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Blog #2: Thucydides Trap

Tyler Rogers

Thucydides wrote “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” The term that was used for the fear by Athens over Sparta was “Thucydides Trap”.  A Thucydides trap is when a rising empire or government power causes fear to another empire or government power, and this fear causes war. In today’s modern times, we see America in a Thucydides Trap with many adversaries, but particular adversaries are North Korea and Russia, because of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile capability and Russia’s increasing growth in military power.

The recent increase in tension between North Korea and America has led to an enormous growth to North Korea’s nuclear weapons. This growth in North Korea’s nuclear weapons has led to a nuclear arms race between America and North Korea. This nuclear arms race seems to have started after the Korean War, when North Korea wanted to ensure they would have the ability to deter an American attack. The Clinton administration was able to get North Korea to come to an agreement to freeze their nuclear weapons, but when the Bush administration came into office the relationship built with North Korea fell apart. In 2016, when President Donald Trump was elected the tension between North Korea and the United States grew tremendously. In 2017 president Trump tweeted,  “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime. If [the US] is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”. Tension continued to rise and North Korea went on to continue to grow their nuclear weaponry. North Korea’s growing nuclear power poses a huge threat against American bases in Asia. The US recently debated on placing nuclear missiles in South Korea to help neutralize North Korea’s rapid growth in nuclear power. This counteract led to North Korea’s military launching nuclear missiles to display the development and power of its military and their nuclear weapons. The recent launches had complicated attempts between America and North Korea to control the increasing power on nuclear weapons. North Korea is an unpredictable country who had begun to make America feel threatened by the growth of their extremely dangerous nuclear weapons. 

Russia has made it known that they plan to continue to put great emphasis on growing their military power. Russia has an extremely powerful military with great access to nuclear weapons, a well trained combat force and ICBM. The US had exploited Russia’s dependence on Western markets but Russia has since expanded to Asian markets. Russia is accusing the US for escalating military tension by testing a cruise missile. This testing is prohibited by a recent arms treated decided between the two nations. Relating the US back to the Thucydides trap, the US would be the Spartans, the dominant and established power and the Russians would be the Athens, the growing power.  

The past does always repeat itself.  From 431 B.C to 2019 the idea of a Thucydides Trap still exists. The tensions between the United States and Russia and the tension between the United States and North Korea is an example of Thucydides trap. With both of these countries, they have had extreme growth in their military, that can threaten the United States. All these tension between military powers could potentially cause a war between the countries.

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