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HomeCanada’s Role on the Global StageThe US-China Rivalry: What Are Canada’s Interests?

The US-China Rivalry: What Are Canada’s Interests?

By Margaret Cornish

Note from author: This is a realist analysis based on sovereign “interests”: economic, political, and defense. It is rooted in the tradition of E.H. Carr’s realism: limited objectives, limited interference and restraint, with a primary focus on avoiding conflict, and rooted in real (hard) power rather than soft power1. This is different from values-based foreign policy and the two approaches are not easily integrated or resolved. Nevertheless, the realist view has something to contribute to Canada’s foreign policy discussions.  

Background

It is impossible to consider Canada’s foreign policy options without an understanding of the big picture. The international order is currently undergoing a global transition of power in which the interests and values of the United States and China are hotly contested. The U.S., as global hegemon, is defending its position – seeking to curb the rise of China as the leading power in Asia through initiatives launched in conjunction with the ‘Democracy Coalition’. President Biden has extended the economic and security/military measures introduced by President Trump. To prevent China from overtaking it in key advanced industries, the U.S. has launched and maintained ‘decoupling’ measures to cut Chinese firms out of high-tech U.S. global supply chains. 

China has a growing capacity and vision to challenge the U.S. as a peer rival, not in the view of western democracies, but across much of the developing world. Regional powers in Asia (namely Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Singapore) find themselves balancing at times against China, and at times toward China depending on the issue. Asian and European states may meet U.S. demands regarding China in formal or issue-specific ways that minimize damage to their own economic interests. While there is generally deep skepticism regarding China, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that has been uncoordinated with NATO allies and the lack of consultation on AUKUS demonstrate the deeply rooted go-it-alone instincts of U.S. policy makers. 

In this complex international environment, Canada has a narrow room for maneuver and must focus its resources on identifying and advancing its vital interests. 

Where does Canada stand? 

Canada is accustomed to thinking of itself, as it has been since WWII, as a middle power – a player in the North Atlantic alliance, neighbour to the world’s great power, an acknowledged contributor to global development assistance (decades ago), and influential in the World Bank, the IMF, and the UN. Unfortunately, these attributes are no longer the winning cards they once were. The global centre of gravity and growth has shifted to the West Pacific. Many global institutions are in need of reform in the light of major changes over the past 40 years. South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and Singapore are economically significant and actively engaged. Canadians stand somewhat apart – not quite convinced that we are a Pacific nation. 

Canada is treated as a minor power by both the U.S. and China, although this is not widely understood. Minor power status is when a major power neither consults nor accommodates. We are certainly a minor state to China: not in its region, within the close embrace of the U.S., not irrelevant, but not permitted to flout China’s core interests without consequences. And there are many examples of U.S. failure to accommodate Canada’s interest: steel and aluminum tariffs, the forced renegotiation of NAFTA, ‘vassal state’2 language inserted at the 11th hour into the USMCA (United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement) giving the U.S. veto power over any future Canadian or Mexican trade deal with China, the Michigan pipeline treaty violations, as well as ongoing obstruction on softwood lumber exports despite arbitral decisions in Canada’s favour. 

American support resolving the extradition request of Madame Meng was at best slow. Most recently, and perhaps fortunately, we were not consulted on the nuclear submarine Pacific security partnership between Australia, the UK and U.S. (AUKUS). This agreement binds Australia to the use of U.S. nuclear submarine technology and to U.S Navy support and maintenance of the vessels. It also offers Australia a minor role in the U.S.-China rivalry which will ruffle feathers in the region with concerns that “what helps some in Canberra sleep better may keep others in the region up at night.”3

World orders: Whose values do they reflect? 

