America Keeps Eyepoking India and China for Failing to Fall into Line on Russia; Arrogance Looking More and More Like Impotence

Yves here. I’m using an OilPrice post, India’s Russian Dealings Have Left Biden’s Geopolitical Oil Strategy In Tatters, as a point of departure for a mini-rant about the arrogance and rank incompetence of America’s elites, as demonstrated by our predictably unsuccessful efforts to bully both China and India into saying bad things about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and backing the US, most importantly by joining its sanctions war.

I am at a loss to understand why the US thinks throwing more force behind a clearly failed diplomatic strategy is a bright idea. Pushing China has simply made it more obvious and easier to explain to interested audiences (many!) why the US needs to stop trying to dictate the policies of other countries, most of all really big ones with nukes.

As for India, the US has been at best a fair weather friend. It is particularly insulting for the US to carry on to India about democratic values when we engage in nation-breaking and have counted autocrats like the Saudi royals and a very long revolving door list of authoritarians (past stars include Manuel Noreiga, Honsai Mubarak, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Ethiopia’s Hailemariam Desalegn) as allies.

With both countries, the US has tried at least twice (three times with China if you count the recent China-EU teleconference with Xi) to get China to side with the West against Russia, pushing China into “What about ‘no’ don’t you understand?” terrain. Rather than hewing to the convention of having summits only after groundwork was laid so that at least nothing visibly bad happens, Team Biden set out to pick a fight with China at their first get together, in Alaska in March 2021, with the US springing new sanctions on China the day before the session.

This humble blog was featuring at least once a week examples of Biden Administration continuing its eyepoking of China in our Links before the war broke out.

Then in March, Jake Sullivan was set to meet with Yang Jiechi in Rome and threatened China with sanctions. The pretext was disinformation in the form of a Financial Times story claiming that Russia had asked to buy weapons from China (this was clearly absurd because by the time the war had started would be way too late; Russia would have needed to procure and integrate equipment months prior).1 Needless to say, Yang didn’t give any ground.

So not taking no as an answer, Biden had the cheek to call Xi that very same week and ask for China’s help. Xi effectively said this wasn’t his problem: “He who puts the bell on the tiger is the one to take it off.” Biden also said he very much wanted better relations with China and gave lip service to the one-China policy in the chat. That allowed Xi to say he took that statement very seriously: What about all these American officials who were promoting a “wrong understanding” about Taiwan?

EU leaders and Xi then had a regularly scheduled EU-China teleconference. Chinese officials had signaled before the meeting that Xi was interested in EU-China relations, not Ukraine, so of course the EU officials started the conversation off with Ukraine. Xi again deflected the Western pressure.

I’m not double checking the dates, but my recollection is that it was shortly after the EU-Xi talk that the US announced new sanctions against China, mainly against officials accused of oppressing Uighurs. And we’ve just had the off the charts provocation of Nancy Pelosi, third in line to become President, going to Taiwan. Recall that trip has been postponed rather than cancelled. China has stated that there will be consequences if that trip happens.

And we expect them to side with us? It’s not the most important form of payback, but China has taken to stating regularly in official media that the war in Ukraine is America’s fault.

As an aside, if I am China, I do not want that Pelosi visit to occur, since it is de facto recognition of Taiwan. Could China stop it with a pre-emptive air strike, talking out all of Taiwan’s air traffic control and putting nice big holes in all the runways international planes use? Is it possible for China to jam air traffic control in Taiwan and the handoff towers next out on her route? Or would Chinese planes dare to dog Pelosi’s and prevent it from landing as planned?

With India, the US keep acting as if they need us when India clearly needs Russian fertilizer and fuel more. And as a sometimes ally, we in theory should at least make a show of being respectful to India, when we instead keep bludgeoning and bullying them. That’s hard to take generally, but even more so given the presumed and probably actual colonial/racist attitudes.

The big slap was last year, when the US entered into the AUKUS deal, which will give Australia nuclear submarines that can prowl the Indian Sea. India’s foreign minister gave an unusually blunt reaction, which amounted to “We’ll have to rethink who our friends are.”

After India refused to criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, a whole raft of foreign officials descended on India: the UK’s Liz Truss, Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, and the US’s Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh (notice less senior than a foreign minister). Lavrov was the only emissary to meet with Prime Minister Modi. Truss said that while the UK wasn’t happy with India buying Russian energy, it would respect the decision. Singh, by contrast, issued a threat. Last week, Brian Deese, head of the National Economic Council, doubled down. From the Hindustan Times:

“There are certainly areas where we have been disappointed by both China and India’s decisions, in the context of the invasion”….The US has told India that the consequences of a “more explicit strategic alignment” with Moscow would be “significant and long-term,” he [Deese] said.

The US insulted India again by just adding hypersonic missiles to the AUKUS deal rather than pursuing that thought the Quad alliance. And yesterday, Anthony Blinken slapped India once more by accusing it of human rights abuses. That can be seen as a sighting shot, that if India does not fall in line, it will be sanctioned for them just as China just was.

Now it turns out the immediate pretext for the rebuke may have been Ilhan Omar complaining about how Muslims are treated in India. But who are we kidding? Since when does the Secretary of State take up whinge by a single, pretty junior Congresscritter? From The Wire:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was monitoring what he described as a rise in human rights abuses in India by some officials, in a rare direct rebuke by Washington of the Asian nation’s rights record.

“We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights) and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials,” Blinken said on Monday in a joint press briefing with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh.

I don’t like pathologizing the behavior of our putative leaders, since they are unduly fond of demonization presented as armchair analysis. But it’s hard to think of a historical example of such arrogant, short-sighted, and self-defeating foreign policy. We’re managing the difficult task of making Kaiser Wilhelm II look good.

