Elena PONOMAREVA: What Should We Expect From the New US President?

17 November, 2008

America’s having a new President remains the number one global news, but it is already time to put an end to the dreams of quite a few journalists, experts, and seemingly knowledgeable political scientists that Obama’s victory in the US presidential race is a prologue to an era free of confrontation and marked by cooperation between nations and peaceful coexistence.

In the US politics, the human factor is nowhere nearly as important as in the Russian one, in which a lot depends on who is at the helm. To understand what we should expect from the nearest future we should take a look at the potential members of the Administration of the 44th US President.

As an ordinary proponent of the idea of the US global mission, Obama is not entirely independent in forming his team. An important role in shaping the next US President’s international policy is going to be played by the new US Vice President Joe Biden. Over the past several years Sen. Biden has in many different ways shown his hawkish nature. He criticized G. Bush’s Administration for shortsightedly overlooking the rise of Russia, China, and India as great powers, and said that Russia’s being able to challenge Georgia – a country he described as free and democratic – was a result of this mistake made by the US. His intention was to address the problem, to hold Russia responsible, and to help the Georgian nation. In a short time, it will be clear what Biden means by holding Russia responsible for intervening in Georgia, making it stop the genocide against Ossetians, and enforcing peace in the Caucasus. As for helping Georgia, there is no need to wait for clarity – the plan encompasses integrating it into NATO, turning the formally independent country into a protectorate, and deploying US military bases in the ‘free and democratic’ country.

Richard Holbrooke, a candidate for the Secretary of State position, is another figure of interest in the context. He is a career diplomat, the Asia Society Chairman, and has served as the US Ambassador to the UN (1999-2001) and the Assistant Secretary of State (1977-1981, 1994-1996). In 1993-1994 Holbrooke was the US Ambassador to Germany. He contributed a lot to the ‘resolution’ of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina and was the chief architect of the Dayton Deal which turned Bosnia and Herzegovina into a Protectorate governed by the High Representative with absolute control over its domestic and foreign politics. It is not so well-known that Holbrooke also holds a senior position at Lehman Brothers and is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was a member of the Trilateral Commission in 1994.

One should keep in mind that the Council on Foreign Relations is a major mondialist organization involving the most influential Western politicians such as former presidents, ministers, ambassadors, senior officials, top bankers, directors of transnational corporations, university professors and influential journalists, Congressmen, US Supreme Court Judges and Army commanders, NATO generals, CIA and other intelligence officers, politicians from the UN and other international organizations. The Council on Foreign Relations was founded in 1921 to promote the US influence over nations of the world and the global politics. It was established at the same time as the League of Nations under US President W. Wilson. During the Cold War, the Council on Foreign Relations was a strategic center coordinating the West’s struggle against Russia/USSR. For example, it had generated the initiative to launch a nuclear strike on the USSR. The main ideologists and chiefs of the subversive activities targeting the USSR – from A. Dulles (Council Chairman in 1946-1950) to H. Kissinger (Council Chairman in 1977-1981), Z. Brzezinski (Council Chairman in 1972-1977), and R. Pipes have been members of the Council.

As for the Trilateral Commission, its establishment in 1973 was the result of intensifying rivalry between the elites of the US, Europe, and raising Japan. In that epoch a new world order and a global community were emerging, and various parts of the global capitalist system had to reach a consensus in order to create a mechanism of long-term planning and resource redistribution. As a kind of an intellectual center of the new global elite, the Trilateral Commission developed recommendations which are integrated into the strategies of the ‘golden billion’ countries, mainly the US. Holding senior political posts, members of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission act in the interests of the two organizations rather than in those of the nation.

President of the Nixon Center and publisher of The National Interest Dimitri K. Simes described the possible appointment of Holbrooke as the Secretary of State as an extremely negative signal for the relations between the US and Russia. During the presidential race, Holbrooke used to say quite clearly that the Eltsin era of close cooperation between the two countries was over and sharply criticized Moscow on various occasions (Kosovo, Georgia, Ukraine).

