Who runs our foreign policy? Is it the White House, State Department and Senate? Or is it the Chinese Politburo and the Kremlin?
Going on events this week I’d say it’s starting to look like the latter. Consider the reaction of the Chinese Communist Party to news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was planning a congressional delegation to Taiwan. As The Post reported this week, the Communists said that any such trip would have a “severe negative impact” on relations between the US and Beijing. The CCP spokesman said that China “firmly” opposes any interactions between the US and Taiwan.
Well that may be. But the question for the President, Speaker Pelosi and others is whether the communists in Beijing should have the right to dictate their travel schedule.
True, Beijing thinks that Taiwan belongs to them. But the government and free people of the thriving island think otherwise. And just because you want to own territory does not mean you are allowed to. Or at least that used to be the consensus held since World War II. But in recent years a different agreement has begun to emerge. Partly thanks to Communist China. Partly thanks to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
After all, Putin’s Russia believes that Ukraine belongs to it. Like Taiwan and China there are long historical arguments that can be had. But once a country is independent and free all such territorial claims used to be regarded as dead. Then in 2014, during the last Democrat Presidency, the Russians invaded a portion of Ukraine. They stormed in and annexed the Crimean peninsular. America and her allies allowed it to happen. There were those who said “it’s none of our business.” Others said “they believe they own it so who are we to say.” More commonly people said “we don´t want a fight.” And Vladimir Putin watched us and learned a lot.
He is a man famously good at spotting the weaknesses of his counterparts. There is a famous story about his first meeting with the then new German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The former KGB officer made sure that he did his homework on his new German counterpart and he turned up the discovery that Merkel had a long-established and deep-seated fear of large dogs. So what did Vladimir Putin make sure of when Merkel in 2007? He made sure that a couple of huge dogs joined them at the start of the meeting, putting Merkel into a barely disguised terror and himself in a position of happy dominance.
It is the same with America and the West today. Putin eyed us up after his annexation of Crimea, watched our weakness, bided his time and then this year went out to gobble up more territory.
Of course to some extent he miscalculated. He underestimated the extent to which NATO could pull itself together and the way in which the Western alliance could rediscover some purpose. He also overestimated the abilities of his own corrupt armed forces and senior military who got bogged down in Ukraine fast.
But the easy defeat which many Americans hoped for did not happen. The Russians have not slunk out of Ukraine. They have kept fighting, throwing their young troops into the meat-grinder, and shelling civilian population centers in a way not seen in Europe for decades. We in the West congratulated ourselves on our unity. We patted ourselves on the back for providing limited munitions to the Ukrainians. And we overestimated the extent to which sanctions which deter Putin.
In fact Putin has been watching us more closely than we have been watching him. He knows that European gas relies on him. He knows that when winter comes the Europeans are likely to suffer shortages and fall out with each other. He knows that sanctions have actually pushed up the price of gas and oil. Meaning that Putin is actually becoming even richer because of the sanctions. And he knows that while we are willing to equip Ukraine with relatively light munitions, we will not arm them with anything heavier. That is because of our fear of how he will react if we do.
And so now it looks like the Kremlin is actually planning to expand its war in Ukraine. According to declassified intelligence released by the National Security Council, Putin now plans to gobble up even more of the country. What is the response of the NSC spokesman John Kirby? Apparently any further land grab by Putin “will only make things worse for Russia.”
I’m reminded of the stoning scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”
“Make it worse for ourselves? How much worse can it get?”
America and her allies have already done everything they dare do to Russia. And Russia knows it. And it seems Russia can withstand it.
China is watching this, and it knows that much of the words coming out of Washington are just that — words. Sure there are consequences to going against America. But they´re not lethal. And they’re not limitless. They are in fact very limited and very easy to predict. It starts with allowing annexations. It ends by foreign governments telling American officials what their travel plans can be.
If I were advising Nancy, I´d tell her to bring her flights forward a bit. Book to fly to Taiwan fast. And book often.
Twitter’s double standard
Everybody is aware of Twitter’s claim that they are a completely even-handed, totally non-partisan platform. One which treats any bad behavior by left or right with equal seriousness. And everybody knows this is totally sincere and totally believes Twitter.
So can anyone explain why the group Shut Down DC are still on Twitter? The group recently offered bounties for public sightings of conservative Supreme Court Justices. Earlier this month it offered $50 for confirmed sightings and $200 if the justice was still at the location 30 minutes after being reported.
What exactly is this? Is this incitement or not? It certainly looks like it. But I guess Twitter doesn’t think so. After all, the bounty is on conservative justices, not liberals. So the Twitter rules don’t apply.