As we advance further into the 21st century, American hegemony is facing new and increasing threats to its global status. With China and Russia gaining in strength and audacity, US power is being challenged like never before.
Gideon Rachman, a chief columnist with the Financial Times asks, “How long can a country [US] that represents less than 5% of the world’s population and 22% of the global economy, remain the world’s dominant military and political power?”
America is by far the greatest military power on earth – and that is not going to end soon. However, military dominance, and the American willingness to venture down that road, can only take them so far.
Both China and Russia possess nuclear weapons, for example. The US will not willingly enter a war with either power in a bid to regain lost power. Largely because of US belligerence, there is always the chance of a planet-altering accident occurring.
Rachman outlines that, “Since the Cold War ended, the overwhelming power of the US military has been the central fact of global politics. Now… that power is being tested – as America’s rivals test its resolve and the US considers when and whether to push back”.
China are today asserting themselves in the seas that bear their name. Much to American irritation and dismay, one might add. How dare China ignore American warnings by conducting exercises thousands of kilometres from Washington?
It may be assumed the American reaction would be even more vociferous, were China performing military drills in the Caribbean. Fortunately, Chinese intentions are more realistic.
Two months ago, the USS John S McCain sailed perilously close to an artificial Chinese-built island in the South China Sea. Disturbed by the appearance of the 500-foot long US warship, a Chinese frigate sent at least 10 radio warnings to its uninvited guest.
Though seldom mentioned, such incidents carry an underlying threat of nuclear war. Lamenting the episode, a US official said, “We told them we are a US ship conducting routine operations in international waters”, further describing the interactions as “safe and professional”.
However, the Chinese foreign ministry said, “The US destroyer’s actions have violated Chinese and international laws, as well as severely harming China’s sovereignty and security”.
Disagreeing, Pentagon spokesman Chris Logan responded, “The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law applies”. Translating into plain English here, “international law” means “American law”.
Less than two weeks after this very incident [on August 21], the USS McCain was involved in a serious collision with a Liberian oil tanker, off the coast of Singapore. Ten American sailors died, in what constitutes just one of various incidents involving US warships in Asia this year.
Nor are these episodes limited to US warships. American fighter bombers and jets can be seen at regular intervals flying over the South China Sea, as they conduct “freedom of navigation” exercises. In reality, these provocative and dangerous gestures are a reminder to China of American military capacity.
China appears immune to American warnings. Their influence is spreading with the BBC reporting in July that, “China claims sovereignty over almost all the South China Sea, which the US has challenged”. The South China Sea – part of the Pacific Ocean and flowing past Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore – signifies one of the world’s most important trade routes.
In July this year, two US B-1B Lancers staged joint flights with Japanese aircraft – first over the East China Sea, then flying on to the South China Sea. A US Pacific Air Forces statement said the operation was to, “demonstrate the solidarity between Japan and the US to defend against provocative and destabilising actions in the Pacific Theatre”.
The Pacific Theatre? One could be forgiven for assuming we are still in the year 1944. Few seem able to query why the Americans retain a presence on the far side of the world over 70 years later. Indeed, the US has treated the Pacific Ocean as “an American lake” in all the time since. Times are clearly changing.
In May, China detailed plans to construct a $900 billion modernised version of the old Silk Road – which was an ancient network of trade routes. For about 1,600 years, the old Silk Road connected China eastwards to the Korean peninsula and Japan, and as far as Europe and Africa westwards.
The old Silk Road collapsed in the mid-15th century, mainly due to the long-time spread of diseases along the route, such as anthrax and bubonic plague. China lost half its population to plague in the 14th century, with Europe losing a third of theirs.
The British Chancellor Philip Hammond said the new Silk Road would, “span 65 countries, across four continents, with the potential to raise the living standards of 70% of the global population”, calling the project “truly ground-breaking”.
Elsewhere, US influence is being challenged by a re-assertive Russia. In 2014, the idyllic region of Crimea was reintegrated into Russian territory. Crimea was part of Russian and Soviet land for more than two centuries (1783-1991) – something hardly ever mentioned.
Crimea’s reincorporation also signified another show of strength – that Russia is definitively unwillingly to put up with destructive Western influence any longer. This followed on from the South Ossetian war of 2008, which as Prof. Richard Sakwa of University of Kent wrote, “was in effect the first of the wars to stop NATO enlargement”.
Six years after that, Crimea’s return to Russia also stood as a response to the vicious Western-led coup in the Ukraine. In 2015, Barack Obama publicly admitted American involvement in an unguarded CNN interview. The Ukrainian putsch has plunged a country, with a long history of Western exploitation, into another abyss.
The Kiev regime is in reality a far-right government led by billionaire Petro Poroshenko. In June it was reported he had a 1% public approval rating according to the Kyiv (sic) Post.
Poroshenko’s administration is the most corrupt in Europe, with direct links to neo-Nazi groups fighting in eastern Ukrainian regions like Donetsk and Donbass. Virtually none of these unwanted facts are reported to Western audiences.
Instead, it is Russia who continues to be shamelessly vilified for attempting to secure her borders against increased aggression. In response to Crimea’s reintegration, NATO manoeuvres up to Russia’s borders have grown in scale and menace. NATO receives a massive 75% of its funding from the US, and its policies have long been a global security threat.
Indeed NATO, formed in 1949, should have been dismantled decades ago. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first supreme commander of NATO, wrote in 1950 that, “If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defence purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project [NATO] will have failed”.
Furthermore, Russia’s intervention in Syria by defeating Western-backed opposition terrorists, also underlines the loss of US control in the Middle East. An outcome like this would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Disastrous American interventions in the Middle East have resulted in a significant decline of influence there too.