In the meantime, since the US is clearly not getting the message, maybe Chinese and Indian officials should start playing “American Woman” at rock concert ear-splitting volumes to visiting American counterparts before their meetings:

By Simon Watkins, a former senior FX trader and salesman, financial journalist, and best-selling author. He was Head of Forex Institutional Sales and Trading for Credit Lyonnais, and later Director of Forex at Bank of Montreal. He was then Head of Weekly Publications and Chief Writer for Business Monitor International, Head of Fuel Oil Products for Platts, and Global Managing Editor of Research for Renaissance Capital in Moscow. He has written extensively on oil and gas, Forex, equities, bonds, economics and geopolitics for many leading publications, and has worked as a geopolitical risk consultant for a number of major hedge funds in London, Moscow, and Dubai. Originally published at OilPrice

  • India ramped up crude oil purchases from Russia despite warnings from Washington not to do so.
  • India’s relations with the U.S. seemed to have improved during a brief struggle with this China last summer.
  • Besides oil, India also signed defence and industrial deals with Russia at the end of 2021.

Up until recently, Washington thought India could finally and definitively be brought on to its side in the evolving power struggle between the U.S. and its allies on the one hand, and China and its allies (including Russia) on the other. However, a series of quick-fire developments have derailed this optimism, leaving a key part of the U.S. broader Middle Eastern and Asia Pacific military, economic, and hydrocarbons strategy in tatters.

The latest example of India not playing the vital role that had been envisioned for it by the U.S. are the plethora of oil deals being done by India with Russia, despite the obvious opposition to such activities from Washington.

When the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, ‘nuclear deal’) with Iran in May 2018, a key concept in the White House was to use this hard-line stance on Iran to parlay into broader and deeper relationships with other Arab states that had become increasingly alarmed by Iran’s efforts to destabilise the region, as analysed in depth in my new book on the global oil markets. This was to be achieved in large part through a series of bilateral agreements – later formalised into the ‘relationship normalisation deals’ – to be done between Israel (a power more than equal to Iran in the region, tacitly backed up by the even bigger power of the U.S.) and those Arab states that Washington believed were open to becoming unequivocal allies of the U.S. These included the UAE, in which the U.S. has its Al-Dhafra Air Base, plus Patriot missiles, to help intercept any air assaults by the Iranian-backed Houthis or anyone else. They also included Bahrain (as a proxy for Saudi Arabia, and home to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, and the Fifth Fleet), and Morocco (a crucially-positioned ally to the U.S. in its counterterrorism efforts, so much so that Washington designated it ‘a Major Non-NATO Ally’ in 2004) and Sudan (also regarded as a potentially important centre for counterterrorism activities by the U.S.).

For the Middle Eastern contingent in these deals there was the added incentive for the U.S. that oil flows from these countries could be used in the short-term to counterbalance the net loss of oil to the markets that resulted from new sanctions on Iranian oil flows.

Medium-term as well, thought Washington, by investing more money into both the UAE and Bahrain – with more oil-rich countries then encouraged to also sign relationship normalisation deals – they would see significant boosts in their oil production to allow the U.S. to reduce its relationship with non-cooperative Middle Eastern countries.

Longer-term, the U.S. planned to be so self-sufficient in oil and gas that it only has to deal with countries that also offer it political allegiance in its struggle to retain its number one global superpower spot in the face of China’s advances. In any event, all of this was to be done whilst ensuring that the price of oil did not stay for any extended periods above the US$75-80 per barrel level at which it starts to cause economic trouble for the U.S. and political trouble for the sitting president at the time, as also analysed in depth in my new book on the global oil markets.

The only potential problem with this plan was that as its aim was essentially to undermine the global power that China could wield through its position as the number one backstop bid in the world’s oil market, the Middle Eastern oil producing countries that the U.S. wanted to tie in to its new world order would need the assurance of a replacement huge backstop bid for their oil. For Washington, India looked like the obvious choice.

First, politically, there appeared to be a new willingness on India’s part to stand up to its dominant and domineering neighbour, China, with a clash on 15 June 2020 between the two great Asian powers in the Galwan Valley being instructive in this respect. It marked a new push back strategy from India against China’s policy of seeking to increase its economic and military alliances from Asia through the Middle East and into Southern Europe, in line with its multi-layered multi-generational ‘One Belt, One Road’ power-grab project. China dramatically upped the tempo of this OBOR-related policy at around the same time as the U.S. signalled its lack of interest in continuing its own large-scale activities in the Middle East through its withdrawal from the JCPOA and its withdrawal from much of Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

At the same time, coinciding closely to the signing of the first Israel-Arab state relationship normalisation deal (that with the UAE), India began to shift from its previous policy of trying to contain China to advancing its own ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy alternative to China’s ‘OBOR’ initiative.

Economically as well – and with direct positive implications for Middle Eastern oil producers looking for a global backstop bid for their hydrocarbons products – India appeared well-positioned to take over that mantle from China. According to data released in the first quarter of 2021by the International Energy Agency (IEA), India will make up the biggest share of energy demand growth at 25 percent over the next two decades, as it overtakes the European Union as the world’s third-biggest energy consumer by 2030. More specifically, India’s energy consumption is expected to nearly double as the nation’s GDP expands to an estimated US$8.6 trillion by 2040 under its current national policy scenario. This will be underpinned by a rate of GDP growth that adds the equivalent of another Japan to the world economy by 2040, according to the IEA. The agency added that the country’s growing energy needs will make it more reliant on fossil fuel imports.

Warning signs for the U.S. plan came as countries it had identified as being ripe for cultivation did not play their role as envisaged, but rather asserted their own intention to deal with both the U.S. and China as they saw fit. News emerged, for example, that the U.S. discovered that China was in the process of building a secret military facility in the UAE port of Khalifa.

Then there was the high-profile snub by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to U.S. President Joe Biden in not taking a phone call to discuss rising oil prices. Perhaps the most far-reaching was the series of meetings in Beijing  between senior officials from the Chinese government and foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). At these meetings, the principal topics of conversation, according to local news reports, were to finally seal a China-GCC Free Trade Agreement and “deeper strategic cooperation in a region where U.S. dominance is showing signs of retreat.”

