Anthony Blinken, Joe Biden’s secretary of state, has been inveighing against Russian petroleum sales to western Europe since he was a whizz-kid undergraduate at Harvard (1980-84). He wrote a thesis, published as a book in 1987 with the title Ally versus Ally: America, Europe, and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis. The “crisis” referred to European allies of the U.S. wanting to purchase Russian natural gas and the Reagan administration’s adamant opposition to the Soviets’ plans to supply it.
Relentless Cold Warrior Ronald Reagan feared the pipeline would make NATO members dependent on Soviet energy, and provide income that could be used for military purposes; he threatened sanctions on any U.S. companies cooperating in the project. The “crisis” refers to the open break between the foreign ministers of the European Economic Community (the EU in its contemporary incarnation) and the Reagan administration. The Europeans protested en masse Washington’s interference in their normal commercial transactions.
Blinken’s book, published four years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union (and what was thought at the time to be the end of the Cold War), reiterated the argument that the Europeans shouldn’t buy Soviet petroleum products because such trade undermined the Atlantic Alliance. But he emphasized alliance unity over opposition to the pipeline. Having attended high school in Paris Blinken has always been sensitive to the feelings of the European allies.
It is quite unusual for even a Harvard undergraduate thesis to become a book. Blinken has plainly had strong feelings about this topic for a long time.
Fast forward to March 2021, and the joint Russian-German Nord Stream II pipeline nears completion. As secretary of state, Blinken repeats to Angela Merkel that the U.S. opposes the pipeline project because it undermines the Atlantic Alliance. She repeats to the U.S. that this is not its business and vows to move forward.
What has happened since Blinken published his thesis 34 years ago and now? Only some minor details. The Soviet Union collapsed along with its Warsaw Pact military alliance. The Cold War as we had known it ended. Blinken became a career state department official and aide to Sen. Biden, whom he counseled to support the war on Iraq based on lies in 2003. Blinken was a supporter of the use of NATO to destroy Libya in another war based on lies in 2011. He was an advocate of the division of Iraq into three states (Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab), a proposal backed by the current president.
Now that there is no USSR Blinken states (as though talking to kindergartners) that the problem is no longer COMMUNIST versus Democracy (as though this had ever really been the issue) but AUTOCRACY versus Democracy, with the Russians and Chinese, followed by the Iranians and North Koreans, the main autocrats. (The ideology of autocracy binds them all together don’t you see?) But be assured, it is a new global struggle, Cold War Part II, in which the U.S. must assert its global (democratic) leadership.
(Why you ask? Why when the U.S. GDP has plummeted, now constituting only about 17% of the world’s total; and its population is less than 5% of the global total; and its manufacturing sector has collapsed, and its horrific human rights record repels the world; and its lectures ring hollow on the world stage—why should this country under warmonger Biden assert leadership anywhere? Why should anyone take comfort in Biden’s announcement that “America is back!”? Much less in the news that everything’s “back to normal.” Historically, normal = war.)
The issue Blinken addressed as a young man was that of European independence from U.S. capitalist-imperialist hegemony. Of course, he didn’t use such terms. He addressed a readership that assumed that NATO was a good thing, a defensive alliance of democracies versus a threatening communist adversary requiring the permanent stationing of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops in “western Europe” to protect it. The issue he faces now remains the same: Europe’s moves to obtain greater freedom from the U.S. military-industrial complex.
In 1989 as the Berlin Wall fell President George H. W. Bush promised Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev that in return for Soviet acceptance of the reunification of Germany an its expansion as a NATO member NATO would not move “one inch” further eastward. Bush’s successor Bill Clinton violated the promise in 1999 when he not only admitted Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary into the now anti-Russian military alliance but used NATO to bomb the Serbian capital of Belgrade to force Serbia to conceded Kosovo to NATO as permanent base. Blinken was for all of this.
When people associate Biden with NATO expansion, think Blinken. He’s all about the expansion of alliances, in this period of U.S. decline, rising multilateralism, increasing Russo-Chinese cooperation throughout Eurasia. Does he not understand that the Iraq War was not a little mistake? That every time his boss praises his late son’s “service” in Kosovo or Iraq he is prettifying murderous imperialist war?
Recall that awkward moment in February 2019 when Mike Pence addressed a NATO security conference in Munich announcing he brought the greetings of the 45th president of the United States. He waited for applause, meeting stony silence. One should not imagine that Blinken’s upbeat pronouncements about America being”back”—framed as they are in educated measured words—bring much comfort, even to people in NATO nations.
