Fuck around and find out in Asia
Since the Biden Administration took the reins, America’s foreign policy has stayed just as confusing as under Trump (or Obama or Bush…) but is arguably more strident and belligerent.
I write “Biden Administration” because am reluctant to characterize anything that happens as having sprung from the mind of Biden. His few appearances and utterances have not inspired any confidence that he’s deciding anything more complex than which kind of fruit he wants for breakfast. On the other hand, the muddled and self-contradictory nature of the overall policy does suggest that he’s involved.
In particular, it’s hard not to think that Biden and co. are doing anything other than trying to engineer regime change in Russia and China—if they have to go to a hot war to achieve it, then so be it. There doesn’t seem to be any reasoning other than raw imperialism and a desire to vanquish of anything that can be made to look like an enemy, no matter how shaky or transparently mendacious the evidence. The U.S. economy is nearly entirely military-based and no-one in charge there has bothered to try to move away from that base in decades, if ever.
Aaron Maté of the Grayzone interviews US Naval War College analyst Lyle Goldstein about America’s foreign policy toward Russia and China. As usual, Maté asks a few questions, but mostly lets his incredibly well-informed guest discuss at length.
“Lyle Goldstein [is a] research professor and founding director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College. [Note: Speaking in a personal capacity. Opinions don’t reflect in any way the official assessments of the US Navy or the US government.]”
At 02:00, Goldstein gives a great overview of the situation with China. Really strong. Worth watching.
At 19:00, Goldstein answers a question about the Xinjiang region. He talks about the initial terrorism that led to repression—though he hastens to add that the terrorism doesn’t justify the subsequent crackdown.
China is guilty of collective punishment of an ethnicity for the actions of the separatist movements. Many countries do this, including the U.S. In particular. In addition, the U.S. wholeheartedly and financially supports Israel in doing exactly this to Palestinians for decades. That the U.S. exaggerates China’s behavior by characterizing it as “genocide” is nakedly hypocritical and politically motivated.
At 19:50, he discusses Adrian Zenz, the unhinged “researcher” behind much—if not all—of the information used by western media to justify their campaign against China.
“Goldstein: What do they do in the [camps]? Well, they sing patriotic songs and learn Chinese. […] The leap that has occurred from a few satellite photos and some stories from ex-pats to genocide is totally inappropriate. I think what you have here is a lot of people looking at this with ideological lenses, looking for something to beat up China on—and they found it. I’m not trying to sugar-coat this relationship. It’s bad out there. Unquestionably. I don’t think, if you looked at reservations for Native Americans in our country, I don’t know that the situation is any less bleak.
“Maté: Or the Gaza Strip, which Israel is occupying, with full U.S. support.
“Goldstein: There’s a number of places around the world where you can see this kind of terrible repression going on. I wouldn’t say that this is at all the worst of many repressions out there. I don’t think that this should be a major part of U.S.-China relations. And I really think that we’re probably making it worse for the Uighurs—and for the Tibetans and the Mongols and other people in China—by putting them at the center of the relationship. We’re putting them in the crosshairs. The Chinese respond by locking down even harder, by isolating them even more. And we should be seeking the opposite. We should […] open it up. If you worried about human rights in Xinjiang, you should support engagement.”
At 25:15, Goldstein points out how, in light of the hyperbolic accusations by the U.S. and allies, we are lucky that China and Russia remain the adults in the room and temper their response.
“There seems to be a realization in both Moscow and Beijing that, even if people in Washington want a cold war, this is not what they want. And that shows a lot of maturity and a lot of restraint and I think that’s quite admirable. Now, if we continue to push as hard as we can […turning the QUAD into a sort of NATO…] I think we could expect Russia and China to respond with a full-on alliance, maybe even including Iran. […] This would be a very foolish move on our part. We don’t want to go back to the 1950s.”
The feeling here is that the ball is in America’s court and it’s choosing to play as harshly as it possibly can. It wants regime change in China, which seems a gobsmackingly stupid and arrogant goal.
At 29:00, Goldstein says that, while Russia is tempering its response for now, it’s not going to sit by until it’s run over. They and China are hyper-aware of how dangerous the U.S. is—that it is important to call the U.S.‘s bluff early rather than let it spiral out of control.
“As I read the Russian press pretty much every night, I can tell you, Russia is on edge. They really are. I read their military press and they are convinced that there are drones—NATO and U.S. military drones—flying up and down along the borders and all around the borders along Ukraine, by Crimea. They’re watching the forces going in and out of the Baltics which, as you know, are within a hundred miles of St. Petersburg. They were concerned about what would happen in Belarus. And then the buildup up north, with the new tensions in the arctic. Now we have B1 bombers flying into Norway—this is totally unprecedented.
“Look, I lived in Russia. I speak Russian. I can tell you, Russians, I think—it’s a stereotype, but it’s quite true—is that they’re quite paranoid. But if you look across their history, of course they’re paranoid. By the way, Chinese are quite paranoid as well.”
But it’s not like the Americans aren’t paranoid. Americans see a threat literally everywhere, even where there is literally none. They manufacture threats to be afraid of. Their paranoia is rooted not in being in actual danger, but it in being in danger of losing out on potential wealth, influence, and power that would accrue to someone else, someone undeserving.
At 30:30, Goldstein talks about how we should all be working together to combat climate change instead of starting fights like it was the mid-20th century.
“Russia’s defense budget is […] well under 10% of the NATO total defense budget. […] And nobody’s talking about this, but we need Russia’s help on climate change. And not just because Russia’s a big place where we could plant trees, but because they’re selling a huge amount of fossil fuels and we need them to slowly, slowly, de-link their future from that.
“That’s going to an incredibly arduous process and that’s what we should be working on. And not building up more and more nukes and stimulating dangerous situations all over the place. We’re talking about from Syria to the Caucasus to Ukraine, Moldova, to the Baltics, to the Arctic, we are full up in a very dangerous space with Russia.
“The Ukraine situation remains very hot and you can see both sides [Ukraine and Russia] are girding for possible return to active military hostilities. […] You don’t want to drive the bear into a corner.”
At 36:25, Goldstein talks about how the U.S. would be making a huge mistake to assume that China and Russia’s tempered response thus far is a sign that they aren’t prepared for the U.S.
“They’ve gotten rid of so many arms-control treaties over the years. […] The point is, this isn’t a new thing. For 20 years, they’ve been convinced that we’re out to get them. Between NATO expansion and demolishing all these arms-control treaties.
“Now China? It’s going to be very hard to get China in, because China is substantially weaker on the nuclear front. […] Right now, China is—I hate to say it—preparing for the worst. And, believe me, they will have their nuclear deterrent. It will be very solid at that moment when the balloon goes up over Taiwan. […]
“We need to pull back from brink with China and we need to start building some good feeling that could be a good basis for starting to talk about arms control. It’s going to be very hard to get there, though, especially by pulling out of the Iran deal, by being so truculent on the North Korea front. […]
“Believe me, in Moscow and Beijing, they’re planning as if the U.S. can only be deterred … only “speaks the language of force” […] That’s increasingly how we’re viewed around the world, which is a very—from the point of view of global stability, nuclear stability, but also just preventing wars. It’s a very dark place to be in. Work is cut out for diplomats, but also for journalists […] to try to pull us back from the brink in these very difficult times.”
Since I listened to that interview, there have been regular news reports that are increasingly worrying. In the following section, I’ll just summarize using news reports.
From the article US sends two warships into the Black Sea as Russia warns of “full-scale hostilities” with NATO-backed Ukraine by Clara Weiss (WSWS), we learn that the U.S. took a nearly unbelievably provocative step. Can you imagine any other country—allied with Canada, as the U.S. is with Turkey—sending warships into Lake Superior as a “show of force” against the U.S.?
“Last Friday, Zelensky met with US president Biden, who assured him of full US support against Russia. In response to these provocations, Russia has amassed troops on the borders to Ukraine, announced military exercises and is reinforcing its navy in the Black Sea.”
“In speaking of “Russian aggression,” the imperialist powers, Kiev and their lackeys in the media are turning reality on its head. It is Ukraine, backed by NATO and the US, not Russia, that has been systematically escalating the situation and pushing the region to the brink of all-out war.”
“Vladimir Putin’s government has given the West numerous warnings over the years that attempting to make Ukraine a NATO military client crosses a bright red line in terms of Russia’s security.” Carpenter warned that the situation could escalate into a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the US.”
The article Amid war danger in Black Sea, Turkey threatens Montreux Convention by Barış Demir (WSWS) tells us that Turkey is very complicit in helping NATO get it’s warships closer to Russia.
“Washington and Berlin responded with an attempted military coup against Erdoğan in 2016, while Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president. The coup’s failure further undermined Ankara’s relations with NATO.”
“Sections of the navy are objecting to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s talk of using plans for an Istanbul Canal to scrap the Convention, which limits warship deployments to the Black Sea. This could allow NATO to deploy warships from the Mediterranean, at will, to threaten Russia’s coast.”
The article U.S. Imposes Stiff Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hacking Operation tells of how the U.S. is not just moving militarily, but also at the financial level—tightening existing and already quite brutal sanctions on the Russian economy.
