The only complaint the U.S. allows is that the United States might not defend us enough, when the greater danger comes from being defended too much, writes Diana Johnstone on the Munich conference.
By Diana Johnstone
Special to Consortium News
“The West is winning!” U.S. leaders proclaimed at the high-level Annual Security Conference held in Munich last weekend.
Not everybody was quite so sure.
There was a lot of insecurity displayed at a conference billed as “the West’s family meeting” – enlarged to 70 participating nations, including U.S. -designated “losers”.
Trump’s crude Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made nobody feel particular secure by treating the world as a huge video game which “we are winning”. Thanks to our “values”, he proclaimed, the West is winning against the other players that Washington has forced into its zero-sum game: Russia and China, whose alleged desires for “empire” are being thwarted.
The Munich Security Conference (MSC) is a private gathering founded in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, a member of the aristocratic Wehrmacht officer class who plotted to get rid of Hitler when their estates in Eastern Germany were already being lost to the Red Army (to become part of Poland). The conference was evidently conceived as a means to enable Germans to get a word into strategic discussions from which they had been excluded by defeat in World War II.
The Munich conference knew its greatest hour of glory in February 2007, when Russian president Vladimir Putin shocked the assemblage by declaring his opposition to a “unipolar world” as “not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world.” Putin declared that NATO expansion up to Russian borders had nothing to do with ensuring security in Europe.
Russia, he said then, “would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.”
This speech was taken as a major challenge, redefining capitalist Russia as the new enemy of the West and its “values”.
What is ‘The West?’
The term “the West” could mean a number of things. The conference organizers define it by “values” that are supposed to be essentially Western: democracy, human rights, a market-based economy and “international cooperation in international institutions”. In fact, what is meant is a particular interpretation of all those “values”, an interpretation based on Anglo-American history. And indeed, in historic terms, this particular “West” is essentially the heir and continuation of the British empire, centered in Washington after London was obliged to abdicate after World War II, while retaining its role as imperial tutor and closest partner.
It implies the worldwide hegemony of the English language and English ideas of “liberalism” and is “multicultural” as empires always are. While the United States is the power center, many of the most ardent subjects of this empire are not American but European, starting with the Norwegian secretary general of NATO. Its imperial power is expressed by military bases all around the world offering “protection” to its subjects.
As for protection, the United States is currently shipping 20,000 military personnel to reinvade Germany on their way to unprecedented military manoeuvers next month in ten countries right up to Russia’s borders. Some 40,000 troops will take part in this exercise, on the totally imaginary pretext of a “Russian threat” to invade neighboring countries.
This delights Washington’s enthusiastic vassals in Poland and the Baltic States but is making many people nervous in Germany itself and other core European Union countries, wondering where this provocation of Russia may lead. But they hardly dare say so in violation of “western solidarity”. The only complaint allowed is that the United States might not defend us enough, when the greater danger comes from being defended too much.
Opening this year’s conference, the President of the German Federal Republic Frank-Walter Steinmeier, expressed Germany’s strategic frustration more openly than usual. Steinmeier accused Washington, Beijing and Moscow of “great power competition” leading to more mistrust, more armament, more insecurity, leading “all the way to a new nuclear arms race.” He didn’t specify who started all that.
Overwhelming establishment distaste for Trump has provided a novel opportunity for leaders of U.S.-occupied countries to criticize Washington, or at least the White House. Steinmeier dared say that “our closest ally, the United States of America, under the present administration, rejects the idea of an international community.” But he made up for this by accusing Russia of “making military violence and the violent change of borders on the European continent a political tool once again” by annexing Crimea – forgetting the NATO violent detachment of Kosovo from Serbia and ignoring the referendum in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to return to Russia, without a shot fired.
“The only complaint allowed is that the United States might not defend us enough, when the greater danger comes from being defended too much.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed frustration at Europe’s dependence on Washington. He would like the European Union to develop its own military defense and security policy. “We cannot be the United States’ junior partner,” he said, although that is certainly what Europe is. While repeating the usual NATO line about the Russian threat, he noted that the policy of threats and sanctions against Russia had accomplished nothing and called for a “closer dialogue” to resolve problems. In that, he was surely echoing the consensus of the French elite which sees absolutely no French interest in the ongoing U.S.-inspired feud with Moscow.
Macron openly aspires to building a more independent EU military defense. The first obstacle lies in EU Treaties, which tie the Union to NATO. With the UK out of the EU, France is its strongest military power and its sole possessor of nuclear arms. There are indications that some German leaders might like to absorb France’s nuclear arsenal into a joint European force – which would surely arouse a “nationalist” uproar in France.
