Rostislav Ishchenko: The Adequacy of Reaction

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


During the fifteen-year standoff with the US Russia achieved considerable success. The US lost in the Middle East and can’t build an effective strategy in the Chinese direction, even their contradictions with European allies became aggravated to the limit. American-European unity is now being seriously tested in durability and its prospects don’t seem to be optimistic.

Success is relaxing. A part of the Russian public started to behave towards America with a sense of superiority. Any anti-Russian attacks by America cause only condescendence. One of my acquaintances, commenting on the decision of the US to close its Russian consulate in San Francisco, even wrote that America turns into Ukraine. That, allegedly, the Americans are also petty and inefficient.

There is an element of truth in all of this. But any consequence has a reason. If we only ascertain a decrease in the effectiveness of American politics and the drop of diplomacy by Washington to the level of street bartering, and we don’t ask ourselves a question – what causes it, it is unlikely that we will hardly be able to correctly foresee the possible consequences of the present American outbursts.

And also our reciprocal actions will suffer from ineffectiveness.

Meanwhile, the situation that developed in the world is far from ideal. An armed conflict with the participation of nuclear powers stopped being something impossible long ago. But now it is considered by part of the western elite not only as probable, but even a desirable event. In a certain format such a conflict remains nearly the only chance of the US to preserve (I would even say to restore what was already lost by them) global hegemony.

For a solution of America’s problem, as a minimum, Russia must be drawn into such a conflict (desirably, also China). It must be long and demand big resource expenses. Europe must be involved in it, but the US itself must have the opportunity at the first stage to evade from participating in military operations. With such an option they have the chance to preserve their military and economic potential until the moment when the parties of the conflict completely exhaust each other, and from a position of force to dictate to the destroyed world the conditions of the new order.

It is an extremely risky game, because both the allies and opponents of Washington perfectly understand the aim of America. And it’s not a fact that it won’t become the recipient of a blow. And it is precisely for this reason that the American elite at the end of Obama’s reign (when the American geopolitical failure became clear) broke up into two big camps. One of them was represented by the candidate Clinton, and the second – the candidate (and today’s President) Trump.

The Clinton camp proceeded from the fact that it is necessary to continue an aggressive provocative policy at any cost. A stake was obviously placed on nuclear blackmail, on the verge of tumbling into a direct military confrontation. The Trump camp consisted of people who consider that the US went too far and that it is dangerous to further increase the stakes, the situation can get out of hand. Eventually, they needed leadership in a normal world, and not in a nuclear desert.

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Trump won elections. But it doesn’t mean that his supporters received control over the State apparatus of the US. They seized only one, maybe even the most important position, but those interventionists who placed a stake on Clinton weren’t going to be reconciled with defeat and to recognize Trump’s right to make a fundamental change of policy. In the very first days after inauguration they even tried to arrange a color revolution against the new President.

At the time Trump managed to resist, although hardly. He avoided defeat, but couldn’t achieve a victory. Neutral – a stalemate situation remained in the American domestic policy. The exchange of blows between the teams of Clinton and Trump continue unabated. Now the internal elite standoff in the US reached such heat that even if someone from the nominal leaders of confronting groups (Trump, McCain, Clinton) will surrender and recognize their personal defeat, the fight won’t be finished. As a matter of fact cold civil war is already ongoing in the US. And provocations with monuments to figures of the Confederacy approach its transition to a hot phase.

In this regard the US indeed resembles the Ukraine of 2004-2014, where the irreconcilable split in the elite provoked by sharp resource insufficiency caused a long cold civil war, which made an instant (explosive) transition to a hot phase in February, 2014. But there is an essential difference. Ukraine was an subject of the policy of others, and the influence of its internal disorder concerning the global situation was scanty, and it also showed from time to time. The US is not simply a subject, but one of the chief architects of world politics.

The thesis saying that foreign policy is a continuation of the internal one, in real time, is confirmed by the American example. The domestic policy of the US (fighting between elite groups) directly reflects the interests of every State of the planet.

As was already mentioned above, the American interventionists who lost the presidential election weren’t going to allow Trump to change the foreign policy strategy. Firstly, they considered that the strategy is correct, and must lead to victory sooner or later. Secondly – and this is the most important thing, the split of elites in the US also happened on the basis of a sharp resource insufficiency. Thus, the mechanism stabilising the American domestic policy over the last one and a half century broke. Until now access to resources and returning to power through one-two election cycles was guaranteed for the opposition. Now the group that lost the political and ideological fight will be thrown out from both financial and economic processes. Consumers will move to a condition of being consumed.