International or world orders always reflect the values of the great powers that dominate them – and at present these are contested. Liberal democratic values are the contribution of Western Europe and North America. The Democracy 10 (D-10) notion of largely excluding China from global governance is simply unrealistic given its economic heft, which accounts for an outsized share of the world’s annual growth. The U.S. view that America should, and can, retain absolute primacy is simply at variance with the realities of power. If we acknowledge that the global system is inevitably in transition, we need to recognize the right of major powers to a seat at the rulemaking table in order for this transition to proceed in a stable manner. 

There are many countries other than China that do not share our liberal social and intellectual roots. Furthermore, much of the existing rules-based order does not depend on democratic or liberal principles. Canada’s role is not to ensure that the ‘liberal’ values of the current system remain unchanged but rather to work with other middle powers to shape global consensus in a range of sectors that build on the existing rules-based order. 

‘Democracy 10’: A soft power coalition to contain China?

American moves to decouple trade, investment and supply chains in high-tech are unquestionably a major hindrance to China. However, China is already the engine of East Asian economic growth and integration, the largest trading partner of each country in the region (including Japan), as well as the anchor in most of their supply chains. It is now generally recognized that Asia, and particularly East Asia, will continue to provide the lion’s share of economic growth in coming decades. China is additionally the largest trading partner of a wide range of emerging market economies globally. The U.S. has security treaty relationships and military bases throughout the region but its ability to militarily prevail in Asia is no longer absolute. China’s area denial missile strategies make active engagement with aircraft carriers risky. In short, it is important to recognize that U.S.-China rivalry in Asia may not result in a clear-cut U.S. victory.  

Given its real-power economic deficits, the U.S. maximizes its leverage by focusing on soft power and ideological issues forging a coalition of the ‘like-minded’, notably the G7 plus South Korea, India and Australia. The coalition’s objective is to preserve U.S. primacy in Asia by constraining and challenging China’s influence. Various coalitions serve to broaden global support and maximize leverage vis-à-vis China. Human rights violations in Xinjiang and political repression in Hong Kong have provided fertile ground for the U.S. (and the West) to advance their power-related aims, undermining China’s regional legitimacy. Other initiatives hobble China’s high-tech innovation, reduce Chinese influence in global institutions, constrain Beijing’s attempts to modify liberal human rights norms, and rally coalition partners to actively confront China by joining FONOPS or naval operations in the South China Seas. The focus is on China’s borders and near-abroad where China seeks influence and stability.

The U.S. campaign to rally treaty partners including Japan, South Korea, Australia and NATO is powerful but has produced mixed results. Asian and European leaders seek to provide verbal support while minimizing damage to their bilateral relationships with China. Most seek an outside power to counterbalance China in the region, but not to destabilize the region through confrontation. This activity is leading regional states to worry about an arms race and unintended conflict. 

In real power terms, some regional countries might side with either China or the U.S. depending on the issue and therefore maintain more options vis-à-vis both U.S. and China. Those with the ability to balance both toward and against the great powers are in the strongest position to achieve some of their own interests, with notable examples including South Korea, Germany, Indonesia and Singapore. Domestic politics in these countries may limit this ability to manoeuvre opportunistically. 

The prominent theme of the Democracy Coalition is support for norms of liberal democracy. However, coalition partners also have unpublicized priorities, namely to maximize the leverage the coalition might have on issues relevant to their respective national interests. For Japan, the objective is U.S. military support in the western Pacific; for Australia it is U.S. support in resisting economic pressure from China; for the EU it is gaining U.S. support for WTO reform. For Canada, it was the withdrawal of the extradition request for Madame Meng. While coalition enthusiasm for supporting democratic and liberal values is high, there is less support for extreme political or military confrontation with China. This caution was reflected in the June 2021 G7 statement4

President Biden’s weak domestic political situation is the Achilles heel for U.S. leadership of the Democracy Coalition. There is solid bipartisan support for constraining China’s threat to U.S. interests, but at every turn Republicans seek to ‘out-hawk’ the Democrats on China – especially in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections.  Expending Democratic political capital to deliver on the priorities of allies may well prove a bridge too far. The springboard of U.S. foreign policy is the ‘golden age’ image of mobilizing allies to support the U.S. mission, not assisting allies to meet their objectives. More significantly, allies must keep in mind the distinct possibility of a Republican President in 2024 with attendant changes in America’s international direction. As time passes, these factors will affect U.S. allies’ commitment and willingness to support requested missions. 

