Biden in a Bind
US President Joe Biden is in a bind. Despite beating the war drums on Ukraine and breathing fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell Russian blood in my personal victory and that of America, things are not moving in the direction he wants. The UNSC meet on Ukraine demanded by the US ended without a breakthrough as expected, leave aside cowing Russia down as the US wanted. Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya accused the West of whipping up tensions (same as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had said earlier since it affected Ukraine’s economy) and provoking escalation.
American ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia of attempting to paint Ukraine and the West as aggressors to fabricate a pretext for attack. India rightly abstained from voting at the UNSC, calling for protecting legitimate security interests of all countries
The US has a long list of sanctions ready and NATO is on ‘action stations’ for Russia to attack Ukraine. But Russian President Vladimir Putin is not obliging. With midterm polls in the US scheduled on November 8, 2022, and Biden’s ratings at home the worst with 56 percent voters unhappy with his handling of COVID-19 and the economy, he would like war where he can impose sanctions and use NATO.
In a press briefing on February 1, Putin accused the US of trying to drag Russia into war over Ukraine but ignoring Russia’s key security concerns. He said, “Washington’s most important task is to contain Russia’s development. Ukraine is just an instrument of achieving this goal. It can be done in different ways, such as pulling us into some armed conflict and then forcing their allies in Europe to enact those harsh sanctions against us.” at the same time, Putin said he is willing for the talks to continue.
As Russia-Belarus exercises continue, Biden has ordered 3000 troops to Eastern Europe in a bid to tickle Russian red lines more. The US would love to know what is conspiring at the tête-à-tête between Putin and Chinese President XI Jinping at the Beijing Winter Olympics but even Pegasus cannot help in this. But according to Yuri Ushakov, advisor to Putin, China supports Russia’s initiative on security guarantees in Europe and shares Moscow’s position that the security of one state cannot be ensured by inflicting damage on another country. Ushakov has also said Putin and Jinping are scheduled to adopt a joint statement on international relations in the new era following talks in Beijing.
George Frost Kennan is best known for formulating the American policy for “containment” for fighting the Cold War (1947-1989). But the Congressional Record, Volume 144, Issue 19 (published March 3, 1989) titled ‘NATO ENLARGEMENT: A HISTORIC BLUNDER’ makes interesting reading, gist of which is as under:
• Thomas L Friedman wrote a powerful critique in the New York Times in what he called “fumbling on NATO expansion” referring to a George F Kennan letter in the spring issue of The National Interest warning that that NATO expansion is a historic blunder. Kennan’s letter was in response to an article by Owen Harries, editor of The National Interest, on “The Dangers of Expansive Realism”.
• It is surely a rare moment when three respected commentators on foreign affairs, and in Ambassador Kennan’s case, a participant of historic standing, each of quite distinctive points of view, come together in such strong agreement. In an article in The New York Times of February 5, 1997, Ambassador Kennan stated that “expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.”
• Last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put on a shameful performance. Senators Jesse Helms, Joe Biden & Co. rolled over like puppies having their bellies rubbed when Clinton officials explained their plans for NATO expansion by dodging all the hard questions. It’s too bad CNN couldn’t entice the Clinton team to go out to Ohio State again and hold a town meeting on NATO expansion.
• “Why is America’s PR campaign for NATO expansion being funded by US arms sellers, who see NATO expansion as a market? See The National interest containing the letter from George Kennan, the architect of America’s cold-war containment of the Soviet Union and one of our nation’s greatest statesmen. Kennan says NATO expansion is a historic blunder. What do you all know that he doesn’t?”
• “I have the greatest respect for Mr. Kennan, but our team has its own Russia expert, Strobe Talbott, who speaks Russian, has written books about Russia, and some of his best friends are Russians. He couldn’t possibly be anti-Russian, and he’s for NATO expansion.”
