Is America Pushing Itself to the Limits?

America surfaced as a world power at the end of the 19th century after winning the war against Spain in 1898. By the end of World War II, America emerged as a superpower. It had a nuclear monopoly and a massive economy. It remained a superpower unless the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) contested. The USSR consisted of 15 republics, including Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia. The cold war between the US and USSR led to a decline in American influence in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The Soviet Union decided to intervene in Afghanistan affairs in 1979 to establish a communist-backed stream. At that time, the power of the USSR was at the highest level. But when they left Afghanistan in 1989, the power of the former soviet union had declined.

On the other hand, the power of the US was on the rise, thence engineered a plot to weaken the USSR. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 culminated in the former USSR’s disintegration, giving birth to new fifteen different independent republics. This virtually ended the cold war and aided America to emerge as the only superpower. Now, after three decades of the end of the cold war, many new things have shaped up. The US faces many challenges.

The majority of the Russians believed that the US and the West would embrace  Russia after the fall of the former Soviet Union. But Moscow didn’t receive the much-aspired goodwill. In the Soviet Union era, the main friction point was the ideological differences between the US and the former USSR. Though these ideological contradictions disappeared to some extent yet, new friction points emerged. Russia has its imperial past and has always remained a global player. After World War II, the US became one of the world’s major nations and the key nation of the so-called shared Western bloc.

During Soviet Union time, the US and the USSR almost weighed equally. Though the economy of the US was better than the former USSR, the USSR was militarily powerful. Therefore the balance of power was maintained in the world. Subsequently, the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the US stayed around as the only superpower and desired Russia to be one of the Western nations that should follow the US lead. As a leader of the Western world, America was naturally against Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Russian leaders have long been apprehensive of the eastward expansion of NATO, predominantly as the alliance opened its doors to former Warsaw Pact nations and ex-Soviet republics. In the late 1990s, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined the NATO alliance, and 2000s, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined this bloc. Russians fears grew in the late 2000s as NATO stated its determination to bring  Georgia and Ukraine into its fold soon.

Beginning with the 21st century, Russia worked hard to uplift its economy and modernise its armed forces. In 2007, President Vladimir Putin delivered his eminent speech, in which he said that Russia disagrees with the US lead. That was the beginning of the actual confrontation between the US and Russia, which continues and escalates even today.

Throughout the Cold War period, in the 1970s, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger decided to make friends with China. This was done to coax China to confront the Soviet Union, and unfortunately, they were successful in their mission. The former Soviet Union had strained relations with China from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s. But now, the US perceives the global situation from a different angle. China is now one of the world’s critical nations regarding financial resources, intellectual resources, armed forces, modernisation. Under the changed circumstances, the US wants Russia to be on their side to counter China. The US considers China an enemy No.1.

For many nations worldwide, the glowing vision of the future based on the concept of free markets, democratic governance, and individual liberties did not succeed. Today, one can gaze at the policy the US leaders have brought in front of the world. Efforts to impose new regimes on Iraq and Afghanistan at gunpoint have laid waste to those countries, killing hundreds of thousands of innocents and generating a series of internal conflicts that may continue for many decades to come. The Middle East, all together, is in the grasp of a new generation of autocrats. At the same time, generous democracy looks to be under increasing threat even in Western Europe and the US. Presently, the US is encountering problems of various magnitude. There are war scares in eastern Europe and the western Pacific, thanks to a Chinese intimidation campaign against Taiwan and a Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border.

Critics of American foreign policy have more than a few instances to cite. There exists a list of countries and regions where American foreign policy has catastrophically failed and continues to do so. These regions include South and Central American nations such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and Honduras. Futile American attempts to forcibly install new regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan have reduced both countries to rubble, killing countless innocent civilians. Their troubles continue. Iran and its nuclear proliferation is an ever-present problem. American policy towards Kosovo arguably has inspired secessionist uprisings in Belgium, Georgia, Ukraine, Spain, and others. Moreover, China and its model of authoritarian capitalism continue to be an ever-growing threat, now even as they present this model as an option besides liberal democracy to developing nations. Besides these, American foreign policy still struggles with Russia, so much so that the Global North finds itself testing the limits of deterrence.

The international order that appeared after the Cold War has shifted intensely, creating unique challenges for America. America is no longer the only big brother in the geopolitical arena in today’s international scenario. The US no longer occupies the unrivalled position of strength that was enjoyed after the fall of the Soviet Union. The US has been fighting without a win, whereas many rivals, including Russia and China, won without much fighting. Time from 2008, when the global financial crisis took place, to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, there has been the fundamental transformation of the worldwide order. The very nature of international relations and the rules of engagement have changed very fast. Today’s world is more crowded, complicated, and competitive.

After the end of World War II, the US was the most dominant power globally and had effectively met the challenges from time to time. Firstly, the Soviet Union, Japan, and the European Union. Now, nevertheless, the power of the US is on the decline. Asymmetrical wars are challenging its vast military power, its economic growth is sluggish, and its debt is rising swiftly; the political system is proving unable to meet these challenges satisfactorily. Though the US is still likely to remain the world’s leading power for the foreseeable future, it is being challenged by China, Russia and many other emerging regional dominating powers.

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.