Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why is Biden Channeling Cheney?

by STEVE BREYMAN

Vice President Joe Biden’s latest public remarks regarding US-Russian relations leave one wondering whether his tutor in matters diplomatic is none other than Dick Cheney.

What is going on here? Just two weeks after a successful summit between Obama, Medvedev, and Putin, Biden launches into a Cold War-style attack on Russia. Upon his return the other day from visits to Ukraine and Georgia—sore places in relations between Moscow and Washington—Biden lectured Russia in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions,” according to Biden. “They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.”

Sounds as if he might’ve been speaking of the United States (minus the shrinking population). The Russian response? Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev’s top foreign policy advisor, asked “Who is shaping the U.S. foreign policy, the president or respectable members of his team?” Prikhodko claims US-Russia relations had improved since the summit. That had been most everyone elses’ view as well, until Biden decided to cut loose.

“It’s a very difficult thing to deal with, loss of empire,” said Biden. “Russia is in a very different circumstance than it has been any time in the last 40 years, or longer.” Ouch. There’s value in publicly rubbing Russian noses in their decline? Let’s hope the Chinese are kinder to the US in coming decades.

Medvedev and Putin were interested in cutting Russia’s nuclear arsenal, according to Biden, because they can no longer afford its maintenance. “All of [a] sudden, did they have an epiphany and say: ‘Hey man, we don’t want to threaten our neighbors?’ No,” Biden continued, “they can’t sustain it.”

Biden must have missed Gorbachev’s glasnost, perestroika and ‘new thinking’ during the eighties—the greatest foreign policy epiphany of all time. Then there’s the little matter of the START I Agreement (signed in 1991) to which the latest treaty is the successor. Russian desire to reduce its strategic nuclear arms is not new.

Again, to whom is Biden listening? The RNC? Rush Limbaugh? John Bolton? Nukes are cheap to build and maintain compared to conventional forces. Why do Russian but not US weapons threaten others? Because red-white-and-blue nukes are for deterrence only? Why care whether Iran or North Korea has nukes? Surely those might be for deterrence too? Especially considering what happened to non-nuclear Iraq?

Biden thinks the US can easily get its way with the Russians: “I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold.” But at the same time, according to the WSJ’s Peter Spiegel, Biden “said Russian leaders are gradually beginning to grasp their diminished global role, but that the U.S. should be cautious not to overplay its advantage.”

“It won’t work if we go in and say: ‘Hey, you need us, man; belly up to the bar and pay your dues,’” he said. “It is never smart to embarrass an individual or a country when they’re dealing with significant loss of face. My dad used to put it another way: Never put another man in a corner where the only way out is over you.” But, if I read the mangled metaphor correctly, this seems to be where Biden is putting Russia.

Biden apparently assumes that the current Russian difficulties will endure unabated. Does he doubt that oil and gas prices will again set records? When (not if) this happens, the Russian treasury will again overflow.

The White House slapped Biden down after his remarkable recent statement that it was up to Israel, not the UN or international law, as to whether it would launch an unprovoked and premeditated attack on Iran.

The response from press secretary Robert Gibbs was less sharp this time but still must have rankled the Vice President: “The president and vice president believe Russia will work with us not out of weakness but out of national interest.” “The president,” Gibbs continued, “said in Moscow that the United States seeks a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia — one that will be an even more effective partner in meeting common challenges, including reducing nuclear arsenals, securing vulnerable nuclear materials, contending with nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, defeating violent extremism and advancing global security and economic growth.”

Andrew Kramer’s report in the New York Times on the Russian response to Biden’s latest Cheney-like performance gave Prikhodko the last word: “After noting the ambiguity of who was shaping policy for the administration, the president or his deputy, Mr. Prikhodko said, ‘We have been there already.’” Biden should stick to mismanaging the stimulus. Would someone please take his passport away?

STEVE BREYMAN teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is author of Why Movements Matter: the West German Peace Movement and US Arms Control Policy. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Breyman was a William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Clinton State Department, and serves as an advisor to Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]