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Moving Past "Potential": Can America and India Become Real Partners?

The Buzz

The US-India strategic partnership is either the most under-performing bilateral relationship in the world or its most overrated.

As a new chapter in this relationship is written with the ascent of a center-right government in New Delhi (whose earlier incarnation in the late-1990s had in fact proclaimed the US and India to be 'natural allies'), the aura of hyperbole that permeates ties needs to be shed. Equally, with John Kerry and Chuck Hagel having journeyed through New Delhi over the past fortnight with proposals to deepen defense cooperation, and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi due at the White House in late-September, the conceptual gap in value systems and national interests that has provoked this under-performance needs to be internalized. Another decade-and-a-half of inflated expectations and modest delivery in terms of strategic congruence would be a tragic waste. It would also detract from both countries' pursuit of a fundamental interest that aligns their purposes in the Indo-Pacific: the maintenance of a stable geopolitical equilibrium.  

With the passing of the bipolar international order and India's own shift toward market economics, it was assumed that the traditional commonality of democratic values, complemented by an increasingly robust set of inter-societal ties, would accentuate a dramatic convergence of national interests between the two countries. Washington and New Delhi were to be bound by a common interest in preventing Asia from being dominated by China, eliminating threats posed by international terrorism as well as by state sponsors of terrorism, arresting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, promoting the spread of liberal democracy, deepening expansion of the international economic and trading order, and securing the global commons, especially the sea lines of communication.

Aside from a growing convergence on proliferation-related interests, little of this bold agenda has come to pass or is set to materialize in the years ahead. China-India ties have witnessed more top-level political and defense ministerial exchanges over the past couple of years than between the US and India; the road to AfPak stabilization and troop drawdown runs unchanged through Rawalpindi; Washington, DC and New Delhi occupy opposite poles at practically every multilateral trade, economic, and environment negotiation; India's non-prescriptive practice of democracy enlargement and non bloc-based approach to securing the commons contrasts with America's more advocacy-based and a la carte prone model. If anything, the gap between the two countries' worldviews and policies on international and regional matters has widened.

In the afterglow of the US-India civil nuclear agreement, a narrower but seemingly more congruent set of geo-strategic and defense objectives was also envisioned. First, New Delhi would assist Washington in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. Second, New Delhi would align with the major maritime democracies of the Indo-Pacific and countervail Chinese power. The veiled possibility of interdicting Chinese sea-bound commerce in the narrow Andaman Sea during an East Asian contingency was a closely-held card. Third, India would cooperate in HA/DR missions and post-conflict reconstruction efforts, including those not mandated or commanded under a UN flag, on both sides of the Indian Ocean. And, fourth, India would provide access at strategic locations across its territory to US military forces - perhaps even 'over-the-horizon' rotational bases, down the line, to deter or manage contingencies in West and East Asia.

Again, aside from gradual cooperation on Iran oil sanctions, little of this ambition has come to pass. Far from growing into its designated role as the US deputy sheriff in the Indian Ocean region (and perhaps someday as a co-partner across the Indo-Pacific region), New Delhi has double downed on its autonomist leanings. It has resisted participating in major multi-service combined exercises that prepare for high-end operational missions, stayed away from stationing personnel at US combatant command headquarters, turned down a series of foundational pacts that would have enhanced logistics and battle-group networking, opted for Russian rather than US high-precision, military-grade navigation signals, opted to strip out tactical interoperability aids (high-end electronics and avionics suites) while purchasing US-origin platforms (P8I and C-130J aircraft), and even allegedly passed up the opportunity to buy a to-be decommissioned supercarrier - the USS Kitty Hawk - for free! (so long as New Delhi agreed to purchase five dozen or so Super Hornet fighters to be operated off the carrier). Defense ties with Japan and Australia too have been limited to the odd naval exercise, with little scope for logistics sharing or information exchange envisaged.

Some $15 billion of US defense hardware sales - not doctrine-sharing exchanges, harmonized force postures or command and control systems integration - has been the sole deliverable for all the exertions. The failure has not been one of effort (or will); rather it has been one of conception.

The disappointments have not tempered the belief of the faithful. Undaunted, it is argued that with the departure of the previous government and its long-serving, proto-socialist defense minister, US and India defense - and particularly mil-mil ties - stand poised to once again break out of policy stagnation.

Washington and New Delhi, it is counseled, should reauthorize and update their 2005 Defense Framework agreement (which they indeed must) to enable collaboration in multinational operations of common interest. The Indian Navy has possessed this latitude to participate in such muscular activities, yet chose to operate its anti-piracy missions in the Indian Ocean region independent of the US-organized Combined Maritime Forces command. Washington should place military intelligence exchanges on the front-burner and formalize institutional links to share classified information on the region. Navy-to-navy intelligence exchange was a key accomplishment of the 2005 Defense Framework agreement, yet the channel lapsed by the end of the decade due to disclosure policy guidelines that limited sharing of actionable or desirable information.

Washington should deepen service-to-service engagements and incorporate service chiefs and regional commanders within institutionalized policy mechanisms, given the military's visibly friendlier interest in such ties. While civilian masters in the Indian Defense Ministry's planning and international cooperation wing have been a rotten impediment, the roots of New Delhi's civil-military dysfunction in fact stem from the unwillingness of senior uniformed folks to shed their operational command profile and assume a policy advisory role. A unified services command and an integrated civil-military MoD is nowhere in sight. Finally, Washington should use the recent DTI initiative (defense trade initiative in the US, defense technology initiative for New Delhi) to graduate the defense sales relationship beyond the buyer-seller model to one of co-development and co-production. Again, while unimpeachable in intent, New Delhi's expansive definition of technology sharing tends to be confined not just to technology itself but the entire know-how behind how a technology is produced, including systems integration and the overall intellectual capital development. The Initiative also risks being oversold in both capitals: it elevates India to one among three-dozen defense partners in terms of preferential categorization - not one among a half-dozen or so such countries as has been advertised.

At bottom, operating in denial of past lessons risks repeating those errors.

