The Trump Administration's Indo-Pacific Strategy Needs Proof of Life
No single word better describes today’s international system than “competition.” China and Russia are competing with the United States for power, influence, and access to markets across multiple continents. With its Belt and Road investments and targeted diplomacy, China is creating new partnerships across Asia, Africa, and Europe. Russia has been busy establishing new strategic links across the Middle East with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Syria. Occasionally, when their strategic interests collide, China and Russia work together, as they did on the margins of the G20 earlier this year when their heads of state met with the prime minister of India.
The United States is also competing but too often it is competing alone. As the global strategic center of gravity shifts to Asia, the Trump administration has used its Indo-Pacific strategy as an attempt to reassure allies and partners of the United States’ continued interest in the region. But putting these strategies on paper isn’t enough. Just this month, the United States sent the lowest level delegation to the East Asia Summit (EAS)—a forum seen by many in the region as the leading Indo-Pacific platform. This was followed by a very public spat with leaders of ASEAN, which the United States can ill-afford right now given China’s increasing clout in Southeast Asia. If the United States wants to keep pace with the dizzying array of new partnerships, trilaterals and quadrilaterals unfolding around the world, then it will have to not only show up but also get a lot more creative in its approach. One way to do that is to create a new trilateral partnership between the leaders of the United States, Europe and India.