US Seeking to Place ‘Cordon Sanitaire’ around Russia in Europe: UK Pundit

News ID: 1400482 Service: World
Marcus Papadopoulos

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A senior political analyst based in London underlined that US President Donald Trump’s administration is following the lead of its predecessor in the anti-Russian policy and seeking to isolate Moscow in Europe.

“NATO's presence on Russia's western borders, together with the US missile defense system in Eastern Europe, is aimed at placing a cordon sanitaire around Russia in Europe,” Marcus Papadopoulos said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.

“The Trump administration is continuing with the anti-Russian policy of its predecessor,” the analyst noted.

Papadopoulos is an expert on Russia and the publisher and editor of Politics First, a non-partisan publication for the UK Parliament.  He earned his MA in Modern History and his Ph.D. in Russian history from Royal Holloway, University of London.  His comments and interviews have appeared in various news outlets, including RT, Al Jazeera, Rossiya 24, TASS and RIA Novosti.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Tasnim: According to a recent report published by The National Interest, evidence is everywhere apparent that China and Russia are growing closer by the day. Some of the latest examples of their geostrategic coalescing are the large Chinese delegation at Russia’s recent Arctic conference in Archangelsk, China’s increasingly vocal support for Russia’s intervention in Syria, as well as the common refrain in both Russia and China that both powers are strongly opposed to US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system into South Korea. On the other hand, there have been some efforts by US President Donald Trump to “develop a constructive relationship that benefits both the United States and China”. What do you think about the developments? Will China finally form an alliance with Russia or decide to side by Trump in his military adventurism?

Papadopoulos: Today, in 2017, relations between China and Russia are at their highest ever level. Sino-Russian relations are based on mutual trust, while cooperation between Beijing and Moscow is extensive – politically, economically and militarily. The word which I would use to explain the unprecedented high level of relations between China and Russia is co-dependency.  For both countries to grow and prosper in a world which is still dominated by the US – politically, economically and militarily, although this is waning – the Chinese and the Russians need each other.  As Foreign Minister Lavrov said: At a time of global instability, “interaction” between China and Russia is of “special importance”.

Beijing and Moscow need each other.  Despite there being challenges in their relationship – and one of these is Sino-American relations - there is no reason, or indication, to suggest that the co-dependency of China and Russia is going to end in the foreseeable future.  Both countries need each other to achieve their own objectives: in Russia’s case, preserving its superpower status; and in China’s case, becoming a superpower. Given that US power and influence in the world will remain formidable in the long-term - although it is weakening – and given that policymakers in Washington are relentlessly pursuing their objectives of containing Russia in Europe and in the Pacific and of containing China in South-East Asia and also in the Pacific, the future for China and Russia to maintain their co-dependency looks positive and this will, in turn, continue to herald positive geo-strategic results for Beijing and Moscow.

That said however, one of the challenges to Sino-Russian relations is Beijing's strong economic dependence on the US.  The Chinese and American economies are interconnected and inter-dependent.  One can argue that co-dependency also exists between China and the US.  To a very large extent, China's status as an economic powerhouse is based on its trade with and investment in the US.  The Chinese leadership understands all too well that any disruption to China's business dealings with the US would tremendously affect the Chinese economy, which would then create internal strife in China thus potentially threatening the power base of the Chinese communist party. 

With his awareness of Chinese dependency on the US economy, President Trump has considerable leverage over China, which he has already started to wield.  It is was no coincidence that following the American leader's meeting with his Chinese counterpart this April, China did not explicitly condemn Washington's cruise missile attack on Syria and, in fact, expressed understanding as to why the attack was launched.  Furthermore, the Chinese then abstained on a resolution at the United Nations Security Council put forward by the US, UK, and France, which was aimed at the Syrian Government.  Before the meeting between the American and Chinese presidents, China had vetoed six resolutions on Syria since the conflict in the country began.

President Trump is attempting to court China and pull it away from Russia like Richard Nixon successfully did in the 1970s when he took full advantage of the Soviet-Sino split. However, that is unlikely to happen this time.  China needs a balanced relationship with America and Russia, in order to fully reap the benefits accruing from successfully dealing with both superpowers.  China cannot jeopardize its economic relationship with America but, at the same time, cannot afford to be left on its own in the world to face the Americans and so maintaining its relationship with Russia is crucial to that.

So, America cannot pull China away from Russia but can keep the Chinese in check and bring them to heel when need be, by playing Washington's (no pun intended) trump card: the economic one.  So there will be neither an alliance between China and Russia aimed at the US nor a split between Beijing and Moscow.  China will work closely with both the Americans and Russians, mindful of the overriding importance to the Chinese economy and to Chinese national security of having a balanced relationship with Washington and Moscow. As Dengism states, whatever works for China.

