After the Soviet Union ended, Washington switched without a second’s delay from an anti-USSR policy to an anti-Russia policy. This included extending NATO to Russia’s borders in violation of earlier false signals and assurances that it would not, and it included Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. It included U.S. support of anti-Russian leaders in Georgia and Ukraine. It has included a wide range of other steps, such as trying to diminish Russia’s role as a European energy supplier. Anti-Russian policies extend to supporting NGOs inside Russia and even to supporting a minor event like the Pussy Riot stunt. Although U.S.-Russian cooperation has surfaced in some respects, for tactical reasons, there is also no doubt that Washington’s main thrust has been one of pressuring Russia and antagonizing her.
The sanctions imposed on Russia this year by Obama are only the latest steps. These go further. They attempt to isolate Russia and to pressure her on a matter of strategic importance, namely, Crimea. Ukraine is an excuse for Washington’s sanctions agenda as well as a continuation of its earlier anti-Russian policies. By linking the sanctions to Crimean withdrawal, as Obama has done, Washington intends to maintain sanctions as a tool of pressuring Russia indefinitely, knowing that Russia will not withdraw from that strategic and historically connected region under pressure from Washington. Washington has created a permanent bone of contention with Russia over Crimea, and the sanctions will remain as a permanent source of friction. Russia will adapt to them, however, shifting its policies and attention in other parts of the world.
What does Washington want of Russia? Why does it have an anti-Russian policy? At the deepest level, the U.S. government wants global dominance. It wants its system and institutions to be replicated throughout the world. Imperial ambitions are the broadest reasons, and they are fueled by a broad range of quests, from material acquisition to cultural, religious, philosophical and ideological motives.
This grand ambition of global dominance explains the U.S. presence globally and its continued attempts to control every region in the world, despite numerous setbacks and continued failures. Achieving this ambition is not possible, but the attempt and striving are part of the U.S. makeup, driving its leadership beyond any rational limits. Defeats mean little in the face of this ambition. They even cause redoubled efforts to succeed.
The U.S. leadership is by and large imbued with a set of beliefs, perceptions and drives that were born and nurtured over a long historical period in which the nation expanded geographically and then began to have pretensions of worldwide leadership. The associated ideas are now deeply entrenched in the minds of American leaders, and this is reflected in the resulting policies. This is now the leadership culture. Dissenting ideas and alternative visions and voices are constantly ignored and marginalized. It is as difficult to alter these drives as it is to alter a person’s personality.
The thing that prevents the U.S. from following through with its ambition is that to achieve it is so costly. The U.S. keeps running into very great obstacles that cost it dearly in this vain attempt. A Vietnam War, a Korean War, an Iraq War, an Afghanistan War, for example, cost fantastic amounts of money, and no victories occur. Yet the expansionist drive is ceaseless.
Every regional policy of the U.S. can be understood in terms of this grand but futile design. The U.S. wants Europe to be orbiting around the U.S., not around Russia. This is why Putin’s attempts to bring Russia into a Greater Europe cannot be tolerated by the U.S. This is why the U.S. will contest and compete for remote central Asian nations. It is why its costly and counter-productive efforts in the Middle East go on and on. Retreats and withdrawals are necessary when the U.S. loses, but instead its leaders declare that it is victorious. Members of the governing elite consistently refuse to recognize reality, acknowledge their errors and moderate their grand ambition and design. Their behavior is forced to reflect costs, losses and retreats, but those actions are seen as tactical and temporary. There is no fundamental change in attitudes within the leadership, no basic change in ideas. Deeply-held motives and beliefs hold sway over reason and rationality, preventing conceptual changes from occurring. The basic policy, the basic thrust of global dominance remains intact, even if it meets with frustration. This policy is so irrational that the U.S. now is committing itself to a large number of countries in Africa. It is so irrational that the U.S. is seeking to isolate Russia from the rest of the world.
As part of this ambition, the U.S. wants other countries to be clones of itself. America’s leaders want other nations to adopt domestic policies like its own. This aim is something like demanding that they adopt the true religion and convert, except that the religion is a wide-ranging political-legal-cultural-economic one. The agenda is whatever the current ruling elite in Washington has fastened upon, in words if not in deeds. Washington waves many banners in the faces of the world’s nations. They may read rule of law, LGBT rights, environmental protection, labor laws, free and fair trade, human rights, and freedom of religion. They may involve a range of financial institutions: IMF, World Bank, central banks, BIS, and IBRD, to name a few. They may involve military alliances, training, arms sales and police forces. They may involve aid of various kinds and business deals. The overall ambition is that other countries become part of a system that the U.S. has developed and controls.
This ambition has no room to tolerate competing visions, competing ideas and competing powers. If a country has its own history, ways, culture, legal system, moral rules and forms of governance, they count for little to Washington. They will be looked upon as obstacles to Americanization and as things that can be destroyed, ignored, changed or shunted aside.
What does the U.S. want of Russia? It wants Russia to look like America. It wants Russia to be open to American development and/or exploitation. It wants the same thing for every other country on earth. That’s the enduring goal and objective of the U.S. leadership, tantamount to a ruling orthodoxy and religion. This ideal is outrageous and extreme, intolerant, and impossible to achieve. America’s attempts to bring this objective to pass have caused immense agony and death in many countries. Nevertheless, this belief and everything that goes into it will appear to be eminently reasonable for those who hold a belief in American exceptionalism and promote it. The grand imperialistic ambition of a world that looks and acts American is the most significant factor in explaining the actions of the U.S. leadership for a very long period of time.