Vienna and Munich Agreements: Does History Repeat Itself?
Robert A. Heinlein’s assertion “A generation which ignores history has no past; and no future,” is a good starter to understand the issue of the Vienna Agreement. After the Munich Agreement was signed, in September 1938, Britain and France deliberately abandoned Czechoslovakia to Hitler, believing this was the only way to save the world from another war. However, Winston Churchill: ““You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war. ”Exactly as in 1938, Obama had to choose between dishonor and war, and he chose dishonor. Now we all will have both the dishonor and the war.
One of the great wonders is how people translate information into knowledge. In fact, history proves that lack of knowledge stems from mental blindness, ignorance, selective hearing and information. We recycle and circulate information we hear and read without any inquiry and criticism, and believe this is the truth and the whole truth. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson declared, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Wolfgang von Goethe reiterated this, “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
All that Obama wished was to establish a legacy for his foreign policy, but he got the opposite, and we will get the disaster. This is a colossal failure. Not only has he betrayed U.S. allies in the Middle East, mainly Israel, Saudi-Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf states; not only has he deliberately strengthen Iran’s power to become a regional hegemon at the expense of these states; not only he has created a huge vacuum and brought the failed states of Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria; not only to the vacuum created entered all the Jihadi Islamic fanatic groups – Obama actually has also accelerated the nuclear race in the Middle East, and inevitably the outbreak of regional war in the future. This is only in the Middle East, but the decisive failure is domestic, in the American society and economy.
What happened in the late 1930s? The shameful Allied refusal to confront Nazi aggression bestowed Hitler what he wanted time and again in exchange for his eternal promise of “peace in our time.” The shameful appeasement resulted in the outbreak of the Second World War. Most important to note: nevertheless the appeasement and the capitulation, still the aggressor, Germany, initiated the war. This is the lesson to deeply learn and adopt: appeasement never works. Appeasement comes out of defeatism and it also breeds defeat and colossal failure. Appeasement, said Winston Churchill, is feeding the dragon hoping it will devour you last. However, even being the last, the dragon will eat you, because he is dragon, and he is hungry.
If we take Winston Churchill’s saying: “In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity;” it seems that Obama operates just the opposite: in war – magnanimity; in defeat – resolution; in victory – defiance. This is exactly what happens today. By deliberately abandoning Israel, Saudi-Arabia and Egypt’s security concerns, Obama has paved the way for Iran not only to develop a nuclear weapon, but worse than that, he encouraged Iran’s desires to become a political and military hegemon in the Middle East. As in WWII, war will breakout in the Middle East, and the initiator will be the aggressor, Iran. That is exactly because you can never change the dragon’s character, and because appeasement means horror and it yields catastrophes.
One needs only to look now at Iran’s ideology (as no one looked at Germany’s under the Nazis): Iran is mandated by Islam to conquer the world; to make all men convert, submit or die. Ayn Rand was correct by declaring: “The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise with evil on basic principles.”
The Munich agreement was called by Churchill a “total and unmitigated defeat.” This is exactly the case of the Vienna Agreement of July 14, 2015, with Iran. In the 1930s Britain and France had sought every possible way to evade confronting Germany, by giving up and giving in and capitulating to Nazi Germany. Today the Obama Administration has been following the same track with the same results: it evolved from the assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal” to the policy of any deal, even a bad one that can be reached, is better than having no deal at all.
During this period of time the US has proven that it is much more eager to reach an agreement with Iran than the Iranians. This is amazing because the Iranians were under the pressure of economic collapse and the depression of diplomatic isolation. Indeed, history repeats itself, as Europe before the Second World War, the US has been willing to compromise on all of its own principles, while the Iranians compromised on none. Iranian negotiators understood this bizarre situation and extorted more and more concessions. This is proof of Aldous Huxley’s assertion, “Facts do not cease to exist simply because they are ignored;” and the resulting ware will prove Ayn Rand’s, “You can ignore reality; but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Perhaps this situation belongs to George Orwell’s declaration, “There are notions that are so foolish that only an intellectual will believe in them.”
Like the Munich Agreement that culminated in the victory of the aggressor at the expense of the appeaser, the Vienna Agreement is a total defeat of the US and a great victory of Iran. Now a nuclear arms race has begun. Saudi Arabia will have a nuclear weapon from Pakistan. Egypt and Turkey will perhaps turn to Russia and China for nuclear bomb or purchasing its devices. Russia and China have both proven eager to play the double game: trading with Iran and supplying nuclear reactors to anyone who seek for it, in due prices. Another actor is North Korea, as demonstrated by Iran, is willing to engage in nuclear proliferation.
There are two kinds of Iran: nuclear Iran and conventional war-mongering aggressive Iran. Nuclear Iran is built as a strong-threatening support to war-mongering aggressive Iran. Despite the miserable propaganda message delivered by the US, the reality is that it has exacerbated the regional and the international situation. Not only it has paved the way for Iran to continue its nuclear weapon program, but it also helped Iran to strengthen its strategy of the two-track axes fronts: the “Levant Axis,” the northern one, by controlling Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; and the “Maritime Axis,” the southern one, by controlling the Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb straits.
Both are aimed at directly threatening militarily Saudi-Arabia, Egypt and Israel, and even strangling them militarily and economically. These states know exactly the dangerous situation, however, the US has become blind and deaf, as its eyes are widely shut on Islamic Jihadi terrorism and Islamic millennialism. Moreover, the northern Axis Iran is building is also meant to constrain and contain Turkey, while the southern Axis is a direct way to influence and control the strategic area leading to Africa.
