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China’s Rise and Russia’s Invasion: Challenges US Faces in New Cold Wars

April 11, 202442:00

In this edition of Wilson Center NOW, we are joined by David Sanger, former Wilson Center Distinguished Fellow and White House and National Security Correspondent for the New York Times, and Mary Brooks, researcher, writer, documentarian, and former Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow. They discuss their new book, “New Cold Wars: China's Rise, Russia's Invasion, and America's Struggle to Defend the West.” The book is “an insider account of what happened as five presidents grappled with new foreign policy realities and moves rapidly through 30 years of Washington's dawning awareness of Vladimir Putin's and Xi Jinping's ambitions, cultivating in the Biden Administration's efforts to contain China's technological progress and push back on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.”


  • This is an unedited transcript

    Hello, I'm John Milewski. Welcome to another episode of Wilson Center, Now a production of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. My guest today, our David Sanger. David is White House and national security correspondent for The New York Times and also a former Wilson Center distinguished fellow. Also joining us, Mary Brooks.

    Mary is a researcher, writer and documentarian who also spent time at the Wilson Center as a public policy fellow. They join us today to talk about their collaboration on a new book. And it's titled New Cold Wars China's Rise, Russia's Invasion and America's Struggle to Defend the West. Welcome to both of you. Thank you for joining us. Thank you, John.

    So let me I'm going to invoke a couple of our colleagues so I know both of you know Rob Litvak and also Robert Daly over the years. When I first met Robin, I was doing a program on C-SPAN. We had an ongoing discussion, some private, some on the air about redefining the world order post-Cold War, and then more recently, discussions with Robert Daley about whether or not the term cold War applied to the relationship between China and the United States.

    And at first, Robert was sort of reluctant to embrace that characterization. He's warmed up to it. And so I want to hear from both of you about that same sort of arc of how you thought about where the world has gone from 30 plus years ago to where it is today and how you've maybe gotten to the point where now you can write a book about it and attempt to define where we stand.

    And David, will begin with you. Well, thanks. And thanks to the Wilson Center, which made this book possible by hosting me back for a third time. The third book. And Mary, for the first time, you raise a really interesting question, because at the beginning of this project, Mary and I were constantly debating the question, Is this a new Cold War?

    What is like what what elements of this are like the old Cold War and what elements were not? And, you know, I couldn't think of a more perfect topic to take up on Wilson, which is the home of the Cold War project. And we were taking up a book called New Cold Wars. And many in the administration, President Biden included, also resisted the phrase.

    In fact, in his first speech to the United Nations as president, he said, We are not headed to a new Cold War. I think we would argue from this book that we are fully in one, but it bears very little resemblance to the Cold War that you and I remember, John, because that was a conflict between the United States and one adversary, the Soviet Union.


    It was overwhelmingly a military conflict. And we had almost no interdependency between the two societies, in fact, very little contact between the two societies. You know, the only things we bought from the Soviets were caviar and vodka. And, you know, at the time they were not even selling much oil and gas. And while it would be a sad thing to live without caviar and vodka, I think we could manage it.


    Okay. In the new Cold War, as we've got a lot of different elements. First of all, we have that that s is important because we have two major adversaries who are increasingly working together, but uneasily. Second, we have huge dependencies on China, and China has huge dependencies on us. And Russia, we thought was would be prevented from getting into a new confrontation with the West because it was in their overwhelming economic interest to keep gas and oil flowing because they had failed to diversify their economy.

    Many of the assumptions that we went into the post-Cold War period with turned out to be wrong. And, you know, these really go back to my early reporting days. I joined The New York Times in 1982. The Berlin Wall fell less than a decade later and Soviet Union collapsed. And it was an article of faith in Washington that China and Russia in their own very different ways, would join the West on Western terms.

    And that phase continued beyond any reasonable point. After the confrontations became so obvious and so deep. And so Mary and I set out to go do a reported book that tells the story in narrative form of the people who had to go deal with this, had to go witness it. That's why it starts with George W Bush floating down the Never river on a party boat with it, with Putin and his then wife, and with dinner being served by an unknown guy at the time named Prigozhin, who was lurking in the background preparing dinner.

