A depressing amount of Washington’s foreign policy comes down to cash and the preferred route to commercial gain seems to involve hostility.
As the anti-democracy militias were preparing to storm and loot the Capitol building in Washington on January 6, in what one Republican legislator aptly described as a “banana republic” scenario, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Kenneth Braithwaite, announced that the Pentagon had produced a new Arctic Strategy paper detailing an aggressive policy which is unlikely to be altered by the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Domestically, the aggressive mobs at the Capitol had actually been encouraged by the current Washington administration. As the New York Times observed, “President Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress incited a violent attack against the government they lead and the nation they profess to love. This cannot be allowed to stand.”
The Times fulminated that “Mr. Trump sparked these assaults. He has railed for months against the verdict rendered by voters in November. He summoned his supporters to gather in Washington on this day, and encouraged them to march on the Capitol. He told them that the election was being stolen. He told them to fight. He told them he might join them and, even as they stormed the building, he declined for long hours to tell them to stop, to condemn their actions, to raise a finger in defence of the Constitution that he swore to preserve and protect.”
This was a bizarre situation, and while it is unthinkable that Biden and the Democrats will behave in a similarly irresponsible — even criminal — fashion when in power, it is almost certain they will support such violent uprisings in other countries. They will continue to conduct subversive and openly antagonistic operations around the world, and, in the words of Braithwaite, “operate more assertively” in the Arctic to confront Russia and China and attempt to prevent their commercial use of the region.
It was coincidental, if gruesomely ironic, that while the revolutionary mobs were invading the Capitol the Washington Post reported that “Trump administration officials auctioned off oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, capping Republicans’ decades-long quest to drill in one of the nation’s most vast unspoiled wild places. The move marks one of the most significant environmental rollbacks the president has accomplished in his term.” So now the Arctic’s bears, caribou and waterfowl are under threat from money-crazed gas-drillers, while Arctic waterways are going to be throbbing with U.S. Navy warships that are ordered to “accept calculated tactical risks and adopt a more assertive posture in our day-to-day operations.” In other words, Washington’s policy of belligerent confrontation is set to continue in higher gear.
As to subversive operations, it is exactly two years since mobs took to the streets of Iran to protest against mismanagement and rising food prices caused largely by U.S.-initiated sanctions. The violent protests were greeted with satisfaction in Washington, with Trump declaring it was “time for change”, and his then ambassador to the UN, the egregious Nikki Haley, echoing that “We want to help amplify the voices of the Iranian people.” There must at the moment be a certain grim satisfaction among the loony theocrats in Tehran, because Washington’s blatant encouragement of violence in their country has rebounded dramatically, and the storming of the Capitol, with resultant but inevitable barbarity and death, is exactly what Trump and his cronies wanted (and still want) to happen in their country. There is no reason to believe that the incoming Biden administration will be any different.
The same holds for nutty Maduro in Venezuela. He is an incompetent ditherer and his country is in a desperate situation, but he is the elected leader and his people are aware that much of their economic suffering is caused by U.S. sanctions designed to foment unrest and revolution, with Maduro being replaced by a compliant puppet who will dance to the Washington tune. In 2017, when the first U.S. sanctions were imposed, Trump announced that Washington was considering attacking Venezuela, saying it “is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.” But, as made clear by a poll in Venezuela, “when asked whether they would support ‘a foreign military intervention to remove President Maduro from his position,’ only 35 percent of the population said yes.”
It is not surprising, as revealed by the Pew Research Centre in mid-2020, that “just 41% of adults in the United Kingdom expressed a favourable opinion of the U.S. this year, the lowest percentage registered in any Centre survey there. In France and Germany, ratings for the U.S. are essentially as low as they were in March 2003, at the height of U.S.-European tensions over the Iraq War. U.S. favourability also reached all-time lows this year in Japan, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Sweden.”
It can be taken that much of the international distaste and disfavour has been caused by Trump’s deranged antics and spiteful malevolence, but it is far from certain that Biden’s foreign policy will be less confrontational so far as such countries as Iran, Venezuela, Russia and China are concerned. His choice to be Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the third senior post in the State Department, is Victoria Nuland, a rabidly nationalistic and anti-Russian figure who was among other things the principal deputy foreign policy adviser to Dick Cheney and Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
It is disturbing to note that during the move towards rebellion in Ukraine that was encouraged by the United States, Assistant Secretary of State Nuland was photographed together with the U.S. ambassador handing out sandwiches to rebels in Kiev’s Maidan Square in December 2013. One wonders what she (and Biden and the U.S. mainstream media) would have said if Russia’s ambassador in Washington had gone to the Capitol on January 6 with a bag of goodies to hand out to those who Mr Biden described as “Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists.”
When he was vice president, Biden was forthright about what he considers the undesirability of Europe and Russia cooperating economically. He was reported by Deutsche Welle as “warning European countries against becoming too dependent on Russian oil and gas, saying it would be ‘bad’ for Europe.” He was referring to the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline which “will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea route from Russia to Germany, helping to safeguard Europe’s long-term energy security.” Biden doesn’t want friendly cooperation with Russia and declared that EU countries could purchase U.S. liquefied natural gas.
A depressing amount of Washington’s supposedly principled foreign policy comes down to cash, in the end, and the preferred route to commercial gain seems to involve hostility.
Unfortunately for Washington it seems that U.S. nationalistic aggression is not confined to global affairs and that it has surged domestically. But change is practicable, and it would be a very good thing for the world if the Biden administration concluded that leading the way in revolution and confrontation is counterproductive.