After the leaders of the United States and Russia concluded their summit on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin assured a Canadian journalist that such meetings are aimed at saving the world from nuclear destruction and finding solutions to economic problems, climatic and medical conditions of the world. President Joe Biden, for his part, told reporters that there are no secret codes in foreign policy, it is about personal relationships, of human nature.
It all sounded rather comical, if not tragic, given that the two men supposedly on a quest to save the world couldn’t even muster the courage within themselves to hold a joint press conference after their three-hour conversation to reassure their people. , and the rest of the international community, for their noble intentions.
Not only did their first meeting face to face not make the world a safer or better place; but like old kids, they took hits in each other’s countries, using outdated clichés and sinister arguments.
In other words, the summit did not resolve anything; none of the serious challenges to global security, whether cybernetic or strategic. And while Biden and Putin have agreed to enter into a strategic dialogue, it can hardly be considered a reboot or a “reset.”
And since this was a foretaste of a future US-China summit, there is certainly little to celebrate and much to consider as the Biden administration hardens US positions and changes diplomatic rules of engagement. to control his rivals. Biden will undoubtedly pursue a similar strategy in his future interactions with China’s Xi Jinping in the hopes of containing Beijing before it becomes a major world power.
Obviously, the politics of world power are not about the personal chemistry of rulers; to look each other in the eyes, to question each other to save the world.
Obviously, the end of these summits is not to achieve a peaceful, healthy and clean world free of nuclear weapons.
And clearly, the challenges are too vast and indeed too complicated and substantial for overall and individual security.
But the logic that guides the superpowers in the face of these challenges is quite simple – it is the logic of power. Neither human rights and democracy, nor sovereignty and international law, just power. And this holds true for democratic regimes as well as for authoritarian regimes.
That’s not to say that I don’t see any difference between liberal democratic and totalitarian regimes, it certainly does, and I have a strong preference.
But when it comes to foreign policy, some democracies have been no less imperialist or criminal in their foreign policy than their authoritarian counterparts. Colonialism is a striking example. And in the case of totalitarian regimes, some like China, have brought more prosperity to their people, especially the poor, than many democracies.
For centuries, the great powers, whatever their colors and stripes, clashed under the guise of security, but ultimately led to greater global insecurity.
Their attempts to dominate regions and continents to deter other ambitious powers from doing the same have ruined the lives and livelihoods of countless people around the world.
And for much of the latter part of the 20th century, their rivalry had turned nuclear, putting the world in danger with total and mutually assured destruction.
In short, despite their claim to benevolence, enlightenment, freedom, civilization and even total human emancipation; despite their preaching of democracy and human rights, or insisting on international law and a rules-based international system, world powers have led the world to the worst conflicts and the most devastating wars.
Like arsonist firefighters, they repeatedly tried to extinguish fires with more fire, burning anything they touched.
And yet, as Biden said, there’s no secret code as to why and how they do it – it’s not rocket science.
Yet despite appearances to the contrary, this is not a personal matter but rather a dirty business. Once you avoid the huge charlatanism coming from governments, it all becomes pretty clear.
Here is my simplified version of this complicated image.
Life in a world dominated by superpower politics is a lot like living in a tough neighborhood, where a few tyrants take advantage of the lack of authority to dominate the streets by force. It’s geopolitics.
They continually amass weapons and assets to expand their influence and outdo the other tough tyrants in the neighborhood. The fancy phrase for this is “offensive realism”.
When they accept a certain division of the district into zones of influence; it is “defensive realism”.
Improving your position to face potential threats using all available means is a strategy. Demonizing others to justify one’s own threatening attitude is propaganda.
Some intimidate or manipulate helpless neighbors, offering them protection in return for loyalty and support, others may use more carrots than sticks to attract support; they are patron-client relationships that prove useful in indirectly dominating large regions of the world.
When one bully becomes very arrogant, another can avoid confrontation by pushing a third bully up to the challenge; this is called “passing the buck”. For the past two decades, anxious not to upset Washington, Beijing has thrown the ball back on Moscow, leaving it to face an aggressive America after 9/11.
But when a bully joins another bully against an aggressive third party, it’s “moving.” In this way, the European powers join the United States and an alienated Russia can join China, as they compete for world domination in the 21st century.
Both repeat what their predecessors have done for centuries with their eyes wide open: to fight for power and influence at any cost to the world.
And judging by the wacky performances at this week’s press conferences, Biden and Putin don’t seem to have learned much from the mistakes of their predecessors.