NATO Ramps Up Rhetoric Against China & Russia. Is Biden Lead

Those old enough to remember when President Clinton's penis was a big news item will also remember the "Peace Dividend," that the world was going to be able to cash now that that nasty cold war was over. But guess what? Those spies didn't want to come in from the Cold, so while the planet is heating up, the political environment is dropping to sub-zero temperatures. It's deja vu all over again.

NATO Ramps Up Rhetoric Against China & Russia. Is Biden Lead

Postby admin » Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:22 am

NATO Ramps Up Rhetoric Against China & Russia. Is Biden Leading the U.S. into a New Cold War?
by Amy Goodman
DemocracyNow
JUNE 15, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/6/15/ ... ia_threats

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


GUESTS: Stephen Wertheim: director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute and a visiting faculty fellow at the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School.
LINKS
Stephen Wertheim on Twitter
"Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn't Love NATO"
"Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy"

China says NATO is adopting a “Cold War mentality” after the military alliance singled out China and Russia for criticism during a summit in Brussels. In its final communiqué, NATO leaders said, “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.” NATO leaders also criticized Russia and called on Moscow to withdraw troops from Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. Stephen Wertheim, a historian of U.S. foreign policy, says he is concerned that the Biden administration is “moving toward a quite hostile posture toward China and Russia simultaneously.” He also says policymakers need to urgently reevaluate the purpose of NATO, which he says could fuel greater conflict. “Is that really what the American people need for the rest of the 21st century?” he asks.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

China is warning NATO is adopting a “Cold War mentality” after the military alliance singled out China and Russia for criticism during the NATO summit in Brussels that just wrapped. President Biden successfully pushed NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to declare China to be a security risk for the first time. In its final communiqué, NATO leaders said, quote, “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order,” unquote. NATO leaders also criticized Russia and called on Moscow to withdraw troops from Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.

This is President Biden speaking in Brussels Monday.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is a growing recognition over the last couple years that we have new challenges. And we have Russia that is not acting in a way that is consistent with what we had hoped, and as well as China.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden spoke alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who also criticized China.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We are concerned by China’s coercive policies, which stand in contrast to the fundamental values enshrined in the Washington Treaty. China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a large number of sophisticated delivery systems. … NATO leaders called on China to uphold its international commitments and to act responsibly in the international system, including in space, cyber and maritime domains, in keeping with its role as a major power.

AMY GOODMAN: The Chinese Mission to the European Union responded to the NATO summit by saying, quote, ”NATO is slandering China’s peaceful development and misjudging the international situation and its own role,” end-quote.

Today, President Biden is meeting with European Union leaders before heading to Geneva for his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

We’re joined now by the historian Stephen Wertheim, director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute and a visiting faculty fellow at the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School, author of the book Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy. He has a new article in The New York Times headlined “Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn’t Love NATO.”

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Stephen Wertheim. Why don’t you talk about the NATO summit, this first-ever hit on China, in the way it was framed in the communiqué? Is President Biden leading to a new Cold War, both with China and Russia?

STEPHEN WERTHEIM: It’s nice to be with you.

I am concerned that, indeed, the administration may be moving toward a quite hostile posture toward China and Russia simultaneously. If it is doing so, it would be merely continuing a trend from the Trump administration, I must say.

That said, though I think you are right to spotlight what was most remarkable about the outcome of yesterday’s NATO summit — namely, the identification of China as posing, quote-unquote, “systemic challenges” to the so-called rules-based international order — I do think it’s actually quite worrying, as far as the European members of NATO are concerned. Europe has, for quite some time, been reluctant to cast China as a threat, for understandable reasons. Many Europeans, including the leading powers of Germany and France, don’t want to make a choice, economically or otherwise, between the United States and China or between the United States and Russia. And it has been the United States that has been most concerned about the threats from both countries. And so, I think the NATO communiqué reflects NATO’s desire to at least look like the European members are as concerned about China as the United States. But to the extent that the United States will indeed focus on competition with China, in the longer term, that heralds a turn toward Asia and, therefore, away from Europe.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Stephen Wertheim, I wanted to ask you about this whole issue of this systemic challenge. The last time I looked, the United States had 800 military bases and installations in about 70 countries around the world. And apparently, China only has four military bases anywhere in the world. They’ve got one in Argentina. They’ve got a small one in Djibouti, which is part of the whole international campaign against piracy. They’ve got one in Myanmar, and they’ve got one in Tajikistan. This doesn’t sound like much of a threat to NATO or to the United States. And we’re not even mentioning that Turkey has expended all kinds of military bases, as a member nation of NATO, all around the world in recent years. So, why is this obsession with presidents of the U.S., whether it’s Biden or Trump, in continuing to paint China as some kind of a threat — not an economic competitor, which it is, and a growing economic competitor, but as a threat?