Iranian influence and stature will grow and flourish thanks to the lifting of sanctions and the resulting hundreds of billions of dollars of economic investments in Iran which will finance their terrorist activities and allies, and sustain their tyrannical regime. There is nothing in the agreement that addresses Iran’s continual violation of basic human rights. We must always recall Karl Popper’s eloquence: “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”
It must be recalled: the Vienna Agreement was between the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia on the one side, and Iran, on the other. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Persian Gulf States are not signed partners to the agreement as if it does not bind them. Now they are free to defend themselves. Though deliberately abandoned by its only ally, Israel is no Czechoslovakia. It has the power and the ability to defend itself, to deter and to retaliate against Iran. It is worth quoting Winston Churchill’s, “If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”
We must cry out loud and clear: ‘Never again.’ It must also be recalled that in the Middle East Western-Oriented rationalism is not common, and there are not only suicidal Shi’ites and Sunnis, but wars also start unintentionally or from miscalculation. Add to this grave situation the emergence of the Islamic Caliphate State (ICS. There is no longer DAESH, ISIS, ISIL), which threatens the existence of the Middle Eastern nation-states, and the possibility that al-Qaeda will seek to regain its power and prestige among the Muslim Salafi-Jihadi groups by performing a “super-blast.”
Hear is exactly the formula to world disaster. The Vienna Agreement, like the Munich Agreement in the 1930s, and the North-Korean agreement on October 21, 1994, has a tremendous impetus to bring these horrors into reality. The Middle East is not susceptible to the discipline of mutual deterrence let alone to abiding by written agreements.
Many will say, the Iran deal is really a high-stakes, a strategic bet. This is not the situation. The Vienna Agreement is worse than that. Not only does it give Iran free license to have nuclear weapons, it also allows it to become the regional hegemonic power. Senator Lindsey Graham describes Obama’s approach to Iran as “dangerously naïve… I think he is misjudging what the Iranians want… and the best evidence of what they want is what they’re doing right now to destabilize the region without nuclear weapons.”
However, Senator Graham is mistaken. Obama does this deliberately. It seems he believes that powerful Iran as a regional hegemon will bring stability to the Middle East. Totally, the other side happens. What drives Iran the most is the need for the religious victory of the Shi’ite version of Islam against the Sunnah. Iran’s top enemy is Saudi-Arabia and the Iranian target is controlling Mecca and Medina religiously. That is, if are we honest enough to admit, Saudi-Arabia and not Israel is the primary target of Iran’s nuclear capability. That does not mean that Israel can relax. On the contrary Israel’s very existence is at stake, however Saudi-Arabia should be much more concerned as it is a greater prize for Iran.
Unfortunately the agreement makes the war in the Middle East more probable. Iran’s successes will encourage the leaders of the regime to be more confident in their strategy and that they are on the track of fulfilling their mission. The Western world is nearly irrelevant, as the US is weak and Obama acts to destroy its presence as a world power. Europe suffers even more a lack of leadership, and continues its policy of appeasement and defeatism; Russia under Putin wishes to be back a world power, and it automatically confronts America on every issue. China grows more aggressive and assertive in the face of American weakness.
Moreover, the Middle East is in anarchy and chaos, with many failed states, like Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria; while Egypt and Saudi-Arabia are under direct threat: sub-conventional (by Salafi-Jihadi and Salafi-Takfiri Islamic groups); conventional (the consequences of the Islamic Anarchic Tribal Winter, mistakenly referred to as “Arab Spring”); and unconventional (Iran’s nuclear capability, and the following nuclear arms race). The Middle East has lost the most from Obama Administration’s faults.
This situation was clearly reflected in the negotiations. Obama offered almost unlimited concessions while ignoring all its own red lines. This was exactly the situation between Britain and France on the one hand and Germany on the other, in the late 1930s. The current colossal capitulation of the US to Iran is also marked by the fact that Russia, the EU and China will highly benefit from the deal economically. This is the only reason why they go together. The words of Douglas MacArthur fit this situation: “I am concerned for the security of our great Nation. Not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.”
Vienna repeats the shameful October 1994 agreement of President Clinton with North Korea. The same syndrome; the same results; and still the same unlearned lessons by the political system as much as by academic “experts”, who endorsed the agreement with North Korea as successful and prolific. Unfortunately, this syndrome is worse, as in the 1930s’ issue of what to do with Nazi Germany aggression; and as in the 1990s’ issue of what to do with the North-Korean aggression; and like today’s issue of what to do with Iran’s aggression — the media and the academia have betrayed their role and took one-sided policy, that of supporting the appeasers and ignoring the aggressors threats.
These two important players have bestowed the political systems the impetus and rationalized their policies to continue their failed policies. This reality has become a syndrome. The academia-media have been betraying their balancing role of giving sense to the functioning political system. They have become, as Norman Dixon indicates in his book, Our Own Best Enemy, by denying the severe hazards coming from the aggressive states, and by rationalizing the failed policies adopted. It is the right place here to quote Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The agreement signed on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, known as “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), is weak and dangerous; it undermines American national security and discredits the US foreign policy among its allies; it poses grave threats to Israel, Saudi-Arabia and Egypt, and it promotes all-out war, perhaps nuclear, in the Middle East. From its beginning Iran’s nuclear program was acquired by deception, evasion and concealment. Iran continues this pattern today, and now it has an international legitimacy to successfully fulfill its strategy.