Unbeknownst to Washington, India was also about to even more dramatically buck its intended role in the U.S.’s new grand scheme of things, and at the worst possible time for Washington, with 28 investment deals signed during the very recent visit of Putin himself to Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi just before Christmas. These covered a broad range of subjects, including not just oil, gas, and petrochemicals, steel, and shipbuilding, but also military matters. These latter deals included India producing at least 600,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and, even more disturbing for the U.S., India’s Foreign Secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, stated that a 2018 contract for the S-400 air defence missile systems is now being implemented. Following on from this, India – and the UAE –  along with just China – failed to vote in favour of the UN Security Council’s resolution to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and to demand the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces from the neighbouring country.

It is little wonder, then, that India has not introduced sanctions against Russia and that its Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, said at the beginning of April that: “If there is, first of all, fuel available at a discount [Russian Urals grade has been trading at a discount of around US$30 per barrel to the Dated Brent benchmark], why shouldn’t I buy it? I need it for my people so we have already started purchasing.” He added: “We have started buying, we have received quite a number of barrels – I would think three to four days’ supply – and this will continue.” These views were restated following the high-level meetings in New Delhi at the beginning of this month between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and senior Indian government officials. These meetings, in turn, occurred even after the U.S. warned at the end of March that any significant increase in Russian oil imports by India could expose New Delhi to a “great risk” as Washington prepares to step up enforcement of sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.


1 The plan as best I can guess was that having China agree not to ship weapons it had never been asked by Russia to send in the first place would still look like a big Biden win in DC at supposedly no cost to China. Plus any no to Russia, even a completely fabricated one, would set the stage for creating more daylight between China and Russia. China instead expressed its extreme displeasure at this bullshit rumor having been floated.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    Yves Smith: Your headnote is not a rant. Simon Watkins’s piece presents what are your underlying data.

    There are several things in play in the U.S. diplomacy (for many years): Provincialism, hybris, and incompetence. Recall that it is a truism that the U.S. Secretary of State no longer administers foreign policy. The president does so–right down to auctioning off the ambassadorships. I’d like to know which other country engages in that practice–certainly not China, India, or Japan

    The provincialism has a racial side: The U.S. elites, for all their protestations of fair-mindedness, know that the Indians and Chinese aren’t their kind of people (if you know what I mean…). At the same time, because the U.S. elites believe they are dealing with lesser life forms, they pull stunts like Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. What purpose does it serve to send a semi-addled legislator with limited experience of the world outside DC to China? Did Nancy suddenly become a scholar of East Asia? Does she want to visit her equally qualified pal, Rahm, in Tokyo?

    That leads to sending Daleep Singh to India. Heck, he talks their language, right?

    It’s a pattern, not a series of random aberrations.

    Practically? I voted Green in the last three presidential elections. I suggest that we all start thinking of how to deny our votes to the MonoParty in the Midterms now that it’s down to stumbling incompetence versus nihilism-lite.

    Meanwhile, another non-rant: Thanks for Clare Daly over in todays Links. Yves Smith’s headnote and Daly’s observations–peace matters, negotiations matter–mean that we are going to have to analyze the current situation from the bases that the elites don’t want peace, that they are badly educated incompetents, and that they cannot stop themselves from inducing further deterioration.

    1. Mikel

      Yves said in her opener: “And we expect them (China,India) to side with us?”

      Deserves some more unpacking. Why would the national security state establishment think they would side with US foreign policy?

      I’m going to venture that since so many are of the same elite schools and they see the students coming over from China and then they look at some of the changes in big US corporations with their Indian-American CEOs. From their bubble, they would think assimilation is going very well.

    2. Richard

      The admin sent Daleep Singh to reprimand India because he is Indian. The US had its ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar rebuke Amlo over Mexico’s friendly relations with Russia…because he’s Hispanic. That’s how they deal with US minorities. Works here; will work there. That’s how they “think.”

    3. jeff

      “I voted Green in the last three presidential elections. I suggest that we all start thinking of how to deny our votes to the MonoParty in the Midterms now that it’s down to stumbling incompetence versus nihilism-lite.”

      Agreed. These hobgoblins need to be all put out to pasture. If voters pulled their heads out of their backsides, they would see they have the ability to do that.

    4. Peerke

      Prof John Mearsheimer in the intro to one of his talks on YouTube said something along the lines that whenever he gives talks in China he breaks the ice by saying “it’s good to be back amongst my people”. This confirming your thesis. He being a realist.

      1. brigitte

        When John Measrsheimer made that remark I could very much identify with it while of Baltic migrant descent, born & living in Australia. I was ecstatic that he confirmed my logical realistic perspective regarding the Ukraine Russian conflict occurring, as till then hadn’t been much into global events. Just a logical innate realist. Then when I could properly access CGTN (Australia has limited it recently)so impressed with the quality of their panels views. Likewise for earlier WION Gravitas analysis. Personally from being a student in Uni to the present have found both Chinese and Indias’s people more comfortable to be with. While I’m not so naive to assume I’d be always as valued. I’m shocked by the hubris of the US, EU & AU in their rudeness, attitudes and pushiness towards countries like China, India, Russia as well as other Nations. Secondly it’s illogically counterproductive.

  2. Buckley

    India and China should have the decency to fall into line! I’ll forgive them but hell if I’ll forget!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It appears your comment is not meant to be ironic. If I am correct, it epitomizes the sort of provincialism and barely-veiled racism that DLG calls out above.

      Pray tell, do your taxes pay for the budgets of the Indian or Chinese governments (even under MMT principles….taxes still validate currency, so paying taxes is crucial to spending)? Since the answer is almost certainly “no,” why are you so arrogant as to think you have a right to contest what they do? Do you also try to dictate to people in your community how to run their lives?

      1. wilroncanada

        Forgive him, Yves. He’s William F back from the grave. That’s my cryptic comment.

  3. Sardonia

    US Administration officials, who are accustomed to dealing with a press corps full of lapdogs that roll over to have their bellies rubbed, seem genuinely perplexed when they don’t get the same response from foreign officials.

    So perplexed that the only reaction they’re capable of is to start beating these non-obedient dogs, assuming that will do the trick.