Protecting Canada’s core interests 

It is worth exploring briefly how dutiful compliance to U.S. pressure can damage primary domestic assets of coalition partners. Canada must consider the potentially severe damage to our own critical interests when we act on U.S. requests without sufficient reflection. 

Consider the impact on Canada’s innovation infrastructure: The U.S. has world-leading high-tech companies, but Canada excels on the other end of the spectrum occupied by research and start-ups. Canada has globally recognized universities (Toronto, Queens, Waterloo, McGill, McMaster) that support and benefit from a concentration of high-tech firms along the Highway 401 corridor. This is Canada’s innovation hub in AI, quantum computing, life sciences, etc. – drawing on centres of excellence across the country that are plugged into a myriad of global research networks. 

U.S. initiatives aim at pushing Chinese researchers out of global high-tech innovation and manufacturing ecosystems, winnowing out Chinese scientists and PhD students on grounds of potential applications to surveillance technologies or connections to the Chinese government. The consequences for Canada and other allies are much more severe than for the many leading U.S. universities asked to do the same but with greater depth of faculty expertise as well as funding. 

Canada certainly has to develop criteria and procedures to avoid sharing potentially dual-use military and related research with China. However, the current U.S. disposition is to draw a very wide red circle. The problem is obviously sensitive and complex, but Canada’s response needs to be informed by a clear understanding of what it means for research excellence in each field and how we can offset or mitigate the actions requested of us. It is imperative to respond with a well-developed framework for protecting Canada’s innovation infrastructure. Our objective must be to prevent a Canadian brain drain. 

Canada’s supply chain position is another area at risk in following U.S. direction without careful consideration. Our supply chains are heavily continental and could narrow further as a result of U.S. efforts to segregate high-tech industries. U.S. global corporations have opportunities to manage ‘decoupling’ across wide-ranging international networks, but the process may well have serious competitive ramifications for Canadian firms further down the component-part food chain. 

Cutting down global corporate competitors in the other camp is far more damaging to allies than to either great power. Eliminating Huawei from 5G was very costly for Canadian telecom providers. As a small market, Canada cannot expect to be a high priority customer for the remaining suppliers. The delay and uncertainty creates serious consequences for the speed and comprehensiveness of the fourth industrial revolution in Canada.  At present, the policy debate is dominated by those with strong connections to the U.S. national security perspective, one that is, understandably, fairly absolute in its prescriptions. We need a much more nuanced and independent analysis and policy development process. Ironically this search for a more balanced view of China policy options has already emerged in the U.S. with respect to the critical views of the Quincy Institute, populated, as are the other U.S. think tanks, with foreign policy and security experts from various previous administrations as well as academics.

China’s economic relevance grows despite efforts to constrain it

Regardless of efforts to constrain and isolate it, China will become the largest global economy within the decade and is already the engine of Asian integration, growth and trade. Throughout Covid-19 pandemic, China’s global economic impact has grown substantially. China’s imports5 from Canada rose 8% in 2020 versus a 12% decline of Canadian exports worldwide, a pattern reflected in other western economies. 

China’s economic lead may slow, but small and medium powers in advanced and emerging markets alike, western or not, have core economic interests engaged with China. This will eventually be true for Canada, although Canadians remain hesitant to recognize our position as a Pacific nation, preferring to look south and east. This tendency is exacerbated by discomfort with China and a lack of familiarity with Asia. Our views may change if the Coalition support for U.S. efforts to contain China weakens and should there be further instances of U.S. failure to take Canadian interests into account.