    And it takes you all the way into the Biden administration, preparing for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and new ways to contain China's technological and economic power in addition to its military power. And on on. I borrowed Condi Rice reminiscing about it with sentimentality as if it were the good old days because of it was so good. In retrospect, it was the good old days.

    You know, I wanted Mary to sure do this not only because she had worked with me on the Perfect Weapon and on the documentary the same name, but another documentary about the early days of the Biden administration. But because she brings to this a completely different generational view, a different set of expectations that I was thinking as you were talking, David.

    Mary, I was hearing the cultural points and historic moments that David referenced, and they sort of match the arc of my lifetime as well. When I was wondering how you were listening to this and and how you think about this arc of history because you've lived through different circumstances then, have we? Yeah. Thank you. Thanks, John. And thanks for for tipping it to me, David.

    As he mentioned, you know, we have worked together for a number of years, usually sitting in Washington, D.C. or New York and with this book, we had the chance to go around the world and to really interact with the countries kind of on the front lines of where these challenges are evolving. You know, we traveled to to Europe and we met with the president of Finland at the time, and we talked about what it meant to bring his country in to join NATO's, you know, so many decades after the Cold War had ended.

    And he thought, you know, that native excuse me, that Finland could continue to exist kind of between these worlds. We went to Thailand and we said, excuse me, Taiwan. And we spoke to the chairman of TSMC about their model of producing semiconductors for both China and the United States and how long that would be sustainable. We went to India, the, you know, one of the huge countries that is kind of hedging and this bellwether of of whether or not the world is kind of separating two blocks and what it what all of those experiences really did was to drive home a point that whatever this post, you know, kind of Cold War era is and

    one that I was as, as you noted, born into, you know, born after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Two parents who had met in the fall, the first Gulf War, first Gulf War, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, someone who remembers 911 as a shock, but but barely so, and someone who was still, you know, went to college in the Arab Spring and a time in which we believed that technology would open up opportunities, it would usher in democracy.

    It would make the world a flatter, more welcoming, kind of interconnected place. And so to kind of trace that arc of what I was told growing up and then what I am seeing for myself as we travel from country to country, really did emphasize that we are in a new space entirely. And just the kind of the last point I would bring up is we are not the first to use the term, you know, new Cold War or to say that we're in a new Cold War.

    One of the most interesting elements of the book was digging up the history of the past 20 years and finding an old transcript in which George Bush called Al Qaida the fight against Al Qaida, the new Cold War. It's obviously not the same thing that we're looking at here. But in calling it a new Cold War, we are not in any way suggesting that those who are looking to the past Cold War as a model for how to behave in this one will have any luck.

    If you recall, the first Cold War ended with a resounding American victory and basically the fizzling and disintegration of the United States major adversary. I don't think anyone who looks right now at China, Russia and the U.S. could really predict that kind of outcome. Four four, hopefully, you know, hopefully not in the U.S. and, you know, four neither of the other two countries as well.

    I don't think you can rely on isolation and containment. And frankly, I don't think you can rely on in an era that is so interconnected and bifurcated. At the same time, I don't think you can rely on the rest of the world, the countries that we would call middle powers or hedging countries to sit tight and the great powers decide their future or decide their destiny.

    You know, there's so much in what both of you just said and in the book itself that I I'm almost struggling with where to focus, but I want to focus in on this notion of getting it wrong. You know, Mary, you just made clear that, you know, we didn't deliver the world we promised you when you were a child.

    Things changed. Funny thing happened on the way to the forum, and I'm reminded of a John Lennon lyric that I'm fond of, where life is, What happens when you're busy making other plans and why do we keep getting it wrong is what I'm thinking. David, You mentioned that we assumed Russia China would be integrated into a Western defined world.

    It didn't happen that way. There are other examples throughout the book where we talk about people making assumptions that didn't hold up like we'd be greeted as liberators or that Putin would never really invade Ukraine. And I can't remember who you quoted, but there's a U.S. official you quote, and I think she's talking about what is Putin's red line?

    And she says, I doubt we'll get it right as we try to figure out what that is. So what did when you were going through these interviews, when you're going through the process of this amazing reporting? Well, what did you see? A theme that emerged that you could summarize why we keep making the mistake of getting it wrong?

