Fit over Function: Explaining the Differences in US Strategic Approaches Towards China and Russia in the Post-Cold War Era
MacDonald, Adam Perry
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Fostering cooperative relations with Russia and China were major goals of the US in the post-Cold War era, but these relationships proceeded down very different trajectories. Russia was largely excluded from the predominant economic and security networks in Europe, which expanded across the continent under US guidance. In contrast, China became tightly embedded within the East Asian economy and was able to grow its power and influence in a largely benign region free from such American hegemonic expansionist proclivities. Mastanduno’s Lynchpin theory claims that this difference was a function of China being a necessary partner for the successful preservation of US hegemony in East Asia whereas Russia was not in Europe, an assessment largely based on their diverging power trajectories. There are, however, many theoretical and empirical limitations with this account. Alternatively, this dissertation argues these relationships were influenced by American actions during the early 1990s to ensure their ‘networked centrality’ in Europe and East Asia following the end of the Cold War. Neither Russia nor China was the principal concern at this time, with much of the American focus on shoring up the continued followership of its existing hegemonic membership. The ways to achieve this goal were different in each region, being informed by distinct regional strategic cultures the US holds towards Europe versus East Asia regarding ordering methods, network forms, and the importance of these regions in the global hegemonic system. The diverging paths relations with Russia and China proceeded down were not simply the product of their functional importance, but primarily due to the differences in their ‘fit’ alongside American shoring up activities. In demonstrating this connection, this dissertation conducts a multiple case study analysis employing a novel analytical framework to examine the role regional strategic culture played in informing US economic and security activities in Europe versus East Asia in the early 1990s, being the lens through which the US identified and addressed networks concerns in each. These actions in turn largely conditioned the trajectories within which relations with Russia and China proceeded down in the following decades in the post-Cold War era.