By Prof Rodrigue Tremblay
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex… Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), 34th President of the United States, (1953-1961), (in his ‘Farewell Address’, Jan. 17, 1961)
“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” George F. Kennan (1904-2005), American diplomat and historian, (in his preface to Norman Cousins’ 1987 book ‘The Pathology of Power’)
“A nation cannot become free and at the same time continue to oppress other nations.” Fredrich Engels (1820-1895), German social scientist and father of Marxist theory, (in “Speech on Poland’, 1847)
Sometimes politicians like to sprinkle their speeches and statements with words like “diplomacy” and “peace“. This does not insure, in so doing, that they really mean what they say. In fact, such grandiloquent talk could be a cover-up for their real intentions, which may be the very opposite to diplomatic solutions and peaceful coexistence to solving world problems. In the realm of politics, actions count more than words.
A good point in this case could be what U.S. President Joe Biden meant when he said, during a talk at the State Department on February 4, 2021: “diplomacy is back at the center of our Foreign Policy.”
He repeated the same message a few months later, in a speech at the United Nations, on September 21, 2021, saying that “we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy“, and pledging that “we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.”
And to be well understood, Mr. Biden made the following commitment: “We must redouble our diplomacy and commit to political negotiations, not violence, as the tool of first resort to manage tensions around the world.” He even went on quoting the opening words of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “The equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom justice, and peace in the world.”
These were noble pledges.
The reality: The U.S. Government has largely abandoned multilateralism for a unilateral foreign policy mainly concentrated on NATO
However, what has really happened during the first three years of the Biden administration?
Following in the footsteps of a few preceding administrations, the Joe Biden administration has de facto abandoned the search for the common good of all countries within a multilateral approach. Indeed, far from actively leading the world with diplomacy in the hope of reducing military conflicts around the world, the Biden administration has embarked upon a bellicose foreign policy.
This is a policy inspired by neoconservative advisers, and it calls for increased military U.S. interventions abroad, on a permanent basis, outside of the framework of the U.N. Charter, which, it should be emphasized, was signed by all member nations. It has instead chosen to mainly pursue its foreign policy within the narrow framework of an increasingly offensive NATO.
Presently, there are two mainly U.S.-NATO-led proxy wars that are of immediate concern: a hot one in Ukraine directed at Russia, and one brewing in Taiwan and aimed at China.
In Ukraine, this has taken the form of the U.S. and other NATO countries shipping huge amounts of arms and equipment, and even some covert operations personnel, to that country neighboring Russia, including illegal depleted uranium weapons.
Even if public opinion in Western countries is still strongly behind the Russian-Ukrainian war, especially among the young and less among older generations, one of the consequences of the war, according to some polls, has been to isolate somewhat the United States and its NATO allies in certain parts of the world. In some countries, for example, notably in Asia, Africa and South America, the position seems to be “none of our business“.
Fall-outs from the American-NATO-led proxy wars against Russian and China
According to official propaganda, Russian embarked upon an ‘unprovoked’ war against Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. However, things are a bit more complicated, because the United States and NATO have been heavily involved in that unnecessary war since at least 2014, and credibly since 1991, as far as the U.S. government is concerned.
First of all, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, it is widely established through declassified documents that U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, and the representatives of important European nations, made a solemn commitment to Russia, on February 9, 1990, that NATO would not be expanded “one inch” into Eastern Europe—conditional to Russia’s acceptance of the reunification of the two Germanys.
Secondly, as professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago has often said (and I agree), there would not have been a Ukraine War if Joe Biden had not been in the White House. It was, indeed, President Biden’s insistence on having NATO expand to the very doorsteps of Russia, with missiles pointed toward Moscow, that was the main reason why Russia felt directly threatened and why it invaded Ukraine.
Even Pope Francis arrived at the same conclusion, that the main trigger of the Ukraine War was “NATO barking at Putin’s door.”
Thirdly, let us remember that it was the Obama administration (2009-2017), with then Vice-President Joe Biden involved, that bankrolled, to a large extent, the overthrow of the elected pro-Russia Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014.
This was clearly established by then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (a well-known neocon), who confirmed publicly, on December 13, 2013, that the U.S. government had invested $5 billion in Ukraine, under the pretext of ‘promoting democracy’, One may ask if it an accepted practice by democracies to overthrow elected governments?
Fourthly, published documents indicate that the policy of encircling Russia militarily, an act of war implicitly not allowed under the U.N. Charter, is a neoconservative idea originating from the Rand Corporation—a think-tank heavily financed by the military-industrial complex (MIC) and deeply involved in framing U.S. foreign policy.
Indeed, the policy of an aggressive military stand against Russia is well outlined in a 2019 report, entitled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia“. Therefore, when Defense Secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin said publicly, on April 25, 2022, that the Biden administration’s objective in Eastern Europe was to “see Russia weakened“, it was a clear indication that the Rand Corporation’s strategy of militarily encircling Russia had become the official foreign policy of the Biden administration, even at the risk of turning such a localized conflict into a global one.
That may be a reason why people in the know do not swallow the propaganda line that the U.S. and NATO are in Ukraine to “save democracy“. In fact, there is no democracy in Ukraine, since the Ukrainian government of Volodymyr Zelensky has abolished eleven political parties.
Failed attempts by third parties to bring peace to Ukraine
The above could explain why the Biden administration has been quick to turn down any attempt to prevent or to end the Ukraine War.
