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The Confused Superpower: A Year After America’s Elections

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

By virtue of its combined power capabilities, the United States continues to occupy a central place in international politics, and developments inside the country inevitably become the most important factor in world affairs. Even if we deny the significance of what is happening inside this huge “billiard ball”, the transformations taking place there inevitably affect its movement and, therefore, we must take them into account. Therefore, the mere fact that the United States is the only country besides Russia to have large, terrifying stockpiles of nuclear weapons (and at the same time have decisive influence on the world financial system), is already a sufficiently solid reason to speculate about the significance of important developments in the history of that country for the whole world.

A year ago, in November 2020, the eccentric billionaire Donald Trump’s presidency, quite short by the standards of modern world politics, ended in electoral defeat. His clearly premature departure into oblivion on the national and international political stage was organised through the high mobilisation of the liberal wing of the American elite and the corresponding involvement of administrative and financial resources. As a result, Trump quickly flashed across the horizon of world politics and now it is even difficult to say whether he left any noticeable legacy. But the point, in fact, is not even this — much more significant is how the developments associated with his activities as President of the United States reflected the country’s own development and objective changes in the global balance of power.

From the point of view of the evolution of US foreign policy, the Trump presidency chopped down with an axe the main initiatives and features of American foreign policy behaviour in the new era. There are hardly any observers who cast doubt on the fact that with the arrival of Joseph Biden in the White House in January 2021, nothing has fundamentally changed in American politics.

The new president brought to its logical conclusion the insane Afghanistan saga of the United States and its allies, he continued to destroy the international order based on the UN and other institutions, and put American interests above global considerations, even above the most important interests of his allies. The spontaneous and chaotic “incursion” against China under Trump gave way to a relatively methodical siege of this unwitting US rival for its role as the main global parasite.

This is due to the fact, that the content of Trump’s decisions was dictated by objective circumstances — only the execution looked extravagant, with a tinge of chaotic madness. Biden is even trying to find a common language with Russia, which the Republican administration proclaimed as its goal in 2017, but was quickly forced to abandon. Politics towards Moscow remained hostile, but now it is acquiring features of a new normal — it would be difficult to do, if Trump hadn’t shaken America in his own way.

By the time Trump arrived in Washington, his country had already lost the ability to get the greatest benefit from the world economy and act as the global supervisor in international politics. Throughout the previous 25 years, without exception — a whole quarter of a century — American presidents have been doing nothing but squandering the colossal power resources at their disposal. The time to pay the bills inevitably had to come and the “buck” stopped with Trump. The accumulated burden of this reckoning fell on Biden even more than on Trump.

What brings the winner and the loser in the presidential election a year ago even closer together is that they neither believes in the chimera of America’s global leadership that emerged after the Cold War as a beautiful packaging for selfish foreign policy, which continued to devour colossal resources.

Apparently, due to his advanced age, Biden, like Trump, was not sufficiently infected with the virus of replacing real politics with idle talk, which is a property of almost all American leaders who gained strength or emerged as leaders after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Both presidents seem to have jumped into the 21st century from a completely different era — a time when the ability of the United States to determine the fate of other sovereign peoples was not indisputable. They consistently tried to integrate their power into the changing landscape of multipolar global politics. In other words, Biden is trying to do consistently what Trump did erratically and with his hands bound by internal sabotage. To the extent, of course, as the constantly changing circumstances allow.

However, the problem is that the external environment is not becoming more favourable for the United States. Thanks to the enormous accumulated resources of “structural strength”, Americans can still make rather creative decisions and even meet with the readiness of other countries to agree with them. Nevertheless, now, as ever, any consent to follow American policy must be paid for in hard currency. In fact, in the last stages of the Cold War and after its conclusion, the United States paid off its allies with access to benefits on a global scale. Now there are fewer and fewer opportunities to do this — only the weakness of the rest of the West, particularly Europe, saves American interests. Anyway, for example, the Europeans are stronger in the economy, and Germany, after Biden took office, completed the construction of its beloved gas pipeline from Russia in spite of American opposition. France cannot show more sovereign foreign policy only because of deep internal degradation in the Fifth Republic. There are practically no reliable allies left — except Australia, which is just glad when the rest of the world remembers about its existence.