    This is apparently what happens when the press abandons its task of getting educated on the issues and the viewpoints outside their bubble. By failing to challenge Administration officials with serious, informed questions, Administration officials are completely unprepared to cope with views of those outside the bubble.

    1. Amateur Socialist

      Administration officials are completely unprepared to cope with views of those outside the bubble.

      Every time I’m flabbergasted by this administration’s cluelessness I am reminded that Biden has never been seriously challenged by a primary candidate in his entire career. The closest was probably Senator Sanders in 2020 which required a heavy dose of DNC intervention to suppress. Ah well, nevertheless…

      1. Synoia

        What bubble? All in DC know there is nothing of Importance outside Virginia and Maryland.

        Some must travel to the provinces, such as Texes, NY and California, but such trips are short, and the people so very provincial.

    2. Cat Burglar

      During the Cold War, when confronted with the non-aligned nations, the US policy choice was to overthrow the governments. The blob’s position on the Cold War is that the policy was overall the correct one (though often accompanied by a moral moment of lament over the tragic necessity of creating mass death and torture), so we should expect them to reach for their bonesaws soon. But what worked in 1965 might not work now.

  4. Thuto

    Hubris breeds incompetence, that’s why the US political elites will keep overplaying their hand and frittering away enormous political capital until a trimming of their (ideological) sails is forced upon them by a collective realization that the world has changed. Their ship is taking in water, and instead of a diplomatic distress signal calling for lifeboats, they issue threats. If these people are indeed as smart as the sycophants constantly fawning over them proclaim, the upper echelons of the US political class must surely be the greatest misallocation of intellectual capital in living memory.

    1. Anon

      The stock market is in charge. So long as number go up… and even when number go down, number go up, so it’s not a matter of intellect; the system is on autopilot and will not stop.

      That aside, who wants to be the guy who presides over the collapse of (being generous here) US foreign policy?

    2. wilroncanada

      But Thuto. So many of them are devout Christians, so when they encounter disagreement, they threaten, because they KNOW that they need no distress signal and no lifeboats. If the ship sinks, they can walk on water. God has made them superhuman.

  5. Hickory

    Agreed Yves, the incompetence is breathtaking. And their capacity to avoid nuclear conflict doesn’t seem impressive.

    On the flip side, I’m super impressed with the patience of Russia. For all I read about their corruption, like Craig Murrey’s recent piece about his experience, they prepared for this over many years, and they’re playing it very very cool despite major provocations – stealing 300B, sanctioning the President, explicit death threats from American leaders, sending tons of weapons to Ukraine significantly increasing their casualties and war costs and worsening the likely long term outcome (as Biden promised to do in the event of a war over the winter).

    Putin also seems the top dog among many cruel men who maintain massive wealth disparity and much suffering – but just in geopolitical terms, he seems very impressive, and this also speaks well of the people in lower positions of power.

    It’s funny the emotional growth I’ve had to go through. First there’s the “Our leaders are the good guys” phase, then “Our leaders are not the good guys” then “there aren’t any good-guy leaders”. Accepting that is a bitter pill, but it’s still useful to watch and learn lessons.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Just so you know, the claim that Putin has enriched himself unduly is based entirely on the undocumented assertions of Bill Browder (see more on him via a recent piece by Lucy Komisar: Even though his name was brought up in the Panama Papers, it was all Putin “associates,” never him or family members. So that charge is not proven.

      As for corruption in Russia, Putin tamped that down a great deal (from an admittedly rampant level in the 1990s, so who knows where it stands now) with him reining in what are now mistakenly still called oligarchs. They are now billionaires who aren’t allowed to meddle in politics, that was the deal. The reason Putin has remained in power so long is he ended the horrific economic disaster of the 1990s (see the embedded chapter from Death of a Nation at the end of this post to get how desperately bad it was), reduced income disparity, increased lifespans, and helped build a Russian middle class. Hardly anyone can pull a company out of a ditch. How about an entire country? This is a singular accomplishment no one in the West can stand to admit to.

      IMHO the issue in assessing Putin is not so much possible personal corruption (which is often a function of cultural baselines) but the use of ruthless methods in Russia, at least some of which are true. His government has tamped down on journalists who were too critical (at least one is widely believed to have been murdered). Note this is prior to the war; Russia was actually about a week tardy in closing down access to Western social media and having its TV go into heavy propaganda mode, with a big focus on debunking Ukraine propaganda stills and videos.

      I had a friend who started up Dunn & Bradstreet in Moscow ~ 1993. She joked that her business was selling information in a country where everyone wanted to keep secrets. She also said at the time that she was the only person who sued a Russian oil company, won in court, collected the money, and lived to tell the tale. My assumption is business now is somewhat less sanguinary than back then.

      As Scott Ritter has repeatedly pointed out, the sanctions against Russia were the best gift the West could have given Putin via eliminating political problems. One was the billionaires who still have to be considered if nothing else because they control substantial enterprises. The second was the about 20% of Russia that is middle class, likes to go to the West on vacation and buy Western goods. That 20% would go into revolt if Putin had divorced the West, and combined with the billionaires plus existing opposition, like the Moscow intelligensia, Putin could have had a very rocky time.

      But the West divorcing Russia has pushed even most of the middle class to backing Putin when before they were apolitical unless they though their interests were crossed. And the billionaires have to do what is best for Russia, they can no longer take their money and run.

      1. truly

        That Komisar link is good. I watched ‘The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes’ a few years ago and now see The Magnitsky Act and Bill Browder as one of the greatest hoaxes pulled on the American people. My clients all were reading his book (Red Letter?) and oohing and aahing over it. Loving Bill and hating Russia. What an amazing hoax and work of propaganda.

  6. Oh

    I suspect that the US is working furiously to “turn” Modi regarding India’s relations with Russia. First it tried threats, next will be more pressure and cut off of H1-B and business visas. In the meantime behind the scenes, Our 3 alphabet boys are busy with bribes. Sadly for India, I wouldn’t be surprised if Modi relents. Modi will find a way to justify his 180.