Tasnim: The USS Michigan — a guided-missile submarine — recently arrived in South Korea for what a US defense official described as a show of force amid tensions between the US and North Korea. The tensions skyrocketed after President Trump assumed office in January. The new administration has repeatedly said that it is seriously worried about North Korea’s efforts to develop a nuclear-tipped missile that could hit the US mainland. Pyongyang, however, argues that it needs to be prepared in case of an attack from Washington and its ally Seoul. What do you think about the developments? Would it be possible that Trump launches an offensive on North Korea?

Papadopoulos: President Trump is an American nationalist who is determined, at all costs, to prevent any challenge to US global hegemony.  He has no moral compunction in using military force to subdue countries that resist Washington's diktats.  In light of that, there is a distinct possibility that the Trump administration could resort to force against North Korea.  An American air attack against North Korea undoubtedly would result in a military response of some kind from Pyongyang, including an artillery attack on Soul and on US bases in South Korea.  That could easily lead to a massive escalation, with a combined US-South Korean invasion of North Korea, aimed at toppling the North Korean Government.  Whilst the American and South Korean militaries would incur massive casualties (not to mention South Korean and North Korea civilian casualties) by invading North Korea, the end result for the Americans would be US mastery of the entire Korean Peninsula, bringing US troops to the borders of China and Russia, thereby enhancing Washington's plans to encircle both countries in the Pacific.  Judging by history, the Americans are prepared to pour huge resources into military campaigns if the end reward is a strengthening of US global dominance.  Under President Trump, US Foreign Policy has taken another turn for the worse.  Both the White House and the machines of government in Washington are geared up towards disposing of governments in the world which Washington categorizes as hostile.

The West is talking about a "North Korean threat to the world".  But in reality, the threat to the world emanates from the West. North Korea is faced with nearly 30,000 US troops on its border; an American missile defense shield in South Korea; American naval vessels off its coast; American aircraft flying close to its airspace; massive and provocative US-South Korean military maneuvers; American nuclear warheads pointed at it; US military bases surrounding it in the Pacific; and hostile talk from Washington. North Korea, therefore, has the political, legal and moral right to respond to American aggression.

Tasnim: In another development, the US Air Force has deployed F-35 Lightning II fighters to Estonia, putting the service’s newest fighter jets even closer to Russia’s doorstep. The stealth fighter jets landed in the Baltic country on Tuesday to take part in training exercises aimed at “deterring” Russia, according to Russian media reports. What is your assessment on the issue, what is Washington trying to signal to Moscow by the move?

Papadopoulos: The Trump administration is continuing with the anti-Russian policy of its predecessor. The American leadership understands that Russia is the only country in the world that can successfully challenge US global hegemony and can literally destroy America by the use of its nuclear arsenal, which is the largest in the world (something that irks Trump hence his stated objective of making the US nuclear arsenal the world's preeminent one). NATO's presence on Russia's western borders, together with the US missile defense system in Eastern Europe, is aimed at placing a cordon sanitaire around Russia in Europe.  Washington understands that a strong Russia in Europe means a strong Russia in the world; and conversely, a weakened Russia in Europe means a weakened Russia in the world.

The American policy towards Russia is dangerous not just for America and Russia but for the entire world.  The Kremlin will use all means at its disposal to safeguard the security of the Russian Federation.  The immediate hotspots are the Baltic States and Ukraine.  But we should also be mindful of how the US is trying to entice Moldova and Georgia into NATO, which, like with Ukraine, poses an immense security threat to Russia.

Further to that, Trump is a businessman first and foremost and he understands that increasing the US defense budget is good for American business. Identifying a "threat to the world", in this case, Russia is worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the American industrial-military complex, which is crucial to the US economy.  US foreign policy is largely based upon the arms industry and wars, making America an immoral and unethical country of biblical proportions.

Tasnim: Recently, Poland welcomed the first US troops in a multinational force being posted across the Baltic region to counter potential threats from Russia. More than 1,100 soldiers - 900 US troops as well as 150 British and 120 Romanians - are to be deployed in Orzysz, about 57km south of Russia's Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad, where Moscow has stationed nuclear-capable missiles and an S-400 air missile defense system. Do you believe that the US and Russia are on road to a final collision? Do you think that the US is beating the drum for World War III?

Papadopoulos: I believe that a nuclear war between America and Russia is very unlikely as both countries understand the MAD doctrine (mutually assured destruction). However, the Great Powers in World War One did not intend for this war to take place; it occurred as a result of their ill-thought out and recklessly implemented policies, which just required a single spark for them to lead to a global war.  Because of the aggressive behavior on the international stage by the US, a nuclear war between Washington and Moscow could break out as a result of a single bullet being fired at a Russian or an American soldier by either side or by a Russian or an American aircraft being shot down by the other. The extremely tense situation between America and Russia could, though unintentionally, spiral into a nuclear war.  Nuclear apocalypse remains very unlikely but it should not be underestimated.  The day that President Trump took office was the day that the world became an even more dangerous place. A depressing but truthful reality.   

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