It was easy enough for Trump to deal with China. At first, Beijing simply did not expect that America’s favourite would turn out to be its main adversary. Therefore, under Trump, the Chinese authorities often looked somewhat confused and tried to return relations to their previous track. New attacks from the United States embarrassed China, which was not ready for a decisive rebuff then. By the time of Biden’s arrival, Chinese behaviour in response to American pressure had stabilised. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, China was able to close itself off and began to prepare for a long confrontation. During the Trump era, the Chinese were not yet ready to cooperate so actively with Russia on security issues, and now Moscow’s manoeuvres in Eastern Europe and Beijing’s actions around Taiwan look increasingly coordinated.

But Biden behaves more systemically. He has absolutely no illusions about the possibility of stopping the growth of China’s power in any foreseeable future. That is why he is trying to reduce the tension in relations with Russia, which is covering up China’s strategic positions with its military power and determination to use it.

At the same time, it was under Trump that the Americans finally missed the time when it was possible to determine the main features of the new international order by making concessions to the two most dissatisfied powers — Russia and China. Now the game has gone so far that any concessions on the part of the United States will most likely lead to a new round of the power struggle, even if in a milder way. The coronavirus pandemic contributed to the closure of powers in themselves, together with a qualitative reduction of all the values that participation in the liberal world order gave them. Therefore, Biden has absolutely nothing to trade, and he understands this perfectly well — all that remains is to go into a counterattack, which does not look impressive either, since it is accompanied by insufficient self-confidence and the search for tactical compromises.

We do not know now with whom Russia, China and all the rest of the world will have to deal with in a few years, when Biden, for natural or other reasons, leaves the White House. It is very likely that America’s domestic politics will offer us a leader who will become an improved version of Trump-Biden and the inevitable rivalry of the great powers will enter a calm period. But at the same time, one can expect sharper movements, which, of course, are dangerous in view of the destructive potential of the nuclear weapons stockpiles accumulated by the great powers.

From our partner RIAC

PhD in Political Science, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club; Academic supervisor of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, HSE University, RIAC Member

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Review of indo pacific strategy of the United States

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President Biden strategy is based on, “Free and open indo pacific enduring and flourishing world ahead.”-President Biden statement on QUAD summit on September 24,2021

Indo pacific is the home of the United states so they have really acute policies in this region. The united states have announced the Indo pacific strategy and the role of US in the coming 21st century for the betterment of the indo pacific and its stability and how can they work for this region and how they can utilize this region for the better cause of the world. The united states alliances system has deeply helped the world and they have tried their best to support and spread the agenda of the liberalism regarding open market, free and openness, connectedness, prosperity of the world, security of the world with respect to traditional and nontraditional security dynamics of the world which includes climate green security and they also tend to reflect on the post pandemic world order.

Since the united states is in the indo pacific region itself. This region geographically touches its coast from pacific to Indian coast and economically is the emerging yet emerged dominating hub of 2/3rd economy of the world and seven major militaries of the world. It also owns and supports $900 billion foreign direct investments and even it supports 300 million jobs by US. For US this regions stability is really crucial and important. Any damage to this region is considered as a threat to US itself and for US the stability of this region is really crucial and important as this region provide opportunities and making it a hegemon of the world and also thus increases risks for US either. This region got more important to US after world war2 and after end of the cold war and even in during presidency of president George Bush and also in the trumps era and also in the presidency of the president Biden.

Since president Biden is focused to invest more in every corner of the world keeping it engaged and integrated focusing from the northeast Asia to southeast Asia and from north to south including indo pacific. Since he stated that,

“We will focus in every corner of the region, from northeast Asia to southeast Asia including south Asia to Oceania and pacific islands.”

this defines the importance and utility of this region to the US.

Indo pacific strategy is based on 5 principles that motivates US to work on. These are The indo pacific strategy Is based on:

  1. Free and open indo pacific.
  2. Building connections in the region and beyond.
  3. Prosperity of the indo pacific region
  4. Security of indo pacific region
  5. Building regional resilience in the 21st century

Advance a free and open indo pacific:

It is in the vital interests of the us to advance a free and open indo pacific region and they are working to advance this home region where government can make their own choices and become consistent under the obligation of international law. They are working hard to enforce democratic type of government in this region and enforcing democratic institutions and establishing a vibrant civil society and press free society. They are also trying hard to expose corruptions and drive reforms. They are also trying hard to make the regions skies and seas according to international law and are trying hard to achieve major advance technologies like cyber space and internet.

Build connections within and beyond region:

It is believed that free and open indo pacific can be achieved only if we build connections within and beyond the indo pacific region through economy, trade and organizations and institutions etc. since US is making adaptability through alliance system and through trade. Well US is looking forward to deepen its treaty alliances with japan, Thailand, Philippines and republic of Korea and looking forward to strengthen its relations with India, Taiwan, Mongolia, Thailand, Vietnam and pacific islands. They are also empowering QUAD and ASEAN states. US is also supporting India to achieve the race of regional hegemony. US is also expanding its diplomatic presence in the indo pacific zones and expanding it in a futile way.