In important respects, the questions that went unanswered 15 years ago remain valid today: what is the template by which one operationalizes a defense and strategic partnership with a critically important country that will never be a treaty ally (and is the primary antagonist of a 'non-NATO ally' - Pakistan), yet is more than just a friendly, non-hostile state? Can enhanced defense cooperation and technology handouts infuse a strategic congruence or must the causality run the other way? If technology sharing boosts India's autonomous defense capability, then does it not detract from the fundamental purpose of deepening 'jointness'? If New Delhi, of its own accord, bears a larger share of the region's security burden, what is its imperative to simultaneously tighten its roles and missions 'jointness' with US forces in the region?  

The bestowal of an incredibly generous civil nuclear deal as well as the mainstreaming of New Delhi within the international technology-sharing regime, at a moment of US primacy, did not furnish the desired answer to these questions. In the more constrained age ahead, it is not clear why New Delhi's strategic calculation vis-à-vis the US will be any more favorable now. Although China's rise and behavior could supply this rationale, Beijing is a key pivot in India's multi-aligned foreign policy strategy and successive governments in New Delhi have seen greater wisdom in operating in the slipstream of Beijing's meteoric rise than by aligning against it. New Delhi appears to defer to the core interests, principles, and (economic) content laid out in the Xi Jinping government's 'new type of great power relations' and periphery diplomacy initiatives than most other governments in the Indo-Pacific. That most observers continue to implicitly - and lazily - base the 'natural' convergence of US and Indian interest in Asia on the belief that China and India are irrevocably locked in strategic competition may, to the contrary, provide a hint as to why Washington's relationship with New Delhi has serially fallen short of expectations.

The future of US-India strategic ties is too important to be constructed solely or even primarily through a China-management lens. The defense cooperation elements within this relationship - joint exercises, intelligence exchange, arms deals, technology-sharing, weapons co-development and co-production, etc. - should be constructed rather on more modest but firmer foundations that are geared to nudging the Indo-Pacific region's multilateral security relations toward a more consociational model of international relations where power is shared and balanced within. Embracing and working through the balance between autonomy and alignment in the US-India strategic partnership will also lock the two countries in a strategic embrace that will favor freedom in the long run.

Sourabh Gupta is a senior research associate at Samuels International Associates, Inc. This article first appeared in CSIS:PACNET newsletter here

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

TopicsSecurity RegionsIndia

Guess Where This Hawkish Group Thinks Iran's Nuclear Sites Are

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It’s probably the most famous attack ad in American history. A little girl stands in a meadow, plucking the petals off a daisy, counting each one—getting a few numbers wrong on the way—up to ten. Then the piercing tannoy voice comes in, counts down. Zero. Flash. Mushroom cloud. “These are the stakes!” proclaims the voiceover. “To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die. Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

The ad was part of a broader effort by the Johnson campaign to paint Republican challenger Barry Goldwater as a reckless hawk who would lead America into a horrific confrontation with the Soviets. Johnson went on to hammer Goldwater—the Arizona senator would only capture six states and less than 40 percent of the national vote.

Now LBJ’s ad is getting a reprise. Secure America Now, a Washington-based 501(c)(4) advocacy outfit. The ad, “Daisy 2,” targets the Obama administration’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program. The new voiceover: “These are the stakes. We either stand up to supporters of terrorism, or we and our allies risk losing the freedom we cherish. We must not let the jihadist government of Iran get a nuclear bomb. President Obama has an opportunity to stop it. But he is failing. Join with us. Let's secure America—now.”

The video directs viewers into a net of “microsites,” including TruthAboutIran.com and IransIllegalNuclearProgram.com, in addition to Secure America Now’s homepage. TruthAboutIran.com focuses on the Iranian government’s support for terrorism and the not-cuddliness of President Hassan Rouhani; Secure America Now’s site offers an animated GIF-listicle of “Thirteen Reasons to Impeach Barack Obama.” But it’s the Iran’s Illegal Nuclear Program page that takes the cake, thanks to this map of Iran’s nuclear sites:

The map offers an interesting interpretation of Iran’s geography. The seminary-city of Qom, normally south of Tehran, is taking a vacation north of Tehran in the mountains near the Caspian; the massive underground enrichment halls at Natanz have wandered off into the deserts to their northeast. We find Arak, home to a heavy-water reactor under construction, and Isfahan, with its uranium conversion facility, close to where we left them, but the pressurized-water reactor at Bushehr, having been foolishly constructed on a fault line, has shifted inland and to the southeast. (This has likely caused an environmental disaster.) The uranium mine north of Yazd, once in an area due west of the Saghand mine, is now southwest of it, possibly inside Yazd itself.

This is a bold alternative to the mainstream media’s rigid narrative of where all those places are:

IransIllegalNuclearProgram.com offers other revelations, too. The ongoing nuclear negotiations, which conventional sources suggest will end on November 24, actually ended on July 20, according to the site:

And Russia’s ten-year agreement to fuel the Bushehr reactor becomes “unsettling,” though most would agree that guaranteeing Iran’s fuel supply from Russia would weaken Iran’s claim that it needs to conduct enrichment on its own and strengthen America’s case for zero enrichment—and thus actually make America more secure.

It’s not surprising, then, that this group would revive an attack ad that sought to portray a presidential contender as dangerously eager for confrontation to attack a president for being too soft. Secure America Now’s ad hints that Obama “has an opportunity to stop” Iran’s nuclear efforts. But they say that his current approach “is failing.” So what alternative policy would they have us pursue? Perhaps they would like us to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. If that’s so, our pilots should use different maps to find their targets.

TopicsNuclear WeaponsNuclear ProliferationDomestic Politics RegionsIran

Tensions in Asia are Rising: How Strong is the U.S.- Australia Relationship?

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With the annual Australia–US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) recently concluded in Sydney, it’s a good time to reassess the broader Australian–US strategic relationship. I want to frame that assessment here by employing a SWOT analysis. The methodology is clunky but simple enough to allow a set of insights about the relationship’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I’ve allowed myself three of each, as follows.

Three strengths: familial closeness, shared grand strategies, and a solid foundation. First, closeness. The Anglosphere’s our international family, and while it’s easy to mock the importance of belonging to an international family, states that don’t belong to one (like Japan) would beg to differ. Ties of blood and culture run deep. Second, grand strategy: the best long-term allies are those who essentially want the same thing. In grand strategy, Washington and Canberra both want a stable, liberal, prosperous global order. And that’s a good basis for long-term cooperation—because the tie isn’t just of blood but of interest. Third, the foundation: we both enjoy an alliance that’s over 60 years old and is as close today as it’s ever been. Both allies are still looking for new ways to cooperate in order to make the alliance more relevant to the 21st century.

