Geo-Politics in Current US Media – The Cases of Russia and China

American Affairs, Volume VI, Number 2, Summer 2022

1. Geoffrey Cain, Ukraine versus Afghanistan – Lessons in National Solidarity
(Senior fellow at Lincoln Network and visiting fellow at National Security Institute at George Mason University)

Cain first describes Zelensky’s route to become President, starting as a comedian in Servant of the People and doing business on behalf of billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, who was considered by the US State Department involved in “significant corruption”. This was not unusual since Ukraine was “also ruined by mismanagement, kleptocracy, and poverty”, and violence was common, too, as was revealed when a former President, Leonid Kutchma, was heard on tape ordering the murder of a Ukrainian journalist.
The US meddling into Ukrainian affairs is mentioned in the case of US State official Victoria Nuland exclaiming “Fuck the EU” when helping to install a pro-US puppet government. The authoritarian nature of this pro-US government is shown with the 2017 education law that required Ukrainian to be the language of instruction from fifth grade on. Before, more than half the high school students had been taught in Russian as their first language. The literacy rate was 99.5%, whereas it was only 40% in Afghanistan where forty different languages are spoken.
2400 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Cain doesn’t elaborate much on the reasons why the US war there failed its objectives. He seems to put the blame on Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani Prime Minister in the nineties, who later admitted to have funded the Taliban together with Saudi Arabia. The US “pumped $5 trillion into this perilous political system” that they supported during 20 years of dominating that country.

2. Wolfgang Streeck, The EU after Ukraine
(Director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for the study of Societies in Cologne)

Streeck describes the world in geopolitical terms. The EU for him is an “engine of neoliberal reform, supply-side economics, and New Laborism”, and it is “firmly embedded in the American-dominated unipolar order”, a “regional microcosm of what came to be called hyperglobalization”, a close match of a Hayekian idea of an international federation, an isonomy, with identical market liberal laws in all states. This whole project is anchored within the global financial system dominated by the USA, and kept stable by roughly 40,000 US troops in Germany. This fact is seen by France as an obstacle to European sovereignty, and a hindrance to a closer “French-German European tandem”.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the US had the aim “to integrate the former Communist countries of eastern Europe into an American-led West.” “Making Europe through NATO take an adversarial position toward Russia would ensure European dependence on an alliance with the US in the bipolar world growing out of George HW Bush’s New World Order”. Thus the US “has put an end to any vision of an independent non-imperial, cooperative state system in Europe”. Streeck believes the US want all of European and Russia neighboring states join NATO. For their economic stability they should join the EU. This strategy is a preparation for the confrontation with China, the leading force in the creation of a multipolar world. The EU has to coordinate the sanctions regime against Russia but under the guidance of NATO and its strongest nation state, the US, which is already planning a war lasting several years. The logical “goal of the war is regime change in Russia”. The Europeans, being subordinate to NATO, find themselves “dependent on the bizarreries of the domestic politics of the US, a declining great power readying itself for global conflict with a rising great power, China”. The desastrious military adventures of the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Lybia with the record of incompetence and irresponsibility seem to be forgotten, at least by the media and the political elites.
Streeck doesn’t see a quick solution to the current conflicts, instead he sees “something like a stalemated phony war in Ukraine in the interest of the US seeking to build global alliances for an imminent battle with China over the next New World Order. Monopolar or bipolar in old or new ways, to be fought out in coming years…”

Harper’s Magazine, July 2022

1. Daniel Bessner, Empire Burlesque – What comes after the American Century
(Associate professor at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies)

In February 1941, shortly before Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and before Pearl Harbor, Republican oligarch Henry Luce demanded in an article called The American Century for global domination by the US. By the end of the 20th century the US indeed became a world-spanning empire. But two challenges emerged, one internal and one external. First, President Trump approached international relations as any corrupt businessman, he tried to get the most while giving the least. Second, the emergence of China has decisively ended the “unipolar moment”.
Bessner asks himself what comes next? “Are we doomed to witness the return of great power rivalry, in which the US and China vie for influence? Or will the decline of US power produce novel forms of international collaboration?

Two camps in the US foreign policy establishment emerged: First the liberal internationalists who want to defend the status quo, and second the restrainers who want to abandon militarism and who favor peaceful forms of international engagement in order to abandon “decades of hubris that has caused so much suffering worldwide”. For the liberal internationalists “peace is unthinkable”, the US will “remain on a war footing for the foreseeable future”. Bessner indicates that the US might have incited the war in Ukraine and with China it will be impossible to have it both ways, to challenge China without a shooting war or economic decoupling. The restrainers understand that the American Century is over. They want to reduce US presence abroad, shrink the defense budget, and restore Congress’s constitutional authority to declare war. This kind of policy was originally thought of already in the early years of the US, quoting John Quincy Adams “She goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy”. Of course, this idea of abstaining from “messianic projects” remained wishful thinking.

Restrainers included Senator Robert A. Taft. Currently they don’t believe it is in the interest of the US to fight WWIII for Taiwan. They point to the fiascos, the infamous wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq that resulted in millions of dead people. Bessner refers to historian Paul Thomas Chamberlin who estimates that at least 20 million people died in Cold War conflicts alone, and the killing didn’t end with the end of the Cold War. Of course, these numbers don’t deter the liberal internationalists. Their Manichaean model of geopolitics is both inconsistent and counterproductive. On the one hand they talk about democracy but on the other they align themselves with brutal dictators. Practically they follow the ideas of political scientist Hans Morgenthau, a theorist of the classical realist school of foreign policy, who maintains that nations have an animus dominandi, a will to dominate, to expand their sphere of influence to the limits of their power. Currently, they point to China as a state that wants to replace the US as the dominating world power, but Bessner contradicts their arguments by stressing that China doesn’t prepare herself for such an endeavor. However, the liberal internationalists are supported by about 90% of Americans. But, for how long?

Guenter Langer, RPB 10/08/2022