Monday, 12 December 2022 — Strategic Culture Foundation
For Europe, its unreflective taking of this American ‘cuckoo’ thinking into its own European nest is nothing short of catastrophic.
Larry Johnson – a long veteran of both the CIA and the State Department – pinpoints the ‘cuckoo’ nestling at the bottom of the ‘nest’ of western thinking about Ukraine. The bird has two closely related parts: the upper layer is the conceptual framework positing that the U.S. faces two distinct spheres of contention: first, U.S. vs Russia, and secondly, U.S. vs China.
The essential mental framework behind this ‘cuckoo’ – just to be plain – is wholly U.S.-centric: It is the view of the world from someone peering out from Washington, tinted by wishful thinking.
It is truly a ‘cuckoo’ (i.e. the malicious insertion of an interloper amongst the legitimate chicks), because these battlescapes are not two, as claimed, but one. How so?
These two conflicts are not distinct, but interconnect through the western refusal to acknowledge that it is Western cultural pretensions of superiority that are the crux to the unfolding process of today’s geopolitical restructuring.
The purpose of the cuckoo is to erase this pivotal aspect from the conceptual framing, and then to reduce the whole to abstract power politics where Russia and China can be played off – one against the other.
Plainly put, the bifurcation U.S. vs China separate to U.S. vs Russia serves principally to ‘bed-down’ the growing cuckoo.
Professor John Mearsheimer, the high-priest of Realpolitik, articulates today’s geopolitics (as fluently as always) as being one of ‘Godzilla’ hegemons acting according to their nature – liberally throwing their weight about (acting imperially), while others, who fail to get out of these hegemons’ way, end as ‘road kill’.
The Realpolitik view – whilst superficially compelling – is deeply flawed, for it erases the issue at the core of today’s geo-politics. It is absolutely not just three ‘Godzillas’ on the rampage jostling for space: Fundamental to today’s geo-politics is that the Rest-of-World refuses to have the U.S. either speak for it, define its political and financial structures, or accept to have the West’s curious ‘hang up’ with ‘cancel-culture’ imposed on others.
Larry Johnson writes: “U.S. Foreign Service officers take great pride in believing they are super smart. I worked alongside some of these folks for four years and can attest to the arrogance and air of self-importance that imbues the typical FSO as they parade around [the] State Department”.
And here is the key: the super smart thinking emerging from the State Department is that the entirety of the Kremlin’s strategy (in this view) depends on Russia fighting the U.S. by proxy (i.e. in Ukraine) – AND not in direct conflict with themilitarily superior United States and the whole of NATO.
Rah, Rah, Rah! ‘The U.S. has the mightiest military the world has ever known’. Nothing in history ever like it. Whilst Russia and China are poor ‘start-ups’.
Sure – this is a propaganda line. But if you say: we have the biggest, the best, the most advanced military in the history of the world often enough, a majority of the élite can begin to believe it (even if there is a cadre at the top which doesn’t). And if, on top of that, you believe yourself to be ‘super-smart’, it will seep into your thinking and shape it.
Thus, the ‘very smart’ former State Dept officer, Peter van Buren opines in The American Conservative: [that from the outset of the Ukraine operation], “There were only two possible outcomes. Ukraine could reach a diplomatic solution that resets its physical eastern border … and so firmly re-establishes its role as buffer state between NATO and Russia. Or, after battlefield losses and diplomacy, Russia could retreat to its original February starting point” – and Ukraine would re-situate itself between NATO and Russia.
That’s it – just two putative outcomes.
Seen through the rose-tinted lens of a U.S. global military ‘Leviathon’, the two-outcome argument has the appearance of inexorability to it, van Buren writes: “the off ramp in Ukraine – a diplomatic outcome – is clear enough to Washington. The Biden administration seems content, shamefully … to bleed out the Russians as if this was Afghanistan 1980 all over again – all the while looking tough and soaking up whatever positive bipartisan electoral feelings are due for pseudo ‘war time’ President Joe Biden”.
Van Buren, to his credit, takes a hard swipe at the Biden stance; yet his thinking (as much as team Biden’s) is still rooted in the false premise that America is a military colossus, and Russia a stumbling military power.
The flaw here is that whilst the U.S. militarily spends as a colossus – after being raked by DC pork politics and ‘just in time’ set-ups, focussed on selling weapons bling to the Middle East – the final output is both hugely expensive, but inferior, too. Russia’s – not so.
What this means is important: As Larry Johnson notes, there are not just two putative outcomes, but rather, there is a missing third. It is that Russia ultimately, will dictate the terms of the Ukraine outcome. This missing third alternative paradoxically, is also the most likely.
Yes, the U.S. and EU narrative is that Ukraine is winning, but as Colonel Douglas Macgregor, an earlier candidate for U.S. National Security Adviser, notes:
The Biden administration repeatedly commits the unpardonable sin in a democratic society of refusing to tell the American people the truth: Contrary to the Western media’s popular “Ukrainian victory” narrative, which blocks any information that contradicts it, Ukraine is not winning and will not win this war … The coming offensive phase of the conflict will provide a glimpse of the new Russian force that is emerging and its future capabilities … The numbers continue to grow, but the numbers already include 1,000 rocket artillery systems, thousands of tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones, plus 5,000 armoured fighting vehicles, including at least 1,500 tanks, hundreds of manned fixed-wing attack aircraft, helicopters and bombers. This new force has little in common with the Russian army that intervened nine months ago on Feb. 24, 2022.
For Europe, its unreflective taking of this American ‘cuckoo’ thinking into its own European nest is nothing short of catastrophic. Brussels – by extension – has absorbed the false contention that China is distinct from the Russian project. This mental device intentionally forecloses on the necessary understanding that Europe faces a burgeoning resistance from the Russia-China axis, and much of the world, who scorn its pretensions to some higher order superiority.
