You would think that the international community wouldn’t be especially engaged with an election in one country, even if it is as large and complex as the United States. Particularly if the election is only a midterm event, and not one which will define the country’s leadership.
Not to mention that the focus of American voters themselves is not on fundamental questions of world politics or economics, but rather on purely domestic issues, such as inflation, abortion, immigration and street crime.
Nevertheless, last week the world’s attention was fixated on the twists and turns of another round of the perennial Democrat-Republican rivalry. Europe and Asia, Latin America, and Africa closely followed the election, recording any shifts in the mood of certain groups of the American electorate, noting the emergence of new potential leaders and making predictions about the likely future of the American political system. They were not watching out of idle curiosity—the future of the rest of the world depends to some extent on the political dynamics within the US.
Not only in America itself, but far beyond, there is an endless debate about the fate of US leadership and the limits of its international influence. Is it fair to say that, at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, we are witnessing the beginning of the revival of the former American hegemony in world affairs, or is the perceived restoration of a unipolar world nothing more than a delusion created by the efforts of skillful illusionists from the White House and the State Department?
The return of the unipolar world?
Most of the current talk about the resurgence of Pax Americana is in one way or another related to the unfolding conflict between Moscow and the collective West. There is a broad consensus in the expert community today that the US is the main beneficiary of this conflict and in particular of the Russian-Ukrainian dimension.
The current crisis has undoubtedly come in handy for President Joe Biden’s administration. Russia’s special military operation immediately overshadowed the not-so-successful conclusion of the US’ own 20-year offensive in Afghanistan. It also allowed the collective West to be united again under American leadership, disciplining previously not-always compliant European allies.
NATO was unexpectedly enriched by two promising members, and the American military-industrial complex entered very attractive new markets not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world. Unprecedented export opportunities have also opened up for US energy companies, which are increasing the supply of their expensive liquefied natural gas to Europe as an alternative to the cheap Russian pipeline variety.
Among other things, the current crisis has shown that the intellectual and psychological inertia of the old unipolar world is far from being overcome and continues to actively influence the world’s politics and economics. The surprising unanimity shown by the countries of the European Union in their willingness to reject any form of “strategic autonomy” from the US makes one wonder how serious the desire for this very autonomy was in the first place.
But the recurrence of systemic unipolarity is not unique to the West. For example, the threat of secondary sanctions by the US has in many cases proved to be a decisive factor in determining the opportunities and constraints for non-Western countries to develop economic and other cooperation with Moscow. Under US pressure, Turkey decided to refuse to service Russian Mir payment cards, and China’s Huawei was forced to begin winding down its activities in Russia.
The new US National Security Strategy recently signed by Biden is steeped in outright restorationist pathos. The document speaks of the indispensability of American leadership, the unchanging task of “containing” China and Russia, the promotion of liberal values around the world, etc. While US officials use the “politically correct” rhetoric of multipolarity and multilateralism, the Biden administration is determined to restore a unipolar world, exactly as it existed in the 1990s. To quote a well-known aphorism from the days of the Bourbon restoration to the French throne after the Napoleonic wars, one can state that Washington strategists “have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Which is not surprising when you consider what age group Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump belong to.
You cannot step into the same river twice
Perhaps the main weakness of the Biden administration’s foreign policy strategy is in its undisguised desire to reverse history back to the golden age of American hegemony of the last decade of the last century. An acute politico-military crisis can, of course, completely change the picture of international relations for a while, but it cannot undo objective long-term trends in the development of the world. For the US, the Ukrainian crisis has become a kind of political anesthetic, but if a patient has, say, a severe form of peritonitis, no medicine can replace surgical intervention.
Abuse of analgesics or tranquilizers tends to do no good. The current crisis in Europe, for all the tactical dividends the Biden administration is drawing from it, is inevitably distorting the system of US foreign policy priorities, forcing Washington to focus mainly on European problems, postponing for an indefinite future the more important strategic task of containing China’s growing military and economic power. During the two years of the current administration, the White House has not even been able to begin solving this problem, which is perceived, at least by part of the American establishment, especially the Republican part of it, as an obvious shortcoming of the Democrat administration.
