America repeatedly elects and re-elects champions of “regime change” in nations abroad (George W. Bush in 2000, Barack Obama in 2008, Donald Trump in 2016, and Joe Biden in 2020), such as in Iraq in 2003, and in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Libya in 2011, and in Syria in 2011-2020, and in Yemen in 2015-2020, and in Ukraine in 2010-2014; and, in all instances, has destroyed those nations while claiming to be supporting ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ and to be ‘opposing corruption’ in all of those nations that it was actually destroying.
Joe Biden, like all 21st Century U.S. Presidents except Donald Trump, wants regime change in Russia, and that would require WW III. Only people who are either very stupid or very evil want that. Which is Joe Biden? Which was Barack Obama? Which was Hillary Clinton (whom Trump had beaten)? Which was Bush? All of them were supported by the post-World-War-II, permanent-Cold-War, endless-war, Washington Establishment, and by the controlling owners of America’s international corporations such as Lockheed Martin and ExxonMobil. And, therefore, all of them were elected to lead America’s Government. It’s a bipartisan Establishment, which includes every American billionaire (none mobilizes against imperialism, or “neoconservatism”), and which chooses the Presidential and almost all Congressional nominees of both of America’s two political Parties. So, Americans always ‘elect’ such leaders, in this permanent-warfare ‘democracy’. But its’ going to war against Russia — a real war against Russia — would be different, because that would be a nuclear war, all-out, instantaneous, and all of the weapons on both sides would be launched within less than an hour. There would be no looking back and correcting strategic errors, no recalibrations, no second-guesses. It would be historically unique, and all of the guesses would be made within that few-minutes-long period, and would be final.
A part of this Establishment is the magazine Foreign Policy, which is owned by the pro-imperialist (or “neoconservative”) Donald Graham, who virtually never has opposed any American aggression and has conspicuously supported them all. He used to own the Washington Post, which he sold in 2013 to the like-minded Jeff Bezos. America’s billionaires own or control all its major news-media and almost all of its online media that have a significantly large audience. (After all: billionaires can buy anything, and once they buy it, they control it.) This is how Americans always come to ‘elect’ such people to lead the country and to choose judges such as on the U.S. Supreme Court, who will see the world in essentially the same way that they do. Regardless of whether the liberal or the conservative version of that way, it’s the Establishment way. As the Nobel Peace Prize winner American President Barack Obama phrased that way, numerous times, while he was America’s President, “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation”, meaning that every other country — including Russia — is “dispensable.” In fact, during his second term (after the first term, while he hid this), he constantly identified Russia as being America’s main enemy, but was a skillful enough politician to make fun of, and casually to ridicule, his 2012 ‘election’ opponent, Mitt Romney’s having said that “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe.” Obama was implying that he didn’t agree with that statement. It’s because of lies like this (to the effect that Obama opposed American imperialism), that Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Secretly, even at the very start of his first term, his Administration were preparing to restart the Cold War in a very serious way, by preparing to take over Russia’s next-door neighbor Ukraine and Russia’s Arab ally Syria. But no matter how many times the American public have been lied-to, they never get the hint; and, so, even at the end of Obama’s Presidency, he wasn’t considered a war-monger by most Americans: he had a 59% job-approval rating at the end of his Presidency. (And, of course, some of the other 41% disapproved of his Presidency for reasons that were lies from agents of the Republican Party’s billionaires; so, only far fewer than 41% had any idea, at all, that he, like his immediate predecessor, had been perhaps America’s most harmful and worst, of all Presidents.) Both of America’s political Parties represent only the billionaires who fund them, never the U.S. public. It’s a phony ‘democracy’, but few Americans even know this. The problem isn’t lack of democracy abroad: it is lack of democracy in U.S. federal ‘elections’. This Government is, in fact, a dictatorship, but it uses propaganda to fool the public to think otherwise. The problem is here at home. The following is an example:
Donald Graham’s Foreign Policy magazine published an article on November 13th, headlined “Biden’s Putin Challenge”. Its sub-head is “Biden has a clear-eyed view of the threat posed by Russia — but a lot of bad advice to ignore.” Its warning is that “Too often, Washington seems to want better relations with Moscow than Moscow wants with Washington.” Its worry is that Biden might turn out to be “desperate and weak” against Russia. It is as if the end of Russia’s communism, and of the Soviet Union and of its military Warsaw Pact that had been created in response to America’s having created its military NATO alliance against communism, had all never even happened.
