Ukraine and Russia: It's About the American Ideal (OPINION)
(OPINION) By Daniel Berninger, TruthDAO columnist
With the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approaching in 46 months, the experiment in government “of the people, by the people, for the people” appears ready to perish from the Earth. By almost every measure, the United States of 2022 is falling short in all the ways necessary for the survival of the new nation that George Washington described in his famous Farewell Address.
The Founding Fathers idealistic commitment to self-determination nonetheless remains alive in Ukraine, where resistance to Russia’s invasion is an inspirational echo of the American Revolution. The Russian invasion reflects tectonic forces spanning the planet, not just the desire for a land bridge to Crimea. The military capacity of NATO exceeds Russia by a factor of five in all meaningful dimensions – absent 1,500 nuclear warheads, Vladmir Putin could not invade Ukraine. The death of women and children in Ukraine reflects the first implied use (and not the last) of nuclear weapons as means of state extortion. The fate of the American Experiment turns on whether or not Russia succeeds.
China misses no opportunity to discourage U.S. support of Taiwanese self-determination via the same mechanism, so let’s just call it what it is: nuclear extortion. Russia is serving as the muscle in the attempt by China displace the U.S. as planetary hegemon. For proof, look no further than the "Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era." This remarkable document, which explicitly endorses the right of Russia to challenge NATO in Europe, leaves no room for doubt about Russia's purposes in Ukraine. The Joint Statement’s over-the-top language and Orwellian doublespeak would be hilarious except for the Russian nuclear arsenal.
The Pact references “democracy” or “democratic” 20 times; “self-determination” is also invoked. View these words in light of the Marxist framework associated with the founding of the People's Republic of China and U.S.S.R. And what a crass quid pro quo it is: Stalin helped finance the rise of Mao, and now Xi Jinping is returning the favor by helping Russia fend off global sanctions.
The threat posed by the Xi-Putin tag team raises the stakes far beyond a crisis of Ukrainian self-defense. The May 26 George Washington University speech by Secretary of State Antony Blinken reveals the pretend agnostic stance of China as it regards the future of Ukraine – specifically, if it stays intact. The invasion was a major factor in the tripling of the global price of crude oil. The ruble is trading near five-year highs relative to the dollar, suggesting currency traders doubt the “failed invasion” narrative being pushed in some circles. Henry Kissinger, meantime, has suggested Ukraine should concede territory -- and the U.S. should fold in the face of nuclear extortion -- in exchange for "peace."
With all due respect to Mr. Kissinger: What a bad idea. Contemplate the capitulations already made by the U.S. in service of "peace" with China. Until 1972, the U.S. enjoyed a 100-fold advantage over China, which was almost as backwards and isolated as North Korea. The Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty preserved the independence of Taiwan and its status as permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The deaths of 40 million Chinese via the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution didn’t end until 1976. Fifty years later, a belligerent China is now a near-peer of the United States, and it is hinting at nuclear war over Taiwan. The massive outsourcing of American manufacturing capacity to China, meantime, has turned the U.S. into a supply chain dependent for everything from antibiotics to F-35 circuit boards.
This remarkable reversal of fortunes stems from an agreement described in the 1972 Shanghai Communique at the end of President Nixon's trip to China. President Carter ended the mutual defense treaty with Taiwan on the basis of the Shanghai Communique in 1979. President Biden continues to promise China scrupulous compliance with this non-treaty even as China baldly ignores the prohibition against seeking "hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region." The supposed “peace” that would follow Ukraine conceding territory – a stretch, given the actors involved – would merely reward and validate nuclear extortion, thereby making U.S. capitulations all the more damaging. The prospects of an independent Taiwan (and the relevance of U.S. in Asia) disappear on the day President Zelenskyy concedes, should he do so. A happy ending requires the U.S. and its allies to join in expelling Russia from the entirety of Ukraine.
The U.S. owes Ukraine the support necessary to replicate the postwar economic miracles in Germany, Japan and Taiwan. America should proclaim that President Xi’s signing the Beijing Pact ended all obligations associated with the Shanghai Communique. The U.S. should also decouple our trade from China, which would cause problems for President Xi, even as he secures a third term at the Chinese Communist Party Congress in October, effectively making him a ruler for life. As for the U.S., retaining future self-determination is more than sufficient motivation to suffer the prospect of costlier toasters and televisions -- the mobilization necessary to unwind trade with China seems to point to accelerated economic growth at home, in any case. The inventory of actions necessary to answer nuclear extortion remains the same whether Presidents Putin and Xi concede or proceed as planned.
Mr. Berninger is an infrastructure expert, early VoIP pioneer and the founder of New Architecture Foundation.