Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Shift Leaves China Odd Man Out

The United States' war against terrorism and the attendant crisis of the international order have presented Washington with a historic opportunity, and the administration of George W. Bush appears to be seizing it.

Just last week, Russia and the United States completed a summit heralding a new and genuine strategic partnership while China joined the World Trade Organization. These epochal events highlight the emergence of a new great-power alignment that redounds largely to the United States' advantage. It also overturns the China-Russia alliance against U.S. policy that was formalized only last summer. China appears to be the odd man out.

Two key elements of the China-Russia alliance were efforts to exclude the United States from Central Asia and opposition to missile defense and modification of the ABM Treaty. Since a deal with Washington offers Russia more strategic gains, Russia may yet sell out and isolate China on both counts. Moscow may still sell Beijing conventional and even strategic systems, but it has weakened the alliance.

China's accession to the World Trade Organization possesses equally profound implications. WTO membership obliges China to continue economic and political reforms and further dismantle the vestiges of socialism. It heightens China's general dependence on the world economy and particularly on American, European and Japanese investment.

Within China, this membership already is creating conflict between those who will gain and those who will lose from integration with the global economy. Specifically, there is public political opposition to the secretive and undemocratic way in which China joined the WTO. Such demands for more transparency and accountability will surely continue to grow across Chinese politics as the economy tilts westward. Economic liberalization, along with China's dependence upon the world economy, will impede aggressive foreign policies. Simultaneously, its choice to join the WTO signifies Beijing's priority of economic modernization and greater acceptance of international economic standards and constraints. Isolated politically, more integrated with the world economically and militarily inferior to Washington and its allies, Beijing is left with no good anti-American option.

Internal demands for greater domestic liberalism and democracy also could move Russia and China closer to America. The current crisis thus offers all three governments the opportunity to shape a new lasting configuration among them and the international order that would derive from that.

This new configuration, properly shaped and managed, could become the basis for an enduring stability that could last long after the war on terrorism ends.

Stephen J. Blank, research professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Army War College, contributed this comment to Newsday.