Thucydides Trap: China and Russia

Throughout the course of history, being the alpha, or “top dog” has always been a trait that has presented itself in human nature. It is natural to want to be on the top of the food chain and it is in our DNA to maintain the top position of power and control. Some would say that this natural trait could ultimately be the human species’ fatal flaw. The basis of all wars and conflicts through human history are stemmed from this prideful nature. Thucydides defines this sense of alpha-ness as the Thucydides trap. This trap is when a dominant power feels threatened by another up and coming power regardless of previous relations. This threatening feeling can even be self-imposed because of our natural top spot mentality. The result of this trap almost always ends in an armed conflict or all-out war.

            Being a global superpower, the United States could very well be nearing a classic Thucydides trap. We have been considered a top dog economically, technologically, and militarily for quite a while but China is well on our heels and has been for a while. Not only is their economy booming, but the resources that they have put into their military and technological advances has been substantial. Over the years tensions with China have grown increasingly high and it seems to be that we are on the edge of war, whether that be an economic war or a full on militarily war, remains to be seen. However, China is not the only other up and comer to threaten the United States for the alpha position.

            Another obvious place that continues to try the patience of the United States is Russia. As stated before the United States, more often than not, has been more or less in the number one spot a for a number of years. A sizeable amounts of Russia’s advancements has been put into place to directly compete with the United States. One area that Russia is exponentially increasing in order to prepare for a challenge against the United States is with their military. Not only do they state that they are prepared for a war with the United States, but they continue to push the buttons of our nation by expanding and occupying other countries. This could ultimately be a statement that they feel they are the top dog and are not afraid of a conflict with the United States. If China and Russia continuously close the gap on the United States, a war with either or even maybe both is a likely outcome, thus a textbook Thucydides trap.

One thought on “Thucydides Trap: China and Russia

  1. You make great points explaining the Thucydides Trap between the United States and Russia. To add on Russia’s military now has great access to nuclear weapons, a well-trained combat force and ICBM. These things at one time were only accesible by the United States but Russia is rapidly progressing and developing their military. The US had also exploited Russia’s dependence on Western markets to try to expand the gap but Russia has since expanded to Asian markets. I then made the comparison that in this scenario the United States are like the Spartans and Russia is like the Athens. You point with the United States and China being in a Thucydides Trap with China is valid and a point I agree with. I also made the argument that the United States is also in a Thucydides Trap with North Korea. The recent increase in tension between North Korea and America had led to an enormous growth to North Korea’s nuclear weapons. This growth in North Korea’s nuclear weapons had led to a nuclear arms race between America and North Korea as the two countries were trying to one-up one another, trying to prove who the more dominant country is. This nuclear arms race made America feel threatened by the growth of North Korea’s extremely dangerous nuclear weapons.


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