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Munk Dialogue with Graham Allison: the deteriorating relationship between the US and China

发布时间 2022-12-28 01:58:11    来源


It’s no secret that relations between China and the US are at an all time low. And at the center of this fraught relationship is the question of Taiwan: China is moving closer to asserting its territorial rights over the island, while US President Joe Biden has pledged to defend Taiwan, even going so far as sending defensive weapons to protect the country against a Chinese invasion. How should a superpower like the US respond to a rising power like China? Foreign policy expert Graham Allison joins us for a wide reaching conversation about this important moment in history, and how shared interests in the climate, technology, finance, and health could force these powerful rivals to become unwilling partners.   The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.   Tweet your comments about this episode to @munkdebate or comment on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/munkdebates/ To sign up for a weekly email reminder for this podcast, send an email to podcast@munkdebates.com.   To support civil and substantive debate on the big questions of the day, consider becoming a Munk Member at https://munkdebates.com/membership Members receive access to our 10+ year library of great debates in HD video, a free Munk Debates book, newsletter and ticketing privileges at our live events. This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue - https://munkdebates.com/ Senior Producer: Ricki Gurwitz



These statues have to come back. It's always been a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The problem now is it's a pandemic of the willfully unvaccinated.

Falling birth rates are good. They're good for our planet. They're good for our societies.

We're not responsible for the escalation with Russia. We're not the ones who invaded Ukraine. I don't think it's fair to portray people of color as victims.

It is a very dangerous time in American politics.

Hello, Monk listeners. Rudyard Griffiths here, your host and moderator. Welcome to this, the latest in our continuing conversations called the Monk Dialogs. These are in-depth Q&As with some of the world's sharpest minds and brightest thinkers. We go deep into the big issues that are transforming our world and shaping our future on each and every Monk Dialog episode.

On today's program, we explore the worsening relationship between the United States and China. What happens when a rising power like China threatens to displace a dominant power like America? Perhaps no one is more qualified to answer this all-important question than Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University. Professor Allison is a world-renowned scholar and foreign policy expert who has advised multiple U.S. governments on defense policy for the last four decades. He is the author of numerous best-selling books, including, Destin from War, Can America and China Escape through CitiD's Trap.

Professor Allison joins us from Boston, Graham. Welcome to the Monk Dialogs. Thank you very much for having me.

Let's jump right in here and kind of set the scene for our listeners. What would you characterize as the state today of relations between the United States and China?

Well, that's a timely question coming right after the Bali bilateral summit between Biden and she. But I think the consensus judgment has been that the relations between the U.S. and China are the worst that they've been in the 50 years since the opening to China. It was hard to remember, but that was back in 1972 with Kissinger and Nixon and Mao and so in lie. And I agree with the consensus judgment that they are about as bad as they have been, even though I think what happened in Bali in the bilateral summit was at least the beginning of what I hope will be an effort to build a bit of a floor under the continued deterioration.

But I think that equally important point for your listeners and for all of us is to think about why this downward spiral.

And there I think there are two big factors. The first that most people neglect is the structural reality. And then the second are the policy choices that have been made by the governments.

And the structural reality is captured by Thucydides in his brilliant analysis of the rise of Athens and its impact on Sparta back in classical Greece. But at this stage, I don't think anybody can deny that China is a meteoric rising power. That the U.S. is a colossal ruling power and that the clear threat by China to displace the U.S. from its traditional position of predominance at the top of every pecking order is creating a dynamic that Thucydides captured in what I've characterized as Thucydides trap. Namely, with a rapidly rising power seriously threatens to displace a major ruling power, all hellbusters, disruption and ahead, seat belts to be tightened, rocky, and typically, most often, a dynamic that ends up dragging the people into a war often a war that neither of them really wanted, but which nonetheless, they came from one choice to the next choice and felt that they had no alternative but to take a little bit greater chance and one thing led to the other. So that structural reality is the first, and I would say that accounts for more than half of the deterioration.

In my destined for war book, published just as Trump became president, I said expect things to get worse before they get worse. So that's for the structural reason.

The second is the policy choices, and there I would say both policy choices in Beijing and in Washington and elsewhere, where finding it so difficult to deal with the reality of the policy and even the shock of a genuine rivalry, the typical reaction, again in Thucydides in terms, is to say, Sri Khara, who is this party and what does he think he's doing? Why is he challenging me? So Washington's reactions have been rather typical, and similarly, as people say, well, Xi Jinping seems more aggressive, more assertive, more determined to stand up for China. That's called normal for rising power. As again, Thucydides explained, power that's becoming stronger looks at the order that has been provided by the ruling power and says, well, you established this before I even got here. You didn't consult me, my interests weren't taken into account, things need to adapt and adjust.

So I think so far the reactions both in Washington and Beijing and unfortunately elsewhere have been stumbling, trying to find some way to deal with the fact that while on the one hand, China will for the U.S. and for the West, pose the gravest chai, the gravest rivalry they've ever seen. So that's baked into the geopolitics. On the other hand, equally powerful is the fact that we both live on a very small globe and that in this enclosed biosphere we each emit greenhouse gases, and they have the same impact no matter whether they come from Canada or U.S. or Africa or China. And any parties, especially the U.S. and China, the number one and number two, can buy themselves on their current trajectory, create a biosphere that none of us can live in before the end of the century. So you say, well, yikes, we have to find some way to take account of that. And it's not enough just as regard to you as my rival. You also have to be my partner in trying to deal with that.

Secondly, we both have nuclear arsenals that are robust enough so that if there should be a nuclear war between U.S. and China, both societies would end up being destroyed. So we can't have a war. That becomes a nuclear war. We therefore have a shared, powerful interest that comes just from the necessity for my survival. And what about pandemics? They don't have passports. And what about financial crises that start one place and end up creating a different. So there's a level of interdependence that's been created by a combination of nature for climate and technologies, nuclear weapons, and the development of modern integrated societies, that while the arrivals require us to be partners. Well, that's pretty stressful. So I would say that's the challenge that both Beijing and Washington are dealing with. It's not surprising that in the first instance they're having some difficulty getting their head around that.

Excellent. Summing up. Thank you so much. As we think about what could be the trigger for a conflict to this point that has been largely one of words, tens nonetheless, high stakes nonetheless. As you've mentioned, climate change, pandemics, we could think of the regulation of artificial intelligence. There's so many things that China and the United States arguably urgently need to cooperate on. But the proverbial fly in the ointment, you know it well, Graham. It is Taiwan. And I wonder how you might see China going about asserting its territorial rights over Taiwan in what people are now positing an increasingly near-term scenario for such an event to occur.

Well, great question and a big one. So the fastest track, the war between US and China goes through Taiwan. We should just start with what the realities are. So the differences in views between Beijing, Washington, and Taiwan are essentially irreconcilable. But they were irreconcilable 50 years ago. So irreconcilable does not mean unmanageable, even though managing it could require a great deal of imagination. So that's the first place to start. This is not hopeless, or in any case it's not more hopeless than it was 50 years ago. And what was created 50 years ago was a framework in which in the past 50 years, people living on both sides of the straits have seen a greater increase in their well-being than in the five decades in their whole history. So that's for Taiwanese, that's for Chinese, that's for the whole area. So I would say, what a fantastic success. Don't screw it up. That's the first thing.

So then secondly, well then why is this at risk of conflict? And I would say, well, China has an indelible commitment to Taiwan as an integral part of China. And any effort to separate Taiwan from China on some permanent basis as an independent country is something any Chinese leader would fight go to war to prevent. Because if he failed to do so, he wouldn't be the leader anymore. So that's on the one hand.

