By Matthew Clark
On February 21, 1972, President of the United States, Richard Milhouse Nixon, visited Communist China. It was a landmark occasion, as the United states and China had been hostile to each other since the Communists successful conquest of mainland China, in 1949. Nixon was a Republican Party politician who had, in many instances, taken a hardline stance against Communist Countries, including Communist China! Nevertheless Nixon was a geopolitical pragmatist who realized the United States lead Western Alliance, along with their Asian, and Oceania allies, would not prevail in the "Cold War" against an Eurasian Pact.
Communist China, and the Russian dominated Communist Soviet Union, between them controlled Eurasia. Briefly allies in the 1950's, they had ended that situation by roughly 1960. Yet because the United States government had a hostile relationship to both those nations, China and the Soviets often acted in concert with each other. An example of this is the Vietnam War, where both governments aided the Vietnamese, to defeat the United States military intervention in Indo-China.
Nixon's visit did not end up in a formal alliance between America, and China. It did however lead to better relations between the two governments, for instance in 1979 they agreed to full diplomatic relations with each other, while also increasing the distrust Chinese, and Soviet, political leaders had for each other. Since China shared a long border with the Soviets, this added suspicion to the two communist entities relationship, created an onerous challenge for the Soviets.
In response to Nixon's diplomacy the Soviets tried to create an alliance with India, whose long border on China's southwest region had seen military conflict between the two powers during the month of October 1962. India's national government had a policy of neutrality during the cold war. Despite empathy for the Soviets, matched by a distaste for Communist China, the Indians kept to their non-alignment ways.
Nixon's efforts with China followed a classic diplomatic formula. When facing two strong foes, attempt to get some sort of favourable relationship with the weaker of the two opponents. Making an agreement with a stronger adversary might leave that country even mightier when the weaker nation is disposed of. However if the weaker nation is strengthened when the stronger enemy is defeated, you are still probably in the stronger position vis a vis them, even if that discrepancy has been reduced.
Today, thirty odd years after prevailing in the 'Cold War,' an American lead alliance faces another Eurasian Pact, this one comprising Russia, and Communist China. Of the two nations, Russia is now the weaker party (although still very formidable), and Communist China the stronger. Furthermore, the trust Russia has acquired with India means that a nation of 1.4 billion people, while still professing geopolitical neutrality, is an economic ally of Russia.
Establishing some sort of favourable relationship with the Russian political leaders, and their people, will tip the balance in this "New Cold War," comprising Communist China, and her allies, against the NATO nations, and their allies. With an adversarial Russia on her long border, China will be at a decided disadvantage. If the Russians can convince India to be more antagonistic to her Communist Chinese neighbour, while being more amendable in her relations with Western powers, China's position will be further weakened.
The expansion of the NATO military alliance towards the Russian border was a needless provocation against Moscow. Trying to use Ukraine, and before that Georgia, as a bulwark against the Russians, was the height of geopolitical folly. Much has been done by North American, and European governments, to engender Russian distrust, a distrust now held throughout Russian culture, of the Western nations.
Nevertheless the situation can be salvaged. As with Nixon in 1972, Western political leaders must realize the limitations of their own forces, and the strengths of adversaries. A generous peace deal (generous to the Russians), terminating the Ukraine conflict, has to be negotiated. A genuine partnership, NATO on one side, Russia on the other, including military and diplomatic forces, is necessary.
To strengthen the position of nations opposed to Communist China will entail, among Western politicians, as well as diplomats, a swallowing of pride, a subjugation of financial interests, often disturbingly personnel, and an ability to forego grievance. In today's Western political climate this is a formidable challenge. If performed successfully it could result in even more favourable circumstances, than Nixon's 1972 visit to China. On the other hand, failure to act this way most probably will lead to a debilitating geopolitical situation for Western political interests.