In a lengthy column last week, Johns Hopkins University professor James Van de Velde argued that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “severely and permanently undermined the un-written post-Cold War” strategy of engagement not just with Russia but with China as well.
Van de Velde cited the Biden administration’s updated National Security Strategy which acknowledged that, in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, the US strategy of engagement needed to be revised.
He argued that it is no longer possible for the United States to ignore the political ideologies that motivate totalitarian regimes, nor can the US continue to pretend that these regimes can transform into liberal democracies.
Van de Velde argued that it is the goal of totalitarian regimes like Russia and China to “subvert” Western institutions because they want an America in decline so they can supplant the United States either regionally, as in the case of Russia, or globally, as in the case of China.
Van de Velde believes both Russia and China are succeeding in this goal, thanks in large part to the United States. He contends that the US strategy of engagement designed to “affect political reform has evaporated” and thus far, nothing has replaced it.
But a policy of engagement rooted in leading totalitarian states out of totalitarianism was “cynical, self-serving, and delusional,” Van de Velde writes. He argued that no totalitarian regime in history chose to “commit suicide and evolve into a liberal democracy.” Instead, totalitarian states tend to become more totalitarian until they collapse through political violence or turmoil.
Van de Velde believes the Biden administration has chosen to “deter” the things it doesn’t want happening, but so far, that deterrence has failed.
While deterrence may work as a military strategy, Van de Velde writes, it is not a suitable national strategy because it doesn’t “address the realities of the political differences among the great powers.”
Van de Velde also offers possible solutions to address the current problems.
Read Van de Velde’s column at 19FortyFive.com.