Moreover, the Ukrainian crisis has already clearly demonstrated the fundamental impossibility of reviving the unipolar world in its old format. The White House has not been able to regain the trust of even its traditional partners and allies. A clear evidence of the failure can be seen in the tensions that arose in US relations with Saudi Arabia, when Riyadh actually refused Washington’s request to increase Saudi oil supplies to the world markets by going beyond the quotas defined in the OPEC+ format.
US political pressure on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to abandon his country’s privileged strategic partnership with Moscow has not been very successful either. The strategy of reviving a unipolar world based on liberal values can hardly be easily reconciled with the current attempts by the Biden administration to restore relations with Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, who not so long ago was perceived in Washington solely as an international criminal.
As for the US-China stand-off, it is not clear what exactly Washington has prepared to counter Beijing’s growing economic activity in, say, Latin America or Africa.
Of course, the main potential threats to international leadership lie within the US itself. Therefore, the current political priorities manifested during the midterm elections (inflation, crime, migration, etc.) speak more to the common sense and pragmatism of Americans than to an increasingly isolationist sentiment in society. The fundamental problem in the US is not even some specific manifestation of current economic and social malaise, but that American society remains divided: right-wing factions are growing stronger in the Republican Party and left-wing factions in the Democratic Party. The political center is losing its former stability and right-wing and left-wing radicalism is gaining strength. Even if one dismisses as totally untenable the dire prophecies about the inevitability of a civil war and the subsequent collapse of the US, one has to state that a country with deep internal divisions cannot claim to be a confident and long-term leader in international affairs.
The first among equals?
It has to be admitted that, despite all of its obvious weaknesses and limitations, the US remains an indispensable power, without whose participation (all the more so if it is actively opposed) the solution of many regional and global problems is impossible. America’s unique position in the modern world is determined not so much by the strength of the United States itself, as by the weakness or, more precisely, by the immaturity of most other players in world politics, who are not yet quite ready to take on the difficult role of the main protectors of global public goods, let alone to be the main architects of the new world order.
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict cannot be stopped without active American participation. For all the undoubted successes in the de-dollarization of global finance, the greenback remains—and will remain—the world’s main reserve currency for a long time to come. Most transnational technological chains in one way or another pass through America. The potential and use of American “soft power” will long be the envy of allies and adversaries of the United States, whether it concerns productions from Hollywood or the science programs of American universities. The position of the USA in international institutions (especially when it comes to their bureaucracy, which represents a kind of global deep state) is at the moment by and large much stronger than that of any other country in the world.
Nevertheless, a return to the former US hegemony in international relations is not in sight. Not necessarily because America is inevitably becoming weaker and helpless in all areas, but because other players are gradually gaining strength, experience and confidence in their ability to influence the future of our common planet. And that means that the United States will more-so have to adapt to the emerging world than to adapt the world to itself.
The task of adapting to the new realities faces all the countries of the world without exception. But this will be particularly difficult and painful for the American political class, which is accustomed to the lack of an alternative to US global leadership. The longer it takes to adapt, the more painful it will be in the end. Today, the Biden administration is actually trying to maintain the global status quo, and this strategy makes it difficult to expect major gains.
From our partner RIAC
Ron Paul: Biden Administration accept that it has a “Zelensky problem”
“Last week the world stood on the very edge of a nuclear war, as Ukraine’s US-funded president, Vladimir Zelensky, urged NATO military action over a missile that landed on Polish soil.”
This is a comment from the prominent American political leader Ronald Ernest Paul was for many years the member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas. Three times he sought the Presidency of the United States: once as the Libertarian Party nominee and twice as a candidate for the Republican Party. He continues in his comment:
“But there was a problem. The missile was fired from Ukraine – likely an accident in the fog of war. Was it actually a Russian missile, of course, that might mean World War III.
‘While Zelensky has been treated as a saint by the US media, the Biden Administration, and both parties in Congress, something unprecedented happened this time: the Biden Administration pushed back. According to press reports, several Zelensky calls to Biden or senior Biden Staff went unanswered.
‘The Biden Administration went on to publicly dispute Zelensky’s continued insistence that Russia shot missiles into NATO-Member Poland. After two days of Washington opposition to his claims, Zelensky finally, sort of, backed down.