Three weaknesses: time, place, and strategic personalities. After the Global War on Terror the U.S. is a weary Titan. That effect might last another five to ten years, but—over the longer haul—U.S. vigor will wax as well as wane. There’s a second, longer-term “time” factor, and that relates to the broader pattern of regional transformation: while the US rebalance to Asia is good, Washington’s rebalancing at a time when Western influence in the region is slipping because of the rise of regional great powers. Second is geography. At the best of times, Australia’s not Washington’s top priority—geographically we sit too far back from a strategic order essentially built along the Eurasian rim lands. True, the shift of strategic weight in Asia is changing that, to some degree—but we’re never going to be as relevant as front-line U.S. partners. Finally, personalities: the U.S. and Australia are two different strategic personality types: Americans are Extroverted, Intuitive and Feeling; Australians are Extroverted, Sensing and Thinking. In short, we‘re British empiricists, they’re the City on the Hill. There’s a messianic core to U.S. strategic policy that isn’t replicated in ours.

Three opportunities: a more receptive Asia, a U.S. more interested in Southeast Asia, a treaty with an in-built capacity to engage. Evidence of the more receptive Asia abounds. Regional countries want to do more with both the US and Australia. Japan’s the obvious example, but others aren’t as far behind as some think. It wasn’t always thus: remember, we couldn’t do much more with Japan before Abe, nor much more with Indonesia before SBY. A second opportunity, a shifting U.S. perception of Southeast Asia. Washington has traditionally seen that sub region as a set of sea-lanes, and after 9/11 as a possible second front in the War on Terror, but it’s finally coming to see it as a set of influential players at the intersection of two key oceans. Third, both the U.S. and Australia are classic networkers. And the ANZUS treaty already gives them scope (in the unused Article 8) to do more networking together in the regional context. I’m amazed we aren’t doing it.

Three threats: complacency, category mistake, and distraction. Let’s start with complacency, because that’s the most insidious threat to the relationship. There’s something of a danger on both sides of the Pacific that capitals will treat the relationship as “business-as-usual.” Oddly, the simple regularity of AUSMIN actually increases that danger, reducing high-level political commitment to the alliance to an annual ministerial meeting. We need to work to sustain a broader base of political engagement. Second, the threat of the category mistake: that we come to see ANZUS as a barrier to our closer engagement with Asia, rather than an enabler of such engagement. It’s a simple mistake to slip into, and it typically follows from seeing ANZUS as a strategic hangover from a different era. And finally, there’s the threat of distraction. Distraction can come to both capitals from a range of sources. Washington can easily be distracted by more urgent priorities, both domestic and international; but so too can Canberra. Despite the excitable tones in which the future of our strategic partnership with the U.S. is sometimes debated, the real threat isn’t that our relationship will be ruined by disastrous war, nor even that it’ll be traded away to accommodate China: it’s that the relationship will be eaten out from the inside, leaving a hollow, reactive partnership in the place of a substantive, proactive one.

Rod Lyon is a fellow at ASPI and executive editor of The Strategist, where this article first appeared here

Image: U.S. Sec. of State (Flickr) 

TopicsSecurity RegionsUnited States

The U.S. Military's Ultimate Fear: Are Aircraft Carriers Too Big To Fail?

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Various defense pundits, scholars, and journalists have spent a considerable amount of digital ink debating the various threats to America’s carrier fleet while avoiding a more central question. In the cliché phrase of our time: Are carriers too big to fail? Clausewitz tells us, “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” Is there any political situation of such gravity that losing a carrier would be deemed an acceptable risk? In other words, how expendable are carriers? The answer to this question has large implications for the tactical and strategic options available to U.S. policymakers.

Total security from all risk is impossible. The aircraft carrier is not invulnerable to attack. The new U.S. Ford-class aircraft carrier will be a floating home to over 4,000 sailors and comes in at the hefty price tag of around $12 billion dollars. In light of the development and proliferation of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weaponry, does this enormous investment of human resources narrow U.S. tactical and strategic options? What are the implications of the sinking of a U.S. carrier?

Political Implications:

Over 4,000 American soldiers died during the recent eight and a half year Iraq war. These casualties played a large role in the extensive domestic opposition to the conflict. Imagine for a moment that a similar number of sailors perish in less than an hour. Such an event would be a national catastrophe and would likely create enormous political pressure to end combat operations. Such a catastrophic scenario is characteristic of naval warfare. In his book Seapower, Naval strategist Geoffrey Till tells us that:

“The nature of forces engaged in maritime operations…are expensive, hard to replace, and even the smallest units represent a sizeable investment in human resources, whose loss can be sudden and instantaneous and very hard for publics and governments to bear.”

The U.S. public is not conditioned to enduring high amounts of casualties. The last time commensurate numbers of U.S. troops died in a single military engagement was in 1950 during the Korean War. Knowing that, what would be the reaction if a U.S. carrier were attacked and sunk?

How it Could Happen:

To those who doubt such a scenario will ever unfold, consider this: Nothing is ever truly invulnerable. The sinking of the Titanic and the Bismarck as well as the passing of the “Battleship” era can all attest to that. Consider the various threats from Beijing’s A2/AD missile arsenal, specifically the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) and YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM). The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ 2013 global defense assessment, The Military Balance, states that the DF-21D has gone through limited testing and has been deployed to the Second Artillery, the branch of China’s military that controls its nuclear and conventional missile arsenal. Managing Editor for The National Interest Harry Kazianis brings up the point that simple math weights in the favor of the attacker when it comes to anti-ship weapons like the DF-21D. The U.S. Navy has a total of 30 ships equipped with the state-of-the-art Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system. Even if Washington utilized every Aegis BMD-equipped ship from across the globe, there is a limited amount of interceptors America could bring to the fight. American ships would be sitting ducks once they ran out. Worse, thousands of such missiles can be expended and not even come close to approaching the cost required to field a fleet capable of taking on the U.S. Navy

Strategic Implications:

The threat of a full carrier-strike group anchoring offshore has always been a cornerstone of U.S. deterrence. The sinking of a U.S. aircraft carrier--possibly by A2/AD style weapons--would likely be the defining moment where the era of perceived U.S. global military dominance would come to an end. Such an event--greatly magnified by a 24-hour global news cycle and the rise of social media--would alter the entire globe’s political and strategic balance. Any regime seeking to carve out local spheres of interest would scramble to seek the means to fend off the U.S. Navy. After all, the U.S. Navy is the single most important force providing security for the globalized economic system. Clearly American security assurances wouldn’t carry as much weight with a carrier sitting at the bottom of the sea.

