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Abstract

Both China and Russia are significant powers playing an important role in the world arena. However, rapid changes in economic and geopolitical spheres have forced the United States to arrange priorities according to its national interests. In this respect, Russia is a priority to the U.S. national interests because its actions influence American vital domestic and foreign interests in certain areas. Moreover, the current tough relationship between Russia and the West can lead to the development of the Sino-Russian partnership. To prevent the establishment of the alliance between Russia and China, America should develop and implement proper diplomatic policies in order to re-establish cooperative relations with Russia. In addition, the rise of China as a new global force can change the world balance of power. Thus, Russia’s appropriate stable conduct in international affairs is crucial for America to keep the current world order led by the U.S.

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The U.S. National Interest

China and Russia are two former communist countries with a long history of transformation. Sharing certain similarities regarding their past and present, these two countries can be observed as a threat to the American, as well as world security. At the same time, the United States has developed sustainable collaborative relations neither with Russia nor with China. However, the latter has established more or less stable relations with the U.S. during Obama’s administration, which are hoped to remain strong during the presidency of Donald Trump. Although Russia is no longer America’s strategic opponent, it can be hardly called a friend. Similar can be said about China, but it at least can be regarded as a more reliable diplomatic partner. At the same time, the West remains worried about Russian international politics and its approach to resolving conflicts. Indeed, Russia’s actions and choices have a significant impact on vital American national interests. Therefore, Russia is more important to the U.S. national interest than China because of the following reasons: its conduct on the world arena can influence America’s interests in certain realms; it is necessary to prevent the emergence of the alliance between Russia and China against the U.S., and the U.S.A. needs to manage China as a new developing global power.

Why Russia is a Priority to the U.S. National Interests

While Russia possesses a profound power in certain political, social, and armory realms, it is a priority to the United States’ national interest. Although America is interested in promoting a sustainable cooperation with other countries, for example, China, Russia remains of the greater interest for the U.S. To be precise, American vital interests are concentrated on protection and improvement of the Americans’ well-being in a free and safe country (Allison, Blackwill, Simes, & Saunders, 2011, p. 8). From this perspective, there are five areas, which are of crucial importance for the United States’ national interests. They include managing the spread of nuclear weapons to prevent, slow down, and secure their use; supporting a balance of power in Europe and Asia in order to encourage peace and stability; preventing large-scale terrorist attacks in the country; guaranteeing energy security; and promoting stability of the international economy (Allison et al., 2011, p. 9). Therefore, Russian conduct in the above-mentioned areas has crucial importance for U.S. national interests.

In view of Russia’s difficult history, sometimes unpredictable disturbing behavior in the international arena, and decreased international role after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia remains a priority for the U.S. national interests because of a number of reasons. For instance, in the nuclear weapons area, Russia’s behavior is vital for the U.S. government. According to Allison et al. (2011), “The United States and Russia together possess 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons and most of the world’s weapons-usable material, and both are major suppliers of civilian nuclear technologies around the world” (p. 9). In this respect, Russia’s meaningful support is vital for America’s national interests to prevent nuclear war. At the same time, two former American presidents, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush pointed out the danger of nuclear terrorism, which could also threaten the national security of the United States (Allison et al., 2011, p. 9). While Russia is the only country that could ruin the United States, it is reasonable to have it as a partner (Allison et al., 2011, p. 9). Compared to Russia, China also belongs to nuclear weapons states. However, nuclear weapons have a very limited role in the military strategy of the country (Kulacki, 2015, p. 4). In addition, China explicitly states that it will use nuclear weapons only in case of the confirmed incoming nuclear attack.

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Furthermore, in the geopolitics area, the cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Russia is also important. While the latter can be regarded as a significant nation in the contemporary international system, America should work smoothly with Russia to maintain the balance of power on its side. Ignoring Russian progressive development in different areas can have substantial costs for the U.S. (Kulacki, 2015, p. 4). At the same time, Russia has greatly supported initiatives of the United States to struggle against nuclear terrorism and shared information on al-Qaeda with Washington. It is obvious that without Russia’s help the U.S. would face significant additional complications in preventing nuclear terrorism (Allison et al., 2011, p. 10).

