Rival superpowers may exploit chaos in the US

07 January 2021
China and Russia will be tempted to exploit the chaos facing the United States, according to ANU national security expert Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb.  
 
Following a violent uprising of US President Donald Trump's supporters, who stormed Capitol Hill, a curfew has been imposed in Washington DC and the country has been plunged into a crisis.     
 
"Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will be delighted with the chaos unfolding in the United States right now and will be tempted to take advantage of the situation," he said.  
 
"Trump has deliberately and malignly fanned the flames of this act of sedition by his supporters.  
 
"And just where was the warning of such a well-planned attack on the Congress from the FBI and other US domestic intelligence authorities such as Homeland Security?" 
 
John Blaxland, Professor of the International Security and Intelligence Studies at ANU, said we have seen American democracy at its "rambunctious worst" today.  
 
"Trump still has the power to draw supporters into the public square and we can all hope that his latest call for them to be law abiding will be the line he maintains to inauguration and beyond," Professor Blaxland said. 
 
"Vice President Mike Pence's unwillingness to comply with Trump's calls to ignore the democratic outcome and Trump's own belated call for his protesting supporters to obey the law suggest that this moment will pass and that Biden's ascension to the presidency will proceed unhindered.   
 
"The Democrats' win in the Georgia senate elections would suggest Trump's reluctance to concede and willingness to entertain protest in support of undemocratic measures have irrevocably damaged his brand and his standing within the Republican movement.  
 
"The Georgia election outcome gives Biden control of both houses of Congress. This provides him with a remarkable opportunity to exercise control over the legislative agenda and change the direction of the US ship of state. 
 
"But the pandemic is in full swing, domestic wounds have yet to heal, and significant and troubling international challenges remain relating to political interference, great power contestation and unprecedented environmental challenges. So expectations should be modest as the Biden presidency takes the reins."  
 
Professor Wesley Widmaier said US politics have always been plagued by what the historian Richard Hofstadter termed a 'paranoid style', marked by conspiratorial thinking and a sense of anger and grievance.  
 
"However, these influences have generally been confined to the fringes of debate," Professor Widmaier, Head of the Department of International Relations at ANU, said.   
 
"What makes the past four years different is that these views have been espoused by the President of the United States - and we can trace a direct line from Trump's incendiary rhetoric and outright lies about the 2020 election to the siege of the US Capitol."

Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team