Preparing for Cold War 2.0

Nadia Schadlow, who is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and, most recently, was U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, has penned a useful article in Foreign Affairs in which she says that “No matter who is U.S. president come January, American policymakers will need to adopt new ideas about the country’s role in the world and new thinking about rivals such as China and Russia—states that have long manipulated the rules of the liberal international order to their own benefit.

Dr Schadlow posits that “A new set of assumptions should underpin U.S. foreign policy …[and, concomitantly, the foreign polices of the US led West, including Canada’s, because] … Contrary to the optimistic predictions made in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, widespread political liberalization and the growth of transnational organizations have not tempered rivalries among countries. Likewise, globalization and economic interdependence have not been unalloyed goods; often, they have generated unanticipated inequalities and vulnerabilities … [and] … although the proliferation of digital technologies has increased productivity and brought other benefits, it has also eroded the U.S. military’s advantages and posed challenges to democratic societies.

After outlining the rosy assumption made by leaders and policy makers from Richard Nixon through Bill Clinton to Barack Obama ~ assumption which I shared, Nadia Schadlow says that “China had no intention of converging with the West …[because] … The Chinese Communist Party never intended to play by the West’s rules; it was determined to control markets rather than open them, and it did so by keeping its exchange rate artificially low, providing unfair advantages to state-owned enterprises, and erecting regulatory barriers against non-Chinese companies. Officials in both the George W. Bush and the Obama administrations worried about China’s intentions. But fundamentally, they remained convinced that the United States needed to engage with China to strengthen the rules-based international system and that China’s economic liberalization would ultimately lead to political liberalization. Instead, China has continued to take advantage of economic interdependence to grow its economy and enhance its military, thereby ensuring the long-term strength of the CCP.” Of course, from a Chinese perspective it might, very reasonably, appear that the liberal, US made (in the late 1940s) “rules based international system” was, in fact, designed to strengthen the US economy and enhance its military and ensure America’s long term strength … and that is not, many would say, a totally unreasonable view.

Then Dr Schadlow gets to what I think is one of the core “causes” of Trumpism. “The promise that globalization’s rising tide would lift all boats went unfulfilled,” she says, and “some rose to extreme heights, some stagnated, and others simply sank. It turned out that liberal convergence was not a win-win: there were, in fact, winners and losers … [and, predictably, the losers didn’t like it and, much to Hillary Clinton’s dismay, in America many of those “losers” found a voice in Donald J Trump, and] … A populist backlash against this reality caught elites off-guard. This reaction intensified as malfeasance on Wall Street and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s misguided monetary policies helped bring about the 2008 global financial crisis. The generous bailouts that banks and financial firms received in its wake convinced many Americans that corporate and political elites were gaming the system—a theme that Trump seized on in his 2016 campaign. Years before Trump’s victory, however, many ordinary Americans had already come to see that globalization was hurting them. Working people directly experienced how free trade could hollow out communities as jobs and capital investments fled overseas. Even the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Gita Gopinath, acknowledged in 2019 that international trade had been very costly for manufacturing workers in the United States. Between 2000 and 2016, the country lost some five million manufacturing jobs.” And it wasn’t just in America and it wasn’t just in the 2000s. In the 1980s I was stationed in South Limburg province in the Netherlands. It had been economically devastated when, in the 1960s, the demand for coal fell because the demand for European steel fell because Asia, mainly South Korea, could make better steel, cheaper, using Chinese coal. South Limburg province was the heart of the Netherland’s coal production. The operative word is “was.”

And so we return to a Cold War … to Cold War 2.0. In the first Cold War, in the 1940s, Harry Truman, Louis St Laurent, Clement Attlee and others gambled that the Russians, being Russians, would opt for a “brute force” approach but that the “victory” in a contest between a aggressive, militaristic, authoritarian, communist ‘East’ and a free and liberal ‘West’ would go to the on that produced a better life for its peoples. Thus while the Russian used forced labour to build tanks Americans, Australians, Brits and Canadians and Western Europeans grew more food and built new homes and cars and refrigerators. The Western victory in Cold War 1.0 can be seen in one image …

24 July 1959: Nixon's 'Kitchen Debate' with Khrushchev | MoneyWeek

… in 1959 the Soviets staged an exhibition in Moscow. The American exhibit, which was visited by more than 3 million people, featured a “typical” kitchen ~ it was, actually, only “typical” of the newest homes but it opened the famous “kitchen debate” between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

It (1959) was too soon to declare victory and bring all the troops home from Europe. The USSR would not collapse in the face of a dishwashing machine; but it was a clear sign that the Truman-Eisenhower strategy was working.

Cold War 2.0 is not going to be the same. China is a much more formidable and sophisticated competitor than Russia/the USSR ever was. The 21st century Chinese also have, unlike the Soviet Russians of the 1940s,’50s and ’60s, a grand strategy that might work. They aim to make the system that America created ~ Bretton Woods in 1944, San Francisco in 1945, New York and Geneva and so on after that ~ work to China’s advantage. In my opinion the Chinese do not want a “hot war” and their military build up is, essentially, defensive in that it aims to make them supreme in their own back yard, East Asia, and no more than a “player” elsewhere. Notwithstanding what some Chinese leaders might wish, America and India, not to mention Australia, Japan and Taiwan, are global and regional powers, too. China has the ability to match them, but only at the expense of domestic prosperity and social harmony and the Chinese Communist Party will not risk that.

After repeating the Trump administration’s views on how China and Russia are undermining America (views she helped craft), Nadia Schadlow says that “Trump, in his campaign and presidency, has offered some correctives to the illusions of the past—often bluntly and sometimes inconsistently. His departures from traditional ways of talking about and conducting foreign policy stem from an embrace of the uncomfortable truth that visions of benevolent globalization and peace-building liberal internationalism have failed to materialize, leaving in their place a world that is increasingly hostile to American values and interests … [and] … Trump emphasizes the role of states in the international order, challenging an American tendency since the end of the Cold War to transfer power to international organizations. This has not meant unilaterally reducing the U.S. role in the world; rather, it has meant signaling respect for the sovereignty of others. Consider, for example, the administration’s strategy for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, which involves countering China’s excessive and illegal territorial claims in the South China Sea and bolstering the maritime security of other countries in the region, such as Vietnam, by providing them with equipment. Such measures draw a contrast with Beijing’s efforts to create subservient relationships in the region and establish spheres of influence … [but] … More broadly, the Trump administration has applied the principle of reciprocity to various international institutions and norms. This has meant urging other powers to take more responsibility for their own security and contribute more to the strength of the Western-led order. Trump’s attention to burden sharing has “made NATO stronger,” according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Between 2016 and 2018, defense spending by NATO members other than the United States increased by $43 billion, and Stoltenberg has predicted that by 2024, such spending will increase by another $400 billion.” This is, perhaps, the most coherent defence of Trumpism that I have read anywhere. But, ultimately, “liberal internationalism” is the only way to contain China. China will grow to be THE hegemon in East Asia. There is no point in trying to stop that. The ‘Western’ allies, including, especially, India, must aim to contain China’s power to that region.

That means that America’s allies, including Canada, need to step up and help the USA (and India) with the containment of both China and Russia in several regions: in Asia, Africa, th Middle East and Europe, too. Canada is a G-7 nation. It needs to start acting like one.

Australians, Brits, Canadians and Danes need not share Dr Schadlow’s Trumpian view of the world and of Cold War 2.0 to understand that:

  1. It is here. We are in it, like it or not; and
  2. Like its predecessor, it can turn hot if we do not manage it with care.

Now, at this time, the conventional wisdom is that foreign and defence policy must take a back seat to beating COVID-19 and restarting the economy. But, the Chinese and the Russians are not putting their plans on hold while they deal with the pandemic. (Maybe that’s why Justin Trudeau admires China’s “basic dictatorship” so much.) They will both be moving ahead with plans that aim to put the US-led West, including Canada, at a disadvantage. Additionally, now is a good time to announce plans to build more new warships ~ two or three large helicopter carriers, another supply ship (for a total of four) 16 major surface combatants (the new Type 26 ships) and a dozen smaller corvettes …

… and some specialized mine-counter-measure ships plus new under-ice capable submarines ~ that will create many thousands of new, good jobs over many years. Now is also a good time to announce that the selection of the CF-18 replacement will move forward sooner rather than later ~ good jobs are also at stake. The Army needs new A (armoured) and B (logistics) vehicles. Some, the light armoured vehicles and the wheeled logistic vehicles …


… can be and politicians should say will be built here in Canada, by Canadian workers. Defence related projects, when well conceived and directed, can be great long-term job creators. Canada can do both: speed up our recovery from the pandemic and strengthen our global position by making defence procurement a priority for the recovery.

Nadi Schadlow has made the Trumpian case as well, i think, as it can be made. Like it or not ~ I seem to always say that when I mention 21st century America, don’t I? ~ America is in a new Cold War, China is President Trump’s main antagonist, but we can be sure that Russia will there to take advantage at every opportunity and it, rater than China, may be the bigger threat to peace.

Canada can sit on the sidelines; that’s been our preferred position for 30+ of the last 50 years, or Canada can get back in the game by rebuilding our diplomatic, political, economic and military power and then using the enhanced goodwill that being a leader brings to influence world events for our own benefit, rather than just picking up America’s scraps. But as long as Justin Trudeau is in change we will be on the sidelines, looking for table scraps.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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