Moreover, Russia plays an important role in the Afghanistan issue. While al-Qaeda’s operatives participated in terrorist attacks against America and promoted terrorist acts committed by Russian domestic terrorist groups, Russia supplied the U.S. with access to its territory and airspace in order to support U.S. forces to ensure critical supplies to Afghanistan (Allison et al., 2011, p. 10). Russia has also assisted America in obtaining information on Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, supported it in training Afghan law enforcement officials, and helped in hardware supply to the Afghan National Army (Allison et al., 2011, p. 10). In addition, Allison et al. (2011) state that “Russia is the largest country on Earth by land area and the largest in Europe by population” (p. 10). In this respect, Russia possesses not only extensive land and human resources but also has access to a critical transit corridor for important materials and goods. Moreover, Russia is located at a significant tactical intersection boarding on Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. Hence, the geopolitical position of Russia, as well as its participation in resolving international conflicts, specifically the Afghanistan issue, makes it a vital force for U.S. national interests.

In addition, being one of the leading energy producers in the world, as well as participating in the G8 and the G20 makes Russia a principal target-partner for the United States. Compared to other countries and their natural gas reserves, Russia can be regarded as the top holder of this air-like fluid substance (Allison et al., 2011, p. 10; Nichol, 2014, p. 36). As a result, Russia is a powerful country with respect to maintaining and increasing energy supplies in the world. Thus, Russia’s participation makes the global economy stable. Moreover, this, in turn, ensures economic growth around the world, including the U.S. (Allison et al., 2011, p. 10). At the same time, Russia as a member of the G8 and the G20 is engaged in important conversations, debates, and meetings relating to economics and finances. Thus, Russia as the main natural gas holder and an economically strong country are of top priority for the U.S.

Compared to the U.S.-Russian relationship, a collaboration between China and America can be characterized by mutual political, economic, and security interests. Similarly to the U.S.-Russian relationship, both China and America are interested in the regulation of terrorism and the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons (Lawrence, 2013, p. 1). At the same time, the relationship between America and China after the shift of the latter in strategic orientation from the Soviet Union has supported the establishment of a good relationship between Washington and Beijing (Lawrence, 2013, p. 1). Relations between the U.S. and Russia, especially now when tensions between Russia and the West have intensified, are quite vulnerable. Thus, it is more beneficial for America to create cooperative relations with Russia than China because it is always better to “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” (Machiavelli, 1984, p. 28). Although neither Russia nor China can be regarded as a real friend, Russia is observed as a greater threat for the U.S. national interests and, according to Machiavelli, it should be kept closed.

Russia under Putin’s government has become tougher than under any other government. Its foreign policy is guided by obsession and its international ambitions (Mullerson, 2009, para. 1). To understand Russian domestic and international interests, one should acknowledge a simple truth, which is “those who are not with us, is against us” (Mullerson, 2009, para. 2). Although the Soviet Union collapsed almost twenty years ago, it seems that Russia has kept the tendency to remake the world in line with its vision of realities. Indeed, the conflict provoked in Ukraine can serve as a good example of this. In this respect, the United States’ focus on the proper cooperative relationship with Russia is obvious. A potential partnership calls for specific care and determination from the American authorities. To be precise, the United States should make great efforts to keep stable relations with Russia to maintain world peace and the balance of power. Taking into consideration the changing Russian conduct on the world arena and its instability in making decisions and imposing actions, Russia is a pivotal country in encouraging the U.S. national interests.

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Possibility of Alliance between China and Russia against the U.S.

Both Russia and China are two former communist nations the alliance of which poses a real threat not only to America but also to the whole world. The potential partnership between the two countries will raise international tensions. While Russia has already adopted hostile conduct toward the West, China becomes more affirmative in the ongoing maritime disputes (Feng, 2015b, p. 5). In this respect, the two countries share the desire to change their position in the international arena. Being an energy superpower, Russia’s partnership with China as a technologically and economically progressive power will lead to the shift of world force balance. Strengthening the economic and security collaboration between China and Russia will improve their military capabilities, which will, in turn, create a good platform for alliance formation (Feng, 2015b, p. 6). Moreover, both countries argue they have been unfairly treated in the past and now they disagree with the current international order (Feng, 2015a, para. 4). Indeed, Putin’s aggressive policies, as well as Russian hostile conduct on the world arena concerning the Crimea and eastern Ukraine show that the country attempts to change its international position. If America continues pushing Russia through NATO and China through restoring balance in the Asia Pacific, it will accelerate the process of the alliance establishment (Nichol, 2014, p. 39; Feng, 2015a, para. 5).

While the future of the two countries still largely depends on American politics, the U.S. should take measures to prevent the establishment of the alliance between these states (Kotkin, 2009, p. 130). According to Feng (2015a), the alliance between China and Russia is questioned due to the issues that the countries face within the scope of the economic, military, and demographic areas as discussed by Joseph Nye in his project “A New Sino-Russian Alliance?” (para. 2). Moreover, neither Russia nor China like the Western world order led by America, but they also do not have a common vision on the new world order they would like to run. In particular, China did not support Russia even during the Cold War when they both were in the communist camp (Feng, 2015a, para. 6). At the same time, when Russia faced Western sanctions after the Ukrainian conflict, Putin’s administration asked China to provide them not with economic assistance, but with the diplomatic one (Feng, 2015a, para. 6). What is more important, the United States is China’s leading trading partner and the latter can hardly sacrifice this market (Feng, 2015a, para. 8). In this respect, the U.S. has to apply all economic and political leverages to establish its cooperative relations with Russia and make them more stable. The two countries have different perspectives on the future and the U.S. task is to prevent their dreams from coming true. To avoid military alliance or any other type of partnership between China and Russia, America should consider how to re-establish its relationships with Russia, especially in terms of sanctions after the Ukrainian crisis.

China’s Growth as a Global Power and Ways to Manage It

China’s rapid economic growth together with the rise of its influence on the global arena seems to become the main concern of the United States and Russia’s national interests. In this respect, the main task of the U.S. is to form the international environment in ways that will stimulate China to work within the current order in spite of searching for opportunities to change it on its behalf (Allison, et al., 2011, p. 26). This, in turn, depends on the United States’ collaboration with the world’s other major countries, including Russia. It is obvious that setting-up cooperative relations with Russia will not be easy. Indeed, Washington should make great efforts to work with Moscow to manage China’s economic growth. Thus, American policies require careful diplomacy and a clear illustration of Russia’s potential benefits (Allison, et al., 2011, p. 26). In addition, the particular process demands an accurate approach that will not make China feel estranged.

While the current Ukrainian crisis has not been resolved yet, Russia realistically looks at world affairs, sharing the West’s concerns about a rising China (Aggarwal & Newland, 2014, p. 163). Russia’s geopolitical position and advance in Central Asia permit the country to have a greater impact on China. In this respect, Russia is an appropriate partner to satisfy the U.S. national interests. According to Aggarwal and Newland (2014), “a revitalized Russia would be a more useful ally against a rising China, which is a good reason why the US should not humiliate Moscow by expanding NATO ever eastward” (p. 163). An alliance between the United States and Russia can be hardly imagined, but if it happens so, Washington should encourage Russia to abstain from providing destabilizing weapons or technology sales to China (Allison, et al., 2011, p. 27). Furthermore, the American administration should stimulate Moscow to behave transparently in regard to activities connected to Europe and Asia. In addition, focusing on the risks that may arise from an unstable China, specifically, it’s strengthening on the world arena, the U.S. should cooperate with Russia in order to manage China’s growing power.

Why the U.S. Should Chose Russia rather than China

While China is regarded as a new raising global power, one can argue why the U.S. should choose Russia rather than China to satisfy its international interests. However, the increasing influence of China can be threatening to the Western world and the existing balance of power. To make China cooperate within the current international order, the U.S. needs a powerful state interested in collaboration (Aggarwal & Newland, 2014, p. 170). Although there are serious tensions between Russia and America, proper diplomatic behavior of the United States will support the establishment of more moderate relations between the countries. To manage the conduct of China on the world arena, the U.S. requires appropriate Russian participation in the international debates. Thus, although China has been transforming into a powerful country, its capacity to reshape the current international order forces America to choose Russia as a priority to the United States’ international interests.

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Thereby, the United States recognizes Russia’s unwillingness to support American policy goals, adjusting many of its policies according to its interests. Nevertheless, an ongoing working relationship is important for both countries, which gives hope that a stronger collaboration could produce a good result in the future. At the same time, the American government should carefully weigh all the costs and benefits of such sustainable cooperation. While Russia shows the tendency to act as a spoiler in various realms, including international conflicts, substantial remaining differences between the U.S. and Russia can cause a delay in establishing relations for an unpredictable period. Hence, the United States should pursue a strong relationship with Russia to approach essential American national interests, but advance progress without illusions regarding ambitions of the Russian government.

Conclusion

Therefore, Russia remains an important country for U.S. national interests due to a number of reasons. In particular, American vital interests depend on Russian conduct in the following areas: energy security, nuclear weapons, geopolitics, economics, and preventions of terrorist attacks. Moreover, to prevent the development of a scenario that would not be beneficial for the U.S., specifically the potential Sino-Russian alliance, the United States is interested in re-establishing collaborative relationships with Russia. At the same time, while China’s influence increases in the world arena, Russia is a priority for the U.S. with respect to finding ways to manage a new global power. In addition, America should choose Russia as its target partner in order not to allow China to reshape the current international order. While the relationship between Russia and America is still delicate, what remains to be done tends to take much time and effort as compared to what has been accomplished so far.