The invasion of southeastern Ukraine is the latest indicator of how Russian president Vladimir Putin regards the “reset” of relations with the United States, Western Europe, and the entire world.
At least two columns of Russian armor and troops have been reported to have entered the Ukraine in support of pro-Russian rebel forces. The Russians are apparently aiding the Ukrainian rebels in their efforts to regain the city of Mariupol, an important port and industrial center.
The Russian invasion is another blow to the now discredited “reset” of Russian-American relations initiated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March 2009.
At least in most minds. As recently as July of this year, Clinton proclaimed the “reset”to be “a brilliant stroke which in retrospect it appears even more so.” (Clinton expressed her estimation of the “reset” while interviewed by the BBC during her ill-fated book tour. The Weekly Standard carried specifically the “reset” remarks in both video and transcript format).
In Europe, Putin’s “reset” involves tanks and well-trained troops. As in Crimea earlier this year, pro-Russian rebels characterize the Russians as “volunteers” operating under a pro-Russian rebel flag. Moscow denies any direct involvement of its military.
Putin’s reset, however, does not stop in Ukraine or even in Europe. Statements made by the Chief of the Armed Forces of Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, during his trip to the Peoples Republic of China are – or should be – a subtle but real warning to the world.
Gerasimov is in Beijing to attend a meeting of Chiefs of Staff of nations belonging to the Beijing-Moscow led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The other full members are currently the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. There are reports that the organization may expand further. The SCO is a military, economic, and political entity.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated that Gerasimov and his Chinese counterparts are discussing the “state and prospects of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation,” and “an exchange of views on the military-political situation in the world and the region,” according to one Russian press report.
In another Russian press report Gerasimov states that there is “political tension” in the Asia-Pacific region which is searching for “new forms of political and economic interaction.” and that there is a in the region.”
The vast Asia-Pacific area is home to important U.S. friends including South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Australia, and the free island of Taiwan.
The “new forms of political and economic interaction” is a reference to the PRC’s growing power and territorial demands in the region, which has generated the “political tension” to which Gerasimov refers as well as outright fear among China’s neighbors.
The term “coordination” refers to how Moscow and Beijing can work together to expel the United States from the region and exert domination over those who had once been America’s closest friends.
Both Russia and China are engaged in a rapid military build-up and are working on the means to have their respective military forces work smoothly together. The U.S. Navy may soon confront either combined Russian-PRC military aggression or separate but coordinated armed challenges initiated by Moscow and Beijing. In either event, the strategy is to either inflict an outright defeat on the U.S. or make a continued presence in the Western Pacific a costly impracticality.
If the U.S. ever does withdraw from the vital Asia-Pacific region, America would no longer be a “superpower.”
In the not-to-distant past, think tank pundits and “experts” in the United States were convinced that Russia and China ertr necessarily hostile to one another. Gerasimov’s statements, as well as the positive responses which came from his PRC counterparts, demonstrate how glaringly wrong the experts have been over the years.
In point of fact, Russia, since it replaced the failed Soviet Union in 1991, has been providing miliary assistance to China. There has never been any real indication that Russia and China were on the verge of hostilities, or that Russia ever felt the need to join with the West against China. Quite the opposite. In 1997 when Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the “new” Russia and Jiang Zemin, then-leader of the Peoples Republic of China, declared a “New World Order” and the advent of a “multi-polar world” intended to replace the influence of the United States.
Putin’s “reset” is part of the effort to make the 1997 “New World Order” declaration a reality, with a profoundly diminished role for the United States — if, in such a dark future, the U.S. is granted any autonomy at all.
We can turn the situation around, but time is not on our side. We need to recognize the difficulties before us, and then support those elected officials who seek to answer the considerable challenges ahead.
Westerman is the author of LIES, TERROR, AND THE RISE OF THE NEO-COMMUNIST EMPIRE: ORIGINS AND DIRECTION, is the editor and publisher of International News Analysis Today (www.inatoday.com).