Playing the Game
Aside from providing protection, the Empire calls on everybody to play the game of international trade – so long as they consent to lose.
On Saturday in Munich, both Nancy Pelosi and Defense Secretary Mark Esper lit into China for daring to emerge as a trade giant and technological center. “China is seeking to export its digital autocracy through its telecommunication giant Huawei,” Pelosi warned.
Huawei has overtaken Russian natural gas as the export Washington condemns most vigorously as nefarious interference in the internal affairs of importers.
Esper gave a long speech damning Beijing’s “bad behavior”, “malign activity”, authoritarianism and, of course, Huawei. The Pentagon chief concluded his diatribe against America’s number one economic rival by a moralizing sermon on “our values, sense of fairness, and culture of opportunity,” which “unleash the very best of human intellect, spirit, and innovation.”
“Maybe, just maybe, we can get them on the right path,” Esper suggested benevolently. “Again, make no mistake, we do not seek conflict with China.”
In general, said Esper, “we simply ask of Beijing what we ask of every nation: to play by the rules, abide by international norms, and respect the rights and sovereignty of others.” (He could say, what we ask of every nation except our own.)
The Department of Defense, he said, is doing its share: “focused on deterring bad behavior, reassuring our friends and allies, and defending the global commons.” We want China to “behave like a normal country” but, said Esper, if it “will not change its ways”, then we must make “greater investments in our common defense; by making the hard economic and commercial choices needed to prioritize our shared security … prepared to deter any threat, defend any Ally, and defeat any foe.”
In short, China’s economic progress provides another excuse to increase the Pentagon budget and pressure European allies into more military spending. This could only please such major sponsors of this conference as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin (and probably did not displease Goldman Sachs and all the other major Western industries backing this get-together).
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi replied to Esper’s harangue with some lessons of his own for the West, concerning “multilateralism”.
“It is not multilateralism if only the Western countries prosper while the non-Western countries lag behind forever. It would not achieve the common progress of mankind,” said Wang. “China’s modernization is the necessity of history.” China’s history and culture meant that it could not copy the Western pattern nor seek hegemony as major powers in the past.
Wang said the West should discard its subconscious mentality of civilization supremacy, give up its bias and anxiety over China, and accept and welcome the development and revitalization of a country from the East with a system different from that of the West.
The West at Munich did not appear particularly ready to follow this advice. Nor that of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who was also allowed his few minutes to address deaf ears. Lavrov lamented that “the structure of the Cold War rivalry is being recreated” as NATO continues to advance eastward, carrying on military exercises of unprecedented scope near the Russian borders, and inflating arms budgets. Lavrov invited the West to stop promoting the phantom of the Russian or any other “threat” and remember “what unites us all” before it’s too late.
But the self-appointed representatives of “the West” hadn’t come to hear that. They were much more ready to listen respectfully to representatives of such friendly arms purchasers as Qatar and Saudi Arabia whose acceptance of “Western values” was not called into question.
It had evidently been decided who belongs to “the West” and who is threatening it: China and Russia. “China’s rapid ascent has stirred much debate over the primacy of the United States and the West in the 21st century,” Esper remarked. Indeed, the “Munich Security Report” published for the conference was devoted to the odd theme of “Westlessness”, lamenting a new “decline of the West” (in echo of Oswald Spengler’s famous Der Untergang des Abendlandes of a century ago). The world was becoming less Western – and even worse, so was the West itself.
“‘We cannot be the United States’ junior partner,’ Macron said, although that is certainly what Europe is.”
This complaint had two sides, material and ideological. In material terms, the West feels challenged by foreign economic and technological development, especially in China. It is notable that, while Western powers vigorously promoted international trade-based economies, they seem unable to react to the results except in terms of power rivalry and ideological conflict.
As long as Western dominance was ensured, international trade was celebrated as the necessary basis for a peaceful world. But the moment a non-Western trader is doing too well, its exports are ominously denounced as means to exert malign influence over its customers. The prime example was Russian natural gas. Chinese technology is the next. Both are decried, especially by U.S. spokespeople, as treacherous means to make other countries “dependent”.
Of course, trade does imply mutual dependence, and with it, a certain degree of political influence. Certainly, the overwhelming U.S. dominance of the entertainment industry (movies, TV series, popular music) exercises an enormous ideological influence on much of the world. The U.S. influence via Internet is also considerable.
But the avoidance of such nefarious foreign influence would call for precisely an “inward-looking” nationalism that the MSC denounced as destructive of our Western values.
