MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

America’s real adversaries are its European and other allies: The U.S. aim is to keep them from trading with China and Russia

Posted by M. C. on February 8, 2022

The success of China’s industrial policy with a mixed economy and state control of the monetary and credit system has led U.S. strategists to fear that Western European and Asian economies may find their advantage to lie in integrating more closely with China and Russia. The U.S. seems to have no response to such a global rapprochement with China and Russia except economic sanctions and military belligerence

By Michael Hudson

The Iron Curtain of the 1940s and ‘50s was ostensibly designed to isolate Russia from Western Europe – to keep out Communist ideology and military penetration. Today’s sanctions regime is aimed inward, to prevent America’s NATO and other Western allies from opening up more trade and investment with Russia and China. The aim is not so much to isolate Russia and China as to hold these allies firmly within America’s own economic orbit. Allies are to forego the benefits of importing Russian gas and Chinese products, buying much higher-priced U.S. LNG and other exports, capped by more U.S. arms.

The sanctions that U.S. diplomats are insisting that their allies impose against trade with Russia and China are aimed ostensibly at deterring a military buildup. But such a buildup cannot really be the main Russian and Chinese concern. They have much more to gain by offering mutual economic benefits to the West. So the underlying question is whether Europe will find its advantage in replacing U.S. exports with Russian and Chinese supplies and the associated mutual economic linkages.

What worries American diplomats is that Germany, other NATO nations and countries along the Belt and Road route understand the gains that can be made by opening up peaceful trade and investment. If there is no Russian or Chinese plan to invade or bomb them, what is the need for NATO? What is the need for such heavy purchases of U.S. military hardware by America’s affluent allies? And if there is no inherently adversarial relationship, why do foreign countries need to sacrifice their own trade and financial interests by relying exclusively on U.S. exporters and investors?

These are the concerns that have prompted French Prime Minister Macron to call forth the ghost of Charles de Gaulle and urge Europe to turn away from what he calls NATO’s “brain-dead” Cold War and beak with the pro-U.S. trade arrangements that are imposing rising costs on Europe while denying it potential gains from trade with Eurasia. Even Germany is balking at demands that it freeze by this coming March by going without Russian gas.

Instead of a real military threat from Russia and China, the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat. All countries have come to realize that the world has reached a point at which no industrial economy has the manpower and political ability to mobilize a standing army of the size that would be needed to invade or even wage a major battle with a significant adversary. That political cost makes it uneconomic for Russia to retaliate against NATO adventurism prodding at its western border trying to incite a military response. It’s just not worth taking over Ukraine.

America’s rising pressure on its allies threatens to drive them out of the U.S. orbit. For over 75 years they had little practical alternative to U.S. hegemony. But that is now changing. America no longer has the monetary power and seemingly chronic trade and balance-of-payments surplus that enabled it to draw up the world’s trade and investment rules in 1944-45. The threat to U.S. dominance is that China, Russia and Mackinder’s Eurasian World Island heartland are offering better trade and investment opportunities than are available from the United States with its increasingly desperate demand for sacrifices from its NATO and other allies.

The most glaring example is the U.S. drive to block Germany from authorizing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to obtain Russian gas for the coming cold weather. Angela Merkel agreed with Donald Trump to spend $1 billion building a new LNG port to become more dependent on highly priced U.S. LNG. (The plan was cancelled after the U.S. and German elections changed both leaders.) But Germany has no other way of heating many of its houses and office buildings (or supplying its fertilizer companies) than with Russian gas.

The only way left for U.S. diplomats to block European purchases is to goad Russia into a military response and then claim that avenging this response outweighs any purely national economic interest.

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