Z. Brzezinski, the notorious Cold War veteran (he turns 80 in 2009), is going to be an excellent addition to Holbrooke. Brzezinski was the Presidential national security adviser in 1977-1981 when the anti-Soviet activity in the West reached its highest point, the Solidarity rose and a state of emergency was declared in Poland, the first clashes between Serbs and Albanians took place in Kosovo, and the Al Qaeda was created (the list is actually much longer). Brzezinski is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg Club.

The second most important figure after the Secretary of State in defining the US international politics is the Presidential foreign politics adviser. Susan Rice who has served in Clinton’s Administration and Jim Steinberg are regarded as candidates for the position. The career of S. Rice began when she worked for Madeleine Albright. She is a recognized expert on ‘new democracies’. J. Steinberg who has served in B. Clinton’s Administration is a Middle East expert.

Michael McFaul, a Russia expert and another veteran of Clinton’s Administration, has a chance to become the new US President’s National Security Adviser. He has a reputation of a realist for suggesting to accept Russia the way it is and to maintain relations with it regardless of persisting disagreements over a wide range of issues.

The new White House Chief of Staff and former adviser to B. Clinton Rahm Emmanuel is a proponent of an active if not aggressive approach. He was the only one of the 9 representatives from the state of Illinois in the US Congress who voted for authorizing G. Bush to attack Iraq. In many cases, his position on the US military operations hardly differs from that of J. McCain. Emmanuel is a staunch hardliner in what concerns the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. His father was a member of the Irgun Zionist group which attacked Arabs and the British Administration in Palestine in the 1940’s.

In the light of all of the above, Obama’s plans to tackle such tasks as the reduction of nuclear arsenals in the world and even to open direct talks with Iran on nuclear issues do not breed great expectations. Obama’s frequent references to getting nukes taken off duty leave unanswered the question: whose nukes, NATO’s, Russia’s, or somebody else’s?

Overall, nothing seems to promise changes in the US international politics with the advent of the new Administration. Obama is going to play ‘the good cop’ after ‘the bad cop G. Bush’, and the global US leadership will be ensured not so much with the help of the military might as by soft diplomatic and economic means.

No positive shift in the US politics with respect to Russia should be expected from the new US President. Obama’s views on two more issues – the deployment of the US missile defense infrastructures in Central Europe and the plan to admit Georgia and Ukraine to NATO – are highly indicative and leave no room for illusions. Under the circumstances, Russia should not only declare that it is ready to deploy the Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region, but actually do so urgently.

B. Obama is not an independent figure but a not too important representative of the global shadowy governance system. His position on many of the domestic and foreign politics issues reflects the ideology of the Washington consensus. The term coined in 1989 by British economist John Williamson describes the following set of prescriptions:

  • Freedom of movement for capitals;
  • Total privatization;
    – High interest rates impeding the industrial development but facilitating financial speculations;
  • Minimization or elimination of social programs;
  • Stabilization of national currencies by making them dependent on the US dollar and limiting emission;
  • Low pay and limitations of the rights of employees (the right to strikes, the rights of trade unions, etc.);
  • Greater tax burden for the poor and lower taxes for the rich.

In a broader sense, the Washington consensus implies a bigger role of the market and a shrinking of state stewardship in the economy.


Nevertheless, there are some reasons for optimism. As the Zavtra weekly wrote, ‘…it makes no sense to think of the US as absolute evil. The US is a part of the world the way God created it, and, moreover, an extremely important part. The US is a complex system with its own task in the evolution of mankind, a task that neither we nor the US itself understands’ (November, 2008).

Could the aggressiveness of the US carry a significant evolutional meaning? In any case, if Russia is reviving after the decline of the 1990’s, the changes for the better are largely driven by the international politics and the pressure it has to survive.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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