Today’s international security environment is both vastly fluid and highly dangerous, with multiple threats on several fronts. With the U.S. in relative decline as other states emerge and become more assertive, it will become increasingly important for Washington to come to terms with some of these very same states. Identified in the Primakov Doctrine, these countries individually and collectively have both the power to significantly reinforce the fragile international security architecture, or to sharply undermine it.
Russia and China: past and future peer competitors
Still reminiscing about Russian kowtowing in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War’s end, the U.S. has yet to fully recognize the re-emergence of Russia as a major power with global interests. Whether addressing security concerns in its immediate periphery, as in Ukraine, or asserting power and forming coalitions to assist its ally in Syria, Russia has clearly shown that it is back on the world stage.
In order to buttress the global security architecture it currently leads, the U.S. needs to shed its Cold War-era myopia and view Russia as the Russian Federation, not the Former Soviet Union. Given that Eurasia is the hotbed of several global conflicts and the fact that Russia borders more Eurasian states than any other country, this urgency becomes even more critical.
With increasing military might as well as economic heft, China is in an even stronger position than Russia to help or hinder the U.S.’s stewardship of the international security dynamic. China’s recent economic projects such as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the Silk Road Fund all aim to elevate the economic potential of Eurasia as a whole.
A stated objective of this enhanced economic interconnectivity is reduction of potential conflict on China’s borders, predominantly in the form of Islamic terrorism. Instead of discouraging allies from signing up to the AIIB and containing China within the First Island Chain because of its political orientation, the U.S. needs to recognize that it has shared security interests with China throughout Asia. This would serve as the foundation for a true “New Model of Great Power Relations”.
India and Iran: powers to be respected
Despite India’s official non-aligned status during the Cold War, it was perceived by the U.S. to be closer to the Former Soviet Union ideologically. This period, combined with U.S. sanctions imposed in the wake of India’s 1998 nuclear tests, served to make U.S.-India relations noticeably cool. Recently, however, U.S.-India relations have seen relative improvement as the U.S. seeks India to help balance China’s rise similar to how it leveraged China to contain the Former Soviet Union.
Because of India’s geographic location, it’s in a prime position to affect Central Asian affairs. Even more importantly, its position astride the Indian Ocean makes it the power in the world to guarantee uninterrupted energy flows from Africa and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. This alone gives it inordinate potential control over the world’s economy and serves to make India invaluable to the U.S. in maintaining world order.
Ostracized by the international community in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and linked to numerous terrorist attacks and organizations since then, Iran has nonetheless seen its utility to the U.S. grow recently. It is a predominant Middle East power, feared by both Turkey and Saudi Arabia because of its outsized influence in the region and beyond.
The recent nuclear deal was reached with Iran because the U.S. calculated that enlisting Iran’s help in the fight against ISIS helps the U.S. maintain global stability. Additionally, having Iran’s substantial energy reserves accessible once again on the world market helps to minimize over-reliance on any one supplier.
France: outlier and model
Given the Primakov Doctrine’s original thesis of targeting the above states which could help Russia balance the U.S., France does indeed seem an odd choice. Never comfortable with U.S. hyperpower in Europe, France chose to withdraw from the unified NATO military command structure in 1966, to re-integrate it only in 2009.
Given recent conflicts in West Africa, France has chosen to reassert its power in its traditional sphere of influence. This has only supplemented the U.S.’s own fight against terrorism. Subsequently, despite recent disagreements with Russia and China, as well as lingering issues with India and Iran, the U.S. needs to become comfortable allowing these states to project power locally within their respective spheres of influence in the same vein as France in West Africa. Through communication of shared global security interests, burden-sharing will increase and the U.S.-led order will ultimately be more stable and sustainable.