The Iraq War has drastically weakened Tony Blair's domestic position. If Washington forces Britain to choose between the United States and Europe, it may not choose the United States, and a collapse of the relationship with Britain would leave the United States without a single major Western ally. The consequences for U.S. power and influence in the world would be nothing short of disastrous.
Observers often think that policymakers make decisions as a result of carefully reasoned and vetted processes that take into account potential strategic and long-term implications. In reality, decisions by both U.S. and Chinese officials concerning the bilateral relationship have been made on the basis of very personal and short-term political reasons.
The experience of recent decades shows that while the direct application of military force can certainly oust defiant dictators, military threats and bluster almost never do. While rapid regime change seemingly offers a quick fix, the U.S. will still need sustained diplomatic solutions to its security problems.
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Most of Russia's aging nuclear submarines still have their nuclear fuel and nuclear waste on board, and many are tied up at docks that are at best lightly guarded. These submarines contain the raw materials for nuclear terrorism and need to be urgently dismantled and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.
The bilateral relationship has not benefited from the Iraq crisis, and despite common interests like terrorism and proliferation, the U.S.-Russian partnership is likely to remain shallow in the future. The failure of Putin to support the U.S. make it less likely that Bush will spend a lot of his political capital on Russia. Now the question is how much political capital Moscow is ready to invest.
Coming out of the war in Iraq, however, the Bush team appears to be in danger of losing a workable balance between the security and democracy imperatives. The administration's recent scramble to reconfigure U.S. policy on free trade agreements is a case in point.