STEPHEN WERTHEIM: Well, it is worrying for the reason you say. The language of systemic competition and challenge to the rules-based international order seems to lump all of the issues that China’s rise throws up. It lumps them together into one thing that seems to require a response in every domain. But China’s record militarily is vastly different from that of even the United States over the last few decades, I’m sorry to say. It’s not China that has scattered its troops all around the world on bases, as you say, or pursued missions to overturn regimes.

China’s behavior is very worrying in a lot of respects. And I do actually think that the United States and Europe have a lot to cooperate on in terms of setting standards for technologies, for digital, to set rules economically that might constrain Chinese action to cooperate on climate change. There’s plenty of things for the United States and Europe to do together. That’s valuable. And that will, to some degree, constrain Chinese action, and that’s a good thing.

But NATO is a military alliance. We have to remember that. And so, for NATO to be casting China in this way suggests that it does view China as something of a threat, although the NATO communiqué was careful to use the word “threat” toward Russia, but to use the lesser — less intense word “challenge” when it came to China.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’m wondering if you could comment on the G7, the new initiative they’re calling Build Back Better for the World, or B3W, as a possible alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, because I don’t think many people in the United States appreciate the impact that China’s Belt and Road Initiative has had in the developing world, and also, in the period of the pandemic, its efforts to export vaccines. I think it’s now — China has already exported 700 million doses to the rest of the world, which is about what the G7 is promising to do in the future. And it’s already, my understanding is, providing 20 million vaccinations per day to its own people. Whereas here in the United States we’re at 1, 2 million vaccinations per day, they’re doing 20 million per day. How does this, both the Belt and Road Initiative and its vaccine diplomacy, having an impact on how the rest of the world sees China?

STEPHEN WERTHEIM: We saw the G7 on Friday act as though it needs to really meet China’s activity in both of these domains — vaccines and development aid. And that could be a good thing if it ends up generating productive forms of competition, if it means that the G7 become more generous with their provision of vaccine doses, if it means that development aid becomes more plentiful, which it has not been, from the West.

This Build Back Better for the World thing is mostly a slogan or a hashtag at this point. It’s got an abbreviation, the three Bs or whatever it is, before it really has substance. So we’ll have to see what actually comes of it.

The worrying aspect, though, would be that rather than create a kind of a race to the top, we have a race to the bottom. And for the developing world, there are increasing strings attached, whether they make a choice between China’s aid or U.S.-led Western aid.

So, we need only to think back to the Cold War to think about what may be in store going forward, if indeed this kind of intense security competition, something like a Cold War, does set in between the West and China. On the one hand, in the Cold War, some members of the Global South were able to use their leverage, to use the interest of both sides to try to play them off each other and obtain more benefits. That could be good in certain circumstances. But then sometimes they found out that the superpowers were not pleased if they would take aid from one side, and such aid was cast as a threat to the other side and could lead to even the overthrow of governments.

So, at this early stage, I don’t think we know which dynamic will prevail, but I have to say that the G7 did not come up with a terribly impressive number of vaccines that the members pledged to provide to the international facility that will be distributing vaccines. It was under a billion doses. Many, many more doses are needed, multiples of that number, in order to vaccinate the world. Now, perhaps this meeting will generate some momentum and further gains going forward, but it disappointed a lot of people, and there was a lot of criticism from, you know, the former U.K. leader, Gordon Brown, and WHO officials.

AMY GOODMAN: You have, for example, in Trinidad and Tobago, the United States pledged something like 500 vaccines to Trinidad and Tobago; China, 200,000. But I wanted to ask you — in your piece in The New York Times, you write, “The danger of permanent subordination to America has started to register in European capitals, long solicitous of American commitment. President [Emmanuel​] Macron of France has accused NATO of experiencing 'brain death' and proposed creating an independent European army,” independent of the United States. Can you talk about this? While there’s a lot of backslapping and “Oh, we’re back together again” in this 72-year-old military alliance that Trump said he wanted to get rid of, you also have a lot of tension here between European leaders and the United States, especially in the push against the pushback against China and Russia.

STEPHEN WERTHEIM: Yeah, I think this is the main story, actually, of the NATO summit. The narrative that NATO wants to tell is about all these actions that will be taken against China and Russia, but very little under the surface was this notion that America’s commitment to NATO has come under question. And on both sides of the Atlantic, there’s a reckoning with whether the interests of the United States and the interests of Europe and its leading powers really do align so closely as to bind them into this military alliance.