This is madness. Look at that headline: these are the words of war criminals. Naturally, the Times has to write that Trump gave Russia only “wrist slaps” because he failed to completely decimate the Russian economy. Thank goodness we’ve now got a firm hand on the rudder who will be willing to go the extra mile to really make the Russian citizenry suffer, as the U.S. is already doing in Iran.
The article US government strikes back at Kremlin for SolarWinds hack campaign by Dan Goodin (Ars Technica) chimes in with the standard formulation that, contrary to nearly all historical evidence, everything the U.S. claims about Russia’s activities is true, even when presented without a shred of evidence.
“US officials on Thursday formally blamed Russia for backing one of the worst espionage hacks in recent US history and imposed sanctions designed to mete out punishments for that and other recent actions.”
“Russian government officials have steadfastly denied any involvement in the SolarWinds campaign.”
“Besides attributing the SolarWinds campaign to the Russian government, Thursday’s release from the Treasury Department also said that the SVR was behind the August 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny with a chemical weapon, the targeting of Russian journalists and others who openly criticize the Kremlin, and the theft of “red team tools,” which use exploits and other attack tools to mimic cyber attacks.”
Sure, why not? As long as you’re making baseless accusations against an official enemy, just pile it on. It costs them literally nothing.
“Three weeks ago, Ol’ White Joe called Vladimir Putin “a killer.” This week, Ol’ Joe called Vlad on the phone and suggested a friendly in-person meet-up in some “third country.” In the meantime, Ol’ Joe essayed to send a couple of US warships into the Black Sea to assert America’s interest in Ukraine, the failed state whose American-sponsored failure was engineered in 2014 by Barack Obama’s State Department. Turkey, which controls the narrow entrance to the Black Sea, was notified that two US destroyers would be steaming through its territory. Hours after the announcement, the US called off the ships. Then, hours after Ol’ Joe proffered that summit meeting, his State Department imposed new economic sanctions on Russia and tossed out a dozen or so Russian embassy staff. How’s that for a coherent foreign policy?”
“[…] the mentally weak Joe Biden is merely projecting the picture of a weakened and confused USA […]”
I think that sounds about right. I can’t imagine what the Russians really think about the U.S.‘s foreign policy right now. As Goldstein pointed out above, they’re understandably concerned and cannot completely ignore U.S. blustering—no matter how incoherent.
Trump embodied the belligerent, unsophisticated, ignorant, lowbrow asshole/bully that America has always been. Biden embodies what comes after: the senility of an empire that was already ineffective but, in not even realizing it, evinces that character even more with every bewildered lurch.
“[…] the blundering team of Sec’y of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who went to Alaska recently to tell the Chinese delegation that they were morally unworthy of conducting trade negotiations, thereby torpedoing the trade negotiations that they went to Alaska to conduct. Smooth move fellas.”
It’s hard to ascribe this ham-handed diplomacy to an “8-dimensional chess” strategy. Occam’s Razor suggest that these chronic war-hawks are just not good at dealing with countries as equals (diplomacy) because they don’t believe they have to and are unaware of how the world has changed since they last formed an opinion or learned a fact, about 30 years ago. Likely also playing a factor is their utter lack of morality or ethics or self-awareness—especially of their own hypocrisy. They don’t know and they don’t care. There will be consequences.
The article Bombast From Washington: Joe Biden’s Russia Sanctions by Gilbert Doctorow (Antiwar.com) takes us up to the present day.
“Were the sanctions intended to sabotage the call for a summit meeting? As a practical matter the sanctions will at a minimum postpone the setting of any date for a summit, and quite possibly end in the cancellation of any meeting. But I doubt this was the intent of the sanctions’ sponsors or of Biden himself. Rather it is a demonstration of the utterly ignorant and self-focused way that U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle propose to deal with the world.
“US policy is based on scenarios written by political scientists with the intellectual capacity and life experience of college sophomores.”
“Let us define this “position of strength” notion in very contemporary and instantly understandable words: it means the US knee on the neck of a supine Russia. “I can’t breathe” is the only response that these militants want to hear from the Russians before they sit down and talk about the way forward in mutual relations.
“This is precisely what Russia under Vladimir Putin resists tooth and nail, saying that Russia will negotiate only under conditions of mutual respect and equal treatment of national interests.”
In the Oliver Stone interviews, Putin repeatedly says that it is clear that the U.S. does not see any other country as any ally or trading partner, but only as “vassals”.
“The sanctions were bombast, which Google Search defines as “high-sounding language with little meaning, used to impress people.” The ‘free world’ and ‘democratic values’ defenders who pack the Biden administration are big talkers and cowardly actors.
