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Ukraine and the powerful resurgence of US empire

by Andrew Bacewich
"NATO is not what it claims to be," reads the headline. Contrary to the claims of its architects and defenders, the alliance's primary purpose since its inception has not been to deter aggression from the East, much less to promote democracy, but to "bind Western Europe to a much broader project of a world order led by the United States."
Ukraine and the powerful resurgence of U.S. empire

by Andrew Bacewich

[This article posted on 7/18/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.telepolis.de/features/Die-Ukraine-und-das-maechtige-Wiederaufleben-des-US-Imperiums-9218681.html?seite=all.]

U.S. President Joe Biden meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj at the Mariinsky Palace, Feb. 20, 2023.

The fate of Kiev has always been a secondary issue. The real goal is the revival of NATO and US supremacy. What Europeans should do now.

Amid the word trash that floods the opinion page of The New York Times most days, a glimmer of enlightened rationality occasionally shines through. A recent guest column by Grey Anderson and Thomas Meaney is a good example.

Andrew Bacevich is president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

"NATO is not what it claims to be," reads the headline. Contrary to the claims of its architects and defenders, as Anderson and Meaney persuasively argue, the alliance's primary purpose since its inception has not been to deter aggression from the East, much less to promote democracy, but to "bind Western Europe to a much broader project of a world order led by the United States."

In return for Cold War security guarantees, European allies offered the United States subservience and concessions on issues such as trade and monetary policy. "In this task," the Times authors write, "NATO has proved remarkably successful."

Europe, a piece of real estate particularly prized by members of the American elite, thus became the centerpiece of the postwar U.S. empire.

With the end of the Cold War, these arrangements were called into question. In a desperate bid to preserve NATO's viability, its proponents claimed that the alliance must "either expand the area of operations or close up store."

NATO adopted an actionist posture, resulting in reckless interventions in Libya and Afghanistan to reshape states. The results were not good.

Giving in to U.S. pressure and operating outside of NATO proved costly and served primarily to undermine NATO's credibility as a military enterprise and its capability.

Then Vladimir Putin came along to save the sinking ship from sinking. Just as Russia's invasion of Ukraine provided the United States with a pretext to forget its own post-9/11 military failures, it enabled NATO to reestablish itself as the principal instrument of the West's defense - and, crucially, to do so without U.S. or European bloodshed.

In this context, the fate of Ukraine itself plays only a minor role. What is really at stake is the revival of damaged American supremacy in the world.

The U.S. national security establishment is almost unanimous in arguing that the United States must remain the world's sole superpower, even if that means ignoring the abundant evidence of the emergence of a multipolar order. In this regard, Putin's ruthlessness was a gift that came at just the right time.

There is literally an ingenious mechanism at work. Defeating Russia without actually having to fight becomes a means of restoring the image of U.S. indispensability that was squandered in the decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Put NATO entirely in the hands of the Europeans

For Washington, as Anderson and Meaney point out, the stakes in Ukraine go far beyond the question of whose flag flies over Crimea. If Ukraine "wins" its war with Russia-however the term "wins" is defined and however high a price the Ukrainians may have to pay for it-Nato itself (and the NATO lobby in Washington) will claim credit.

Rest assured that the major European states will then quietly renege on their promises to increase military spending, so that the real responsibility for European security will once again rest with the United States. With the hundredth anniversary of World War II now within reach, U.S. troops will remain permanently stationed in Europe. This will be cause for celebration for the entire U.S. military-industrial complex, as it will flourish.

By flexing its muscles, the United States will inevitably lead a greatly expanded NATO to turn its attention to enforcing the "rules-based international order" in the Asia-Pacific, with China as the chosen adversary.

In this regard, Ukraine will serve as a kind of prime example of how the United States and its allies are throwing their weight around many thousands of miles from Europe.

The U.S. global military footprint will expand. U.S. efforts to address problems at home will fail. Pressing global issues like the climate crisis will be treated as minor concerns. But the empire that has no name will endure, and that is ultimately the point of the enterprise.

President Biden likes to say that the world is at a "tipping point," which means we need to change direction. But the overarching theme of his foreign policy approach is gridlock. He adheres to the geopolitical logic that led to the creation of NATO in 1949.

At the time, when Europe was weak and Stalin ruled the Soviet Union, that logic may well have had merit. Today, however, the importance attached to NATO testifies primarily to the bankruptcy of American strategic thinking and to the inability to prioritize the actual national interests of the United States, both abroad and at home.

A sensible revision of U.S. national security strategy would begin by announcing a timetable for withdrawal from NATO and transforming it into an organization controlled entirely by Europe. That it is almost impossible to even imagine such a move by the U.S. is a testament to the lack of imagination that prevails in Washington.


Andrew Bacevich is president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and writes regularly for TomDispatch. His new book, co-edited with Danny Sjursen, is called Paths of Dissent: Soldiers Speak Out Against America's Misguided Wars. His new book is called "On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century."
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