Elliott Abrams has a new piece out, worth a look, offering thoughts on how America should respond to the Russia-China axis. His main recommendation is a big increase in defense spending, but I was also struck by this thought:
We must resist the temptation to conclude that in such a dangerous world, promotion of freedom is a luxury we cannot afford. On the contrary, freedom is one of the most powerful weapons in our hands; it is what separates us morally from the Russian and Chinese regimes, and this is understood around the globe even if we sometimes ignore it. ...Reagan always understood that the Cold War was more than a conflict among states; it was even more fundamentally an ideological conflict between the forces of liberty and the powers that would snuff it out nation by nation until our own was in jeopardy.
For sure the Soviet end goal was to impose communism worldwide. Whether that is China or Russia's end goal is not entirely clear to me. Perhaps their goals are more limited, in which case the threat to the United States is less than it was from the Soviet Union. China would like Taiwan and Russia would like the Baltics, but do the Chinese or the Russians really also want to rule London, or California? Not in some "eventually" sense but in a medium-term serious plan sense? If the answer is "no," then it doesn't necessarily mean the U.S. should cede Taiwan and the Baltics to Chinese or Russian aggression. But it could affect how we view the cost-benefit analysis and the risk-reward tradeoffs.
I'd also amend Abrams to talk not only about freedom but about the other two legs of the ideological triad—democracy and rule of law. The nice thing about those is that they put Russia and China on defense. The risk isn't only that the Russians and Chinese would put American freedom in jeopardy—the hope is that the appeal of freedom, democracy, and rule of law would threaten the Russian and Chinese dictatorships. As Reagan put it, "Here's my strategy on the Cold War. We win, they lose." Moving the American goal from containment to rollback was part of how that victory was achieved.