“The Russians understand that very well, even if it eludes nearly all American commentators. The Russians point to the decision taken by the US on Tuesday NOT to send its two warships into the Black Sea, as had been previously announced. Instead the vessels turned back before entering the Dardanelles and were sent to Cyprus to do some unspecified repair work.
“[…advisors from the Pentagon] knew that the Russians could and would, if necessary, neutralize the two US Navy vessels in a matter of minutes by electronic warfare weaponry.”
“[…] there is absolutely no sense to convene a U.S.-Russia summit at present or in the foreseeable future. It will resolve nothing.”
In the postscript to his article, Doctorow included a list of the details of the Russian response to the sanctions:
- U.S. diplomats now limited to 25-mile radius of their station (instead of unfettered access to the Russian Federation (RF))
- U.S. missions not allowed to hire “Russians or third-country nationals”
- U.S.-sponsored NGOs and foundations must leave the RF
- Barred some high-ranking U.S. citizens from entry (e.g. Susan Rice and John Bolton)
- “[P]ublicly recommended that the US ambassador to Russia go home for extended consultations”
Russia is clearly indicating that, if the U.S. does not want to have discussions on an equal and diplomatic footing, then Russia is not interested in discussions at all. Russia doesn’t need the U.S. for anything. It is, of course, very wary of the damage that the U.S. could cause, but it has long since planned and executed alternatives with allies like China and Iran, with which it is forced to collaborate.
Russia still reaches out to Europe a bit more—in particular Germany and the eastern states—which, although willing to work on large infrastructure projects like Nordstrom II, generally gives the cold shoulder in public. This two-faced attitude is at least partially in order to appease its ally the U.S., but also because of what is clearly a deep-seated prejudice against Russia.
The article Amid mounting tensions, US imposes sanctions on Russia by Clara Weiss (WSWS) has some information about the fallout from Biden’s loopy behavior. tl;dr: Russia probably won’t summit with Biden and Ukraine says its going to look for nukes on the open market if NATO doesn’t give it some. Fun times!
“The alliance, which has aggressively expanded to Russia’s borders over the past three decades, and has backed multiple coups in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, hypocritically called on Russia “to cease immediately its destabilising behavior.””
“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in the light of the sanctions a summit between Biden and Putin, which Biden had proposed on Tuesday, would not happen anytime soon, but did not rule it out entirely either.”
“On Thursday, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, threatened that if Ukraine is not soon admitted to NATO, Ukraine would be forced to “rearm on our own.” Speaking to Deutschlandfunk, he said that the Ukrainian government was “considering” the acquisition of nuclear weapons.”
Just a week later and we’re on to the next stages. The article Vladimir Putin warns against further anti-Russian provocations by Andrea Peters (WSWS) covers Putin’s annual “state of the union” address to Russia.
“With Russia and US-allied Ukraine on the brink of war, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in his annual address to the nation on Wednesday that “the organizers of any provocations that threaten the fundamental interests of our security will regret what they have done in a way that they have not regretted for a long time.”
“Stating that thus far Moscow has tempered its response to “unfriendly actions” by foreign nations and continues to seek healthy relations with these powers, Putin added, “We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone interprets our good intentions as indifference or weakness and they themselves intend to burn or even blow up these bridges, they must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetric, rapid, and tough.””
These remarks are presumably aimed at not only at Zelensky in Ukraine, but also at the maniacs in Washington.
“Even as he confronts a serious geopolitical crisis to Russia’s west, the Russian president devoted more than eighty percent of his speech to domestic issues, in particular the coronavirus and the economy.”
The rest of the article is an interesting analysis of the domestic situation in Russia. It is not rosy, as the country is still largely an oligarchy and Putin makes promises about improving things that’s he’s rarely kept, even partially.
On the other side of the border, President Zelensky says Ukraine “ready” for war with Russia as tensions mount by Jason Melanovski, Clara Weiss (WSWS), the rhetoric is unhinged, with Zelensky of Ukraine sounding more and more like Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia back in 2008.
“[m]ounting tensions in the Black Sea region, President Volodymyr Zelensky declared on Tuesday night that Ukraine is “ready” for war with Russia. He warned that the country would “stand to the last man” in the event of a war.”
Fantastic. Armed to the teeth by the Americans (“[…] over $2 billion in military aid and equipment it has received from the US since ”) and full of stupid bravado.
“On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba revealed that he had asked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide Ukraine “powerful means of electronic warfare” for its stand-off with Russia. He also said that he had called upon EU Foreign Ministers to cut Russia off the SWIFT system […]”