The only barrier left to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state is the new elected President in the US and the Congress act together to prevent this agreement from moving forward. The US Congress must invalidate this agreement. It has to learn the consequences of the agreement with North Korea and never to betray its balancing role in the American web of government.
Albert Einstein’s assertion is correct: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” After the Nazi invasion to Poland in September 1, 1939, the British Parliament understood the huge disastrous failure of Chamberlain, and replaced him with Churchill, in May 1940. His speech at the Parliament was of historic importance. “All I can promise you is blood, sweat, and tears… We shall outlive the menace of tyranny; we shall not flag or fail; we shall never surrender… You ask: what is our aim? I can answer only in one word. It is victory; victory at all costs; victory in spite of all terror, however long or hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.”
The US Congress has to recall that Noah built the Ark before the Deluge. This is of utmost importance: before the Deluge, and not after it. The Free World desperately needs leaders like Winston Churchill; courageous and realist leaders to save us out of this madness. The Congress should tell President Obama loud and clear: with this signed agreement, you have become like Neville Chamberlain instead of being Winston Churchill. You lead the US and the Free World to a huge disaster.
However, the problem is more aggravated, as Chamberlain stepped down from office quietly even willingly, as he understood his failure. Obama continues to believe arrogantly that he is not mistaken, that his policy is righteous. Like President Carter, He deludes himself that he is carrying out a divine mandate. But whose? And to whom? Obama proves Barbara Tuchman’s assertion in her March of Folly, of leaders who bring disasters on their own peoples out of stupidity, blind stubbornness, and permeability of mind.
July 14, 2016 was the one-year anniversary of the nuclear agreement with Iran. In his new book, Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Threat, Fred Fleitz, of the Center for Security Policy detailed analysis of the dangers this agreement continues to pose to U.S. and international security, including: why the threat from Iran’s nuclear weapons program is growing despite the JCPOA; how the nuclear agreement gave Iran a pass on its nuclear weapons work and led the IAEA to dumb down its reports on the Iranian nuclear program; how the agreement has made Iran a greater regional and international threat; and how the Obama administration is trying to grant further concessions to Iran.
Fleitz’s detailed analysis of this agreement not only proves the growing danger that the agreement poses to U.S. national security. For Fleitz it is clear: the nuclear deal is so dangerous that the next president should tear it and re-negotiate another nuclear pact: Iran must cease all uranium enrichment and its research. Iran must not have a heavy-water reactor or a plant to produce heavy-water. Iran must robust real and effective verification and inspections; Iran must curtail and agree to limitations on its ballistic missile program. Iran must agree to end its meddling in regional conflicts and sponsorship of international terror.
Now we hear of the cash payment of $400 million to Iran. Obama, Kerry, and others in the administration, claim it was not ransom money and had nothing to do with the release of hostages. The decision to unfreeze the money in cash was made because “the nuclear deal [was] done” and the prisoners were released. Contrary to many others, I believe in what they say. The reason is Obama’s ideological and strategic policy of bringing Iran to a regional hegemony. He has never abandoned this target. In his naïve deep misunderstanding of the situation, he still believes that Iran and Saudi-Arabia can walk together in leading the Middle East, with the US is the force “behind.”
The US continues to support the forces of evil in the Middle East, like Iran; the Jihadi groups in Syria that oppose Bashshar al-Asad but identified with al-Qaeda; and Turkey under the Erdogan dictatorship caliphate. At the same time the US continues its policy of suppressing Egypt’s al-Sisi; embarrassing Saudi Arabia; and coercing Israel to adopt policies that compromise its security.
On July 8, 2016, a Washington Post columnist wrote, “The reality that many Republicans have still not come to terms with is this: that Barack Obama was elected and reelected, fair and square, and that the American public knew what it was doing.” He is absolutely right. And that is exactly the reason the US has so deeply deteriorated in all webs of American life. To make it short: domestically, there is misery and wretchedness among the society, being on the verge of internal racial war. In foreign policy, the US has become weak and unimportant in international relations, while it has ruined the Middle East. World balance of power has vanished. The balancer of the balance of power, according to Hans Morgenthau, has ceased to exist, and the international relation is in a state of chaos.
The records of history will show that Obama has been perhaps one of the greatest failed President in the history of the US. He has changed America – for the very bad. He has stolen America from its citizens, and abandoned their cherished values: the family (“the American way of life”); the military (patriotism and believing in the greatness of America); and the country (“God Bless America”). Obama has transformed every aspect of American values to the bad.
This is not the American dream or the American spirit. According to Philip Haney, Obama is an anti-civilizational agitator whose primary goal is to create destruction and tyranny. Obama ‘dismantles’ America’s defenses. Now the big question is how America fell out in love with him from the beginning? The answer seems paradoxically simple. The majority of people is gullible, brainwashed by the Big-Left-Media, uninformed, historically illiterate, uncurious, incompetent to do background research, and possessed of an extremely slow learning curve.
Obama’s policy of coercing and forcefully imposing his Muslim believers on America is painful, awful and tragic. Muslims don’t want to assimilate or to adapt themselves to American (or any Western) principles and values, they want the US (and Europe) to adapt itself to Islam and adopt their 7th century desert values.