On the other hand, Taiwanese have grown up, especially now the majority of the Taiwanese population have grown up in a free, self-governing country. So they're accustomed to living in a very successful market economy that has a very lively democracy, a very vibrant 23 million people. And more and more, they cannot imagine that they shouldn't, that that's not normal. If you ask them, well, how would you like to live in Hong Kong? They don't want to live in Hong Kong. They don't want to live in Taiwan. How would you like to live in Beijing? They don't want to live in Beijing. They like to live free. And I would say for Americans or Canadians or others in the world that live in free societies, one has to be greatly admiring of what they've created. And it seems quite plausible to say, well, why shouldn't they be able to live as a free country? And there's only one reason why is because China will not prevent that happening.

So can somehow the U.S. and China and Taiwan manage to sustain under something called strategic ambiguity or some wrapper that basically manages contradictions for some substantial period of time? Well, people said 50 years ago, you can't do this. Excuse me, they did. And we have. So I would say that's the challenge going forward.

And I think the, why is it now, why is there more concern about it, more alarm about it? And I would say several reasons. There's no question Xi Jinping has made more, more, more spoken more about and talked more about the need not to keep passing on this problem from one generation to another, even suggesting that he needs to do it during his leadership to make sure Taiwan is reintegrated. And I think Chinese watching what's going on in Taiwan see that Taiwanese are getting less and less interested in becoming an integral part of a China that's ruled by an autocratic party led Xi. So that's on the one hand.

On the other hand, in the U.S., as China has become identified first as a competitor and then as an adversary and then more and more increasingly as an enemy, the idea that, well, we should confront China wherever we can. And here's a good place to do so. So if they are behaving like they deserve to take over a self-governing, vibrant market-oriented democracy, we should be standing up for them and defending them the way that we're trying to help defend Ukraine against Russia. Why shouldn't we? I mean, if we believe in the values that we say we believe in, we have a stake in this.

And then beyond that, people are now making arguments about, well, there's also a military rationale. If Taiwan was part of the first island chain or something, I don't find much plausibility in that, but still that's an argument. And another is, well, Taiwan, and not just a free independent or self-governing entity, it's also got a very lively technology set of companies, including the most important semiconductor company in the world, the SMC. So you can see how on the U.S. side, increasingly there's an effort to sort of, quote, protect Taiwan. And I think the danger in this is that some unthinking, unwitting provocation creates conditions in which either of the parties feels obliged to respond in a way that takes them to another round of this, would be a basically vicious circle in the end that would lead to conflict.

And the analogy that I think is most troubling is what happened in the period running up to 1914, which you're familiar with, and I'm sure some of your listeners are, but basically, I believe you cannot study 1914 too much. I have a pretty good chapter on it if one wants just a chapter version in my destined for war book, but the fact is that under the conditions that had been created, something as bizarre as a terrorist killing an archduke in Serievo, which was something that didn't even make the front pages in New York or Canada, you know, at the time, within five weeks had dragged all the nations of Europe into a war at the end of which they were all basically destroyed. So the fact that parties don't want a war doesn't mean that a war can't happen.

The fact that if they, if after the war, if in 1918, you would have given any of the leaders who were in power in 1914, that the defense for a do-over, nobody would have made the choices he made, now that they could see where they led, but in the circumstances they couldn't. So I can imagine, just to go to the heart of your question, I think the great danger arises not from she waking up one day saying this is a good day to do this. He has such a long agenda, such an ambitious agenda at home, since he knows that the cost of this would be huge, and that there would be great uncertainties about it that would disrupt the rest of his agenda.

I'm not counting on him waking up out of the blue conducting a, what I can do, imagine, is that American politics now essentially caught up in the furious competition between Republicans and Democrats. Could in the course of the 24th campaign, presidential campaign, and then a new administration in, or second term of Biden in 2025, create a political dynamic in which Republicans call for recognition of an independent Taiwan. And if that seems crazy, Mike Pompeo, who's running for nomination, has already done that. And it's not, unfortunately, just Republicans making this. If you look at the Menendez, who's the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lindsey Graham Bill that came out of there for a relations committee just a month ago, it's called the Taiwan Policy Act.

