THE STATEMENT BY THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT ON THE SENKAKU ISLANDS DISPUTE: A COMMENT
"QUESTION: Asian allies of the United States very much appreciate the “Asia rebalance strategy” of the Obama administration. Could you please describe the core objectives of the policy in your own words? What do you think China is aiming at when they advocate a “new type of major power relations?” China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. Would you officially declare that the Islands are covered by Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security treaty? What do you expect China and Japan to do to in order to lessen the tensions in the area?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Our strategy is a long-term commitment to this region and its people, and I’m proud of our progress so far. Our alliances, including with Japan, are stronger than ever and we’re modernizing our defense posture across the region. Our trade is growing and we’re working to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We’re deepening our ties with emerging powers like China, India and Indonesia. We’re more closely engaged with regional institutions like ASEAN and the East Asia Summit....
With regard to China, the new model of relations we seek between our two countries is based on my belief that we can work together on issues of mutual interest, both regionally and globally, and that both our nations have to resist the danger of slipping into conflict, which is not inevitable....And our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally.
At the same time, the United States is going to deal directly and candidly with China on issues where we have differences, such as human rights. I’ve also told President Xi that all our nations have an interest in dealing constructively with maritime issues, including in the East China Sea. Disputes need to be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, not intimidation and coercion. The policy of the United States is clear—the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.' "
"Q&A: Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun interviews President Obama". The Washington Post
. 23 April 2014, in www.washingtonpost.com
"Today a dangerous dynamic is emerging in Northeast Asia. Three powerful, nationalist states with a history of hostility between them are simultaneously awakening from a period of quiescence and jockeying for power. For the past half century, the United States has assumed that its bilateral ties with Japan and South Korea were defining relationships on which it could build the entire architecture for its policies in Northeast Asia. In part because of these ties, it further assumed that it could largely set the agenda with China".
Jason T. Shaplen & James Laney, "Washington's Eastern Sunset". Foreign Affairs
. (November / December 2007), p. 96.
The clear and unmitigated statement made by the American President in an interview with the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun quoted above really only requires one comment: vivat!
The statement is something which has been needed and required for quite some time. It clearly and effectively shows that if the leadership of the Peoples Republic were insane enough to endeavor to seize the islands by force, the United States would activate its defense forces and stop said attempted seizure. Full stop. Enough said. The PRC cannot going forward have any doubts that its revisionist policies in the Far East will be resisted by the might of the worlds premier military power as it relates to the Senkaku islands. One can only hope that the rulers in power in Peking remember what was said to-day and act accordingly. And what is good for he Senkaku islands goes for other parts of the region: what is in fact needed is a updated, Kennanesque
policy of containing the Peoples Republic along its vast periphery. Only something akin to this will convince the ruling elites in Peking that a policy of changing the status quo ante bellum
via force will be unsuccessful. And like the case of the former Sovietskaya Vlast
, once well contained, it can be hoped that gradually the regime in power in China will begin to dismantle itself, piece by piece. In short, a policy of containing the PRC is the best hope of true 'regime change' for the Peoples Republic.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS PICKERING ON THE PERSIAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS AT THE PRINCETON CLUB
"There is perhaps no nation in the world that would be prepared to pay the very high price that Iran [Persia] paid during the hostage crisis for its pursuit of idiosyncratic religio-revolutionary goals. Hence the perception of irrationality. But its actual performance was anything but irrational. On the contrary, Iran proved itself to be an adept and dangerous adversary, to be underestimated only at one's peril".
Gary Sick, "Iran's Quest for Superpower Status". Foreign Affairs
. (Spring 1987), p. 699.
