Caitlin Johnstone: US Scrawls ‘Red Lines’ Over Globe

Washington views this entire planet as its territory. It believes it has a divinely bestowed right to issue decrees about what may and may not be done anywhere in the world.

Lightning over China and Taiwan, July 27, 2014. (NASA, International Space Station, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Caitlin Johnstone

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Reacting to China’s announcement that it will be putting forward a proposal for a political settlement to end the war in Ukraine, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said that if China begins arming Russia in that conflict this will be a “red line” for the United States.

“We welcome the Chinese announcement that they want peace because that’s what we always want to pursue in situations like this. But we also have to be clear that if there are any thoughts and efforts by the Chinese and others to provide lethal support to the Russians in their brutal attack against Ukraine, that that is unacceptable,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN on Sunday.

“That would be a red line,” she said. [On Thursday media outlets were citing a report in The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. was planning to send between 100 and 200 troops to Taiwan over the next few months in response to “growing tensions” with China.] 

The ambassador’s comments pertained to an unsubstantiated claim made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken that China is “considering providing lethal support to Russia in the war against Ukraine,” according to U.S. intelligence.

The U.S. has been making evidence-free claims in relation to China arming Russia against Ukraine since the war began. In March of last year, The New York Times reported that “Russia asked China to give it military equipment and support for the war in Ukraine after President Vladimir V. Putin began a full-scale invasion last month, according to U.S. officials.”

Then in April of last year NBC reported that this claim “lacked hard evidence” and was essentially just a lie the U.S. government told the media “as part of an information war against Russia.”

The mass media have eagerly participated in promoting this latest re-emergence of narratives about China supplying weapons to Russia, with The Wall Street Journal running a piece just the other day titled “Chinese Drones Still Support Russia’s War in Ukraine, Trade Data Show.”

But as commentator Matthew Petti has observed, buried deep in that article is an acknowledgement that these China-made camera drones aren’t even coming from China; they’re being purchased by Russian middlemen in nations such as the United Arab Emirates. Really, it’s just a story about how China manufactures a lot of products, disguised as something scandalous.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin knocked back Blinken’s claims at a press conference shortly after they were made, saying the U.S. is in no position to be accusing anyone of pouring arms into the war.

“It is the U.S., not China, that has been pouring weapons into the battlefield,” he said. “The U.S. is in no position to tell China what to do. We would never stand for finger-pointing, or even coercion and pressurizing from the U.S. on our relations with Russia.”

Indeed, Washington is warning Beijing with a “red line” against doing something that Washington does constantly, and is currently doing to an unprecedented extent in Ukraine.

The U.S. sends weapons to proxy forces all over the world, including to Saudi Arabia in facilitation of its mass atrocities in Yemen, to Al Qaeda and its aligned forces in facilitation of the Western dirty war on Syria, and to Israel in facilitation of its apartheid regime and its nonstop attacks on its neighbors.

Ukraine is Washington’s biggest proxy warfare operation yet, so it’s a bit rich for it to be drawing “red lines” on the other side of the planet regarding an activity the U.S. spent $113 billion on last year.

And that’s the major difference between the U.S. and nations such as Russia and China. When Russia and China draw red lines, they are at their own borders and regard their own national security interests. When the U.S. draws red lines, they are far from its own borders and unrelated to the security of the nation.

During the lead-up to the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned over and over again that the West was taking Moscow’s “red lines” on Ukrainian neutrality too lightly, and Washington brazenly dismissed those warnings while continuing to float the possibility of future NATO membership for Ukraine.

“I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” President Joe Biden told the press in December of 2021 when asked about the warnings.

Weeks later Putin made good on his threat, launching a horrific war that could easily have been prevented with a little diplomacy.

“This is that red line that I talked about multiple times,” Putin said. “They have crossed it.”

Similarly, Beijing has been using the phrase “red line” with regard to Taiwan and the U.S. empire’s rapidly escalating provocations on that front. China used it multiple times last year warning against then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, which Beijing regards as an egregious violation of Washington’s One China policy.

As Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp frequently notes, this marked the beginning a new level of hostilities from Beijing which now sees frequent military crossings of the median line between Taiwan and mainland China that weren’t commonplace before.

Whether you agree with Moscow and Beijing about their “red lines” or not, you must concede that there’s a very big difference between the way they draw them and the way the U.S. makes use of that concept.

Russia and China are issuing these warnings about the areas immediately adjacent to their own territory, while the U.S. issues them to anyone it likes about what they are permitted to do with their neighbors, even when the U.S. itself engages in those very activities all the time.

Washington views this entire planet as its territory. It believes it has a divinely bestowed right to issue decrees about what may and may not be done anywhere in the world, and that any transgression against these decrees is an act of aggression against it.

We see this evidenced in the way U.S. officials talk about the world. Just in January of last year Biden said that “everything south of the Mexican border is America’s front yard.”

That same month then-Press Secretary Jen Psaki remarked on the mounting tensions around Ukraine that it is in America’s interest to support “our eastern flank countries”, which might come as a surprise to those who were taught in school that America’s eastern flank was not eastern Europe but the eastern coastline of the United States.


You’ll see the imperial media refer to things like the vague prospect of China maybe someday building a military base in the African nation of Equatorial Guinea as a menacing encroachment upon America’s “backyard.”

It’s just so crazy how the U.S. government has the temerity to show outrage over foreign nations making demands about what happens on their own borders while it continually makes demands about what happens everywhere in the world.

It wails and moans about its enemies asserting small “spheres of influence” over former Soviet states or the South China Sea, while it asserts a sphere of influence that looks like planet Earth.

Whenever you point out how the U.S. is the worst offender in any area for which it criticizes other governments, you’ll find yourself accused of “whataboutism.” What this actually means is that you have highlighted evidence that the U.S. does not play by its own rules and does not actually value the issues it’s trying to moralize about.

The U.S. is not trying to stop foreign nations from bullying and dominating their neighbors, it’s trying to bash out more space for itself to bully and dominate the world.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

24 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: US Scrawls ‘Red Lines’ Over Globe

  1. LeoSun
    March 1, 2023 at 13:44

    “Whatabout” when Caitlin Johnstone doesn’t get it right?!? Whatcha gonna do? Who ya gonna call?!? The Answer: NOTHIN’ & NOBODY! B/c Caitlin Johnstone’s got the wholly truth & nothin’ but! In joy…..


    “Washington views this entire planet as its territory. It believes it has a divinely bestowed right to issue decrees about what may and may not be done anywhere in the world.” EXACTLY!!! It’s what The “MALARKY” Factory’s manufacturing The War on Terra looks like?

    “The U.S. is not trying to stop foreign nations from bullying and dominating their neighbors, it’s trying to bash out more space for itself to bully and dominate the world.” INDEED! The “Fossil’s” aka POTUS’ bullying is fueled by the RBO-Rules Based Order & the RBIO-Rules Based International Order which mean, The Divided $tates of Corporate America’s Board of Executioners “makes the rules; the rest of the world must do as it is told.”

    Props to China for pushing back, “Facts have proved more than once that the U.S. is the direct threat to the international order and the culprit of the regional turbulence.” Chinese Defense Ministry

    —“It is the U.S., not China, that has been pouring weapons into the battlefield.
    — The U.S. is in no position to tell China what to do.
    — We would never stand for finger-pointing, or even coercion and pressurizing from the U.S. on our relations with Russia.” WANG WENBIN

    “How many times,” PUTIN asks, “do we need to repeat ourselves”….

    “Fremdschämen!!!” No doubt, the old, balding, frail Eagle w/two right wings, tattered, torn & pissed on, ugh, pushing the envelope in Taiwan, Kiev (Kyiv) & Poland is feeling the wrath of the Russian Bear & the Dragon’s laser focus on the Eagle’s focus “manufacturing perception for domestic political purpose” to f*c* “us” all. POTUS’ 3-D $trategy, Deception. Destruction, Death.

    Nobody’s forgotten “the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.” A U.S. led war that POTUS, then $enator Biden wholephknheartedly “vocally” $upported & Voted For!!!” The BEAR and the DRAGON say – “NOT This Time, My Bald, Feathery, Friend!!!” Pepe Escobar

    Ohhhh, the present, must be so f/frustrating for Biden-Harris & their Board of Executioners. Our saving grace, Biden-Harris don’t have command of The Nuclear Codes. F/YaY!!! “When the drumbeat changes, the dancers must adapt.” TY, Caitlin Johnstone, CN, et al., Keep It Lit!

  2. CaseyG
    February 28, 2023 at 14:59

    Maybe there are too many in the chain of military people who wish to advance in money and in the silly little medals that so many wear. Maybe the current American government should read up on JFK, as apparently he
    was able to speak directly with Kruschev ( of Ukraine.) and those 2 together solved the Cuban problem.

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    February 28, 2023 at 09:52

    Being ‘exceptional’ or being ‘exceptionable’ ain’t the same.

  4. Donald Duck
    February 28, 2023 at 08:26

    “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” President Joe Biden told the press in December of 2021 when asked about the warnings.”

    Really! Presumably this means that the United States can plant its short-range, nuclear tipped missiles 5 minutes flight time away from Moscow or Peking. Yes, a reasonable statement of intent!

    It is difficult to gauge the American position. It seems so lunatic. Are they completely crazy, or do they actually mean what they say! The Russian/Chinese bloc are sovereign states who will not back down to nuclear blackmail – period! No self-regarding nation would or should. It should be made clear that the Russian forces armed with unstoppable S-29 long range missiles, nuclear armed submarines, and the PERIMITER DEFENCE which comes into action after ANY attack on Russia by the US. This should be common sense to anyone – even Americans. If the Americans wish to lead a quiet and peaceful life then it might be a good idea for both them and humanity to either sober up or consider suicide.

  5. Realist
    February 28, 2023 at 07:14

    Do as we say, but don’t even dare to think of doing what we do. Most imperious autocratic attitude laid out to keep the peons down since banning all access to any fruit from the tree of knowledge, which is really saying something, because many a clown has come and gone since the present clown show recruited itself and hung their shingle in Washington.

    Dude who calls himself Canadian Prepper just made a point on his blog today that should have seemed obvious to everyone who questions whether our planet will dodge what seems to be an imminent nuclear apocalypse: Washington would never have already invested 200 billion $’s upfront to arm Ukraine out the wazoo if they didn’t expect Zelensky & his gang of Ukie thugs to dutifully enforce all specified red lines and make all contracted hits. Uncle Sam would never seriously pony up even a few mill to make the CTA Red Line safe underneath Chicago streets–or freight lines traversing the Ohio countryside hauling enough poisonous chemicals to exterminate the indigenous human population should a derailment and spill occur.

    Last dance for Mary Jane, people. Anyone without a bunker built to OSHA codes will not be alive and eligible for the lightning round in this year’s Extinction Level Event Series.

  6. Mikael Andersson
    February 27, 2023 at 22:40

    Is it possible for the USA, in its advancing state of decay, to wage war on two fronts, or globally? It exhausts itself paying for Ukrainian public administration and tsunami of weapons – for as long as it takes. Could it simultaneously wage war against the People’s Republic of China? I suspect not. Overreach in its decline will cause its collapse. Perhaps there is less to fear from the geriatric dog’s bark and its toothless bite. Others have noticed the truth.

  7. February 27, 2023 at 19:44

    U.S. foreign policy can be summed up quite simply: “We can do whatever we want because we’re bigger and tougher than you and you can’t do anything about it – but if you so much as even think about doing the same thing, we’ll beat the shit out of you”.