That initially called for a quote, recognition of Taiwan as a non NATO ally, which is like about five steps up, you know, recognition as a country. Well, my best judgment, and I've asked all the China experts I get about this, is that if we should, if that should happen, if the US declared that it was recognizing Taiwan as an independent country, or even more as a ally. And even if the US seemed to be about to do that, now what will Beijing do? So I would say it's not unlikely, I would say quite likely, that Beijing will act, react violently, and then they have a menu of things that they could do. But I would say that's the fastest path I can find for getting from where we are to nuclear war.

So I think crucial for the parties to recognize why war would be catastrophic for both of them. Fortunately in Xi and Biden, you have two very sane people, and I'm confident that when they talked about this in Bali, they talked pretty candidly about the fact that neither of them wants a war. They both know that they wanted a war, they can either start it, you know, yesterday, tomorrow. They don't need a provocation, but that they're going to be trying to work to try to constrain what are otherwise the forces that would lead either Washington or Beijing to do something that would force the hand of the other party.

Hey, Monk Podcast listeners, I wanted to let you know about our other weekly audio program. It's called Friday Focus, and hey, guess what? It comes out each and every Friday. It's half an hour long, and it provides you with a masterclass on international events, all the big issues and ideas shaping our world. We've got that for you. Each and every Friday here at the Monk Debate, simply access via our website, www.munkdebates.com. Click on Friday Focus in the top right navigation. You'll get all the details, or check out a sample of the program in the same podcast feed as the main Monk Debates podcast. I hope you'll join us for the next edition of the Friday Focus podcast. Now back to our program.

So, Graham, I think one of the questions people are wondering about is, in addition to these kind of flashpoint scenarios that you've outlined, which I think are very compelling, there is under the Biden administration a commitment now to increasingly arm Taiwan, and not insignificantly. We're talking about billions of dollars now of arms pledges, sophisticated defensive systems, but also now increasingly offensive weapons such as surface to ship missiles that could conceivably allow Taiwan to project force off its coasts.

How Graham have we gotten so far in some people's minds from the kind of one China policy, and which in a sense was had embedded in an assumption of non-interference to a moment now where there is a one might characterize, at least from the Chinese perspective review, a kind of aggressive arming of Taiwan into a beachhead, a bunker, and a hundred, 160 kilometers off its coast.

Yeah. Well, Taiwan, I mean, I always try to explain to people in Washington, Taiwan is to China in distance about the Cuba from the US, so 90 or 100 miles. You know, you can't quite see that far, but that's not very far. You can get in a boat and be there quickly, and it's very close to China, and it's very far away from the US. So this tyranny of distance in potential military conflicts is a huge, huge, huge factor.

But I think, to your question, the contradictions were built into the basic Taiwan relations, or the Shanghai Communique and its successors, in which Taiwan would be essentially self-governing. Taiwan would not declare itself to be an independent country. The US would not recognize it as an independent country, and we would let history decide, or let time decide, see what happens.

So, in an early stage of this, and I still like the idea of describing Taiwan as kind of a Chinese experiment, or democracy with Chinese characteristics. So part of their broader experiment, and they should take credit for that. They're trying to understand how Chinese can govern themselves. And every society is trying to understand how to do that, certainly Americans.

So, in that setting, the question of what's the relative military capabilities of the parties for preventing any one of the parties attempting to move from letting history decide to a unilateral military action that would change the conditions.

The US and Taiwan, well, everybody's position has been no change in the status quo by a unilateral use of military force. So then the question is, well, what are the relative military capabilities of the parties? In 1995-96, when I was in the Pentagon, when China, when Taiwan was taking a few provocative steps, and China responded to it by an effort to coerce Taiwan by bracketing and get with missile tests, the US had overwhelming military superiority, brought two carries up into the area, and forced China to basically withdraw or submit in a way that for them they found even humiliating for the PLA.

But from that day to this day, every day they've gotten up and built up Chinese military capabilities against Taiwan to prevent that happening. So what they are arming of Taiwan or making it more like a porcupine, as people in the Pentagon like to say is about, is raising the price for China of a military action against Taiwan so that it would take them a week or two weeks or three weeks to dominate Taiwan as opposed to a few days.