If the Navy’s worst nightmare came true and U.S. adversaries strengthen their ability to threaten aircraft carriers, how does the Navy reorganize itself to project power?  The entire concept of a carrier strike group (CSG) is based on putting bombs on target by primarily carrier-based planes. This is a large part of the Navy’s new operational concept, Air-Sea Battle. Air-Sea Battle (ASB) integrates forces from all domains: space, air, land, sea, and cyber, in order to defeat “adversaries equipped with sophisticated anti-access and area denial capabilities.” An asymmetric weapon that can bypass a carrier’s layered defenses and have even a remote chance at hitting a carrier would throw a wrench in a plan that may be costing U.S. taxpayers around half a trillion dollars.

Too Many Eggs in One Basket?

While the chances of a U.S.-China conflict are remote, Beijing is investing heavily in A2/AD weapons. More importantly, in our current age of breakneck technological development and cyber espionage, nobody can predict what military technologies U.S. rivals may have in five or ten years. Those who believe in the invincibility of the U.S. carrier strike group are tempting fate. The U.S. Navy may be limiting its options by putting too many of its eggs--or shrinking defense dollars--in one basket.

Captain Henry Hendrix sums up this fear in a Center for New American Security paper, stating that aircraft carriers are:

“Big, expensive, vulnerable – and surprisingly irrelevant to the conflicts of the time…The national security establishment, the White House, the Department of Defense and Congress persist despite clear evidence that the carrier equipped with manned strike aircraft is an increasingly expensive way to deliver firepower and that carriers themselves may not be able to move close enough to targets to operate effectively or survive in an era of satellite imagery and long-range precision strike missiles.”

There is a considerable amount of inertia behind the carrier program in the United States. In a recent article about China’s DF-21D Time magazine quoted retired Navy Captain naval-strategist Bernard Cole explaining how our Navy, domestic industry, and politicians all have a deep-rooted interest in keeping carriers as the centerpiece of our naval strategy. Indeed, these behemoths have accompanied us during the entirety of our rise to military preeminence. However, our close relationship with the carrier has its drawbacks. Historically, one advantage that developing militaries have is that they get to base their doctrine and fighting methods on current technology in the relative absence of entrenched interests. Conversely, consider the damage that obsolete ideas of warfare wrought during the beginning of World War One. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died before the major European militaries were able to shed themselves of their dogmatic doctrine and antiquated leadership. If aircraft carriers are being eclipsed by various A2/AD weapons systems and asymmetric strategies, the military-industrial inertia behind the carrier program is a strategic disadvantage to the United States.

Carriers Have Been Threatened Before:

Despite very real dangers to U.S. carriers there are very legitimate arguments that caution against overstating potential threats.  According to Chairman of National Security at the U.S. Naval War College and Johns Hopkins SAIS professor Dr. Thomas Mahnken, China’s growing A2/AD abilities and precision munitions are causing the military balance to:

“Go back to a situation in terms of risk that much more resembles the Cold War than the past two decades. So risk will go up, but we’ve dealt with risk before. We are just unused to deal with that type of risk in recent experience. It will be a learning process on our side to develop the appropriate ways to respond.”

Conclusion:

Are carriers too big to fail? If so, U.S. policymakers need to break themselves from the assumption that carriers are the end product of the evolution of naval technology. The United States must maintain its leadership role in military innovation; not fall into the age-old trap of other great powers by absconding modernization and relying instead on time-tested dogma and tradition. In the future our carriers and Navy servicemen may pay the ultimate price due to our complacency and failure to innovate. 

Image: U.S. Navy Flickr. 

TopicsSecurity RegionsUnited States

The Ebola Effect: A Long Shadow on a Successful Africa Summit

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Last week’s unprecedented US Africa Summit brought dozens of African presidents and hundreds of officials and business leaders to Washington. What could have turned into a diplomatic disaster was a solid success, with announcements of new projects and investments. Thirty-three billion dollars in projects and a new group of corporate ambassadors for African opportunities is a definite step forward in changing the perception of Africa in the United States. Yet this forward progress has unfortunately been eclipsed by the Ebola crisis in the eyes of the public, demanding new effort from the US government to reassure investors that African opportunities are worth it.

While President Obama and Jeff Immelt of GE were touting Africa’s fastest growing markets, the majority of Americans were hearing about the hundreds dead in West Africa from the horrific hemorrhagic fever. Though the disease’s spread is more of a function of a lacking health care system than its virological nature, many are just associating it with Africa and Africans in general.

It is against a backdrop of this perception that the United States needs to redouble its efforts to help US companies recognize and develop the dynamic opportunities in markets as diverse as Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. The United States must bridge this persistent perception gap. Ernst & Young’s Attractiveness Survey for Africa revealed a stark difference in views of the region between companies with established operations in African markets and those waiting on the sidelines. The ones operating on the ground in African markets are twice as likely to be positive about the economies’ progress and prospects.

The Summit was a significant step in the right direction in bridging this gap. Blackstone partnered with Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, to finance $5 billion in infrastructure deals. Coca-Cola, IBM, GE, Walmart, and Marriott all expanded their investment plans for the region. The United States certainly wants the $1 trillion that Africans will be spending by 2020 to be spent on US goods and services; it wants US companies to ride the wave of 7-10 percent growth rates to offset the stagnation of the major developed economies; and it wants US companies waiting on the sidelines to jump into the game.  

The juxtaposition of 250 CEOs meeting to discuss African business with an unfolding World Health Organization-declared emergency reflects the complexity that is modern Africa. It is complex in its diversity: fifty-four countries of rich cultures and different economic trajectories. It is complex in its contradictions: many African countries—including Kenya and Nigeria—have grown and continue to grow despite the drag of lingering insecurity and instability, persistent poverty, and pernicious politics. It is complex in its uneven development: while some countries reach middle income status and converge with developed economies, others diverge and slip further behind on all socio-economic indicators. In the coming years, it will very much matter if you are born in a village in Ghana or across the border in neighboring Burkina Faso. The International Monetary Fund expects Ghana to reach full middle income status by the end of next year.  