On Monday the 21st of April, former American Ambassador and high State Department official, Thomas Pickering
spoke to a select group at the Princeton Club
for upwards of one-hour on the subject of the Persian nuclear negotiations. In a by turns, cogent, masterful and informative briefing session, Ambassador Pickering made the following remarks:
That it was the Shah of Persia, who in fact began the first nuclear, albeit civilian programme. A programme which the revolutionary regime of the Mullahs decided to disband soon after then took power in 1979. In the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the regime in Persia decided to re-commence the nuclear programme. With assistance, directly and indirectly of the Pakistan. The European Union (Britain, France and Germany) first began discussions with Persia over its nuclear programme circa 2002. With the Americans only joining the discussions in 2007. And for the most part, the discussions from 2007 to 2013 were almost completely fruitless as per Ambassador Pickering. With the talks mostly at the 'pour parler'
level. In the meantime, the regime of Mullahs endeavor to try to position Persia's programme in such a fashion that if the authorities decided to proceed with building a nuclear weapon that the time frame would be not a matter of years, but merely three-to-six months. A state of affairs which the economically crippling American sanctions were only partially able to retard. According to Ambassador Pickering, this situation was abruptly changed by the 'considerable progress' in negotiations between the Americans and the Persians 'in secret bilateral talks' which began in 2013. According to the Ambassador, indeed the talks had commenced even prior to the 2013's Presidential elections. With the American sanctions' 'deep impact on Iranian [Persia] growth rates', playing a crucial role in causing the Persians to agree to the interim agreement negotiated and agreed upon publicly in November 2013. With in his words 'real steps forward having been made' under the interim agreement. With most of the concessions being offered up coming from the Persian and not the Americans. Indeed, as per the Ambassador, he could not have dreamed a year prior that the Western powers would be able to negotiated such a favorable modus vivendi
agreement with Persia. With the key provisions of the agreement that it makes a Persia attempt at a 'fast breakout', much more difficult. Under the interim agreement there is a 'joint plan of action', which envisages a 'Comprehensive Agreement' (hereafter 'CA') by no later than later June of this year. As per Ambassador Pickering, based upon his own insider knowledge of the situation, the negotiations "have run well so far". With the key provision as per Ambassador Pickering for any CA will be that it kicks back considerably to as long as one-year, the potential 'break-out' time frame. That along with the disarmament and a special, inspections regime, uniquely onerous for the host country, are the rewards for the Western powers as per the CA. The only 'burden' that the Americans having being the dismantling of the sanctions regime. At the current time, as per the Ambassador, 'all options are still on the table', as per the possible employment of military force by the Americans and the Israelis, until a CA is actually agreed upon with the Persians. He himself however believes that force, the ultima ratio
should only be used 'as a last resort'
, since in the case of an Israeli missile & air attack on targets in Persia, the potential set-back to the nuclear programme would only be as little as one-year. In the case of an American missile & air attack, the set-back would still perhaps as little as four-years. Therefore, by far a negotiated settlement along the lines of the CA would be far preferably than the undetermined outcome provided for by the employment of military force by even the United States.
What does one make of the Ambassador's comments? I for one, am whole heartily in agreement with almost all of his remarks. In particular with the notion that air and missile strikes, no matter how successful per se
only provide a limited assurance as relating to the complete destruction of the Persian nuclear programme. Especially over the medium, much less the long-term. As the always wise American military analyst, Anthony Cordesman
of the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted last year:
"A limited set of Israeli preventive strikes could either force the United States to follow up, or create a situation in which Iran rejects all arms control and UN inspection and carries out a massive new disperse nuclear program or a crash basis. It could also drive Iran to lash out into a new wave of confrontation with the United States and Iran’s neighbors.
A U.S.-led set of preventive strikes would be more successful, but the United States could only be sure of suppressing a meaningful Iran nuclear effort if it quickly re-strikes any known target it fails to destroy the first time, carries out constant surveillance of Iran, and repeatedly and thoroughly strikes at the targets created by any new Iranian initiatives 1".
1. Anthony Cordesman, "Negotiating with Iran: The Strategic Case for Pragmatism and Real Progress". The Center for Strategic and International Studies
. 23 September 2014, in Negotiating with Iran: The Strategic Case for Pragmatism and Real Progress. In www.csis.org
THE GENEVA SETTLEMENT OF THE CRISIS IN UKRAINE: WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEAN?
"International talks between Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU ended in Geneva on Thursday evening with an unexpected agreement on a series of steps to calm tensions in Ukraine.
As foreign ministers from the four parties arrived at Geneva’s Intercontinental Hotel on Thursday morning, diplomats were playing down hopes of substantial progress, given the big differences between the delegations on how to resolve the latest round of conflict in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east.
However, after seven hours of negotiations, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and John Kerry and Andrii Deschytsia, his US and Ukrainian counterparts, said a statement had been agreed calling for the disbanding of armed groups, the vacation of occupied streets and buildings, and an amnesty for people detained during the unrest.