And similarly, the effort to build up US military forces in the area is again to raise the price of a conflict and the risk that it might also ultimately involve a war with the US.

So I still think we're in a struggle aimed at deterring conflict rather than preparing to take the initiative. And in the case of Taiwan, Taiwan would obviously easily be destroyed by China if it decided to destroy it. They have many ways to do that, or defeated by China if China made an all-out effort to defeat it. The question is how long that at what price, at what cost, at what risk, and the US position has been to try to keep the costs and price and risks so high that when people come to Xi Jinping and say, this is a good day for doing this, he says, I don't think this is a good day. We have nine other things to do, just keep working on it.

And therefore, I think the challenge for both Beijing and Washington and Taiwan is to avoid some provocation that's so dramatic that any one of the parties has to depart from what they're otherwise doing.

Graham, one of the scenarios, and I think you know well, is instead of an outright Chinese attack on Taiwan that the PLA would look to, in a sense, blockade the island. And we certainly got a taste for what that might look like after Speaker Pelosi's visit to the island in the Chinese reaction to that.

There's a lot to say about a blockade, but I wonder what you think specifically the American response to that, because it wouldn't be an outright invasion. It wouldn't involve the targeting of Taiwan in the same horrible way that Vladimir Putin's Russia is dismembering Ukraine. Instead, it in a sense puts the ball in the American court to break a blockade, to put its ships its men and women in harm's way conceivably to show that the Chinese blockade is ineffective.

Does that scenario worry you? And what do you think the American response would be to a blockade?

Good for you. I would say I have been trying to help our team work through these scenarios, and that's certainly one. In fact, I can make it a little more mischievous for you. So I think we saw in Pelosi's absolutely unnecessary and dangerous visit that provided a pretext for China, basically practicing the next level of what the capability it's developing, a picture of what could happen.

So I think that what would happen would be, in the first instance, what they would call, as the U.S. did in the Cuban Missile Crisis, not a blockade, but a quarantine. And they would say the quarantine is only a quarantine of illegal shipments of either by sea or by air into Taiwan.

So in order to, we certainly want the ships to keep flowing one way, and the food and oil could keep flowing the other way. We're not trying to interrupt normal commercial activity. We're just interrupting the rival of arms that could be destabilizing, or of drugs, or of weather, or whatever, whatever.

And in order for your ships to come, they just have to be approved, the shipment by us. Okay? This is our territory. We're just simply exercising our sovereign rights over the territory.

Now the question is, you put it as, well, what do the U.S. do? And I think testing the blockade line with military ships, escorting a shipment that would otherwise be, quote, illegal or had not been approved, was obviously at the top, you know, had to be on the list. And as the Soviets discovered when they were trying to test the blockade or quarantine line in Cuba in 1962, that means ship confronting ship, and then either the ships crashing into each other, or firing upon each other. And then if one ship was sunk, what about tit for tat retaliation? So you pretty quickly get on an escalation ladder. That's pretty dangerous. And the Soviets, when they looked at it carefully, thought, well, wait a minute. We're halfway around the world. These guys are right at their border. They have a lot of ships there, and we have a few. If that reminds you of anything in Taiwan, I would say it's not coming soon. So that's a very difficult case.

And I think that when we try to think about, okay, well, if I can't militarily interfere, what else could I do? Well, could I create a quarantine on Chinese shipments at some other barrier, maybe like the Malacca Straits? And so Chinese are dependent on shipments of oil to come to China and also of their goods to go to fill Walmarts and targets. So could I have some counter quarantine? I don't know. It's complicated. And you don't want to get down to breaking up a freedom of the sea, which is an important principle, or other economic areas. So I think that's extremely dangerous. And I would hope that it would certainly become a crisis that would remind one of crises that we've seen in this street, that unless managed successfully could ultimately lead to conflict.
我认为,当我们试图思考一下,好吧,如果我不能通过军事干预,我还能做什么呢?那么,我是否可以在其他地方,比如马六甲海峡,对中国的船运进行隔离呢?中国依赖石油运输进口到中国,也依赖商品运输去填充沃尔玛和塔吉特。那么,我是否可以实施一些对抗性的隔离呢?我不知道。这很复杂。你不希望违背自由海洋的原则,或者其他经济领域的原则。所以我认为这非常危险。我希望这能成为一次 crisis (危机),提醒人们我们曾经遇到过的危机,除非成功管理,否则最终可能导致冲突。