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If we look at the foreign policy activity of the US through the prism of an internal political standoff between elite groups, seemingly chaotic and inexplicable steps will find integrity and logicality.

On the one hand Trump tries to carry out changes that will make his policies irreversible. In this series there is the rejection of the Transatlantic and Pacific zones of Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP and TTP), steps towards disavowal of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), rumours about Trump’s preparation to reject a free trade zone with the Republic of Korea. Trump purposefully dismantles the international mechanisms that provide economic domination of his internal political opponents.

Interventionists, in turn, try, using the remaining levers of political influence (in Congress, in the Department of Defense, in the intelligence agencies, in the State Department) to increase the intensity of relations with Russia to such a level so that no Trumps of this world can restore these relations. It is from here that the expulsions of diplomats, the arrest of Russian property, the most rough demonstrative violations of the Vienna and Geneva conventions, and direct military provocations in Syria come. They want to obtain Russia itself refusing to speak with Trump.

This is a very dangerous path. Already now diplomatic relations with the US are on the verge of rupture. After all, diplomats are needed to conduct negotiations, and not in order to be humiliated. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, however, at the present moment draws an accurate distinction between the actions of the US, which violate all possible international standards, and the team of Trump, which Russia still agrees to speak with when (and if) this team is able independently and responsibly to act on the world scene. But for this Trump needs to win in the American internal political standoff, and there the balance of forces in recent weeks develops not to his advantage.

Respectively in the near future we can wait for new provocations, which will be initiated by the American interventionists by means of the activization of vassal states. The US is obviously losing the Syrian campaign. The stake placed on the Kurds is weak. In order to strengthen their position and not to appear thrown out from the region, America needs to distract the attention of Russia to a serious crisis in another place.

It is precisely for this reason that Kiev suddenly again started talking about the “Croatian scenario” for Donbass. Quite recently Ukrainian politicians recognized that it’s impossible to return Donbass; that it is necessary to think about how not to lose all the rest; noted that a military victory over Donbass is impossible, because Russia is behind it. And they suddenly grew bolder and already are ready to fight, even though Russia didn’t disappear anywhere— it’s still in the same place.

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Military hysteria continues in the Baltic countries. There, nearly everybody waits for Russia’s invasion almost each day and call for more American and West European troops to come to their territory. Thus the US, already during the Obama era, didn’t seek to deploy its contingent in the Baltic countries, although it was simpler than simple to do it. On the contrary, Washington insisted on transferring their West European divisions there. They partially managed to do it. The biggest part of the NATO contingent deployed in the Baltic countries is presented by European allies. The US also nudges East European members of the EU and NATO to take a more aggressive position in relation to Russia, including on the Ukrainian question.

In fact, the scenario of a large-scale military provocation is ready. Ukraine started by attacking Donbass. Respectively the Minsk Agreements stop to act. East Europeans intensify their military-political support for Ukraine, up to sending contingents of regular troops for “war with Russia” (even though it’s not obligatory). In the Baltic countries military hysteria breaks new records, the demand sounds to increase the number of West European contingents “defending” “the advanced borders of democracy”.

Relations between Russia and Europe sharply deteriorate. The danger of military collisions in the region where contingents of West European countries are deployed increase. The US formally isn’t involved, but their value for European allies as “defenders against Russian aggression” sharply increases.

A crisis of such a scale will immediately weaken the possibilities of Russia in the Middle East, and also will significantly change the developed-today arrangement of forces in world politics. It’s not a fact that crisis will come to an end with benefits for the US. They will only destroy a static position and will move on to maneuvers, and on this platform Moscow in recent years constantly outplayed Washington. But, once again, if we avert our gaze to American internal political problems, Trump will be dealt a serious defeat, because the change of American foreign policy declared by him during elections will become almost improbable. His nuclear electorate, which already now starts doubting Trump, will definitively leave him, and a second presidential term will become unfeasible for him.

The danger of the current American foreign policy is defined precisely by the fact that mechanisms of international relations are used for the achievement of internal political aims. You can reach a compromise on any of the problems that divide countries, but you won’t manage to do it if the reasons for the crisis are in the internal political sphere of the partner, which you aren’t able to influence directly. You will be obliged to outplay the opponent during the crisis that was actually provoked by them. Ultimately, up to now it turned out quite well. But beforehand the danger of a military conflict was less.

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