    1. RobertC

      Oh — cut off of H1-B

      Unlikely to happen but fun to watch if it does as US salaries and benefits rise in response to skill shortages and loss of wage competition.

  7. Vikas

    As the Indians have pointed out, even with the ramp up in purchases of Russian fuels, the biggest purchasers by far will continue to be in the EU. So this is a campaign to spread to pain and suffering of the Ukraine war to everyone else. That seems to be the price of the entry ticket into alliances with the USA.

    If we all survive, this will be a textbook case study for future historians on “How to lose an empire even faster” through arrogance and incompetence.

  8. SocalJimObjects

    I am thinking, at most Pelosi and her immediate family will be banned from visiting China. More dramatic measures like what Yves mentions in the article probably can not happen as long as Xi’s daughter is still in Harvard.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t see how that ban can be made effective with respect to Taiwan. Although on further reflection, Pelosi or any other current US officials violating a ban like that could serve as the pretext for action.

      Xi’s only daughter graduated from Harvard years ago and is now living in Beijing, so she’s not in the picture.

      1. SocalJimObjects

        Re: Xi’s daughter. That’s what I thought as well, but quoting from (the article is from February 22nd, 2022)

        “Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler last week revealed that Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping’s (習近平) daughter is currently studying in the U.S.

        On Feb. 16, Hartzler issued a press release that introduced the Protecting Higher Education from the Chinese Communist Party Act, a bill designed to ban members of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and their relatives from obtaining student or research visas. Hartzler asserted that “While the CCP commits genocide and other atrocities, they continue to send their children to the United States to receive a world-class education. This must be stopped.”

        Apparently Xi’s daughter came back to the US for her Master’s Degree sometime in 2019.

        If Xi’s daughter is really at Harvard then “those who sent their cubs to the tiger’s den deserve everything that follows”.

          1. Bakes

            What’s even more than that, given the current world situation, I would expect XI and other world leaders to re-evaluate their family’s travel/residency status. We may soon find ourselves here in the USA to be a pariah nation.

    1. Hayek's Heelbiter

      O tempore O mores! I am afraid with the insidious pernicious influence of social media, morals will never improve. Although it does seem to somewhat improve Gen-Z morale. :)

  9. David

    When all you have is a hammer, and thus when every problem looks like it can be solved by driving a nail in, all you can do is drive the nail in harder. You don’t know how to do anything else.

    For a long time, agile small nations have managed to get what they want from the US by subtle manoeuvring, whilst still letting the American believe they have won. What’s changed now is that some of the larger states are not even pretending any more. You see here the difference between countries who make their own national policies by discussion and consensus building, and the US where, from my experience, policy-making consists of different factions hitting each other over the head with iron bars until only one is left standing.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      It raises the question though – is it now significantly worse than before?

      In my naivety, I thought that when Biden came in it would mean at least some vague level of competence would return to most elements of foreign policy, even if the strategy itself wouldn’t change. But it seems to me that they are even worse than with Trump. How difficult really would it be to anticipate that a country like India would not be readily bullied or would fall in line? Do they really not realise how badly AUKUS went down in many capitals across Asia? Did they not realize that the Gulf States might think that very high oil prices might just be a good thing and that they aren’t afraid of the US anymore? And surely even the dimmest intern would know that trying to bully China into anything would backfire.

      It really is mindboggling, and surely the basic level of incompetence is being quietly discussed with concern behind closed doors in dozens of capitals around the world.

      1. Bakes

        It was not naivety, it was hope. Biden was quite old, but that by itself is not a crime. I had every expectation that the new administration would want to distance and contrast itself against the prior one. I expected “grownups” to correct course for our nation.

        But it seems the “Deep State” that so many Trump and other conspiracy adherents theorized may actually have some basis in fact. I do not look good in tinfoil headpieces, however it seems there is a bureaucratic inertia to our government policies.

  10. Carolinian

    Thanks. I’d say we Americans have always lived in a bubble and know almost nothing about the rest of the world. But in the past that didn’t apply so much to our politicians and bureaucrats. Former CIA employee Ray McGovern wrote a recent column about how highly trained he was on the subject of Russia and how current policy makers seem to know almost nothing. Obama might be the poster child for those who have credentialed their way to the top in a quest, not so much for great accomplishments, as self aggrandizement. His narcissism is impenetrable. And there’s a lot of that going around. Somewhere along the way our elites became deeply unserious.

    One is tempted to rant but it all seems rather hopeless. Events will have to do the talking for us.

    1. RobertC

      Time in office

      Antony Blinken: 1 year, speaks French

      Sergey Lavrov: 18 years, speaks English and French

      Wang Ji: 9 years, speaks English and Japanese

      Ned Price: 1 year, Masters from Harvard

      Maria Zakharova: 7 years, probably speaks some Chinese, PhD in Historical Sciences

  11. Darius

    Blinken is emblematic of the wretched mediocrity that characterizes Biden and the people with whom he surrounds himself. On reflection about the March 2021 meeting in Alaska, it occurred to me that Blinken wanted to show he could be as tough as his unhinged predecessor, Mike Pompeo. “I’m a tough guy, too, ya know!”

    I was disappointed to see the US hand apparently at work successfully in the fall of Imran Khan in Pakistan. One week a State Department assistant secretary tells the Pakistan ambassador that relations won’t improve until Khan is replaced. The next week, 30 of the members of his own party switch votes and abandon him in a vote of confidence. I imagine India was watching that. I doubt they came away thinking they should knuckle under to Uncle Sam, but rather the opposite. Perhaps Pakistan is a bite-size morsel vulnerable to US meddling, but India is too big and powerful. And now, suddenly, after Modi has been in power for years with US support, it learns about human rights abuses in India. Crocodile tears.