And Graham, when we think of a scenario like that, and we're in the world of hypotheticals here, but if we think of the issues that we're grappling with right now, let's say high inflation fractured supply chains, lack of coordination on all those issues we talked about at the top of the show, climate change, pandemics, artificial intelligence, I guess, is this worth it? I mean, is it worth the United States and China should China, let's say, implement this quarantine to permanently kind of fracture and tear up a relationship that is at the very heart, the very essence of the globalized world that we live in now.
当我们考虑这样的情景时,我们在猜想的世界中。但如果我们想到我们现在正在处理的问题,比如高通胀、断裂的供应链、我们在节目开头讨论过的所有那些问题的缺乏协调,气候变化、流行病、人工智能,那么这值得吗?我的意思是,是不是值得中美之间,假设中国实施这种永久性的隔离措施, 从根本上破坏和撕裂我们现在生活的全球化世界的核心关系?

I mean, China has been allowed to, if we're honest with ourselves, to basically repossess Hong Kong with little or no serious consequences. Taiwan is different than Hong Kong. I think we all acknowledge that, but it's also different than Ukraine. It's not acknowledged in the same way that the Ukraine is as an independent sovereign state, say, in the United Nations or in a variety of international laws and treaties and covenants. So, I guess Graham is discretion, the better part of valor here, is there potentially an acknowledgement at the end of the day that this is just not a conflict, a flashpoint over Taiwan that the United States is worth having with China? Extremely hard questions.

So, if it turned out that, by standing up for Taiwan's, the U.S. ended in a general war with China, so not just your inflation and recession and pandemics and all the other horrible things, but actually nuclear bombs landing in Boston, after the fact, I would say, if I were still here, boy, that was a bad idea. Okay. But the more complicated question is, should the U.S. be prepared to run some risk of war with China in order to let this evolution continue? And is that feasible given the dynamics? And that's why I started with looking back 50 years.

So 50 years ago, if one had listened initially, actually the transcripts of the Kissinger show in light conversations, the initial conversations have now been declassified, so you can read the conversation. And it's very clear they have irreconcilable differences about Taiwan, completely irreconcilable. So you could easily have concluded from that, well, this is helpless, you know? We're not going to be able, they're insisting that we give them Taiwan if we're going to have a relationship. And so either we're going to do it or we're not. And ultimately was decided some way to create this strategic ambiguity in which Taiwan has been a self-governing country for all this period. So this, I think, leads me to conclude, this is not hopeless, okay? It's quite possible. Now, it's risky, it's dangerous.

That's.1,.2, to your point, go back to the real politic. So in the period after the Communist after Mao's, Communist won the Civil War in China in 1949, the US looked at the question of Taiwan. And the question was, is the US have a dog in this fight? We had already been earlier supporting Shanghai's check against the Communists, but Truman and the Truman Administration concluded no. We're not going to defend Taiwan. So when they did their defense perimeter, Taiwan was outside it.

So it was only after North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950 with at least a yellow light from Mao and Beijing. That Truman decided, well, okay, we're going to defend Taiwan as well. So earlier, the US was prepared in terms of big strategic interest, not worry about Taiwan.

In the period since then, it's become a feature of the relationship. So what about today? I think that I cannot imagine an American government declaring that the US has no strategic interest in Taiwan. Partly, that's because in a Thucydity and rivalry, ruling powers don't do that. Partly, people would argue, well, if you'll do that, then you're not going to defend, whatever, whatever. So there's many, many objections.

So I think we're going to have to find a way to live with this and to manage it. And I think it's extremely dangerous, and I think will become increasingly dangerous, as I said, as Americans go into our political season where the detachment from reality can be quite substantial.

And I'll pull out where to put a final question, you know, here at the Monk dialects, we care a lot about the nuclear threat and specifically the threat of the existential threat of atomic weapons. You've mentioned them a few times in this discussion. They seem just so far outside of our ability to comprehend in terms of any future reality.

But when you look at what's happening here in this potential flashpoint, this Thucydity's trap that China and the United States is falling into. If you look at what's happening in Ukraine with this increasingly loose and irresponsible language around nuclear weapons by the Putin regime, you're somebody with direct experience of the Cuban Missile Crisis threw to today.

How serious is this risk? How worried are you about breaking the nuclear taboo after 75 years? Well, I get a great question, and thank you. I think that obviously this is one that most people find so bizarre that it just seems like, as you say, this can't be real. They've worked to a nightmare or to rewatching a bad movie.

And that's something that maybe we think that somehow that's all 20. My students say, that's all 20th century. You know, that's in the rearview mirror that nuclear weapons must somehow have been, I don't know, banished with the end of the Cold War. So, you know, we're not supposed to worry about that any longer.

And I think, unfortunately, Putin in particular with his nuclear threats in Ukraine is giving people a painful wake up call to the fact that the Cold War did end, and the Soviet Union did disappear, but nuclear weapons remained. Nuclear weapons at the level of thousands of nuclear weapons under the command of Vladimir Putin.

So, as certainly as any leader of the evil empire had a superpower arsenal that could destroy Tawantau and Boston and New York and every other city in North America. Putin does. And certainly as the Soviet Union ever had tactical nuclear weapons that could be used against NATO troops, Putin has.

And in the Chinese case, we have a similar, something similar, but I would say there at least several degrees removed. The Chinese have not been rattling their nuclear saber, or talking about nuclear war, even though they're having a buildup of their own, which's otherwise been a minimum nuclear deterrent.

But the most, the greatest danger, as Biden has rightly said, that we've seen of a use of nuclear weapons that might put us on to an escalator to nuclear and regadden is what we're now seeing play out in Ukraine. And there I would say three things.

First, is it possible that Putin would rationally choose to conduct a nuclear strike on Ukraine? And I believe the answer is yes. He frames it in the same terms as he calls it, you know, basically following the American precedent when Truman decided to drop nuclear bomb first on erosion.

And then secondly on Nagasaki, again now, you know, in ancient history. But it's a fact that in order to end World War II against Japan, Truman rationally, in his view rationally, and afterwards when he was asked about it, he said, if I had to do this, I would do it again, killed 140,000 people in the first strike on Hiroshima, because he didn't want to fight, you know, island, island, hand to hand to defeat Japan.

So Putin, I think, if, how could I imagine Putin would choose to use nuclear weapons in this case? I think fortunately only if he's forced to choose between humiliating defeat on the one hand and using nuclear weapons in the faint hope, not a great hope, I would say, but a faint hope of nonetheless achieving an outcome that he can live with. In the case he's defeated, in the case of Jovan Zelensky achieves his objectives, liberate all of Ukraine. If he were to succeed in doing that, this would be a humiliating defeat for Putin. Would it be an existential crisis for Russia? I don't think so. Russia will still survive. Would it be an existential crisis for Putin? You bet. People would say, what a colossal strategic error you made, and you've got nothing for it. And with all the impact, so I think he believes this is existential for him. I believe it's existential for him. So if between an existential defeat for himself and all he cares about and all his view of Russia and taking a chance with a nuclear strike, I believe there's four to one chance he will end up taking that action.
普京,我认为,如果,我怎么能想象普京会选择在这种情况下使用核武器呢?我认为,幸运的是,只有在他被迫在羞辱性失败和使用核武器之间做出选择时,他才会抱着微弱的希望(不是很大的希望,我必须说,但仍然是一种微弱的希望)去实现一个他可以接受的结果。在他被击败的情况下,如果乔万·泽连斯基实现了他的目标,解放了整个乌克兰,这将对普京来说是一个耻辱的失败。这将对俄罗斯造成存在危机吗?我不这么认为。俄罗斯仍将幸存。但对普京来说,这将是一个存在危机。人们会说,“你犯了多么巨大的战略错误,而又一无所获。” 随着所有的影响,我认为他相信这对他来说是存在危机。我相信对他来说这是至关重要的。所以,如果在面临他自己和他所在乎的一切以及他对俄罗斯的看法之间存在着存在危机的失败,并且冒险进行核打击之间有选择,我相信他最终会采取行动的可能性是四比一。

