Martin Sieff is Chief Global Analyst for The Globalist. He is former chief foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and former managing editor, international affairs for United Press International. He is the author of Shifting Superpowers and the upcoming Cycles of Change: The Patterns of U.S. Politics from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama. He is a Fellow of the American University in Moscow
Russia and China today both enjoy the same grand-strategic advantage against the United States that the United States enjoyed through the 44 years of the Cold War.
Through the Cold War, the Soviet Union was the superpower of the Left – as the Left had been globally understand since the French Revolution. It was the state committed to the promotion of revolutionary change all across the world.
The United States, by contrast, was the superpower of the Right – It was committed to the maintenance of stability and continuity in government regimes and systems all around the world.
This policy was first conceived and expressed by George Kennan in his historic 1946 "X” Telegram where he developed the concept of "containment.” Published in July 1947 in Foreign Policy magazine under the title The Sources of Soviet Conduct, this guided the grand strategy of the United States through the entire Cold War.
The United States won the Cold War. The commitment to and craving for stability, peace and continuity among both governments and populations alike around the world and their fear of revolutionary upheaval proved infinitely stronger and more lasting than the fleeting flashes of revolutionary fervor. The Soviet Union eventually became physically exhausted and globally isolated by its ideological commitment to revolutionary change.
Today, however, the roles of the two great powers have been reversed. Since the advent of Madeleine Albright as secretary of state in 1997, the United States has become increasingly – and bytoday totally – ideologically committed to the spreading of "instant powdered democracy” in every nation of the world, as defined by and approved by the United States.
Russia and China have become the main "conservative” or "right-wing” powers committed to defending and preserving the status quo.
Ironically, the U.S. commitment to "continual and eventually total” revolution around the world is a revival of the discredited and failed concepts of Leon Trotsky. Josef Stalin abandoned and scrapped Trotsky’s concepts in the 1920s when he took power in the Soviet Union. This gave him the diplomatic possibility and ideological flexibility to create the Grand Alliance with the United States and the British Empire that won World War II – the Great Patriotic War.
Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev revived Trotsky’s disastrous concept: He and his successor Leonid Brezhnev drained their superpower dry by pouring resources into promoting revolution throughout the Third or Developing World for a third of a century from 1954 in Egypt to Afghanistan in 1979-87. This led to the collapse of the Soviet system. It also alarmed most of the governments of the world to seek protection from efforts to fan the flames of revolution within them by turning to the United States for protection on U.S. terms.
Today, it is the United States under presidents of both parties that have embraced the Trotskyite delusion. The bipartisan policy of the United States has become Permanent Revolution until Total and Perfect Democracy is finally achieved. This can only end the way it ended for Maximilien Robespierre in the French Revolution and for Trotsky in the Bolshevik one.
It is fitting and significant that the so many of the older generation of American neo-conservatives started life as communist enthusiasts in the 1930s and 40s like Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. For today’s American neo-cons are really neo-Trotskyites promoting the old, doomed enthusiasms under a new marketing label: Caveat emptor.
By contrast, Russia and China are led by pragmatic governments guided by the traditional concepts of profit and self-interest. They support and want to do business with existing governments and governing systems around the world. This has made them the 21st century’s major global powers of the new Right.
This is the strategic and psychological force behind China’s immense success in displacing the United States and the European Union nations in Africa. Chinese investment and aid comes free of destabilizing, potentially-revolutionary ideological strings to destabilize current governments and undermine existing systems of government throughout the region.
The governments of China and Russia hate and fear revolution and see the endless ideological promotion of democracy American-style in small countries around them and in their own countries as planting the seeds of chaos and disintegration.
It is also crucially important that Russia and China have both had experience of immense revolutionary dislocations within their own borders that cost millions of lives through economic suffering and premature deaths well within the lifetimes and memories of their current populations and leadership – the Cultural Revolution era in China from 1965 to 1976 and the decade after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in Russia from 1992 to 2000.
Democracy works admirably in societies where it is allowed to develop gradually and organically. But when other governments try to artificially accelerate its growth or hasten its triumph from outside, especially when they resort to military force to do so, the result of such efforts is almost always a fierce reaction against the forces of democracy. This reaction, or backlash, often generates extreme fascist, repressive and intolerant forces. And these forces usually win and take power. Then, they impose themselves on the societies in question, delaying any real democratic development for decades or even generations..
The efforts of the French Revolutionaries and Napoleon to export liberty, equality and brotherhood across Europe by fire and sword instead ensured the survival of the old traditional empires for another 120 years.
The efforts of Lenin and Trotsky to export socialism and communism by similar means were even more catastrophic. The backlash against them in Germany propelled Adolf Hitler to power.
It is not in America’s interests to follow in those footsteps – to put it mildly.