‘Splitting’ Russia and China Is Harder Than It Looks, by Daniel Larison

Beware geo-strategic geniuses and their brilliant plans. The world is not a neat chess board, it’s a lot of messy people and their rulers trying to ride a tiger. From Daniel Larison at daniellarison.substack.com:

Kupchan is offering precisely nothing tangible that the Russian leadership would find appealing.

Charles Kupchan claims to have found the “right way” to split Russia from China:

If Russia is to be drawn westward, it will result not from Washington’s overtures or altruism but from the Kremlin’s cold reassessment of how best to pursue its long-term self-interest. An offer from Washington to reduce tensions with the West will not succeed on its own; after all, Putin relies on such tensions to legitimate his iron political grip. Instead, the challenge facing Washington is to change the Kremlin’s broader strategic calculus by demonstrating that more cooperation with the West can help Russia redress the mounting vulnerabilities arising from its close partnership with China.

Kupchan has to say that an offer to reduce tensions won’t succeed because he isn’t really making that offer anyway. The gestures that he says the U.S. should make are largely rhetorical. He suggests abandoning the “democracy vs. autocracy” framing of Biden administration policy statements. That’s all very well and I agree with it, but Russia isn’t being offered anything real that would convince them that hedging and cooperating with the U.S. and its European allies are worth doing. Assuming that it is still possible to “split” Russia from China, it isn’t going to happen unless the U.S. and its allies can make Russia a sufficiently tempting offer. But Kupchan is offering precisely nothing tangible that the Russian leadership would find appealing.

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