Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
EVEN before he was sworn in on January 20,2017 as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump was advised by those close to him to go easy on Hillary Clinton. The expectation was that such a show of goodwill would ensure that the formidable Clinton machine would stop or at least significantly reduce their campaign against her Republican opponent in the 2016 presidential contest. While it was correct for Trump himself to stop his campaign rhetoric against Clinton, what was unexpected was the complete cessation of what little investigation there was on the Clinton Foundation and other activities during the Obama period. This freed Hillary Clinton to go into full combat mode, and it must be admitted that she has done a superb job of ensuring that President Trump remain within the policy matrix of the Clinton-Bush years rather than evolve his own path towards ensuring security and prosperity for the US.
This is particularly evident in the matter of policy towards Moscow, whether it be to deal with North Korea or with global terrorism,or in gaining extra leverage with the other superpower (China), a strong US-Russia relationship would have been helpful. However,such a move is anathema to the Atlanticists, who wish to keep the focus on Moscow as Enemy Number One. Donald Trump’s intimate circle is of the view that any move from the admittedly toxic policies of the Clinton-Bush years would increase the chances for the 45th US President to be impeached. Hence their adherence to the failed Russia (and other) policies of past US administrations. A historic opportunity to reset ties was lost during 1992-97 thanks to the Europeanist mindset of the Clinton security team.
The USSR had collapsed by the time Bill Clinton took over as the 42nd US President, but instead of working out a long-term close relationship with Moscow, the Clinton administration sought to do what Henry Morgenthau had wanted for Germany after the 1939-45 war, which was to seek to pastoralize the country and drain it of technology and industry. Boris Yeltsin gave away several miles of concessions to the US and the EU without gaining an inch in return, at least so far as Russia was concerned. Of course,the gangster industrialists patronised by him prospered,and many still serve as a reliable Fifth Column within Russia for NATO. The globe’s largest country in area was serially humiliated, including by the humiliation administered to a once-proud Slavic nation, Serbia. President Clinton began the process of expanding rather than downsizing and re-converting NATO into a different kind of fighting machine, more suited to the wars of the future rather than those fought between Hitler and his victims.
The expansion of NATO was conducted in a manner that made it obvious that the main target of the alliance was still Moscow. This despite the shameless manner in which President Boris Yeltsin had unilaterally surrendered Russia’s strategic advantages in an act of self-abegnation that was reminiscent of Jawaharlal Nehru’s similar 1950s generosity at the expense of Indian interests. Unfortunately for Russia, Yeltsin followed another leader who was comfortable with giving away Moscow’s advantages in exchange for favourable newspaper headlines in US and EU media. This was Mikhail Gorbachev, who brought down a USSR already weakened by the refusal of Leonid Brezhnev to use the military assets available with the USSR to ensure victory rather than defeat and stalemate in military and quasi-military operations in Asia, Europe and elsewhere.
North Korea is well on the way to gaining immunity from attack through the development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems capable of targeting the continental US. The window of opportunity for ensuring that such an outcome gets avoided is unlikely to be even as long as two years, given the rate of progress of the WMD program supervised by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Because of the persistence of the one-sided and indeed humiliating Clinton-Bush policies towards Moscow ( a course of action that was faithfully followed by Barack Obama), an essential ally in dealing with Pyongyang has been lost. Vladimir Putin is a patriotic individual very unlike Gorbachev and Yeltsin. The new President of Russia has clearly had enough of the efforts by the US and its allies to cage Moscow and render it unable to reach anywhere close to its previous status of global superpower.
On North Korea, it is likely that both China as well as Russia will veto any further sanctions on Pyongyang. Should the US carry out its own threat of enforcing punitive measures against any entity that deals with North Korea, it would run into friction on an unprecedented scale, especially with China. The options for the US have become narrower and more dangerous because of the frictions with Moscow caused by the successful efforts of the Clinton-Bush Atlanticists to prevent Donald Trump from attempting a genuine reset of relations between Washington and Moscow. The hype and hysteria about Russia that has been swirling around Washington since January 20 brings back memories of the years when Senator Eugene McCarthy terrified large parts of the US establishment by falsely labelling them as agents of Moscow.
A decade later, the ill effects of that manifested itself with a vengeance during the Vietnam war, in which hundreds of thousands of US personnel ( and over a million Vietnamese) were killed in a war that could have been ended during the tenure of John Fitzgerald Kennedy itself rather than dragged on by the two US Presidents who succeeded him. There will be a heavy bill that the US will be paying for the way it is dealing with Russia these days, and a large part of that will be in the North Korean muddle. The rift between Moscow and Washington, a chasm encouraged by Germany and France, will assist Kim Jong Un in becoming (in effect) the most potent threat ever to the US.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.
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Geopolitical Notes From India