    Well, I think in the case of China's turn and Russia's turn and the answer is not quite the same for either, but the commonality is it's one part intelligence failure, one part wishful thinking and one part assumption. The things that motivate us, motivate our adversaries, projecting our culture onto theirs, projecting our decision making and our calculus of cost benefit onto theirs.

    So the intelligence part was fairly simple. It was you know, Russia was in democratic upheaval in the first decade after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This was the Yeltsin era. Putin came in to reestablish some control. But when he stood up at the 2007 Munich Security Conference and said there are parts of Mother Russia that he meant the Russia of Peter the Great that had been separated from us.

    That must return. We kind of waved it away and said, Yeah, you know, this was for domestic purposes. Bob Gates Then the defense secretary, former CIA director, stood up at the same conference and said, you know, I'm old enough to have made my way through a first Cold War. I really don't need a second one. You know, basically trying to sort of diminish this.

    Seven years later, Putin takes Crimea. It takes the United States and its allies a year to put some sanctions in place, sanctions that didn't really prove that effective. And the following year, Chancellor Angela merkel of Germany announces that she has just signed a contract for the Nord Stream two gas pipeline from Russia routing around Ukraine direct to Europe and says there are reliable supplier.

    That's the wishful thinking part. Okay. And then as cyberattacks rose, as other events happened, we kept saying, yeah, no, we understand they're difficult. These are hard people. But in the end, we have common interests we can work on. Obama signed a climate agreement with Xi Jinping. Obama signed New Start the Arms control accord with Putin. China and Russia worked with the United States in a serious way to contain Iran's nuclear program and North Korea.

    Today, it's almost hard to imagine that, yeah, we still got common interests, but we rarely get together on them because the divisions have grown so deep. And so part of what we were doing in the first hundred and 50 pages of the book is just reminding people that the world was a very different place. George Bush met Putin two dozen times, right.

    Biden has met Putin once in person and probably will never do it again in his term. The term failure of imagination comes to mind, and you use it in the book when you're conducting the interviews. How did you perceive the individuals that you were speaking to that? I know in retrospect, a lot of them would say, well, we saw it coming, but they certainly didn't before the fact.

    No. And some of them shifted. And I went to go have lunch with the president of Finland. I think she mentioned this before. By the way, it's quite a scene when you're done with lunch at the Finnish president's office and you're trying to figure out how to get back to town. They say call in Uber and Uber pulls right up in front of the house.

    And you imagine that Washington know it's so. He had spent his entire career working with Naito, but also working with the Russians, thinking that you could integrate the right. He worked as a younger politician on everything. What was it? Marry a sewage plant and at processing project between Russia and Finland just to keep the waterways clean between the two countries share.

    And you know, Mary can describe better than I can probably his attitude about the night that the invasion happened. Yeah, I mean, I personally, from my perspective, I would say that there was a lot more candor, particularly in kind of the quiet moments of these conversations than I had originally anticipated. I don't know whether to attribute that to a level of introspection that you would assume would be frequently lacking in high level political officials.

    But many of the people we spoke to really did seem to say we are not that they got it wrong, but that the world changed under them, that what they had assumed and how they had seen things just spun off in such a different way. And one of the more interesting points is when they asked us, well, what would you have rather seen us do?

    Would you rather have seen us not try to pull China and Russia into the international order? Would you rather have not seen us try to build a shared vision for technology, a shared vision for economies and governance? And I think to some extent, that's a little bit of a false dichotomy. You know, you could certainly advocate for a third way in which you counterfactuals may have may have led to a different outcome.

    But it is rare to get to speak to former political officials, I think with that same level of of openness and willingness to say this didn't turn out like we thought it would, but somewhat a lack of ideas about how to shift it forward. I mean, it was kind of it seemed to me that their sense was this this has changed so radically and this is what it is now.

    Yeah. And that was present, this Joe, who felt as if he after years of telling Finns that they had to sort of, you know, remain outside of Naito, even if close to it suddenly, say, after Ukraine, our only move is to become part of NATO, as Sweden did as well. And that allowed the administration, the Biden administration, to say for two years that Russia only brought on self exactly what it was trying to avoid a bigger NATO.

