Friday, June 25, 2021

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Assessing the Results of the Biden-Putin Summit


Posted by YouTube user: cftni

How should we interpret the results of the summit meeting in Geneva between presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin? Did either side succeed in advancing its goals? What impact might their meeting have on the course of relations between the world’s foremost nuclear powers?

On June 17, 2021, the Center for the National Interest hosted a webinar discussion to hear a wide range of post-summit perspectives on these questions.   

• John Herbst is director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and a former US ambassador to Ukraine.

• Fyodor Lukyanov is Chairman of the Presidium of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, editor in chief of Russia in Global Affairs, and research director of the Valdai Discussion Club.

• Douglas MacGregor is a decorated combat veteran, the author of five books, and a former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense.

• Dimitri Simes is President and CEO of the Center for the National Interest.

Sarah Miller Beebe, former Director for Russian Affairs on the National Security Council staff and former manager of Russia analysis at the CIA, moderated the discussion.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The American Conservative

The Biden Administration Is Struggling To Navigate Russia-Ukraine Relations

Tension between the neighboring countries challenges past and present American foreign policy.


JUNE 15, 2021|12:01 AM

It’s been a bad month for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. After Zelensky was “blindsided” by President Joe Biden’s decision to drop sanctions on Nordstrom II, the Russia-to-Germany pipeline for liquefied natural gas, he was also denied meeting with Biden before Biden meets with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday, Zelensky blindsided the State Department right back by announcing on Twitter that NATO had approved his country’s membership, prompting a quick rebuke from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and a denial from President Biden himself.

No worries, insists National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, President Biden will “stand up firmly for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and its aspirations as we go forward.”

Zelensky should be forgiven for harboring doubts. He is now beginning to appreciate how the Polish National Leadership felt in 1939 when the British and French Governments provided a guarantee to support Poland in the event she was attacked by Germany. The guarantee proved worthless. London and Paris were in no position to stop Poland’s destruction, but they also did not even try.

In 1939, when the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was agreed to by Stalin and Hitler, Berlin and Moscow needed each other. The Soviets wanted German technology and technical expertise for the Soviet military buildup, as well as a border 300 miles closer to the West. Germany wanted Soviet oil, mineral, and agricultural resources for military operations against the Western Allies.

Today, Germany’s appetite for Russian resources today may be greater than it was in 1939. Germany wants to end its dependence on nuclear power by dramatically increasing its use of liquefied natural gas. In contrast to 1939, Germans do not see Russia as an existential military threat to Germany.

However, Russia’s position vis-à-vis Germany has also changed dramatically. Despite its reduced size after the loss of the Second World War, Germany’s economic strength far surpasses Russia’s, the two states no longer share borders, and Russia’s military strength—though impressive when compared to most European states—is a fraction of the Soviet Union’s. To be blunt, Moscow lacks the strength and capability to launch offensive operations against the West.

Most Russians are convinced that the takeover of Crimea is proof that Russia regained the great-power status it lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Russian salaries remain low, the cost of food is rising, and the number of hospitals is decreasing. Most Russians also believe that Putin’s policies in Ukraine are primarily a reaction to NATO expansion.

There is also evidence, however, that a Russian war to subjugate Ukraine would be opposed by a majority of Russians, who believe both countries should be independent yet friendly, without hard borders, visas, or customs barriers. Perhaps more importantly, both Putin and Zelensky know there are at least 30 million Ukrainians who view themselves in terms of ethnicity, language, and culture as fundamentally different and distinct from Russians. These Ukrainians will fight tenaciously to defend their country against any Russian invasion. A war to subjugate Ukraine would be bloody and costly to Moscow in ways that might threaten the Putin regime itself.

The masquerade is over. Washington is acknowledging the limits of American military power. Washington and its reluctant NATO partners are even less willing to assist Ukraine in opposing determined Russian military action than London and Paris were 80 years ago. Make no mistake: Washington’s strategy of signing up European governments governments to hostile policies toward Moscow is losing steam.

Fortunately for the West, Putin is not Stalin and Russia is not the Soviet Union. Moscow cannot indulge its historic impulse to dominate its neighbors to the West lest it harm its economy and society. Germany’s refusal to cooperate with Washington in its schemes for permanent hostility to both Moscow and Beijing is unambiguous and public.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians are learning that, like the Finns in 1939, Ukrainians are on their own. If Kiev adopts the Finnish model, which ultimately succeeded, and abandons the self-deluding Polish model, which failed, than Kiev is far more likely to achieve Ukraine’s prosperity and security without Washington’s involvement than with it.

Do these developments bode ill for the Biden-Putin summit? It’s unclear.

In response to President Kennedy’s request for a meeting without a specific agenda, Khrushchev and JFK met in Vienna, Austria, on June 3, 1961. The meeting confirmed Khrushchev’s suspicion. JFK was not simply inexperienced; JFK seemed weak and aimless. “He just beat the hell out of me,” JFK told James Reston of theNew York Times. “It was the worst thing in my life. He savaged me.”

