Foreign policy - "America first" by other means

"America first" by other means

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) during the US-China talks in Alaska

Photo: Frederic J. Brown / Pool / AFP

Was that a classic test balloon that rises to the sky, only to be brought back down to earth? First, the US State Department said it was exploring "similarly thinking countries around the world" to see whether the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing should be boycotted. The host sin too much against the human rights of Uyghurs, said Ned Price, spokesman for Minister Antony Blinken. And then Joe Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki arrives and announces that same day: “From the United States' point of view, there is no discussion of any changes to plans for the Beijing Games. We are not discussing a joint boycott with allies and partners. "

What may have moved the White House to make this clarification? The fear of becoming a prisoner of oneself when brash statements are perceived as a declared intention? After all, the question was raised, is a campaign up to and including an Olympic boycott due? Or should China just scare off a warning shot? Attack or play poker? The memory of the blockade of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow may have been decisive for the temporary withdrawal. At that time, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the government of the Democratic President Carter forced the majority of Western states, including the Federal Republic, to give the Soviets the cold shoulder, which they took seriously. The Hull Games in Moscow were followed by those in Los Angeles four years later, when the Eastern Bloc retaliated by staying away. After the Olympics in Montreal in 1976, it took twelve years for the greatest sporting event of modern times to regain normality and universality. Can the Olympic movement cope with that again in today's torn world? Would a coalition of those willing to boycott be found like in the Cold War?

Although President Biden has declared a systematic battle against China and Russia, he does not yet seem to know how it will be conducted, and above all how it will be won. What makes one ask how one could recognize a victory? That China and Russia are content with the status of regional powers and beg to be blessed with a “regime change”? Anyone who thinks this way is out of this world. He clings to deceptive, if not suicidal, illusions.

Regardless of that, Joe Biden dumped Biden right at the start of his tenure. Although he extended the New START treaty with Russia on nuclear arms limitation, shortly afterwards he called President Putin a “killer”. Who should be expelled from the club of civilized politicians? The proximity of pragmatic decisions and denunciating verdicts points to the symbiosis of real and moral politics popular with US presidents. If Biden comes back to this, he can at best barricade his own camp, but by no means prevent that non-Western great powers have interests and know how to serve them by holding on to their own system and economic order. Yang Jiechi, member of the Chinese Politburo, spoke at the controversial top meeting USA / China on 19./20. March in Alaska Foreign Minister Blinken and Security Advisor Sullivan given to understand that his country sees the USA as a competitor among others, neither to supremacy nor to be appointed as guardian. China does not allow itself to be dictated how it conducts its domestic policy. It adheres to a "diplomacy of peaceful ascent".

The position of the Russian government is anything but fundamentally different. Moscow follows the realpolitical idea of ​​a multipolar world in which regions and states balance and negotiate, how to avoid conflicts, respect spheres of interest and absorb dissent through diplomacy. An approach that Donald Trump's foreign policy quite accommodated. He considered bilateral relations independent of alliances, loyalties or traditions, moralizing and ideology-based catechisms. He was able to ridicule the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in front of the United Nations as a “little rocket man” to call him “my friend” on June 30, 2019 - standing on the demarcation line between North and South Korea at the 38th parallel, whom he wished to meet in that very place. Even if no agreement was ultimately found that honored North Korea's nuclear asceticism with security guarantees from the USA, a tense relationship was relaxed to such an extent that such an agreement at least seemed possible.

Joe Biden never got anything out of the foreign affairs broker Trump with his sense of politics and comedy. As president, he is now resorting to US exceptionalism, which has always been questionable. His speeches ventilated the seemingly religious conviction that he is running a country with the highest democratic virtues of all, which is still charged with the mission of spreading its way of life in the world and of putting all those who oppose it in their place. "America first" with different means, old phrases - but new instruments? Because the strategic agenda still valid under George Bush (2001 - 2009) of being so militarily superior to the rest of the world that two wars can be waged at the same time, including the temporary occupation in the defeated states, has been settled. In this respect, it can be assumed that Biden considers the withdrawal from Afghanistan to be inevitable, but wants to prevent the Taliban from taking over power as a result of the "regime change" enforced by the USA in 2001. The military presence of the West in the Hindu Kush and the age of interventionist encroachment would be a shameful finale. Of course, there is no doubt that as long as the US remains burdened with Afghanistan, this weakens it in the face of confrontational competition with China and Russia.

Let the allies deliver

Security advisor Sullivan indicated to the Chinese delegation in Alaska how this should be contested in the future. Consider a competition of the systems for technological capacities, modern infrastructures and communication structures as well as investment incentives. It would have to be added without foregoing military threat potential, only that the NATO allies should do more than they have done so far, which Donald Trump demanded in exactly the same way, only much more indignantly.

Biden's government is still exploring how to expand the geopolitical space available for its “America first” option. It might turn out to be an anachronistic fallacy that a US-led Western alliance could cope with the existential pressures of the 21st century without a partnership with China and Russia.