  12. The Rev Kev

    At heart I blame the Bush years for all this. America was at their high-tide mark and it looked like that nobody could resist it. But how that played out in the Bush years was that diplomacy was put on the back-burner in favour of the Pentagon. You would have military groups, for example, being placed in Embassies and the Ambassador themself would have no idea who they were or what they were up to. But it got worse. Under Bush, there was a massive push to militarize any organization that they could so finance was militarized and NGOs were militarized but what was worse, the State Department was militarized as well. That was the philosophy at the time and when I read about it back then, saw how this could seriously cripple the State Department going forward. So now we are seeing these crude attacks on countries like India with no deep bench of professional diplomats on the State Department nixing idiotic ideas like this.

    1. Offtrail

      I love my country, but you are being too generous. American Exceptionalism has always been the rule here. The first Bush just happened to come to power when the USSR fell and for the first time it appeared that we faced no external constraints. It’s completely predictable that we are getting pushback from around the world. My hope is that the US can shed it’s delusions by economic shocks rather than the loss of a bad war.

      1. Adams

        “…the US can shed it’s delusions….” Not a chance! Chris Hedges calls out the neo-con, American exceptionalist, cold warrior shape shifters by name who are ideologically committed and will not be deterred by something as ephemeral as economic shocks. Let the world starve and freeze, might makes right!

        Chapter and verse on US military adventurism and subversion of sovereign governments over the past 25 years or so; Chris Hedges describes, from his personal experience, the devastation of US Foreign Policy.

        Of course, as pointed out above, arrogance and impunity have driven US FP for much longer. It’s in our blood.

    2. lance ringquist

      we have always had problems with the treatment of other nations. but this was the reason that we have the world we do today.

      yugoslavia, the war that changed the world. to understand why north korea developed nuclear weapons, is to understand the lessons from the illegal fascist war on yugoslavia: The Yugoslav war showed us that we need to defend ourselves. We learned from the US that the US has no justice, no fairness. The US respects only power. So the DPRK developed nuclear weapons to have power.

  13. Joe Well

    Re: American foreign policy elites, has anyone here ever talked with people from that world and what has been your experience?

    A couple of months ago (before the invasion) I was talking with a very nice person who was deeply embedded in the world of US international NGOs–not a higher up, he was getting out of it for a career change, but he had made a nice living for about ten years doing good and spreading democracy in the Middle East.

    He was adamant that the US should confront Russia militarily or they would not stop at Ukraine but steamroll over all their neighbors, and as an aside that Russia would use Chernobyl as a kind of giant dirty bomb to cause damage to Ukraine and Europe. When I pointed out that the fallout would literally reach Moscow before it did Berlin (as it did the first time), he said in almost so many words (I wish I had written it down) that that is just how crazy the Russians are, which they had proven with their atrocities in Syria.

    I stopped him and basically threw every objection I had at him. I said that the US had committed so many war crimes, above all the 5 million killed during the Vietnam War but many before and since, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, and complicity in the Saudi bombing of Yemen, and the fact that our nearest neighbors (Latin America) consistently reject these interventions despite all the incentives for them to support them, that most of the rest of the world is at best deeply skeptical as well, in short, that it seemed insane to believe that the US defense/foreign policy complex could possibly accomplish any good by intervening in Ukraine. I may have even used the word “arrogance.”

    He actually nodded in agreement but said, in effect, that this time was different.

    1. David

      My direct experience is a bit out of date now, but I think it’s perhaps a combination of three things. Firstly, US diplomats (and government officials generally) are as capable as any others, and often well-informed about the countries they work in and with. The problem is the higher levels, which are completely politicised, and full of people of moderate ability and unlimited ego. Second, the system is unbelievably large and complex, and speaks largely to itself. Somebody once said to me that there are as many desk officers in the Pentagon dealing with Africa as there are in the entirety of the Defence Ministry of a typical African state. The same is probably true in other contexts. So most US officials spend all day, every day, battling each other, and working in a system which is itself part of an enormous complex of political parties, media, NGOs, foundations etc, whose members rotate in and out of government. Third, and as a result, the opinions of other countries, and even the reality on the ground, gets pushed aside, or over looked entirely. As I used to say, for Washington, the rest of the world is just one lobby group among others.

    2. The Vole

      >that is just how crazy the Russians are …
      >I stopped him and basically threw every objection I had at him
      Why object and not roll with it …

      “If you mean V. Putin, which other state leaders would you consider ‘just that crazy’? How about the Iranian Mullahs? Are they equally crazy? Between then, who is more crazy? Anybody else in their class? How about say the Donald-Dotard? Is he at least 80% as crazy? Where is Kim Jong-un in the ordering? How about Paul ‘my siblings hate me’ Gosar? Assad pere ou fils? Omar al-Bashir?”

  14. Sudhir

    There are several things that prevent India from readily falling in line with U.S. dictat.

    For one, historically, the U.S. has not been a friend of India (they were allied with Pakistan). So appeals on moral grounds (democracy, etc.) fall on deaf ears – everyone in India remembers all too clearly that it was the military dictatorship in Pakistan that was preferred in the past. Similarly, Modi has personal experience of being sanctioned by the U.S. before he was Prime Minister on account of the riots in Gujarat where he was the Chief Minister at the time.

    Secondly, the Indian economy is largely decoupled from the financial infrastructure of the West. That is to say, the excessive financialization of the economy visible in the U.S. and U.K. is largely absent in India (supposedly one reason why India was not hit too badly in 2008). Other than oil imports, India does not have a great dependence on the rest of the world in terms of essential goods.

    Thirdly, India is one of the largest back-office providers (out sourcers) to western companies. Although this is in no way comparable to the manufacturing dependence that the West has on China, it does make it difficult for India to be sanctioned.

    Given the strong nationalist bent of the current ruling party in India, trying to browbeat them into submission is probably a losing proposition.

  15. KD

    It is pretty clear from responses that non-US/non-EU countries see this as a purely regional issue in Europe (because it is), and have no interest in sticking their necks out to take “sides,” especially because there is no clarity on who the long-term winner will be. The US, being the center of the Universe and worked up, doesn’t seem to grasp why everyone else doesn’t acknowledge that the US IS the center of the Universe, and isn’t worked up as well.

