Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping / Getty
Review: ‘Rise of the Revisionists’: Russia, China, and Iran’ edited by Gary J. Schmitt
In 1991, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States gained unchallenged supremacy in the world. Indeed, just three years later, the U.S. alone accounted for about 25 percent of global GDP and 40 percent of world military spending, while Washington’s treaty allies in Europe and the Asia Pacific boasted roughly another 47 and 35 percent, respectively. Potential adversaries, meanwhile, were weak and overmatched: Russia was reeling from the Soviet implosion; China did not have the economic or military weight to compete; Iran was still recovering from its calamitous war with Iraq. In this environment, the U.S. could act with impunity. Democracy was expanding across the globe; the long shadow of communist authoritarianism had disappeared. It was the end of history as we knew it. Or so many thought.
That post-Cold War era has now passed. What comes next is still taking shape, but one thing is clear: America’s relative dominance is declining. U.S. shares of global GDP and defense spending are, while formidable, not what they once were; the same goes for Washington’s core treaty allies. More importantly, the U.S. and its Western allies have been reluctant to use their still-considerable power assertively. At the same time, hostile authoritarian states have pursued in earnest their long-held ambitions to dominate their own regions. These revisionist powers—Russia in Europe, China in East Asia, and Iran in the Middle East—never accepted the world order that followed the Cold War, defined by an open global economic system, international institutions, liberal political norms, and American supremacy. So Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran bided their time, gaining strength and waiting for the right time to try to overturn the order. That time has arrived, and the implications for American interests and global peace and stability are profound—and quite dangerous. Continue reading