The Western strategists see themselves threatened by too much globalization abroad, in the terms of China rising, and not enough enthusiasm for globalization at home. Enthusiasm is waning for foreign military expeditions to impose “values” – an essential aspect of Western identity.
The Report deplored the rise of “inward-looking” nationalism in Europe, which could be called patriotism, since it has none of the aggressive tendencies associated with nationalism. In fact, some of these European “nationalists” actually favor less intervention in the Middle East and would like to promote peaceful relations with Russia.
When the alleged threat to the West was “godless communism”, Western values were relatively conservative. Today, the liberal West is threatened by conservatism, by people who more or less want to preserve their traditional lifestyle.
Finally, the MSC acknowledged that “the defenders of an open, liberal West, … so far seem unable to find an adequate answer to the illiberal-nationalist challenge…”. Part of the reason “may be found in the long almost unshakable conviction that all obstacles to liberalization were only minor setbacks, as liberalism’s eventual triumph was seen as inevitable.” Politicians have presented their policies as without alternative. As a result, there is growing “resistance against a system allegedly run by liberal experts and international institutions, which in the eyes of some amounts to a ‘new authoritarianism’…”
Isn’t “liberal authoritarianism” an oxymoron? But what do you call it when Macron’s police enjoy impunity when they shoot out the eyes of Gilets Jaunes citizens peacefully protesting against massively unpopular social policies, when the UK holds Julian Assange in a dungeon despite denunciation of his cruel treatment by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture? When the United States holds a record number of people in prison, including Chelsea Manning, simply to force her to testify against her will, and with no end in sight?
The day may come when it is accepted that the world is round, and “West” is only a relative geographic term, depending on where you are.
Diana Johnstone lives in Paris, France. Her latest book is Circle in the Darkness: Memoirs of a World Watcher (Clarity Press, 2020).
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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A great piece, but I think Ms. Johnstone, perhaps out of courtesy, gives Europe way too much credit when she calls it a ‘junior partner’ of the USA. Junior associate at suffrance would be a more apt metaphor.
Esper sounded like Jerry Mahoney or Knucklehead Smith mouthing the words of their ventriloquist Paul Winchell. Everyone in every power center throughout the so-called “West” reads off the same script supplied to them by the American Deep State. The favorite expressions now never change–“malign influence, security threats, expansionist goals, bad behaviour, authoritarianism, anti-Western values, etc, etc–in the rabid anti-Russian, anti-Chinese false narrative that constitutes the foundation of American foreign policy.
Now I am fed propaganda by the mass media that Putin is again meddling in the American presidential election and actively pushing the Sanders campaign. Bernie weakly responds that i) he doesn’t care who Putin supports (a reasonable answer) but ii) he warns him to stay out of American politics, implying that he accepts the premise of this shop-warn but baseless allegation for which no evidence has been or is ever presented.
I’m no historian but I am led by much fact and argument to accept as a strong hypothesis that most great empires have been grounded in treachery and false narratives (portrayed to the public as heroism and legend), and that these rotten foundations were the ultimate cause of their collapse sooner or later, but virtually every time. We should hope such a scenario plays out yet again because this time the entire world is at risk from the mindless and ruthless actions of one political regime that fancies itself the entitled world hegemon with whom no other nation may disagree or peacefully compete on any matter. It’s grasping overreach for power has not only made miserable and taken the lives of millions around the globe, but has beggared its own citizenry, pouring its own what should be seed-corn revenues into a military juggernaut surpassing those amassed by the worst tyrants in world history. And when it has squandered all of its real domestic revenues it continues to finance this folly by creating massive unpayable debt throughout the world. This must stop or civilisation itself, not just the “Western” variety, will come to an end. I appeal to the world, please unite and stop the bully!
Couldn’t agree more Diana Johnstone.
There are EU countries where the people (may) want out of the EU. If the governments of those countries do not conduct an exit/remain vote, the EU is in danger of becoming a “prison house of nations” a la the soviet union.
In my opinion European transnational organizations must be more confederal than the U.S. to survive democratically. The EU should recognize and honor the mild nationalism, economic and cultural necessaries of its member countries.
It is well past time for NATO to go the way of the Warsaw Pact and let the EU be the EU the people of the European countries want it to be.
I just have to add simply wonderful writing with a “you are there” feel to it.
Unfortunately the German politicians are very loyal US vasalles. In the Bundestag on Nov. 27th 2019 Angela Merkel told plain lies. She accused Russia to have reached the borders of th NATO with her attacks. (!) German offiziel news in Print media and TV are full of lies concerning Russia and Syria although not many citizens believe that. The truth can only be find in alternative blogs. (www.rubicon.newsflashartikelflashdas-lachen-
der-killer) The killing of Soleimani by a drone was done via Ramstein, the biggest US Military Base in Germany like all the drone killings which Obama did.