    And that's all true. But that was in the service of saying as a result, ultimately this is a losing proposition for Russia and two years in. Plus, it's not entirely clear that's the case. It's an ongoing question. Yeah. I want to ask you about the third part of the subtitle, All America's Ability to Defend the West, Their struggle to Defend the West, You know, waging two cold wars on two fronts with two very different adversaries.

    At the end of Chapter three, you write that Trump wasn't about to pick up a Russia strategy designed by Obama. And when I read that, it speaks to me about the disadvantage the U.S. has when dealing with the continuity of Putin, the continuity of Xi. How much is that an issue for the United States? It's a it's a big issue.

    And I think it's got it's got two different elements to it dividing a fight. One has to do with our system in the way we pick our leaders. And the second one has to do with the way the public thinks about these issues compared to the other issues that are captivating us in this election season. So on the first look, our system is one where because we elect leaders of different parties and it switches back and forth, we do not have a long term continuity of policy in either direction.

    That the world would like to see. They would like the United States to be a sort of reliable, predictable operator. So you have one, President Obama, who signs the Iran nuclear deal. You have another one who abandons it. You have a third one who tries to restore it, fails because of the damage that had been done with it.

    There's nothing we can do about it. That's our system. We can't guarantee our allies that we will have the same policy four years from now that we had then. But that encourages exactly the kind of hedging behavior that Mary mentioned, because they don't know that a year from now they're going to have a government that's got any of the same policies, fundamental policies, or even an appreciation or reliance on NAITO that they've got today.


    So, you know, they've got to have everybody's got to have a plan B, right? The second has to do with the public itself. If you go back to the Nixon Kennedy debates or even some Ronald Reagan's debates in the early eighties in the presidential action season, there was enormously detailed discussion of nuclear strategy, of deterrence that, you know, as the old saying goes, some domestic decisions can make your life miserable and some bad foreign policy decisions can end it.

    Right. So we seem to have lost that in 30 years of this sort of geopolitical holiday with banana. And it's really hard when you listen to those debates to imagine the current candidate sitting and having that kind of detailed policy discussion. And I'm not saying which you know, you've got to agree with one to agree with the other.

    I'm just saying that the system doesn't seem to be able to sustain a public, sophisticated discussion of geo strategy the way it did when we worried that that was central to our survival. And I think if there's an underlying message of this book is we've got to get back to an era where we can do that. We are so consumed by domestic issues, social policy issues, you know, the lightning issues that you're hearing about, whether it's the border or abortion or whatever, that the central issue of our geopolitical survival, which is the end of the age of terror, at least as a central operating concept to the US government and the revival of superpower confrontation,

    we've got to figure out a way to get our heads around that and our adversaries or competitors. Go ahead, Mary. I'm sorry. You want to say something? Sure. I would just add a little bit to to David's last point about, you know, can we wrap our heads around this discussion at a public level? Can we get the American public to engage on critical foreign policy issues?

    And I don't want it to seem that we're looking back on, you know, the political and national security discussions and dialogs that were happening during the Cold War with this kind of, you know, rose colored glasses. You know, you can absolutely say there was a lot of disinformation, a lot of misinformation and a lot of outright lying at the time, including to the American public.

    And that the difference was there was one narrative or one narrative that was dominating. And so when we talk about how to build this kind of robust discussions of of key foreign policy issues, now, I don't know that it's so much a question of going back to an era that is long gone, so much as going forward to an era that can simultaneously exist alongside more information and more channels and the democratization of of data and sources.

    And so, you know, as as we think about what it should look like to really have these discussions as a country, I'm actually not sure that the last 50 years were a good model. I think we've got to find something else that fits in with the technology and fits in with this broader understanding of, you know, equitable rights and equal representation and how we really want to be in this world.

    I quoted John Lennon earlier. I have another lyric from Billy Joel The good old days weren't always good and tomorrow's not as bad as it seems. And so thanks for the wonder. So I want to talk about you know, I just heard an analyst recently. I wish I could remember who it was so I could credit the person.

    But what he or she said was that Russia is the storm. China is climate change. And your book certainly would reflect that sort of characterization. Can you talk a bit about that, about how America, with the acute stage of an invasion of Ukraine, must deal with Russia, with its NATO allies? In the meantime, China remains the larger threat.

    So that's clear from just reading the national security strategy in the United States. Right. And by the way, not just Biden's national security strategy, but if you go back, there's a big section of the book about Donald Trump's development of a national security strategy, or at least the one that was put together by H.R. McMaster and his staff in Trump's first year.

