Washington’s real interests in Ukraine must be understood not as a war of values but rather as a cruise-missile launched at China, not Russia.
Spot the problem here: First, the EU has lost Russia as a partner, yet the EU insists to maintain trade with China. Two, China, though, must bend to our EU ‘rules’ on how it configures its economy. Thirdly, China too, must accept to be ‘castigated’ by the likes of Olaf Scholtz and Charles Michel for ‘not having put an end to Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine’. Fourth, we, the EU, anyway do not intend to depend on you. And fifth, clean up your human rights abuses!
Wow! Well, the initial reaction might be a spell back at the Academy on the art of diplomatic discourse, as being one idea. Nonetheless, the sheer number of non-sequiturs to this stance is startling. Firstly, the rest of the world is not greatly interested in EU leaders’ woke thought-code (the Chinese simply cancelled EU Chief Michel’s proposed speech to a gathering in Beijing). Europe has lost Russia; It will likely lose China. And probably, it will find itself excluded from the colossus, free-trade area unfolding in Eurasia – as the blocs differentiate into separate trading spheres.
Where does this leave that bruited EU ambition to be a global player? … Perhaps the EU’s thought-code culture might be the problem to its ambitions.
You (the EU) have not thought this through: You are now a dependent appendage of the U.S. economy – a prop to maintaining America’s exalted spot in the global system – at a time when its predatory economic model of money-printing at zero interest has been holed by an iceberg (known as accelerating inflation). American industry needs a captive market in a world that is fast seceding into two separate spheres. You have ‘elected’ to fill that role.
Containing China is America’s explicit goal. And that means blocking the European continent from moving closer to Asia to form the world’s biggest free trade zone. Washington had to stop that (i.e. sabotage Nord Stream) in order to preserve Europe as a captive market, and what remains of dollar ‘privilege’.
As an American dependency, Europe is perceived as having conceded not only economic, but political agency too. Simply put, the EU has lost its cheap-energy business model with the ‘I stand with Ukraine’ woke thought and speech codes, and now finds that it is impotent politically. Why would ‘others’ deal with the courtiers, when they can go directly to the ‘Command’ in Washington?
Furthermore, the culture block the EU adopts prevents it from bringing the Ukraine war to a political end. Rather, what it does is bake-in escalation.
Here is the problem: You bought into liberal America’s notion of a coercive process of induced government dysfunctionality – that is to stay, the state of mass psychosis that any weaponised dysfunctional state of society can produce. And it’s been a success (on its own narrow terms).
The bigger message is that ‘induced dysfunctionality’ marching in lockstep, and using culture block tactics to suppress any dissenting opinions, can and does produce a society that can be ruled over (made compliant through unpleasantness and applied pain) – without having to govern (i.e. make things actually work).
And induced compliance has proved its use for implementing all sorts of other ideological schemes that the public would otherwise never accept.
Weaponised dysfunctionality was trialled during the recent pandemic. The public was persuaded to accept systemic degradation of the economy. Western leaders regularly have expressed a pleasant surprise at the degree of public compliance achieved during the lockdowns. Of course, it was only made possible by ‘woke mobs’ on social platforms impugning the motives of anyone questioning ‘the Science’, the scale of emergency, or the long-lasting toxic effects on the real economy. Cultural roadblock was imposed.
The same process is evident today: The EU is in (another) ‘emergency’ because it made a strategic misjudgement over its Russia sanctions. The political class thought the effects of EU sanctions on Russia offered a ‘slam dunk’ outcome: Russia would fold in weeks, and all would return to how it was before. Energy would flow freely to the EU again; things would go back to ‘normal’.
Instead, Europe faces economic melt-down from astronomic fuel costs.
Yet, some leaders in Europe – zealots for the Green Transition – quietly embrace this sanctions ‘failure’ and the resulting economic mayhem caused by spiking energy prices – weaponising it as a strategic asset to accelerate Green Transition. European authorities actively encourage this pathological approach, believing that the pain incurred will force compliance on their societies to embrace de-industrialisation, accept carbon footprint monitoring and the Green Transition; and too, to bear prospective monumental Transition costs.
Yellen explicitly celebrated the financial pain (dysfunctionality) precisely as serving to accelerate ‘The Transition’ (like it or not) – even were that to push the citizen out of employment, and to the cusp of society.