So that, you think, whoa, wait a minute. Now, if he were to do that, what the consequence is, we will be living in a new world. If you say a taboo that's now for more than seven decades, made the use of nuclear weapons, quote, unthinkable, will have been broken. And how will the West respond? Again, the answer is, I've worked through the agenda, or the menu, and it starts with horrible, and it goes to catastrophic. So there's no good response, no good response. So trying to prevent that happening is our current focus.

And there, I would say, one piece of good news that came out first of the meeting between Xi and Chancellor Schulz back now 10 days ago, and then reiterated at the G20 meeting in Bali was the call by leaders, including Xi, on all states, quote, not to threaten the use of nuclear weapons. Well, that's a pretty strong message, because there's only one guy out there doing this, and it happens to be Xi, his most important ally happened to be Xi. So if he's saying to Putin, which he certainly told him before he announced it with Schulz, they have a relationship where they wouldn't surprise each other, you know, I think this is a bad idea, bad idea for me. That's a pretty big message. So I'm, I'm, I'm for day looking for, I look for silver linings, but I would say that's a silver lining in this case.

But I think it also reminds us that in the, in the war in Ukraine, horrible as it is, and remarkable as Zelensky and the Ukrainian people's response has been that we have a stake, we all have a stake in this coming to some stalemate, a short of a humiliating defeat for Putin, if the alternative is for him to conduct a nuclear strike that will put us all in a, you know, in a, in a world that we don't want to be in. So that's not something that Zelensky and Ukrainians like to hear. It's not something that we can force upon them. Ultimately, they have to decide, you know, about their own fate. But I think it's a reality that they have to take, take your count off. And I've been vocal about the, just sort of, I'm just describing the, you know, the reality. I'm not necessarily saying what people should do. I'm saying down this path of this risk and down this path or other risk.

But I think for Ukraine, having so successfully defeated Putin's effort to erase Ukraine from the map and having done so with such remarkable courage, they now have a claim on the world to build a successful society. And I think that's going to be an even bigger challenge than defeating Putin.

And whether they're 100 kilometers, this direction or that direction, from ultimately liberating all of their territory, I don't think it's, you know, central to that undertaking. So I'm hopeful that maybe come winter and something like a stalemate along the current line of divide plus or minus a little bit this way or that way.

You might see some de facto, I don't think negotiated agreement, but some de facto stalemate in which Ukraine would turn to focusing primarily on nation building, which is going to be a big chat. And West would be generously supportive in every possible way, especially financially, but also technically to that effort. And Ukraine never giving up the claim to recover every square inch of its territory, but you know, this Germany didn't get back all of East Germany for a long time. And South Korea hasn't got back to North Korea yet, but they've demonstrated they can build very successful societies.

And in over time, history, I think ultimately will go to the people that can build more successful societies.

Well, you've been very generous with your time, your wisdom and your insights Graham. Thank you so much for coming on the Monk dialogues today. I've learned a ton and I was looking forward to this conversation and you've done with me in the last 45 minutes or so, everything that I wanted to accomplish with it. So thank you again for your insights and analysis. Greatly appreciate it. Thank you for such good questions and I enjoyed the conversation and I'll look forward to more. So look forward to seeing you sometime. Thank you. Thank you Graham. Bye bye.

While that wraps up today's episode, I want to thank our guest, Professor Graham Allison. He certainly gave us a lot to think about.

If you have feedback or reflections on what you've just heard or any of our other podcasts, whether it be the Monk dialogues or our one on one debate series, please send us an email to podcast at monkdebates.com. That's M-U-N-K debates with an S dot com.
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