As US President Joe Biden’s domestic “build back better” agenda faces major challenges in Congress, he appears to have taken his scheme to the international stage in an effort to better rebuild America’s global alliances.
Biden, who campaigned to undo the political and strategic damage wrought by his predecessor, has more leeway to maneuver internationally, as U.S. commander-in-chief, than domestically, where Congress and state governors wield great power.
It also helps that deeply polarized Democratic and Republican leaders are united behind his vision and determination to “restore America’s global leadership” vis-à-vis a more belligerent Russia and a more assertive China.
What better way to rebuild transatlantic alliances than to whip European allies into a frenzy by warning them of Russia’s ‘slashings’ of Russia in Eurasia and its impending invasion of Ukraine and preparing to deploy US troops in Eastern Europe ?
And what better way to rebuild trans-Pacific alliances than to whip Asian allies into a frenzy by upping the ante with China and warning of possible Chinese intervention in Taiwan?
As part of this strategy, Biden appears to be exaggerating the war scenario domestically and internationally, despite the Kremlin downplaying it. It’s not deterrence, not by any stretch of the imagination.
It’s almost as if Biden is challenging Russia to go ahead and do it, invade!
Such an approach may have been a smart strategy against, say, Iran or Venezuela, but it may prove unwise against nuclear powers like Russia and China.
To be sure, Moscow and Beijing have taken aggressive steps in their quarters to cement their influence, which the West has taken as justification for adopting preventive measures, such as raising the diplomatic temperature, building coalitions and l issuing threats of sanctions.
But pushing Russia and China into a corner at the same time leaves little room for serious diplomacy. Such attempts at “double containment” were attempted and failed against the much weaker non-nuclear powers Iraq and Iran in the 1990s. of the “axis of evil”, which also turned out to be a senseless disaster.
When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva last month, he looked suspiciously like his predecessor, James Baker, having met his Iraqi counterpart, Tariq Aziz, in the Swiss city three decades earlier.
Like Baker, a confident Blinken said the talks were “not negotiations”; they wanted to inform, not threaten, and warned of another terrible miscalculation while emphasizing the need for a peaceful outcome.
The United States has waged two wars against Iraq and kept Iran under sanctions for decades at terrible cost to all three nations, sowing further instability, insecurity and causing Iran to seek the status of nuclear power.
Needless to say, Russia is neither Iraq nor Iran. Nor is the United States today the same world power it was in 1991 – not after the fiasco of its second war against Iraq in 2003 or its humiliation in Afghanistan.
Washington is not seeking UN Security Council approval for war, nor would it send 500,000 Americans, or any number of troops, to liberate Ukraine or Taiwan.
He may have succeeded in putting the Ukrainian issue on the agenda of the UN Security Council earlier this week, but his motion was flatly rejected by Russia and China, making it nothing more than a public relations exercise.
Meanwhile, no Western leader has shown more enthusiasm for Biden’s maneuverings than British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is trying to distract from the ‘Partygate’ scandal and fighting to keep his job after being once again deceived the British public.
Johnson’s irresponsible enthusiasm for escalation in Ukraine has alarmed his European counterparts in Paris and Berlin, who prefer quiet diplomacy to public pomp and warmongering.
Indeed, as tensions over Ukraine escalate, there are signs of the same Western discord along the Anglo-American and Franco-German axes as in the run-up to the 2003 Gulf War. .
For these European powers, Biden’s enthusiasm for an assertive NATO is no less, if not more worrisome, than his predecessor Donald Trump’s indifference to the alliance. Indeed, his tight embrace gives the impression of strangling.
If Trump’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin has emboldened the Russian strongman, Biden’s frenzied hostility is pushing him into a dangerous corner. Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is reeling from all the American talk about war and, much to Biden’s chagrin, is calling for calm.
Biden is betting this scaremongering approach would be a win-win: If Russia pulls out, it’s a strategic victory for him, and if it invades, as he predicts, he’d be seen as a far-sighted strategist, who has dismissed the appeasement.
But Europeans understand all too well that Putin’s Russia is not Nazi Germany and reject any misleading comparison between Russia’s diplomatic engagement and Germany’s appeasement in World War II.
The lesson of Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea is not that appeasement doesn’t work, but rather that sanctions don’t work when big nations pursue their national interest. And just so Biden doesn’t forget, Putin is a master geopolitical chess player.
Sanctions have largely failed against Iran and may well fail against Russia as well, where support for Putin’s challenge is high.
In fact, none of the last three US presidents, Bush, Obama and Trump, has been able to deter Russia from acting offensively in its immediate environment and beyond, including in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria. , especially when the Kremlin claimed to be acting defensively or responsibly. against Western adventurism.
Putin may be nostalgic for the days of the Soviet Empire, but make no mistake, it was the Soviet Union, not “the allies,” that actually defeated Nazi Germany, who “ drowned in Russian blood”.
Russians have a long and tortuous history with the West and remain bitter at Western attempts to break up their country and sell it cheap after the Cold War. They feel betrayed by the United States, which promised not to expand NATO beyond a unified Germany, but ended up pushing to Russia’s western borders.
So, no, it’s not all about Putin, no matter what one thinks of the populist strongman and no matter what the establishment and the American media have to say. In fact, both have a long history of reducing the feelings and complex grievances of other peoples to the eccentricities of their leaders, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Fidel Castro of Cuba etc.
Yes, Russia has historical and legitimate reasons to ask NATO to stop its expansion, just as Ukraine has its own legitimate security concerns and has every right to be independent and free.
To end the Cuban Missile Crisis and avoid the risks of a devastating war, 60 years ago Moscow gave up its missile deployment on the Caribbean island and, in exchange for Washington, recognized the sovereignty from Cuba. They can do it again.
If they really want to avoid another major crisis, Biden should end NATO’s eastward expansion and Putin should recognize Ukrainian sovereignty.