James A. Lyons, retired Admiral, put it on May 9, 2016: How Obama transformed the military. There is no question that America’s worldwide leadership, power and influence have been significantly degraded over the last seven and a half years. The basic reason is that Obama has been very successful in the implementation of his goal to fundamentally transform America. In so doing, he has undercut the Judeo-Christian foundation of this great country while at the same time promoting the advancement of Islam throughout our society — including the U.S. military. This transformation, at its core, is anti-American and anti-Western. Yet it is also pro-Islam, pro-Iranian and pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Compounding this travesty is Mr. Obama’s decision to embrace our sworn enemies. Unbelievable.
The ‘multicultural’ makeover of our military threatens to undermine the very fabric of our military forces, and is being accelerated with no apparent opposition from military or congressional leaders. Mr. Obama has used the military’s founding principle of civilian control to impose his debilitating directives which are destroying the military’s warrior mentality and the ‘will to win.’”
Maureen Scott has called Obama “the Architect of Destruction.” Obama appears to be a tormented man who is filled with resentment, anger, and disdain for anyone of an opinion or view other than his. He acts in the most hateful, spiteful, malevolent, vindictive ways in order to manipulate and maintain power and control over others. Have we ever heard Obama speak lovingly of the U.S. or its people, with deep appreciation and genuine respect for our history, our customs, our sufferings and our blessings? Obama is void of the basic emotions that most feel regarding this country and is insensitive to the pride we have in our national heritage. Not a day goes by that he is not attempting to defy our laws, remove our rights, over-ride established procedures, install controversial appointees, enact divisive mandates, and assert a dictatorial form of power. Obama thrives on tearing us down, rather than building us up. He is the Architect of the decline of America, and the epitome of a demagogue.
This paper has only one aim: to introduce the similarities between leaders in the process of creating a political vacuum that enables the onslaught and encroachment of evil forces to ruin the existing world order and balance of power.
Air Balloon and U.S.-China Relations
The story of the Chinese Automatic Drifting Balloon (ADB) violating the U.S. airspace in late January–early February 2023 will be a symbolic marker for a new phase of deterioration in the US-China relations.
The relations were rapidly eroding throughout 2022 and early 2023. In some aspects, U.S.-China relations in 2022 evoked obvious associations with U.S.-Russian relations in 2021. While trying to engage in cooperation with Beijing on certain issues (particularly on Ukraine), Washington simultaneously kept imposing increasingly painful sanctions against the country.
Among important steps recently taken in this direction, there have been restrictions on supplies of advanced microchips and equipment for their production to China, effective since October 2022, as well as the pressure exerted on Japan and the Netherlands (key manufacturers of equipment for the microelectronics industry) to join these restrictions. Licenses to supply virtually any components and equipment to China’s Huawei have been terminated, and a significant number of sanctions were imposed on smaller Chinese companies and individuals.
Most of the Chinese measures have been defensive and involved steps to ensure the security of production chains and the national economy. In the meantime, Beijing is also discussing measures to limit certain items of Chinese exports, with potential thermonuclear consequences. Semi-finished products, raw materials and equipment for the production of solar panels can be affected—given China’s monopoly on a number of products, this could be a shock for the renewable energy industry in the West.
The visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in early August 2022 played a disastrous role in the military and political situation in East Asia. That trip, despite repeated warnings from Beijing, triggered a period of rapid increase in Chinese military activity around Taiwan, which still continues.
Chinese activities include numerous live-fire exercises in the waters around the island, large groups of combat aircraft and drones flying along the island’s perimeter, and systematic violations of the median line in the Taiwan Strait by PRC ships and aircraft. For its part, the U.S. is increasing military aid to Taiwan, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so against the backdrop of ongoing hostilities in Ukraine.
The November 2022 meeting of Xi Jinping and Joseph Biden in Bali was similar in content to the Geneva summit of Biden and Vladimir Putin in June 2021. We saw similar attempts to achieve at least partial stabilization of relations, establishing rules of the game, unblocking channels for political communication by creating joint working groups, and the same predictable failure. So far, we can only hope that the final outcome of these efforts will not be so disastrous as the one between Moscow and Washington.
The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit was canceled due to the balloon incident, while it was supposed to restore the ruined channels of dialogue. The U.S.-Chinese relation is still lagging far behind the U.S.-Russian relationship in matters of mutual alerting, preventing dangerous incidents, and maintaining emergency channels of communication, where relevant experience has continuously been accumulated since the 1960s. Given the rapid progress of China’s transformation into a new nuclear superpower, conservation of this situation could be dangerous.
Nothing more was expected from Blinken’s visit – no U-turn in relations, no strategic deals, including those concerning Beijing’s positions on the Ukrainian issue. Now, the visit has been postponed indefinitely and the dialogue has been suspended amid the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Pacific.
The circumstances of the very incident with the Chinese ADB over the United States allow us to take a fresh look at the behavior of China’s leadership in the heating confrontation with the United States. According to U.S. military statements, the ADB shot down on February 4, 2023 was the fourth Chinese apparatus to violate U.S. airspace. The previous three ADBs that visited the U.S. during Donald Trump’s tenure were not detected by U.S. airspace controls in time, and the Americans became aware of their existence belatedly via intelligence channels.
If this is true, China is deliberately and systematically doing what the USSR never afforded during the entire Cold War—flying reconnaissance aircraft directly over U.S. territory. For its part, the U.S. used ADBs on a large scale for flights over the USSR and the PRC in the 1950s and 1980s, and the explanation of their purpose was exactly the same as that used by the Chinese now: border violations due to navigation error or malfunction, meteorological research, observations of airstreams, etc.
