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Biden and Blinken Unprovoked Attacks on Russia and China Backfire Because if You Live in a Glass House

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Biden Taking Vice Presidential Oath of Office
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In attacking the moral character of Russia's president and China's human rights record the Biden administration opened the door for a critical examination of America's own troubled history.

The mantra of "America is back," hinting at a return to what he and his supporters believe to be the halcyon days of President Barack Obama's two-term tenure as president, as well as a sharp departure from the policies and practices of the man who usurped Hillary Clinton's bite at the presidential apple, Donald Trump.

In an effort to "build back better," as Biden is wont to exclaim, his administration has embraced an ambitious agenda that aggressively seeks to both promote and install America as the world's indispensable nation. And yet, in the span of less than 24 hours, the president and his primary foreign policy advisor, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, managed to undermine the very policies they sought to promote through a combination of narcissistic posturing and plain diplomatic incompetence.

By labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin a "soulless killer," Biden put US-Russian relations in their worst posture since the Cold War. And Blinken, during the Biden administration's initial meeting between the US and China, managed to unleash the ire and rage of Beijing by forgoing any pretense at diplomatic norms and aggressively calling out China on a host of issues which touched upon its sovereignty.

The collapse of what passed for a coordinated position of diplomatically confronting both Russia and China has left the US scrambling to navigate through the detritus of its own policy shipwreck. A controlled approach to dealing with Russia and China was supposed to serve as the anchor of Biden's new national security policy formulation. Instead, the American ship of state has been cast adrift, unable to steer as a diplomatic storm of its own making bears down upon it.

The White House recently published a document, entitled 'Interim National Security Guidance', which outlined its policy priorities to help shape and direct the work of the various US departments and agencies charged with implementing national security and foreign policy. This document is unprecedented in the 35-year history of implementation of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which mandated that the White House produce a "national security strategy" document every four years to help streamline US defense spending.

Normally, the National Security Strategy is produced through an interagency process that takes several months to complete. The Biden administration, in deciding to publish interim guidance while the primary document is still being written, is putting a marker down on the importance of separating its administration's policies from those of its predecessor. The issuance of this interim guidance underscores the sense of urgency that exists within the Biden administration regarding the optics, vice reality, of change.

While promoting the mantra of "America is Back," the interim guidance goes out of its way to highlight the fact that while the heart of the Biden policy is centered on the notion of "build back better," the America Biden inherited operates in a world that is very much different from the one that existed when Biden served as President Obama's vice president.

"We cannot pretend the world can simply be restored to the way it was 75, 30, or even four years ago," Biden wrote. "We cannot just return to the way things were before. In foreign policy and national security, just as in domestic policy, we have to chart a new course."

This "new course," as Biden described it, must "contend with the reality that the distribution of power across the world is changing, creating new threats." For Biden, the major threats posed to the US came from two nations. "China," Biden declared, "has rapidly become more assertive. It is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system."

The identity of the second threat should come as no surprise to anyone tracking US foreign policy over the course of the past 20 years. "Russia remains determined to enhance its global influence and play a disruptive role on the world stage," Biden stated. "Both Beijing and Moscow have invested heavily in efforts meant to check US strengths and prevent us from defending our interests and allies around the world."

The interim guidance set forth three major policy objectives for the Biden administration in confronting both Russia and China. The first is for the US to "Defend and nurture the underlying sources of American strength, including our people, our economy, our national defense, and our democracy at home." The second is to "Promote a favorable distribution of power to deter and prevent adversaries from directly threatening the United States and our allies, inhibiting access to the global commons, or dominating key regions." Last but not least, the US will seek to "Lead and sustain a stable and open international system, underwritten by strong democratic alliances, partnerships, multilateral institutions, and rules."

In the span of less than 48 hours, the Biden administration managed to undermine all three objectives.

Biden's interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos is a matter of the historical record. The American president, in answering a series of questions, described Vladimir Putin as a "soulless killer," violating diplomatic norms which hold that heads of state project a modicum of discretion when talking about one another, if for no other reason than that eventually the two will need to meet and discuss matters in person. As Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan astutely observed, "Mr. Biden's statements about Mr. Putin are not fitting of a president, and a president coming out and using such remarks against the president of a country like Russia is truly unacceptable, not something that can be stomached."

Russia's response was immediate and decisive. In an unprecedented move, the Russian Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador to the US for "consultations," a clear sign that Russia was reconsidering its relationship - or lack thereof - with the US. Putin, in an appearance on Russian television, took a more diplomatic approach in responding to Biden's insults, noting that he wished the American president "good health." But the Russian president also used a child's saying, roughly translated as "whatever you say about others is what you are yourself," to underscore his view that Biden's utterances were but a reflection on the US' own inherent problems. Putin raised the US' use of nuclear weapons against Japan and its history of slavery of blacks and genocide of Native Americans as examples of America's own tortured history on injustice.

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Scott Ritter served as a former Marine Corps officer from 1984 until 1991, and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) and "Target Iran" (more...)
 

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