATO’s enlargement a mistake? The US pushed because Russia was weak. This matches the idea of  great power behavior, although from an Offensive Realist perspective.
 
CL: I think one of the sources of our disagreement and one of the bigger problems was that the American foreign policy establishment does not know very much about history. The only thing that they do know about concerns the 1930s and they actually do not understand that either. But, they certainly do not know much about European history, the regions in which Russian power has been either dominant or influential. The US does not like spheres of influence. Others actually do. But, I think it was Cordell Hull in 1944 who said that: „America rejects spheres of influence, rejects the balance of power”.  Why is that? Because we have a universalist notion of our power: the whole world is our sphere of influence.
 
SP: An ever-expanding Monroe Doctrine...
 
CL: Well, I wouldn`t reference the Monroe Doctrine. But we do think of ourselves as a power with universal intersts, universal values and universal ideology. We had a speaker three or four years ago at the Bush School, a former US Ambassador to Ukraine, and throughout dinner, all he could talk about was the post-soviet space. All that Soviet space he was talking about was the pre-Soviet space. So, the Russians have a vision of what their place in the world is. And, we may not like the idea of spheres of influence, but the Russians do regard certain parts of Europe as regions where, historically, they had an interest, way before the Communists came to power in 1917. And I think, by not respecting the status of Russia as a great power, or as a major regional power, we are alienating Moscow.
 
SP: But, notwithstanding, do you see Obama following in the footsteps of President Wilson? He has ordered the reduction of the military budget. He is not as eager as Bush to send troops abroad. I even have the feeling that he is appealing to the UN. It was actually a certain trick – because he knew that China and Russia would veto any kind of intervention in Syria. So, he wanted to save face and not truly make a bold movement in the Middle East.
 
CL: Well, this is just my feeling. I think deep-down inside Obama wants to be America`s first off-shore balancing president and look at what he has done: he has argued against the commitments made to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has tried to end those wars, he understood that the US fought wars of choice and made bad and unwise decisions to fight those wars. To be very clear here! After 9/11, any American president would have bombed Afghanistan and gone after the Al`Qaeda training bases. But it was not that. It was the decision afterwards to try to nation-build in Afghanistan that took us off the right track. As for Iraq, it was a great strategic blunder. Obama recognised that. He understands that our power  to control outcomes in places like the Middle East is very limited. You see in his policy towards Libya that Obama is serving our off-shore balancing policies by saying to the Europeans: „You do the heavy lifting and we’ll give you logistic support. But, we are not going to be the ones fighting the battle on the frontlines.
Former Defense Secretary Gates in one of his final speeches at West Point said that any future American president or any future Secretary of State that tells a president to send troops to fight in Africa and Asia should have his head examined. I believe that was a direct quote. He said that the US should fall back to where its comparative advantages are, which is air and sea power. And that America’s strategy should be exactly what we did in Libya- to force others to take more responsibility for their own security. There is one problem: as Michael Mandelbaum said in one of his books - The frugal superpower - that, in the American foreign policy establishment there is a boundary to the debate, and if you cross the boundary on either side, you are going to be thrown out of the foreign policy establishment. So, Obama cannot, by himself, change the worldview of the American foreign policy establishment. He is not even able to fully control his own administration. Whatever his instincts may be, he still has interventionists like Susan Rice, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Samantha Power. I think he’s not an interventionist but, there is a lot of pressure that comes from Congress, from the foreign policy establishment. It is very hard for him to follow his instincts.
 
BB: You said that the international system is moving towards bipolarity. During the Cold War era, it was said that bipolarity produced a desired stability effect. I don’t know whether you agree with this assertion so, let me ask you if you think that this new kind of bipolarity can produce a stability effect?
 
GMT: In my interpretation, bipolarity was very different during the Cold War. I don’t quite see a Cold War like the one between the US and the Soviet Union emerging between the US and China. China and the US have a different relationship. What we are looking at right now is not a bipolar world. Russia is still an important nuclear power. China has a long way to go if it wants to build the amount of nuclear equipment that the US has. We are not living in a bipolar world. During the Cold War  the military capabilities were roughly equally distributed between the US and Russia. At present, China does not have a great deal of military capability compared to the US.  However, it is in the process of building military capabilities. And there is something else. For the moment, I do not see an ideological competition between the US and China. During the Cold War, America was adamant that free markets and democracy must triumph. China embraced the capitalist system. Of course, it’s not a democracy.
 
CL: First of all, Cold War bipolarity was stable and unstable, at the same time. In Europe, it was stable, partially because the Russians had all they wanted, they did not have any plans to go further; partially because  the mutually assured  destruction of two nuclear powers made it very dangerous to try to disturb the status quo in Europe. Outside of Europe, where was the stability? For the United States there were major wars in Korea, in Vietnam. The US became heavily involved in the Third World trying to counter what it perceived to be Soviet advances in places like Mozambique, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. So I am not sure that it was an entirely stable situation. It was stable where it mattered - in Europe. But it was pretty unstable outside of Europe, there was a lot of competition. Now, looking forward: it’s not clear what is going to happen between the US and China, but I think the fundamental issue is who is the biggest boy on the block in East Asia? Who is going to dominate East Asia? There is also an ideological component and Gabriela is absolutely right that in many places in the Third World where the US and the Soviet Union competed, it was not a competition because there was some sort of geopolitical advantage to be gained, it was about whose system is better. Whose system was going to be the social and economic model for development. That is why the United States fought in Vietnam. I am not sure we should be saying that this kind of thinking is over. Aaron Friedberg, who teaches at Princeton, wrote a book quite recently - I think 2011 - „The struggle for mastery in Asia”. He says, quote: „It is an affront that China is so successful economically when it does not share America’s democratic-liberal values”. Friedberg goes to great lengths to explain why China’s success is a threat to America’s export of ideology in East Asia. So is the world bipolar in Asia? It is becoming that way. Of course, it’s no doubt that the US has significant military superiority over China, and there is always this lag-time for emerging powers to convert their wealth into military power. We can see that every year China is closing the gap in important areas, in terms of military power, between itself and the United States. People get off track, when they say that China does not have the same military power that the US does. That’s true. The US is still a global power. We do have to worry about East Asia, we have to worry about Eastern Europe and the Middle East. We have to have the military capability to meet all those commitments. China has to focus only on one region while the US has to focus globally. In terms of military capabilities, China needs to accomplish their grand strategic agenda, and they’re closing the gap.
 
