Big pause time for the collective West

Biden’s 100 days of presidency were greeted in the United States’s Democratic media with restrained optimism about the president’s level of support and his relatively high confidence ratings.

Big pause time for the collective West

According to various estimates, 52 or 54 percent of all respondents continued to trust Biden.

In principle, American presidents in the first year of their rule had more, but other presidents did not live in such a split country, did not experience a two-year “pandemic”, did not come to power in the wake of racial riots. Moreover, Biden’s recent rival and now his main opponent Donald Trump in the same first hundred days had a trust rating even lower – 42 percent, which did not prevent him from withstanding impeachment and being two steps away from a second term.

From the very beginning, the Trump administration was shaken by hardware scandals, the president was forced to fire his first national security adviser in the very first days, and the liberal press never stopped harassing him.

In this sense, Biden is still relatively calm. No one left the ranks of his administration, no one made a harsh statement, no one became the object of legal proceedings. It is possible to mention, perhaps, only one, but indicative scandal that has happened recently. London-based Iranian broadcaster Iran International released an audio recording of the voice of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, in which he, referring to information received from Biden’s environmental adviser, former Secretary of State John Kerry, said that Israel secretly undertook more than 200 “secret” actions against the positions of Iran in Syria.

Of course, the right-wing press immediately launched an attack against Kerry as an enemy of Israel and the chief architect of Trump’s ruined Iranian deal. Senator from Alaska Dan Sullivan, one of the lobbyists of the oil industry, has demanded the resignation of the environmental adviser. Nevertheless, the potential of this scandal is clearly insignificant in order to shake Kerry’s position within the Biden team, and even more so the rating of the latter.

The blows from the Republicans, of course, will follow, closer to the midterm elections, in which the Democratic Party will certainly have a hard time. And the main problem for the donkey party will be the relative weakness of political philosophy with which it came to the White House. This political philosophy will have to change. But for what?

And what, strictly speaking, is this weakness?

Biden and all members of his foreign policy team at the beginning of the year said many words that they intend to breathe new energy into the “transatlantic relationship” destroyed by Trump; moreover, they want to strengthen the alliance of Western states, held together by common democratic values. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the international situation today is determined by the rivalry between “techno-democracies and techno-autocracies”.

He was echoed by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who argued that there was no more important task for the United States than maintaining a “transatlantic alliance” as opposed to China. Even before Biden’s victory in November 2020, liberal experts, recognizing even Trump’s merit in his anti-China course, reproached the 45th president for unjustifiably weakening the US allied relations with Europe, necessary to “contain China”.

Many people are writing today that the United States should choose the good old “containment” policy towards China. The only problem is that this is the very policy that the main European powers do not accept. In particular, France and Germany. The European Union, which is run by the two powers, entered into a comprehensive trade and investment agreement with Beijing in December 2020, opening the door for Chinese investments in the continent’s economy, which reach 120 billion euros. The agreement will enter into force only in 2022, it will still have to be ratified by the European Parliament, overcoming the resistance of the Greens, but in any case, now the conversation about “transatlantic unity” and the “collective West” looks dreamy, unjustified.

In 2017, the brilliant American political analyst Michael Lindh came out with a landmark article “Block Politics”, in which he predicted the division of the world into three or four spheres of influence. They talked about the American bloc, the Chinese bloc and possible Russian and Indian blocs.

Unlike Huntington with his “Clash of Civilizations”, Lind did not link the boundaries of the blocks with the areas of traditional confessions, rightly pointing out that the identity of a given block can be determined not so much by the historical roots of its peoples as by the image of the future. It is difficult to call today’s Euro-Atlantic Protestant-Catholic, and in general Christian, which does not mean that it does not have a certain identity (more on that below). However, even today’s China can be called Confucian civilization with great doubt.

Lind assumed that only by dividing into blocs, the great powers would be able to agree on the boundaries of their geopolitical expansion without creating explosive situations like the Ukrainian one. At the same time, the blocs will have to suppress separatism on the part of national states that do not want to give their powers to the supranational level, sacrifice their interests in the name of some supranational goals. Quite frankly, after reading “Blokopolitika” in 2017, I became an ardent supporter of it, seeing in Lind’s theory a model for resolving conflicts between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic. It seems like you have a block, we have a block, let’s live peacefully, but separately.