‘We’ve heard rumors of President Biden’s frustration over Zelensky’s endless begging and ingratitude for the 60 or so billion dollars doled out to him by the US government, but this is the clearest public example of the Biden Administration’s acceptance that it has a “Zelensky problem.”
‘Zelensky must have understood that Washington and Brussels knew it was not a Russian missile.
‘Considering the vast intelligence capabilities of the US in that war zone, it is likely the US government knew in real time that the missiles were not Russian. For Zelensky to claim otherwise seemed almost unhinged. And for what seems like the first time, Washington noticed.
‘As a result, there has been a minor – but hopefully growing – revolt among conservatives in Washington over this dangerous episode. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene introduced legislation demanding an audit of the tens of billions of dollars shipped to Ukraine – with perhaps $50 billion more in the pipeline.
‘When the Ukraine war hysteria finally dies down – as the Covid hysteria died down before it – it will become obvious to vastly more Americans what an absolute fiasco this whole thing has been,” writes Ron Paul.
The G20 is dead. Long live the G20
The seventeenth G20 Heads of State and Government Summit held in Bali, Indonesia, on 15–16 November stands out as a consequential event from many angles. The international politics is at an inflection point and the transition will not leave unaffected any of the institutions inherited from the past that is drifting away forever.
However, the G20 can be an exception in bridging time past with time present and time future. The tidings from Bali leave a sense of mixed feelings of hope and despair. The G20 was conceived against the backdrop of the financial crisis in 2007 — quintessentially, a western attempt to burnish the jaded G7 by bringing on board the emerging powers that stood outside it looking in, especially China, and thereby inject contemporaneity into global discourses.
The leitmotif was harmony. How far the Bali summit lived up to that expectation is the moot point today. Regrettably, the G7 selectively dragged extraneous issues into the deliberations and its alter ego, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), made its maiden appearance in the Asia-Pacific. Arguably, the latter must be counted as a fateful happening during the Bali summit.
What happened is a negation of the spirit of the G20. If the G7 refuses to discard its bloc mentality, the cohesion of the G20 gets affected. The G7-NATO joint statement could have been issued from Brussels or Washington or London. Why Bali?
The Chinese President Xi Jinping was spot on saying in a written speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Bangkok on November 17 that “The Asia-Pacific is no one’s backyard and should not become an arena for big power contest. No attempt to wage a new cold war will ever be allowed by the people or by the times.”
Xi warned that “Both geopolitical tensions and the evolving economic dynamics have exerted a negative impact on the development environment and cooperation structure of the Asia-Pacific.” Xi said the Asia-Pacific region was once a ground for big power rivalry, had suffered conflicts and war. “History tells us that bloc confrontation cannot solve any problem and that bias will only lead to disaster.”
The golden rule that security issues do not fall within the purview of G20 has been broken. At the G20 summit, the western countries held the rest of the participants at the Bali summit to ransom: ‘Our way or no way’. Unless the intransigent West was appeased on Ukraine issue, there could be no Bali declaration, so, Russia relented. The sordid drama showed that the DNA of the western world hasn’t changed. Bullying remains its distinguishing trait.
But, ironically, at the end of the day, what stood out was that the Bali Declaration failed to denounce Russia on the Ukraine issue. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey give reason for hope that G20 can regenerate itself. These countries were never western colonies. They are dedicated to multipolarity, which will ultimately compel the West to concede that unilateralism and hegemony is unsustainable.
This inflection point gave much verve to the meeting between the US President Joe Biden and the Chinese President Xi Jinping at Bali. Washington requested for such a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, and Beijing consented. One striking thing about the meeting has been that Xi was appearing on the world stage after a hugely successful Party Congress.
The resonance of his voice was unmistakable. Xi underscored that the US has lost the plot, when he told Biden: “A statesman should think about and know where to lead his country. He should also think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world.” (here and here)
The White House readouts hinted that Biden was inclined to be conciliatory. The US faces an uphill challenge to isolate China. As things stand, circumstances overall work to China’s advantage. (here , here and here)
The majority of countries have refused to take sides on Ukraine. China’s stance amply reflects it. Xi told Biden that China is ‘highly concerned’ about the current situation in Ukraine and support and look forward to a resumption of peace talks between Russia and China. That said, Xi also expressed the hope that the US, NATO and the EU ‘will conduct comprehensive dialogues’ with Russia.
