A Rules-Based Global Order or Rule-less US Global ‘Order’?

By Alastair Crooke


“It has taken the US military/security complex 31 years to get rid of President Reagan’s last nuclear disarmament achievement – the INF Treaty, that President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev achieved in 1987”, writes Reagan’s former Assistant Treasury Secretary:

“Behind the scenes, I had some role in this, and as I remember, what the treaty achieved was to make Europe safe from nuclear attack by Soviet short and intermediate range missiles [the SS20s], and to make the Soviet Union safe from US [Pershing missiles deployed in Europe]. By restricting nuclear weapons to ICBMs, which allowed some warning time, thus guaranteeing retaliation and non-use of nuclear weapons, the INF Treaty was regarded as reducing the risk of an American first-strike on Russia and a [Soviet] first-strike on Europe … Reagan, unlike the crazed neoconservatives, who he fired and prosecuted, saw no point in nuclear war that would destroy all life on earth. The INF Treaty was the beginning, in Reagan’s mind, of the elimination of nuclear weapons from military arsenals. The INF Treaty was chosen as the first start, because it did not substantially threaten the budget of the US military/security complex”.

The Trump Administration however now wants to unilaterally exit the INF. “Speaking to reporters in Nevada, Trump said: “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out … We’re going to pull out … We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons, and we’re not allowed to”. Asked to clarify, the President said: “Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us, and they say, ‘Let’s all of us get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’ but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable. So we have a tremendous amount of money to play with our military.”

The tell-tale markers are plain: Russia and China are ‘doing’ new weapons (and the US is behind the curve); China’s ‘doing it’ (and is not party to the INF treaty), and ‘we’ have a tremendous amount of money to play with our military (we can win an arms race and the military-industrial complex will be ecstatic).

A (US) diplomat has told the Washington Post that, “the planning [for the withdrawal] is the brainchild of Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, [a career opponent of all arms control treaties on the principle that they potentially might limit America’s options to take unilateral action], has told US allies he believes the INF puts Washington in an “excessively weak position” against Russia “and more importantly China”.

Trump is not a strategist by nature. He prides himself rather, as a negotiator, who knows how to go after, and to seize, US leverage. A wily Bolton has played here into Trump’s obsession with leveraging US strength to do two things: To return the US to having potentially a first strike capability over Russia (i.e. more leverage), through being able to install intermediate missiles (such as Aegis) in Europe, over and up against Russia’s frontiers. And, secondly, because were some military conflict between the US and China to become inevitable, as tensions escalate, the US has concluded that it needs medium range missiles to strike at China’s mainland. And it’s not China only. As Eric Sayers, a CSIS expert, put it: “Deploying conventionally-armed ground-launched intermediate-range missiles may be key to reasserting US military superiority in East Asia.” (i.e. leverage again).

Indeed, last year’s US Nuclear Posture Review already noted that “China likely already has the largest medium and intermediate-range missile force in Asia, and probably the world.” And the US is in the process of encircling China with intermediate missiles initially with Japan’s decision to buy the Aegis system, with Taiwan possibly next. (Bolton is known to support stationing US troops on Taiwanese soil, as further leverage over China).

President Putin sees this plainly: “The Americans keep on indulging in these games as the actual goal of such games is not to catch Russia in violations, and compel it to abide by the treaty; but to invent a pretext to ruin that treaty – part of its belligerent imperial strategy”. Or, in short, to impose a ‘rule-less, US, global order’.

What is happening is that Bolton and Pompeo seem to be precisely taking Trump back to the old 1992 Defence Policy Guidance document, authored by Paul Wolfowitz, which established the doctrine that the US would not allow any competition to its hegemony to emerge. Indeed, Assistant Secretary of State, Wess Mitchell, made this return to Bush era policy, absolutely clear, when in a statement to the US Senate he said:

The starting point of the National Security Strategy is the recognition that America has entered a period of big-power competition, and that past US policies have neither sufficiently grasped the scope of this emerging trend nor adequately equipped our nation to succeed in it. Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of previous administrations, Russia and China are serious competitors that are building up the material and ideological wherewithal to contest US primacy and leadership in the 21st Century. It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers.

