Xi exultant as Biden goads Putin into invading Ukraine

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To Beijing’s relief, Washington is no longer focusing on the PRC as the principal threat to the US. The Biden White House has resurrected the Cold War 1.0 fixation on Russia (then the USSR) as the primary enemy of humanity and freedom, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat

After much talk about continuing the Obama-era pivot to the Indo-Pacific from its earlier focus on the North Atlantic, NATO seems set on returning to the days of Cold War 1.0, shifting its attention and its capabilities back to the North Atlantic and towards hostility towards Russia. This must occasion sighs of relief in Beijing, now that the NATO powers have abandoned chatter about boxing in the PRC and blocking its further expansionism, once again turning its attention towards Russia in a manner not seen since the days of the USSR. While hardly any country in Asia publicly voices disquiet at such a 180-degree turn by NATO, there is dismay at the way US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular are by their actions and rhetoric baiting Vladimir Putin into launching a limited war that would repeat what took place between Russia and Georgia in 2008. In that conflict, parts of Georgia that were majority Russian-speaking were converted by President Putin into independent republics.

Adhering to their traditional policy of playing both sides against the middle, the CCP leadership in Beijing has yet to follow its “most steadfast and trusted partner” Russia in recognising the new republics created through the use of Russian forces. Nor indeed, doing anything to annoy NATO, such as by sending senior officials to the two new republics nor even the Crimea. The present focus of Xi Jinping is to dominate the Indo-Pacific. The Atlantic can wait, and the Biden-led return of NATO’s focus, rhetoric and resources back to Russia and the Atlantic suits General Secretary Xi’s plan. Joe Biden, whose character is beyond reproach, may be sincere in his oft-expressed desire to restrain China from further expansionism, but it is clear that concentrating on actualising this vow has yet to take place. Both Beijing and Moscow are working closely together in their own version of transforming (in other words, undermining) democracy in the US.

However, despite the Sino-Russian alliance, Beijing and Moscow are not on the same page in the matter of the Obama-era pivot to Asia getting abandoned by his former Vice-President. In such a shift, the partner of the PRC is not Russia but the Wahhabi International, which too welcomes a shift in the post-9/11 focus on its activities past, present and future back to the “threat from the Russian Federation to Europe”. After not just pulling out all US personnel (uniformed or otherwise) from Afghanistan last year while simultaneously halting the logistics assistance given to the Afghan National Army, Biden’s explanation was that it was not political considerations that motivated this surrender to the Taliban, but the imperative of focusing on “standing up to China”. Instead, the Afghanistan surrender may help cost the Democratic Party control of the House and Senate in midterms this year.

XI PRIORITISES SINO-WAHHABI ALLIANCE

Not for nothing has Xi Jinping worked hard at strengthening the Sino-Wahhabi alliance, even as he deepens the separate Sino-Russian partnership. To Beijing’s relief, Washington is no longer focusing on the PRC as the principal threat to the US. It is improbable that NSA chief Jake Sullivan did not brief the US President about the linkages between the CCP organs and multiple parts of the Wahhabi International, all of which have long backed the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul. Nor could Sullivan have neglected to point out to Biden that GHQ Rawalpindi had moved from Washington’s sphere of influence into Beijing’s even before President George W. Bush outsourced to that military so much of the US war on the Taliban and its extremist associates in 2001. Bush acted thus oblivious to the fact that almost all the leadership elements of the Taliban worked under the direction of GHQ Rawalpindi, which has protected them from the Benazir-era start of their formation. Overall, it would not be unreasonable to assume that more than a few of the ills plaguing the world have their origins in some self-defeating policies that have been pursued under successive US Presidents. This includes the money handed out to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to make a harmless pathogen deadly through laboratory processes.

Or Trump’s 2019 handover of the Kurds in much of northern Syria to R.T. Erdogan despite the White House claiming to support moderates against radicals in the region. It was also President Trump who was instrumental in the signing of the surrender document between the USG and the Taliban at Doha in 2020. In the process, his White House jettisoned the pro-US, moderate Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani. To this may be added Trump’s withdrawal from a clutch of international and regional agencies, a decision that benefited China immensely. The shadow of such decisions (with which he must have privately disagreed) hangs over a likely front-runner for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination in 2024, Mike Pompeo. Following in the path of his predecessors, Biden is working at contributing his share to the pile of disastrous Presidential decisions. The most consequential of these may be a decision arrived at during the ninth months of his present term in office. This was to pivot back from the Indo-Pacific to the Atlantic, and from China to Russia.