And so, President Biden was intent on having a clear statement that America is back, and he repeated that America has a “sacred obligation,” “sacred” commitment — his words — to the collective defense provision of NATO. But this comes after, you know, not only the Trump presidency, but stirrings within European capitals to realize that, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it, Europe must truly take its destiny into its own hands. And now “strategic autonomy” has become the watchword in Brussels, where the idea is that, in some fashion, it would be that EU, independent of the United States, outside of NATO, that would become more of a force in security and military affairs. I think that’s quite a sensible idea at this point in history. And I think even Biden understands that his words about a “sacred” commitment matter much less than what America actually does, not just under his administration, but long after.

And in addition to that, I think we’ve come to a kind of inflection point in the history of NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s now very hard to see how NATO could possibly expand any further. And yesterday, the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, tried to send out a tweet that he had gotten these assurances that Ukraine would indeed become a member of NATO, which it’s been on a path to becoming — a very slow path, we should say — since 2008. And Biden was not very thrilled with that, it seemed, from the subsequent press conference, in which he said, “Well, Ukraine has to meet its obligations to become a member. We’ll see.” You know, the jury is not out, essentially. And I think we have come to a point where it’s just very implausible, frankly, that Ukraine and Georgia would become NATO members and really pose a risk of direct conflict with Russia.

So, what the Biden administration has not done is close the door on further expansion of NATO. And that might be, frankly, a valuable step, not just for the United States and for the other members of NATO, but even for Ukraine itself, which is hoping for membership, but I fear it’s being led down a false path, because the fact is that Germany and France oppose Ukraine’s membership. They oppose it for very good reasons, because it risks conflict and further conflict, given that there is an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

AMY GOODMAN: So, president —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’m wondering —

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I’m wondering — back in October, you wrote a piece headlined “America Has No Reason to Be So Powerful.” And I’m wondering what the — given the fact, as I mentioned before, this continued huge military footprint of the United States around the world, once you have such a humongous military-industrial complex, it must always find enemies, doesn’t it, to be able to justify its continued existence? And to what degree can the public, or even some political leaders, break away from this sense that the United States must be the policeman of the world?

STEPHEN WERTHEIM: I share that concern. And I think the fact that the United States had built up not just its military-industrial complex domestically, but also its relationships and military positions globally, that explains a lot of the kind of inertia that we saw after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when you would think that the reason for being of this massive national security state had gone away.

That said, I think we are seeing stirrings, at least, of change over the last decade or so. Everybody has to understand now that we are no longer living in the unipolar moment of the 1990s, when the United States was utterly dominant. Through that decade, it could cut its defense spending as a percentage of GDP only to emerge in a more unrivaled position than ever before by the end of the decade. Well, the rest of the world has not exactly caught up, but other countries have asserted themselves, and China, most of all, has dramatically risen economically, with military growth to match its economic growth.

So, I think that, you know, most people in Washington, even if they don’t agree with some of what I write, understand that real change is necessary, and the United States cannot possibly continue to be the guarantor of about half of the world against the other half of the world where most of humanity are, thus turning that half into explicit or implicit threats.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Wertheim, I wanted to ask you about what’s about to happen on Wednesday. That’s the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva. In a new interview on NBC, Putin criticized the United States for placing troops near the Russian border.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] Imagine that we sent our troops into direct proximity to your borders. What would be your response? We didn’t do that. We did it in our territory. You conducted war games in Alaska. Well, God bless you, but you crossed an ocean close to our borders, brought thousands of personnel and thousands of units of military equipment. And yet you believe that we are acting aggressively and somehow you’re not. Just look at that: pot calling the kettle black.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to this and also this back-and-forth? You know, President Biden calling Putin a killer, then NBC asked Putin about that, he laughed. And then, when Biden was asked about Putin laughing, Biden laughed.

STEPHEN WERTHEIM: Well, I do think that both leaders are somewhat toning down their rhetorical barrages in advance of their summit, and that’s probably a good thing. I do want to give credit to the Biden administration and the president, in particular, for staunchly defending the value of diplomacy and making a point that the point of diplomacy is to meet with leaders of countries with whom we have issues; otherwise, we can pack it up, in terms of our diplomacy. So, that’s exactly right. And he’s trying to kind of tone down the, I would say, overheated rhetoric and personal rhetoric toward Vladimir Putin.

I hope that the summit will prove productive beyond the symbolism, which is not without value itself. But the broader pattern, I think, needs to be considered, of U.S. policy, where indeed the United States has placed troops and made defense commitments that now span most of Europe, going right up to the borders of Russia in the cases of the Baltics and with Ukraine having a path, a potential path, toward membership in the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

And it isn’t surprising, and indeed was predicted by many people, left and right and center, back in the 1990s, when NATO expansion was first put on the table and first endorsed — the Senate in 1998 held a vote to admit the first three new members of NATO. It was predicted at that time by many people — my piece in yesterday’s New York Times cites the Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, that the expansion of NATO would be seen by Russia, could not be seen otherwise by Russia, except as a threat to itself, even if, for some period of time, it wouldn’t have the capacity to respond, given its economic travails in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. And now that expansion has been taken, I fear, too far.

And so, we’ve created a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. And this is not to defend many of the actions that Russia has taken, including the annexation of Crimea, its support for separatists in the Donbas region of Ukraine, but, you know, wise diplomats and political leaders will understand how other countries view their vital interests and listen to those countries when they repeatedly make clear what those vital interests are. So, I fear that we’ve set ourselves on a path of a self-fulfilling prophecy in generating conflict. And what I worry about is that if the United States, in particular, doesn’t break this pattern, it sets us up for the next two, three decades — my lifetime, my children’s lifetime — to be, at best, involved in intense standoffs with Russia and China, and perhaps others around the world. And at worst, it sets us up for a great power war, for World War III. Is that really what the American people need for the rest of the 21st century?


AMY GOODMAN: Historian Stephen Wertheim, I want to thank you for being with us, director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute, visiting faculty fellow at the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School. We’ll link to your piece in The New York Times, “Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn’t Love NATO.” His book, Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy.
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Re: NATO Ramps Up Rhetoric Against China & Russia. Is Biden

Postby admin » Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:23 am

Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn’t Love NATO.
by Stephen Wertheim
The New York Times
June 14, 2021

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Mr. Wertheim, a historian of U.S. foreign policy, is the director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Even before today’s NATO summit, President Biden settled the most important question: He affirmed America’s commitment to defend the alliance’s 30 members by force. And despite divisions on many other foreign policy issues, his party stands in lock step behind him. To most Democrats, alliances symbolize international cooperation. Proof positive is that Donald Trump supposedly sought to tear them down.

Yet current progressive enthusiasm for NATO is anomalous. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, depriving NATO of its original reason for being, skeptics of the alliance included liberals as much as conservatives. In 1998, 10 Democratic Senators joined nine Republicans in opposing the first, fateful round of NATO enlargement, which would soon extend the alliance to Russia’s border.

Among the dissenters was Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. In between voting against the first Iraq war in 1991 and the second after Sept. 11, Mr. Wellstone warned that expanding NATO would jeopardize Europe’s hard-won gains. “There is peace between states in Europe, between nations in Europe, for the first time in centuries,” he said. “We do not have a divided Europe, and I worry about a NATO expansion which could redivide Europe and again poison relations with Russia.”

Events have proved him wiser than his party seems to think. The left has ceded criticism of NATO to the right, mistaking armed alliances for friendly partnerships and fixating on Mr. Trump’s rhetoric instead of his actions. (In the end, he reaffirmed every U.S. alliance commitment, embraced NATO’s expansion to Montenegro and North Macedonia, and beefed up U.S. forces in Eastern Europe.) It’s time for Americans to recover their critical faculties when they hear “NATO,” a military alliance that cements European division, bombs the Middle East, burdens the United States and risks great-power war — of which Americans should want no part.


At first, the United States figured it could enlarge its defense obligations under NATO because doing so seemed cost-free. Throughout the 1990s, post-Soviet Russia lay prostrate. The United States, by contrast, could trim its military spending only to enjoy greater pre-eminence than ever. If the Soviet collapse made NATO seem less necessary, it also made NATO seem less risky. Warnings like Mr. Wellstone’s, voiced by many analysts at the time, sounded hypothetical and distant.

But they have gained credence as Russia objected, first with words, eventually with arms, to the expansion of an alliance whose guns had always pointed at Moscow. By 2008, NATO declared its intention to admit Georgia and Ukraine. Each had been a founding republic of the Soviet Union and had territorial disputes with Russia. For each, Russia was willing to fight. It swiftly occupied parts of Georgia. Once Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was overthrown in 2014, Russia seized Crimea, home to its Black Sea naval base, and backed separatists in the Donbas region.

The conflict in Ukraine continues, with no resolution near. Rather than use diplomacy to back an internationally negotiated settlement, the United States has preferred to arm Ukraine with lethal weapons. After decades of overreach, the Biden administration now faces a stark choice: commit to fight for Ukraine, creating a serious risk of war with Russia, or admit that NATO expansion has come to an overdue end.


Lacking an adversary of Soviet proportions, NATO has also found new foes “out of area” — its euphemism for waging wars in the greater Middle East. The bombing of Libya in 2011 was a NATO operation, signaling to war-weary Americans that this time the United States had real partners and multilateral legitimacy. The war proved disastrous anyway.

NATO helped fight the forever war in Afghanistan, too. Seeking to support U.S. aims after Sept. 11, it undertook “our biggest military operation ever,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg boasted in March. Two decades later, European soldiers are leaving, having failed to remake Afghanistan but perversely succeeded in making NATO seem relevant. Absent the Soviet threat, as Secretary General Stoltenberg admitted, the alliance has had to go “out of area or out of business.”


At least the Middle East contains the real, if receding, threat of terrorism, against which minimal military action can be warranted. But Europe is stable and affluent, far removed from its warring past. America’s European allies provide their people with world-leading living standards. They can also perform the most basic task of government: self-defense. In any case, Russia, with an economy the size of Italy’s, lacks the capability to overrun Europe, supposing it had any reason to try. If American leaders cannot countenance pulling U.S. forces back from Europe, then from where would they be willing to pull back, ever?

The danger of permanent subordination to America has started to register in European capitals, long solicitous of American commitment. President Emmanuel Macron of France has accused NATO of experiencing “brain death” and proposed creating an independent European army, an idea rhetorically welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. The watchword in Brussels these days is “strategic autonomy,” meaning autonomy from the United States. Europeans scarcely seek to disinvite American forces from their continent. Still, they are finding that cheap security from Washington carries mounting costs: dependence on an erratic superpower, pressure to restrict business with China and Russia, and division in Europe itself.


The real question is what Americans want. They could continue to fetishize military alliances as a “sacred obligation,” as President Biden characterized NATO on Wednesday. Or they could treat them as means to ends — and coercive means that often corrupt worthy ends.


For progressives who seek to end endless wars and prevent new ones, the matter of Europe can no longer be skirted. The United States can trust Europeans to defend Europe. Otherwise, it would seem that America truly intends to dominate the world in perpetuity, or until the day a war so great puts dreams of dominance to rest.

Stephen Wertheim (@stephenwertheim) is a historian of U.S. foreign policy, the director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and a visiting faculty fellow at the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School. He is the author of “Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Correction: June 15, 2021

An earlier version of this essay mischaracterized the status of certain areas of Georgia. Russia occupied those areas in 2008, but did not officially annex them.
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Re: NATO Ramps Up Rhetoric Against China & Russia. Is Biden

Postby admin » Fri Jun 18, 2021 4:07 am

Biden and Putin Agree to Begin Work on Arms Control & Cybersecurity in Effort to Avoid New Cold War
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
JUNE 17, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/6/17/ ... ms_control

GUESTS
Anatol Lieven: senior fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
LINKS
Anatol Lieven on Twitter

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva Wednesday for a three-hour summit and agreed to set up working groups to deal with nuclear arms control, as well as cyberattacks. The sides also agreed to send ambassadors back to their posts, restoring “normal diplomatic relations of a kind which exist between most countries on the face of the Earth,” says Anatol Lieven, senior fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “A more cooperative atmosphere has been established so that the U.S.A. and Russia can work together.” He also discusses ongoing tensions over NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe, American hypocrisy about its actions in other countries and how China’s rise impacts the U.S.-Russian relationship.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday for a three-hour summit. The two leaders of the world’s largest nuclear powers agreed to set up working groups to deal with nuclear arms control, as well as cyberattacks. Biden and Putin also agreed to send ambassadors back to their posts in the United States and Russia. In March, Russia withdrew its ambassador in Washington after Biden called Putin a “killer” during a television interview. The United States then pulled its ambassador in Moscow in April.

After their summit, the two leaders held solo news conferences. This is President Biden.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I did what I came to do: number one, identify areas of practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world; two, communicate directly — directly — that the United States will respond to actions that impair our vital interests or those of our allies; and, three, to clearly lay out our countries’ priorities and our values. So he heard it straight from me.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden went on to warn there would be, quote, “devastating consequences” if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died. Biden also warned the U.S. would use its significant cyber capability if Russia waged a cyberattack on critical infrastructure in the United States.

Putin described his conversation with Biden as “constructive.”

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] I believe that there was no hostility. On the contrary, our meeting, of course, took place in a principled manner. Our assessments on many points differ, but, in my opinion, both sides demonstrated a desire to understand each other and look for ways to bring their positions closer. The conversation was very constructive.

AMY GOODMAN: After Biden’s news conference ended, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins yelled a question to the president.

KAITLAN COLLINS: Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I didn’t — I’m not confident he’s changed his behavior. Where the hell — what do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident? I said — I said — what I said was — let’s get it straight: I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything; I’m just stating the facts.

KAITLAN COLLINS: But given his past behavior has not changed, and in that press conference, after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyberattacks, he downplayed human rights abuses, he even refused to say Alexei Navalny’s name — so, how does that account to a “constructive” meeting, as President Putin framed it?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden later apologized, saying to Kaitlan Collins — for being a, quote, “wise guy.”

To talk more about the Biden-Putin summit, we’re joined by Anatol Lieven, senior fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He’s the author of numerous books on Russia and the former Soviet republics, his most recent book titled Climate Change and the Nation State: The Case for Nationalism in a Warming World. It’ll be released as an updated paperback in September. He’s joining us from Doha.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Anatol Lieven. If you can start off by just laying out what you think was most critical about the summit that took place yesterday between Putin and Biden?

ANATOL LIEVEN: First of all, it restored normal diplomatic relations, of a kind which exist between most countries on the face of the Earth. Ambassadors have gone back. Hopefully, consular officials will go back. You know, ordinary personal exchanges will be restored. And, you know, that is of considerable importance in itself and helps open the way for other things.

Secondly, a more cooperative atmosphere has been established so that the U.S.A. and Russia can work together, as President Biden stressed, in areas where their common interests do actually coincide.

Afghanistan was mentioned. It was mentioned by both leaders in the context of terrorism, but, actually, after the U.S. military withdrawal, Russia and other neighbors of Afghanistan will be critical to the success of any peace process or any hope for stabilizing Afghanistan. So, that was very important.

And we saw the beginnings — I mean, only the beginnings, of course — of talks, which could in the future lead to agreement on further nuclear arms reductions. I mean, in principle, that should not be difficult. I mean, both the U.S.A. and Russia have far, far more missiles than they actually need. China has demonstrated you can have a perfectly credible nuclear deterrent with a fraction of those numbers. And equally importantly, has begun the process, or continued the process, of negotiation of a treaty on cyberspace. That will take a long time and will be very difficult — may not happen, but, you know, you have to start somewhere.

And finally — and I think that is very important — both leaders set out their red lines. At least we know Biden did, because he said so, you know, which is attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, cyberattacks, and if Navalny dies. But Putin restated Russia’s strong opposition to further NATO enlargement, and Russia has made it — well, has actually fought on a couple of occasions over precisely that issue. And Russia has made it clear that in the event of a Ukrainian military offensive against the Russian-protected separatist area of Eastern Ukraine, Russia will also fight. So, I think those are the main positive results of this summit.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Anatol Lieven, I wanted to ask you: In terms of how, especially here in the U.S., the media portray the relations with Russia as Russia being the aggressor and Russian aggression having to be stemmed, could you talk about how, from the Russian perspective, the continued expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviet bloc is seen as itself unbridled aggression by the West?

ANATOL LIEVEN: Yes. I mean, Russia sees NATO as a deeply anti-Russian organization. And, of course, Russia, like any country, deeply dislikes the idea of a hostile military alliance approaching its borders and taking over its neighbors.

Now, in the case of Ukraine, this is particularly sensitive, because, of course, Ukraine has a very large ethnic Russian minority. And Crimea, which Russia, of course, annexed — this has not been internationally recognized — in 2014, contains one of Russia’s most important and historic military bases at Sevastopol.

So, the Russians, for many, many years, made clear that they would react, if necessary, with force against NATO moves of this kind. There was absolutely no grounds at all to be surprised, therefore, by Russia’s reaction in 2014 to the Ukrainian revolution. And the Russians repeatedly use the phrase “Monroe Doctrine” to say that, look, you know, America has always been bitterly opposed, categorically opposed, to countries in Central America joining any anti-American alliance and has used extremely ruthless measures to prevent that during the Cold War.

So, it’s not necessarily that the Russians are, at least in private, claiming to represent a moral position, but they are claiming to represent a realist position. And they say that, in practice, that is what America does, as well, when its vital interests are threatened.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And speaking of a realist tradition, President Biden said — after the summit, he said, quote, “How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country.” And he was referring to Russia’s alleged interference in U.S. elections. Your reaction to President Biden’s statement?

ANATOL LIEVEN: Well, it’s not so much a question of my reaction. This kind of American statement causes hysterical laughter in Latin America, in large parts of Asia and, by the way, in Russia itself, where America brought very heavy influence to bear in the elections in the 1990s in support of Boris Yeltsin, who was America’s candidate, if you like. I mean, the suggestion that America has not interfered in other people’s elections, tried very hard to influence them, through every possible measure of propaganda and bribery, and, of course, in a good many instances, has supported coups to actually overturn those elections, as in Algeria, to take only one example, in 1992, or in Egypt, since then, in Chile, if you go back to the 1970s — I mean, this does indicate a kind of blissful lack of self-awareness on the part of President Biden, that, of course, really discredits him and America in the eyes of ordinary Russians, including many ordinary Russians who really dislike Putin and the Putin administration by now. You know, they are perfectly well aware of the corruption and the oppressiveness of that administration, but they regard this kind of lecture by the United States as just totally hypocritical.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to President Biden in his own words on this issue.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he has engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, the United States, as you just pointed out, has this long history of interfering. By one count from Carnegie-Mellon University professor Dov Levin, the U.S. interfered in 81 foreign presidential elections between 1946 and 2000, and that doesn’t include U.S.-backed coups and regime change. I wanted to go to the issue of — here is ABC reporter Rachel Scott questioning the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

RACHEL SCOTT: [The list of] your political opponents who are dead, prisoned or jailed is long. Alexei Navalny’s organization calls for free and fair elections, an end to corruption. But Russia has outlawed that organization, calling it extremist. And you have now prevented anyone who supports him to run for office. So, my question is, Mr. President: What are you so afraid of?