By every conceivable measure of national power, in 1961 the United States towered over the Soviet Union, but JFK’s disappointing performance in Vienna still had consequences. Within a few weeks, the Soviets tested JFK by dividing Berlin with a wall that stood until 1989, and 22 months later with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

President Putin will be more polite than Nikita Khrushchev, but Putin knows that Washington overreached in Ukraine and currently props up a decrepit Atlantic Alliance. In this sense every mistake is, as Ambassador George Kennan warned, a product of the mistakes that came before it. Thus, Americans and Ukrainians should treat Western media coverage of the Biden-Putin summit with skepticism and judge the event by what occurs in its wake.

For President Biden, the question is: can he jettison the confrontational behavior toward Russia on Russia’s doorstep and work instead with Berlin, Moscow, and Kiev to fashion a sustainable solution that meets European, Ukrainian, and Russian security needs?

Douglas Macgregor, colonel (ret.) U.S. Army and the former senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, is a Ph.D., the author of five books, and a senior fellow at The American Conservative.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The American Conservative


America’s Coming War With China

Conflict is both undesirable and imprudent, but appears inevitable given our current leadership.

(By Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)

JUNE 8, 2021|12:01 AM

Given the rise in anti-Chinese sentiment spawned by the off-shoring of America’s production base to China, the impact of COVID-19, and hyperbolic rhetoric in Washington regarding China’s alleged malevolent aspirations, any number of observers of American politics might easily conclude that Washington is on the precipice of blundering into another war—this time with China. After all, a similar climate of deep-seated paranoia and military hysteria steered the world’s great powers blindly into war in 1914.

The problem with assuming the inevitability of conflict is that many Washington politicians live by the axiom “out of sight, out of mind,” and seek constant media attention. Thus, public statements made by Washington’s publicity seekers in and out of uniform are seldom informative. They never bother to acknowledge that no one should start a war without first establishing the politically beneficial end state a war with China would achieve or how the latest Pacific war would be fought and won. But these are the questions that must be considered.

If the political purpose of a new Pacific war is to change Chinese behavior externally or internally—to render China incapable of resisting American political demands—it is worth noting that China is not Imperial Japan in 1941. Japan’s economy was roughly one-tenth the size of the U.S. economy, and it still required three years of hard fighting by U.S. forces to redeem America’s ignominious defeat at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines. In addition, when Tokyo decided to attack U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, Japan was already at war with a number of states including China, Great Britain, and the Netherlands.

Beijing, meanwhile, will not confront a two front war. Neither Moscow nor its Indian ally will risk war with China. However, in the event of war with China, Washington must take seriously the danger of fighting China and Russia, two major regional powers, simultaneously, because Washington is actively hostile to both.

China’s economy is also nearly the size of the American economy and, in contrast to Imperial Japan, Beijing has generally avoided armed conflict with its neighbors despite a number of disputes. In fact, the dramatic success of the regional comprehensive economic partnership—which creates a free trade agreement between China and the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam—has made Washington’s notion of building an anti-Chinese alliance very difficult, if not impossible. As American diplomats are rapidly discovering, none of these states really wants to be caught in the middle of a conflict between China and the United States.

Left unstated in most discussions about potential conflict with China is what greater strategic purpose U.S. air and naval attacks on the Chinese mainland might actually serve. If a ground war is ruled out—and it would seem rational to do so—it is easy to imagine the destruction of Chinese infrastructure with long-range strikes rapidly becoming an end in itself, as was the case in the Kosovo Air Campaign, Syria and, more recently, Iraq.

In view of the size and depth of Chinese defenses, however, even if the strikes inflict significant losses, a strategic victory with tangible impact on Beijing’s national leadership seems unlikely. Since large concentrations of U.S. air and naval forces in proximity to China’s coasts are difficult, if not impossible, to conceal in the age of space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, the potential for the U.S. Navy’s Surface Fleet and America’s island bases to take serious losses is extremely high.

Put more succinctly, China can absorb the damage. In fact, the most likely outcome is a long series of offensive strikes with diminishing returns over time. The logistical foundation in the Pacific to sustain the required strikes on China is weak to nonexistent. Moreover, China is a nuclear power. An American resort to nuclear weapons would be suicidal. Nuclear weapons are useful to deter nuclear attacks on U.S. territory, but they are otherwise devoid of military utility. A nuclear exchange with China would have grim consequences for humanity and the climate.

All of these points notwithstanding, the potential for war with China will persist. Why?

Between 1960 and 1968, two American presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson—men who lived through World War II and experienced the exhilaration of victory in the Pacific—decided that the enormous resources and striking power of the U.S. Armed Forces made failure in Vietnam impossible. It is not unreasonable to assume that similar attitudes prevail in the White House and the current Pentagon.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who remembered the serious human and material losses in the war with Germany, saw warfare through a different lens. He understood the American electorate’s acute intolerance for high casualties and he knew from personal experience the limits of America’s resources.

The personal experience of Kennedy and Johnson during WWII was irrelevant. When the two men were compelled to think on a strategic level during the Vietnam War, they were unable to distinguish the strategically vital from the merely desirable U.S. national interests.

Eisenhower understood the distinction. Were Eisenhower alive today, he would likely ask, “Why should the United States commit to war with China over Taiwan? Would the Chinese attack the United States over Cuba?” Eisenhower would also be right.

Douglas Macgregor, colonel (ret.) U.S. Army and the former senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, is a Ph.D., the author of five books, and a senior fellow at The American Conservative.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The American Conservative


Putin’s Turkish Nightmare

The revived geopolitical rivalry between Russia and Turkey spells trouble for Putin and his allies.

(By quetions123/Shutterstock)

MAY 31, 2021|12:01 AM

On the first of October 1939, just three days after the fall of Warsaw and Poland’s destruction at the hands of Soviet and German forces, Stalin summoned Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mehmet Şükrü Saracoğlu, to a meeting in the Kremlin. For a brief period after the First World War the two states shared feelings of antipathy for the West. Stalin’s meeting with the Turkish minister changed this condition.

Was the British-French-Turkish Pact, Stalin asked, directed against the Soviet Union? Without waiting for an answer, Stalin reminded the Turkish foreign minister that Britain and France had not declared war on the Soviet Union even though he and the Germans had carved up Poland together. However, the British and French, Stalin warned, might still do so. In that case, roared Stalin, where would Turkey stand? Stalin, always the consummate bully, also noted ominously that, like Poland, Romania had too much territory.

Saracoğlu quickly reassured Stalin that Turkey could void the agreement with Britain and France in order to avoid war with Moscow. However, a week later, when the British military attaché inquired what Ankara would do if the British bombed the Baku oil fields, the British attaché reported that Turkey was begging for the chance to “settle scores with Stalin.”

Turkey’s scores with Russia were never settled. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s initial rapport with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was welcomed by many in Moscow as breaking the historic pattern of Turkish enmity toward Russia.

Predictably, Putin was listening when Erdogan told his NATO allies in Brussels that “Turkey is too big and too influential to surrender to a single axis.” Putin downplayed the Turkish shoot-down in Syria of a Russian aircraft and worked hard to sell Russia’s S-400 air defense system to Turkey. When Putin learned from his intelligence services of the plan to overthrow President Erdogan, Putin informed Erdogan.

Unfortunately for Moscow, Putin’s intervention in the Syrian civil war to protect Christians and other religious minorities, including Shiites and Druze, crushed Erdogan’s hopes of transforming Syria into a Sunni Islamist state under Turkish protection. Putin made a supreme effort to assist Erdogan to save face in Syria, offering Erdogan control of Northern Syria. But the strategic result transformed a local struggle with Ankara into a geopolitical rivalry that looks eerily similar to the centuries of Ottoman conflict with Tsarist Russia and the West.

Events in the Caucasus, the Balkans, and Ukraine are obviating the field of opportunity for cooperation between Moscow and Ankara. Ankara’s successful intervention to support Azerbaijan’s seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian control has worsened the relationship. Armenia’s humiliation may shake the resolve of others allied with Moscow.

More important, across Turkic Muslim Central Asia and inside the Russian Federation millions of Turkic Tatars who speak the same language heard on the streets of Ankara are thrilled with the success of Turkish arms. Even worse, Azerbaijan is now openly an ally of Turkey and, despite promises not to do so, Azerbaijan now hosts Turkish military forces on its territory. The cost to Russia of standing by Armenia’s Christians in their war with Azerbaijan may still be rising.

Erdogan’s desire to keep Russia off balance in the Caucasus prompted him to sign an agreement with the Ukrainian government designed to deepen Ukraine’s defense cooperation with Turkey. Russia’s adroit foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that encouraging “aggressive” Ukrainian actions towards Russian-annexed Crimea amounted to an encroachment on Russia’s territorial integrity. “We hope,” said Lavrov, “Ankara will adjust its line based on our legitimate concerns.” Hope is not a method.

Moscow may even worry that Kiev offered Ankara secret guarantees that, in return for Turkish support, Ukraine will return Crimea to control of Crimea’s Muslim Tatars. Thanks to Putin, Israel has enjoyed a good relationship with Russia, but in the wake of the recent Gaza crisis, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin has now publicly insisted that Israel stop all settlement activities in the Palestinian territories.

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to meet next month in Switzerland. The announced purpose of the meeting is “to discuss Russian-American relations, problems of strategic stability, [and] topical issues on the international agenda.” Before President Biden goes he should consider the following observations and their importance to Moscow and Washington.

According to Erdogan’s critics, Erdogan’s strategic vision for the Turkish nation is to be recognized on the world stage as a global power. This means Turkey must become a Balkan power, a Mediterranean power, a Middle Eastern power, a North African and even limited African power, a Caucasian power, a Central Asian power, a Eurasian power, and especially a Muslim power.

If Biden were to ask Putin where the next Sunni Islamist Caliphate will arise, Putin would likely tell him: “Mr. President, it’s already here. It’s called Turkey, my nightmare.”

Douglas Macgregor, colonel (ret.) U.S. Army and the former senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, is a Ph.D., the author of five books, and a senior fellow at The American Conservative.