When US companies look to do business in African markets, they have to appreciate this complexity just as they have learned to do in Mexico, Indonesia, India, and Brazil. President Obama expressed this in an op-ed on the US Africa Summit: “as Africa is changing, we need to change the way we think about the continent.” Extremely rapid economic growth is neither linear nor smooth and firms will make good returns amidst and in spite of insecurity, growing economic disparity, and large scale unemployment. US companies that figure out how to succeed in African markets will benefit and those that do not will be bought by those that do. Those vested in US businesses thriving in Africa must work harder to highlight the opportunities and mark the path forward.

Future US-Africa Business Summits will help, in addition to the day-to-day support given by the US Commercial Service, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Export-Import Bank, and the US Trade and Development Agency. Sustaining the positive buzz around Africa over the long-term will be as hard or harder than creating it. Misperception can be more contagious than Ebola and we all need to work toward a cure.

Aubrey Hruby is a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council Africa Center. She has spent ten years helping companies successfully conduct business and invest in African markets.

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

TopicsEbola RegionsAfrica

The Great Battle for Asia: China vs. America

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Editor’s Note: The Australian Policy Institute (ASPI) has recently been debating the future of the Asian security order. We present the final part of this debate:

Well, this has been an interesting exchange and I thank Peter Jennings for launching it, the team on The Strategist for hosting it, and distinguished colleagues for taking the time to contribute. The exchange has helped to clarify the most important underlying points of difference between us about Australia’s interests in the Asian order. And I’m grateful for the chance to offer some brief concluding thoughts.

In fact Nick Bisley put his finger on it: the key difference between my view and many others’ lies in our different ideas about the future of the regional order. I think the strategic status quo in Asia will not last, while others believe it will.

Let me recap why I think the order is going to change—indeed, is already changing. It’s simple. Asia has been stable since 1972 because China has accepted U.S. primacy as the foundation of the Asian order. China did so because it believed it was too weak to contest it effectively. Now China believes it’s strong enough to contest U.S. primacy, and it’s doing so.

Asia’s post-Vietnam order, based on uncontested U.S. primacy, has therefore passed into history. The question now is what kind of new order will take its place. There are several possibilities. None of them would be as good for Australia as the order we have known since 1972, but some would be much better for us than others. We should be trying to nudge the region towards a new order that would work well for us, and away from ones that would be bad for us.

Most of the posts in our debate differ from my position by arguing, or implying, that we should aim to preserve the status quo instead. That case is made in several different ways.

Rod Lyon rightly draws attention to the risks of moving to a new order that concedes a bigger role to China. But those risks must be balanced against the risks of trying and failing to preserve the status quo. If we refuse to accommodate China to some extent, the most likely result is escalating strategic rivalry.

So the choice we face isn’t the one Rod weighs, between accommodating China and preserving the status quo. It’s between accommodating China and confronting it as a rival. I think Rod, like others, tends to underestimate that risk because he assumes that when faced with our resolve to preserve the status quo China will simply back off.

That isn’t a confidence I share. Bob O’Neill gives an important insight into why China is so serious about changing the status quo when he traces the Senkaku dispute back to the Treaty of Shimonoseki, thereby connecting it to the century of humiliation which the Chinese feel so deeply. Bob has reminded us that we won’t understand what’s happening in Asia if we don’t see how things appear from what Liddell Hart called (quoting the Duke of Wellington) “the other side of the hill.”

True, that only matters if China is strong enough to fulfill its ambitions. Andrew Phillips doesn’t thinks so, and neither does Bill Tow. Andrew thinks the current order is too strong for China. Bill suggests that China isn’t really focused on competing with America for influence in East Asia because its attention is drawn more to Central Asia and it can’t afford to do both.

I’m not sure that’s so. There are limits to China’s power, of course, but I think it’s possible that China can significantly undermine U.S. leadership in Asia quite cheaply by undermining the credibility of U.S. regional alliances, and I have argued elsewhere that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

Andrew O’Neil thinks we can’t be sure what will happen, and it’s easy to agree with him about that. It’s much harder to agree with the implication that we can and should do nothing until we are sure. If we want to have any chance of acting before it’s too late, we have no choice but to act before the outcome is certain, so we have to be willing to back our judgment.

And there are some things we do already know on which we can base those judgments—like China’s economy is already almost as big as America’s, and China’s already showing that it wants a new model of great-power relations. What new evidence is Andrew waiting for that China has the weight and the will to challenge the status quo?

Finally, Peter Jennings (in his second post) is sure that I’m urging Australia to choose between America and China, despite my claims to the contrary. I think I can see where he’s coming from. On the one hand, Peter assumes there could be no new order in Asia in which Australia didn’t have to choose between America and China. On the other, he assumes that we won’t have to choose between them as long as we hold fast to the current order. So according to Peter, arguing for a change in the order, as I do, is arguing to make a choice. And arguing to preserve the old order, as he does, is arguing against a choice.

But I think both his assumptions are wrong. On the one hand, it’s possible for a new order to emerge in Asia in which escalating rivalry between the two great powers is avoided, and in which Australia can therefore maintain close relations with both. That’s why a new order in which they share power would be best for Australia.

On the other hand, it seems to me likely indeed that resisting any accommodation of China in a new order will lead to escalating rivalry, and it seems equally clear that the more rivalry escalates the starker the choices we face between Washington and Beijing. And the closer they come to war, the closer we come to the starkest possible binary choice.

That’s why I think we’re more likely to be compelled to choose between America and China if we try to preserve the status quo than if we encourage a new order based on accommodation. And so, precisely to avoid that choice, we should argue for change. Like a true conservative, I argue for the minimum changes needed to preserve what’s most important.

Hugh White is professor of strategic studies at ANU and author of The China Choice. You can find the original posting of this article over at ASPI’s The Strategist here

Image: U.S. State Department Flickr. 

TopicsSecurity RegionsChina

Can the BRICS Dominate the Global Economy?

