As has been the case usually since the end of the Cold War, US foreign policy thinkers have their strategies backwards. The few voices of reason are blocked from influencing decisionmaking, while self-inflated war hawks are proposing either NATO’s direct military intervention in the war in Ukraine, preparations for a two-front war against the two most formidable military powers America has, or increasing weapons supplies to Kiev ‘for as long as it takes’ while readying sequential wars against Moscow over Ukraine and Beijing over Taiwan.
But clearly a strategy that involves escalating and prolonging the Ukrainian war is not viable either for Kiev, Washington, or Brussels. America and the West at large lack the military-industrial complex capable of producing the necessary weapons, military commanders with experience in conducting conventional warfare against a major military power, and sufficient personnel willing and capable of fight the kind of high-tech ISR and drone wars aimed at the defeat of Russia in Ukraine and China on Taiwan would require. In fact, the policies of recent U.S. administrations — in particular the present Biden regime’s Democrat Party-state-led revolution from above against America’s institutions, traditions and values – do everything to deepen these shortcomings.
A real industrial manufacturing economy has been emasculated on the altar of free trade and the virtual economy. The U.S. military has not fought a major conventional war against a serious military in half a century. And the U.S. military is now feminized, transgenderized, and a social engineering laboratory, while American men are increasingly fat, lazy, and girlish. The US political elite is poorly educated, slavish to woke ideology, ignorant of history and foreign cultures, and in moral and ethical decay.
What the U.S. needs is a return to the rule of law and liberty at home and diplomacy-oriented foreign policy abroad. We must dismantle the present military and foreign policy establishments driven by political generals, K Street suits filled delusions of grandeur through American hegemony, intelligence conspirators, and a hyper-ideologized Democrat Party revolutionary regime. Will we achieve any of this? Not likely any time soon. Can we do so in time to avoid the catastrophe that is closing in on America? Not likely, but possibly.
What guiding theoretical approaches to international relations and what specific policies might constitute a new American diplomacy? First, the preference for idealism — the ideals of American-style republicanism, free market capitalism (both waning at home) and, more recently, racist and sexually perverse wokism — must be replaced by privileging realism. But a new realism must be tempered by a healthy dose of constructivism—the acknowledgement that not only are state’s foreign policies designed to protect national security and national interests but also that states interpret their security needs and interests through the prism of their histories and cultures. This means that they interact with other states not only in some mechanical assessment of their security and interests, which are commonplace and both similar to and easy for the US to ascertain, but that they are specific to each state and require deep knowledge of each state’s histories, cultures, identities, and the ever shifting interpretation of these in response to the actions of other states, which are also interpreted through the prisms of historical experiences with and cultural images of foreign states. All of this will require concerted effort to understand the worldview of friends, competitors, and enemies alike.
At the most basic practical level, a new policy must be rooted in the principle that U.S. diplomacy must be predominantly one of talking with rather than at other states, especially other great powers. U.S. power has never been unlimited, certainly is not now, and it is declining. War must be seen as the least desirable outcome, and the threat and use of military force must be a last resort. Public diplomacy and propaganda should be positive and truthful, not negative and fake. In other words, there must be far less criticism of other countries’ politics, domestic and foreign, and exaggeration of their shortcomings, and there should be no false claims, fake news, disinformation simulacra, and the like unless truly necessary to defend our national security or specific operations, but certainly not in pursuit of peripheral or middling interests.
With a return and revival of American republicanism in line with the principles the founding fathers laid down, we must tout our own model and make available information to those who would seek to emulate it in their own country, and we must abandon democracy-promotion and the attendant machinations for the sake of nurturing pro-American enclaves and nurturing or making revolutions. We have no moral right to foment opposition or revolts, which are uncontrollable, unpredictable in their outcomes, and can lead to violence and loss of life. Such efforts should be reserved only for the most extreme cases, such as should a particular state’s regime is genocidally totalitarian at home, expansionist abroad, or targeting the US with war or terrorism without our own provocations. Republicanism may promote ‘democratic peace’, but regime transformations should be the work only of local patriots, not opposition forces bought, paid for, organized, financed, or armed by the U.S.
Crucially, U.S. foreign policy must cease being a domestic political football; domestic political exigencies should not be allowed to influence U.S. foreign policy and national security policymaking or decision-making to the extent this is possible. A firewall must stand between political and foreign policy advisors and policymakers in White House and all other departments. But only an American, not globally oriented and loyal elite can accomplish this, and American educational institutions have been developing a global, often anti-American elite for decades.
Foreign policy must be de-idologized not only ‘on the left’ in terms of wokism but also ‘on the right’ in the sense that authoritarian regimes should not be seen as targets, which Providence has ordained the U.S. to fundamentally transform in order to fulfill History’s destiny of a utopia born in the American image politically, economically, socially, and culturally. States and societies that operate under that assumption, while curiously but not coincidentally maximizing their own power in the bargain, are doomed to self-destruction.
More fundamentally, a long-term reform of the personnel that foreign policy leaders and thinkers are recruited from is vitally necessary. In place of hyper-idealist and ideological cadres schooled in proselytization, propaganda, financial machination, political manipulation, coercion, and military-intelligence deployments, we need realists—statesmen who are keenly aware of the history and practice of diplomacy, the interest-based nature of states’ foreign conduct and international relations (i.e., realism), and the national histories and cultures of foreign peoples (area studies instead of rational choice theory) and the way these produce perceptions that inform nation-states’ realist calculus (constructivism).