    I'm not sure it was fully implemented, but elements of it certainly were. And there's there's more carryover to the Biden era from that document, not from what Trump himself would say about that document than you might think. I think the core question that you're raising here is can the United States come up with a way to manage a disruptive Russia that could only real power is the power to go destroy and try to reunify the the empire of Peter the Great.

    And that was the warning that Putin was giving us at Munich. It was the warning that he was giving us. In an essay you wrote the summer before the invasion of Ukraine. And we want to recognize and there was a lot of easy talk on TV that said, he's trying to restore the Soviet Union. No, he's not.

    He hated the Soviet leaders. He thought they were idiots for creating power centers among the Soviet republics, including Ukraine. That would later create the capability to break away from the Soviet Union. So what he wants to restore is something closer to the period of a great era, a greater Russia. And that's why he argues that Ukraine is not a state.

    China, on the other hand, has some new territorial ambitions Taiwan, South China Sea, maybe down as far as the Scarborough or Scarborough Shoal, but it is much more long term oriented. It has an industrial policy to fit its national security policy. It is building up in key technologies that are the same technologies Congress is slowly getting us back into as a government.

    Long range batteries. Semiconductors. Quantum computing. Artificial intelligence. But with long term investments in those. And part of the argument that we make toward the end of the book is that President Biden has gotten the U.S. back into a competitive market for all that. But this is only going to work if we can manage to keep the investment up either with the government and or the private sector in.

    But the series of small business decisions that were made to move semiconductor production offshore for business reasons turned out to have huge national security implications that nobody was debating at the time that those decisions were made. David earlier. Go ahead, Mary. Sure. And one of the things I would add about this is there's probably nothing that illustrates what you mentioned, John.

    The you know, Russia as as the storm and and China as climate change. Then just the very fact of us writing this book. And David can attest to that. The Russia sanctions were easy. There was a ton of really interesting dynamic information. Everyone wanted to talk about it. Everyone's focus was there. The policymakers were all working on that issue.

    David, How long did we sit trying to storyboard out you know, how to think about a dynamic, engaging China chapter that did not go so high level that we could draw the reader in. And so even as we were telling the story of the U.S. repeatedly not being able to focus on the Indo-Pacific and to focus on China, we ourselves kept getting drawn into the Russia section just time and time again, because it's the story, right?

    I mean, it's vivid. And, you know, wars will do that to you. So how do we solve this? Mary and I spent some time on Taiwan, and we went, as she mentioned before, to Taiwan Semiconductor, which is the highest capitalized company in Asia, but also the producer of 95% of the world's most advanced chip. You know, you're carrying them around in your iPhone.

    If Russia invades Taiwan, don't break your iPhone because you're not getting a new one for quite some time. So and what were we there to do? To examine the question, is there really a silicon shield around Taiwan? In other words, is the production of those high end chips so valuable not only to us but to the Chinese, that it would keep China from invading anytime soon?

    Or is that just repeating the mistake that made us think, the Russians will never take Ukraine? David, you said earlier that there was a certain unity around the existential threat of the original Cold War, but the clear and present danger of thermonuclear warfare between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union, we don't have that kind of clarity now.

    But I'm wondering what both of you think about whether or not we should be viewing this as an existential threat. That £800 gorilla of the potential for use of nuclear weapons by Russia in Ukraine, that flag has been waved several times by Putin and others. Should we be taking this more seriously, I guess, is the question. I think we should and we should, because in the past two years, we have seen two big things happen.

    Russia threatening to use nuclear weapons. And I'll go into that in just a moment. And secondly, Western states allies wondering whether or not they may need their own nuclear weapons because they're not sure they're covered by the American nuclear deterrent anymore. So I think one of the most interesting chapters to have to write in this book was the one that basically takes up what General Milley called the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    The nuclear paradox. The closer the Russians got to losing in in Ukraine, the more they threatened the use of their nuclear weapons. And the key to this, the central moment, was in October of 2022, when the U.S. picked up intercepts of a Russian general who was responsible for moving nuclear weapons and sent a warning out to the top leadership saying there is chatter about using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

    And we had members of the administration say, you know, at this point they thought there could be under some circumstances, a 50, 50% chance that Putin would do it. And it led to a big scramble one weekend when Defense Secretary Austin was calling his counterparts. No, he was calling his counterpart. Jake Sullivan was doing the same. And the administration was getting China and India to step in and make public statements saying there can be no use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

    There's no call for that. And that eased, but not before President Biden showed up at a a fundraiser in New York and said we're in another Cuban missile crisis like situation. And in the next few weeks, we could know whether there's a nuclear exchange. But I think most Americans kind of tuned out to that moment. I don't think you can afford to not take nuclear weapons seriously.

