Anthony Blinken and the Intellectual Bankruptcy of the Biden Administration

The American Secretary of State is adding air miles to his account this week by visiting Kiev, Berlin and tomorrow Geneva for meetings with President Zelensky, Chancellor Scholz and RF Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov respectively. However, whether abroad or at home he is a captive of the U.S. foreign affairs community echo chamber, utterly indifferent to external stimuli and incapable of responding appropriately to the changing environment. Everywhere he repeats the mantra that Russia is about to stage a classical invasion of Ukraine, just as everywhere President Biden repeats daily that the Russians will face consequences for their actions, very grave damage to their economy as a result of American led sanctions.

Meanwhile reality develops on its own, paying no heed to the script written in stone in Washington, D.C.

The Russians have a very flexible and constantly changing set of responses to threats and opportunities. This is what makes it so difficult for us commentators to foresee the actual path to denouement.  But it is also what makes it almost certain the Russians will get what they want and change the European security architecture to their advantage in the face of American obtuseness.

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Russian Elites Talk War: ‘Evening With Vladimir Solovyov,’ January 16, 2022

My last report on Russia’s premier political talk show, “Sunday with Vladimir Solovyov” was in advance of the scheduled Russia-US, Russia-NATO, Russia-OSCE talks that took place in the week of 10 January. Now I will present some findings from after these meetings, namely the show of Sunday, 16 January.

I will not take readers’ time with the remarks of all the panelists, only the remarks of the talk show host and his politically most important three guests: Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Duma member, leader of the nationalist party LDPR; Andrei Sidorov, dean of the department of world politics at Moscow State University; and Yakov Kedmi, retired officer of Israeli intelligence, former Soviet citizen, ‘refuse-nik’ refugee and present-day super patriot of the homeland he left behind. I preface their remarks only with some background information on who they are. My own comments on what they have said will be saved for the end of this essay.

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Common Sense and Self-Preservation Go Mainstream in Washington, DC: Capitulation to Russian Demands Becomes Discussable

It is one month since the Russians presented first to American diplomats and then to the world community their brazen demands to roll back NATO to its configuration status quo ante in May 1997 before the accession of former Warsaw Pact countries.

Those demands were taken up with seeming seriousness by the U.S. Government, then by NATO, whose Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, initially dismissed them out of hand as unacceptable. In short order dates were sketched in for a meeting of U.S. and Russian delegations in Geneva on 10 January. Then at U.S. insistence further meetings were scheduled with NATO in Brussels on 12 January and with the OSCE in Vienna on 13 January.

Western media were invited by their ‘high level but anonymous’ information sources in Washington to see these astonishing developments as required to de-escalate tensions at the Russian-Ukrainian border, where the Russians had amassed over 100,000 troops. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his minions said repeatedly the troop concentration was in preparation for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Such an invasion would spell a blitzkrieg victory for the Russians and would undo the 2.5 billion dollar U.S. investment made under two U.S. presidents to turn Ukraine from one more “catch” by the American team, as described by Gideon Rose, then editor in chief of Foreign Affairs magazine when it happened in February 2014, into a major military asset in the policy of threatening and containing the Russian Federation. Instead, this looked to become the second U.S. foreign policy debacle in less than a year after the shameful chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last August.

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Russian Roulette: As Croupier at This Particular Casino Table, I Invite You To Place Your Bets

The Russia-US-NATO-OSCE meetings this week have come and gone. The Russian verdict was succinctly delivered by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov, who explained even before the OSCE session was over that the talks have come to “a dead end” and it was unlikely the Russians will participate in any follow-on talks.

This opens the question to what comes next.

Official Washington feels certain that what comes next is a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which could come in the next few weeks and thereby fall within the timetable for such an operation suggested by State Department officials when they met with NATO allies ahead of Biden’s December 7 virtual summit with Putin. The logic put out then was that January-February would be very suitable for a land invasion given that the frozen ground would well support tank movements. One might add to that argument on timing, one further argument that was not adduced: in midwinter it is questionable how long the Russians would want to keep 100,000 soldiers camped in field conditions near the border; such stasis in these severe conditions is not conducive to maintaining morale.

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‘Fly on the Wall’ at the Press Conference of Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, Russian Embassy, Brussels, January 12, 2022

With administrative assistance provided by an RT television crew who had invited me to the Russian Embassy, Brussels to give an interview on the results of yesterday’s NATO-Russia meetings, I had the opportunity to witness most of the press conference given there by Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who co-led the Russian delegation earlier in the day.

In the spirit of my writings on this website generally, I provide here an account of the press conference that reflects the facts but also my personal impressions of the event and of its main actor, Mr. Grushko. I conclude this report with the link to my 15 minute interview with RT.

I know Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Grushko from face to face meetings we had in Brussels back in the time when he served as Russian ambassador to NATO. He had to leave that post in 2018 after savage cuts imposed on the Russian staff as part of the global US-led move to cut ties with Russia, to denigrate its leadership and move the country to pariah status internationally. Once back in Moscow, Grushko further climbed the hierarchical ladder to assume deputy minister status.

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Deciphering the Biden-Putin Telephone Chat of December 30, 2021

Information provided to the press by both American and Russian sides following the 50 minute telephone conversation between presidents Putin and Biden is very meager. That has not prevented major Western media like the New York Times and Financial Times from putting out this morning normal sized articles filled mostly with background information for those readers who have been asleep for the past few weeks. The few statements about the meeting from official sources on both sides have just been repeated at face value in their articles, without any attempt at interpretation.

In what follows, I will provide precisely that: a Kremlinologist’s deciphering of what we used to call ‘the wooden language’ of diplomacy and of officialdom.

Let us begin with the remark in the FT that “the telephone call between the leaders…was arranged at Moscow’s request.” They take it no further, but it certainly bears mention that until now all contacts – phone calls and in-person or virtual summits between the two leaders – have been called at the request of the American side, which was unnerved by the buildup of 100,000 or more Russian soldiers at the Ukrainian border and assumed that an invasion was being prepared. So, I ask why did Russia take the initiative this time? And why a conversation now, just days before the official delegations from both countries meet in Geneva. I will hazard guesses.

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