In his op-ed for The Wall Street Journal former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that amid today’s volatility in world affairs the United States should remain the world’s sole policeman to guard against the forces of evil represented by Russia, China and North Korea. He went on to say that Europe is too weak and divided to play a global role. But the international community is sure to reject US aspirations for global hegemony, Vladimir Batyuk, Head of the Political and Military Research Center at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, argued in an interview with valdaiclub.com.
Is Washington ready to play the roles of good cop and bad cop at the same time, while ignoring the interests of Russia and other countries?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen is a proponent of an idealistic approach to international affairs, in which the forces of good – the US and the West – are fighting the forces of evil represented by countries who do not agree with Western hegemony and whom Mr. Rasmussen and the like call “dictatorships.” According to the former NATO Secretary General, “the world needs such a policeman if freedom and prosperity are to prevail against the forces of oppression, and the only capable, reliable and desirable candidate for the position is the United States.” He went on to say: “The Middle East is torn by war. In North Africa, Libya has collapsed and become a breeding ground for terrorists. In Eastern Europe, a resurgent Russia has brutally attacked and grabbed land by force from Ukraine. China is flexing its muscles against its neighbors – and the rogue state of North Korea is threatening a nuclear attack.” Most of the issues highlighted by Mr. Rasmussen are the direct result of US policy in the aftermath of the Cold War. In fact, the chaos in the Middle East and Libya’s disintegration are a direct consequence of US aggression. The fact that China and Russia are now “flexing their muscles” is a response to efforts by the US to preserve and strengthen its Cold War-era military alliances against Moscow and Beijing. Another problem is that Mr. Rasmussen’s idealistic policy vision does not envisage that the so-called “world’s policeman” will suddenly forget its national interests in the name of some abstract ideals. What this actually means is that all countries will have to cater to the interests of the United States, while putting their own national interests aside. Anyone opposing this order will be labeled “dictators and other oppressors,” to quote Mr. Rasmussen.
Russia is increasingly vocal in asserting its role as a military power unwilling to abide by the world order that emerged after the Cold War. Do Moscow’s claims constitute a real security threat for the US?
The efforts by Russia in recent years to strengthen its military capabilities do not threaten the US or its national interests in any way whatsoever. Moscow’s defense policy in recent years has been aimed exclusively at strengthening its position in the so-called “near abroad,” meaning the former Soviet republics, as well as in the Middle East. These are Russia’s neighboring regions, which are thousands of miles away from US territory. Russia’s program to build aircraft carriers could have become a matter of concern for the US, but this initiative has essentially been scrapped, not least due to financial reasons. The actual problem is that after the Cold War Washington’s foreign policy has been guided not so much by interests, but by ideals and values. The US ruling class sees a genuine threat not in the fact that Russia is about to deploy some new kind of ICBM, but Russia’s refusal to recognize the unipolar world order that the United States tried to establish after the Cold War, as well as Russia’s refusal to accept values the US has been trying to impose around the world.
The strict containment policy regarding Moscow is quite costly. Deploying a few battalions in the Baltics on a rotating basis will hardly save Eastern Europe if military action were actually to begin. Russia keeps many more troops on its western border. Are NATO countries actually ready to expand their military presence along the eastern border, and undertake major spending considering the actual risk of war against Russia?
NATO members are currently facing a number of foreign policy issues, and the hypothetical “Russian aggression” is not the number one priority. Europeans are concerned about Brexit, the migrant crisis, terrorism, and the social and economic issues affecting Southern and Eastern European countries, while the US is increasingly focusing its attention on the Asia-Pacific region. That said, the next US president could decide to increase the US military presence in Eastern European countries that are NATO members, but in order to do that he or she will have to substantially reduce the US military footprint in the Middle East and in the Pacific, with all that such a move implies. The European allies are unlikely to back this initiative, lacking both the power and political will for a new round of confrontation with Russia.
Could tensions between NATO and Russia continue to escalate after the US presidential election?
Tensions between Russia and the US could further escalate under the next US president regardless of who is elected, since this is what the US ruling elite actually wants. It views Russia as a former great power in permanent decline, pretending that it is still a great power on the back of Putin’s nationalist mobilization effort. Many in Washington strongly believe that by being tougher on Russia (compared to Obama’s “weakness”) they can bring about the infamous regime change in Russia and thereby resolve the “Russian issue.” No matter the attitude of the next US president, he or she will hardly fight this sentiment.