Part 2 of 4
Since WWII the realized position of hegemony in the world has given the U.S. great economic advantages and prosperity, resulting from this exalted status. This status has resulted in a global and foreign policy which is based on U.S. domination as a national security strategy.
The National Security paper central assertions since the turn of the century all but expunged the instinctive internationalization of Roosevelt and Truman. America’s global power must not be challenged, whereby the U.S. reserves for itself the right to decide who might be its enemies and how they are dealt with.
No other nation can be permitted to challenge U.S. primacy and as Woodrow Wilson stated during WW I, “There is one response for us, force, force to the utmost, force without stint or limit, the righteous and triumphant force which shall make right the law of the world.”
The Iraq war opened the Pandora box of the Middle East further which tremors are felt almost twenty years later and showed the differences of opinions about the absolutist direction of the U.S., expressed brilliantly at the U.N. by the French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, views which were supported by China, Germany, Russia and others, representing the views of the majority of the world.
The differences in opinion between Europe and the U.S. during the G.W. Bush years increased the divisions in the Transatlantic relationship, but were not limited to the “war of aggression” in Iraq, which was as the Nuremberg Tribunal noted in 1948 is an international war crime.
But these differences also spilled over in other areas such the assault on the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, his rejection of treaty based responses to climate change (Kyoto), withdrawal from the ABM treaty by the US together with Guantanamo which squandered away US moral authority.
They are a reflection of different views of democracy legitimacy within Western civilization and revolved around American unilateralism and international law. International law which the U.S. has helped structure during the last 50 years and with its actions in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq and Libya) during the last 20 years has severely damaged and most likely has led to the different perception and approach in Russia.
Contrary to the American belief American principles of freedom, liberty and democracy should be universal and be the shape of the world, these principles depending on the history and culture are not defined in the same way everywhere, let alone valued the same way relative to other political good such as equality, security, social cohesion and virtue.
With the war in Iraq both President George W Bush and PM Tony Blair shared the misconception that freedom and democracy are universal values of the human spirit and anywhere anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same. Freedom, not tyranny. Democracy, not dictatorship. The rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.
But humanity never has had, and likely will never have, a common culture. Therefore there will be differences which will have to be recognized and if possible accommodated.
These differences between Russia and the U.S were influenced by NATO enlargement, NATO 1999 Serbia war / Kosovo war, the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the MBA treaty, the 2003 Iraq war and the 2003-2005 support for the colour revolutions in what Russia considers it’s spheres of interests which all have added to the strain and seen from their perspective gave Russia cause to turn away.
The Russian perception which was made clear in the 2007 speech by Vladimir Putin at the Munich Security Conference addressing American unilateralism. In 2008 Russian officials emphasized that Ukrainian membership into NATO would be viewed as crossing the brightest of red lines.
The Russian position is not unlike President John F Kennedy stance during the 1962 Cuba crisis, staking his claim to its own sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere which understandable position brought the world on the brink of WW III because the U.S. did not accept Russia’s missiles on Cuba. Obviously U.S. interests are not limited anymore to the Western Hemisphere but have evolved over time, but there are different spheres of interests in the world and not all of them are American spheres.
Today unipolarity is over, the status of the U.S. as first among equals has been weakened, its ability to dominate others had declined and is being further threatened by the rise of China. As Henry Kissinger recently recognized the rise of China threatens U.S. supremacy and its strategic autonomy on the medium to long term, having consequences for all the privileges and economic advantages which have resulted from this status.
The rise of China can also effect the role of the U.S., of the international reserve currency and as a result the decrease of the inflow of foreign capital negatively influencing U.S. economy and prosperity. This in turn, could also affect its role in the international institutions shaped by the U.S., which are already changed by China’s increasing participation and influence.
If China can reach this status is not certain but depends if the fundamental problems the country has are addressed sufficiently. From the demographics, the middle income trap to the low water supply, flawed credit system and other earth shaking problems.
We Europeans should be cleareyed about the yearlong unbalanced position between European Union and the U.S and the present dysfunctional political institutions, society and consider the real possibility of disengagement when another more able and qualified authoritarian candidate comes along in the next U.S. election cycle also giving the authoritarian disposition of part of the American electorate.
Given the immense problems the country is faced with, Europe should be pragmatic and supportive but have no daydreams what President Joe Biden can accomplish in the short time given.
We should also not be blind to the disagreements with our American friends on assessment of the China threat and Europe should not get sucked into a contest between China and the US for global hegemony, this at a time that the President Biden administration vowed to pursue stiff competition with China.
As Henry Kissinger recently noted at the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum on global issues, “the strains of this conflicts between Washington and Beijing poses “the biggest problem” for the world, and a failure to improve relations risks a new “cold war” between the largest economies.”
This conflict could lead to an Armageddon clash with weapons which have the capacity to extinguish humanity in a finite period of time. Weapons given the advances made in nuclear technology and artificial intelligence in which machines have become a partner and machines can develop their own judgment.
A harbinger of the technological developments to come, capabilities which are so incredible, formidable and should give any reasonable person cause for pause.
Europe should remain open to co-operation and constant dialogue with China or Russia in order to finding areas of cooperation and be pragmatic for that matter when that is in Europe’s interests.
The European Union should be pragmatic and use its influence to ensure that both China and the U.S. use their power with restraint. This triangular relations between the three powers will have positive elements and also some elements of hostility.