We’re the United States of America for God’s sake, the most powerful nation in the history — not in the world, in the history of the world. The history of the world. We can take care of both of these (Ukraine and Israel) and still maintain our overall international defense.
President Biden on CBS 60 Minutes October 15, 2023
“We’re the United States of America, for God’s sake, the most powerful nation in history…” That’s quite a statement from our President, reflected by nearly every media outlet in the country. While speaking directly of Ukraine and Israel, implicit in almost everything President Biden says these days is the implication that no foe, especially not Russia or China, can match our power and might.
However reassuring that may be, it does not comport with reality, at least not the fact as reported by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. In their final Report, published earlier this month, the Commission contradicts most of the basic tenets we read about in the mass media. Chief of these assertions is the claim that Russia and China are not united in opposing the United States globally.
Since the Chinese Communist Party came to rule the World’s most populist country in 1949, it has been the policy of the United States to keep China and Russia apart. As Colonel Douglas MacGregor likes to say, it was an effort to maintain an “economy of enemies.” It was much better to deal with these two superpowers separately. Indeed, the United States military could have defeated either power alone up through the last century.
For most of the twentieth century, America was thriving. While there was a long-standing distrust between China and Russia, which the US encouraged, that prohibited the two countries from joining forces. There were so many ill feelings that a border war raged between them during much of the 1960s. It was considered good news from America’s perspective.
Bitter feelings existed between the two countries throughout the history of the Soviet Union. Then, ironically, as Russia transitioned from a Communist Country, like China, to today’s Semi-Presidential Federation, the relationship between the two began to thaw. Vladimir Putin has cultivated a strong relationship with China throughout his leadership (he has been, alternatively, Prime Minister and President). The two have established a warm working relationship based on recent extensive meetings between Chinese Leader Xi Jinping and Putin.
Putin has led the new Russian Federation for 11 years, and for 9 of those years, he has faced an implacable foe, the United States, specifically Joe Biden. When Russia annexed Crimea after the failure of the Minsk Agreement, it was Biden who slapped the first set of sanctions on Russia as “point man” (President Obama’s term). Surrounded by some of the same advisors who continue in today’s White House, Antony Blinken and Victoria Nuland, Biden has been the face of opposition to Russia.
Coincidentally, in 2013, China had made overtures to increase trade with Russia, but the Russians demurred. That all changed in 2014 with the US-led sanctions. Russia now actively pursued enhanced trade and finance with China to blunt the impact of American-European restrictions.
By 2019, this emerging trade between Russia and China prompted Liam Carson, an Economist at Capital Economics, to observe:
“Policymakers in both countries have actively tried to strengthen trade ties in recent years. And it’s no coincidence that this surge in Russia-China trade has come at the same time that the US has tightened sanctions on Russia, and concerns about the US-China trade war have intensified.”
The Dragon Roars Back: Transformational Leaders and Dynamics of Chinese Foreign Policy. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 212. by Zhao Suisheng
Eight years later, when Russia invaded Ukraine, both sides returned to their playbook: the US with Economic Sanctions and Russia drawing closer to China. And that’s the point that this Administration ignores. Far from being isolated and alone, Russia has been able to turn to the other half of the World for support.
On March 11, 2022, speaking from the White House, President Biden outlined his goals and objectives for a series of sanctions and export controls designed, in his words, to “crush the Russian Economy.” Using the power and influence of the American Government, Biden would move to cut off Russian Banks’ access to international finance. He would also appropriate particular Russian Banks and Private Assets. To date, America has seized a handful of Russian Oligarch’s Mega Yachts and at least $300 Billion in Russian Bank reserves held in the US. Additionally, Biden cut off all Russian oil and gas exports to the United States.
In that March 11th speech, Biden was able to claim:
“The totality of our sanctions and export controls is crushing the Russian economy…The American people are united. The World is united. And we stand with the people of Ukraine. We will not let autocrats and would-be emperors dictate the direction of the World. Democracies are rising to meet this moment, rallying the World to the side of peace and the side of security.”
(White House.gov March 11, 2022).
And indeed, Russia suffered from the overwhelming sanctions instituted chiefly by the United States and supported by the European Union. For four consecutive quarters, Russia experienced negative economic growth. It was a sure sign that Russia was in a significant recession.
However, by the Second Quarter of 2023, the Russian economy had recovered entirely, reporting a 4.9% GDP Growth Rate. It matched the United States as the top growing economy among the G20.
What had changed? Simply put, the other half of the World came to Russia’s side. In addition to China, this has included most of the BRICS Nations. India, for one, has become a significant importer of Russian Oil, which it, in turn, refines and sells to other countries that may not wish to trade with Russia. Saudi Arabia, the originator of the Petro Dollar, has completely reversed course in the light of US Sanctions and now appears poised to sell its petroleum products in its currency. And China continues to purchase more Russian agricultural products.
Russia looked to dodge US Sanctions by looking to the Global South, which has been more than willing to assist.
To borrow from the sentiment of the Committee’s Report, since the end of World War II, it has been the objective of the United States to build a community of nations. Nations that share a common set of values, a reliance upon free markets, human rights, and self-determination — a goal the Collective West and America achieved in 1992 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, that brief Pax Americana ended with the Ukraine War. Russia’s military aggression and the economic/political aggression of the United States have split the World into two opposing camps: the Global South, exemplified by the BRICS Organization, and the Collective West, consisting of the old British Empire countries, the European Union, and the United States.
It is not clear which side of this divide will ultimately prevail. But what is unavoidable, as the Congressional Report makes clear, is that there is no longer just one military superpower. For the first time, the United States faces not one but two Nuclear Powers that are nearly equal to the US. What’s more, together, they likely out-distance the current capabilities of America.
America faces a very uncertain future.
Follow me here on Medium for more stories from the ValueSide.