The article asserted that:
Russia under Putin poses an existential threat to the United States and other countries of the West, Russia’s neighbors, and his own people. Biden seems to understand that, not least because he has been the target of Russian interference in the 2020 election, including a disinformation campaign tied to Russia that was designed to smear him and his son Hunter.
Earlier this year, Biden wrote, “To counter Russian aggression, we must keep [NATO’s] military capabilities sharp while also expanding its capacity to take on nontraditional threats, such as weaponized corruption, disinformation, and cybertheft.” He continued: “We must impose real costs on Russia for its violations of international norms and stand with Russian civil society, which has bravely stood up time and again against President Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic authoritarian system.” In an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes before the election, Biden said he considered Russia “the biggest threat to America right now in terms of breaking up our security and our alliances.”
These instincts are sound, and Biden likely will appoint officials who think the same way he does.
There are too many discredited or else outright disproven statements there to go into any of them, because each would require an article in itself; but, clearly, the intent of each of those allegations is to prepare the American public to support bringing regime-change in Russia — i.e., conquest of Russia’s Government, by means of sanctions, coup, or maybe an invasion.
It says that:
The problem is Putin. He simply is not interested in any rethink in U.S.-Russian relations unless that was to involve a capitulation on the part of Washington. As long as Putin remains in power, there is little point in spending precious U.S. diplomatic and presidential time and effort in trying to improve U.S.-Russian relations. There is one exception, however: arms control, where the United States and Russia have a mutual interest in renewing the New START agreement, which is set to expire next February. Just as the United States was able to sign several arms control agreements with the Soviet Union while the two countries were rivals during the Cold War, Washington can today find common ground with Moscow while seeing Putin’s Russia as a threat on virtually every other issue. Neither country wants or can afford to engage in an expensive, destabilizing arms race.
It claims to be supporting a peaceful way for America to conquer Russia, presumably by persuading the Russian public to get rid of Putin.
Is there a realistic possibility to conquer Russia’s Government while winning the support of the Russian people for that objective — such as this Foreign Policy article urges Biden to do?
On 6 March 2016, Jeff Bezos’s newspaper, which he had purchased in 2013 from Donald Graham, headlined “How to understand Putin’s jaw-droppingly high approval ratings”, and opened “Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating.” it tried to, but failed to, find a way of explaining this, and it simply concluded that this problem “has flummoxed Western nations and frustrated Russia’s motley band of oppositionists. Some of them say that Russians are too scared to speak their minds to pollsters. Others claim that the poll numbers are manipulated, although most Western polling firms arrive at similar figures.”
In more depth, the article “Is Putin’s popularity real?” in the March 2016 Post-Soviet Affairs, examined this matter. It opened, “Vladimir Putin has managed to achieve strikingly high public approval ratings throughout his time as president and prime minister of Russia. But is his popularity real, or are respondents lying to pollsters?” That article presented a graph, “Figure 1. Vladimir Putin’s approval rating: 2000–2015. Source: Levada Center Omnibus Surveys. Data from Russia’s two other major polling agencies, VT sIOM and FOM, paint a similar picture.” It showed that, going all the way back to the year 2000, when Putin became Russia’s leader, the job-approval of Putin has been between 60% and 90%, and it soared (instead of fell) during the period in mid 2013 through and since Obama’s coup which in February 2014 overthrew and replaced Russia’s neighbor Ukraine’s Government by an anti-Russian Ukrainian Government, in order for Obama to become able to grab, for the U.S. Navy, Russia’s largest naval base, which is in Crimea. Though Obama’s coup succeeded, his goal of grabbing that naval base and turning it into an American one failed. The Russian people supported, and continue to support, Putin’s opposition to America’s constant efforts to conquer Russia. This study, “Is Putin’s popularity real?”, therefore concluded by saying (with obvious regret) that “our results suggest that the main obstacle at present to the emergence of a widespread opposition movement to Putin is not that Russians are afraid to voice their disapproval of Putin, but that Putin is in fact quite popular.” The problem, for America’s dictators (its billionaires), isn’t Putin: it is the patriotism of the vast majority of Russians — their support for Russia’s national sovereignty, never to yield it up, to any invader.
Consequently, only America’s plan to defeat Russia by means of an overwhelming and sudden nuclear blitz-attack will be able to ‘win’ against Russia. The Foreign Policy article urged Biden to push against Russia at least as hard as his predecessors have done: “Biden should ignore advice to ease or remove sanctions on Russia until Putin withdraws Russia’s forces from Ukraine, including Crimea.” Of course, Russians would consider any Russian leader who would advocate to withdraw Russia’s forces from Ukraine, including Crimea, to be a traitor. (Would Americans think that an American President who allowed Russia to perpetrate an anti-U.S. coup in Mexico, and then to station Russian missiles there against the U.S., to be anything else than a traitor?) Crimea was part of Russia until the Soviet dictator arbitrarily switched it to Ukraine in 1954, and Ukraine’s far-eastern Donbass region, which also seceded from Ukraine, had voted more than 90% for the Ukrainian President whom Obama’s violent coup overthrew; so, those Russian troops are defending those two areas against Ukraine’s efforts to grab them back by military force. Obama had failed in his goal of seizing Russia’s naval base in Crimea. No Russian leader will allow any reversal of that U.S. failure. Any attempt by the U.S. regime to reverse it would bring hot war between the U.S. and Russia and would escalate to WW III unless America would back down, which people such as Jeff Bezos and Donald Graham would make career-ending for any U.S. President to do. But America’s Establishment treats the American public as being idiots who have no idea about any such realities.
However, since Foreign Policy aims to pressure America’s leaders to spend evermore government-money on buying the weaponry of U.S.-based armaments firms such as Lockheed Martin (which, perhaps, most of them are invested in), and to open new grounds for extraction firms such as ExxonMobil (which especially Republican leaders are invested in), it had to deny explicitly that Biden or any other U.S. President would intend any such thing as militarily invading Russia: the blame, for intransigence, is, instead, placed totally against Putin:
Putin is simply not interested in any rethink in U.S.-Russian relations unless that was to involve a capitulation on the part of Washington.
Putin aims for American “capitulation”? Is that what he wants? Or does America demand Russia’s capitulation? And how would that be possible, except in a nuclear ‘victory’ resulting from America’s having achieved “nuclear primacy”?
After all of America’s sanctions against Russia, and its efforts of subversion against Russia via propagandizing for Russia’s oppositionists, and its coup that outright seized Russia’s next-door neighbor and that now threatens to bring Ukraine into NATO and to place America’s nuclear weapons there — the aggressor is: “Putin”? Really?
The article continues with yet more of the standard — though all entirely either firmly disproven or else never proven — accusations to demonize Putin, a litany of America’s standard lies and unproven allegations against him:
Biden’s aim to “impose real costs on Russia for its violations of international norms and stand with Russian civil society,” as he wrote, reveals a readiness to pursue a long-overdue policy based on principles and values. Given Russia’s appalling track record on human rights, the Biden administration should aggressively implement the Magnitsky Act, which penalizes Russian officials who engage in gross human rights abuses. The list of victims of the Putin regime’s brutal treatment of its perceived enemies is long. It includes the assassination or poisoning, either in Russia or on Western soil, of the former spies Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal, the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and the opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Alexei Navalny.
Near its end, the article urges Biden to be even more aggressive against Russia than his predecessors were:
Neither Obama nor Trump visited Ukraine or Georgia during their presidency to demonstrate U.S. support at the highest levels for these fledgling democracies. Biden has been to both countries numerous times, and he should include stops there on a trip to Europe. Investing in the success of these countries is a good way to solidify their defense against Moscow. He should also be unequivocal in his support for the people of Belarus in their struggle against Lukashenko.
Finally, the United States must stop enabling Russian corruption. Corruption is Putin’s most nefarious and successful export, and the West greedily imports it.
The idea that Russia “exports” and America “imports” corruption, is the exact reverse of the truth. Among the realities which that article is assuming that its readers don’t know are the fact that Harvard’s economics department were hired by the U.S. Government in the late 1980s and early 1990s to set up capitalism in Russia so as to cut America’s billionaires in on the loot, and the fact that those Harvardians did precisely this. As a result, Russia’s economy plunged catastrophically under Boris Yeltsin until Putin became President in 2000 and ordered the billionaires to pay to Russia what they owed, or else Russia would outlaw them and pursue them in foreign courts if they refused to comply and instead escaped. Those cases against some who absconded are still pending, more than twenty years later. If U.S.-and-allied billionaires can’t get a cut, they want the country to be destroyed; it’s their way; it’s merely the normal thing for the aristocracy of an imperialistic country. What else is imperialism about? (Few Americans have even a clue as to what it’s about.) For the Russian billionaires who agreed to Putin’s terms, including never again to become involved in politics, they could stay in Russia, and keep the wealth that was legally theirs. But Putin’s bottom line is that any billionaire who violates the conditions will be prosecuted for any violations.
Virtually as soon as Putin came into power in Russia, the national economy turned around. The 1991-1999 collapse ended, and GDP rose almost as fast as in China. And, as a result, Obama was following through on the “Nuclear Primacy” goal of the U.S. Government that had become semi-official policy under George W. Bush’s Administration in 2006, of ultimately winning a nuclear war against Russia, instead of the prior-existing (ever since the 1940s) strategy, of using nuclear weapons only in order to prevent a WW III, the shared fear, of Mutually Assured Destruction (“MAD”).
So, now, under Biden, it seems that Nuclear Primacy will be ramped up even more than it previously has been. The cheering section is all ready for him to do that.
On 4 December 2014, the former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul had headlined “Reckless Congress ‘Declares War’ on Russia”, and he condemned the casual disregard of any requirement of truthfulness in a resolution (“H. Res 758”) which had been passed that day almost unanimously, with only 10 “Nay” votes, half Republican and half Democratic, but 411 “Yea” votes, 97.6% of the votes being to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives a declaration of war against Russia. So, it is clear that almost 100% of members, even in that House (and the Senate tends to be even worse), are rabidly imperialistic (or “neoconservative”). If a President Joe Biden will follow through on that — as he has given every indication he wants to do — then the only remaining question will be whether, in the estimation of his equally imperialistic advisors, America’s military superiority to Russia is sufficiently “Nuclear Primacy” for them to advise the U.S. President to launch a sudden and all-out nuclear attack against Russia.
Three days later, the writer Thad Beversdorf headlined at Zero Hedge, “The Most Essential Lesson Of History That No One Wants To Admit”, and he analogized that vote, to the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, on 10 October 2002 (“H.J. Res. 114”) for invading Iraq, which was far less unanimous, 296 “Yea” and 133 “Nay”, with 61% of Democrats voting “Nay.” There was less unanimity to invade Iraq then, than there is support for a President Joe Biden to blitz-nuclear-attack Russia now. After the failure of the Democrats’ effort to expel Trump from office as a ‘puppet of Putin’ (or, as the Washington Post noted, “Joe Biden has called Russia’s Vladimir Putin a ‘KGB thug,’ mocked President Trump as ‘Putin’s puppy’”), they might be even more in favor of launching WW III now than they were on 10 October 2014. With a Congress that’s like this, the President really wouldn’t even need to pay attention to the Constitutional requirement of a formal Congressional declaration of war against Russia — the members of both the House and Senate are already on record as being overwhelmingly in support. For the President, only the opinions of his advisors will be important. Of course, things won’t get to that point if at some stage between now and that decision’s being made, the U.S. President will do the decent thing and back down. But he has not been surrounding himself with people who have given any indication of their supporting such a move. And the cheering section for WW III in America’s press would make extremely embarrassing for him to do that. Maybe some in the press would even call him a “commie” if he did.
Beversdorf also wrote there:
I recently watched a presentation by former World Bank President, James Wolfensohn, to a political science class at Stanford University. The moral to his story (and I use that ironically) was to challenge them to figure out a way, in the face of a rising East soon to control a higher share of the world’s assets than the West, to retain the West’s global control. He stressed it was something his generation did not have to deal with but that today’s Western up and coming political class must consider. You see, China is a powerful nation, but without an alliance with Russia, China can be contained due its lack of energy. Because China is both a more difficult opponent and one that has much more trade with the US, Russia is the obvious target to prevent a fully formed Sino-Soviet alliance.