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] The United States has a law that spells out that the United States will support specific entities and organizations in Russia. At the same time, the Russian Federation was labeled as an adversary. They went on the record and said publicly that they will stymie the development of Russia. … We have labeled them as foreign agents, but we haven’t banned them. I mean, they can operate all right. If you’re labeled as a foreign agent, that does not preclude you from operating in the country. Well, if it’s an extremist organization, that’s a whole new story, whole different story. The organization in question publicly has called for riots and public disorder. It has openly instructed people on how to make Molotov cocktails.

AMY GOODMAN: So if you could address this issue of Alexei Navalny and what Biden said? And also, I mean, this was a summit between Biden and Putin, obviously president of Russia, where Ed Snowden is. He can’t come home to the United States for fear of being imprisoned for the rest of his life as a whistleblower. This is also the week, the 50th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers and the celebration of whistleblower Dan Ellsberg. And you’ve got Julian Assange wasting away in a high-security British prison as the U.S. refuses, the Biden administration refuses, to drop extradition requests against him to bring him to the U.S., where he faces over 170 years in jail. Anatol Lieven?

ANATOL LIEVEN: Well, undoubtedly, Russia, under Putin, has become much more authoritarian. And yes, I mean, opposition parties have, in effect, been banned. And leading opposition figures have been murdered, although we don’t have definite proof of who was responsible, but, naturally, there must be serious suspicions.

Now, that is not something that happens in the United States, I’m very happy to say. But you’re quite right. The U.S. record is not spotless. And I was, frankly, astonished earlier this year when Belarus forced down a plane in order to arrest an opposition journalist, something which, by the way, I deeply condemn and oppose. But if we’re talking of Edward Snowden, of course, the United States and its NATO allies did exactly the same thing to the presidential plane of the president of Bolivia, forced it down in Vienna in order to search that plane for Edward Snowden.

So, you know, in issues like this, in issues of election interference in other countries, I mean, here, this really is a case of the kettle calling — the American kettle calling the Russian pot black. On the other hand, I am glad that Biden did issue this warning to Putin about Navalny, because, I mean, it is actually true. If Navalny dies in Russian custody, the impact on relations between Russia and Europe, as well as Russia and U.S.A., will indeed be appalling. So, it’s just as well to tell President Putin that.


AMY GOODMAN: I should add — I was just talking about whistleblowers who are dealing with the United States — that Daniel Hale, who is also a whistleblower, who released classified information on drones and targeted assassinations, faces sentencing in July. And Reality Winner has just been released from prison, after serving years there for her release of information, her family calling for her to be pardoned. She wasn’t released into freedom, but into a halfway house. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to go back for a second to Afghanistan, how little was dealt with in terms of Afghanistan at this meeting of Putin and Biden, given the enormous impact that wars in Afghanistan have had in both countries. Obviously, Russia spent 10 years bogged down in a war — occupation and a war in Afghanistan against jihadist guerrillas, and ultimately was defeated and had to leave. And the United States has spent more than 20 years — 20 years now in Afghanistan. I’m wondering your sense of whether both leaders were, in essence, trying to avoid the issue.

ANATOL LIEVEN: I’m afraid it may be even worse than that. I think that there is by now a profound American lack of interest in Afghanistan. You know, to a considerable extent, the American establishment has given up on the place and is just anxious to get out and hopes that it will hold together for, if you remember the phrase, a “decent interval,” so that when it eventually collapses, people will not so much blame the United States or see it as an American defeat.

But, I mean, what it also illustrates, I think, is this tendency in Washington to believe that America must not just be involved in, but must lead every important process in every part of the world. And if America is not going to be there, it loses interest, and certainly has very little interest in coordinating regional countries.

Because, of course, the point is that America — we always knew that America would go home, sooner or later — I mean, we hoped, with better success than it has done in Afghanistan. But, you know, America lives — what? Seven thousand miles from Afghanistan? Russia is very close to Afghanistan. China, Iran, Pakistan are actually on Afghanistan’s borders. They will always be concerned with what happens in Afghanistan. They also have the same interests as the United States in combating ISIS and international Islamist terrorism, as does India. And they all fare the consequences of a new outright civil war in Afghanistan.

So, this was a real opportunity for America, through Russia, to talk to the region about coordinating future approaches, because without a regional consensus on Afghanistan, I am afraid that there will be no possibility of peace there in the future.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of Ukraine, again, this is a red-line issue in terms of Russia and the possibility of Ukraine entering NATO. What’s your expectation of how this will develop, whether NATO will keep trying to recruit Ukraine?

ANATOL LIEVEN: Well, it was very interesting, you know, yesterday — or was it the day before now? President Zelensky of Ukraine issued a tweet claiming that Biden had extended an immediate offer of NATO membership. That, of course, was not true. And it was an attempt, quite obviously, to trap the Biden administration into making this offer. Apparently, that was the reason why Biden’s first press conference in Geneva was delayed by two-and-a-half hours, while the U.S. administration or the Biden team formulated a response, which, once again, talked about the possibility in future of NATO membership for Ukraine remaining open, but made absolutely no actual commitment to that for the foreseeable future, because there are two basic facts which must be acknowledged.

The first is that NATO will not take Ukraine in as long as it has ongoing military conflicts with Russia, because that would point directly towards NATO having to go to war with Russia over the Donbas and Crimea. And, I mean, the very thought of that is ridiculous, you know, to risk nuclear war for separatist provinces of Ukraine. And in any case, any move in that direction would be vetoed by half a dozen European NATO members.

The second point to bring out is that the West will not fight for Ukraine. We didn’t fight for Georgia in 2008, despite many semi-promises. We didn’t fight for Ukraine in 2014. Despite this very loose and sloppy use of the word “alliance,” Ukraine is not an ally. It will not be saved by the West in a war with Russia.

So, I think the whole issue of NATO membership for Ukraine has become, frankly, empty and theoretical. This is a can which will be endlessly kicked down the road — continuing, by the way, to alarm and irritate the Russians, but not actually leading to anything in practical terms.


AMY GOODMAN: Can we talk about a subject that really wasn’t so much in the news yesterday, which was China? You have China’s military sending 28 warplanes to airspace controlled by Taiwan Tuesday — a record number since it began flying these sorties on a daily basis. In response, Taiwan scrambled jet fighters, activated defense systems, the tensions coming just a day [after] Biden successfully pushed NATO leaders to declare China to be a security risk for the first time. And behind the scenes, you have Europe pushing back on the United States, that although Biden said he doesn’t want to have a new Cold War with Russia, looks like he’s pushing for a Cold War with Russia and China. Talk about the country that wasn’t included in this summit.

ANATOL LIEVEN: Yes. Well, from a realist point of view, America, for the past 20 years, has violated fundamental principle of realism 101 — as, by the way, Henry Kissinger, the arch-realist, has discretely, diplomatically pointed out. It has driven its two main adversaries together instead of separating them. And instead of, as it did — you know, Kissinger and Nixon in the 1970s took China, the weaker communist state, and turned it against the Soviet Union, the stronger one. There would be many opportunities to take Russia and, if not turn it against China, at least keep it away from China. But that obviously is not going to happen as long as the United States and West extends NATO up to Russia’s borders. Russia is bound to see that as the principal threat.

The result is that Russia has been driven closer and closer to China, in a way, by the way, that makes a good many Russians, in private, pretty anxious — you know, this fear that, in future, Russia will simply be a kind of dependency of China. But as far as they can see, there’s not much they can do about it, given U.S. policy towards Russia.

I mean, on these NATO statements of China being an adversary, the European Union is much more important, because it’s a question of economic pushback against aspects of Chinese policy, against China buying up infrastructure, against China trying to dominate aspects of international communications, Huawei 5G. Now, there, the European Union actually does play a critical role, alongside the United States. And that’s why, of course, the Biden administration has devoted so much attention to getting the European Union onside.

But NATO, frankly, given its miserable performance in Afghanistan, and given that, Britain aside, the actual NATO offer of forces to sort of, if you like, side with America in the Indo-Pacific, amounts, to date, to one warship, one frigate or destroyer, at a time, that isn’t going to worry the Chinese. You know, NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It’s the ultimate backstop against Russian aggression into Western or Central Europe. But every attempt to extend NATO out of area has proved a failure. It’s just not configured for that. And one of the reasons it’s not configured for that is that most of the European countries — once again, exception of Britain and France — simply will not fight. You know, they won’t fight, in any circumstances, seriously. They are there to defend Western Europe. And in the unbelievable scenario that Western Europe was invaded, they would fight to defend their homelands. But you’re not going to get them to deploy seriously against China. It’s a nonissue.

AMY GOODMAN: Anatol Lieven, I want to thank you for being with us, senior fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, author of many books on Russia and the former Soviet republics, his forthcoming book, Climate Change and the Nation State: The Case for Nationalism in a Warming World.
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