Unable to accept the reality of a growing multipolar world order, U.S. elites are willing to risk nuclear war.
In May 2022, Henry Kissinger gave a remarkable speech at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he urged the Biden administration to seek a peace agreement in Ukraine that satisfies the Russians because “pursuing the war beyond this point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine but a new war against Russia itself.”
Kissinger in his speech further reflected back on his experience negotiating détente with Beijing in the 1970s, noting that the potentially adversarial aspect of the U.S.-China relationship should be mitigated and common interests should be pursued and upheld. “The U.S.,” he says, “must realize that China’s strategic and technical competence has evolved. Diplomatic negotiations must be sensitive, informed and unilaterally strive for peace.”
Kissinger was a hawk throughout his career, supporting escalation of the Korean and Vietnam Wars and, in 1957, publishing a book sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations advocating for the utility of what he called “restricted nuclear war.”
Fashioning himself as a modern-day Metternich (Austrian practitioner of realpolitik), Kissinger raised the question in that book of whether the USSR “did not have more to lose from an all-out war than we did.” Be that as it may, he said, “our announced reluctance to engage in all out war gave the Soviet bloc a psychological advantage.”
Kissinger’s change of face has unfortunately come too late to alter U.S. foreign policy.
At 99, he no longer has influence in Washington, which is dominated by neo-conservative and liberal war hawks who have grown ever more aggressive and reckless in provoking conflicts with two nuclear armed powers at the same time.
The country’s growing rapacious intent for war was apparent during the May 15, 2022, segment of NBC’s Meet the Press, which simulated a U.S. war against China over Taiwan.
Like a Cornered Dog with Sharp Teeth
Monthly Review has published an important new book, Washington’s New Cold War: A Socialist Perspective, that helps place Washington’s increasingly dangerous and reckless foreign policies in historical context.
A key theme is that Washington is behaving like a wounded and cornered dog with sharp teeth.
With its economy reeling, the country’s oligarchic elite is increasingly nervous and jealous about a rising China and its alliance with Russia.
Growing Eurasian integration further threatens to undercut American influence and power in a region that imperial planners believe the U.S. needs to control to achieve global domination.
Following the end of the Cold War, defense intellectual Paul Wolfowitz drafted an influential policy blueprint (“Defense Policy Guidance”) that considered expanding U.S. military power into the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence and saw weakening Russia as key to establishing a unipolar world order led by the U.S.
The integration of Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Western sphere was to be the culmination of this project, which has been thwarted to a large extent by Vladimir Putin and his nationalistic policies.
Regime-Change Russia, Target China
John Ross, a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, emphasizes in his essay in Washington’s New Cold War that the U.S. lured Russia into a conflict in Ukraine by launching a coup d’état in February 2014 against a democratically elected pro-Russian leader and then building up Ukraine’s military as it attacked the people of eastern Ukraine who were more oriented toward Russia and strove for autonomy.
The Ukrainians have been used as cannon fodder by the U.S., whose overarching aim is to weaken Putin’s regime by a) bogging him down in a quagmire; b) ratcheting up sanctions that ruin Russia’s economy; and c) sustaining an information war directed against him.
Ideally, as the Russian people rise up, the U.S. could help “install a government in Moscow which no longer defends Russia’s national interests [like that led by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin]—and one which is hostile to China and subordinate to the U.S.”
“If that were achieved,” Ross writes, “not only would China face a greatly increased military threat from the U.S., but its long northern border with Russia would become a strategic threat.”
Following this up, Ross quotes Sergei Glazyev, a Russian commissioner on the executive body of the Eurasian Economic Union, who said: “After failing to weaken China head-on through a trade war, the Americans shifted the main blow to Russia, which they see as a weak link in the global geopolitics and economy. The Anglo-Saxons are trying to implement their eternal Russophobic ideas to destroy our country, and at the same time to weaken China, because the strategic alliance of the Russian Federation and the PRC is too tough for the United States.”
Old Cold War Versus New
Ross interestingly compares the economic and military positions of the U.S. during what he calls the “old Cold War,” lasting roughly from 1946 to 1991, to the “new Cold War” in the present.
In 1950, the U.S. accounted for 27.3% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) compared to 9.6% for the Soviet Union. Today, the figure is between 15 and 25%. China’s economic growth has for some time been much faster than that of the U.S. and its economy is already 18% larger than the U.S. and projected to be 35% larger by 2026.
China is now the world’s largest manufacturing power with a share of global manufacturing 70% larger than the U.S. In 2021, China’s trade in goods outpaced the U.S. by 31% and its exports were 91% higher.
