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A new Cold War could be much worse than the one we remember

By Charles A. Kupchan

03 Jun 2023 · 9 min read

informed Summary

  1. The mounting tensions between the U.S., China, and Russia could lead us towards a potential new Cold War.

A new cold War has come to seem all but inevitable. Tensions between China and the United States are mounting in step with Beijing’s growing power and ambition. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has poisoned its relations with the West and pushed Moscow and Beijing closer together, pitting a democratic bloc anchored by the United States against an autocratic one anchored by China and Russia. Much as it did in the 20th century, Washington is teaming up with allies in Europe and Asia to contain the ambitions of its rivals.

But a cold war between the United States and a Sino-Russian bloc could be even costlier and more dangerous than the original standoff between America and the Soviet Union. Rather than embrace the prospect, Washington needs to take a step back, think through the stakes, and come up with a plan to avoid a geopolitical rupture that would substantially raise the risk of a great-power war and leave a globalized world too divided to manage shared problems. Moscow has already thrown down the gauntlet by invading Ukraine. But ties between the United States and China are not yet beyond repair—and China’s mounting economic and military strength makes it the more significant competitor.

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