China’s contemporary political culture attaches great importance to careful observance of the principle of reciprocity, avoiding situations that could be interpreted as Beijing’s recognition of its unequal position vis-à-vis any major power. This is partly due to the severe historical trauma of the “century of humiliation” in 1840–1945, a time of foreign domination over China.
The current use of the ADB over the United States is by no means a retaliation against historical grievances. Rather, it is a response to some U.S. actions within its “freedom of navigation patrols” in the South China Sea, where U.S. ships and aircraft deliberately violate 12-mile territorial water zones around a number of Chinese-controlled islands. The Americans justify their behavior by saying that these Chinese islands are artificial and do not create rights to territorial waters.
Surely, China believes that the Americans are violating the integrity of its national territorial. From China’s perspective, the U.S., as a power external to the region, should not interfere in any of its territorial disputes with the countries of Southeast Asia. Besides, the high activity of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft along China’s borders—and sometimes over disputed water bodies—has long been a matter of Chinese concern.
From China’s perspective, the use of ADB over U.S. territory may well look like an appropriate response to the U.S. actions. Chinese leaders may have seen this action as a necessary step to confirm China’s status as a great power equal to the United States, even if only a limited number of people knew about these operations for the time being.
The political motivation behind the use of the ADB can also be discerned in the Chinese response to the incident. In a normal situation, if the balloon lost control and inadvertently entered (or risked entering) U.S. airspace, the owner would have contacted the Americans, provided the necessary data and information, and tried to avoid a fallout.
China, for its part, responded to the incident only twelve hours after Pentagon’s statement to that effect. There was a dry statement from the PRC about the loss of control of the weather balloon due to force majeure, for which “regret” was expressed.
Shortly thereafter, China declared that it would not tolerate “hype and speculation” about the balloon and accused the United States of indiscriminate and excessive use of force after it was shot down, threatening some “consequences.”
Under the circumstances, it is difficult to assess this as anything other than China’s deliberate humiliation of the United States as well as demonstration of its own strength and confidence. The Chinese consciously chose this course of action in the run-up to Blinken’s visit—now, as the conflict in Ukraine is escalating, the U.S. is more interested in dialogue than the PRC.
The Americans had to choose between continuing the dialogue in a poorer bargaining position after the humiliation they had endured and abandoning the dialogue altogether. The reaction of American public opinion predetermined the choice for the latter. However, this decision was apparently not easy to make.
The visit has not been canceled, but postponed, and the U.S. will probably look for opportunities to carry out negotiations in the not-too-distant future while saving face. Alongside with Blinken’s visit, there were plans for an even more important visit to China, to be paid by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. On February 9, 2023, Yellen announced that she was still planning a trip to China, although it was not yet possible to give a date.
The incident has shown that the Americans are not overly prepared for a tough confrontation with a comparable superpower as soon as it stops playing at giveaway with them. As it turned out, the few previous Chinese ADBs had not been detected at all, and the last one was shot down only after it had crossed the entire U.S. territory, flying over, among other things, an intercontinental ballistic missile base.
There is nothing surprising or particularly embarrassing about it: the ADB is an extremely difficult aerial target because of its low radar visibility, extremely low speed, and a very high flight altitude. The Soviet Union has been practicing its tactics against ADB for decades. The ability to counter such targets was taken into account in the design of some Soviet air defense interceptors. These include, for example, the MiG-31 still in service in Russia, which has the highest maximum flight altitude among modern fighters and is equipped to fight balloons with a GSh-23-6 cannon.
In the United States, reconnaissance ADBs did not show up during the Cold War, simply because the Soviet Union lacked the necessary technical capabilities in the early decades of the confrontation, and the late-Soviet gerontocracy was later afraid to respond in kind to violations of its airspace. Now, the Americans faced a more active opponent and have yet to learn many new skills.
The traditional U.S. propensity to make up for real-world failures with media victories was not very convincing either. Covering the incident, U.S. propaganda followed two lines. They claimed that, first, the Chinese balloon could not have caused any serious damage to the U.S. compared to China’s existing reconnaissance satellites, and second, that the vehicle was not shot down so as not to pose a threat to civilians on the ground.
The second claim is patently absurd: a significant part of the Chinese ADB route passed over deserted or sparsely populated areas, where the risk of harm to civilians was equal to zero. As for the former, the ADB surely remains a valuable reconnaissance tool that can significantly supplement satellite data. For its part, the U.S. has made extensive use of balloons in the operations against Iraq and Afghanistan.
The reconnaissance satellite operates at altitudes of hundreds of kilometers above the ground, while the balloon does so in the altitude range of 20–30 km. This gives it additional capabilities to conduct electronic reconnaissance and detailed ground surveys. The ADB is capable of monitoring atmospheric chemistry and making other measurements useful for the reconnaissance of nuclear-weapons-related targets. Finally, the balloon is capable of remaining over the same territory for long periods of time, tracking the situation there dynamically, and its flight time over an area is not predictable, unlike that of satellites.
Was the incident with the balloon an intentional attempt to disrupt Blinken’s visit from the very beginning? Hardly. If the Chinese had flown around the U.S. three times in the Trump presidency with their ADBs and got away with it, it would make sense to continue this successful practice. When the “balloon case” became public, the Chinese might have chosen an escalatory course of action based on their view of the situation. It is likely that Beijing concluded that it would not lose with any possible U.S. reaction to the incident, and this is probably true.
From our partner RIAC
Can Lula walk the tightrope between Washington and Beijing?
As Brazil’s New President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula) prepares to visit China later this month, maintaining neutrality would be difficult as the winds of change enwrap Beijing.
