Conflict and Leadership
We Need to Talk: The Necessity of a Four-Way Dialogue Between Russia, the United States, China and India

Global politics continues to be highly competitive. Fortunately for us, this competition is shifting from the military arena to one of ​​economic rivalry and information warfare. However, the general laws of world politics remain the same. In a chaotic environment, the leading powers seek to secure themselves a privileged position in the international system and limit the opportunities for their key competitors.

From the point of view of aggregate military-political and economic potential, there are four leading powers in the world: China, the United States, India and Russia. These four countries ranked first, second, third and sixth in terms of GDP (PPP) in 2016, respectively. According to PwC's calculations, by the middle of this century, these countries will occupy the same positions with one difference: the United States will drop from second to third place, and the first two lines will be occupied by China and India.

These four countries have the most advanced nuclear arsenals. Among them there is the only country at the moment that has experience using them in combat - the United States. The combined military, political, economic and technological potential of the four countries reliably determines their international leadership in terms of using their combined power to achieve politically significant goals.

Moreover, all four countries are closely linked by conflict nodes in different regions of the world. Russia and the United States confront each other in Eastern Europe, where the United States supports the NATO presence and is helping to expand the bloc to Russia's borders. The United States is in sharp competition with China in the Pacific, and is increasing pressure over Taiwan and shipping in the East and South China Seas. China and India confront with each other in South Asia and have an unresolved border conflict that has pushed both countries to view each other as opponents. The United States is keeping this strategic conflict in mind, as it is seeking to lure India into its camp by inviting it to participate in the Quadrilateral Maritime Security Dialogue, which, in addition to the United States and India, also includes Australia and Japan.

The strategic picture of the 21st century will be determined by the rivalry between the United States, China, India and Russia, the aggregate potential of each of which is sufficient to single-handedly determine the state of affairs in its region of presence.

Russia has the opportunity to take advantage of the favourable situation on its borders in the south, where it has no insoluble strategic contradictions with China. Moreover, these bilateral relations are now experiencing the peak of their historical development. The close relations between Russia and India during the Cold War and the assistance of the USSR in the formation of a sovereign India also provide a convincing foundation for bilateral relations.

However, these memories of the past do not guarantee the progressive development of relations in the future. Unprovoked crises or spontaneous episodes of conflict in relations within the Big Four nuclear powers can disrupt  progressive global economic processes. In this regard, these four powers should be mutually attentive and prudent, channelling their rivalry into a non-military area.

In the situation, amid the formation of a new global equilibrium between countries, only mutual restraint works.

It is the responsibility of the expert community of the four countries to carefully study the train of thought of their competing partners in order to exclude the sudden development of a conflict.

In this regard, it seems reasonable to create a permanent format for consultation among the high-level experts of Russia, the USA, China and India. To ensure that mutual deterrence does not lead to strategic disruptions and war, it is necessary to manage relations, emphasising an interest in cooperation with respect to common areas, such as climate, the ecology, digital development, space, mining, demography, migration and counteracting natural disasters. The purpose of the high-level consultations is to prevent a shift from strategic containment to impulsive attempts to break the emerging status quo.

The formation of a stable dialogue format for the four leading global powers in the 21st century will make it possible to minimise the likelihood of an impulsive breakdown into open conflict, the potential for which remains a factor in global politics.
Discussion on the Meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in Geneva
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.