Historically US vice presidents haven't done much. Not this one
The US-inspired and assisted coup in 2014 that toppled the (admittedly incompetent) Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was most effective. As observed at the time by the analyst Seamus Milne, “after two decades of eastward Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure, via an explicitly anti-Moscow EU association agreement. Its rejection led to the Maidan protests and the installation of an anti-Russian administration – rejected by half the country – that went on to sign the EU and International Monetary Fund agreements regardless.”
Alas for ordinary Ukrainians, who are normal decent people like so many citizens of the world, their country is suffering from the machinations of the Washington Establishment, whose representatives for the region in 2014 were Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. Both have advanced in their careers and are expected to be given important appointments when the compassionate and internationally benevolent Hillary Clinton (“We came; We saw; He died) comes to power next January. Their implacably anti-Moscow intrigues have paid off and they can be justifiably proud of their successful efforts to steer the world closer to nuclear war, which is becoming increasingly likely as a result of massive US-NATO confrontation with Russia.
But the team of Clinton, Nuland and Pyatt can’t take all the praise for the provocations and the crisis. A considerable amount of commendation for increasing tension and hatred must go to a most unlikely player in world affairs : Stand up and be admired, the vice-president of the United States, Joseph Biden.
It was once said that the position of US vice-president was so inconsequential that the only thing he got to do that was important was to attend the funerals of equally insignificant public figures around the world. In the event of the death of the president or other political figure of a minor nation he would climb into Air Force Two and jet off to have a few days chatting with equally dutiful public representatives of their countries whose absence from the corridors of powers in their native lands would not be noticed. But Mr Biden has an agenda of his own, concerning which he must have the full support of Barack Obama, and he’s been jetting round the world giving intriguing speeches.
In February 2009 — a long time before the US-contrived coup in Ukraine that provided the most welcome rationale for US-NATO to step up its confrontational stance with Russia — it seemed that Biden was prepared to come and go a bit, as regards US policy in Europe. At the 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy he noted as an aside that “we also have to contend with a war in Afghanistan now in its eighth year, and a war in Iraq well into its sixth year,” without acknowledging that both these wars — and the destruction of both countries — were caused by the “one indispensable country in world affairs” that had invaded them. But then he went on to say that “the last few years have seen a dangerous drift in relations between Russia and the members of our [NATO] Alliance. It is time, to paraphrase President Obama, it’s time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.”
The “drift” between the US-NATO military alliance and Russia had been caused by the expansion of NATO to move militarily as close to Russia’s borders as could be managed at the time, but nonetheless it was a welcome sign that Biden appeared to be signalling a policy of dialogue, conciliation and cooperation.
But it was not to be, because in July 2009 the real Biden burst out of his cocoon of moderation and reason and showed his true colours.
The Los Angeles Times reported him saying that “the reality is, the Russians are where they are. They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy; they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.”
Then Mr Biden changed colours slightly and went to Moscow in 2011 and met with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin. Naturally, as the Christian Science Monitor reported, he also “met with Russian human rights activists and assured them of Washington’s ongoing support for a strong civil society” just as he did when he visited the monarchical dictatorship of Saudi Arabia for the funeral of Crown Prince Sultan Al-Saud in October 2011.
He didn’t? How strange, for a man of such high principles. But of course these funerals in repressive Islamic states are such busy affairs that grieving dignitaries from democracies don’t have time to talk about human rights. In Moscow, however, the head of a human rights group, Mr Oleg Orlov, told the Christian Science Monitor that Biden had “listened carefully” to what he had to say and “intimated that the US might punish the Kremlin for the lack of progress on rights . . . Biden basically said that in one way or another Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation could depend to some degree on how certain human rights issues are being dealt with.”
Biden has continued to demonstrate a degree of anti-Russian bias, even hatred, that is regrettable, and he combines it with resolve to further American commerce. In Sweden last week, as reported by Deutsche Welle, he came down to brass tacks and “warned European countries against becoming too dependent on Russian oil and gas, saying it would be ‘bad’ for Europe.” Biden was referring to the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline which “will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea route from Russia to Germany, helping to safeguard Europe’s long-term energy security.”
But Biden doesn’t want “long-term energy security” in Europe. He called it “a fundamentally bad deal” and added that “Europe needs diverse sources of natural gas, not, in our view, a Nord Stream 2 pipeline.” He observed righteously that “no country should be able to use energy as a weapon to coerce policies from other nations,” which was interesting — but not as interesting as his solution, which, most surprisingly, was that “all EU countries could now access US liquefied natural gas [LNG] if they want it.”
Obviously US-Russia relations are dependent to a great extent on profit for US companies — but that’s what the “one indispensable country in world affairs” is all about.
We shouldn’t be surprised about Mr Biden’s chameleon-like fandangos, because in 2010 he described his job pretty accurately when he was caught on camera saying “It’s easy being vice president — you don’t have to do anything.” The person to whom he was speaking got the message and wondered if “It’s like being the grandpa and not the parent”? To which the vice president of the United States replied “Yeah, that’s it!”
That would seem to sum it all up — but although Biden may speak with a forked tongue, he also speaks with the voice of Obama. What should be remembered is that in July 2009 he said that “Russian leaders are gradually beginning to grasp their diminished global role, but the US should be cautious not to overplay its advantage.”
He then declared that “It won’t work if we go in and say: Hey, you need us, man; belly up to the bar and pay your dues. It is never smart to embarrass an individual or a country when they’re dealing with significant loss of face. My dad used to put it another way: Never put another man in a corner where the only way out is over you.”
But that is exactly where Biden and Clinton and Nuland and Pyatt and the Pentagon and the US media are trying to put Russia — in a corner.
And maybe they’ll find out that Mr Biden’s dad was absolutely right.