America’s Lost Generation: The Need for Iconoclasm in Russian Studies
Experts are scrambling to explain why the US prioritized subduing Russia over China, despite most prior indicators suggesting very strongly that it would prioritize the second scenario. US President Joe Biden largely continued his predecessor Donald Trump’s heavy-handed approach to the People’s Republic until around last fall, when the latest tensions in Europe became impossible to deny. Even so, few in the world predicted the sequence of events that would unfold late last month when Russia began its special military operation in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined the goals of this campaign in his Speech of February 24 to his nation. He said the original intention was to stop kyiv’s genocidal attack on the newly recognized Donbas republics, after it provoked a third round of civil war hostilities with Washington’s backing. The Russian leader also claimed that NATO had clandestinely established a military infrastructure in the former Soviet republic with the aim of carrying out a surprise attack against his country in the future. This would presumably come after the United States neutralized Russia’s nuclear second-strike capabilities.
This additional objective was advanced by the United States’ continued deployment of “anti-missile systems” and strike weapons near Russia’s borders. President Putin became so concerned about this in late December that he ordered his government to publish its demands for security guarantees from the United States and NATO at that time. Moscow has demanded legally binding guarantees preventing NATO’s eastward expansion, the withdrawal of strike weapons near Russia’s borders and a return to the continental military status quo enshrined in the Russia-NATO Founding Act of 1997, now defunct.
These were rebuffed by the West, after which President Putin felt compelled to authorize kinetic action to maintain the integrity of his country’s national security red lines in Ukraine and Europe more broadly. Previous Russian diplomatic attempts to revise the European security architecture with a view to finally making security indivisible in accordance with the associated OSCE principles have failed. The United States and its allies continued to take action under the guise of ensuring their own security, which ultimately eroded Russia’s. This hostile strategy is what really triggered the sequence of events long ago.
Having explained the background to recent events, it is now time to explore why the United States has refused to diplomatically resolve this undeclared security dilemma in Europe with Russia. The Biden-Putin summit in Geneva last summer gave hope to those who thought the United States would finally negotiate in good faith with Russia to free up its permanent military, intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracies (“the Deep State”) to focus much more on containing China instead of Russia. The parallel negotiations to reach a new Iranian nuclear deal suggested that the United States would do the same vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic as well.
Those calculations apparently changed around last fall, when everything started to get a lot more intense in Europe. A decision had apparently been made not to sincerely negotiate with Russia in good faith and, if anything, perhaps even provoke the Kremlin into taking the kinetic action that US intelligence later claimed which he was about to authorize. On the face of it, it doesn’t make much sense that America is trying to induce Russia to take military action in Ukraine, but subsequent developments help answer that question.
Simply put, the United States very clearly had a detailed plan to exploit this dramatic scenario in an effort to advance Russia’s unprecedented containment in full coordination with its NATO allies. With this anti-Russian military bloc having lost its raison d’être after the end of what can be described in retrospect as the old Cold War, the United States felt that European perceptions had to be reshaped in such a way as to revive the so-called “Russian threat to galvanize the West under its hegemonic influence. Deliberately violating Russia’s national security red lines in Ukraine and the region was part of that plan.
Russia was faced with a dilemma, in which it could either sit back and let these latent threats continue to unfold until they ultimately resulted in placing the country in a position of perpetual blackmail from the West either take decisive military action to avoid this scenario, despite the enormous costs to its macroeconomic stability. Any blackmail that might have been attempted would likely have concerned Ukraine’s successful acquisition of biological and/or nuclear weapons, as Russia has now warned that it had been pursued with the full support of the United States until at the start of the conflict.
If the United States had succeeded in eroding Russia’s nuclear second-strike potential by the means that were previously identified alongside NATO’s covert pursuit of expanding its military infrastructure in Ukraine, Kyiv could have threatened Moscow with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to its west. the order of the bosses. If Russia had not complied, a conventional invasion of the country could have been attempted and/or it could have been threatened with a WMD attack from Ukraine. Clearly, the situation Russia found itself in was not ideal, hence why it chose to act.
Going back to the main question of this analysis, namely why the United States prioritized containing Russia over China, it seems that the great American strategic calculation was that it would be much easier to do the the first right now than the second, since the relevant leverage had already been established in Europe, unlike in Asia, where the United States has not advanced this objective for three decades but only for a few years. Moreover, the United States could have seen Russia as weaker than China and therefore more susceptible to pressure, not military, but economic and technological.
If that were the case, as the author argues, containing Russia could have been seen as a precondition for eventually containing China. To explain, the successful containment by the United States of the first and perhaps even its ultimate “balkanization” by placing it in a perpetual position of blackmail (probably WMD) would have a considerable impact on the national security of the People’s Republic. , which largely depends on a stable and friendly Russia along its northern borders. Destabilizing, weakening and perhaps even breaking Russia in the long run would instantly jeopardize China’s national security.
Moreover, containing Russia entails less immediate economic, financial, supply chain and technological backlash for the West than doing the same against China due to the complex economic interdependence that characterizes West-China relations. Russia has never really been integrated into the global economy, other than serving as Europe’s main energy supplier, so the United States could have bet it would be cheaper to pressure its junior partners to “decouple” from her. Moreover, the economic consequences this could have for Europe could be exploited by the United States.
With unexpected commitments to their people related to subsidizing skyrocketing energy costs and providing other forms of support amid an intensified economic crisis caused by the “decoupling” of their mutually beneficial energy relationship with the Russia, the United States could quickly work to strengthen their army. strategic influence over these countries since they could not afford to pay out of pocket to ‘contain’ Russia in response to the artificially fabricated ‘Russian threat’. His companies could also buy out some of their low-cost competitors in certain scenarios and sell more LNG as well.
To sum up, the United States prioritized containing Russia over China because: this scenario had already been unfolding rapidly for three decades; the military-strategic infrastructure was largely in place; the costs of “decoupling” from Russia are much lower than those of “decoupling” from China; the United States was to galvanize transatlantic solidarity through NATO under an anti-Russian guise; and the complete weakening of Russia is seen as the sine qua non for successfully containing China in the future. From these observations, the author hopes to inspire further research on broad US strategic goals.
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