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Since then, the Biden White House has resurrected the Cold War 1.0 fixation on Russia (then the USSR) as the primary enemy of humanity and freedom. Where then was the need, some may ask, to desert Afghanistan so ignominiously if the purpose was not what had been stated, keeping the attention on China? Despite outward shows of acquiescence caused by its present dependence on China, the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin is (along with India led by Narendra Modi) wary of the Taliban, and is working to secure the Central Asian republics in particular against further encroachment by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby. This in a context where major NATO member-states back the active opposition to the existing regimes there. Several such groups, that are opposed by Russia and India, have the backing of the Sino-Wahhabi lobby, whose influence on policy within the Atlantic alliance is substantial.

Pic credits ANI

PRC VETO OVER SANCTIONS

It was Bill Clinton, who as President of the US decided to continue to treat Russia as an enemy despite the collapse of the USSR in 1992. He worked energetically towards the “pastoralization” of Russia and he and his successors broke through Red Line after Red Line of Moscow’s security concerns, during the terms in office of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, a situation finally ended by Putin after nearly six years of effort by him at trying to craft a mutually respectful relationship between Russia and the Atlantic alliance. Clinton sought to pastoralize Russia in much the same manner that US Treasury Secretary Hans Morgenthau had from 1942 onwards sought to gain support within the White House for plans designed to convert post-war Germany into an agricultural country. Clinton became the first US President to install the Taliban in power in Afghanistan in 1996, a transfer of authority that was sought to be renewed by Trump in 2020, but which was actualised by Biden only the next year. Not to mention the distinction President Clinton had of doing heavy lifting to promote PRC interests, going even further than Ronald Reagan had in such indulgence.

Washington’s largesse to Beijing matched the generosity shown by Taipei and Tokyo towards the PRC across several decades, until the coming to office of the DPP and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe respectively. The success of unceasing efforts of the Sino-Wahhabi lobby in the US and in other key members of NATO to get agents of influence to demonise Russia and give the benefit of the doubt to China became apparent by the different standards employed by Washington where the PRC and the Russian Federation are concerned. Biden has repeatedly affirmed that Russia cannot have veto power even on matters of crucial importance to Moscow’s security, such as the eastward expansion of NATO or looking at placing nuclear-tipped missiles less than four minutes’ flying time from Russia. According to those with insight into the thinking and actions of the Kremlin, it was NATO’s (unreported) moves to bring Ukraine into its fold that was an important factor in Putin’s retaking of the Crimea in early 2014. This happened during the time when anti-Russia elements began their domination of policy in Kyiv.

At the same time, neither Joe Biden (nor his newfound friend Boris Johnson) will go anywhere close to even talking about a veto over the many territorial transgressions by China, such as its takeover of the Spratlys from the Philippines (a US ally since the 1939-45 war), or the PLA’s growing chokehold over the Indo-Pacific. There has been no hint of a US or NATO veto even over PLA land grabs that involved Indian territory. Clearly, Biden and Johnson are too respectful of Xi’s predictable reaction to even hint that a Putin-model veto will be imposed by them on the PRC. Indeed, a front runner for the Prime Ministership of the UK should Johnson have to go is Tory grandee Jeremy Hunt, whose links with the PRC are in plain sight although scarcely commented upon. But even with Johnson at the helm, the use of regular troops by the PLA results in only cosmetic responses by 10 Downing Street to such activities, which in scope and number are larger than any made by Russia. Of course, Beijing plays along with the charade of verbal and symbolic arrows from NATO member-states, and “resolutely protests” even the least consequential of such gestures.

For domestic audiences, there is the sending of a few naval vessels into a PRC-claimed zone in a manner that makes clear that there will not be the slightest threat to PLA assets situated there, including forcibly occupied islands and territories belonging to other countries, nor even to the many islands artificially built by the PRC. Tellingly, the Colombo office of the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka looks out towards the vast expanse of territory reclaimed from the sea by the PRC, and which in effect is treated as Chinese territory, just as are similar facilities in Pakistan and elsewhere. The lack of any real deterrent action by NATO member-states over the frequent PLA Air Force and PLA Navy forays into Taiwanese sovereign space is wholly unlike the response to any ingress real or imaginary of Russia into Ukraine.

Clearly, the Taiwanese and the Russians are treated by capitals such as London and Washington as belonging to a lower class of nation than the Ukrainians or the Chinese are. Although aware that the parts of Ukrainian territory that are of most concern to Moscow are majority Russian-speaking, there has been silence from NATO members about the manner in which Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are facing discrimination from Kyiv. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks loud and long about “illicit Russian money” in the UK, thus far he has been silent about the plentiful flow of illicit Ukrainian cash pouring into London to get washed. Mentioning that may detract from the image that has been crafted for the British public of Ukraine being an exemplar of integrity and tolerance, a saintly country menaced by a devilish neighbour.

