Allies’ cooperation is best protection from China,

Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, is one of the world’s leading scholars of the realist school in international relations, having authored a series of seminal works building upon the theory of defensive realism. […]

The JoongAng Ilbo spoke to Walt at its office in central Seoul on Tuesday, discussing South Korea’s place in the United States-led regional order in Asia amid a confused list of policies that is the Donald Trump Doctrine.

You’ve written before that the United States should pay greater attention to Asia rather than Europe or the Middle East. Can you tell us more about that?

[…] The United States needs to focus most of its attention on Asia. What’s happening in Europe is not unimportant, but the United States doesn’t need to be there to protect Europe. The Middle East has been a disaster for the United States. The more heavily involved we get there, the more trouble we get into. We shouldn’t be doing that at all and focus our attention on Asia. […]

What do you think about the Donald Trump administration’s policy in Asia?

[…] I think the one thing the Trump administration got right was that the main challenge was China and that it was time to confront China on some of its activities. On China’s trade policy, for example, or some of the pressure it put on other countries in the South China Sea, the United States had to take a firmer stance. That said, the Trump administration has done this very badly. They had the right objective but the wrong strategy for dealing with it. First of all, we should never have left the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That was an important economic agreement, but it had a strategic political dimension to it: containing and building on the ties we already had in Asia. Second, when we wanted to confront China about its trade policy, we shouldn’t have done it by ourselves. We should’ve done it along with South Korea, Japan, the European Union, Canada and some other major countries that have economic dealings with China. We could all get together and go talk to the Chinese about how they’re living up to their agreements or not. That would have been much more effective than doing it ourselves. […]

In terms of dealing with a major adversary, do you think bandwagoning – states aligning with a stronger, adversarial power for its security – or balancing – states forming groups to counter a potential hegemon – is the better strategy?

There is a very simple reason why countries don’t want to bandwagon. It basically means you have to trust that your powerful neighbor will be benevolent forever and will always behave itself. In international politics, you can’t trust other countries. If you join forces with them, you’re basically saying: look, I’ll be your friend but don’t do anything to hurt me. You can’t be sure that that’s the case. Läs artikel