Saturday, February 26, 2022

New U.S. Containment Policy Against the Soviet Union Russia

I don't think most people realize, especially the weird right-wingers siding with Russia over Ukraine (something I haven't completely figured out, except for maybe Tucker Carlson?), that it's a new era. Big time.

NATO's never before authorized armed mobilization under the NATO Charter's Article V, which calls for "collective defense" in the event of a military attack against any NATO member. If there's an attack, each other NATO member is committed to providing mutual aid to any other member state of the alliance. There are 30 members, but without the U.S. it's pretty weak. 

The fighting in Ukraine, its initiation and its conclusion, will either dramatically shift the world balance of power or dramatically alter the perceptions of the world balance of power, regardless of the material qualitative/quantitative indices of national capabilities. 

The U.S. already looks weak after basically 20 years of unsuccessful wars, with the punctuation mark being the Biden administration's debacle in Afghanistan last summer. My sense, in the short term, is that China will quickly pocket whatever relative gains there may be. It's not a combatant, for one thing. Russia's now a total client state to Beijing. And the U.S. will be seen for clumsy, noncommittal strategic restraint. If Ukraine can't hold out, the U.S. will once again look the weaker, nothing like we were after World War II, when only the Soviets could claim to be a peer rival. 

No matter what happens, current events show how much things have change. The post-WWII international order is collapsing, or has already collapsed.

To even mention "containment" in the same breath sounds strange. During the Cold War, the U.S. was fully ready to back up its deterrence posture with hard force, anywhere in the world, and especially with our strategic nuclear weapons.

In any case, at the New York Times, "Biden Targets Russia With Strategy of Containment, Updated for a New Era":

WASHINGTON — More than 75 years ago, faced with a Soviet Union that clearly wanted to take over states beyond its borders, the United States adopted a Cold War approach that came to be known as “containment,” a simplistic-sounding term that evolved into a complex Cold War strategy.

On Thursday, having awakened to a violent, unprovoked attack on Ukraine, exactly the kind of nightmare imagined eight decades before, President Biden made clear he was moving toward Containment 2.0. Though it sounds a lot like its predecessor, it will have to be revised for a modern era that is in many ways more complex.

The nation that just moved “to wipe an entire country off the world map,” in the words of Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, also remains a key supplier of natural gas to keep Germans and many other Europeans warm. That explains why Mr. Biden has been constrained from cutting off the valuable export. And the Russia of today has a panoply of cyberweapons that it can use to strike at the United States or its allies without risking nuclear Armageddon — an option to retaliate against American sanctions that was never available to President Vladimir V. Putin’s predecessors.

Those are only two examples of why containment will not be easy. But Mr. Biden has been clear that is where he is headed.

For three decades, American presidents described a series of Soviet and Russian leaders as “businesslike” or even “partners.” They celebrated “glasnost” and ushered Moscow into the World Trade Organization and the Group of 7 industrial nations. Washington even entertained the idea in the 1990s — very briefly — that one day Russia could join NATO. No one has talked that way in years. But Mr. Biden, who came to office last year talking about establishing a “stable, predictable” relationship with Moscow, spoke of a completely ruptured relationship on Thursday.

“Now the entire world sees clearly what Putin and his Kremlin allies are really all about,” Mr. Biden said in a speech from the White House. “This was never about genuine security concerns on their part. It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary, by bullying Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption.”

He vowed to make Russia pay “dearly, economically and strategically,” and to make Mr. Putin a “pariah on the international stage.” Those words might have even been familiar to George F. Kennan, the American foreign service officer who became famous as the grand strategist who invented containment, though he later warned, at age 94, that expanding NATO to Russia’s borders was a bad idea, bound to become “the beginning of a new Cold War.”

The “containment” Mr. Kennan described in his famous “Long Telegram,” an 8,000-word dispatch from the American embassy in Moscow, was primarily aimed at putting geographical limits on Soviet ambitions. But even though the Long Telegram was long, it spent the most time explaining the psychology of Stalin’s regime, which Mr. Kennan described as paranoid, viewing the outside world to be “evil, hostile and menacing.”

The similarities to Mr. Putin’s speech on Monday night, in which he accused Ukraine of triggering genocides and seeking nuclear weapons — both false claims — and the United States of seeking to use Ukrainian territory to strike at Moscow, are striking. So was his description of America’s “empire of lies.”

But as Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Thursday, “It’s much more complicated to make containment work today.”

The Soviet Union largely presented a military and ideological challenge, he noted. Yet modern-day Russia is a provider of needed fuel and minerals, “and that gives them leverage over us, even as we have leverage over them.” The force of that leverage was made clear from Mr. Biden’s answer to a question on Thursday about why Russia had not been thrown out of SWIFT, the global communication system for financial transactions.

Barring Russia from that system would be a devastating move, cutting off its government from oil and gas revenue. That accounts for about 40 percent of its incoming cash and would be the one sanction almost certain to hurt Mr. Putin like no other.

But Mr. Biden noted in his speech that “in our sanctions package, we specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue.” When asked about barring Russia from SWIFT, he added, delicately, “Right now, that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take.” In fact, the debate over SWIFT has been a source of tense behind-the-scenes exchanges, chiefly with Germany. The German objection is clear: If the country cannot pay for its gas, Russia will not deliver it.

But the second reason containment may not work is that Russia has a new, if not very enthusiastic, partner in standing up to the West: China...

Keep reading.