People have been protesting at Ramstein again and again to no avail. Since WWII we are an occupied country
(although ironically it was the Russian Army which freed this country from the Nazis.) Putin’s speach in 2007 in the Bundestag gave us so much hope but unfortunately all that was changed by the US politics and the obeying German politicians. There have been several demonstrations on saturday in Munich. Most citizens want peace with Russia and are afraid of the US aggression. But not those who can decide. I wish there were more demonstrations against Defender 20. Peace!
Thank you Diana Johnstone, for your wonderfully written article. It is such a great read, everything in it is so true!
I am glad to be able to read it on CN, which i keep spreading as far and wide as possible.
Thank you CN.
When the Soviet troops vacated East Germany, the American troops should have done the same in West Germany, making Germany an entirely independent unified nation once again, rather than just a larger American vassal state. The German state should function primarily for the benefit of the German people, not American foreign policy goals.
Realist, that is what Gorbatschow had in mind. Because of her geographical position Germany could be a mediator between East and West Europe. But neither the UK nor the US would like that.
The author correctly details the fact that Pompeo, and Esper delivered raving speeches about China, while Nancy Pelosi, fresh from her failed attempt at orchestrating the removalof the president, revealed herself ad a full-fledged neon fully in sync with Pompeo and Esper. Pelosi demanded hat the world stop using Huawei technology—and by implication all Chinese technolog. She denounced President Xi Jinping for undermining American “democratic values, human rights, economic independence and national security.” She also appeared rattled when challenged by a former Chinese official regarding Pelosi’s assertion of the fragility of US institutions.
Pompeo used the same phrases, reminiscent of the McCarthyite Red Scare hysteria: “China is increasingly trying to co-opt officials at the state and local level…. They’re trying to affect not only our federal level but our state and local officials as well. And this is happening all across Europe and, indeed, all across the world.”
However, what is missing in an otherwise excellent report is the counterposition of Pompeo’s boss. President Trump has consistently stood for working relations with both Russia and China, for which he has been under continual attack and threats of removal. Just a few weeks prior, at Davos, Trump stated, ““Our relationship with China, right now, has probably never been better. We went through a very rough patch, but it’s never, ever been better. My relationship with President Xi is an extraordinary one. He’s for China; I’m for the U.S. But other than that, we love each other.” In fact, the United States and China presently stand poised to shortly conclude one of the biggest trade deals in history—unless it’s disrupted from the inside.
Thank you, Diana. Your prose is diamond.
Thank you, Diana Johnstone, for this glimpse of the MSC, clearly another scare-propaganda scam for western rightwing militarism, the sales pitch of the MIC.
“Liberal interventionism” is just a sales pitch to ignorant moderates; it has never been used to support any “liberal” intervention, because there has not been such a thing: that would be humanitarian aid. Western intervention consists of (1) Mideast genocides in support of Israeli land theft (for zionist bribes), (2) subversion of social democracies in Latin America (for oligarchy bribes), and (3) troublemaking in the East or anywhere else (for MIC bribes).
The US obsession with demonizing and provoking Russia and China has never reflected a real threat, just the ancient need of tyrant demagogues for a threat from beyond the tribal fence. The US right wing forever hopes to build the right wing in Russia and China by threatening them under pretense of threats posed by them, to cause defensive actions that can be misrepresented as offensive. But in fact the US right wing is the sole cause of any security problems of the US.
Fair and straightforward business competition is felt by most as completely normal and acceptable for the most part. Coercive, covert and overt business tactics which feature high reliance on catastrophic, tragic, illegal wars of aggression – including the terrifying extrajudicial assassinations of national heroes – have finally become exhaustive, resulting in the natural response by people to express legitimate displeasure, with their loud and clear, powerful message: “These are no longer acceptable actions anywhere on Earth in the year 2020, and beyond.”
Diana not only understands correctly what is going on in the world, but can write it in beautiful prose! Thoroughly enjoyed it. One wonders why is Europe going along with the insane Russophobia and sanctions which hurt European economies much more than USA? Why should EU NATO countries increase their military spending to the detriment of their citizens’ welfare when there is no logical reason to do so? Is is fear of USA sanction? For how long will they play this game which makes them complicit to the crimes committed in the name of defending “western values”. With the UK, the Trojian Horse of the USA out of Europe, someone should stand up and object to the Empire. De Gaul is not here and Snowden told us that the cell phone of Angela Merkel was tapped, which may explain her submissive behavior to US policies. May be her successor will find the courage to say: enough!