• “Excuse me, but didn’t Talbott write the first memo to Secretary of State Christopher ‘opposing’ NATO expansion?”
According to General Keith Kellogg, who served as the acting US NSA on the resignation of General Michael Flynn, “Ukraine is Europe’s problem, not ours. So, why is Biden focused on a fight that’s none of our business, instead of tackling the true threat from China? Putin has dragged Biden away from the top issue: The rising and increasingly emboldened threat of China”. But had the US focused on China, China would not have militarized the South China Sea taking its own sweet time.
Interestingly, George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundation wants Xi Jinping to leave the post of head of state. Speaking at Stanford, he said, “This will remove the biggest threat that open societies face today, and they must do everything in their power to encourage China to move in the desired direction.” He warned that Xi Jinping is using the 2022 Olympics in the same way Third Reich Führer Adolf Hitler did in 1936 “to win a propaganda victory for his system of strict control.” In June 2021, Nikki Hailey too had warned that China is hell-bent on world domination and the Winter Olympics in Beijing must be boycotted.
What can the US really do when it has not even been able to nail China for biologically bombing the world with the Wuhan Virus in 2020? Nothing really, with recent revelations that Anthony Fauci had been told in a secret teleconference that the CCP virus had very likely leaked from a laboratory in China, yet he still pushed the alternate narrative that it had originated naturally. Evidence suggests Fauci actively shaped a highly influential academic paper first published on February 16, 2020, later being published in the science journal Nature, which excluded such a possibility. The article, titled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2’” was co-authored by five virologists, four of whom joined Fauci in a February 1, 2020, teleconference. China anyway has the IMF and WHO also in its pocket.
US administration officials now say they will cut Russia off from its vital supply of semiconductors if it invades Ukraine. Such a move will seriously affect the Russian economy but would also damage US companies in the long run. While the US appears to dread taking up cudgels with China, its definition and differentiation from friend and foe is as supple as a thin Chinese bamboo. Witness the following:
• When India imported Tavor assault rifles from Israel in early 2000s, the US did not give permission for the American under barrel grenade launcher fitted in the Tavor to be exported to India.
• During the Kargil Conflict, the US switched off the GPS satellite to save Karachi from being blockaded by Indian Navy ships.
• Boeing has backtracked from its commitment from etablishing a High Altitude Engine Test Facility (HAETF) for US$315 million and a Trisonic Wind Tunnel Facility (TWT) worth $195 million in India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as part of its offset obligation for the 10 x C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift aircrafts that were ordered by the Indian Air Force for US$4.116 billion in 2011. 10 years gone with Boeing claiming the delay is on account of export restrictions by the US Government without indicating how long it would take for the US to approve export licenses.
• Eric Garcetti, before being assigned as the US Ambassador to India said that he would bring up human rights and discrimination as a “core” piece of his engagement rather than as an obligation and engage with NGOs and civil societies in India (destabilizing game?). Naturally he will refrain from discussing America’s worldwide human rights violations or for that matter the China-backed Pakistani genocide in Baluchistan.
• The outgoing US ambassador Kenneth Juster says that the Indian government may have to make “hard decisions” regarding its decision to purchase the S-400 air defence system from Russia – my, my this is so damn scary!
American actions over the past decades have raised doubts even among allies how reliable the US will be when the chips are down. There is also speculation how much NATO will physically commit should there be war over Ukraine. As for India, the earlier we become indigenously self-sufficient under ‘Make in India’, especially in vital sectors like semiconductors, the better.
What happens in Ukraine now? US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Russia should withdraw its forces from the border if it is not attacking Ukraine. Wish he would say the same to China too but won’t since an India-China war would enable the US to sell more arms to India. Biden may be thinking of imposing more sanctions on Russia citing mobilization of troops to up the ante even if Russia does not invade Ukraine. Next few weeks will be interesting. Meanwhile Biden has called for a UNSC meet on North Korea, hoping more sanctions would better his ratings at home.