One of the outstanding features of Western media is its ability to have a collective memory loss. This was never more apparent than the current response to Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. To listen to Western politicians expostulating on the current war one is effectively being persuaded by them to forget about Western invasions into the affairs of foreign countries over the past 60 or 70 years.
One could start with Vietnam. After the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu the stage was set for a unification of the country under the North’s leader Ho Chi Minh. That was thwarted by the United States moving in to take the place of the French and to ensure the division of the country. The Americans propped up a corrupt southern Vietnam regime for decades. In those effort they were enthusiastically supported by multiple European regimes, including that of Australia. Australia’s involvement only came to an end with the 1972 election of the Gough Whitlam Labor government.
That withdrawal was perceived by the Americans as a major betrayal. It motivated the Americans to work assiduously over the next three years to ensure the defeat of the Whitlam government. Too little has been written about the assiduous attempts of the Americans to ensure that the Whitlam government lasted for only one term. The focus has tended to be on the actions of the governor general who dismissed the Labour government, with too little attention being paid to the fact that Sir John Kerr was in fact a loyal acolyte of the Americans.
By the time the Whitlam government was defeated the Americans had been forced into an ignominious withdrawal from Vietnam. It is a mark of the unique hubris of the Americans that they are now trying to woo the Vietnamese as an ally in their confrontation with China. An illustration of the hubris was the visit by United States vice president Kamala Harris who flounded around in a frankly embarrassing way in a totally unsuccessful visit to Vietnam in August 2021. She urged the Vietnamese to take action against what she described as Chinese “bullying”.
The United States president Joe Biden has been careful to use moderate language in describing his Chinese counterpart and recently spoke with President Xi on the telephone. This is in marked contrast to his attitude towards Russia’s president whom he regularly insults. Despite the non-contact between the Russian and United States presidents, Biden’s secretary of state recently sought a conversation with his Russian counterpart.
According to the Russian account of the conversation (a United States version was unavailable at the time of writing) it was not a friendly call, although the fact that it occurred at all is worthy of note. According to the Russian account of the meeting, Lavrov was not in any mood to make concessions. He spoke about the Russian operation in Ukraine, emphasising that the “goals and tasks will be fully achieved.”
Lavrov accused the Americans of arming the Ukrainians with weapons that was “only prolonging the agony of the Kiev regime by dragging out the conflict and increasing the number of victims.”
Lavrov also focused on the issue of global food security and regretted that the United States had not kept its promises to exempt food shipments from the United States embargo. He accused the West of exploiting the problem to advance its own geopolitical interests. This was unacceptable, Lavrov said.
Blinken’s attitude was that the restrictions on Ukrainian food exports leaving port was the fault of the Russians. This is a classic example of United States double think. It is the Ukrainians who have mined the ports. There has been no impediment by the Russians of the movement of civilian ships. They have in any case the option of transporting their grain exports by rail, but prefer to blame the Russians for the results of your own actions.
The fact that Blinken even had a telephone meeting with Lavrov is itself remarkable. Only three weeks ago on seventh and eighth of July, Blinken refused to attend an official banquet of G 20 ministers because Lavrov was also attending. Now he was gone out of his way to make a telephone call.
It is a recognition on his part that the United States sanctions on Russia have failed. When they were imposed five months ago in February following the Russian intervention into the Donbass, the Americans and the Europeans were confident that their sanctions would bring the Russian economy to its knees. They were even making confident noises about the imminent overthrow of President Putin, a man whom they believed to be no longer able to control his country.
Instead of collapsing, the Russian economy is doing very well. The rouble is at its highest level against the euro and the United States dollar for a very long time. The vast majority of the world’s nations, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, failed to join the Western sanctions. At the time when Blinken was seeking his conversation with Lavrov, the latter was completing a highly successful visit to Africa.
The Russians have turned the economic tables on the Europeans and have greatly restricted the supply of energy and other commodities to the European nations. Their yelps of pain have been ignored by the Russians. It is astonishing to observe the double standards at play. Europeans felt free to impose restrictions on Russia, and even seized hundreds of millions of euros belonging to Russia. Yet when the Russians applied their own pressure on the Europeans, the yelped with pain and made dire predictions about the horrors of the forthcoming winter without Russian gas to keep them from freezing.
This is a catastrophe that could have been avoided. One of the principal architects of the European sanctions policy, Ursula von der Leyen now faces the prospect of losing her job as head of the European Commission. Ms von der Leyen allowed her own personal animosity toward Russia to blind her to the responsibilities of her office.
The crisis is also having internal repercussions in the European nations. Four governments have already been defeated, and more are sure to follow, including in all probability that of Germany. The Green Party in Germany, the minor coalition partner, has allowed its animosity toward Russia to govern its judgement. They will pay an electoral price for that stupidity.
The Russians are also making steady progress in their operation against Ukraine. It is difficult to see how the latter can survive much longer, notwithstanding the claims of their president whose own position looks increasingly untenable.
The Ukrainians had the opportunity to resolve the matter last March on far more favourable terms than they are likely now to achieve. The responsibility for that must lie with the Americans who seem determined to continue the war to the last Ukrainian. It is difficult to garner any sympathy for their position.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.