January 11, 2001

January 11, 2001 | News Releases on National Security and Defense

U.S. National Security Should Guide Dealings With Russia, China, Analysts Say

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2001 - President-elect George W. Bush's ability to handle foreign policy will be judged in large measure by how he deals with China and Russia, a task made substantially more difficult by missteps made by the Clinton administration, according to two new Heritage Foundation papers.

U.S. policy toward China must evolve from one of "perpetual crisis management" to one that treats the world's most populous nation not as the pre-eminent power broker of the Far East, but as one of a host of significant players in Asia, writes Stephen Yates, senior policy analyst in Heritage's Asian Studies Center. It must also reward nations that work toward "peace, prosperity and freedom" across the region.

At the same time, says Russia expert Ariel Cohen, a research fellow in Heritage's Davis Institute for International Studies, the Bush administration should discourage Russia from pursuing its "multipolar world" doctrine-designed to counter U.S. hegemony-and press the Russians to adopt true economic reform, eliminate official corruption, and establish the "rule of law" required to move their country into the mainstream of developed nations.

The papers by Yates and Cohen appear as chapters in "Priorities for the President," an issue-by-issue policy guidebook for the next administration that Heritage will publish later this month. According to Yates, Clinton administration officials "simply drew the wrong linkage" when they attempted to tie membership in the World Trade Organization-and renewal of Most Favored Nation trade status-to Chinese adherence to vague human rights conditions. Bush should emphasize "the positive linkage between the expansion of free enterprise and the empowerment of Chinese individuals," Yates writes. "Human rights violations must be criticized or condemned, but the power of free enterprise to limit the scope of government control in China should not be jeopardized along the way."

The Clinton administration miscast China as a facilitator in U.S. efforts to deter aggression, halt proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, maintain regional stability, and promote economic and political liberalization, Yates writes. It also tilted too far in Beijing's favor and focused too much on Beijing to the neglect of America's allies, he says.

The new administration should realize that Japan, not China, is our most important partner in Asia, Yates writes. "Relations with allies come before those with former adversaries-even important rising powers" such as China, he says.

What's crucial, he says, is for the Bush administration to put China in the proper perspective. "China's vast population holds out the promise of great economic potential," he writes. "Its modernizing military could one day challenge, if not displace, America's role in Asia." Yet for all its potential, "China must be viewed as part of a broader Asia strategy, not its center," he says.

Just as important is a change in America's policy toward Russia. From its arms sales to U.S. adversaries such as Iran and China, to its escalating anti-American rhetoric, to its foot-dragging on measures required to create a truly open and vibrant economy, Russia seems to have found its new role in the world unappealing since the end of the Cold War, Cohen says.

President-elect Bush should work to keep Russia from disappearing again behind the Iron Curtain, Cohen notes. But his challenge is to settle on an approach that "protects U.S. national interests first, striking a balance between deterrence and dialogue," he says. Cohen recommends focusing on economic and legal reforms that include strengthening the rule of law, protecting the rights of landowners, and rooting out government corruption.

What the United States should not do, Cohen says, is reward irresponsible economic behavior with debt forgiveness and new loans, especially from international banking institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In addition, Russia must make its investment climate more hospitable to foreign investment, which is crucial to improving the living standards of its people, he says.

The Bush administration should also point out the danger Russia exposes itself to by selling weapons of mass destruction and other arms to rogue nations, allowing (and in some cases enabling) corruption and organized crime, and indulging in anti-U.S. rhetoric, Cohen says. It should also be bold and not allow the goal of democratizing Russia to mute its criticism of the country when appropriate. After all, he says, Putin has made clear his determination to make Russia a great power again, even at the cost of renewed confrontation with America.

"The United States should seek closer cooperation with Russia in three broad areas: security and diplomacy; economic ties; and the development of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law," Cohen concludes. "If Moscow cooperates, U.S. foreign policy can help Russia become more efficient domestically and more compatible internationally."

"Priorities for the President" is part of an ongoing series of policy guidebooks published by The Heritage Foundation every four years (with one exception) since 1980. It is part of Heritage's "Mandate for Leadership Project," named for the original policy blueprint that The Washington Post said served as the "bible" of the Reagan administration.

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