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The New Containment

Handling Russia, China, and Iran

Eye in the sky: a U.S. Navy helicopter in the South China Sea, October 2015 U.S. Navy / REUTERS

The quarter century following the Cold War was the most peaceful in modern history. The world’s strongest powers did not fight one another or even think much about doing so. They did not, on the whole, prepare for war, anticipate war, or conduct negotiations and political maneuvers with the prospect of war looming in the background. As U.S. global military hegemony persisted, the possibility of developed nations fighting one another seemed ever more remote.

Then history began to change course. In the last several years, three powers have launched active efforts to revise security arrangements in their respective regions. Russia has invaded Crimea and other parts of Ukraine and has tried covertly to destabilize European democracies. China has built artificial island fortresses in international waters, claimed vast swaths of the western Pacific, and moved to organize Eurasia economically in ways favorable to Beijing. And the Islamic Republic of

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