Here then, is the problem: Some in the EU political class may hope for an intensification of the war on Russia, seeing in it all sorts of benefits – in extending centralised control over member-states and facilitating new means of printing money (mutualised debt instruments) ostensibly to fund Ukraine.
Sure – but there are fears for societal breakdown in Europe too. The problem? The EU cannot bring Ukraine to a deal.
The point is that the EU has framed the Ukraine conflict in absolute victim-vein terms, in line with woke cultural tropes: A revanchist Russian leader, dreaming of former empire, illegally, and without provocation has invaded and seized territory from its neighbour, whilst committing heinous war crimes in so doing. The perpetrator must face a humiliating defeat – otherwise, if he gets an inch, he will take a mile. And the global order will be ‘toast’.
The ‘online mob’ has been steered, through ‘influencers’, to insist that U.S. Realist Camp’s support for a negotiated settlement is tantamount to taking Russia’s side: rushing to denounce all voices – from Bill Burns’ (then U.S. ambassador and now CIA chief) celebrated 2008 telegram ‘Niet means Niet’ warning that any NATO takeover of Ukraine means war; to Prof Mearsheimer, Kissinger, or Elon Musk – as dangerous ‘Putin apologists’. Musk now faces a security probe.
The logic is stark: This shrinks the Overton window to only those advocating the total defeat of Russia and an end to Putin’s ‘regime’ – even if it risks WWIII. It is the ‘slash and burn’ stance, favoured by the U.S. and allied EU neo-cons.
So, we have Washington saying it has no interests, per se, in Ukraine – beyond supporting Kiev in recovering its territory. The Biden Administration says it is guided by the wishes of the Ukrainian people.
Do you still not see the problem to which this logic takes us? It is a Potemkin Village position. All façade and nothing ‘behind’ or around it. The conflict in Ukraine is not itself ‘a unique thing’, but a ‘thing’ of two leaves. At one level, Ukraine is a ‘state’ among surrounding states; and at another level, it is itself an actor. A ‘player in events’ – an owner indeed, of a certain history.
What the Potemkin ‘approach’ does is to artificially free-up some sort of abstract ‘clearing in the wood’ amidst the density of trees, in which the visible thing – Ukraine – is to be positioned, and set before the western spectator public, stripped naked of surrounding context; stripped of history and of the fact of itself being a conscient player in an extended drama.
The Realists have been culture blocked. Their motives impugned.
The title to this play – ‘America has no fundamental interests in Ukraine, and is but an innocent, called up upon the stage by an act of brutal villainy’ – is an obvious fraud. As is the corollary that the EU must therefore support the ‘war’ as Ukraine is victim.
Plainly said, the U.S. is pursuing a bi-partisan geopolitical strategy to quash China’s meteoric rise and preserve America’s dominant role in the world order. Can there be any doubt about that? No, none. For two decades U.S. foreign policy has centred around its ‘pivot to Asia’.
Washington’s real interests in Ukraine thus must be understood not as a war of values – as the EU has it – but rather as a cruise-missile launched at China, not Russia. In gist, the ‘high road’ to collapsing Beijing is perceived in DC to pass through a weakened Moscow. The NATO response to Ukraine is intended as ‘a letter’ to China, concerning Taiwan. And the comprehensive sanctions on Russia are a missive to the rest of the world to not trifle with America’s absolute primacy.
But if this latter context is absolutely ‘off the table’, through culture block and the only agenda item being the sham Potemkin Village construct, then what is there to talk about?
The matter then must inexorably be settled by events – not talk. Who has the potential for escalatory dominance? Russia has many – and various – options. Ukraine has only one. Pushing more troops at the contact line and suffering heavy losses. What does the West have: WWIII?
Can you see now why your peace efforts have come to naught? Actually, President Xi explained the situation courteously, yet pointedly, to Chancellor Scholtz during the latter’s day trip to Beijing: Having lectured Scholz on the evanescent quality of Trust in any political relationship (a quality that Xi said should be nurtured), he emphasised the need for Europe to avoid an ideological approach to relations.
Rough Translation: You (Scholz) have destroyed your relationship with Russia; you have pursued a bloc-orientated ideological policy, and this has been to your disadvantage. Do not think you can do the same with China.
(Or with the rest of the world, Xi might well have added).
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.