In addition, Ukraine will embark on a process of constitutional reform designed to foster regional autonomy, local self-government and the protection of minority rights, a process which both Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov stressed must be “inclusive, transparent, and accountable”.
“The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens,” the joint statement said. “All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions.”
Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov said Russia and the US would provide additional staff to the OSCE mission already present in Ukraine to bolster efforts to calm the situation."
James Shotter, Christian Oliver & Barney Jopson,"Four-way talks end with agreement on calming Ukraine tensions". The Financial Times
. 17 April 2014, in www.ft.com
"The joint statement says all the right things: "no" to violence, racism and religious intolerance, unofficial armed groups and illegal occupation of public buildings and squares; "yes" to amnesty for protesters who peacefully surrender, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, broad national dialogue and constitutional revision....
This piece of paper must also be seen in the context of Putin's words and deeds up until almost the moment it was signed. In a television call-in show this morning, Putin said: "Let me remind you that the Federation Council of Russia gave the president the right to use the armed forces in Ukraine. I very much hope that I will not have to exercise this right." He also said Russia will demand that Ukraine pay in advance for natural gas -- at prices well above those charged to customers in the EU. So much for affirming the "importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine," as the agreement puts it.
There's another problem, and no other way to put it: Putin lies. He lied about the role of Russian troops and infiltrators in Crimea (which he now acknowledges) and he's lying about their role in eastern Ukraine. Putin's shamelessness in this regard makes Ronald Reagan's borrowed Russian injunction of "trust but verify" seem downright quaint.
Putin is likely to betray these latest commitments unless he's convinced that doing so will have consequences. That's why stiffer sanctions before today's negotiations would have helped. Today's agreement works the other way: by raising false hopes it will encourage Europeans opposed to new sanctions to resist all the harder. It's exactly what Putin wanted".
Leader, "Ukraine Crisis: Vlad the Prevaricator". Bloomberg
. 17 April 2014, in www.bloomberg.com
Reading between the lines of the agreement as well as the past performance of the Russian government, it is kinderspielen
to expect that any such agreement will hold. Why?
For the very simple reason as pointed out by Bloomberg
in their leader, that the past-performance of the Russian government in the Ukrainian crisis has been exceedingly bad if not in fact horrid. 'Trust' is not a mot
which one will immediately associate with the Russian government as it relates to the subject of Ukraine. As the British analyst Judy Dempsey has cogently put it, Russian policy in the entire crisis from start to finish can be summarized as follows:
"As for Ukraine, Russia has never come to terms with its Western neighbor’s independence, which it declared in 1991. Unable to quash Ukraine’s pro-democracy demonstrations, Russia has now gone on the offensive by grabbing parts of the country and destabilizing it in the process 1."
There is absolutely no reason to believe that what was agreed to yesterday in Geneva will stop Russian, 'salami tactics' (to employ a phrase made by a Magyar Tovarish
in the late 1940's to explain Russian-Communist tactics in the gradual take-over of Central and Eastern Europe), in endeavoring to split-up and take-over as much of Eastern Ukraine as possible. Unless and until the Western powers make absolutely clear, via both stepped-up economic sanctions on Russia and moving up troops to the eastern borders of Poland and the Baltic states, that such actions will be costly in the extreme to Matushka
Russia. As it is the reports out of Eastern Ukraine seem to indicate that the pro-Russian stooges are not interested in following the outlines of yesterday's agreement 2. As Bloomberg correctly notes, the only ones who appear to be approving of the agreement are the Western European publics who prefer to pretend that the entire goings on in Ukraine are in fact not occurring. The phrase 'burying their heads in the sand'
convey the reality of that state of mind unfortunately.
