TEHRAN (Press Shia) – A former US Senate foreign policy analyst described a recent decision by Washington to impose sanctions on companies working on a Russian natural gas export pipeline to Europe as “bullying” and said the US insists on not recognizing the multipolar world.
“Yes, it’s bullying and intensification but of something that was already there and has been steadily growing,” Washington-based political analyst James Jatras told Press Shia, referring to the US sanctions concerning the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline.
“We live in a de facto multipolar world but Washington insists on not recognizing that fact,” he said, adding, “If wiser heads prevailed in Washington, we’d welcome the development of a multipolar order, similar to the “Long Peace” in Europe between 1815 and 1914, when a “concert” of the European powers avoided a major conflict.”
James George Jatras is Deputy Director of the American Institute in Ukraine, a privately funded American NGO. Based in Washington, DC, he is a former US diplomat and adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.
The full text of the interview with Jatras is as follows:
Press Shia: The US, with its “America First” policy, has moved away from its allies over the past two years and diminished US international participation in international organizations. First, Washington urged its NATO allies to bear the costs of the transatlantic alliance, then it pressured South Korea and Japan, and now the EU is under US pressures. In your opinion, can this change of approach be interpreted as a new trend in the world order?
Jatras: No, it’s not a new trend, it’s simply the intensification of the old US insistence of domination of its so-called allies, which are really satellites. Trump seemed to understand in 2016 that this approach was counterproductive when he was a candidate in 2016, but for all practical purposes he has adopted the failed policies of the past, simply in a more militant form. For example, in 2016, he correctly pronounced NATO “obsolete,” but now, he pressures Europeans to pay for “defense” they don’t need. Likewise with his “maximum pressure” campaigns against North Korea and Iran, which (especially in the case of Iran) are really aimed at our allies. Europe also wants to improve ties with Russia – as Trump also said he wanted in 2016 – but sanctions on companies working on Nord Stream 2 are aimed at preventing that. Especially with his weakened position due to impeachment, his ability and perhaps his desire to change course is almost nil. Now we’ll see if he gets maneuvered in to a war with Iran.
Press Shia: Many analysts do not attribute these moves by the US government to Donald Trump, but rather they think the US is trying to save capitalism and the American economy from collapse. Do you agree?
Jatras: There may be some element of economic thinking – for example energy companies that expect to make money selling “freedom gas” to Europe if we can sink NS2 – but that isn’t the major concern. The people in both the Executive Branch (Trump’s appointees as well as bureaucrats) and in Congress seek world domination for its own sake. If asked, they couldn’t begin to tell you how their policies make Americans more prosperous – because they don’t though some companies profit. Most of them really believe that Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China are “threats” to us, as they view every country that isn’t reduced to vassal status. So they press forward in an unthinking mechanical fashion, telling lies all the way to justify themselves. Hence, “maximum” pressure against North Korea, Iran and more or less the same approach to Russia and, in a building campaign, against China (more difficult because US and Chinese economies are so linked). In each case the goal is regime change and installation of a puppet government, and in the case of Russia (and maybe China and Iran) breaking the country into pieces. US policymakers can think of no other way to view non-satellite countries, which they consider inherently illegitimate.
Press Shia: As you know, in the US defense budget for the 2020 fiscal year, there have been some cases of interference in the internal affairs of its European allies such as the US sanctions concerning the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline. Don’t you interpret this shift in US policy and the direct interference as a move to sacrifice European interests for its own benefits? Isn’t that a kind of bullying and totalitarianism by the US?
Jatras: Yes, it’s bullying and intensification but of something that was already there and has been steadily growing. Even in the mid-1990s, not long after the USSR collapsed and the US essentially controlled the Yeltsin government in Russia, the US was already formulating a strategy centered around the “Silk Road” (from Turkey, through former Soviet Central Asia, to China) and Caspian energy to try to provide alternatives for Europe as natural energy customers of Russia. This included the (successful) Baku-Ceyhan pipeline and the (failed) Nabucco. However, this was not really about market diversification as an attempted market displacement. Now with NS2 and Turk Stream (in place of the torpedoed South Stream, a defeat the Europeans inflicted on themselves but with the US approval), plus China’s driving role in Eurasian integration, they are turning up the heat to try to stop it. But to be clear, this isn’t about economics per se but use of economics to try to perpetuate the fading unipolar global domination. Whether Trump understands this is unknown and probably irrelevant.
Press Shia: Given the US foreign policy and the reactions from its rivals, like China and Russia, and allies, including France and Germany, what do you think about the future of world order?
Jatras: We live in a de facto multipolar world but Washington insists on not recognizing that fact. If wiser heads prevailed in Washington, we’d welcome the development of a multipolar order, similar to the “Long Peace” in Europe between 1815 and 1914, when a “concert” of the European powers avoided a major conflict. As was the case of Britain then, the US still could play the leading role as “first among equals” for a long time. But the US establishment won’t accept that other powers – starting with Russia and China, but also including others like India, Japan, Iran, Turkey – have legitimate interests in their own regions that are not subject to US approval. This is unlike Britain in the 19th century, which understood that France, Germany, Russia, etc., had legitimate interests and it was best to avoid conflict between spheres of influence (e.g, the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan between the British and Russian empires, the neutrality of Siam between British Burma and French Indochina). As inherently the most secure of the major powers, the US could accommodate the spheres of others (for example, Iran’s interest in the Persian Gulf) but refuses to do so. Since the US establishment – Trump or no Trump – is incapable of changing course, that means the matter is likely to be decided by some unforeseen future crisis: either a major financial and economic collapse, which forces the US to retract whether the establishment wants to or not, or a global conflict, a nuclear 1914 (for which all parties are now preparing), possibly as the result of someone’s miscalculation.