Losing focus: Will Ukraine and now Israel derail the US pivot to contain China?
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Date & Time

Monday, 23 October - Monday, 23 October 2023
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm AEST

Losing focus: Will Ukraine and now Israel derail the US pivot to contain China?

Join us in Brisbane, The Westin Hotel on Monday, 23 October for an evening featuring Professor John Mearsheimer and Peter Varghese for a lecture and conversation which will moderated by Tom Switzer. This event will be Professor Mearsheimer’s only public appearance in Australia.

The crisis in the Middle East is likely to have terrible consequences for Israel, its neighbours and U.S. foreign policy. Israel’s military response to Hamas’s attacks will surely trigger outrage across the Middle East, fueling jihadism, and might even lead to wars with Hezbollah and Iran. The U.S. has a vested interest in preserving stability in the Persian Gulf, but the Israel-Hamas war will lead to a more unstable region.

At the same time, Russia, far from being a serious threat to the U.S., should be its ally to contain China. However, the American-backed Ukraine campaign has foolishly pushed Russia closer to China, which is a violation of balance-of-power politics 101. The U.S. is now so deeply involved in Ukraine and has so committed its credibility to defeating Russia and preserving Ukrainian sovereignty that Washington will surely continue backing Kyiv for the foreseeable future.

Making matters worse, the new Middle East conflict will also distract America from East Asia where the U.S. has been working to put together a balancing coalition to contain a truly serious strategic threat. In that intensifying security competition, Australians have a deep-seated interest in working with the U.S. to deter China.

For Beijing, the best outcome would be if Washington remains deeply committed and frustrated in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, so the U.S. can’t fully pivot to East Asia.

John Mearsheimer is professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001) and The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (2019).

Peter Varghese is a former head of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Office of National Assessments. A former Australian high commissioner to India, Peter is chancellor of the University of Queensland.

Tom Switzer is executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies and a presenter at the ABC’s Radio National.