If you’re wondering why the Chrysostom of American diplomacy tells us like clockwork that Russia (and no one else) can have any spheres of influence, then this question has an answer. More precisely, two similar answers by two respected American analysts. And these answers are very unpleasant for those who harbor illusions about US global domination.
In short, the point is that the problems, moreover, of a systemic and global nature, belong to the United States, and not to Russia. And all these “no spheres of influence” spells are rather empty and useless attempts to divert the public’s eyes from the actually catastrophic reduction of American spheres of influence. That is, the plot with the long negotiations between Moscow and Washington about our red lines just beginning before NATO spreads, first to Eastern Europe, then to Ukraine or Georgia, is bad for the Americans, not even because Moscow’s sphere of influence will be revealed, but because such a sphere will be clearly reduced for United States, and at a very inopportune moment. If moments like this are appropriate at all.
“Knowing When to Stop”: This is the title of an article by Andrew Bacevich in The American Conservative. It reminds us that spheres of influence are generally a “part of the DNA” of American diplomacy; for example, it perfectly recognized them in the era of confrontation with the Soviet bloc. The problem arose later, towards the end of the 90s, when the United States really made such a sphere of influence, if not the whole world, then those parts of it that they wanted. The Middle East, part of Africa, part of Asia, not to mention the very movement of NATO to the east. And in each such area, a regional command was created, headed by a four-star general.
This is where it began: ten years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States does not recognize any spheres of influence in anyone, this is official. Her faithful student and colleague, today’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, is now repeating the same thing for her.
But the problem for any imperialist power is that it needs to be able to stop in time and start “consolidating” its acquisitions, Batsevich says. And he gives an example of how the United States did not stop in time. This is the Middle East, which after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, almost entirely turned out to be an American sphere of influence, but everything ended – right now – very badly.
And why, exactly, ended badly? Here a person even more famous than Batsevich enters the conversation: Hal Brands, a relatively young realist of the school of Henry Kissinger (although, according to his biography, of course, not Kissinger), who thinks coldly and mercilessly. And his article in the journal Foreign Affairs is called in a way that is difficult to translate: a superpower that… outstretched. Stretched? No, it’s better to play. That is – see above – I could not stop in time.
Brands thinks purely arithmetically. He recalls that immediately after the end of the Cold War, the military doctrine (and military capabilities) of the United States assumed the conduct of two major wars in different regions at the same time. But cuts in the military budget in 2011 and 2013 shrunk the “two wars” doctrine to “one and a half”. The idea was that a superpower should be able to fight one big war and effectively deter the enemy on some other front. Further – worse, today we are, in fact, talking about only one war – which you need to be able to theoretically win against a strategic competitor.
By the way, about this competitor. The world has changed not only because Russian military power, especially given its technological sophistication, has recovered to a serious level.
After all, China, and not Russia, is considered its competitor to the United States first of all.
The PRC is equal to the US in terms of economic size (although it falls short in terms of military power). And here is the news of these days, which came after Brands wrote his article (otherwise he would not have missed it): China in 2021 managed to give economic growth a record 8.1% of GDP. Of course, it will slow down further, including intentionally (it is necessary to cool the heated systems), but even the psychological effect is obvious.
In fact, what President Joe Biden is doing in foreign policy is the forced curtailment of American spheres of influence. More precisely, the obligations and ambitions of the United States, for the maintenance of which there are no proper military resources. It is clear that this retreat will not take place without a fight, and they will not give up an extra inch of another sphere just like that (which we observe, for example, in the form of verbiage in the course of negotiations between Russia and the United States).
Otherwise, without eruptions, it is impossible. If only because “the loss of diplomatic influence in situations on the brink of war” begins: this is again from Brands’ article. For example, long-standing and persistent attempts by all US administrations to shift European security to the Europeans are causing wild hysteria in the Old World. Although it’s just about the possible departure or pacification of politicians who are too accustomed to verbal impunity under the umbrella of those same American “obligations” to the allies.
As a faithful disciple of Kissinger, Brands sees the meaning of the entire negotiating marathon with Russia in the “neutralization” of Russia, and at the same time in the US avoiding an excessive burden of obligations in other areas. And all this in order to concentrate the remaining military and other resources of the overplayed superpower on confronting China alone.
That is, one way or another, we will have to make a deal with Moscow. If at the same time it is necessary to recognize Russian rights to spheres of influence, then it is only important not to say such words out loud in order to save face.
One can imagine some kind of diplomatic speech by an American figure in the year 2030 that way: the United States believes that spheres of influence are a thing of the past.
American spheres, perhaps, by that time will have gone into the past – if not all, then many.