While the US president’ s notion of “America first” would seem to indicate a scaling back of the US’ erstwhile policy of geo-political expansion into many different parts of the world, this is hardly the case. On the contrary, the old dream of dominating the world’s most energy rich region, Eurasia, continues to live on in the US as the cardinal objective of US expansionism, clearly manifested through the hundreds of military bases in the world and its continuing insistence on keeping some military bases in Afghanistan, which is located at one of the most crucial territorial conjunctions of Eurasia, even after formally withdrawing from the country and ending the now 17 years long war. On the other hand, it cannot be emphasized enough that the policy remains centrally focused on Russia and China, which have emerged as two most important US competitors in the post Cold War era, challenging the US unilateral hegemony of the global system.
Its mots recent illustration came from one the top US officials dealing with Europe and Eurasia, Wess Mitchell, who, in his testimony to the US Senate’s foreign relations committee’s hearing on the US Strategy towards the Russian Federation, said “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. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power.”
In this regard, the US president’s announcement about pulling the US out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty must be understood not just in terms of an imaginary violation of the treaty by the Russians, but essentially as a pretext to expand the US military’s nuclear and missile arsenal. Mitchell, in his testimony to the Senate, explained this in these words:
“Our Russia policy proceeds from the recognition that, to be effective, U.S. diplomacy toward Russia must be backed by “military power that is second to none and fully integrated with our allies and all of our instruments of power.” To this end, the administration has reversed years of cuts to the U.S. defense budget, begun the process of recapitalizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, requested close to $11 billion to support the European Deterrence Initiative, and, in the past year and a half, worked with NATO Allies to bring about the largest European defense spending increase since the Cold War – a total of more than $40 billion to date.”
Now, the US president’s decision to pull out of the treaty that was particularly put in place to provide the US’ European allies a blanket of protection indicates how the US is only beginning a new era of military and arms build up in the world, starting with, as Mitchell said, rebuilding the nuclear arsenal, something that the US could never possibly do without violating the INS treaty; hence, its announcement to preemptively render the treaty null and void by putting the blame squarely on Russia and thus justify its own military expansions.
But the military build up happens to be only a part of the larger US strategy vis-à-vis Eurasia. A recent pentagon report also made it clear how the US ‘feels threatened’ by China’s and Russia’s continuously expanding world-wide arms industries, and implies how US sanctions on these countries could work to the US advantage.
The report not only blatantly accuses, by hiding the above mentioned US military expansion under the cover of “security needs” and by ignoring completely how it is the US that has started the ‘trade war’, of military expansion and economic aggression, but also portrays Russia, once again, as a “revisionist power” bent upon shaping the world “consisting with their authoritarian models.”
Therefore, in all in all, by thus paving the way for massive military build-up, the US is deliberately forcing countries like Russia and China to divert a lot more of their economic resources to militarization and focus less on their economic programs such as Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), SCO expansion, Eurasian Economic connectivity program and BRICS plus etc. US economic sanctions on Russian individuals and corporation and the US trade war with China thus explain the economic aspect of the US’ 21st century ‘containment’ strategy.’
According to Mitchell’s own testimony, the US has, so far, sanctioned “217 individuals and entities” of Russia, including “6 diplomatic and consular facilities closed or kept closed, and 60 spies removed from U.S. soil.” Besides it, as Mitchell said, the US has also been working on to play the “lead role in ensuring that these efforts are closely and effectively coordinated with European allies” to squeeze as much of space as possible to prevent “Russian penetration.”
In short, what the world needs to know as essential background to the US president’s blatant accusations of Russian violations of the INS treaty is the tricky US geo-political manoeuvres. On the one hand, by re-inventing the ‘Russian threat’, the US wants to bring Europe, which has considerably moved towards adopting rather independent policies vis-à-vis the US and towards as crucial issues as Iran nuke-deal, back into the US fold. And, on the other hand, by re-inventing the cold war rhetoric, the US wants to continue to maintain a US dominated global system to steer the wheel as it deems fit. This is global geo-politics, simple and plain and we shall soon have Russian and Chinese responses.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.