By Phil Giraldi
Many observers, from various political perspectives, are beginning to note that there is something seriously disconnected in the foreign policy of the United States. The evacuation failure in Afghanistan shattered the already waning self-confidence of American elites. The continuing on-again off-again negotiations that go nowhere with Iran and Russia also provide no evidence that anyone in the White House is really focused on protecting American interests. To cite only one example, in a phone call on Feb. 9, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett advised President Joe Biden not to enter into any non-proliferation agreement with Iran. Biden was non-committal even though it is an actual American interest, but indicated that, as far as the U.S. is concerned, Israel could exercise “freedom of action” when dealing with the Iranians. Thus ended the only possible diplomatic success that the administration might have been able to point to.
The Biden administration’s by-default global security policy is currently reduced to what some critics have described as “encirclement and containment.” That is why an overstretched U.S. military is being tasked with creating evermore bases worldwide in an effort to counter perceived “enemies” who often are only exercising their own national sovereignty and their right to security within their own zones of influence. Ironically, when nations balk at submitting to Washington’s control, they are frequently described as “aggressors” and “anti-democratic.” The Biden policy, such as it actually exists, is a throwback to the playing field in 1991-1992 when the Soviet empire collapsed. It is all about maintaining the old American dream of complete global dominance coupled with liberal interventionism. But, this time around, the U.S. lacks both the resources and the national will to continue in the effort.
Meanwhile, as the situation continues to erode, it is becoming more and more obvious that the twin crises that are developing over Ukraine and Taiwan are “Made in Washington” and are somewhat inexplicable as the U.S. does not have a compelling national interest that would justify threats to “have on the table” military options as a possible response. The administration and its media hyenas are also now warning that a Russian invasion of Ukraine might take place at any time. Fortunately, at least for the moment, much of the emphasis has been on responding by initiating devastating sanctions, though American soldiers are also being airlifted to Eastern Europe. But Russia also has unconventional weapons in its arsenal. It can, for starters, shift focus away from Ukraine by intervening much more actively in support of Syria and Iran in the Middle East, interfering in feeble American attempts to manage that region for the benefit of Israel.
According to economists, Russia has also been effectively sanction-proofing its economy and is capable of selective reverse-sanctioning of countries that support an American initiative with any enthusiasm. Such a response would likely hurt the Europeans much more than it would damage the leadership in the Kremlin. Barring Russian gas from Europe would, for example, inflict more pain on the Europeans than on Moscow, as the Kremlin would find other markets for its products. European NATO members are clearly nervous and not fully behind U.S. resistance to meeting any Russian demands. And there is the legitimate concern that any and possibly all options being considered by Washington could easily produce missteps that would escalate into a nuclear exchange that would be catastrophic for the world.
Apart from the immediate danger of fighting being initiated as the result of a false-flag attack or even a misunderstanding of what is occurring on the ground, the real long-term damage is strategic. The Biden administration has adroitly maneuvered itself into a corner while America’s two principal adversaries, Russia and China, have drawn closer together to form something like a defensive as well as economic relationship that will be dedicated to reducing and eventually eliminating Washington’s assumed role as the global hegemon and rules enforcer.
In a recent article in the New Yorker, foreign affairs commentator Robin Wright, who might reasonably be described as a “hawk,” declares the new development to be “Russia and China Unveil[ing] a Pact Against America and the West.” And she is not alone in ringing the alarm bell, with former Trump National Security Council (NSC) Russia watcher Anita Hill warning that the Kremlin’s intention is to force the United States out of Europe while former NSC Ukrainian expert Alexander Vindman is advising that military force be used to deter Russia now, before it is too late.
Wright provides the most serious analysis of the new developments. She argues that “Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the two most powerful autocrats, challenge the current political and military order.” She describes how, in a meeting between the two leaders before the Beijing Olympics, they cited an “agreement that also challenges the United States as a global power, NATO as a cornerstone of international security, and liberal democracy as a model for the world.” They pledged that there would be “No ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation,” and a written statement that was subsequently produced declared that “Russia and China stand against attempts by external forces to undermine security and stability in their common adjacent regions, intend to counter interference by outside forces in the internal affairs of sovereign countries under any pretext, oppose color revolutions, and will increase cooperation.”
Wright notes that there is considerable strength behind the agreement. “As two nuclear-armed countries that span Europe and Asia, the more muscular alignment between Russia and China could be a game changer militarily and diplomatically.” One might add that China now has the world’s largest economy and Russia has a highly developed military deploying new hypersonic missiles that would give it the advantage in any conflict with NATO and the United States. Both Russia and China, if attacked, would also benefit because they would be fighting close to their bases on interior lines.
And, of course, not everyone agrees that nudging the United States out of its self-proclaimed hegemonic role would be a bad thing. Former British diplomat Alastair Crooke argues that there will be perpetual state of crisis in the international order until a new system emerges from the status quo that ended the Cold War, and it would be minus the United States as the semi-official transnational rulesmaker and arbiter.
He observes that:
The crux of Russia’s complaints about its eroding security have little to do with Ukraine per se but are rooted in the Washington hawks’ obsession with Russia, and their desire to cut Putin (and Russia) down to size—an aim which has been the hallmark of U.S. policy since the Yeltsin years. The Victoria Nuland clique could never accept Russia rising to become a significant power in Europe—possibly eclipsing the U.S. control over Europe.
What is happening in Europe and Asia should all come down to a very simple realization about the limits of power: America has no business risking a nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine or with China over Taiwan. The United States has been fighting much of the world for over two decades, impoverishing itself and killing millions in avoidable wars starting with Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. government is cynically exploiting memories of old Cold War enemy Russia to create a false narrative that goes something like this: “If we don’t stop them over there they will be in New Jersey next week.” It is all nonsense. And, besides, who made the United States the sole arbiter of international relations? It is past time Americans started asking what kind of international order is it that lets the United States determine what other nations can and cannot do?
Worst of all, it has all been unnecessary. A little real diplomacy with honest negotiators weighing up real interests could easily have come to acceptable solutions for all parties involved. It is indeed ironic that the burning desire to go to war with Russia demonstrated in The New York Times and Washington Post as well as on Capitol Hill has in fact created a real formidable enemy, tying Russia and China together in an alliance due to their frustration at dealing with a Biden administration that never seems to know what it is doing or where it wants to go.
Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.