1. Judy Dempsey, "Europe Looks On as Russia Marches Into Ukraine". Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe
. 17 April 2014, in www.carnegieeurope.eu
2. Luke Harding, "Pro-Russian separatists defiant as Ukraine peace moves flounder". The Guardian
. 18 April 2014, in www.theguardian.com
EYELESS IN KYIV OR AMBASSADOR JACK MATLOCK AT THE PRINCETON CLUB
"I think he has quite mistakenly staked the relationship between Russia and Ukraine on a particular group: the industrialists and their colleagues in eastern Ukraine. There is a strong feeling in Moscow that those coming from western Ukraine are anti-Russian nationalists and it is not in Russia’s interest that they get full control of the Ukrainian government. I think also that, psychologically, relations with Ukraine are extremely important to Russians, because the relationship has historically been so close; there is so much intermarriage. It is evident that Putin can interfere without being condemned by the Russian public and [avoid] paying a political price at home....That’s why I think his strong interference- in backing Prime Minister Yanukovich- results from a misapprehension. Yushchenko and the nationalists from western Ukraine know that they have to live comfortably with Russia. I don’t think they are going to enact any stringent anti-Russian rules if Yushchenko is elected."
Former Ambassador Jack Matlock quoted in: "Matlock: Putin 'Made a Big Mistake' Interfering in Ukraine Politics." The Council on Foreign Relations
. 6 December 2014 in www.cfr.org
"I would like to say that it never pays, in my opinion, for one great power to take advantage of the momentary weakness or distraction of another great power in order to force upon it concessions it would never have accepted in normal circumstances. In the short term this may seem to have advantages. Over the long run it almost always revenges itself. The Russians are justly proud of their great war effort; and they will expect to see due recognition given to it in the dispositions that are under discussions today."
George F. Kennan to John Lukacs, 12 May 1990, in Through the History of the Cold War: the correspondence of George F. Kennan and John Lukacs
. Edited by John Lukacs. (2010), p. 189.
On the 9th of April, former American Ambassador and career diplomat Jack Matlock spoke to a select group of people at the Princeton Club in Manhattan's mid-town. The following are some of the remarks of Ambassador Matlock as it relates to the current situation in Ukraine and Russian, European Union and American policies relating to the same and each other:
That the Ukrainians suffered from a 'lack of historic sense [in] blaming everything on Vladimir Putin' and that 'everyone starting with the Ukrainians bears some fault' in what has occurred in the past few months in Ukraine. That 'Russia potentially [was] the big loser' in the eventual outcome. But the Ukrainians also. That Ukraine 'was granted independence' by Moskva
. The Ambassador attacked the sudden American interest in the territorial integrity of Ukraine. That less than twenty-percent of Americans could identify Ukraine on a map. That the concept of 'foreign military bases' in Ukraine are an 'emotional' issue for Russia. Ambassador Matlock blamed the expansion of NATO post-1991, on the current Russian views and policies of the Ukrainian crisis. He approvingly cited his predecessor as American Ambassador in Moskva
, George F. Kennan in opposition to NATO's expansion into Central and Eastern Europe in the beginning of the present century over Moskva's protests. Ambassador Matlock also made mention that American-NATO policies in the Bosnian war and the Kosovo war with Serbia were at variance with current American and EU policies. That present-day Ukraine was an 'economic disaster' and that most of the people in Crimea 'probably preferred Russian rule'. And that present-day Ukraine is disabled as a polity by the divisions between its Eastern and Western sections of the country. That the Western, pro-EU, Ukrainians are inheritors of the anti-communist, 'pro-Nazi' resistance.
What is one to make of Ambassador Matlock's comments? From merely perusing his curriculum vitae
, one immediately is aware of the fact that Jack Matlock is, notwithstanding his, provincial southern accent, a highly educated and cultured gentleman. With a deep historical awareness, as well as over forty-years active experience in the conduct of diplomacy and relations with the Soviet Union and or Russia. Unfortunately, the Ambassador's comments betray his deep learning and wide experience. One does not have to be a partisan of the 'Ukrainian cause', to rub one's eyes at some of his comments. Some of them (as per the Western Ukrainian leadership), are little more than present-day Russian propaganda, et rein plus
. Something which is considerably at variance with his own comments little over nine years ago on the same subject 1. Similarly, while he cites the Western powers for hypocrisy in contrasting Western policy towards Kosovo with their current policies on Ukraine, one can similarly state that Russian policy is equally if not more hypocritical. After all, au fond
, there was
a humanitarian crisis in Kosovo and Western policy, however muddled did indeed put an end to Serbian atrocities therein. Whereas in the case of present-day Crimea, no one, I repeat no one, except for Kremlin stooges and propagandists, believes that there was active persecution of Russian-speakers or passport holders in Crimea before Russia intervened to annex that area. Without gainsaying the fact NATO's expansion into Central & Eastern Europe was a policy which was by its very nature going to cause, and did cause Moskva
some anguish, that per se
does not obviate the real source of Russian policy in both Crimea and Ukraine: Putinism.
Meaning specifically, that it is the fear, a fear which was evident both in anno domini
2004 as well as in 2014 in Russia, that political upheaval in a democratic direction in Ukraine would have negative after shocks in Russia itself which are the real sources of Russian policy. Not, pace Ambassador Matlock, a wounded Russian amour proper
. Unfortunately, in the current crisis in Ukraine, Ambassador Matlock is indeed truly 'eyeless in Kyiv'
1. See: "Matlock: Putin 'Made a Big Mistake'", op. cit.
THE LATEST ROUND OF NEAR-EAST NEGOTIATIONS: KERRY'S FOLLY?
"Washington’s attempts to shepherd Israelis and Palestinians into a so-called framework deal – yet another road map towards ending their conflict – appear to be running out of road. Almost nine months of intense diplomacy, led by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, may have hit a wall this week. Given the way he and his boss, President Barack Obama, have managed this affair, it is surprising this has not happened sooner....
It is not just that Washington is behaving more like a crooked lawyer than an honest broker, bullying the weaker Palestinian party into keeping talks going while Israel continues to settle illegally occupied territory. The Israeli tail is being allowed to wag the US dog. Mr Netanyahu cannot be losing much sleep over reports that President Obama is returning to the talks to back up Mr Kerry. It is hard to see what difference this can make while the US concentrates on process rather than substance.
Far from pushing Israel to roll back the occupation enough to enable Palestinians to build a viable state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital, it looks as though the US is planning to hand Israel almost all the settlement blocs, about three-quarters of East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley....
Why any US official dreamt all this might work is a puzzle. It seeks compromise not between Israel and the Palestinians but between factions of Israel’s irredentist right – which means the end of a two-state solution.
Unless the US is prepared to push for a real compromise, and a real state of Palestine, Israel’s future could be bleak. ".
David Gardner, "US plays the crooked lawyer in an Israeli-Palestinian drama". The Financial Times
. 6 April 2014, in www.ft.com
"If you follow Clifford's [White House domestic policy advisor] advice [favoring the recognition of the State of Israel] and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you".
American Secretary of State George C. Marshall to President Truman, 12 May 1948.
The criticisms `a la
David Gardner in this week-end's Financial Times
, made of American Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry's intensive efforts to 'jump-start' the Near Eastern peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Are of course par for the course. And indeed extremely accurate as far as it goes. By definition, the Americans are and have been for almost the entirety of the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict, a biased party. Or to employ the verbiage of Mr. Gardner a 'crooked lawyer'. The issue of course is that the nature of domestic American politics, in a classical case of Primat der Innenpolitik
, does not allow for rationale decision-making as per Near Eastern diplomacy. It never has and it certainly is not going to now. As the interaction between the current American administration and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently shown. In almost every past confrontation (such as they were) between the two sides, it is the American side, under domestic political pressures who inevitably gives way. This state of affairs may be sad, it may be maddening and indeed irrational(and I will be the first to admit that it is all of this and more), but it is a empirical fact. And not only is it an empirical fact, it is a empirical factum
, which will be change or to use a demotic expression: 'go away', anytime soon. Id. est
., the nature of the American polity will not change greatly in the next two to ten years to see marked changes as to how the United States approaches the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. To ask the very intelligent American Secretary of State to do something which people such giants of American history as General George C. Marshall
was unable to do back in 1948, is verily to ask the impossible. However unfortunate it may be, Secretary Kerry can only operate within the political parameters allowed for by the nature of American domestic politics. And, while the apparent American political consensus which backs a 'pro-Israel' policy may indeed be much, much weaker than one may suppose on the surface, the current American administration is not going to be the one that will test this hypothesis to see if it in fact true. This in turn may perhaps be a tragedy, but is also a fact which will not change anytime soon. The tragedy being that by the time that the Americans do become 'straight' as opposed to 'crooked' lawyer, it may be too late to influence positively the facts on the ground in the Near East.