Blinken now says (consistent with his undergrad thesis) that the allies can agree to disagree on Nord Stream II. (What else can he say, without demanding fascistic compliance with U.S. diktat?) But he emphasizes that Russia remains an enemy, and that Europe should side with America against it. (Very simple, easy to remember.) He doesn’t focus on the issue of patronizing U.S. energy firms at higher prices in preference to Russian state capitalist enterprises. He does however stress how Nord Stream II could damage the Ukrainian economy. (This raises the question of why the Biden administration is so concerned about the Ukrainian economy following the U.S.-backed neo-fascist-led putsch in Kyiv in February 2014. Hint: it has something to do with NATO expansion plans.)
Blinken is a post-Cold War Cold Warrior. He wants to strengthen alliances under U.S. leadership that no longer mean what they did in the 1950s. He wants to sustain European enthusiasm for NATO expansion to include Ukraine and Georgia to encircle Russia. Indeed this is his and Biden’s unstated passion.
The people of Ukraine and indeed the peoples of NATO members are not uniformly enthusiastic about NATO. Since 1999 twelve nations have been drawn in with the expectation that EU membership would follow. (Even though the U.S. is of course not part of the EU, and indeed has conflicts with it as a competing trade bloc, it was able especially before Brexit to use the British to steer the EU towards total NATO alignment.) But that does not mean all Europeans are happy campers; only 50% of the French and Spanish currently support NATO. In Slovakia the figure’s a mere 51% In Hungary 48%, Bulgaria 42%, Greece 37%, Turkey 21%. Support level in Ukraine, still a non-member, 53% in 2019. (Oh, the U.S.? In 2019 support was at 52%, in 2020 still just 57! And surely some supporting it don’t know what it is.)
I don’t see here a Europe appealing to Joe Biden to restore normalcy to the world, by “pushing back” on Russia and China. I think instead there’s widespread concern about reckless U.S. behavior in the Black Sea or South China Sea. I don’t think Europeans are optimistic about Biden restoring the Iran Deal; hasn’t he accused the Iranians of not wanting to “return” to the deal they never abandoned? On Iran, isn’t he mired in lies and obfuscations already?
I don’t think the world counts on Biden to do anything to “push back” on Israeli savagery towards the Palestinian people. Blinken represents himself as an unconditional supporter of the right of Israel to exist and defend itself as a Jewish state. As a Jew and stepson of a Holocaust survivor he boasts of sterling Zionist credentials.
This means Blinken is again a fossilized link to the past in which the systemic racism which is Zionism (labeled by the UN as a form of racism from 1975 to 1991) was tolerated and prettified. His response to the latest Gaza blitzkreig was to pledge to rebuild Israel’s Iron Done missile defense system. Back to normal, folks! Not that Trump would have done anything differently.
Since entering office Joe Biden has assured the Japanese prime minister that the U.S. views the Chinese isles of Diaoyutai as Japanese, and will defend them with Japan according to the ANPO alliance terms. It is a major provocation of the PRC absolutely unnoticed by the U.S. press. Blinken has accused China of “genocide” in Xinjiang, and denounced repression in Hong Kong (which as you recall was seized by British colonialists after a war called the Opium War needed to establish Britain’s right to engage in state-sponsored narco-trafficking to rectify its trade deficit with China, held by the British from 1841 to 1987 when the lease exacted under terror expired and Chinese administration returned). Blinken has accused China of “aggression” against Taiwan, a Chinese province colonized by the Japanese 1895-1945, occupied by invading anti-communists from the mainland from 1949, considered Chinese by most on both sides of the strait. (There is an independence movement but no foreign government supports it.)
Blinken is doing what Dick Cheney did before him: having decided on a target, he amasses arguments to make a case for confrontation. If you’ve decided to “push back” on Russia, following the regrettable years of Trump’s irresponsible withdrawal from U.S. global democratic leadership, you need some reasons to do so. Hence: Putin as killer, bad person, corrupt, filthy rich (not that this has anything to do with the U.S., unless you considered the U,S. world moral arbitrator on the basis of its exemplary record); Russian interference in “our” elections, malicious hacking, etc.; Russian involvement in Taliban bounty payments and microwave torture of U.S. diplomats; Russian efforts to develop the warming Arctic Ocean half whose coast straddles Russian Siberia; and violent Russian responses to NATO efforts to expand.
Russia must be pushed back on its pushback on us, don’t you see?