    So just kind of as a matter of course. And obviously, the flip side of that is it's a gun to your head. It's just the ultimate negotiating tool regardless of whether it's used or not. And I would take it in a slightly different direction from David and say, what does this also tell us for the countries that aren't U.S. allies and they aren't the major, you know, nuclear weapons holders already?

    What does this do for nonproliferation? And I'm just going to say, if I am a smaller country and I have a type of nuclear weapons program or even extra nuclear weapons on my soil left there by a larger country, I look at the case of Iraq, give up its nuclear weapons or excuse me, its weapons development program or excuse me enrichment program and invaded Libya, invaded Ukraine, give up weapons that left over from the Soviet Union, invaded.

    So if I'm a smaller country, I'm probably going to look at developing them on my own. Yeah, not the best thing for nonproliferation. Look, I'm going to shift gears of a second and go back to the sort of the process. And I want to ask both of you, I hope it's not a gimmicky question, but it's something I think about when I go through a book like yours that has such a large cast of characters and it's really written like fiction in many ways, It's really a great read.

    The narrative is compelling. There's always surprises, right? There are the headliners, whether it's General Milley or or Putin himself or the heads of state. But when you dig deep, you will find other people who may be weren't on your radar at the same level before, but now you walk away thinking, wow, he or she is a really important part of this story.

    So I want to ask each of you to highlight one person that you uncovered during your research and interviews that you would put in that category, someone that was surprisingly more relevant than maybe you would have guessed going in. Mary, you want to do that first? Yeah, I'll start. I really, really enjoyed talking to Chris Donahue. First of the 82nd and then now that the the leader excuse me, the commander of the 18th Airborne, just and I'll give credit to our editor, Kevin Dalton, on this.

    Kevin likes to hear from the people who are not the household names so much. He wants to hear about the unique people who are in the room talking to the people, you know, talking to all the players, getting their hands dirty, understanding what's going on, and then relaying it up to their bosses or the people that you usually expect to see in the room.

    So we have the support behind us of a truly superb editor. But, you know, Commander Donahue, he he was military and he said he said what he saw. You know, I think these conversations can get, you know, delicate because we are the press. And you want to very carefully, if you were in the government or military scope, how you talk to those people.

    But he was respectful, he was authentic, and he was just able to bring us into the situation that he was dealing with, particularly in Kabul and working directly with the Taliban. And excuse me, working directly with his counterparts to clear out the Taliban and negotiating with them and dealing, you know, just in this world that he probably hadn't ever anticipated being in just, you know, a couple of weeks before.

    So I think that is particularly interesting because he not only was the last man in Afghanistan, he was the last American to leave, will be the last one to step on the plane, but also because he was the first one in to go try to help the Ukrainians figure out what kind of technologies they could be they could get access to that would help them deal with the Russians.

    And so, you know, the two major conflicts of our time, you know, Afghanistan, the old war and the invasion of Ukraine, the new one, he's one of the crossover characters. We already talked about president in this show. I was fascinated by Mark Ruta, who who was the prime minister of the Netherlands, who President Biden courted along the way to stop the production of something called ASML machines.

    These are the lithography machines that produce the most high end semiconductors, and they're only produced really in great force in the Netherlands. And Biden needed to get those cut off going to the Chinese. Well, what do we think is going to happen to Russia in the next few months? He's likely to be the next head of NATO's because his activity in dealing with China gives Biden a confidence in him and other Western leaders now that he's out of office.

    He's likely to end up running naito Mark Liu, the president of Taiwan semiconductor. You know, grew up in Taiwan, was an engineer and not a geopolitical type. And he ends up running the company that is at the center of this, the technology struggle between China and the United States. Right. That's that's fascinating. So I don't give away too much what we want people to read the book.