The Buzz

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa have thrown down the gauntlet at the feet of the West. Last month these five emerging economies launched a New Development Bank - nicknamed the "BRICS Bank" - that combines features of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Meanwhile, China has proposed an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that could compete with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). These initiatives represent the first serious institutional challenge to the global economic order established at Bretton Woods 70 years ago this summer. The psychology behind them is clear, as advanced countries have damaged their own credibility as responsible economic stakeholders in recent years and have failed to fully accommodate the rise of the new powers. Less clear is how much of a substantive improvement these new institutions will make to global governance - or even to the interests of the countries championing them.

At first blush, it is difficult to take the new BRICS Bank seriously. The five founding members were brought together by little more than a clever acronym and a shared desire to send a message to the West. The differences among the five in economic heft, political orientation, and geostrategic interests are cavernous. Moreover, the initial paid-in capital of only $10 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the development challenges the bank is intended to address.

But the BRICS Bank reflects a real grievance on the part of the emerging world about the state of global economic governance, including the recurring financial crises emanating from the United States and Europe in recent years and the failure of advanced countries to reallocate "shares and chairs" to emerging economies in existing institutions such as the IMF. Moreover, if managed well, the BRICS Bank could make a useful contribution to global development. Yet it could also undermine the global rules-based system that has largely served the economic interests of the BRICS well over the past seven decades.

When representatives of 44 allied nations, mostly from North America and Europe, assembled in New Hampshire in July 1944, they had three principal goals in mind. First and foremost was to construct a rules-based international economic architecture that would help prevent a recurrence of the chaos and devastation of the previous 30 years. Second was to rebuild the war-torn economies of Europe and Asia and lay a foundation for long-term global prosperity. To meet these first two objectives, the delegates at Bretton Woods created the IMF to promote macroeconomic cooperation and discourage beggar-thy-neighbor currency policies, the World Bank to oversee reconstruction and development, and the building blocks of what later became the World Trade Organization to discipline global trade. The North Atlantic powers then met their third objective - preserving their leadership in global affairs - by tilting governance of these institutions in their favor.

Arguably, both the BRICS Bank and China's proposed AIIB have been motivated by three similar objectives - only in reverse order. More than anything, the founding members want to establish themselves as leaders in global affairs; they want to sit in the big chair at the head of the table and hold the gavel. Second, they seek to promote economic opportunity, though with a distinctly mercantilist bent favoring their own commercial interests. Making a positive contribution to the global rules-based order is a tertiary consideration at best.

To be sure, the willingness of the BRICS to invest in infrastructure and sustainable development is welcome. The World Bank estimates infrastructure needs in developing countries of around $1 trillion per annum through 2020. If China and other successful emerging economies can share their development experience and capacity with poorer nations, this would add to global welfare.

But are new institutions - especially ones that raise a number of serious governance and operational questions -really needed to meet these ends? The founding members of the BRICS Bank say they intend to share voting power equally within the existing group and to yield shares to new members as they join. Yet unless the BRICS Bank is going to remain a limited experiment, will South Africa really be able to sustain an equal financial contribution with China? If not, will Beijing continue to be willing to give Pretoria an equal voice in running the institution? And what happens when the combined share of the five founding countries hits the declared floor of 55 percent; will they then stop accepting new members, or will the shares of other existing members be diluted?

Operationally, will the BRICS Bank be able to attract top-tier staff to Shanghai? On what terms will the bank lend? Will there be sound financial, transparency, environmental, and other conditions akin to those applied by multilateral banks such as the World Bank and ADB? Will lending be tied to procurement of goods and services from founding-member companies, or will bidding be open to all?

Similar governance and operational questions surround China's AIIB proposal. Indeed, Beijing should be taking an especially hard look at the costs and benefits of these new institutional arrangements. For all the understandable complaints about the existing order, that order has served China's interests well over the past several decades. It has provided open, growing markets for Chinese exports; access to capital, resources, and technology; and discipline as China has forged ahead with its own domestic economic reforms. Some day in the future when Beijing is sitting in the big chair with the gavel, it may rue the day when it agreed to underwrite expensive new institutions with weak governance and lending structures.

Meanwhile, the BRICS Bank is a wake-up call to the advanced countries of North America, Europe, and East Asia. They should strengthen their own economic management to avoid recurring financial and fiscal crises and do more to share power in the Bretton Woods institutions - notably by persuading the US Congress to enact the IMF quota reforms that the Obama administration championed in 2010. Having made a real concession by embracing the G-20, which includes the BRICS as equal members, as the "premier forum for our international economic cooperation," Western powers should work harder to restore the G-20's effectiveness and credibility. But at the same time, advanced countries should remind the BRICS that the existing rules-based multilateral order has served them all well in substantive terms and is worth preserving and building upon.

Matthew P. Goodman holds the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. This article originally appeared on Aug. 6th as part of the CSIS Commentary series and in CSIS: PACNET Newsletter here.

Image: Office of the President, Russian Federation. 

TopicsBRICS

Asia's Next Big Story: China, India and Australia's Economic Dance

The Buzz

Australia and China have been booming together. Australian resources have fueled Chinese infrastructure investment, and Australia has built out its own infrastructure to deal with Chinese demand. But this story of mutual growth may be ending. Many observers believe China’s current 7.5 percent growth target will need to be moved lower, and empty cities underscore the growing concern that China has overbuilt. Australian exports are predominately commodities, and iron ore, coal, natural gas, and gold are all top 5 shipments abroad. This leaves Australia in an awkward economic position. Geographically, however, Australia may be ideally situated to take advantage of the next infrastructure boom—India.

As of May 2014, China consumed more than 35 percent of Australia’s exports, an extreme concentration. Japan, the second most popular destination for Australian exports, consumed 17 percent, and third place Korea took 6 percent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australia does not appear to have the same ties to India. In fact, exports to India have fallen by half since the middle of 2010 due in part to a decline in the value of gold exports.

At the start of the 21st Century, trade between China and Australia was around $6 billion annually. Since then, it has exploded by more than 15 times—to $93 billion in 2013. This $88 billion increase constitutes more than half the $151 billion total gain in exports Australia has made so far this century.

Politically, the relationship between Australia and China is not always amicable. The Australian National Broadband Network is the largest infrastructure project to be undertaken in Australia’s history. Huawei, a Chinese technology company, was barred from bidding on the project with the Australian government, which cited security concerns in its decision.

