13th annual Municipal Finance Conference


13th annual Municipal Finance Conference


Bruce Jones: The United States has to Lead, Not Dominate

Tavis Smiley hosted Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Jones on his show to discuss Jones’ new Brookings book, Still Ours to Lead: America, Rising Powers, and the Tension Between Rivalry and Restraint. During the program, which you can watch below, Jones said that the crisis in Ukraine “is a really critical test for American leadership and for the west.” But that leadership, he said, involves much more than just the threat of American military action:

There are certain things that the United States can do by itself in response to what Russia has done in Crimea, but it’s in a much stronger position if we can galvanize the western alliance, if we can galvanize the Europeans and if we can keep the Chinese and the Indians and others from being too supportive of the Russians in this context.

In response to questions about whether or not America is in decline, Jones responded that:

There’s been a lot of talk about American decline, about American withdrawal from the world. But what we see in an acute crisis like this, immediately everybody is looking at Washington to see what Washington will do. There’s no serious option of responding to this unless Washington leads it and everyone is looking to Washington to lead. …

At the height of the cold war when we were the leader of the free world and had Europe’s security … had their back, they still didn’t do everything we told them to do. It never works that way. But the United States is uniquely well-positioned to coalesce allies and others to try to build, patiently, coalitions to produce results. But it takes time and doesn’t always succeed. …

but I think we see in a crisis like Ukraine this isn’t going to be a military action but it is going to take the United States using every other lever of its power—economic, political, coalition-building—to try to contain Russia and reverse this.

“The United States has to lead, not dominate,” said Jones. He continued:

There’s a big difference. And there’s been a long period of time where we’ve conflated the notion of leadership with unilateral military action. Our military power is an important part of our leadership, but just by itself it’s not enough. It’s that broader economic engagement, that broader political engagement, that coalition-building, and ultimately, yes, military power at times. They’re the critical ingredients of American power, especially when large chunks of the world economy are held by countries that are not U.S. allies—India, Brazil, South Africa, China, and of course Russia.

Watch the complete video below or visit PBS.org:

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research on Ukraine and Crimea, and learn more about the Project on International Order and Strategy, which Bruce Jones directs at Brookings.