And at the Atlantic Council on 18 October, the Secretary made it very plain that Europe will be whipped into line on this neo-Wolfowitz doctrine:

“European and American officials have allowed the growing Russian and Chinese influence in that region to “sneak up on us.” “Western Europeans cannot continue to deepen energy dependence on the same Russia that America defends it against. Or enrich themselves from the same Iran that is building ballistic missiles that threaten Europe,” the assistant secretary emphasized. Adding, “It is not acceptable for US allies in central Europe to support projects like Turkstream 2 and maintain cozy energy deals that make the region more vulnerable to the very Russia that these states joined NATO to protect themselves against.”

Also addressing the Atlantic Council’s October 18 conference, US Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, revealed that Washington plans to stiffen the sanctions regime against Moscow “every month or two” to make it ‘more amenable over Ukraine’.

Plainly, Europe will be expected too, to welcome America’s missiles deployed back into Europe. Some states may welcome this (Poland and the Baltic States), but Europe as a whole will not. It will serve as another powerful reason to rethink European relations with Washington.

The influence of Bolton poses the question of what is Trump’s foreign policy now. Is it still about getting a good deal for America on a case-by-case basis, or is it a Bolton-style make-over for the Middle East (regime change in Iran), and a long cold war fought against Russia and China? US markets have until now thought it is about trade deals and jobs, but perhaps it no longer is.

We have written before about the incremental neocon-isation of Trump’s foreign policy. That is not new. But, the principal difficulty with a neo-Wolfowitzian imperialism, lashed to Trump’s radical, transactional, leveraging of the dollar jurisdiction, of US energy and of the US hold on technology standards and norms, is that by its very nature, it precludes any ‘grand strategic bargain’ from emerging – except in the unlikely event of a wholesale capitulation to the US. And as the US bludgeons non-compliant states, one-by-one, they do react collectively, and asymmetrically, to counter these pressures. The counter current presently is advancing rapidly.

Bolton may have sold Trump on the advantages of exiting the INF as giving him bargaining leverage over Russia and China, but did he also warn him of the dangers? Probably not. Bolton has always perceived treaty limitations to US action simply to be disadvantageous. Yet President Putin has warned that Russia will use its nuclear weapons – if its existence is threatened – and even if it is threatened through conventionally armed missiles. The dangers are clear.

As for an arms race, this is not the Reagan era (of low Federal debt to GDP). As one commentator notes, “no entity on earth (not currently engaged in QE), has as much government debt vulnerable to short-term interest shifts, than the US government. The US Federal Reserves’ “5 more [interest rate] hikes by end 2019”, roughly translates into: “The Fed [interest payments due on US debt may become so large, as to] impose cuts on the US military in 2019”.

Trump loves the leverage Bolton seems to magic out of his NSC ‘black box’, but does the US President appreciate how ephemeral leverage can be? How quickly it can invert? He cannot – Canute like – simply stand on the sea-shore and command the rising tide of US bond interest rates to recede like the tide, or the US stock market, just to levitate, in order to multiply his leverage over China.


Bolton Lacks Stones More Than Olives

By Tom Luongo


The biggest warmongers are generally the biggest cowards. They hide behind rhetoric and other people’s blood, sweat and toil to advance their personal agenda. John Bolton’s arrival in Moscow with, as he said, “no olive branches” in hand, should come as zero surprise because Bolton is nothing if not a coward.

Warmongers like Bolton bomb, invade and ruin some poor country that is in their way, the entire time claiming they themselves, or the people they represent, are the victim.

It’s vain and narcissistic.

US foreign policy is suffused with the neoconservative strain of narcissism, an offshoot of Trotskyite interventionism, which sees everything in Manichean terms.

You are either our friend, and in the case of the US Empire subservient to our needs, or you are our enemy.

When Bolton is talking about taking us out of the UN I think he’s useful. When he’s arguing for a freer hand in developing ballistic missiles I think he’s a danger to humanity.

This is how National Security Advisor John Bolton sees the world. It’s not tough to parse in the end. And the sad truth is that this is likely exactly why he was hired by President Trump.

Bolton has been shaping US foreign policy along these lines for decades. He is one of the architects of the disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as the post 9/11 surveillance state. He’s a cheap shill for Israeli expansionism and continues to argue against peace in North Korea, Japan and Syria.