    I’m just waiting CNBC to report that an anonymous source from the Pentagon has indicated it is not in America’s long-term interest to start a thermonuclear war just so the twitterati can feel virtuous to themselves tweeting about nuking the Russians for the 20 minutes or so that the world would have remaining.

  16. juno mas

    RE: Arrogance and Impotence

    In the not so distant future the disengaged American public will feel the economic and political impact of their “leaders”. Their smooth highways will become forever potholed, their Mc Mansions un-heatable at any price, their diet and health diminished substantially, their reality TeeVee now real life.

    This could get ugly.

  17. Ben dalton

    Something not mentioned by Simon Watkins is what Trump did between 2017-2020 in the foreign policy realm. IIRC, the major stuff Trump did was:
    1. NATO: Told NATO to pay their fair share of the military budget, and threatened to pull out US forces ut of Europe if they didn’t.
    2. Quad: Made the Quad a somewhat serious affair by holding a summit meeting, and expanding the areas of cooperation. It wasn’t moving forward very fast, because all Quad nations had (and still have) economic dependence on China. But there was still some progress.
    3. Russia, Trump did sanction Russia quite a bit, including Nordstream 2. And there was the INF treaty withdrawal. But a lot of it was just posturing.
    4. China: Tariffs, Sanctions, Huawei arrests. South China Sea saber-rattling. Overall I would say this was the part Trump did with the most serious intent.
    5. Middle East: Iraq & Afghanistan withdrawals (though hobbled by the brass and the Deep state). Tore up JCPOA with Iran. With the Abraham accords, tried to engineer a rapprochement between the Saudis, UAE and Israel.

    Overall, though Trump seemed to be all over the place (like in pretty much everything), it seems he wanted to pick a fight with only one guy at a time: USA will fight China + Iran as the axis of evil, with the Arab States on the US’s side, and Russia + India being maintained as neutral (as much as possible). Oh, and Europe’s on it’s own. It was a crazy idea to pick a fight with anyone, to just enrich the MIC. But Biden admin’s foreign policy is even nuttier by comparison. Even Mexico won’t join in the sanctions. Hell, Israel hasn’t sanctioned Russia.

    I find that Biden is a perfect embodiment of US establishment — senile, nutty, and so demented that he sometimes thinks it’s still 1963, and that he is 30 years old.

    1. RobertC

      Shortly after his inauguration Trump withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

      …The TPP is the 12-nation trade deal that included the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. [China was excluded and India declined]

      …Economic analysis of the effects of the TPP show it would have contributed positively to U.S. economic growth, and it could have also enhanced American influence in Asia and in the world by reassuring allies and rivals that the United States is a multi-dimensional resident power.

      China immediately moved forward with the moribund Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

      The 15 member countries [Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam] account for about 30% of the world’s population (2.2 billion people) and 30% of global GDP ($29.7 trillion), making it the largest trade bloc in history. Signed in November 2020, RCEP is the first free trade agreement among the largest economies in Asia, including China, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea.

      India, which took part in the initial negotiations but later decided to opt out, was invited to join the bloc at any time.

      After Trump withdrew from the TPP Japan picked through the rubble to evolve the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Current applicants are UK, China, Ecuador, and Taiwan. Potential applicants are Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand.

      Any Indian move in the RCEP and CPTPP direction will be indicative.

      BTW India’s membership in the Quad has frustrated the other members’ attempt to militarize it.

  18. Altandmain

    Many years ago, Eamonn Fingleton argued that the US decline was not in many ways similar to that of the Ottoman Empire.

    Rising nationalism would be another cause. The Indians and Chinese are more nationalistic than before, a legacy of colonialism, and in the case of China, the Century of Humiliation.

    Economic historian Paul Bairoch once argued that the liberal trade policies of the Ottoman empire contributed to the de-industrialization of the Ottoman economy. Perhaps in another parallel, their rivalry with the Russian Empire also weakened the Ottoman Empire.

    Another contribution was the decline in quality of the Ottoman military, which led to some defeats and ultimately led to the Ottoman Classical Army being dismantled and major reforms.

    Of course, history never is completely a perfect analogy. But the parallels are interesting, if not incredibly alarming.

    The American ruling class, like the Ottoman ruling class, is out of touch with reality. India and China have competing economic and geopolitical interests. Trying to strong-arm them isn’t going to work. Ironically it will serve to merely alienate the Indians even more, at a time when the US was hoping to court them against China, and may result in a war with China.

    China knows as well that the US is going to target them next. The US wants to keep its hegemony, hence the Chinese know it is in their interest to make friends with Russia. They also are aware that they are making relative gains compared to the US.

    India meanwhile, may very well adopt a much more hostile stance towards the US, a self inflicted disaster.

    It may be difficult for the ruling class to realize this, but the US, like the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, is a rapidly declining power. Ironically the actions of the ruling class are likely to accelerate this decline.

    1. KD

      Am I missing something, when was the Ottoman Empire “industrialized”? Were they the #1 exporter of finished industrial goods in 1864 and then gave it all up by 1922?

      1. Ben dalton

        I don’t have any info on the Ottoman Empire’s exports or manufacturing. But “Manufacturing” prior to 20th century would have mainly consisted of Textiles, Glassware, Metalware and Leather goods. A big enough artisanal class can produce these at large quantities, even without being “industrialized” like the mills of Manchester.

  19. RobertC

    From a few weeks ago Opinion | The Chinese Threat No One Is Talking About — And How to Counter It Washington’s big bet on New Delhi as its ideal military partner in Asia seems to be faltering. Luckily, there are ways to get the relationship back on track. by Sameer Lalwani, a senior fellow for Asia strategy at the Stimson Center and a nonresident fellow with the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University.

    Sameer’s analysis is laughingly unrealistic but probably represents much of the Biden administration’s thinking. Some quotes (hint: it’s India’s fault):

    …Yet what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a decade ago called a “strategic bet” on India does not seem to be paying off. Indian naval and political power in the Indian Ocean region is faltering, giving way to influence by Beijing. Many of these problems are of India’s own making.

    …Ultimately, it’s New Delhi that will need to make the most significant course corrections.