Regardless, Australia and China have become deeply intertwined economically. For Australia, exports have benefited as China embarked on a building spree. But it may be time for Australia to begin planning its next move, before China shows signs of slowing its infrastructure investments.

Australia, in other words, needs another infrastructure boom. And so does India. India’s Twelfth Five Year Plan suggests that about $1 trillion should be spent on infrastructure over the 2012-2017 timeframe. This would equate to 10 percent of GDP every year being spent on infrastructure. A necessary boost to economic growth in India, where it has stalled for the past couple years. For Australia, having another mega customer would mitigate any weakness in Chinese growth. This transition may not be seamless though.

The funding for the infrastructure may not be easy to come by in India’s poor capital markets. China offered to finance $300 billion of the spending earlier this year. Given the history of border disputes between China and India, this gesture was seen as political posturing more than a potential investment.

India should be tempted by the funding though. Infrastructure for India is a necessity as highlighted by the blackout that left more than 650 million people without power in the summer of 2012. Investment in the electric grid is critical to economic growth, but roads and bridges matter too. These are problems that can only be fixed slowly, and at great cost.  In 2010, McKinsey estimated the cost of India’s poor logistical infrastructure at $45 billion per year. An investment in infrastructure would boost the Indian economy with employment gains from the construction itself, and it would have the long-term benefit of reducing a bottleneck in the Indian economy.

Unfortunately for the new Indian Prime Minister Modi and Australia, correcting the infrastructure deficit is not a straightforward task. The Chinese commitment may bring other global players to the table, but red tape and financing are significant headwinds.

Modi may want to move quickly on the economic plan his party proposed. The Bharatiya Janata Party Election Manifesto calls for building 100 new cities “adhering to concepts like sustainability, walk to work etc.” The plan is ambitious, and many of the ideas make economic sense—incubators for entrepreneurs and improving the lives of women, for example. But accomplishing all of the goals in the near or even medium term will be nearly impossible.

The BJP manifesto may be better suited as a sort of long-term road map of what India needs to be successful. The notion of building 100 new cities may sound excessive, bringing to mind the ghost cities of China. But India will require some new cities to accommodate urbanization that McKinsey estimates will result in India having 11% of the global urban population in 2025. As people migrate from rural to urban areas, wages and spending tend to increase. With a population of more than 1.2 billion people and trailing China in urbanization, India has ample room to begin the shift from the farm to the city. China, even with its ghost cities and previous rapid urbanization, is estimated to have 13 million people move to cities per year between now and 2030—more than the population of New York City every 12 months. India is both more populous and less urbanized China. If the BJP plan is implemented—even marginally, the benefits to Australia could be similar in many respects to the Chinese boom.

There is some movement between Australia and India to deepen ties. The Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement is in its fifth round of negotiations, and there appears to be support for the agreement in Australia. A study finds that while the agreement would benefit Australia more than India, it would be beneficial to both. At the moment, the level of Australian exports to India tends to be volatile and heavily tied to commodity prices.

Australia cannot shrug China off either. China and Australia have been in talks around a free trade agreement of their own for almost a decade. But after the 20th round of negotiations, they are aiming to conclude talks by the end of 2014. While China is likely to slow its growth in infrastructure spending in coming years, the level of spending is unlikely to drop over the medium-term.

Are these the first signs of an Asian economic triumvirate? Possibly, but it will take a tremendous amount of cooperation between countries which historically have not been overly friendly. China is scouring the world for investment opportunities, India can oblige, and Australia can supply the material. Australia, though shifting from a reliance on China in some respects, would be more tied to China than ever before in others. For all three countries to reach their full potential, it will be necessary to cooperate.

India’s expected tempered rate of urbanization would be better for Australia than the current Chinese boom. A steady, slow, and long urbanization cycle would allow Australia to continue its recent boom while avoiding internal economic bubbles. There will be volatility—with the concentration of trade to China there can be little else. But Australia has yet to reap the full benefit from one of the great urbanization stories of the 21st century.

Image: Tony Abbott/Flickr. 

TopicsEconomics RegionsAsia-Pacific

Obama's Strategy in Iraq: Operation No Boots on the Ground

The Buzz

Listening to President Barack Obama speak about Iraq over the past several days, you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.  This is, after all, a man who catapulted to the top of the list of Democratic presidential candidates in 2008 by largely being the anti-Iraq, anti-war candidate.  The invasion and occupation of Iraq, Obama memorably put it, was “a dumb war,” a war of choice, and perhaps one of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions a U.S. president has made since Vietnam.  This message, and a fresh face running a campaign of hope, was enough for the freshman Illinois senator to not only best the heavyweight Hillary Clinton in the primaries, but also defeat Senator John McCain in the general election.

For an administration that has consistently touted the full withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as its greatest foreign policy achievement (the White House could use one right about now), it’s a bitter pill for the president and his national security team to have to re-engage militarily in a country that most Americans would rather forget about.  

Fortunately, Americans don’t have to worry about seeing their sons and daughters, mothers, and fathers back on Iraqi soil defending an increasingly polarizing, ineffective, and abysmal Iraqi government in Baghdad.  In fact, Obama’s use of military force in northern Iraq to date has been anything but large-scale or dramatic; four days after the president gave the order, the Pentagon has executed several rounds of airstrikes on a select group of fixed ISIL targets.  CNN and Fox News may like to hype this up with the continuous, red and white flashing “breaking news” icons, but in the full spectrum of military operations, these operations are in the category of “pinprick.”

Yet “pinprick” is exactly what President Obama and his administration want.  Indeed, this is precisely the plan: do just enough to avert the genocidal slaughter of tens of thousands of trapped Yazidis by a bunch of committed jihadist lunatics, but not enough that would compel the United States to increase its involvement in an unwinnable situation.  If there is any U.S. president who is cognizant of and fully guarding against the “mission creep” syndrome, it’s President Obama.  He has made this point continuously in his public remarks since Thursday night, when he first stepped up to the podium and addressed the American people on the nightmare unfolding in Iraq.  And he repeated it once more: “As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”

The president’s critics on the Republican side of the isle will continue to bash the administration for playing it safe on Iraq: that is, sending a few manned and unmanned aircraft to drop 500-pound bombs on obvious ISIL targets, and hoping that this will deter or somehow keep the organization in check.  The National Review, a conservative website and magazine, applauded Obama for finally taking concrete military action, against ISI, but in the same sentence described his actions to date as too cautious.  “The organization President Obama quite recently derided as al-Qaeda’s JV team has had a championship year, which demands much more than one fusillade of airstrikes,” the magazine opined.  “The Islamic State has surprised with its effectiveness, and it’s become clear that the Kurdish peshmerga paramilitary forces are underequipped to fight it.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Senator McCain labeled the administration’s use of military force in Iraq as “the weakest possible response;” a strange description given the fact that the White House could have decided to stay on the sidelines altogether and let ISIL move closer to the Kurdish capital, Irbil.

