Russia has a population of fewer than 150 million people, and that number is falling. It has a GDP of $1.48 trillion. It is not a small country, nor is it a weak country, but it is nowhere near the threat to the United States that China is. China’s population is nearing 1.5 billion people, and its GDP is nearly $15 trillion. At the Cato Institute, Ted Galen Carpenter suggests that rather than begin a proxy war with Russia that will drive it forever into the arms of China, America should attempt to find common ground. He writes:
Over the decades, the United States has embarrassed itself and thoroughly compromised American values by supporting unworthy, even odious, foreign clients in proxy wars against regimes that U.S. policymakers designated as adversaries. Backing the likes of the Nicaraguan Contras and Jonas Savimbi’s authoritarian (and left leaning) UNITA organization in Angola during the 1980s did not reflect well on the United States. Even worse was the Obama administration’s decision to support anti‐Assad insurgents in Syria. Most of those factions proved to be radical Islamists, not advocates of Western democratic values. We shouldn’t make any such embarrassing associations in Ukraine.
Instead of flirting with a proxy war strategy to torment Russia, the United States should be making a concerted effort to repair bilateral relations. Russian and U.S. interests are not inherently at odds. If Washington had not foolishly pushed the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders and interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs, turning the nation into a Western political and military client, Moscow would have few reasons to make trouble for the United States. Indeed, a more enlightened U.S. policy would have made it possible for U.S. leaders to approach Vladimir Putin’s government about mutual efforts to contain China’s growing power. Instead, Washington has driven Putin into the waiting arms of Xi Jinping. Waging a proxy war in Ukraine would be yet another provocation, and it likely would destroy what is left of the U.S. relationship with Russia. The Biden administration should repudiate that myopic, counterproductive scheme.