And, now, suddenly, two of America’s billionaires, Charles Koch (a top funder of the Republican Party) and George Soros (a top funder of the Democratic Party), have joined together to form “The Quincy Institute,” supposedly to end America’s imperialism (but without acknowledging that America has recently been “imperialistic”). The creation of this new organization was first reported by the veteran journalist Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe, on 30 June 2019, headlining “In an astonishing turn, George Soros and Charles Koch team up to end US ‘forever war’ policy”. But, then, on 11 August 2020, that Institute headlined its own “New Paper Offers ‘Course Correction’ for America’s Failed Syria Policy”, and reported there that “‘Recognizing that Assad is largely culpable for the war, the worst outcome for both U.S. interests and for Syrian civilians would be total collapse of the Syrian state,’ Simon [the paper’s author] says,” and so he argues that the U.S. should “open diplomatic contact with the Syrian regime,” in order to request the “regime” to cease cooperating with its foreign allies, especially Iran. For example, the full paper, itself, asserts that, “The alternative to Israel’s whack-a-mole strategy [against Syria] is a regulated framework for [by which Simon actually means against] Iranian activities in Syria. The government best able to negotiate and enforce such constraints is the Syrian regime itself.” In other words: Syria’s Government should do some things against Iran’s Government that the Israeli and American regimes want done. (Supposedly, this is NOT neoconservative? How stupid does a person need to be to believe that?) The U.S. regime is not being referred to, in Simon’s screed, itself, as a “regime” — which it actually is, far more than Syria’s Government is. In other words, the con goes on: this is yet another con-job, but coming now from supposedly non-political hires of two U.S. billionaires — two of the individuals who actually control the U.S. Government — instead of from their supposedly democratically s‘elected’ political office-holders. The U.S. regime has the gall to call itself a government, while calling its victim-nations “regimes.” Obviously, continuation of that haughty, basically dictatorial, attitude is inconsistent with ending the invader-nation’s imperialism. Furthermore, the paper itself, by Simon, says nothing, whatsoever, about the necessity for the U.S. regime to pay restitution to the Syrian Government — much less, about placing Barack Obama and Donald Trump before a tribunal of international criminal law, for their war-crimes. In other words: it is a bad joke upon its audience.
The fakery, to fool the boobs, changes, but nothing yet indicates that it will reduce, and no indication, whatsoever, is provided that it will end. Even so much as restitution, by today’s nazi government, to its victims, isn’t so much as mentioned, even once. Perhaps the endless war will just change its name, until it ends the world. Its cheering section will never let up.
Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture
Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now?
“Day of fire”. That’s how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the Capitol insurrection, which happens to be the exact same phrase President George W. Bush used on the occasion of 9/11. That is not coincidental. But why won’t the FBI draw 9/11 parallels now?
In spring last year, when I was running for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech, in a leaked memo to the New York Times, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich was quoted in a reaction to the Black Lives Matters protests. Bowdich maintained that the protesters should be arrested under an outdated racketeering law from the 1940s. The leaked memo showed that Mr Bowdich considered the social justice movement “a national crisis” comparable to 9/11. The hundreds of thousands of people mourning and marching across the country, unified by the simple thought that no life should be taken lightly, for nothing, were actually similar to terrorists in the eyes of the FBI who wanted to charge them as racketeers. Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now, when it comes to far-right actual terrorism? We are talking about plans to blow up buildings and assassinate law-makers.
There is evidence appearing now through the courts that the Trump mob indeed intended to capture and assassinate congressmen. A new court filing by federal prosecutors says that Trump supporters intended to “capture and assassinate” elected officials during the Capitol riot.
The FBI has a misplaced terrorism obsession with the progressive left, while lightly ignoring the far-right, which is by far the more violent and much more organized group. The Capitol events security mishandling demonstrated a different attitude when it comes to the latter group.
There is a difference between street clashes with police in social justice protests that have gone overboard and have turned violent, on one hand, and placing bombs at political buildings, plans to kidnap and assassinate politicians, and violent usurping of the certification of a democratically elected president. The difference should be obvious, and yet the FBI is pursuing its obsession with the left voices, largely ignoring the violent extremists and the real violent terrorism threat on the far right, as recently revealed by an Intercept investigation.
In a public statement, the FBI made sure that the public understood its own misguided standard used in the threat assessment in the Capitol attacks by the Trump mob, namely the aspirations vs intentions test. The FBI official explained that the FBI needs to consider that some online activity and planning by the far right could simply be “keyboard bravado”. So, “keyboard bravado” is now the new “locker room talk”.
It is not surprising that the FBI uses different standards to assess the threat on the far-left and on the far-right. Former FBI director Hoover called Martin Luther King “one of the most dangerous negroes in America”. MLK was far from a hero for the FBI. It is not uncommon for the FBI even today to mischaracterize center-left voices of reasonable progressives who are anti-violence, pro-rights and pro-equality as far-left anarchists and communists, magnifying the threat on the left while ignoring the bigger threat on the right. Calling reasonable center-left Democrats anarchists and communists is a classical President Putin move. Let’s recall that ahead of the presidential elections in November, Russian President Putin endorsed Biden and the Democrats as communists whom we would get along with, in order to discredit them.
Let’s look at the actions and the security measures present around the two types of crowds. In a recent interview I wondered why FBI deputy director Bowdich won’t evoke 9/11 now in relation to far-right terrorism, in the context of the methods that the FBI sometimes uses to suppress and deal with progressive voices.
The FBI have opened mow many cases for “domestic terrorism” into the Capitol attack and it is true that they are saying that they are treating these cases as “international terrorism” but where is the FBI public condemnation of terrorism? We have not seen public statements by the FBI director Christopher Wray and FBI deputy director David Bowdich. Why won’t Bowdich come out and evoke 9/11 now, just like he did with the Black Lives Matter movement?
America has a long way to go to recover from the damage that Trump and his cronies spread across the various US agencies have done to democratic principles and human rights. The Trump institutional capture of key agencies such as the FBI and the CIA, let alone DOJ, has led the country into a downward spiral. I myself just launched a $1 UN lawsuit against the Trump circle at the UN, in attempt to clear the Trump circle also from the UN.
The capitol events were an embarrassment for the FBI who failed the due diligence standard of the reasonably expected measures that should have been taken in a similar situation because they were dealing with the President’s supporters. Then, the FBI decided to justify their inaction with the false “keyboard bravado” explanation, which does not explain anything.
The FBI are now running social media campaigns for the collection of evidence on suspects in the Capitol attacks but the truth is that the FBI does not need random people to phone them and point them to the bad guys. The FBI follow these groups and people, they know everything. It’s just a question of choice as to when to bring out the collected over time evidence. The FBI is in a hurry now only because there is public and social pressure to do something. All of America is watching what will happen to the bad guys.
A couple of days ahead of the Capitol events, I noted on Twitter that Homeland Security acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, was on a trip to Cyprus, while America was “burning”. The Cyprus frictions in the European Mediterranean seem like a holiday now, in comparison to the Capitol events. Several days later, Wolf resigned.
With the news that President Trump intends to issue over 100 new pardons during his last two days in office, the question of justice for the Capitol events is as relevant as ever, as it is reasonably expected that some of the pardons could relate to the Capitol attacks.
It is safe to say that former Attorney General Bill Barr is not missed by many people. The Trump supporters’ cases would not have received fair treatment at the Department of Justice under his watch. The new Attorney General in the Biden Administration, judge Merrick Garland, in fact, might discover that many cases from the Bill Barr time will have to be reopened.
The top security priority now is President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, 20 January, while Trump holds a separate rally. The Capitol events served as a warning.
Looking forward, it is time for American democracy to demonstrate its elasticity. And legal justice necessarily has to be a part of that, ignoring phony calls for “unity” and “healing” made by the criminals themselves who are trying to escape justice now. There can’t be unity without ensuring justice first.
Latin America and China: The difficulties in relations and Covid-19
The relations between China and Latin America have developed positively, but some problems and challenges are also being faced. Firstly, the intensified strategic and economic competition between China and the United States has increased the negative impact on the relations between China and Latin America. Trump’s Administration already used zero-sum competition and Cold War mentality to mark Sino-U.S. relations, believing that China’s rise in Latin America could upset the U.S. order in the Western Hemisphere.