Small and medium powers face the cost and competitive disruption of shifting supply chains as well as the broader, industrial and services damage inflicted by China-U.S. rivalry. They are also exposed to the political costs of being pushed to take sides on every contentious issue. The world has gone through enormous changes over the past thirty years, including the rise of ‘the Rest’ – the non-western world. These changes mean that global institutions are all in need of major reform. The need for effectively functioning international organizations is felt most acutely by the ‘non-great’ powers.  

If the Democracy Coalition serves primarily to heighten geopolitical tensions without delivering needed benefits, coalition partners may well shift their focus toward collaborating with like-minded powers on a raft of needed international agreements and standard-setting. For Canada and many other advanced and emerging market states with a high dependence on trade, the WTO is the most critical institution in active need of reform. Finding a way through the current impasse at the WTO – which will ultimately require agreement from both Washington and Beijing – is the most pressing. Rather than pushing a U.S.-led agenda, Canada might find a more productive focus working toward a modest consensus on the key issues across both advanced and developing markets. We need to remember that U.S. trade policy interests are somewhat different than our own. 

Canada’s deep immersion in U.S. mainstream and social media embeds us in the U.S. perception of its national interest. As a privileged neighbour, we are accustomed to having similar interests. We urgently need to formulate an independent view of when and how our interests diverge under great power competition. We have long sheltered in the advantages of U.S. dominance and are now exposed to its drawbacks. While recognizing our responsibilities to the United States as an ally and neighbour, we must attend to our own core interests – a big undertaking. There are many conflicting sectoral and regional interests in Canada that need to be intermediated and compromises worked out. This would be a significant national mission.

What are the lessons for Canada? 

Despite the talk of ‘competition, not conflict’, the world has entered a period of intense rivalry. The issue of how individual countries choose to govern themselves – autocracy versus democracy – may not prove as central as it is now, given the difficulty small and middle powers are likely to have protecting their vital interests as competition accelerates. 

Canada must recognize it has very narrow room for maneuver. To avoid damaging errors, such as the arrest of Madame Meng, we must anticipate the interests and moves of both China and the U.S., focus on identifying our essential interests and devote the necessary resources to realizing them. In the present Canadian context, these geopolitical realities are largely unrecognized and unpalatable both to opinion leaders and Canadians more generally. 

Canada’s interest is the evolution of a peaceful, multipolar, rules-based order. Finding ways to mitigate the collateral damage of great power rivalry means working with like-minded small and medium states to attract support for multilateral arrangements such as the WTO and the Paris Agreement in areas including cyber security, global health, space and standard-setting in data and technology regulation. 

Our credibility will depend on being an independent and productive participant in global policy debates promoting the participation of China and the U.S. To do so, Canada needs to deepen its connections with Asian leaders such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, and Indonesia. We need to evaluate our priorities and what we bring to the table both in terms of expertise, influence and experience. Canada does not have the resources to play at all tables. 

Margaret Cornish is an advisor at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. Margaret’s career covers an impressive range of positions in both business and government that enriched her expertise on Canada and China. As a Canadian Foreign Service officer, she served in New York at the UNGA in 1971, Beijing from 1972-1974, and the delegation to the European Communities from 1977-1979. Margaret also served as Chief Representative in Beijing of Bennett Jones, a leading Canadian law firm from 2010 to 2015.


  1. Edward Hallett Carr and Michael Cox, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). 
  2. Irvin Studin, “Canadian foreign policy has officially died”, Toronto Star, December 10, 2019, https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/12/10/canadian-foreign-policy-has-official-died.html
  3. Natalie Sambhi, “Australia’s Nuclear Submarines and AUKUS: The View from Jakarta,” Brookings Institution, September 21, 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/09/21/australias-nuclear-submarines-and-aukus-the-view-from-jakarta/
  4. “Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué”, The White House, Statements and Releases, June 23, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/06/13/carbis-bay-g7-summit-communique/
  5. Tom Alton, “Canada-China Trade: 2020 Year in Review”, University of Alberta China Institute, February 22, 2021, https://www.ualberta.ca/china-institute/research/analysis-briefs/2021/canada-china-2020-yearinreview.html

Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

The Western powers have failed to effectively manage the increasing threat of proliferation in the Middle East. While the international community is concerned with Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has moved forward with developing its own nuclear program, and independent studies show that Israel has longed possessed dozens of nuclear warheads. The former is a member of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), while the latter has refused to sign the international agreement. 