GMT: I agree with you to a certain extent. Saying that the rise of Chinese power is an affront to the US is one thing; claiming that China has an ideology is another. Saying NO to something – such as saying no to American ideology – is not an ideology in itself. Standing up to the US is different from saying- „I have something to offer better than the US”. So, I still have to see what China has to offer. NO to the US is not an ideology and it’s not a strategy either.
 
CL: I shall disagree, just a little bit. I think that the Chinese believe they possess an alternative model to sell in Latin America, to sell in Africa, to sell in the Middle East- it is what they call <market authoritarianism>. Many countries outside the US and Canada are really keen on being democracies but they also want to benefit from modernisation. The Chinese come and say - „we got a model”. And they have a name for it, they call it <the Beijing Consensus>.
 
GMT: We „invented” the Beijing Consensus, not the Chinese. The Beijing Consensus does indeed build on authoritarianism. The US does not like authoritarian regimes. Yet, authoritarian as it may be, China still has a market economy. The intensity of the rivalry between China and the US is lower than the rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
 
CL: China’s strategic capabilities are still catching up so that is why the intensity is much lower. But, if you look down the road ten or twenty years from now, China will be an extremely formidable competitor for the United States. Then, we shall see the ideological component kick up as well.
 
SP: Let’s scale down from global to regional. How do you see Europe’s role in a world of dwindling American power? In an article written for Financial Times and quoted by Cato Institute in August 2003, you asserted that US support for the European integration has always been conditional on an American-dominated Atlantic community. Rhetorically, notwithstanding, US never wanted a Europe of equal power. Given the above, how should Europe exert its power in order to suit the American interest? What kind of Europe does an American strategist want?
 
CL: It seems to me that these days in Washington there is a lot of exasperation with Europe. There is this fundamental problem in America’s approach to Europe.  In late 1940s - early 1950s we wanted Europe to be economically integrated, we wanted to be strong militarily, but not so strong as to challenge the United States. We wanted Europe nestled, embedded within the framework of American leadership. We complain about the burden-sharing. „Europe doesn’t do enough; Europe doesn’t do enough!” Then, we saw several instances in history where Europeans tried to do more, and Washington replied with: „What are you doing, you are going to destroy NATO!” So, there always was some sort of ambivalence. And in Washington now, I think there is a lot of frustration. Gabriela made a trip with some students to Germany a year ago. And we were all able to get an hour or so, the two of us and some students, with Thomas de Maizière, who was then the defence minister. And he said, very candidly: „I can’t get any enthusiasm among the people in the Bundestag or among the German public to spend more money on defence.”
In America, we see economic problems starting to impinge on the defence budget. I think we are seeing the same thing with regard to the current crisis with Russia. How much do the Baltic states spend on defence in terms of their quota of GDP? Very low. And they are complaining that they are not protected. You see a lot of headscratching back in Washington.
„If Europe doesn’t want to spend more money to defend itself, why should we?” There is a lot of frustration in Washington with the Europeans.
 
GMT: I think your question is excellent. Let me state the question again: „Given the above, how should Europe exert its power?” What power?! It has economic power, no doubt about that. Everybody in the international arena recognises Europe as an economic pole of power. But Europe does not have military strength, and some policy-makers in the US came to the conclusion that Europe doesn’t count when it comes to military capabilities. Going back to Libya - the US povided logistics, military capabilities, special forces and intelligence. During the bombing, Europe was running short on ammunition. This helps to partially explain the pivot to Asia. Europe is pacified, and, Europe does not have the  military capabilities to challenge anybody.  Therefore there is a dismissive attitude towards the Europeans in certain Washington circles.
 
SP: But France went to Mali and the EU developed battlegroups and sent military and police missions to Kosovo, to Georgia. Is this progress? Does it count for anything?
 
GMT: Please, go back and think about the Saint Malo Initiative. The goal there was to create a 60-80.000 Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) that would have been capable of staying in the field for one year. That means that the RRF should have had at least 120.000 troops. What did Europe do around the time of the Lisbon Treaty? In 2007, the Franco-British initiative downscaled the Rapid Reaction Force and created the EU battlegroups. The EU battlegroups were never used. No battlegroups have been deployed thus far. In seven years, since their creation there was no deployment. We witnessed some European missions, as you mentioned, but no use of battlegroups. So why are they there in the first place? Each time an EU member wants to deploy them, another refuses. Again, the very notion of ’battlegroup’ is actually a downscaling of the Saint Malo Rapid Reaction Force. And yes, Europeans do peacekeeping, but how succesful are they at it?
 
 

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