Back in February 2018, during a visit to Latin America the then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that China was using its economic influence to bring Latin America into its sphere of influence, and criticised it as seeking a new imperial power for its geopolitical expansion.
In 2018, Rand Corporation published the 400-page report At the Dawn of Belt and Road. China in the Developing World. The report pointed out that China’s contacts in Latin America and its geopolitical advantages held back the U.S. presence in the region.
Specifically, the report explored China’s economic, political and security roles in Southeast Asia, Oceania, Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report also analysed China’s bilateral relations with key States in each region. Finally, it dealt with the negative consequences of the Chinese strategy towards developing countries for the United States. Therefore, it maintained that strategists and decision-makers in the Armed Forces, and all U.S. military staff, needed to focus on China and anyone interested in developing international relations with that country. An attitude of threat not only towards China.
Another factor preventing – at least apparently – the development of China-Latin America relations is the retreat of Progressives and the advance of Conservatives in the landscape of political change in the Subcontinent: this poses a challenge to the development of mutual relations.
2017 and 2018 were general election years in thirteen Latin American countries. In Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and other countries, the old traditional and left-wing parties lost elections. Therefore, Latin America is divided into two camps: one is the left-wing one represented by Cuba and Venezuela, and the other is the right-wing camp composed of Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
Conversely, the fast development of China-Latin America relations from 2003 to 2013 was favoured by the political atmosphere of the left-wing camp. Currently, however, the transition from the Left to the Right tells us that some countries rely on the United States in terms of development projects and ideologies. Therefore, the political transition has become an additional challenge for the development of relations between China and Latin America.
Another crisis point is the impact of the pandemic. Here are some data regarding the Covid-19 cases until January 17, 2021:
Latin America: 16,753,447
North America: 23,091,187 (USA: 22,423,006; Canada: 668,181)
Latin American countries record relatively high urbanisation rates, with peaks of 70-80%. Large cities are very densely populated, with a high percentage of informal employment and weak national control abilities, which create the conditions for the spread of Covid-19.
On the other hand, the United States-which is the worst affected country in the American Continent – has increased the repatriation of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries for reasons of epidemic prevention and control, thus further aggravating the situation in these already disadvantaged countries.
Why is the pandemic in Brazil so severe? The indifference of President Bolsonaro’s government towards the epidemic, as well as ineffective measures and omissions in control are the main reasons for the spread of the epidemic in Brazil. The first case was discovered in Brazil on March 12, 2020 and the epidemic soon began to spread throughout the country, which currently records 8,131,612 cases and 203,580 deaths.
Brazil’s former Health Minister, Nelson Teich, advocated isolation, but Bolsonaro’s philosophy is different. He believes that imposing quarantine curbs economic development. Health Minister Teichresigned. The new Minister is Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, who has no medical training and no experience in managing public health disasters.
An official of the Brazilian Ministry of Health said that the number of people infected by the pandemic is officially eight million, but it has actually exceeded ten million. This unprecedented public health crisis has triggered economic recession and could lead to new social unrest. These are all new challenges.
The impact of Covid-19 on the entire Latin American region is very severe. According to the World Bank statistics, it has been the most severe crisis ever since the Great Depression in the 1920s and 1930s. The blow to the region is reflected mainly in four aspects:
1) exports have declined.
2) The prices of raw materials have fallen. Due to reduced demand, prices have inevitably fallen. Recently, everyone has seen a drop in copper prices, especially as Peru and Chile, the copper mining centres of the world, have been forced to close their mines due to the impact of the pandemic.
3) Tourism has collapsed. Latin America is a kind of cultural-exotic attraction for North Americans and Europeans. With Covid-19, there is no way for tourism and passenger transport to go back to the traditional levels of normalcy.
4) The inflow of remittances has decreased significantly. They are one of the main driving forces for economic development in the area, especially in regions like Central America and countries like Mexico.
The Latin American immigrants working in the United States put aside the money they earn and send it to their families – a key source of income for Latin America. As the U.S. economy has been severely hit, also remittances have been significantly reduced, to the detriment of the entire subcontinent.
With specific reference to Covid-19, it should also be mentioned that on June 24, 2020, the U.S. Congress held a full-scale hearing and invited a number of U.S. experts to express their views.
Those experts included Robert Evan Ellis of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. One of the main points he made was that the U.S. government should strengthen its support for Latin American allies to prevent China from using ‘medical diplomacy’ to expand its sphere of influence in Latin America, along with advances in supply chains, strategic acquisitions and loans to troubled governments, while the West remains economically weakened and politically distracted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hence, in his view, the United States should resolutely stop China’s technological expansion in Latin America. This means that the United States should not acquire and share Chinese medical know-how.
Ultimately, the pandemic has not changed China’s goals or overall strategy. It provides an unprecedented opportunity for China to move forward with its implementation. With the help of the Chinese government’s controls on its population to impose and enforce quarantine, and thanks to its huge financial reserves and leverage on the economy, China is emerging from the crisis (albeit certainly weakened) ahead of most Western and non-Western countries.
The pandemic and its health, economic and other effects are likely to persist and continue to weaken the United States and Europe for some time. The interplay between partial economic reopening and the time needed to develop, test and massively produce a vaccine will extend this process.
In Latin America and in other less developed parts of the world, the situation is likely to be far worse. Less capable public health systems, large informal sectors, vulnerable small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as limits to governments’ ability to borrow money to protect vulnerable populations, and the related economic sectors will put pressure on economies as they suffer from Western countries’ declining investment and demand for their exports. In China, on the other hand, things are being solved.
Democracy Or What? – And Then Climate
Most of us were appalled to see what happened in Washington a ten days ago when a ‘mob’, incited by Donald Trump’s address, stormed the Capitol building to prevent the presentation of Joe Biden as the next President. He gave voice to a possible fraudulent (in his mind) election, by putting suspicion on the postal ballot long before the election took place, and tried to ‘engineer’ the ballot by putting his ‘own’ man in control of it. He tried to manipulate the Supreme Court by replacing vacancies with people he expected to follow his lead and must have been disappointed, if not shocked, to find that the court unanimously rejected his claim that the votes had been rigged and should be thrown out. His unruly term of office saw the greatest turnover of people of any previous presidential term as staff could only hack the unusual behaviour of a disordered mind for so long. And so on and on. Much will be written about the 4-year aberration that was Donald Trump. On a lighter note, his escapades in golf have given rise to a book, ‘Commander in Cheat’!
Concerned people have written and spoken about the state of democracy today. Those of us who have spent some time stateside appreciate the immensity of the country, how one is made welcome, but also the prejudices that one finds and the general unknowing of the world we live in by large swathes of the population. Some are still steeped in attitudes that pre-date the civil war. Donald Trump played to all of those and gave them voice. That is a big challenge facing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to get America back on track and if not ‘great again’ to stand up and join the rest of us and share and appreciate that there are billions of other people that are working away with hopes and dreams and looked to the US as a beacon.
That should be the meaning of ‘great again’, and if they can look up and truly be the land of the free and welcome the weak and downtrodden who are fleeing war and violence, as was once the way, then we can say that once more ‘you have earned the right to be the leader of democracy’, and democracy, for all its imperfections, is still the least bad form of government. It is well that the US re-joins the world as totalitarianism, in all its forms and at all levels, is on the rise again. Countries that espouse democracy and heed its precepts need to speak up loudly and be heard once again.
In November of this year is the World Climate Meeting, COP21, in Glasgow, Scotland at which the latest news on climate will be debated. Hopefully, the coronavirus will be on the decline and the US election will no longer be an issue. We can then get together on the one matter that should concentrate all our minds and separate the wheat from the chaff because there is some said that is wrong that muddies the waters, and leads the politicians to make incorrect decisions. But change is around us.
Climate is a highly complex issue, arguably the most complicated, that not all the modelling can get right, but study must go on. It is strange that it has only come to our notice since the population of the world over the past 60 years, has increased dramatically from approaching 3 billion to 8 billion. Mankind has thus significantly increased breeding himself, and thus his use of natural resources, for example cutting down trees, which need carbon dioxide to live, and vastly increased the pollution of the seas and the seas cover 70% of the planet. It has only been in comparatively recent times that we have started to pay attention to the seas and are alarmed at what we see.
However, we have the tools to put things right. We just need the will and ability to spend money wisely.
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