Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its intervention in Eastern Ukraine demonstrated not only its unpredictability but also its willingness to violate agreements and use force to alter borders and destabilize countries in its neighborhood. These events not only shocked the West; they also shook Russia’s allies to the core, not least Belarus. Long branded as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” this Eastern European state is considered Russia’s staunchest ally. And indeed, no country is culturally closer or politically, militarily, and economically more integrated with Russia than Belarus.
Today’s debates on whether US–China relations are deteriorating towards a ‘new cold war’ often involve disagreement over the extent to which there’s an ideological dimension to this competition. By some accounts, it’s purely about power and security, resulting from the historical inevitability of rivalry, if not outright conflict, between rising and ruling powers near a moment of transition.
In recent years, a sharp debate dominates the scholarly literature on American foreign policy and grand strategy: should the United States retrench from the expansive commitments undertaken in the aftermath of World War II as a globe-spanning military superpower, or should it renew its efforts to pursue the present strategy of global leadership? This issue is not merely of parochial interest to academics; rather, it represents the key dilemma faced by Washington foreign policymakers in the aftermath of the 2016 election campaign and the changes brought by the anti-establishment Trump presidency. Both sides of this debate contend that the American public supports their preferred strategy. However, a closer examination of recent public opinion date actually shows that the American people favor a “middle path” rather than either of the two preferred grand strategies advanced by proponents of Global Leadership and Restraint, respectively.
President Trump came into office with strong prior beliefs about the failure of US alliance policy and the need for allies to pay for US defense efforts on their behalf. Some feared that he presaged a rising isolationism among the American public that would support a president seeking to pull back from US commitments overseas. But Trump is failing to lay the groundwork for a new approach to the Indo-Pacific. Instead, the US is pursuing a two-track Asia policy, with Congress and the administration reading from different scripts. And the public is only on board with one of those approaches.
It took only minutes for the Trump Administration to support Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, when he challenged the nation’s incumbent president, Nicolás Maduro, for power last week. Trump may have promised to “stop racing to topple foreign regimes,” but his choice to back Guaidó isn’t surprising. In fact, just about every American president since FDR has attempted foreign-imposed regime change, or FIRC, in one form or another. This history offers some lessons that shed light on the crisis unfolding in Venezuela.