WHAT A DIFFERENCE A week makes. A week ago Tom Ricks of the New American Foundation wrote about the non-military nature of today’s news, and then Russia conducts an invasion of the Crimea. This isn’t to be critical of Tom at all (full disclosure: I’ve known Tom for nearly two decades and respect him immensely). Rather, it is more evidence of the reemergence of great power politics in the “post-post-Cold War era.”
Russia’s Crimea campaign and Chinese sabre-rattling over the Senkaku Islands provide, perhaps, additional data points about the long creeping emergence of this new era. As Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis once wrote — he was talking in the context of containing the Soviet Union — such actions might be seen as the “probes and counterprobes by which great states demarcate spheres of influence, organize blocs, establish tacit ‘rules of the game,’ and in general settle down to the condition of wary co-existence.” If what we are seeing this today, and it looks that way, then it is troubling because China and Russia seem inclined to revise the terms and conditions of the international system in their neck of the woods by a very different set of rules than by which the U.S. is playing in regards to trying to maintain the status quo of the system. But this is shouldn’t be unexpected.