    …For over two decades, Washington has been enamored with the idea that India, at one point exceeding 8 percent economic growth annually, would become a military powerhouse that could “frustrate China’s hegemonic ambitions.” The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy released in February counts on India to be “a net security provider,” just as previous administrations officially banked on the Indian Navy taking a “leading role in maintaining Indian Ocean security.”

    …But India’s ability to play this role is in serious doubt. … As India’s navy slides in the opposite direction of China’s, it doesn’t help that India’s political influence in its neighborhood has also wobbled. Within a decade, India may not even be able to protect its own backyard against Chinese military coercion at sea just as on land.

    …Where did Washington’s bet on India go wrong? First, it’s important to acknowledge that India itself bears significant responsibility. An economic slowdown that began years before the global pandemic constrained Indian investments in its navy. India has longstanding, well-documented problems of anemic defense budgets, excessive personnel costs and dysfunctional procurement processes.

    …Unlike many U.S. allies, India is a developing country. It needs to procure guns but also produce butter for its 1.4 billion constituents. … India may prefer to build weapons systems at home — sometimes with French, Israeli and even Russian partners — that create local jobs rather than import expensive ones from abroad (just as U.S. lawmakers like to get defense contracts for their home districts).

    …To prevent strategic surprise in the Indian Ocean a decade from now, the U.S. needs a new Indian Ocean strategy and a refined approach to India. Denying China’s military expansion is not an option, but a more robust U.S.-India partnership in the Indian Ocean — and a stable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific — is.

  20. RobertC

    Yves headnote —

    As an aside, if I am China, I do not want that Pelosi visit to occur, since it is de facto recognition of Taiwan. Could China stop it with a pre-emptive air strike, talking out all of Taiwan’s air traffic control and putting nice big holes in all the runways international planes use? Is it possible for China to jam air traffic control in Taiwan and the handoff towers next out on her route? Or would Chinese planes dare to dog Pelosi’s and prevent it from landing as planned?

    Even Biden understood the implications of Pelosi’s visit and cancelled it. But if she did visit, there are three transit paths:

    1. Diplomatic and military aircraft (89th Airlift Wing)
    2. Private (leased) aircraft
    3. Commercial (Common Carrier) aircraft

    Paths 1 and 2 require prior Diplomatic Clearance, which would be forthcoming from Taiwan but maybe not from China. Failure to obtain the Diplomatic Clearance would likely initiate a public formal protest by China, perhaps accompanied by a private warning on “flight safety” interference unless Pelosi visited the mainland first. A “flight safety” example would be CG aircraft reporting “We see smoke coming from the port engine — proceed to Xiamen immediately.” with failure to do so leading to “guidance” from PLAAF aircraft. Neither the US nor China want another EP-3 event so Pelosi’s trip won’t happen except on Chinese terms.

    Path 3 would be blocked by a quiet word from China to the carrier about enhanced inspections, paperwork delays, etc etc. We already know the answer on this one — the carrier will find some reason to decline Pelosi’s custom unless the flight included a stop at the mainland before continuing to Taiwan.

    1. NN Cassandra

      In 2020, president of the Czech Senate flew to Taiwan and back on official visit. China complained very loudly, but didn’t stop it, so I’m not sure it’s that easy to somehow divert such flights.

      1. RobertC

        NN — two points

        1. official visit — was Diplomatic Clearance obtained beforehand?

        2. The Czech Republic does not have the Taiwan Relations Act nor does it recognize Taiwan.

        This is a complex and difficult topic.

        1. NN Cassandra

          You mean clearance from China? As I said, China complained very loudly about that trip, they claimed they will sanction everyone who was on that trip from ever going to China proper, etc., so if there was some tacit understanding, it must have been unofficial. It was also said the airliner avoided China airspace although normally it flies over China from Europe (but no explanation why exactly they took such path was given).

          1. RobertC

            NN — an airliner flight would be on my Path 3 Common Carrier so usually no prior Diplomatic Clearance required, especially since official visit covers a broad range of state interests.

            The Czech Republic and Taiwan don’t appear to have any investments with each other so perhaps the president was just officially searching for business opportunities.

            On the other hand It was also said the airliner avoided China airspace although normally it flies over China from Europe

            That’s an interesting self-diversion.

            Super story. Thanks. Did I mention this was a complex topic?

  21. Ed Miller

    American Woman – Yves, thanks for today’s laugh. Perfect!

    I had forgotten the lyrics, not having heard it for years, so I started to play it.

  22. William Verick

    I keep wondering when someone is going to make a point of how counterproductive America’s Wolf Warrior diplomacy is.

  23. ChrisRUEcon

    #TFW (That Feeling When) …

    … you’ve poked The Bear which got Russia v Ukraine war started, with energy, wheat and fertilizer market shock to follow. So what do you do for a follow-up?

    Start Poking The Dragon & The Tiger…

    … now that … is a special kind of stupid.

  24. everydayjoe

    We moved into our new house in a midwestern suburb. Our friendly neighbor was a IT professional from Iran who was living for decades in the US my Father in law;s words the first time he sees him ” you Iranians should watch your selves and behave” This sort of mind set permeates to the very top of the leadership. Simplistic good vs bad mentality. Biden telling India “it is not in your best interests to buy Russian oil”! Indians are proud people..and some old white guy deciding he knows better reeks of colonial mind set.

  25. Reaville

    Seventy generally insightful comments about…a game. While diplomacy and geopolitics are important, the “USA, USA” team vs the “Russia/China” team, vs the “rest of the world” team framing is mostly about denying the dying days of our present energy model. Oil underlies all of this. In effect, the bulk of the diplomatic discussion is about saving/extending the fossil fuel business model.

    Reality check: Oil is killing us. Quite ironic if we go to war to preserve the thing that is killing us.

    Good thing John Kerry is heading up a crack diplomatic effort to spearhead the global climate crisis response. Glad to see that global media tracks his every move. Gratified that media won’t let the spotlight stray to “some damn thing in the Balkans (near enough)”. /s

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