Advocates for a more forceful response in Iraq do have a point, however, when they argue that the administration needs to better explain to the American people what its plans are for a more comprehensive counterterrorism strategy against the ISIL problem​.  This extremist army is not confined strictly to the Sinjar mountains, Mosul, Tel Afar, or Tikrit; rather, its control of territory is unprecedented in the contemporary history of international terrorism, and the group’s leadership is intent on expanding into new areas unless someone or something stops them.  Thus, simply striking ISIL positions in a geographically confined area in northwest Iraq is not going to solve the issue, nor will it do anything to slow the group’s consolidation of control in eastern, northeastern and northern Syria, or western and northern Iraq.

What is the president prepared to do once the peshmerga—with the help of U.S. airpower—eventually liberates Sinjar from ISIL?

Image: White House Flickr. 

TopicsISIS RegionsIraq

Russia: The World's Second-Largest Immigration Haven

The Buzz

“Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity”—President Obama recently stated in an interview with The Economist, while making a larger point about Russia’s receding role in the world. While much of his commentary on the overall state of affairs in Russia was accurate, his comments on a lack of immigrants in Moscow revealed a blind spot in his view of global-migration movements—immigrants have been rushing to Moscow for the last twenty years, and not only to Moscow, but to cities all over Russia.

According to UN Population Division estimates, as of 2013,  the Russian Federation was second only to the United States in the sheer number of immigrants. This is a fact that continues to elude many Americans as, justifiably or not, Russia is commonly thought of as a place to leave rather than a place to which to move. And while it’s true that Russian citizens are emigrating in increasing numbers in recent years (a phenomenon that has been compared to the brain drain of the early 1990s), significantly larger flows of immigrants from the former Soviet Union have been entering Russia for the last twenty years.

So, why are they coming? While Russia’s economy has risen and fallen over the last two decades, an aging population and high mortality rates have kept the demand for labor steady and even growing in some cities. Many of the immigrants coming to Russia are able to earn much higher wages than they could in their home countries. While life for the average labor migrant in Russia is hard, to say the least, the conditions they leave behind are almost always much worse. If there are no jobs in your town in Uzbekistan or Kyrgystan (which are among the major sending countries according to both UN and Russian official statistics), trying your luck in Russia is likely your best option. While experiences differ widely, migrants I interviewed in cities across Russia ranging from Moscow to Irkutsk often noted the appreciably better standard of living than in their home countries.

In addition to labor migrants, Russia has also received many refugees over the last twenty years. In the early 1990s, Armenians and Azerbaijanis fled to Russia after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as Meskhetian Turks from Uzbekistan after ethnic violence there. Citizens of Tajikistan fled civil war in the 1990s, relocating to Russia as well as to other former Soviet republics. It is difficult to measure the true volume of refugees who entered during much of the nineties, but the number of ethnic conflicts in Central Asia certainly was the source of large flows. More recently, the 2005 Andijan Massacre in Uzbekistan also brought many refugees to Russia. Currently, there are many asylum-seekers in Russia from Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia, Somalia, and growing numbers of refugees from eastern Ukraine.  

My emphasis on the presence of labor migrants and refugees in Russia is by no means intended to downplay the multitude of problems that are faced by immigrants and native-born citizens in Russia alike. Those problems are real and the focus of much study and journalism. However, as many of the immigrants to Russia are labor migrants from poverty-stricken, neighboring countries or refugees of ethnic violence and war, the term “opportunity” that President Obama used may not be appropriate. Is it an “opportunity” if you are coming in order to survive? This sentiment should ring true in the United States as the economic gap between our country and those south of our border is analogous to Russia’s economy compared to those of its neighboring countries and former Soviet republics.

A stark example of the effects such a gap can have is the child refugee crisis the United States continues to struggle with week after week. President Obama’s remarks about immigrants (or a lack of immigrants) in Russia coincide with the latest immigration debate that boiled over with the influx of child refugees at the border. It is ironic that in the process of drawing attention to Russia’s dwindling relevancy in the world, President Obama indirectly referenced one of the most complex and troubling issues of his presidency—the inability thus far to pass comprehensive immigration reform.     

President Obama seemed to be trying to demonstrate Russia’s waning relevance to the United States, keeping it “in perspective,” as he said, but, it is clear from the crisis in Ukraine and the ripple effects on all of Europe that Russia is as relevant as ever. Shouldn’t our goal then be to engage Russia and the broader region more productively? One way we could do this would be to recognize migration as an area where our two countries, the United States and Russia—numbers one and two, respectively, in terms of immigrant destinations—could work together and learn from each other. Though the United States has been an immigration destination for much longer than Russia, we are clearly still far from figuring out what works best. Both countries continue to struggle with what to do about masses of undocumented workers, detention centers, public health concerns, fervent anti-immigrant sentiment, as well as many other issues related to immigration.

Though it might not be feasible for the highest levels of government of the United States and Russia to work together on this issue at this time, at least there is collaboration between the two countries at the local level. People-to-people diplomacy continues with multiple U.S.-Russia working groups on various topics, including migration, and the U.S. government has had the vision to fund such crucial programs. I feel fortunate to have been involved in two research groups, one funded by the National Science Foundation and the other by the U.S.-Russia Social Expertise Exchange, which had both Russian and U.S. participants, studying migration issues in both countries. Through such initiatives, it becomes clear just how many similar problems the United States and Russia face. Keeping these lines of communication open helps U.S. and Russian citizens alike gain a real understanding of the on-the-ground situations in their respective countries, no matter what statements our political leaders make.

Mary Elizabeth Malinkin is a program associate of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center.

Image: Flickr/DavidDennisPhotos/CC by-sa 2.0

TopicsDomestic Politics RegionsRussia

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