War in Europe, tensions rising in the Indo-Pacific, Russia and China deepening ties with Iran: The international political situation continues to darken. Yet there are strong positive signs as well. In Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s commitment to Ukraine remains steadfast as Kyiv looks toward a spring offensive. American allies continue to rally in Asia. Japan and South Korea are repairing frayed ties. India and Australia committed to negotiating a comprehensive economic agreement even as Sydney, Washington and London agreed on the next steps in the Aukus defense partnership. Alienated by ham-handed Chinese diplomacy, the Philippine government is offering new base facilities to the US.
Hiroyuki Akita, one of Japan’s most respected foreign-affairs commentators, offered a framework for making sense of these developments when he stopped by my Hudson Institute office on a recent visit to Washington. As Mr. Akita sees it, America’s unquestioned supremacy after the Cold War established a global economic and security system that worked very well for key American allies like Germany and Japan. For these countries, their preferred foreign policy, which he calls Plan A, would be to carry on as usual, free-riding on American power and basking in the resulting peace and prosperity.