Brazil is Back
President Lula’s coming to power has marked a decisive shift in Brazilian foreign policy. With the Pink Tide resurging in South America, the new President has clearly spelled out his foreign policy aims: restoring Brazil’s neutrality and importance in international affairs at par with both the West and East after nearly 4 years of impasse under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who had adopted a Sinophobic, pro-Trump foreign policy.
Brasilia’s 39th President, who previously presided over the office between 2003-2010, will have a lot to talk about as he visits his nation’s largest trading partner that imported $89.4 billion in 2022 mostly in soy and iron ore which added a surplus of $28.7 billion to Brazil’s coffers. Boosting the economic partnership with China will be a priority for Lula, who intends to integrate South America into a closely held economic unit. Another important item on the agenda includes the appointment of former President Dilma Rousseff as the new BRICS Bank president.
Lula and the West
Lula had rattled swords with Washington on several occasions during his previous tenure such as alleging the United States for reducing South America to its “backyard” by intervening in its internal politics as well as by opposing the Iraq War. Even though he recognises the importance of maintaining good relations with the superpower up North; several of Lula’s moves including sending a delegation to Maduro-led Venezuela, refusing to sign a UN Human Rights resolution condemning human rights violations in Nicaragua, allowing Iranian warships to dock at Rio de Janeiro, maintaining an ambiguous approach on the Russia-Ukraine War and refusing to send arms to Kyiv, dubbing the ‘Balloongate’ incident a bilateral issue between the US and China and defining the Taiwan issue as Beijing’s internal matter, have deeply irked the West.
While tensions remain, Lula’s focus on combating climate change and call for saving the Amazon have earned a thumbs up from the Biden administration as the former’s election to power comes as a breath of fresh air after his staunch “Trump of the Tropics” predecessor adopted a not-so-friendly approach towards Biden’s entry in the White House. Lula understands Washington’s support is required and hence it was a top spot on his foreign visits list. Lula and Biden held talks amidst a cordial ambience and vowed to reboot bilateral ties by promising to protect democracy and combating climate change.
Winds of Change in Beijing
However, winds of change in the East have dispersed the clouds of ambiguity and China now stands more vocal, more critical and more confident in dealing with the United States.
The recent session of the National People’s Congress, which won Xi Jinping a never-seen-before third term as the President, saw him voicing his criticism against “Washington-led attempts” to “contain, encircle and suppress” China which pose ” serious challenges to its development” (“以美国为首的西方国家对我实施了全方位的遏制、围堵、打压，给我国发展带来前所未有的严峻挑战。”). Sino-US relations have been in the trough since President Trump’s tenure with the recent point of clash being the ‘Balloon incident’ which made Anthony Blinken call off his visit to Beijing.
Xi recently unveiled his new 24 Character Foreign Policy which, Dr. Hemant Adlakha believes, marks “China’s new foreign policy mantra in the ‘New Era’ ” acting as its “ideological map to attain national rejuvenation by 2049”. The characters “沉着冷静；保持定力；稳中求进；积极作为；团结一致；敢于斗争 ” which translate as “Be calm; Keep determined; Seek progress and stability; Be proactive and go for achievements; Unite under the Communist Party; Dare to fight” are set to replace Deng Xiaoping’s 24 Character Strategy focussed on never seeking leadership and assuming a low profile.
China’s confidence is further boosted by its successful attempt to broker peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been staunch rivals for the past many years. With the handshake that brought the Sunni Arab Kingdom and the Shiite Persian theocracy together, Beijing has garnered accolades from nations across the region and is all set to play a greater international role by not just pulling American allies such as Riyadh to its side but also through actively putting forth its plans to end wars with Xi all set to pay Putin a visit over the Russia-Ukraine War before he meets Lula at Beijing. Lula too eagerly anticipates what Beijing has to say as he told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “it is time for China to get its hands dirty”.
Neutrality no more?
If the state of Sino-US relations does not improve, things would get hard for many leaders like Lula who seek to balance between the two superpowers. Lula knows neutrality is his best bet but money matters– as his former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim noted “Our surplus with China—and I’m talking just about our surplus—is bigger than all of our exports to the United States. It is impossible not to have good relations with China.” Isolating China, with which Brazil has had a long strategic partnership since the 1990s, at the expense of moving closer to the US might come hard on the purse and exacerbate the many economic challenges he faces. Nor can Washington be isolated– not just because of the economic necessities but also in the face of challenges from far-right forces that both Lula and Biden face.
Lula realises the risks of placing all his eggs in one basket but would he be left with the choice to divide them equally into both? The issue is bound to get stickier but if he successfully manages to escape the quagmire of the unfolding great power rivalry, Lula will set a precedent for not just South America but nations across the globe. The only viable solution would be to strengthen regional alliances in Latin America and boost partnerships with developing nations like India while using the collective strength to push Beijing and Washington to come together.
The Malvinas feud as a Global Constant
As an event gets bigger, it’s more likely that interesting things will happen behind the scenes, that is, in unplanned activities.
The seventh meeting of G20 foreign ministers in India in 2023 confirms this. Bilateral meetings between Qing-Jaishankar, the Blinken-Lavrov dispute, and the meeting between Santiago Cafiero and James Cleverly, during which the former notified the latter of the end of the Foradori-Duncan agreement.
On March 2, 2023, by rescinding the Foradori-Duncan agreement, the Argentine government de facto reopened one of the most important territorial disputes in the Western Hemisphere, perhaps the most important, and did so in the most theatrical way possible: at the G20, the main North-South dialogue platform.