On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  

Panelists:

Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security

 

Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.

Panelists:

Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

Panel 2: Arms Race and Terrorism in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.

 

Panelists:

Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

Panel 1: Future of Diplomacy and Engagement in the Middle East (10:30 AM-11:45 AM ET)

The emerging regional order in West Asia will have wide-ranging implications for global security. The Biden administration has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier, an initiative staunchly opposed by Israel, while also taking a harder line on Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, key regional actors, including Qatar, Iraq, and Oman, have engaged in backchannel efforts to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. From a broader geopolitical perspective, with the need to secure its energy imports, China is also expected to increase its footprint in the region and influence the mentioned challenges. 

In this evolving landscape, Western powers will be compelled to redefine their strategic priorities and adjust their policies with the new realities in the region. In this panel, we will discuss how the West, including the United States and its allies, can utilize multilateral diplomacy with its adversaries to prevent military escalation in the region. Most importantly, the panel will discuss if a multilateral security dialogue in the Persian Gulf region, proposed by some regional actors, can help reduce tensions among regional foes and produce sustainable peace and development for the region. 

Panelists:

Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

Panel 4: Humanitarian Diplomacy: An Underused Foreign Policy Tool in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM ET)

Military interventions, political and economic instabilities, and civil unrest in the Middle East have led to a global refugee crisis with an increasing wave of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe and Canada. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in myriad ways, exacerbated and contributed to the ongoing security threats and destabilization of the region.

While these challenges pose serious risks to Canadian security, Ottawa will also have the opportunity to limit such risks and prevent a spillover effect vis-à-vis effective humanitarian initiatives in the region. In this panel, we will primarily investigate Canada’s Middle East Strategy’s degree of success in providing humanitarian aid to the region. Secondly, the panel will discuss what programs and initiatives Canada can introduce to further build on the renewed strategy. and more specifically, how Canada can utilize its policy instruments to more effectively deal with the increasing influx of refugees from the Middle East. 

 

Panelists:

Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

Panel 3: A Review of Canada’s Middle East Engagement and Defense Strategy (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

In 2016, Canada launched an ambitious five-year “Middle East Engagement Strategy” (2016-2021), committing to investing CA$3.5 billion over five years to help establish the necessary conditions for security and stability, alleviate human suffering and enable stabilization programs in the region. In the latest development, during the meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau announced more than $43.6 million in Peace and Stabilization Operations Program funding for 11 projects in Syria and Iraq.

With Canada’s Middle East Engagement Strategy expiring this year, it is time to examine and evaluate this massive investment in the Middle East region in the past five years. More importantly, the panel will discuss a principled and strategic roadmap for the future of Canada’s short-term and long-term engagement in the Middle East.

Panelists:

Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

While the United States continues to pull back from certain regional conflicts, reflected by the Biden administration’s decision to halt American backing for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and the expected withdrawal from Afghanistan, US troops continue to be stationed across the region. Meanwhile, Russia and China have significantly maintained and even expanded their regional activities. On one hand, the Kremlin has maintained its military presence in Syria, and on the other hand, China has signed an unprecedented 25-year strategic agreement with Iran.

As the global power structure continues to shift, it is essential to analyze the future of the US regional presence under the Biden administration, explore the emerging global rivalry with Russia and China, and at last, investigate the implications of such competition for peace and security in the Middle East.

Panelists:

Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

Panel 1: A New Middle East Security Architecture in the Making (10:30 AM -11:45 AM ET)

The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.

 

Panelists:

Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor