biden: View: Biden fundamentally changes US policy after 30 years to turn America’s gaze back on Europe – away from Asia
Biden has been working with unusually excellent intelligence on Russian intentions since last December, when the CIA first predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine. The director of the CIA, William Burns, then went to Moscow to tell the Russians to abstain. It was then that the Biden administration began crafting a tough sanctions package, which is now being rolled out in coordination with US allies.
The Europeans are, in many ways, leading the effort. Germany’s decision to quickly rebuild its army after 30 years of destruction was a game-changer. The NATO alliance that Donald Trump denigrated has been rejuvenated. Finland and Sweden could join him – Biden just hosted the Finnish president at the White House last week. Biden is right to resist creating a no-fly zone. It would mean war with Russia. The Pentagon rightly opposes it.
But the US military will reverse 30 years of withdrawal of 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 idea of an American pivot to Asia has been overtaken by the crisis in Europe. Russia is a far more dangerous adversary than Al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein could ever be and against which the United States has fought two wars this century. Confrontation with Russia is the immediate priority. China is the most distant problem.
Biden enjoys broad bipartisan support to stand up to Vladimir Putin, a sharp break from the polarization of recent years in US national security policy. If Biden was reluctant to ban Russian oil, Congress was eager for him to act.
The Russian economy revolves around oil. If European markets are closed, it will be devastating for the Russian economy. Biden is already pressuring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to increase oil production. The Europeans will do the same. US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela could be eased. If the Iran nuclear deal is revived, Iranian oil and gas exports will increase dramatically. Algeria, which has large gas reserves, is a likely beneficiary of the new market conditions. It is closer to European markets than to Gulf countries.
The United States’ transition to a European-centric 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 images is already changing American politics. Trump is gravely 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 United States to support a resistance insurgency in Ukraine just as it supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1979, Jimmy Carter quickly mobilizes a strategic alliance to fight the Russians. Less than 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 United States and Saudi Arabia would continue to jointly fund the Afghan insurgency, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would be the boss of the mujahideen, while the CIA and Saudi intelligence would be the financiers and quarters -masters of war, spending about $5 billion together. No CIA officer has ever been deployed to Afghanistan. Britain’s MI6 sent officers to Afghanistan to deliver selected weapons and training. The ISI did everything else. It was Zia’s war. The ISI trained and sometimes led the mujahideen into battle, even striking Soviet Central Asia.
The Afghan people have paid a horrible price 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 only just beginning to make themselves felt. Oil will be a central issue. A dividing line once again separates democracies from dictatorship.