The fault lines that appeared at Bali may take new forms by the time the G20 holds its 18th summit in India next year. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic. First and foremost, it is improbable that Europe will go along with the US strategy of weaponising sanctions against China. They cannot afford a decoupling from China, which is the world’s largest trading nation and the principal driver of growth for the world economy.
Second, much as the battle cries in Ukraine rallied Europe behind the US, a profound rethink is under way. Much agonising is going on about Europe’s commitment to strategic autonomy. The recent visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to China pointed in that direction. It is inevitable that Europe will distance itself from the US’ cold war aspirations. This process is inexorable in a world where the US is not inclined to spend time, money or effort on its European allies.
The point is, in many ways, America’s capacity to provide effective global economic leadership has irreversibly diminished, having lost its pre-eminent status as the world’s largest economy by a wide margin. Besides, the US is no longer willing or capable of investing heavily in shouldering the burden of leadership. Simply put, it still has nothing on offer to match China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This should have had a chastening influence and prompted a change of mindset toward cooperative policy actions, but the American elite are stuck in the old groove.
Fundamentally, therefore, multilateralism has become much harder in the present-day world situation. Nonetheless, the G20 is the only game in town to bring together the G7 and the aspiring developing countries who stands to gain out of a democratised world order. The western alliance system is rooted in the past. The bloc mentality holds little appeal to the developing countries. The gravitation of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia toward the BRICS conveys a powerful message that the western strategy in conceiving the G20 — to create a ring of subaltern states around the G7 — has outlived its utility.
The dissonance that was on display in Bali exposed that the US still clings to its entitlement and is willing to play the spoiler. India has a great opportunity to navigate the G20 in a new direction. But it requires profound shifts on India’s part too –away from its US-centric foreign policies, coupled with far-sightedness and a bold vision to forge a cooperative relationship with China, jettisoning past phobias and discarding self-serving narratives, and, indeed, at the very least, avoiding any further descent into beggar-thy-neighbour policies.
President Biden under fire
Republicans announced that they are launching an investigation that will focus on President Biden himself and any illicit or unethical financial ties he had to his son Hunter’s overseas dealings, writes “The Daily Mail”.
Now Joe Biden and his family are facing an onslaught of subpoenas from the House majority members, who say they know where the proverbial bodies are buried.
Rep. James Comer led the press conference, where he made clear that the president himself was the target of the House GOP’s probe. He is a ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, will have the power to issue legally-backed demands for documents, information and testimony once the 188th Congress begins on January 3.
The congressman laid out his plans to use that power to go after the Bidens for alleged wire fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, illegal foreign lobbying and defrauding the government.
The evidence Comer is currently combing through, and is seeking to claw via subpoena, could ultimately result in articles of impeachment for the president and prison for the First Son.
Comer is also asking the Treasury for copies of more than 150 suspicious activity reports (SARs) involving the Bidens, filed by banks under anti-financial crime laws, that could be key to tracing the flows of foreign funds to the family’s coffers.
Amid all the shocking messages involving Joe Biden, possibly the most important email of the 154,000 on Hunter’s abandoned laptop is the infamous ‘big guy’ email, suggesting that the president was secretly involved in, and set to profit from, an alleged Chinese influence operation.
In total Joe met with fifteen of Hunter’s business associates according to White House visitor logs and records from the First Son’s laptop.
Emails on Hunter’s abandoned laptop published by DailyMail.com show that Hunter and Joe paid each other’s bills, and Hunter’s business partner Eric Schwerin did Joe’s taxes and visited the then-VP at the White House at least 27 times.
Joe also hosted Hunter’s best friend, business partner and now convicted fraudster Devon Archer at the White House just days before Archer and Hunter were appointed to the Burisma board (Ukraine) in 2014.
Archer was entertained at the West Wing on April 16 2014 according to visitor logs. Joe traveled to Kiev five days later on April 21. The next day, Archer joined the Ukrainian gas company’s board. On April 28, British officials froze $23million in accounts belonging to Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky, accusing him of fraud. The following month Hunter also joined the gas firm’s board.
Soon we may see some ugly tricks of Biden’s Ukrainian friends revealed…
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