Biden fundamentally changes US policy after 30 years to return America’s gaze to Europe — away from Asia – The Economic Times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-commentary/as-biden-recasts-us-policy-will-his-energy-weaponisation-leave-the-world-collaterally-damaged/articleshow/90108984.cms

Synopsis

Biden has been working with unusually excellent intelligence on Russian intentions since last December when the CIA first predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine. CIA Director William Burns had then gone to Moscow to tell the Russians to desist. It was then that the Biden administration began developing a tough sanctions package, which is now being rolled out in coordination with the US’ allies.

Bruce Riedel

Bruce Riedel

Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Washington DC

The decision by Joe Biden to ban Russian oil and gas imports to the US reflects the fact that the Ukraine crisis is fundamentally changing US foreign policy. It is the defining event of a generation, perhaps the most important single event since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 that precipitated the largest global arms race since World War 2. The US is going to revert to being Europe-centric.

Biden has been working with unusually excellent intelligence on Russian intentions since last December when the CIA first predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine. CIA Director William Burns had then gone to Moscow to tell the Russians to desist. It was then that the Biden administration began developing a tough sanctions package, which is now being rolled out in coordination with the US’ allies.

The Europeans are, in many ways, leading the effort. Germany’s decision to quickly rebuild its military after 30 years of running it down has been a game changer. The Nato alliance that Donald Trump denigrated has been rejuvenated. Finland and Sweden may join it – Biden just hosted the Finnish president at the White House last week. Biden is right to resist creating a no-fly zone. That would mean war with Russia. The Pentagon is rightly against it.

But the US military will reverse 30 years of drawing down forces in Europe for West Asia and Afghanistan. Expect significant increases in US and other Nato forces in Poland, Romania and the Baltic states (and, possibly, Finland). The notion of a US pivot to Asia is overtaken by the crisis in Europe. Russia is a far more dangerous opponent than al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein could ever be and against which the US has fought two wars during this century. Confrontation with Russia is the immediate priority. China is the more distant problem.

Biden enjoys broad bipartisan support for standing up to Vladimir Putin, a sharp break from the polarisation of recent years in US national security policy. If Biden was at all reluctant to ban Russian oil, the Congress was eager for him to act.

Russia’s economy revolves around oil. If markets in Europe are shut down, it will be devastating to the Russian economy. Biden is already pressing Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states to increase oil production. The Europeans will do the same. US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela may be eased. If the Iran nuclear deal is revived, Iranian oil and gas exports will rise significantly. Algeria, with large gas holdings, is a likely beneficiary of the new market conditions. It is closer to the European markets than the Gulf states.

The US transition to a Europe-focused foreign policy is reinforced daily by the images of destruction in Ukraine and the plight of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to the West. The powerful impact of these pictures is already changing US politics. Trump is badly discredited by his years of close association with Putin. The American public should blame Putin for high oil prices.

If the Russians occupy all or most of Ukraine, expect the US to support a resistance insurgency in Ukraine much as it had supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1979, Jimmy Carter rapidly mobilised a strategic alliance to fight the Russians. Within two weeks after the Soviet invasion on December 24, 1979, the US president had persuaded Zia-ul-Haq to support the mujahideen with refuge, bases and training in Pakistan.

The US and Saudi Arabia would go on to jointly fund the Afghan insurgency, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would be the patrons of the mujahideen, while the CIA and the Saudi intelligence service would be the financiers and quartermasters of the war spending about $5 billion together. No CIA officer ever was deployed in Afghanistan. Britain’s MI6 did send officers into Afghanistan to deliver select weapons and training. The ISI did all the rest. It was Zia’s war. The ISI trained and occasionally led the mujahideen in battle, even striking into Soviet Central Asia.

The Afghan people paid a horrible cost for the war. As I wrote in What We Won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan, at least 1 million Afghans died, 5 million became refugees in Pakistan and Iran, and millions more were displaced in their own country. But they won. The Soviet Union collapsed. Ukraine was born.

The geopolitical implications of the Ukrainian crisis are just beginning to play out. Oil will be a central issue. A dividing line is once more separating democracies from dictatorship.

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