Perhaps Biden proceeded from something similar, but, as we know from the work of the military strategist Liddell-Harth (1895-1970), the path to a goal does not have to be accompanied by a public announcement of this goal. Simply put, if Biden wanted to form a bloc against China, he needed to speak in a very different way. He needed not to seek friendship with Europe, a little currying favor with her, but to act like Trump: blackmail Europe, frighten Europe, threaten Europe. To lash her with a whip, promising sweet gingerbread in the future. So far, all of Biden’s speeches are surprisingly similar to Gorbachev’s rhetoric about socialist choice and a renewed Union, that is, to the rhetoric of deliberate weakness.

Biden returned to the Paris climate agreement and made environmental issues the core of his diplomacy. Here, of course, he had to go beyond the framework of the West proper and invite representatives of those powers with whom he was going to enter the bloc war, that is, China and Russia, to participate in the summit. He tried to support Zelenskiy in his attempts to return by force at least part of the territory of the rebellious Donbass. Russia, by deploying military exercises along its western borders, made it clear that any act of violence by Ukraine would lead to a tough response on its part. Biden backed down and offered the Russian president a meeting for two. The desire to come to an agreement with China in Anchorage turned into a diplomatic fiasco.

On the whole, the “collective West” looks even less durable today than it was during the days of Trump, who allegedly destroyed it. Talk about some kind of “summit of democracies”, with which Biden began his presidency, sounds strange today – the promotion of democracy as a goal in America seems to have been forgotten.

The “collective West” is in a clear crisis. As they say, something went wrong. The Euro-Atlantic is not going to come together, and we are not talking about some national populists who are hindering it from living, which have almost been forgotten, but about the solid globalists Macron and Merkel, who do not want to play the Cold War with the Chinese and refuse Chinese money. in the name of “transatlantic friendship”.

Let us now try to imagine what the steps of Biden and the entire segment of the Anglo-American ruling class for which “containment” of China is a matter of life and death, and they will not be able to retreat.

There are two options. They are, to a certain extent, opposite, but also complementary. The first option presupposes the need to negotiate with other countries, including non-Western and undemocratic by Western standards. Once the United States defeated the USSR by entering into an alliance with China. Today, the United States is increasingly talking about partnership with its recent adversary Vietnam against China. By the way, the Americans will have to tear away from China and Iran, this major supplier of oil and gas to the Celestial Empire.

And, of course, Russia is the holder of Arctic assets and the only land power capable, in American terms, of “holding back” Beijing in northern Eurasia. Able, but not having the slightest motive to do it. To seduce Russia into joining the Containment China project, the Americans need to either change the government in Russia, which is impossible, or enter into partnerships with it, spitting on Ukraine, Navalny and so on. Trump has already tried to move in that direction; everyone knows how it ended for him.

The second way is quite different. The West may try to unite again. But this requires a different ideology, which will make it possible to re-consolidate the transatlantic unity, to emphasize the cultural difference of the Euro-Atlantic from other civilizations, to raise it above the traditionalist periphery. Here, of course, ecology comes to the fore. Therefore, it is already possible to predict a new rise of green parties throughout Europe as the political clientele of democratic America. To this I would add the whole complex of ideas and attitudes, which is called “new ethics”. We are talking about a very harsh removal of socially significant figures from the public field for certain statements or actions that do not fit into a certain moral or ideological canon. In principle, this “new ethic” has always operated within academic institutions, in the advanced colleges and universities of the West. It was previously called political correctness. Then these norms of political correctness from internal corporate became national, in order to become general civilizational at the limit. Many aspects are intertwined here, but we will highlight the aspect of civilizational identity. The new ethics is not identity in itself, it is the generation of ideological rigidity necessary for the future.

Biden’s America will have to go several ways at once. You will have to enter into pragmatic alliances with ideologically “dubious” countries and at the same time strengthen the value unity of your bloc. This is how America behaved during the Cold War with the USSR; it will probably behave in the same way in a situation of conflict with China. The collision of these lines will create tension, relatively speaking, between the new realists and the new ethical fundamentalists, but a consensus may also emerge.

The latter will take time, which is likely to be filled with global initiatives. Today the rhetoric of “transatlantic unity” seems exhausted and, frankly, non-functional. Republicans will likely lobby for the old Anglosphere idea, hinting at a special partnership between the US, UK, Canada and Australia, but Biden would have to be a bit of Trump to accept that view. It’s hard to say how much he can do it. Today we are dealing with a “big pause”. With some civilizational stalemate, a way out of which, perhaps, a new generation will seek.

Boris Mezhuev, Federal Grid Company


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