"The International Crisis Group responded by publishing its report 'Tentative Jihad.' Washington had to make an attempt to distance itself 'politically' from the 'extremists.' Plan B, the chemical weapons plan was hedged but it became obvious that the war on Syria was not winnable anymore." ("The Atlantic Axis and the Making of a War in Ukraine," New eastern Outlook)
There were other factors that pushed the US towards a conflagration with Moscow in Ukraine, but the driving force was the fact that US rivals (Russia and Iran) stood to be the dominant players in an energy war that would increasingly erode Washington's power. Further economic integration between Europe and Russia poses a direct threat to US plans to pivot to Asia, deploy NATO to Russia's borders, and to continue to denominate global energy supplies in US dollars.
Lehmann notes that he had a conversation with "a top-NATO admiral from a northern European country" who clarified the situation in a terse, two-sentence summary of US foreign policy. He said:
"American colleagues at the Pentagon told me, unequivocally, that the US and UK never would allow European-Soviet relations to develop to such a degree that they would challenge the US/UK's political, economic or military primacy and hegemony on the European continent. Such a development will be prevented by all necessary means, if necessary by provoking a war in central Europe."
This is the crux of the issue. The United States is not going to allow any state or combination of states to challenge its dominance. Washington doesn't want rivals. It wants to be the undisputed, global superpower, which is the point that Paul Wolfowitz articulated in an early draft of the US National Defense Strategy:
"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."
So the Obama administration is going to do whatever it thinks is necessary to stop further EU-Russia economic integration and to preserve the petrodollar system. That system originated in 1974 when President Richard Nixon persuaded OPEC members to denominate their oil exclusively in dollars, and to recycle their surplus oil proceeds into U.S. Treasuries.
The arrangement turned out to be a huge windfall for the US, which rakes in more than $1 billion per day via the process. This, in turn, allows the US to over-consume and run hefty deficits. Other nations must stockpile dollars to purchase the energy that runs their machinery, heats their homes and fuels their vehicles. Meanwhile, the US can breezily exchange paper currency, which it can print at no-expense to itself, for valuable imported goods that cost dearly in terms of labor and materials. These dollars then go into purchasing oil or natural gas, the profits of which are then recycled back into USTs or other dollar-denominated assets such as U.S. stocks, bonds, real estate, or ETFs. This is the virtuous circle that keeps the US in the top spot.
As one critic put it: "World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that dollars can buy."
The petrodollar system helps to maintain the dollar's monopoly pricing which, in turn, sustains the dollar as the world's reserve currency. It creates excessive demand for dollars which allows the Fed to expand the nation's credit by dramatically reducing the cost of financing. If oil and natural gas were no longer denominated in USDs, the value of the dollar would fall sharply, the bond market would collapse, and the US economy would slip into a long-term slump.
This is one of the reasons why the US invaded Iraq shortly after Saddam had switched over to the euro; because it considers any challenge to the petrodollar looting scam as a direct threat to US national security.
Moscow is aware of Washington's Achilles's heel and is making every effort to exploit that weakness by reducing its use of the dollar in its trade agreements. So far, Moscow has persuaded China and Iran to drop the dollar in their bilateral dealings, and they have found that other trading partners are eager to do the same. Recently, Russian economic ministers conducted a "de-dollarization" meeting in which a "currency switch executive order" was issued stating that "the government has the legal power to force Russian companies to trade a percentage of certain goods in rubles."
Last week, according to RT:
"The Russian and Chinese central banks have agreed a draft currency swap agreement, which will allow them to increase trade in domestic currencies and cut the dependence on the US dollar in bilateral payments. 'The draft document between the Central Bank of Russia and the People's Bank of China on national currency swaps has been agreed by the parties...The agreement will stimulate further development of direct trade in yuan and rubles on the domestic foreign exchange markets of Russia and China,' the Russian regulator said.
"Currently, over 75 percent of payments in Russia-China trade settlements are made in US dollars, according to Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper." ("De-Dollarization Accelerates -- China/Russia Complete Currency Swap Agreement," Zero Hedge)
The attack on the petrodollar recycling system is one of many asymmetrical strategies Moscow is presently employing to discourage US aggression, to defend its sovereignty, and to promote a multi-polar world order where the rule of law prevails. The Kremlin is also pushing for institutional changes that will help to level the playing field instead of creating an unfair advantage for the richer countries like the US.