Blinken might unblinkingly declare that all the old assumptions still pertain, that Europe cries out for aid against encroaching Russia, that the peoples of Asia want more U.S. aircraft carriers in the South China Sea to preserve the peace, that the world looks to U.S. leadership on Middle East peace given its remarkable record of championing peace and justice in the region. He might expect that U.S. allies are all comfortable with the criminal U.S. intervention in Syria since 2011, launched by Hillary Clinton, and the regime change arranged that same year in Yemen resulting in the rapid Houthi rise to power and Saudi invasion (which Blinken continues to support). He may think it makes no difference that Biden has decided to recognize the Israeli land seizures validated by Trump, regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, maintain the transfer of the embassy and recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
So much for principles. Part of Blinken’s set-in-stone traditionalism is his autopilot championing of Israel. He is for a two-state solution so long as Israel’s security interests (in grabbing more land) are respected and the Palestinian state has no military and grovels and recognizes Israel as a “Jewish state” (even though 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinians and 5% other non-Jews). As mentioned he will compensate Israel for its missile depletion in the recent unpleasantness.
Nothing has happened since Blinken was in college. The Soviet Union (I mean Russia) remains an expanding threat. It continues to espouse with our other adversaries an antagonistic AUTOCRACY doctrine. It’s trying to stop our Full Spectrum Dominance (virtually required by our Exceptional Nation status) by challenging our national interest to expand NATO. Very very worrisome and hostile! And China—sometimes it’s useful to shout: COMMUNIST China!—remains an ideological foe and unfair economic competitor. It must, just as in the Truman era, be “contained.” (Hence INDOPACOM has replaced CINCPAC, and the Quad of Japan, Australia, India and U.S. strategize against the world’s upcoming power.)
This is all so tired and lame. And imperialist, racist, morally bankrupt. Biden supported by some as the alternative to fascism is a representative of the worst policies and decisions in the long history of U.S. imperialism. He is a myopic doddering old man with bad record sold by the DNC successfully as the only alternative to Trump in this country of no real options. He cannot do what should be done: dismantle Cold War alliances, close down 800 foreign U.S. military bases, stop meddling in other countries’ elections and political processes and orchestrating fruitless “regime change,” abandon attempts to control world commerce and enforce U.S. policy through the U.S. banking system, accept the fact that Russia has security interests in the Caucasus and China in the South China Sea at least as vital as the interests the U.S. claims in the Caribbean (where it intervenes militarily every few years).
Biden can do the easy. He can return to the Paris Accord. He can reestablish pro forma relations with the Palestinians. He can lift the Muslim ban, such as applied under Trump. But he can no more than Trump and Trump’s supporters imagine a world other than Harry Truman’s world, in which the U.S. used nukes on Japan, annihilated a quarter of the Korean people, crushed communist revolution in Greece, prevented communist triumphs in fair French and Italian elections, suppressed strikes in opposition to the delivery of Marshall Plan aid designed to revive capitalism in Europe under U.S. auspices; and of course established the most lethal military alliance in human history.
Biden was age 3 to 11 while Truman was president. We has 22 when his hero John F. (Ich bin ein Berliner) Kennedy was assassinated. He grew up a Cold Warrior, and after that war had cooled down entirely, as of 1999, and Bill Clinton decided to reignite it by breaking the promise and expanding NATO, he was on board the program. As Clinton and his successor George W. Bush continued to provoke Russia by NATO expansion (despite Russia’s gracious cooperation with the NATO effort in Afghanistan from 2001) they created an adversary.
Putin has not proclaimed himself an adversary of the U.S.; he talks of U.S. “partners.” It is the U.S. State Department that determined at some point that—given its unremitting hostility to the expansion of NATO to surround it—Russia was opposing its interests, hence being a “bad actor” in the region that God presumably doled out to America when he promulgated the Manifest Destiny Doctrine. Blinken now heads that State Department, while Jake Sullivan echoing his every word is National Security Adviser and Victorian Nuland (mastermind of the Ukraine coup) is now Number Three at State.
No, nothing has changed, except that the worst are back, telling the kids that America as leader of the Free World has to plod on as before. Just as there must be no socialism, there must be no anti-imperialism as Biden prepares for his summit with Putin. One must express grudging admiration for BLM (while doubling down against BDS). One must emphasize endlessly ones’ commitment to transgender rights and demonstrate (compassionate, decent) distance from the evil Trump past. But one must not challenge the Cold War basics Blinken’s embraced throughout his adult life.
So boycott Russian gas! Buy Israeli olive oil, but boycott Xinjiang cotton! Everyone stay united for the FREE WORLD needing U.S leadership don’t you understand?
That’s the Blinken message, simply put. Is he brighter, or better, or less dangerous than his predecessor, fellow Harvard alum Mike Pompeo? I think not. Europeans should tell Blinken to get his ass off their pipeline and maybe sit down on Keystone instead—in his own country—or on some other pipeline where he could do some good. People in this country should feel indignant and embarrassed that officials speaking in their name remain so arrogant and self-righteous after all that’s happened.
And disgusted that such people would assume the ongoing power of Cold War memes and brainwashing techniques. I have the feeling that Blinken and Jake Sullivan will be unconvincing.