UKRAINE AN EFFECTIVE DIVERSION

Those around Xi Jinping who may harbour such un-Marxian thoughts as belief in the divine will likely be praying that Putin call the bluff on deterrence of President Biden and his other Russia-phobic allies by doing a Georgia on Ukraine. In this, Moscow would act in accordance with the desire of the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, by occupying Russian-majority zones through kinetic means and freeing them from control by Kyiv or fear of attack by the 90,000 Ukrainian troops at the border of the Russian-speaking areas of the country. Should Russia be removed from the SWIFT payments system, the impact would fall most heavily on the US dollar, which the whimsicalities of successive US Presidents have made many countries regard as an unsafe currency in which to keep their foreign exchange reserves. Over just two decades, moved along by the efforts of the Sino-Russian alliance, the US dollar comprises about 56% of global financial transactions when at the beginning of the 21st century, the USD share was almost 90%.

The calculation in Moscow and Beijing is that once the US dollar loses its perch as the global reserve currency, its value would plummet. Given the number of sanctions already imposed on Russia, any additional sanctions (including exclusion from SWIFT) would have a cascading effect that would cause more harm to the rest of Europe and to the US than to an already heavily-sanctioned Russia. CCP General Secretary Xi may be calculating that as in the case of other countries (such as North Korea) where China has flouted US and EU sanctions, the PRC will get away with flouting US-led sanctions to Russia, as indeed is already taking place. Were it to do otherwise, the Sino-Russian alliance would be in tatters, and the CCP leadership knows this.

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Beijing apparently remains confident that the monetary rewards to influential US and EU nationals from business and financial dealings with China is so substantial that any chance of a more than cosmetic reaction by the US and its NATO allies to any flouting of Russia-directed sanctions by the PRC is close to zero. Just as some financial institutions in the US have been regarded as “too big to fail”, the PRC is confident that it is too big to sanction. This while expecting that sanctions would fall heavily on India, should New Delhi continue its trade with Russia after fresh sanctions were to get imposed by the US and the EU.

Thus far, to the chagrin of the CCP leadership, the Biden administration has refused to fall into the sanctions pit where India is concerned, even in the matter of India’s purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems. Just as Pakistan is useful as a means of diverting the attentions of New Delhi away from the actions of the PRC, Ukraine is seen by analysts in Beijing as being effective in keeping the NATO focus on Russia rather than on China. Meanwhile, skipping over past crossing of Kremlin Red Lines, the US and its Russophobe allies present “snapshots” of the present situation to make the case that Putin is unreasonable, while ignoring the “video” that documents the entire history of such Russia-directed activity by NATO from the period in office of Gorbachev onwards.

BIDEN PLAYS RUSSIAN ROULETTE

And it may not only be India that could break ranks with its Russia-phobic security partners where their actions on Ukraine are concerned. Germany bid goodbye to nuclear power, a decision where emotions played a much greater role than common-sense. Should Berlin obey the US and the UK and choke off supplies of gas from Russia, the German economy would go for a toss, such that the Olaf Scholz government would be faced with street protest on a scale dwarfing the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt in 2011. Judging by the way in which the German naval chief was forced to quit simply for speaking the truth in public, it would appear that occasional fiery rhetoric on the PRC of many German political parties is simply that, rhetoric.

But a much bigger test than the outspokenness of a naval mind may loom ahead for Berlin, should President Putin be goaded on the Ukraine issue by Washington and London enough to decide that there is little point in absorbing punishment without also getting some reward for the pain. What Kyiv wants is Russia keeping aloof as it pacifies the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine, and Biden and others are seeking to ensure that by threatening Putin with “crippling” responses to any Russian action, including that designed to protect the lives of the 470,000 dual Russia-Ukraine citizens in the region. Responsibility to protect evidently does not extend to Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Brinkmanship of the kind being shown now by Washington worked for Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis but led to the fall of CPSU General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev three years later. That example of what could happen to the boss should Moscow blink must be imprinted in the mind of Geopolitical Grandmaster V.V. Putin.

The world needs to brace itself for extremely turbulent weather caused by the attempted intensification of Biden’s pivot from Beijing to Moscow as the primary threat to US interests. This would add to the pain already created in 2020 by the SARS-CoV-2 lab leak and the subsequent adoption by so many countries of WHO-recommended measures (initially adopted by CCP General Secretary Xi) that have cost millions of lives impacted billions more. Russian roulette is not a game that rational individuals play, and hopefully the realisation of this will dawn on the White House before it is too late, and President V.V. Putin decides that he has had enough, that Russia has suffered enough to endure with patience, and that the threat to Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine is too dire for him to restrain his forces from intervening to remove the threat that has been massing on their borders with the rest of Ukraine. In the process of seeking to expand the effective reach of Kyiv, President Zelensky may end up the way his counterpart in Tbilisi had earlier. This is not a movie. This is not a drill. This is for real.

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