Most Important US Relationships
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Canada and Mexico make the list not only because they are the US's neighbors, but also because they are the first and third largest trade partners of the country. Britain, China, France, and Russia make the list because of their status as four-fifths of the UNSC's P5. That leaves four countries as non-structural members of the list. I chose Japan and Germany because of their status as the world's third and fourth largest economies combined with their status as members of a security pact with the US. Pakistan makes the list because of its importance to the US's fight against al-Qa'ida. Pakistan essentially holds most of the cards on how the situation is going to turn out once the US leaves Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia makes the list because of its importance to the world's oil supply. Money may make the world go 'round, but without oil, the world would have no reason to spin. And despite the advances that some countries have made recently in their oil industries, Saudi Arabia is still easily the world's most important country for that commodity.
I limited the list to ten. I considered Israel, but chose not to put it on the list. Pakistan was my tenth choice. Other countries that I considered for that spot are Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, South Korea, and Turkey.
Which of my ten would you remove for Israel, and why?
Keep in mind that this is a list captured in a moment in time. Although I do have six countries on the list for structural reasons (i.e., geography and membership on the UN Security Council), the four non-structural countries could change next week if a major event occurs (like Israel launching an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities or North and South Korea getting into a military conflict).
I'll ask the same question of you regarding Turkey that I asked of deniro regarding Israel: Which of my ten would you remove, and why?
Turkey is one that I considered, and a country whose importance I do think will grow over the next few decades.
Despite the sincerity and the ponderings of those participating, I have to say that the question is only important on a secondary level. State-to-state relationships, in the traditional diplomatic sense, are increasingly overshadowed by international arrangements outside traditional diplomacy.
To me, though, there is a distinction between a state-to-state relationship and state-to-state relations. My list is drawn up from a consideration of the former rather than the latter.
A state-to-state relationship encompasses all of the interaction that two states have with each other, be it directly through traditional diplomatic channels or through the hurly-burly of international organizations and even so far as the economic and cultural exchanges made by non-state actors in both states. France probably wouldn't have made my list without its membership on the UN Security Council, but Britain, China, and Russia would have. China and Russia would have made my list for traditional foreign relations reasons, but Britain would still be on my list because of its strong cultural and business ties with the US, which occur at a sub-governmental level.
My emphasis on state-to-state relationships was merely to limit the issue to states, as opposed to including international or transnational organizations. A pretty good argument can made that the US's relationship with the EU as a whole is more important than any single relationship the US has with an EU-member state.
Maybe Israel over France or Japan.
You forgot about Vatican City, Liechtenstein, Malta, and Monaco.
I know you're being flippant (though I'm not sure why), but I hadn't thought about Vatican City. There probably is a left-field argument that could be made for it. And an even stronger case could have been made for the Vatican back in the 1980s when the Pope was very important to the anti-communist struggles in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary.
That reminds me of one of my favorite Homer Simpson moments :-)
Brazil and South Africa are key players in their regions, and how well the U.S. gets along with them will determine how much influence it has in South America and southern Africa, respectively.
Once the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, its relationship with Pakistan will be less relevant.
I actually think it will grow in importance. After the US leaves Afghanistan, the biggest outside influence on the country will come from Pakistan. Pakistan will then have a larger say in whether the Taliban or al-Qa'ida make a comeback in Afghanistan than the US (i.e., whether our 13+ years spent in Afghanistan will have been a sucess or a failure). The US will still have a say in what goes on in Afghanistan, but less so than Pakistan, India, or Iran, and possibly even less than China or Russia.
I can tell you right now that the 13+ years the U.S. and allies have spent in Afghanistan have been a failure. (The Russians must be having a jolly good laugh.)