Despite the ongoing crisis in bilateral relations, Moscow and Washington are unlikely to confront each other militarily. Here’s why.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands during a press conference, Geneva, September 9, 2016. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS
The current confrontation between Moscow and Washington has provoked many in the media and expert community to discuss whether this geopolitical standoff might lead to an open conflict and a potential doomsday scenario. However, that’s hardly a rational option, no matter how far diplomatic relations may have deteriorated.
Without a doubt, the two sides do not accept and agree with many of each other’s foreign policy decisions. Sometimes their positions are so diametrically opposed that they appear to be irrational to the other side.
Yet, while diplomacy keeps silent, the crackling of banknotes makes a deal possible. Moscow and Washington may not have extensive bilateral trade relations with each other, but they do have a surprising number of multibillion-dollar contracts and investments into each other’s economy.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, for example, Russia consistently invests its surplus of currency in U.S. Treasuries. By August 2016 the amount invested constitutes $87.5 billion. Russia's holdings in the Treasury have not been less than $80 billion since August 2015 and, as data suggests, they have only increased since then.
Even with a new round of geopolitical confrontation, possibly more dangerous than during the Cold War, there has been always a red line for Russia and the U.S. in how far they can go geopolitically in defending their positions.
On all possible platforms and levels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his American counterpart John Kerry are continuing their efforts to demonstrate the unacceptability of chaos in Syria, even though they are often quite critical of each other. Evidently the means to achieve peace are not the same – but it is peace that remains an ultimate goal for both sides. The prolongation of active hostilities is costly, ineffective and unpredictable in both the mid- and long-term perspectives.
There are at least three fundamental factors that make the possibility of a World War III unlikely.
First, it is the issue of global terrorism, which can be defeated only by joint efforts. After 9/11 it is difficult to imagine a threat that is more capable of uniting both sides.
Second, the presence of Russian and American forces in a number of war-torn regions around the world decreases the likelihood of a potential war almost to zero: If a direct war between Russia and the United States happens, it will be the most lethal, the fastest, and the most detrimental war in the entire history of humankind.
In other words, it would be a guaranteed zero-sum game that would satisfy neither Russia nor the United States. Add to this the existing unpredictable (dangerous) political regimes in several totalitarian states, and it becomes obvious that both Moscow and Washington have more things to worry about than bringing closer the ghost of a doomsday.
Third, tectonic migration shifts are taking place around the globe: There have been hardly more substantial migration flows since the end of WWII. Under the conditions of poorly managed multiculturalism, heavily criticized for many years, a complete lack of cultural integration worldwide is a worsening headache, enough for capturing the world's attention for the coming decade.
It is quite obvious that no ceasefire will occur in Syria anytime soon, at least as long as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) is there. And it is also clear that Russia and the U.S. will continue flexing their muscles in Syria and around the world. However, it does not mean that they will stop the dialogue. On the contrary, the dialogue will be intensified as long as common threats exist.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.