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Columnist Jacob Mauren explains how the United States needs to be prepared to face off against Russia and China's growing power. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the world has seen little competition between any great powers. No country could have hoped to challenge the power and influence that America held. A sense that the U.S. had won the "big one" seemed to emerge, and America became a less forceful and more diplomatic international player. But as the U.S. became distracted and disappointed in the Middle East, former and new great powers have emerged and are actively working to test the will of America. To win the power struggle of the 21st century, the United States must be willing to flex its muscles and utilize the international coalitions that it has built.

China is by far the greatest competitor for the United States in this day and age. No longer the rural nation of a billion farmers, China has built itself into the second-largest economy in the world with the military might to match. The communist nation has not been shy in using its newfound power. Economically it has invested billions of dollars into its international development initiative, setting itself up to reap the benefits in the future. Militarily, it has begun aggressively pushing its claims of disputed territory, developed hypersonic missiles that deeply worry U.S. officials and has raised tensions with Taiwan. 

In short, China has built itself into a force that can scoff at many international norms and challenge the U.S. as it looks to create the greatest Chinese nation possible. While the U.S. may have an edge now, China is counting down the days until it can assert its will on the region. If the United States wants a shot at maintaining its grip on the region, it must utilize its military coalitions in the area to make it clear that military action against the democratic state of Taiwan or an attempted annexation of the South China Sea is simply off the table. The days of soft messaging and condemnations may be coming to a close.

Russia may not be the Soviet power it once was, but it is making its presence known. In 2014 Russia annexed a part of Ukraine, an aggressive move that ruffled feathers but ultimately did not summon the action of NATO. Now, Russia is amassing forces at its border with Ukraine as it flies nuclear bombers over Western Europe. NATO's inaction in 2014 has made military action a much more tempting choice for Russia. If the United States wants to keep Putin at bay, it must double down on its support of and commitment to mobilize NATO if Russia invades Western Europe. Another show of restraint from the coalition would only show the Russian strongman an open door to aggressive expansion. 

To summarize, the U.S., for the first time in three decades, faces a true power competition. Russia and China are two states that aim to claw their way back to the top of the world after facing what they feel was humiliation on the global stage. They will not play friendly; they will not respect the rules. The United States needs to be prepared to take a hard stance against one or both of these forces, possibly militarily, if it comes down to it.

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Columnist Jacob Mauren is a sophomore in political science. 

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