In terms of specific policies, if not before, then certainly once Washington is reformed, a revamped U.S. government must engage the Kremlin. In relation to the present Ukrainian war, there are no longer any good options for America and the West as a consequence of American rusology’s overly rationalized (rational choice theory, transition theory) and highly politicized state. Because, American rusology and the ‘leading’ Russia ‘experts’ are woefully lacking in knowledge about Russian history and culture, especially political and strategic culture, or has been subjugated to a caricature of them, we have spent thirty years driving Moscow into Beijing’s arms and making the present war in Ukraine. Washington and Brussels pushed Moscow into the ‘special military operation’, which is supported by a strong majority of the Russian people because they did not appreciate the implications the power in Russian culture of the country’s bitter history of Western interference, interventions, invasions, and condescension. Anyone with a good understanding of Russian history and a reasonable, not russophilic respect for Russians’ perceptions of that history and their country’s national security ‘vigilance culture’ would have warned vigorously against NATO expansion and particularly to Ukraine [see Gordon M. Hahn, The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021), Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018)]. Those who fought the good fight in warning against that expansion lost and, therefore, so has the nation, Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and the world.
There are very, very few Russians who wanted this war, and Vladimir Putin is not one of them. If offered a way out that protects Russia’s core national security interests, Moscow will take it. But make no mistake; Russia is winning and will fight this war to a bitter victory if forced to, and thanks the West’s Minsk talks deception Moscow will not accept a ceasefire. Samuel Charap was right when he wrote: “Without some kind of deal with the Kremlin, the best outcome is probably a long, arduous war that Russia is likely to win anyway.” Indeed, Ukraine can say farewell to Crimea and its four southeastern regions annexed by Moscow. That is the hard truth, unless NATO intervenes directly. Even in that event the same hard truth may hold, only the war will be longer, more destructive and bloodier, and risk nuclear annihilation. Some day they will say: ‘The Russians wept for Kiev, but they destroyed it.’ Will the West weep or will there be crocodile tears?
An agreement that Moscow will accept will require and end to NATO pretensions of expansion to Ukraine, a new regime in Kiev, limits on Ukrainian military power, and guaranteed language and all other rights for ethnic Russians and Russophones in Ukraine. All this is doable. The problem is ensuring that there is a viable group of leaders in Kiev willing to engage in talks. This is where American hardball will have to be played. Washington and NATO can threaten an end to weapons supplies unless Kiev agrees to peace (not ceasefire) talks. In the unlikely event Moscow agrees to a ceasefire agreement before the beginning of peace talks with Moscow, the old Minsk agreement can be revived and revised to take into account what has transpired since 24 February 2022. The U.S. should offer Kiev in exchange for beginning talks that it will support Kiev’s participation in talks only as long as Kiev is guaranteed the preservation of a Ukrainian state approximately based on the territory its forces occupy as of the ceasefire’s start. Such a ceasefire could be enforced initially by a UN force made up of personnel from states indisputably neutral with regard to Russia, Ukraine, and NATO. Monitoring for the ceasefire could be under the OSCE and perhaps in some way involve a revived Russia-NATO Council with Ukrainian participation. After the ceasefire, negotiations can be held on delineation of Ukraine’s new borders, new presidential and Rada elections, and the nature of autonomy for any portions of the four oblasts annexed by Russia last year that are occupied by Ukrainian forces as of the ceasefire’s commencement. After this, Russia and NATO must negotiate a security architecture for Europe. Of course, all this hinges on a sea-change in U.S. foreign policy that will not be seen until at least 2024 and likely much later. Should the U.S. take itself out of the equation by descending into chaos if the present cold civil war devolves into a hot one, then a European NATO successor organization or other entity can step in and should cooperate with the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization.
In terms of China policy, the U.S. must return to the ‘one China policy’ and conduct negotiations with China and Taiwan to come to an agreement regarding military rules of the game on the waters and land proximate to the island as well as confidence-building measures to reduce tensions. The U.S. should also organize the international community in support of that policy. Then, rather than seeking to inflict sanctions and other strict measures targeting Beijing’s economy, perhaps Washington could offer cooperation with China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and with Russia bu proposing a tripartite project to build a tunnel complex across the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russia’s Chukotka. A highway and railroad infrastructure could connect the tunnel on the Chukotka side to China and the OBOR. The U.S. has no vital interest in whether or how Taiwan reunites with the mainland, just as it had no vital interest in whether Ukraine remained part of Russia or some rump Union after the Soviet demise. The microchip myth is just that; should Beijing take Taiwan or otherwise block its production and sale of microchips to the West, China will undermine its own economy, which is inextricably dependent on our own (and visa a versa). If one of these two greatest powers collapses, so will the other be likely to collapse or be severely constricted. All this, of course, will be difficult without the noted foreign policy sea-change and coming to terms with our hegemonic overreach, as it is viewed in the eyes of most other states.
Things are coming to a head in Washington and Kiev; they are losing the war; and each are likely to be destabilized internally around the time of their impending elections. If there is still sufficient reason left among the American elite and people, a reform of the American political system to ensure greater liberty domestically and more responsible statesmanship abroad is possible in the long- perhaps mid-term. More immediately, time is running short for saving Ukraine, for standing it back on its feet with a viable government and economy, for restoring peace and a balance of power in the international system, and for America to avoid a needless two-front war in far away places like Ukraine and Taiwan. Only an excessively ideological idealist policy elite would entertain the idea of successive or simultaneous wars with Russia and China in their own backyards no less. Those who recommend such a dangerous course have neither the American nation’s nor individual Americans’ interests in view–only their own.
EUROPE BOOKS, 2022
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2021
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2018
About the Author –
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.