Like Bolton, Trump is a bully; a fundamentally weak person who blusters and blows hard in service of a simplified narrative of good and evil. America good and anyone who disagrees with her, bad.

When it comes to foreign policy the Trump Administration looks an awful lot like a those SJW NPC’s memes on Twitter.

Make no mistake, in Bolton’s case, his agenda is born of spite, hate and opportunity. Trump, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about. It is one of the few things leaving me with some hope in all of this.

While John Bolton may be a US patriot, his brand of patriotism is of the most toxic variety. It is one where everyone else has to suffer to advance America.

It is a Hobbesian view of the world in which for the US to win, everyone else has to lose. Because without the US, the Superman of Human Society, the world would sink into barbarism.

At the end of the day paranoid schizophrenics like Bolton see threats to their well-being everywhere. They can only see the world through the lens of nation-state power politics.

Meanwhile the world is thrown off its axis and decent people must suffer for Bolton’s ends which always justify the means no matter the disastrous results.

Think about the millions who continue to suffer because of his view of Iran. Real Iranians are beneath contempt because they won’t overthrow the Theocracy on John Bolton’s timeline. He exemplifies the adage that the beatings will continue until morale improves. People like Bolton believe some people’s lives are worth more than others.

Theirs is a solipsism so complete that anyone who refuses to throw off the yoke of their ‘oppressors’ deserve whatever fate true-believers and cowards like Bolton concoct for them. They are simply collateral damage on the way to building a better world.

This is why I invoke Trotsky when I speak about neocons. People like Bolton are “Commies” who don’t realize it.

Bolton’s pushing President Trump to renege on the 1987 INF Treaty with Russia is born of his paranoia about China. China is the US’s real threat.

So, while Bolton has never met a war he didn’t like he also hasn’t ever met a treaty the US has signed he did like.

I’m a huge fan of a non-interventionist foreign policy. I agree with Bolton on having no entangling alliances. But, I’m also no fan of unilaterally abrogating treaties which limit the development of ballistic missiles. Because this is not an ‘entangling alliance’ but rather an expression of trust and mutual self-defense.

If the US government is to have a role in foreign affairs it should be to sign treaties with other nations that limit the kind of damage people like John Bolton can do. And ones which limit the use and development of truly terrifying weapons should be lauded not thrown aside at the first opportunity.

The US and Russia should be leading the world on this front towards cooperation and peace. Putin would welcome that dialogue. His call to Japan to sign a peace treaty first then work out the territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands is a perfect example of this.

To Putin, rightly, trust is built with agreements over the easy stuff first then you work on the hard stuff. Bolton wants it all his way or he wants to take his toys and go home.

Typical narcissist. Typical bully.

There should be a dialogue with China and any other country developing the missiles banned by the treaty that both Bolton and Putin are bound by. If limiting nuclear weapons is Trump’s goal why is he pulling out of this treaty rather than organizing summits?

Why is his State Dept. so unutterably backwards that it won’t even pick up the phone to talk with Iran?

By springing this on the world at this moment Bolton and Trump are signaling to everyone that they are simply weak-minded bullies who have neither the patience nor the temperament to confront difficult problems in constructive ways.

And in his interaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bolton confirmed Putin’s suspicions that there will be no olive branches offered to Russia while he’s on the job, only more belligerence and posturing by cowards who threaten and demean, bully and provoke hoping to get what they want.

But when men like Bolton are confronted with men like Putin who see them for what they truly are, they always walk away empty handed and outmaneuvered.

Putin is the opposite of Bolton.

No one will make a deal with the US as long as John Bolton is on the scene. And now Trump is rightfully under attack for continuing to back both Israel and Saudi Arabia, neither one bastions of temperance and tolerance.

Both are increasingly seen as brutal and intractable to the rest of the world, including, finally the US electorate. The shaky edifice of Trump’s foreign policy goals of isolating Iran, driving a wedge between Russia and China and securing a subservient Europe via NATO is failing.

The exact opposite is happening. So, unless Trump’s prepared to meet Putin with a whole lot of olives when next they meet (presumably in November) the best he can hope for is a handful full of stones.

%d bloggers like this: