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Although the United States demobilized all but 1. With the institution of a centralized foreign affairs and security apparatus of a scale and complexity unprecedented in American history under the National Security Act and the military mobilization authorized by the watershed directive NSC 68, Washington acquired the panoply of instruments to pursue a far more internationalist and interventionist approach to international affairs.

Building a system of alliances, the United States established a global chain of bases and military access relationships that allowed Washington to project military force anywhere in the world. In the postwar period, defense industries remained an abiding presence in the budgets of successive Democratic and Republican administrations alike and in the American economy overall.

American economic power in the postwar years was similarly without parallel. While all of the other industrial powers saw their economies devastated by the war, the American economy was revitalized by it. In the early postwar years, U. Reflecting American economic hegemony, the American dollar became the standard to which, under the Bretton Woods system, most other countries pegged their currencies. The rise of Soviet power challenged this position, and for a time in the s, with the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the revision of American security commitments under the Guam Doctrine—it seemed that American hegemony was in serious retreat.

Bush and then the collapse of the USSR altogether in , however, resoundingly confirmed American hegemony in the international system. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has enjoyed a period of dominance in international affairs that rivals its position immediately after World War II. Debate about American dominance has focused not about its reality but about its limits, its duration, and the purposes to which it might be used in recasting the international order. At the end of the war, it had, like the United States, twelve million troops under arms. But under Stalin, Moscow sought to consolidate a ring of buffer states around its periphery.

It did seek to expand its influence and potential control over other regions on its periphery in Iran, in the Turkish straits, in Greece, and in central Europe. But in each case, it backed off when faced by concerted American and British pressure. In contrast to American economic strength, the Soviet economy was devastated by the war. Although Moscow eventually created a community of planned economies and trade partners in its East European satellites, broader international trade was limited by the non-convertibility of the ruble and the necessity for barter agreements.

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Moscow also commanded political influence through the network of Marxist-Leninist parties and movements throughout the world. The Soviet Union acquired standing as a superpower only after the mids. It broke the American nuclear monopoly with the detonation of its first atomic bomb in and first hydrogen bomb in With the success of its missile programs, signified by its launch of the Sputnik satellite in and the flight of first cosmonaut Yuriy Gagarin in , and with its development of long-range bombers and nuclear submarines, the Soviet Union emerged as a power of global strategic reach.

By the s, it achieved strategic parity with the United States. Moscow worked to recruit clients and potential allies in a global contest with the United States in newly independent states in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. The rise of Soviet power abroad seemed to be confirmed at home with impressive economic growth rates throughout the s and, to a lesser degree, in the s.

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With the historical examples of Britain and the Soviet Union and the yardstick of continuing American power today in hand, we may assess the candidacy of China as a potential superpower. These trends are important. But they do not lead inexorably to the conclusion that China is an emergent economic superpower. For another thing, China has indeed become an important trading nation, but it still ranks well behind other major economies.

In , China ranked ninth, supplying 3. It may soon overtake Canada and Italy as the next largest exporter 3. But it has some way to go before it rivals France 5. By comparison, the United States in accounted for While Chinese acquisition of foreign assets has attracted attention recently, its overall foreign investment is negligible in comparison with other major economies. Although Shanghai has made great strides to recoup its pre-revolutionary international importance, China is nowhere close to becoming a world financial center, nor is the renminbi, which in recent years has become convertible on current account but is still not on capital account, likely to establish itself as the standard of foreign exchange anytime soon.

China lacks a genuine central bank and national banking system, and the accelerating growth of its energy demand places uncertainties on long-term economic growth. And China faces competition from other rising centers, including India. Since , China has pursued a concerted program of military modernization that has attracted attention and, since the mids, generated controversy. China is developing a new generation of strategic and tactical missiles, some of which are deployed on the Chinese coast facing Taiwan. China is building a much more capable navy and has bought advanced aircraft from Russia.

They do not appear to reflect an effort to acquire the strategic and power projection capacities of a superpower. Beijing has bought Russian Sovremenniy destroyers primarily because they carry the SSN Sunburn a supersonic, low-altitude anti-ship missile designed to attack aircraft carriers, the instrument of choice should the United States choose to intervene in a Strait conflict. What Beijing does not appear to be doing is acquiring the elements of global power projection characteristic of a superpower.

But there is as yet no decision to build aircraft carriers, the premier contemporary mode of naval power projection the U. Navy has twelve. Nor is there a clear effort to build a strategic force of the scale or of the triad arrangement of American or formerly Soviet forces. China has no long-range bomber force, and, despite occasional rumors of Chinese interest in buying the Russian Backfire bomber, it is not at all clear that Moscow would accede to such a sale. Russian assertiveness will harden anti-Russian views in the Baltics and other parts of Europe, escalating the risk of conflict.

Moscow has little stake in the rules of the global economy and can be counted on to take actions that weaken US and European institutional advantages.

Rising to the Challenge of Energy Security - The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR)

In Northeast Asia, growing tensions around the Korean Peninsula are likely, with the possibility of serious confrontation in the coming years. Kim Jong Un is consolidating his grip on power through a combination of patronage and terror and is doubling down on his nuclear and missile programs, developing long-range missiles that may soon threaten the continental United States.

Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington have a common incentive to manage security risks in Northeast Asia, but a history of warfare and occupation along with current mutual distrust makes cooperation difficult. Continued North Korean provocations, including additional nuclear and missile tests, might worsen stability in the region and prompt neighboring countries to take actions, sometimes unilaterally, to protect their security interests.

China and Russia portray global disorder as resulting from a Western plot to push what they see as self-serving American concepts and values of freedom to every corner of the planet. Western governments see instability as an underlying condition worsened by the end of the Cold War and incomplete political and economic development. Concerns over weak and fragile states rose more than a generation ago because of beliefs about the externalities they produce— whether disease, refugees, or terrorists in some instances.

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  8. The growing interconnectedness of the planet, however, makes isolation from the global periphery an illusion, and the rise of human rights norms makes state violence against a governed population an unacceptable option. One consequence of post-Cold War disengagement by the United States and the then-USSR, was a loss of external support for strongmen politics, militaries, and security forces who are no longer able to bargain for patronage. Also working against coercive governments are increased demands for responsive and participatory governance by citizens no longer poor due to the unprecedented scale and speed of economic development in the nonindustrial world.

    Where political and economic development occurred roughly in tandem or quick succession, modernization and individual empowerment have reinforced political stability.

    Where economic development outpaced or occurred without political changes—such as in much of the Arab world and the rest of Africa and South Asia—instability ensued. China has been a notable exception. The provision of public goods there so far has bolstered political order but a campaign against corruption is now generating increasing uncertainty and popular protests have grown during the past 15 years. Russia is the other major exception—economic growth—largely the result of high energy and commodity prices—helped solve the disorder of the Yeltsin years.


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    US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown that coercion and infusions of money cannot overcome state weakness. Rather, building a stable political order requires inclusiveness, cooperation among elites, and a state administration that can both control the military and provide public services. This has proved more difficult than expected to provide. Middle East and North Africa. Resource dependence and foreign assistance has propped up elites even as it fostered popular dependence on the state by inhibiting markets, employment, and human capital.

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    With oil prices unlikely to recover to levels of the oil boom, most governments will have to limit cash payments and subsidies. Meanwhile, social media has provided new tools for publics to vent frustration. Conservative religious groups— including Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and Shia movements—and ethnically-based organizations like those centered on Kurdish identity are poised to be primary alternatives to ineffective governments in the region.

    Geopolitically, growing humanitarian crises and regional conflict in the Middle East and North Africa will threaten to further undermine the credibility of international dispute resolution and human rights norms. These perceptions stem from unenforced redlines in Syria, withheld support for Mubarak and other Arab incumbents in , an alleged tilt toward Iran and away from traditional Sunni allies and Israel, and a sense of neglect because of the US rebalance to Asia.

    Sub-Saharan Africa. Democratic practices have expanded, civil society groups have proliferated, and public demand for better governance has become more urgent. Many leaders remain focused on political survival rather than reform—with some defying term limits. Global economic headwinds also threaten progress by keeping commodity prices low and foreign investment weak. Even some countries that have made progress toward democracy remain fragile and prone to violence accompanying elections. Tensions between Christian and Muslim groups could escalate into conflict.

    South Asia. India, by contrast, will focus its attention on both Islamabad and Beijing— seeking military partnerships with Europe, Japan, the United States, and others—to boost its conventional capabilities while striving for escalation dominance vis-a-vis Pakistan. India and China doubled per capita income much faster than much smaller emerging economies in the past. The terrorism threat is likely to increase as the means and the motivations of states, groups, and individuals to impose harm diversify. Prolonged conflicts and the information age allow terrorists to recruit and operate on a large scale, demonstrating the evolving nature of the threat.

    Terrorism kills fewer people globally than crime or disease, but the potential for new capabilities reaching the hands of individuals bent on apocalyptic destruction is all too real. This ultimate low-probability, high-impact event underscores the imperative of international cooperation and state attention to the issue. Terrorists will continue to justify their violence by their own interpretations of religion, but several underlying drivers are also in play.

    Within countries, the breakdown of state structures in much of the Middle East continues to create space for extremists. The ongoing proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia also is fueling Shia-Sunni sectarianism—with some militant groups further fracturing over religious differences. Beyond religion, psychological and social factors will drive individual participation in terrorism, as well as help terrorist groups attract recruits and resources and maintain cohesion.

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    Technology will be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it will facilitate terrorist communications, recruitment, logistics, and lethality. On the other, it will provide authorities with more sophisticated techniques to identify and characterize threats—if their publics allow them. Technology will continue to enable nonstate actors to mask their activity and identity.

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    The use of cyber tools to take down electrical systems, for instance, has potential mass disruption effects, some with lethal consequences. Advancements in technology will also lower technological barriers to high-impact, low-likelihood terrorist WMD scenarios, and enable the proliferation of lethal, conventional weaponry to terrorist groups.

    Today, aspiring powers seek to adjust the rules of the game and international context in ways favorable to their. This dynamic complicates reform of international institutions such as the UN Security Council or the Bretton-Woods institutions, and brings into question whether civil, political, and human rights—hallmarks of liberal values and US leadership since —will continue to be so.