  8. Anon
    February 27, 2023 at 18:38

    American imperial policy = resource theft backed by military threat / action… pure and simple.
    Oil, coca & poppies:
    It’s all product…
    And we’re fu**ed!

  9. February 27, 2023 at 17:34

    Chutzpah blended with hypocrisy and disdain for decency- the Biden administration in a nutshell.

    • February 27, 2023 at 19:49

      Don’t think for a minute and the Biden administration invented this. Chutzpah blended with hypocrisy and disdain for decency has been the hallmark of every U.S. president in the last 200 years with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter.

      • Realist
        February 28, 2023 at 07:26

        Denis Leary encapsulates the attitude to a tee in his pop song “I’m an Asshole.”


      • Vera Gottlieb
        February 28, 2023 at 09:51

        You hit the nail right on the head!!!

    • Vera Gottlieb
      February 28, 2023 at 09:51

      And not just the Biden administration…

  10. shmutzoid
    February 27, 2023 at 16:40

    From the Monroe Doctrine to the Wolfowitz Doctrine, the US has bullied its way around the world and is responsible for more death and destruction than any other country. ……,.,.,. “You’re either with us or against us” was not just GW Bush playacting after 9/11, it’s shorthand for US foreign policy, in general. …………………… The sooner the US empire comes crashing down, the better. Because of the media bubble of official narratives that blankets the country, folks in the US don’t even realize how most of the world’s population – some 90% – think the USA to be the greatest threat to global peace and stability.

    The world has had it with US ‘red lines’ China’s Belt & Road Initiative is showing the way forward. In a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, mega-billions in economic/infrastructure deals are being negotiated throughout Eurasia and the Global South. Monetary /banking solutions to circumvent the US dollar are slowly emerging, too. This will take some time to fully implement, but, will hopefully result in the US behaving like a normal country in a post-US empire-world.

    • Xpat Paula
      March 1, 2023 at 22:37

      “A normal country in a post-US empire-world.” Reminds me of a long-ago remark by the father of a Dutch colleague of mine, a remark that has stayed with me until my present old age:

      “Holland used to be a great country; now it’s a decent country.”

      Here’s hoping the US will someday be a decent country, although I won’t live to see it.

  11. Jeffrey Blankfort
    February 27, 2023 at 15:48

    Johnstone is essentially correct and should have mentioned that the US is the only country that maintains military commands that encompass the entire globe, the last being the Africa Command, launched by George Bush the Younger but developed by Barack Obama, the greatest actor to ever play the White House (and, in different sense, the American people) and more than Colin Powell, the role model for making Black appointees representatives the face of imperial America on the world stage, UN Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield and War Secretary Lloyd being prime examples.

    I would take exception, however, to two examples that Johnstone uses to make her argument. The first is that Israel is not and never been a US proxy as demonstrated not only by the various failed efforts by US presidents from both parties to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict (absent of doing it justly in all of the them) but in fact, the opposite has been the case, with overthrowing Saddam in Iraq, and supporting ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria being arguing being another.

    Also, whatever one thinks of the situation in Ukraine, and I believed that Putin was provoked into walking, unnecessarily, into Washington’s trap, Taiwan poses no threat to China and has no business claiming it to be an inalienable part of China unless one believes that states have more claims to land than the people who live on them. Unfortunately, too many on the Left have demonstrated, beginning with the Cold War, that they don’t agree with that.

    • Martin
      February 27, 2023 at 17:15

      i don’t think that there were many genuine ‘failed efforts by us presidents’ to resolve the israel-palestine conflict (maybe carter?).
      and of course an ‘independent’ (a us-armed and -aligned) taiwan will pose a threat to china. that is the entire point of promoting their independence. but you’re right, the people on the island should ultimately decide if they want freedom and independence (probably at a ‘security’ cost).

