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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail