Treaty Sends a Message

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There is no subtlety in the Moscow agreement signed Monday. Presidents Jiang Zemin and Vladimir Putin designed their friendship treaty to send a loud message to the Bush administration. That message in no uncertain terms tells the White House that it has a supremely mistaken notion about what kind of world it is. And if the United States continues on the dangerous hegemonic road it is now taking, the result will be global instability, thus compelling closer Chinese-Russian security cooperation.

The Jiang-Putin joint statement proclaiming that the treaty is "not directed against third countries" is a fig leaf that can be quickly discarded. The naked truth is contained in their hope for a "just and rational new order" and in their opposition to numerous U.S. policies.

The U.S. drive for world domination, Jiang and Putin agree, is revealed in Washington's decision to abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to pursue national missile defense. The two leaders called the ABM Treaty "a cornerstone of strategic stability and the basis for reducing offensive weapons." A U.S. multi-layered (land, sea, air and space) missile defense, Jiang and Putin have long argued, would make America boss by negating Chinese and Russian deterrent capabilities.

In addition, Washington's push for NATO expansion implies that Russia is a potential enemy. U.S. weapons sales and President George W. Bush's pledge to "do what it took to help Taiwan defend itself" could negate China's sovereignty over that island. Both American moves are seen as extremely hostile.

NATO's war with Serbia over Kosovo under the guise of humanitarian intervention also produced Chinese and Russian common ground. Their friendship treaty declares that Russia and China "stand for strict observance of the generally recognized principles and norms of international law against any actions aimed at forced pressure or at interference, under any pretext, into domestic affairs of sovereign states." In short, the United States is not the world's self-appointed policeman.

Although not mentioned in the treaty or in the Jiang-Putin joint statement, Washington's pervasive use of economic sanctions has been perceived in Beijing and Moscow as further evidence of U.S. hegemony. In a statement after the treaty signing, Jiang said that China and Russia "believe that more active cooperation between our countries in discussing missile defenses and disarmament will enhance our efforts in building a multipolar world and establish a fair, rational international order."

Will Washington understand the Chinese-Russian message and soften its policies? Unlikely, but it certainly was worth the try.

A strong case can indeed be made that the Bush administration does not understand a globalized world. Washington acts unilaterally against the ban of land mines, the International Criminal Court, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and has successfully watered down the UN draft on the international sale of small arms.

The Bush foreign-policy team views the world largely in terms of threats. The term "rogue states" is back in use. Record peacetime military budgets are in the works. A threatening world requires punishments and containment.

Bush and his team, therefore, still have one leg in the Cold War. They fail to realize that a globalized world Ч one with no revisionist bloc hostile to the current world order (as it was with the Soviet bloc), with an increasingly unitary economic system, and with a panoply of functioning international organizations regulating exchanges Ч functions according to rewards and the loss of rewards, not according to threats and punishments.

Enjoying the rewards of trade, foreign direct investment, technology transfers and strategic multipolarity and avoiding the loss of rewards from self-isolation is what keeps globalization running and virtually every country playing by the rules. The world is multipolar, economically and strategically. Bush's unilateralism rejects global integration. Bush even clings to the view that narrow self-interest is good for the American economy, hence he opposed the Kyoto Protocol by saying it would hurt U.S. economic interests. His treasury secretary has strongly criticized the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

What is needed from Washington is more cooperation and leadership and less confrontation. If the U.S. economy is the engine of the world economy, Bush is in danger of decoupling the engine from the train.

Eventually, the Bush administration may get the message implicit in the friendship treaty, especially since American allies tend to be on the same page as China and Russia in criticizing Washington's policies.

But Beijing and Moscow could overplay their hand. Although both countries made clear that the friendship treaty is not a military alliance ("The treaty will not touch military cooperation," said one Chinese official), closer Chinese-Russian military ties would tend to confirm the idea current with some Bush officials that a new cold war is eminent.

Especially worrisome is the following line in the friendship treaty: "In case of the emergence of the threat of aggression, the two sides shall immediately make contact with each other and carry out consultations in order to eliminate the emerging threat."

Who else but the United States could threaten aggression against these two nuclear states?

Would action "to eliminate the emerging threat" be peaceful?

Washington may need a lecture, but it doesn't need confirmation of its atavistic world view.

Nicholas Berry is a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information, a privately funded think tank in Washington. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.