For example, even when it was still possible to avoid a conflict, on December 7, 2021, during a Biden-Putin direct phone talk, President Biden undiplomatically turned down demands to consider Russian security considerations and stop pushing NATO right to Russia’s border. [N.B.: It is relevant to remember that when the shoe was on the other foot, in October 1962, and the USSR wanted to place missiles in Cuba, at 90 miles from the USA, it was seen by the John F. Kennedy administration in Washington D.C. as an unacceptable breach of American security.]
The Israeli government and the government of Turkey both have attempted to mediate a peace between Russia and Ukraine, but without any success.
First, in the beginning days of the conflict, in early March 2022, then Israeli Prime Minister (June 2021-June 2022) Naftali Bennett attempted to mediate a speedy end to the Russia-Ukraine confrontation. He came very close to succeeding when Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped his demand to seek Ukraine’s disarmament and Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky promised not to join NATO. A bilateral peace deal was ready to be signed in April 2022.
Secondly, in March 2022, the Turkish government also tried to bring a peace agreement closer between Russia and Ukraine. After successful talks were held in Istanbul, between officials of both countries, the two sides agreed on the framework for a tentative deal.
Considering that both Russia and Ukraine were willing to make concessions and with peace deals close at hand, why did the Israeli and the Turkish attempts at mediation fail?
Former Israeli Prime Minister Bennett gave an answer: the Biden administration commissioned then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to go to Kyiv and sabotage any peace deal. Some Western powers saw it to their advantage that the war in Ukraine continue.
Not too surprisingly, the latest attempt to end the Ukraine War—China‘s 12-point peace proposal for a “Political Settlement for the Ukraine Crisis“, made on February 24, 2023—has so far also been derailed.
It would seem that those who planned for and ‘invested’ much in such a war do not wish to lose face. For one, President Biden has branded the Chinese plan (which calls for de-escalation toward a cease-fire in Ukraine, respect for national sovereignty, establishment of humanitarian corridors, resumption of peace talks and a stop to unilateral sanctions), as “not rational“.
While President Joe Biden has concentrated his efforts on fueling the fire of war in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to have filled the void and has developed the stature of a peace broker around the world.
In the end, considering the many parties involved in the conflict (Russia, Ukraine, United States, NATO, European Union), and their intransigence, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, threw in the towel and confessed, on May 9, 2023, that peace negotiations in Ukraine were “not possible at this time”. Warmongers are in charge in many nations, and no ceasefire can be expected at this time in Eastern Europe.
Flight from the U.S. dollar as a consequence of financial and economic sanctions
Holding financial assets denominated in U.S. dollars has recently become a risky proposition. Any government imprudent enough to do so exposes itself to political pressures from the U.S. government and, if it does not abide, its dollar assets could be arbitrarily frozen, unilaterally seized or simply confiscated. The list of countries so punitively ‘sanctioned‘ has been getting longer and longer each month.
One would think that an international currency should not be ‘weaponized’ in that way, unless one really wishes to destabilize the entire international monetary and financial system and create chaos in the world economy.
On April 16, 2023, even the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (1946-) mused aloud about the possibility of the U.S. dollar loosing its dominance in international finance and as a reserve currency.
Indeed, even if it is not easy, some countries have stopped settling their cross-border trade in U.S. dollars and are either using the Chinese Yuan, the Indian Rupee (INR), bilateral barter or their local currencies to do so. There are calls on the part of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to avoid using the U.S. dollar, as a response to unilateral U.S.-led financial and economic sanctions.
Such a movement to dedollarize global trade is an ominous development for international monetary and financial markets, with potentially enormous consequences, both monetary and economic.
In fact, the entire international monetary framework of the Bretton Woods System of payments, established in 1944 around the U.S. dollar (linked at the time to gold at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce), could be in jeopardy. Indeed, if the international payment system were to become more fragmented, the volume of international trade and the flows of capital movements could decline, and this could have a disastrous impact on the growth of the world economy.
As things stand now, despite efforts, hopes do not look promising for a quick resolution to the proxy war in Ukraine, and for lowering the escalating tensions over Taiwan.
First, if Great Powers hiding behind their veto at the U.N. Security council cannot contribute to peace in the world, they should at least not actively contribute to war. Unfortunately, in the 21st Century, the United Nations has become the carpet on which Great Powers wipe their feet.
Secondly, with its proxy wars, the U.S. government should realize that it is losing its moral ascendency and influence in the world. And it is evident why this is the case: the Biden administrations’s current neocon-inspired foreign policy of using NATO as its main instrument of intervention around the world, especially with its proxy conflicts with Russia and China, while snubbing the United Nations and its Charter, is shrouded with risks and may be a very bad idea.
Indeed, such a policy is isolating the United States and its NATO allies from the rest of the world. In the future, this could undermine their legitimacy, efficiency and influence outside North America and Western Europe. Pushed to the limit, such a development could result in unraveling the very international framework of global institutions that was established in the aftermath of World War II.
Thirdly, if one adds the persistent and threatening danger of a nuclear war to the equation, it would seem obvious to clear minds that a negotiated peace in Ukraine, in particular, should be preferable to a murderous and disastrous war, without ends, with few possible winners, other than arms dealers, and many losers all around.
Prof. Rodrigue Tremblay is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)
17 May 2023