If you listened to blather like that long enough, you might actually begin to forget that all of our stuff is now made in China–
see: reuters.com/article/us-usa-military-china/u-s-military-comes-to-grips-with-over-reliance-on-chinese-imports-idUSKCN1MC275″ rel=”nofollow ugc”>
even some of our defense components! But then, what did these clowns expect when they shut down our factories and moved them to China?
Thank you Diane, that is, as usual, a clear and comprehensive critique of the way our elected and appointed representatives to the world think and behave. I can only hope that the next younger generation that is so aware of our faults gets to live long enough to make some needed changes in our thinking and our actions
Great to see that Diana Johnstone has published a memoir!
Thanks for this article by Diana Johnstone.
“values” that are supposed to be essentially Western: democracy, human rights, a market-based economy and “international cooperation in international institutions”. Well, the USA manages to do without three of these, as the market-based economy includes everything including buying every election. International law is “not for us”, as top US diplomat(!) Pompass made abundantly clear . Pretending that Russia is an enemy and that Russia’s reaction to US sanctions and China’s forging ahead with education, technological advances, moving millions out of poverty and making international agreements for infrastructure projects somehow threaten USA (“Western”) values is pathetic.
Only the USA is an empire trying to control the rest of the globe. Keeping to international treaties instead of abandoning them and sanctioning both “friends” and “enemies” could even lead to peace. what horror for the “West”!!
What a detestable bunch, these “Western leaders”. To add to all the misery they constantly do their best to promote around the world, ruining or trying to ruin entire countries (Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Venezuela, etc and etc and etc!), they add their repellent smirks and hypocrisy. May they get their just deserts, and soon.
Another great article, Diana: clear, focused, and informative.
It always strikes me as being strange when the US describes its opponents as being, ‘not normal countries’. When in fact the biggest abnormal country is the United States itself.
I truly admire & appreciate this devastatingly insightful essay by Diana Johnstone. Thank you, ma’am.
The good news is that the West is having this conversation at all. It clearly shows the panic they are in. When one remembers that only thirty years ago the West was quite secure in the knowledge that it could crush any opponent. And now look at them. They are terrified that the Chinese and Russians might just behave towards the West the same as the West behaved toward them when it was all powerful. Since both Russia and China are powerful military opponents, together even more powerful than is the USA they cannot be crushed under the jackboot of fachism anymore. So the only thing the West has left in it`s arsenal is it`s propaganda machine, which is running red hot these last few years. And in spite of that Russia and China just keep surging ahead. And at every step the West keeps pushing China and Russia into each other`s arms. It is the best thing that has happened to the world in the last two hundred years.
Moreover, it wasn’t Chinese or Russian missiles that hit the US base in Iraq, but Iran. Unthinkable even 6 months ago. An event that validates the idea that the only force that the US can project effectively for the time being is financial, and the time for that running out.
Good look at what usa citizens do not want to regard, having been placed in a state of constant fear and uncertainty.
Pelosi’s condemnation of China is in hypocritical opposition to her words and actions against potus, showing that $$$ runs usa’s government.
Thanks to both Diana Johnstone and Patrick Lawrence for these glimpses into the recent MSC. I’ve been busy with personal matters and missed all of this in real time.
There can be no doubt about the truth of this:
“In fact, what is meant is a particular interpretation of all those “values”, an interpretation based on Anglo-American history. And indeed, in historic terms, this particular “West” is essentially the heir and continuation of the British empire, centered in Washington after London was obliged to abdicate after World War II, while retaining its role as imperial tutor and closest partner.”
Not in a million years would the US be able to defend all those nations to which “protection” was offered…or better said, coerced. And besides, which nation would be interested in attacking the West?
“The day may come when it is accepted that the world is round, and “West” is only a relative geographic term, depending on where you are.” Ah, yes, that would indeed be a wonderful day! Thank you Diana for some great reporting and analysis.
If the stakes were not so high, as in human and planetary survival, one would be tempted to simply shake one’s head and laugh at the complete buffoonery and idiocy that are part and parcel of the nonstop clown show provided by American officials.
Here is an interesting look at how the State Department is trying to frighten Americans about Huawei:
Washington’s primary concern with Huawei in specific and China in general is that China’s leadership will use the implementation of 5G to steal sensitive personal information. This begs the question; what is it that Five Eyes (the intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) are doing with the massive volume of human intelligence, military intelligence and signals intelligence that they are collecting on all of us every day?
Excellent analysis. Superb piece of writing.