Secondly, the buy-in to the DC-smart ‘only two alternatives’ framework – ‘because the U.S. is a military behemoth and Russia would never dare anything beyond a proxy war’ – shows up the fat cuckoo in the nest: NATO escalation is relatively risk-free: we have Putin pinned down in Ukraine; HE dare not trigger a full NATO response.
Russia, nonetheless, is preparing to launch an outcome-setting offensive. Then, what of Europe? Did you think that through? No, because that ‘alternative’ did not even appear ‘amongst the framework parameters’.
As a logical consequence, the indeterminate and undefined ‘as long as it takes’ policy, simply binds the EU to ‘forever Russia sanctions’ – leading Europe deeper into economic crisis, with no plan ‘B’. Nor, even a hint of one.
Yet, at another level, almost completely absent from European analysis, (because of its embrace of the flawed analysis that views ‘Russia as a friable military power’) – lies the unaddressed reality: The contention is not between Kiev vs Moscow – it was always between the U.S. vs Russia.
The EU inevitably will be a mere bystander to that discussion. They will not have a seat at the table. That is, if we ever get to that point … before escalation re-sets the parameters.
In short, multiple wrong diagnoses equals the wrong curative treatment.
When Larry Johnson describes his experience of the élite arrogance and air of superiority pervading DC, he could well have been describing the European political class haughtily striding the corridors of Brussels.
The consequences to these pretentions are not trivial, but of a strategic order. The most immediate is that the EU’s fanatical support for Kiev and the public adulation of certain dubious ‘nationalists’ has moved ethnically ‘anti-Russian Ukraine’ further, and further, away from any possibility of serving as a neutral or buffer state. Or, of being a stepping-stone to compromise in the future. Then What?
Think of it from the Russian optic: With sentiment amongst Ukrainians now turning so toxic against everything Russian, this inevitably imposes a different calculus on Moscow.
The fanning by Ukraine activists, within the EU leadership class, of such toxic anti-Russian sentiments amongst nationalist Ukrainians, inevitably has opened a bitter fault line in Ukraine – and not just in Ukraine alone; It is fracturing Europe and creating a strategic fault line between EU vs Rest of World.
President Macron said this week that he sees ‘resentment’ in Russian President Putin’s eyes – “a sort of resentment” directed at the Western world, including the EU and the U.S., and that it is fuelled by “the feeling that our perspective was to destroy Russia”.
He is right. The resentment however is not confined to Russians, who have come to hate Europe, it is rather, that across the globe resentment is bubbling up at all the destroyed lives strewn in the wake of the western hegemonic project. Even a former high-ranking French Ambassador now describes the rules-based order as an unfair “Western order” based on “hegemony”.
Angela Merkel’s interview to Zeit Magazine confirms for the Rest of World that EU strategic autonomy always was a lie. In the interview, she admits that her advocacy of the 2014 Minsk ceasefire was a deception. It was an attempt to give Kiev time to strengthen its military – and was successful in that regard, she said. “[Ukraine] used this time to get [militarily] stronger, as you can see today. The Ukraine of 2014/15 is not the Ukraine of today”.
Merkel emerges as a self-confessed collaborator in the ‘Smart Think’ of using Ukraine to bleed Russia: “The Cold War never ended because Russia basically was not at peace”, Merkel says. (She clearly had bought into the ‘Mighty NATO – midget Russia’ pretension, peddled by Washington.)
So, as the global tectonic fault line plummets deeper, the Rest of World has it reconfirmed that the EU was full collaborator with the U.S. project – not just to cripple Russia financially, but to have her bleed on the battlefield too. (So much for the EU narrative of ‘unprovoked Russian invasion’!)
This is a familiar ‘playbook’; one that has unfolded amidst huge suffering across the globe. As Eurasia separates from the western sphere, would it be a surprise were the latter to think to ‘wall out’ such European toxicity, together with its hegemonic patron?
Merkel was also refreshingly frank about the quality of German friendship: The Nordstream project was a sop to Moscow at a fraught moment in Ukraine, she said, adding: “It just so happened that Germany couldn’t get gas elsewhere”. (Nothing ‘strategic friendship’ about it then.)
Of course, Merkel was speaking to legacy … but words of truth often slip out, in such legacy ‘moments’.
The EU posits itself as a strategic player; a political power in its own right; a market colossus; a monopsony with the power to impose its will over whomsoever trades with it. In essence: the EU insists that it possesses meaningful political agency.
But Washington has just trampled that narrative. Its ‘friend’, the Biden Administration, is leaving Europe to swing in the wind of de-industrialisation, subsidised by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, whilst disdain for the EU’s ‘anti-culture’ culture accumulates around the globe (viz: the European antics at the football World Cup in Qatar).
Then what for Europe, (with economic power punctured and soft power disdained)?
2 thoughts on “The U.S. Cuckoo in the European Nest”
Thank you!! Of course, being in the mighty ‘free Europe’ I cannot get strategic culture directly (I used to be a regular subscriber, but Ursula now forbids) but I really appreciate this fine article.
One could also label Europe as a frenemy to the US – because of the potential risk of a large blowback against the US when it realises the extent to which it has been used and abused in the proxy war against Russia. Anti-US sentiment has always been visible in Europe ever since WWII but it is inevitably going to get much stronger as Europeans wake up to how they’ve been treated by the US.
The US has taken the enormous step of making Europe part of its proxy war against Russia, and exploiting the subsequent economic problems. In doing so, it risks eventually losing its most important western ally, and further isolating itself on the world stage.