The U.S. is now far in the lead in only one area—military spending.
And U.S. leaders appear increasingly willing to unleash the military because they cannot accept a new multipolar world order in which the U.S. is not the pre-eminent economic power.
The sabotage of the Nord Stream II pipeline is an example of the terrorist tactics adopted by the Biden administration to try to sustain U.S. economic pre-eminence. With Russia’s economy cut off from Germany, Ross points out that, by 2026, the U.S. is expected to become Germany’s top liquefied natural gas supplier.
Who Is Leading the United States to War?
Deborah Veneziale’s essay, “Who is leading the United States to war,” includes an interesting discussion of the class interests driving aggressive U.S. policies in the new Cold War.
A Venice-based journalist, Veneziale suggests that the majority of America’s business elite seeks the overthrow of the Chinese communist government and its replacement with a neo-liberal one that would allow for greater U.S. economic penetration of China.
U.S. tech giants such as Google, Amazon, IBM and Facebook are particularly hostile to China where they have virtually no market, but would like to obtain one under a new regime.
Veneziale writes that “Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and Executive Chairman of Google, led the establishment of the U.S. government’s Defense Innovation Unit in 2016 and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence in 2018. His fervent promotion of the ‘China threat’ theory reflects the prevailing opinion of the U.S. tech community, which also shapes public discourse.”
According to Veneziale, many of the Big Tech companies have formed close bonds with the U.S. military, signing thousands of contracts worth tens of billions of dollars in recent decades while also collecting data in the vast U.S. intelligence empire. Consequently, they are keen to embrace gargantuan military and intelligence agency budgets that are justified under the guise of the New Cold War.
The weakening of domestic resistance to U.S. militarism has resulted from the abolition of the draft and distancing of war from the public because of the reliance on private military contractors and sophisticated military technologies like drones. Of the more than 241,000 people killed in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2021, only one percent were U.S. military personnel.
Trump and other Republicans have effectively directed the lower-middle class’s resentment of the deteriorating economic and political situation toward China, whereas Obama, Clinton and Biden and the Democrats have done the same with the upper-middle class and Russia. The political climate in the U.S. increasingly resembles the McCarthyist period of the 1950s consequently, and in certain ways that of Germany in the early 1930s.
Notes on Exterminism
The final essay in Washington’s New Cold War is by Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster, who warns of the twin threats of climate catastrophe and nuclear armaggedon that 21st century capitalism has produced.
Foster reminds readers of the prognosis by scientists in the early 1980s that, if nuclear weapons were again unleashed, they could reduce the Earth’s temperature considerably by causing mega-fires in cities that would release soot and smoke into the atmosphere, which would block solar radiation in a process known as nuclear winter.
The fear of this coming to pass had helped to ignite a strong movement to dismantle nuclear weapons in the 1970s and 1980s that is urgently needed today—as the U.S. government embarks on a massive expansion of its nuclear weapons program and tears up nuclear arms control agreements, like the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that Donald Trump abrogated in 2019.
The Biden administration, like its predecessors, is committed to nuclear dominance over Russia and China and threatens nuclear first-use to decapitate its rivals’ arsenals.
This has prompted Russia and China to push ahead of the U.S. in the development of hypersonic missiles that can maneuver aerodynamically, and anti-satellite counterspace weapons designed to remove the U.S. advantage of high precision nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.
According to Foster, the search for nuclear primacy is leading to an insane arms race that threatens global omnicide—a threat magnified by U.S. interference in Ukraine and Taiwan.
The only solution that he sees is a socialist revolution that would establish a government not beholden to a tiny elite intent on sustaining its enormous wealth and privilege no matter what the human cost.
Henry A. Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, foreword by Gordon Dean, published for the Council on Foreign Relations (New York: Harper Brothers, 1957), 43, 47, 49. ↑
Alexei Navalny has been fingered as Putin’s hoped-for replacement, though he has very limited popular support within Russia and is a crook, so they had to concoct a fake story of him being poisoned and turn him into a martyr by having him sent to jail as a “political prisoner.” ↑
Foster discusses how the power elite in the U.S. saw warnings about a nuclear winter as a direct attack on the nuclear armaments industry and Pentagon, and efforts of the Reagan administration to create a space-based nuclear defense shield known as Star Wars. They responded by engaging in a campaign of denialism similar to the later campaign denying the existence of global warming. ↑
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of five books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019), The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018), and Warmonger. How Clinton’s Malign Foreign Policy Launched the U.S. Trajectory From Bush II to Biden (Clarity Press, 2023).
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.