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The U.S. vs the China-Russia entente

Speaking at the 2022 John Bonython Lecture, Ambassador Bolton addressed the U.S. vs the China-Russia entente, and what he views as the strategic errors of many American conservatives. It has been more than 75 years since the U.S. last faced an axis of strategic threats. Fortunately, that axis proved dysfunctional. America’s current strategic adversaries, Russia and China, are not an axis. They have formed an entente, which is growing stronger — as China’s unambiguous support for Russia in the Ukraine crisis proves.

Many American conservatives increasingly believe that U.S. global involvement should be reduced or redirected. Some Australians and others in the Asia-Pacific region hope that opposing China’s existential threat to the West requires reducing or even withdrawing U.S. support for allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf. But it is a strategic error.

Critically, those who exclusively fear China ignore the Russia-China entente. The entente serves to project China’s power through Russia, as Beijing also projects power through North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs. Moreover, Beijing closely assesses Washington’s reactions to crises like the one in Ukraine to decide how to structure future provocations.

Beijing is not a regional threat but a global one. Treating the rest of the world as a third-tier priority, a distraction, the U.S. plays directly into China’s hands. Pivoting to Asia wouldn’t strengthen America against China. It would have precisely the opposite effect and weaken the U.S. global posture. We need to see this big picture before the Russia-China entente grows up to be an axis.