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The Russia-China factor

In the course of the next seven months debates concerning the issue of foreign policy between presidential candidates George Bush and John Kerry will mainly focus on Iraq, Iran and Northern Korea.

Iraq represents a key to the democratic reform in the Arab world; Iran and North Korea are of utmost importance because of their unclear nuclear claims.

However, events of the recent past, namely presidential elections in Russia and Taiwan, allow us to assume that as soon as the next president takes the stand, Russia and China will become his main priority as far as foreign policy is concerned. Along with Japan, these are the most influential countries with which the newly elected American president should cooperate. Whereas Japan represents a strong democratic power with stable economy, Russia and China possess rapidly growing economic systems (6.8% in Russia and 9.1% in China in 2003). However, the tendency of both Russia and China to develop autocracy appears to be rather frightening.

Russia

March 14—Russian President Vladimir Putin wins the elections as predicted, with 71% of votes. The number has definitely confirmed Putin's position of an ultimate leader.

National Security Advisor Condoliza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell have criticized undemocratic aspects of the election campaign. Many foreign observers supported the criticism.

Today, the major question is such: will Putin's power encourage despotism in the country or will the president use this power to conduct needed reforms that the foreign critics are impatiently awaiting.

No matter who will be elected president, he will have to face this problem. Putin indeed represented a rather useful mechanism for Bush, when the Russian president supported deployment of American troops in Middle East to fight terrorism. Russians even got themselves involved in a dialogue to completely eliminate the Iraqi debt.

Bush adhered to the status quo, while significantly reducing his criticism regarding Chechnya. However, tensions between the two countries are most likely to rise, since the former “allies” of the former Soviet Union have established close relationship with the West, while the US and its NATO allies are shifting their forces closer to Russia.

Taking into account such situation, future American president has to find a proper equilibrium between its relations with allies (whose support is of major importance) and accusations regarding the abuse of human rights, which contradict American principles.

China

Presidential elections, that took place this past weekend in Taiwan, slightly reduced tensions between China and the island.

President Chen Shui-bian has won the elections with a slight advantage. However, the final count appears to be in limbo.    

At the same time, Mr. Chen was quite unsuccessful at the referendum concerning the issue of strengthening Taiwan’s armed forces, since less than 50% of residents showed up.

China regarded the referendum as another attempt of Taiwan to claim its independency. Beijing, that firmly believes the island belongs to China, has disapproved of the Chen's actions.

Similar to Russia, China once represented a valuable asset to the Bush administration, when the country had initiated talks to regulate North Korean nuclear crises.

In return, China expects that the US will pressure Taiwan to discard its ideas of independency. Bush in turn has made a speech accusing the referendum.     

At the same time, the United States guarantees Taiwan's protection in case Beijing decides to deploy its troops to the island. Once again, the future president will have to be extremely cautious when dealing with such matters.  

The United States have to welcome economic systems of both Russia and China. The more stable they are, the higher the level of the well-being of future generations. Thus, they are less likely to start a war. 

 
Source: Christian Science Monitor

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