Drive indo pacific prosperity:

The indo pacific is the home of Americans and so their prosperity is linked with the stability and prosperity of indo pacific regions. The real fact behind the investments to encourage innovation, strengthen economic competitiveness, produce good-paying jobs, rebuild supply chains, and expand economic opportunities for middle-class families almost for 1.5 billion people in the Indo-Pacific that will join the global middle class this decade. We will drive Indo-Pacific prosperity. The indo pacific regions can get prosperous by developing new trade and environmental traditions and by stabilizing traditional and nontraditional paradigms and domains in this region. Also by governing the digital economies and by introducing new digital framework in this region. US is introducing advance and resilient and more secure supply chains that are more diverse and predictable and open to the new world and new technologies. US is thriving hard to make investments and decarburizations and clean energy. They are tend to promote free and fair and open trade and investment through APEC which means Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation’s.

Bolster Indo- pacific security:

US has maintained its militia in this indo-pacific region for more than 75 years to maintain the security of this region and has kept its defense in this region to keep its security, stability and peace secure. The United States is extending and modernizing and enhancing its capabilities to defend their interest and to deter aggression in this region. US is bolstering this region and deterring the aggression and coercion by advancing integrated deterrence and deepening cooperation and enhancing integration with their allies and partners. US is also maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan strait and they are really about it. US is also innovating to operate rapidly in evolving threats of environment, cyber and other traditional and nontraditional domains of this domain. United states is determined to strengthen its extended deterrence and coordination with Japanese allies and Korean peninsula.  They are looking forward to deliver on AUKUS. US is also working with congress to fund the pacific deterrence initiative and maritime initiative.

Build regional resilience in 21st century to transitional threats:

The indo pacific major challenge is climate security and glacier melting’s which is leading to consistent rise in sea levels. Similarly, covid is also inflicting a painful and is also an economic troll across the region. This region is also vulnerable to natural disasters, recourse scarcity, internal threats and major governance challenges so US is firm to build the resilience to 21st century transitional threats by working its allies and partners to develop 2030 and 2050 targets, strategies and plans and policies by limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius. They are also firm to reduce regional vulnerabilities and its impact of climate change and environmental degradations and also working on health security after COVID-19 pandemic and its mass destruction in this zone.

Way forward:

The US is looking forward to work in strengthen and work in these zones which are as:

  1. They are driving and working more resources to the indo pacific and are determined to more transnational and individual based interactions.
  2. Leading indo-pacific economic framework
  3. Reinforcing deterrence
  4. Strengthening unified ASEAN.
  5. Supporting India’s regional leadership.
  6. Deliver on QUAD.
  7. Work on US- Japan-ROK cooperation.
  8. Firm to partner to work on resilience in the pacific islands.
  9. Supporting good governance and accountability in this region.
  10. Supporting open, secure and more trustworthy technologies in this region.

Conclusion:

US have entered significant time of Americans international strategy after the world war that their ambitions, goals and policies have become clearer in this region. The US will ascend to our authority charge on discretion, security, financial aspects, environment, pandemic reaction, and innovation. The Indo-Pacific’s future relies upon our decisions of United States and US strategies. “The US role in this region must be effective and enduring than ever for this region and the world.”

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America’s Exceptionalism in Mass-Shooting and Its Culture of Rugged Individualism

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Amid an unrelenting surge of gun massacres, many have wondered why the United States- the world’s leading country in mass shootings over the last century, is more prone to mass shootings than any other country. Gun violence, though, is prevalent in many parts of the world, for instance in most parts of Latin America. But in America, no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings by “lone-wolf” gunmen. According to Gun Violence Archive, 39 mass shootings have already taken place across the country in just the first three weeks of 2023. Last year the country witnessed around 647 cases of mass shooting with the consequence of more than 44,000 death tolls due to gun violence overall.

Like its political establishment, American public discourse has long firmly been divided over what causes this epidemic. The critics of this national sickness focus their fire on the second amendment of the American constitution and the nefarious political influence of the National Rifles Association (NRF). But here comes down to the question: will a mere constitutional amendment and the neutralization of special interest groups like the NRF lead to the solution to the endemic prevalence of lone-wolf mass shootings? The answer is: not likely, as the problem is deeply rooted in America’s culture itself: the culture of rugged individualism built on its deep-seated historical myth.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, rugged individualism is defined as “the combination of individualism and anti-statism … a prominent feature of American culture with deep roots in the country’s history of frontier settlement.” While individualism, as noted, may be conducive to innovation and resource mobilization, it can also undermine collective action, with potentially adverse social consequences. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was seen how America’s rugged individualistic mindset fomented by its frontier culture hampered the state responses to the pandemic, with many Americans having defied mandatory mask-wearing and vaccination programs.

Likewise, the gun is a great emblem and lethal offspring of American individualism. The nation has long valorized masculine heroes –violent frontiersmen or Hollywoodized American Archetype “White Loners” – who impose their will on the community’s enemies with violence. Added to that deep-seated historical ideal and cultural sickness are the deteriorating trend in kinship traditions and ever-declining “rational mobility”- a condition that helps establish bonds of support beyond immediate families on the basis of socially engaging emotions such as empathy warmth, trust, affection, etc.

Self-serving politicians and gun advocates often ridiculously propose giving more arms into the hands of “the good guys” to thwart “the bad guys with guns.” The Americans’ dire wishes for gun possession, however, stem less from their sense of personal or communal security rather more from an egocentric individualistic cultural reasoning that lacks the prioritization of collective communal safety. The unshakeable emotional and individualistic values Americans attach to guns frequently override concerns about the nation’s collective health and safety.          

The exercise of unfettered individualism is also seen in many parts of the western world, like in Europe; but nowhere in the world is this so infested by historical myth and pathological strains as in America- what the prominent criminologist Adam Lankford called “the uniquely American quality.” And where the United States is stunningly divergent from the rest of the world is the confluence of individualistic culture and the easiest access to guns. In no other part of the world gun access and rugged individualistic culture interact in the same way.

Although many European countries share the same cultural forces that produce aggrieved social outcasts. But those countries erect formidable hurdles on the way of purchasing guns legally that are quite unheard of in the United States: longer waiting periods, higher insurance costs, full-blown psychiatric evaluations, gun safety courses, etc. Resultantly, the country has more weapons than people: one in three adults possesses at least one firearm, and almost one in two adults resides in a home with a firearm.

But the prevalence of guns alone does not account for U.S. exceptionalism in mass shootings. For example, like the United States, much of Latin America is saturated with firearms but, despite high rates of gun violence, mass shootings there by a “lone wolf” gunman are exceedingly rare. And experts pointed to the cultural difference as a powerful factor playing out in creating a huge disparity in the number of mass shooting cases between the two regions.      

In America, ever-increasing personal and economic struggles combined with the inherent state structural tension and identity crisis continue to produce aggrieved social outcasts. On top of this, the ever-exacerbating political climate plagued by partisan divide, racial toxicity, and xenophobic bigotry has also been influencing socially and politically aggrieved outcasts, due to the absence of alternative social redressing mechanisms, to seek recourse by resorting to mass violence. Here, rugged individualism works in creating the very roots of virile fantasy to violence, a toxic political milieu in fueling grievances, and finally easy access to guns in triggering off those grievances in the form of mass shooting.      

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American Democracy Remains Under Peril

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The democratic system of government in the United States underwent an unprecedented test two years ago when supporters of President Donald Trump attempted to reverse his election loss—some through illegal schemes, others through a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. American democracy has started to function better and its prospects have improved since that moment in history.

Extreme election deniers suffered defeats in crucial swing states like Arizona and Pennsylvania in the 2022 elections, which were successfully performed. The riots that attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the role that former US President Donald J. Trump played in inciting them were thoroughly documented by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol. Elections for president were held peacefully in Colombia while candidates with questionable commitments to democracy were rejected in Brazil and France.

The most powerful authoritarian governments in the world are currently having difficulties. The idea of a resurgent Moscow was dispelled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disastrously planned and carried out war in Ukraine. China’s attempt to overtake the United States as the world’s greatest economy and most powerful nation has failed due to President Xi Jinping’s poor mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak. Xi’s domestic popularity has been further weakened by China’s real estate boom, a 20 percent young unemployment rate, a politically motivated crackdown on the private sector, and soaring local government debt.

However, despite their diminished power, Beijing and Moscow continue to constitute a significant threat to democracy. They will need to disparage other forms of administration and criticize their democratic rivals more and more as their domestic issues get worse. Beijing and Moscow are launching a campaign of deception that targets and amplifies the vulnerability of American democracy as a result of this. Russia and China both, This propaganda campaign tries to delegitimize Western-style democracy in order to quell calls for democratic reforms. In the long run, it aims to establish a new, fragmented international order that prioritizes “national sovereignty” over human rights. It also aims to oust and support friendly governments, as well as combat the growing perception that cooperating with Beijing and Moscow has negative effects on local citizens.

Because Western democracies are weak, Beijing and Moscow are supported in this endeavour. Trump keeps questioning the validity of the 2020 election, and he might soon be charged with a crime. Gridlock, partisan investigations and impeachment attempts, as well as cynical new initiatives to erode rather than restore confidence in the American voting system, may well dominate Capitol Hill for the next two years. Conspiracy theories and misinformation continue to abound on social media, and corporate content moderation attempts have fallen short. With the quick development of generative AI software, which can create deep fakes in which famous personalities appear to be talking and doing things they never said or did, the assault on reality is likely to get exponentially worse. For the two superpowers of disinformation in the world, China and Russia, all of this is a blessing. The propaganda is more effective the more reliable the content.

The decline of democracy in the US aids in the delegitimization of democracy by Beijing and Moscow. American democracy must be strengthened at home if it is to once again serve as a model that may inspire others. The fight for global soft power can only be won by Washington at that point.

Both domestic and foreign security issues are raised by the state of the American democracy. Principal authoritarian rivals of the United States, China and Russia, have taken advantage of (and made worse) America’s democratic divides and struggles in the race for world leadership. In order to recover the upper hand, the United States must simultaneously strengthen its own democracy and raise its profile as an advocate for democracy abroad. The democratic movement needs to attack.

A significant investment in American soft power will be needed for this. Public diplomacy spending in the United States peaked at $2.5 billion in 1994 (inflation-adjusted) and nearly surpassed that amount in 2010 and 2011. However, since then, as new problems have emerged, American efforts have remained unchanged, with total expenditures only amounting to $2.23 billion in 2020.

Washington must reenter the struggle for international soft power in a way that upholds American ideals. It must convey the truth in ways that appeal to and influence people around the world. The objective must be to advance democratic values, concepts, and movements in addition to effectively combating misinformation with the truth. Multiple trustworthy streams of information are required to combat misinformation and report the truth that autocracies repress. Additionally, they must be independent; even though the US government may give them financial support, they must run without editorial oversight. They will appear independent, which they are, in this manner.

One option would be to change the Voice of America to resemble the British Broadcasting Corporation more closely. Its goal should be to serve as a role model for the values of the American democratic experiment by offering completely unbiased news on all nations, including the United States. Truth, independence, and expertise in reporting are necessary, but they are not sufficient to win the information battle. A decentralised, pluralistic web of high-quality media is also necessary. In autocracies, local media are ideally situated to collect and distribute evidence of corruption,

Serious policy mistakes and violations of human rights. In order to report the news and provide critical commentary in the absence of media freedom, the United States and its democratic allies must elevate and strengthen the underfunded local media. Funding for public interest media will be needed in the billions of dollars, much of which should go through the nongovernmental International Fund for Public Interest Media (including media operating in exile). The fund is a nonpartisan alliance of multinational foundations that can provide funding for regional independent media while preserving their independence.

Together with its democratic allies, Washington should explore fresh geopolitical and technological avenues for assisting closed regimes to overcome Internet censorship and social media surveillance. Autocracies will be less stable when those living in them have easier access to unbiased information and more secure means of communication with one another. In order to prevent autocracies from seizing control of international Internet standards and protocols, democracies must engage in active and coordinated diplomacy. The biggest flagrantly false and dangerous content must be removed. Social media companies must also take more action to combat the malicious manipulation of their platforms by foreign governments. And by tightening social media regulation, the US and other democracies should support these initiatives. TikTok should be removed from American devices as a first step.

But the democracy in America is not secure. The last Congress failed to pass legislation aimed at reducing the influence of money, strengthening and expanding voting rights, ending gerrymandering, ensuring ethical standards for elected officials, and enhancing election security, and there is little chance that it will succeed in the following one. Even worse, numerous states have taken action to limit voting rights and make it more challenging for minorities to cast ballots. Most concerning, several state legislatures with Republican control, led by North Carolina, are attempting to construct a doctrine of “independent state legislatures,” which would allow these bodies to rig election results and even draw partisan gerrymandered voting districts.without being subject to judicial, executive, or redistricting commission oversight. If domestic politics in the United Nations turn into a collection of one-party states, the country will be unable to confront autocracies on a global scale. The revival of American democracy and domestic achievement will be key to countering autocratic deception.

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