What was the purpose of the Foradori-Duncan agreement?
The idea behind the agreement was for the Argentine government to renounce its claims and any serious discussion regarding the territorial dispute over the sovereignty of the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands and the adjacent territories in the South Atlantic. Instead, the Argentine government would adopt a position of claiming “light sovereignty” in order to obtain benefits, mainly economic ones, through joint exploitation of the natural resources of the islands and adjacent territories in the South Atlantic with the United Kingdom (UK), as well as through British investments in the country.
In practice, this agreement implied the Argentine government’s resignation to discuss sovereign rights over the Falkland Islands and their adjacent territories in the South Atlantic. It can be inferred that this was a disguised surrender clause by the government of Mauricio Macri to continue with Argentina’s sovereign claim over the Malvinas Islands.
The purpose of the Foradori-Duncan agreement was in line with the foreign policy stance of the Macri administration (2015-2019), which had a marked pro-Western (and more Atlanticist) position than previous governments (Kirchnerism 2003-2015).
This geopolitical code (if we can speak of the existence of a “Macrista geopolitical code” coming from the geopolitical code of the traditional Argentine ruling class) consisted of a series of agreements (tacit and official) of Argentine resignation and subordination to traditional Western powers (of which the Foradori-Duncan agreement was one of its greatest exponents) which aimed –in theory– to obtain greater economic benefits and a renewal of the country’s public image in the supposed “international community.”
These types of foreign policy positions would be a constant of the Macri government. Even the Argentine scholar Juan Gabriel Tokatlian has conceptualized such a stance as “Concessive Peripheral Unilateralism” to define the foreign policy of the Macri government .
In practice, these ideas and plans, were shown to be totally ineffective and unproductive. Argentina practically did not receive economic benefits from such positions, nor did its public image have a significant and positive international projection. And the Foradori-Duncan agreement is the most scandalous example of this reality.
Why did the Argentine government of Alberto Fernández decide to end such an agreement?
The first explanation is the internal conformation and political identity of the government of Alberto Fernández, which logically demanded a change in the previous government’s (Macri) stance on the Malvinas agreements, his predecessor and opponent. But this inference raises another question: Why were such measures not taken before? The answers to this question are only conjectures.
Since the end of the Malvinas War (1982) until today, except for the years of the Menem governments (1989-1999), Argentina’s bilateral relationship with Great Britain has always been marked by a strong “Malvinense”  component on the agenda of their interaction, which has often led to high-pitched disputes between both parties. The “agenda” of the Malvinas cause was a constant trend of the Kirchnerist governments (2003-2015), such claims were made, denouncing British illegal occupation of the Falkland Islands on numerous occasions in various international forums, bilateral meetings, and multilateral forums.
But as mentioned earlier, the Macri government would have a diametrically opposed position to its Kirchnerist predecessors regarding the Malvinas question. However, the reality of the country and its foreign policy changed again when Argentina “presented” a new government in 2019, with Alberto Fernández as the head of the presidency.
The government of A. Fernández has an eclectic political character , as a result of a coalition between several political sectors, so the foreign policy of his government also reflects the heterogeneous internal conformation of the government coalition sectors.
In such conformation, sectors such as Kirchnerism, as well as more orthodox Peronist sectors, are present, both of which have traditionally had a more “Post-Western” stance, aiming to “rewrite the Argentine geopolitical code” and the vectors of Argentine foreign policy, projecting an alternative foreign policy, in first place towards their own region: South America, Ibero-America, the Caribbean, and in more modern times, especially towards the Global South, the BRICS, and Asia. In such guidelines, the action of rescinding the Foradori-Duncan agreement was logical. But logic also makes us wonder, why were such measures not taken before? Such questions enter the realm of speculation.
Another analysis could be given in an electoral key reading, this year 2023, presidential elections will be held in Argentina, and Alberto Fernández has expressed on several occasions through words and gestures , that he is willing and interested in being re-elected as the head of the Argentine executive branch.
Facing a public image tarnished by the covid-19 pandemic, and mainly a negative macroeconomic situation, the electoral nature of this foreign policy measure cannot be ruled out: the Malvinas cause is a cause that mobilizes emotions in Argentine society and remains a deep wound to national pride, and is a valid rhetorical and practical tool to antagonize the Argentine opposition (liberals and conservatives), which has never had (and perhaps never will have) a firm geopolitical stance nor interest in the Malvinas question.
Also, the reading of tensions within the coalition of the current Argentine government can’t be ruled out, in this last aspect, this measure could be read as a gesture of balance from the “Albertismo” towards Kirchnerism, a sector of the government in which many leaders believe that the sector identified with the president has geopolitically leaned too much towards Washington and the West since the 2022 debt agreement with the IMF and the war in Ukraine.
Argentina informed the British of its decision during the G20 foreign ministers’ summit, which was dominated by the BRICS. Is it a coincidence that such a measure was taken at one of the most representative events of the Global South?
it clearly cannot be considered a coincidence.
The symbolic weight of such an action, in such a context, must be clearly considered. The G20 has a dual character as the main forum in which traditional (Western) powers dialogue but also reflects their tensions and antagonisms with emerging powers and peoples, including those of the so-called Global South.
With tensions between former metropolis countries and former colonies that make up the G20, and which are now emerging in material capabilities, a post-colonial and decolonial reading cannot be ruled out, and therefore a strong message from Argentina to the world’s emerging powers and the Global South.