    And even though we've discussed a lot, there's still a lot more that's in there. With that in mind, I want to move to a wrap up question and sort of the book sort of begins with where are we in the world and what's happened and how do we define this era and kind of ends up there to book and write the dawn of a new era?

    And how do we think about it and what are the challenging questions moving forward? So with all of that context in mind, I'd like each of you to provide us with just some closing thoughts, things that you think are important to keep in mind. Key takeaways, Anything perhaps that we haven't gotten to already that you'd like to leave our viewers with?

    Very big questions. Yeah. First one to start. I think the first is how enduring this new era seems that it will be. Just from the opening sentence. I think there is a lot of hope still amongst publics in particular, that these wars, that these periods of tension will cease or otherwise diminish and we can go back to business as usual.

    And I mean, business as usual, truly in an economic sense as well as in a political sense. And then the second piece is to some extent, the dissonance that I felt as right as we wrote this book and as we engaged in these in-depth interviews on my new elements of great power competition and the maneuvering of diplomats and spies and foreign policy professionals around the world against the backdrop of war, famine, climate change, everything that we were going to focus on, everything that the Millennium Development Goals were supposed to handle.

    We were supposed to figure out a way to eradicate poverty. We were supposed to figure out a way to get a handle on climate change. And now the big players that you would absolutely need to take the lead in any of those efforts are busy fighting with each other about spy balloons. And so it was just a little bit dispiriting in a way, to see how much attention is focused on, you know, jockeying for position and realizing that the vast majority of the world's population is focusing on very different things.

    Yeah, and it's a little on the depressing aspects. We haven't even talked about misinformation and disinformation and and dysfunctional politics. At least we've hinted on that. And many times. David, you get the last thought on on how to say, well, it's the distraction of politics that I was going to mention, because throughout the Cold War there was a fundamental assumption, right or wrong, even with our successes, even with all the mistakes the United States made, and there were plenty of them, you know, coups that got prompted by the United States wars fought, including in Vietnam, that we thought were proxy wars against communism and so forth.

    But there was something going on inside Washington where there was an assumption that it was the role of the United States to shape the world around so that the environment would be beneficial for a democracy. And other democracies didn't look exactly like ours, but that democracies that could we could work with that fundamental assumption is gone, particularly in the Republican Party, which had been during the Cold War, the sort of pro American intervention or at least pro-American internationalist force.

    It was the Democrats who, by and large were a somewhat more isolationist, Let's solve our problems at home or this is all been flipped now. Right. The Russian interference in the 2016 election suddenly made the Democrats more hawkish on Russia than the Republicans. The rise of Trump made many Republicans ask the question, Why is this battle ours? You're seeing it in the debate over the funding for Ukraine.

    People. The administration tell me they think they're going to get that funding through, but the big lesson of the past six months is that Ukraine can't depend on the United States, whether it's a Democrat or Republican was who was president to be funding the war, the level at which it has been running so far. And until we solve our fundamental issue of the long term about whether we are comfortable with a world where we pull back and someone else fills those vacuums and that someone else is probably going to be China most of the time.

    And sometime unless we come to that conclusion, then we can't move on to the next step, which is what do we do? We have to decide as a country, do we view it as our role to go fill those vacuums and try to shape the world? Or are we going to put up big barriers and say, the rest of the world, you guys go fight it out, We're just going to do our thing here behind big walls and history suggest to us that every time we have chosen that second option, it has not worked.

    We may not be interested in the rest of the world, but the rest of the world is interested in us. The Burdens of Superpower. David Sanger, thank you. Larry Brooks. Thank you. Before we sign off, I want to do a little business for those of you who see this program before April 16th. That's the day you can buy the book or download the book.

    And then also on April 17th, if you happen to be in the D.C. area, David and Mary will be at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., an event open to the public where they'll do further discussion of the book with Rob Litvack. And also stick around and do a little book signing afterwards. So we encourage you to join us if you can.

    David, Mary, thanks again for joining us. Thank you. Thank you. We hope you enjoyed this edition of Wilson Center now and that you'll join us again soon on. Until then, for all of us at the center, I'm John Milewski. Thanks for your time and interest.


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