      February 27, 2023 at 18:36

      This argument negates all Sovereign claims to National borders; with respect,

      • Mikael Andersson
        February 27, 2023 at 22:32

        Tom, with respect. I think this whole ‘sovereign” thing is trash. How did the USA get to be “sovereign”? Was it by killing the people they found living there, fighting off the French and British and winning a war against Mexico? I think far too much is made of the “sovereign” claim when it was generally established by murder. The people living in a place should decide which state they subscribe to, and not be murdered for their choice. That applies to the people of Donbas specifically.

        • DMCP
          February 28, 2023 at 09:16

          The decline and loss of any agreed-upon philosophy as a deeper basis for addressing questions of right and wrong has led us to this unhappy point: a childish plaint of “It’s just not fair!” by whichever party seeks emotional support for its injured feelings.

          Or in the immortal words of the medieval peasant in a Monty Python film, “Help! I’m being repressed!”

    • Jeff Harrison
      February 28, 2023 at 12:08

      Except that it was a part of China prior to the Chinese civil war and China was essentially prevented taking control of Taiwan during the Chinese civil war that saw Mao Zedung’s communists ascendent over warlord Chiang Kai-Shek by the US. Unfortunately, too many right wingnuts don’t know their history.

  12. Lafcadio
    February 27, 2023 at 15:14

    Good article as always, and to reinforce her message about “divinely bestowed rights” please watch this 27 second clip of Ronald Reagan.

  13. Jean
    February 27, 2023 at 14:03

    Thanks. Always good stuff from Caitlin Johnstone! I was inspired to comment here because the old trope that America believes it has a Divine Right to the planet doesn’t serve the facts. This myth paints a poetic picture of megalomania, as if “that nation” had a confused understanding of the role its God gave it on the planet, and if we could just teach Americans to change this belief, we’d all be better off. It’s cutely naïve, but a little distracting. IMO, we’re better off to keep calling a spade a spade: The USA gov’t is captured by the arms industry and the extractive colonising industries, who are themselves captured by the belief that greed works. The American public, who have no power over their gov’t, may have drunk the Divine Right koolaid, but those at the wheel sure aren’t waiting for permission from their “God” to bully us all to death.

    • Piotr Berman
      February 27, 2023 at 22:28

      “The American public, who have no power over their gov’t, may have drunk the Divine Right koolaid,”

      To a degree, there is a trickling down of imperial dominance to American public. In 2022, federal deficit was quite huge, interest payments reached “record levels”, and federal debt to gdp went down by 0.5%. In turn, as federal spending trickle down, people get money and can afford to spend, resulting in positive gdp growth and record trade deficit, so American got foreign goods to buy with attractive prices.

      The loosers in this equation seem to be “revolvers”, a lot of Americans are “revolvers”, and not for their love for pistols: the term means that they keep balances on their credit cards, hence, they “revolve” their balances, making them revolvers. While Feds, largest corporations etc. enjoy negative real interest rates, revolvers pay usurious rates, above 20% — so far, inflation is much smaller.

      But those losers are a minority, and probably, a lopsided minority among the voters.

      In turn, the low interest rates paid by foreigners for American debt are caused by “low risk”, and why the risk is low? Because Congress every other year threatens default on debt — “debt ceiling crises”? No, because of dominance relationship enjoyed by USA.

      From that point of view, smallish expenses like Ukraine war may be worth it, because they allow to preserve world domination and let US government finance all of it by getting foreign money. Where the things may get iffy is that Ukraine war and surrounding events like sanctions, red line, increase in American obnoxiousness, may undermine the dominance of USD system and USA as a rule maker.

      But after decades of such consequences not materializing, Americans believe, based on experience, that reason or reasonableness do not have to constrain the government policies. By showing its will SUFFICIENTLY, America will get what it wants, and if not, the fault is in the government for NOT PRESENTING ITS CASE SUFFICIENTLY CLEARLY. As the other party solemnly promises to remove this defect, either we do not have any problem, or we will not have any problem (if you are inclined toward the other party).

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