Did China have any influence on the finalization of the pact?
No, there is no such “Chinese hand” that has driven such a measure by the Argentine government. These are paranoid arguments with a stubborn anti-Chinese bias that also ignores Argentina’s own reality. To put it plainly, if we use common sense, the decision was not elaborated nor driven from Beijing.
As mentioned earlier, the issue of the Malvinas is a deeply rooted national cause in Argentine society, and a constant in the foreign policy of Kirchnerism, which today is part of the coalition that compose the current Argentine government, which with such measures such as revoking the Foradori-Duncan agreement seeks to “retake the ownership of the Malvinas and South Atlantic issue in its agenda,” marking a clear differentiated stance from the current political opposition (Juntos por el Cambio) that made such a pact in the previous presidential term.
The decision was not elaborated nor driven by Beijing, and in any case, recent and clear positions of support for Argentina’s sovereign claim in the Malvinas Islands by powers such as China  and Russia  were considered within the decision-making process to take such measures. Therefore, the positions of Beijing and Moscow influenced, but did not condition or generate, Buenos Aires’ decision.
The future of the Malvinas Question
It’s very difficult to envision a future scenario for such a specific and complex issue, especially in the long term. But a prospective scenario can be envisioned in the short term, which is basically and probably that the situation will not change significantly under current conditions. Unless the world is altered by seismic events.
It’s highly unlikely that we will see a dialoguing UK government in the short and medium term that is willing to negotiate the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. And it is similarly unlikely to see a future Argentine government, especially if it has the characteristics of a Peronist, Kirchnerist, or progressive government, openly giving up its claims to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.
Such a proposition would surely change if there were a liberal-oriented government in Argentina, such as Mauricio Macri’s.
The problem with the current Argentine government, as well as future ones, regarding the Malvinas dispute, is that the country does not have, and will not have in the short and medium term, the set of soft and hard capabilities (economic, diplomatic, military, ideological influence) to press and force the UK hard enough to revise its traditional stance on the occupation of the islands. At least until the current balance of power and the position of emerging powers, such as China, would consolidate even further in the world order.
But in any case, such changes and opportunities will depend on the international context and the agency of third parties, which are independent variables for the positions that future Argentine governments may take.
Most experts in international relations and geopolitics agree that the territorial dispute over the Falkland-Malvinas Islands between Britain and Argentina will not have an easy or predictable resolution in the short term.
Some experts point out that the strategic geographical position of the Malvinas Islands and the presence of significant natural resources in the area, such as fishing and hydrocarbons, make the dispute even more complicated.
Moreover, many experts believe that Britain’s position has been strengthened in recent years thanks to the exploitation of the area’s natural resources and the lack of a clear strategy on the part of Argentina to resolve the dispute.
A hypothetical Chinese presence in the region, through the southern Argentine city of Ushuaia, through the construction of a logistics hub, has added an intervening element that makes it even more complex to envision a prospective scenario .
However, some experts believe that the issue of the territorial dispute over the Falkland Islands, Argentina’s position is legitimate, which has won it great support and sympathy among peoples and emerging powers, most of them with a colonial past .
 Tokatlian, J. G. (2018, 2 de febrero). Relaciones con EEUU: ¿nueva etapa? (Relations with the US: a new phase?) Clarín.
 Porto, J. M. (26/03/2022). Despite diplomatic ups and downs, the Malvinas claim became a state policy. Telam. https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202203/587606-diplomacia-soberania-argentina-islas-malvinas.html
 In its composition as a coalition, including important elements of what might be called “Centre-Right” sectors that have Western – especially Washington – affinities.
 Its relevant to remember that on 22 February Alberto Fernandez led a public act in situ celebrating 119 years of Argentine presence in Antarctica. “Alberto Fernández visits Antarctica“. Sputnik. (23/02/2023). https://sputniknews.lat/20230223/alberto-fernandez-visita-la-antartida-1136141105.html
 Joint Statement between the Argentine Republic and the People’s Republic of China on Deepening the Argentina-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. (06/02/2023). https://cancilleria.gob.ar/es/actualidad/noticias/declaracion-conjunta-entre-la-republica-argentina-y-la-republica-popular-china
China’s support for the Malvinas deepens a relationship with many agreements. Telam. (03/07/2021). https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202107/560027-apoyo-china-malvinas-cada-vez-mas-explicito-profundiza-relacion-muchos-acuerdos.html
 United Russia leader Medvedev celebrates Argentina’s termination of Foradori-Duncan agreement. Sputnik. (2023, March 6). https://sputniknews.lat/20230306/el-lider-de-rusia-unida-celebra-que-argentina-haya-terminado-el-acuerdo-foradori-duncan-1136503626.html
Putin defended Argentina’s sovereignty over Malvinas and took aim at Boris Johnson and Margaret Thatcher. Política Argentina. (2022, May 30). https://www.politicargentina.com/notas/202206/44954-putin-defendio-la-soberania-argentina-sobre-malvinas-y-le-tiro-a-boris-johnson-con-margaret-thatcher.html
 The details of the Ushuaia Logistics Hub to supply Antarctica. El Cronista. (24/12/2021).
An Antarctic logistics hub: official plan opens the door to strategic partners. El Cronista. (11/10/2021).
 The Group of 77+China gave strong backing to Argentina’s position on the Malvinas Islands question. Telam. (2022, November 12). https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202011/534875-el-g77china-dio-un-fuerte-respaldo-a-la-posicion-argentina-en-la-cuestion-malvinas.html
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