Presidency of Joe Biden: A Gorbachev moment for the US

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Hans Morgenthau in his book “Politics among nations” classified two types of powers – revisionist power and status-quoist power. Status-quoist power is the current hegemon and revisionist power is the power that intends to take over the hegemon power. For example, today, the US can be called as the status-quoist power while China as the revisionist power. This phenomenon has been witnessed throughout the spectrum.

Ultimate stress point for the hegemon

Almost all of the hegemon power starts with full zest and reaches at zenith after a period of time. Then, it starts declining. This phenomenon is similar to the inverted U shape trajectory. In all hegemon power, the last leader of the concerned empire is deemed as the ultimate stress point for the hegemonic stress-strain curve. For example, the Mughal invasion in India started with Babur. It reached a zenith during Akbar and Aurangzeb in 1707. Post-1707, it started declining and Bahadur Shah Zafar became the straw that breaks the Camel’s back.

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An almost similar trend was seen during the cold war with respect to USSR. The USSR reached its zenith in the 1970s when the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979. From 1970-79, the détente period of the cold war is witnessed between the US and the USSR. It shows that the US was weakening during Richard Nixon. It brought them to the table with the USSR for peaceful cooperation. Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in 1964, Outer space treaty in 1967, Nuclear Proliferation treaty (NPT) in 1969, Anti-Ballistic Treaty, and SALT treaty to reduce arms are a few shreds of evidence.

In international politics, perception matters more than posture. For example, if India helps Afghanistan through humanitarian aid, it doesn’t mean that India is very much concerned about the people of Afghanistan. It is a way for India to show soft power. Due to the weakening of the US during Nixon, the USSR invaded Afghanistan for power show. However, the US rescued itself quickly with the help of Mujaheddins – financed by the US, ideologically weaved by the Saudi, and executed by the Pakistan at grass-root level. Consequently, within 10 years, the USSR withdrew its footprint from Afghanistan.

Gorbachev: The fracture point of the USSR’s hegemon dream

This time, the withdrawal of the USSR from Afghanistan gave an opportunity to the US for a power show. Then the US was asserting against the power of the USSR. The US used the “India Card” to lure Pakistan. Similarly, the US used Saudi Arabia against the USSR in Afghanistan in exchange for protecting the Kingdom from democracy.

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On top of it, Mikhail Gorbachev went for the drastic change in the policy of the USSR. First, Through “Glasnost”, he brought political reforms which were against the existence of the USSR. It involved the removal of restrictions on the expression of opinions and political debate. This gave a political voice to Gorbachev’s opponents and followed by which people’s resentment was witnessed. It was an attempt to insert ‘western values’ in a communist country.

Second, he brought economic reforms in the face of ‘Perestroika’ which resulted in corruption and capitalism. Liberalism in an excessively centralized system backfired which is also called – ‘Shock Therapy’. It had not only led to an economic crisis but trust deficit in the members of the USSR. Third, Reforms were brought not only in political and economic affairs but in foreign policy also. Sinatra doctrine ended the Brezhnev doctrine which provided a strong control over east European countries. Sinatra doctrine allowed Warsaw Pact states to determine their own internal affairs. Baltic states were the first to come out of the USSR.

Biden following the footprints of Gorbachev

First, the Domestic politics of the US is weakening the strategic culture of the US in the name of ‘inclusive governance.’ Strategically for the US, national interest has been the topmost priority in strategic affairs. The US under the leadership of Biden compromises national interest. For example, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had introduced an “Islamophobia” bill. This bill won’t favor the US interest. Narrative of the Islamophobia basically starts with the US actions in the middle east followed by the inhuman security checks at the airport in the name of “security”. Passing such acts indicates legal acceptance of the US failure in the middle east.

Second, Since the Obama days, the US wanted withdrawal from Afghanistan due to the huge economic burden, and opposition by the taxpayers. China was also getting a free ride to become the revisionist power. Thus, the US decided to shift the geopolitical arena from the middle east to southeast China. Under the Biden regime, the US intelligence report failed to estimate and said that the Taliban would capture Kabul in 90 days as it was reported in Washington Post. But Kabul within a few days even without a fight. Biden also failed in opening the chapter of ‘US-Taliban deal 2020’ again.

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Third, The perception built after the US withdrawal was not good. People have started comparing Vietnam and Afghanistan. The way the US withdrew suddenly from Afghanistan by leaving weapons, uniforms, and vehicles put a question mark on the hegemon power. The US suffering military setbacks at the hands of weaker forces is creating a perception of great power fatigue. It forces the allies as well as rivals to give a re-think to strategic plans. France supporting China against the ‘Beijing Winter Olympics’ and Pakistan boycotted the Biden’s democratic summits are a few examples.

Fourth, Apart from this, Biden’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Geneva shows the weakness of the US. There is a perception in the west that it offered an opportunity to Russia to ‘defend its tyranny’ and ‘destructive foreign policy.’ Intelligence agency reports say that Vladimir Putin could order an invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has also backed Belarus President over the refugee crisis on the Polish border of the EU. It indicates that Russia is increasing the sphere of influence in the eastern flank of NATO that was decreased by the Sinatra doctrine of Mr. Gorbachev.

Fifth, The US ‘unilaterally’ withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2015. During the election, Biden promised to lift nuclear sanctions if Iran promises to return to the deal. Again, the US is demonstrating weaknesses. Iran is exercising ‘maximum resistance’ to counter the ‘maximum pressure’ of the US. Stanly Johny in an article at the Hindu says that ‘Iran wants removal of sanctions first with the promise of not violating terms in future by any US president’. Thus, Iran is constantly forcing the US to admit its mistakes.

Sixth, one of the core objectives of the hegemon power is to keep the backyard intact and don’t let any other countries to keep their backyard intact. Due to rising threats from China, the US tried to contain China through ASEAN and the ‘first island chain.’ But today, China sends dozens of fighter jets into Taiwan air defense zone regularly. China is becoming more and more assertive in spite of having an Indo-Pacific and AUKUS narrative. The US neither protected democracy in Myanmar nor took action on a violation of human rights. The US sent a wrong message to the world since ‘Tatmadaw’ (Myanmar’s military) was supported by China.

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Seventh, for the US, G7 should have been an opportunity to advance free-market solutions to kick-start the global economy in the wake of the deadliest pandemic of the century. Instead, Biden prioritized “global minimum corporate tax” which also doesn’t suit the US interest. Eighth, Socialism on the face of Joe Biden in the US through high government spending, weak borders, and woke ideology weaken the US interest. The power of cohesion of the US hegemon is decreasing. COVID-19 has exposed the US weaknesses.

A tough moment for the Biden

There are various ways for confrontations – First, Blackmailing, that won’t work in international affairs. Pakistan has been using this tool for a long time. Second, Military confrontation is a costly affair for any nation. Biden wouldn’t go for a military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Third, realist approaches like Buck-passing but Biden administration failed in capitalizing realist conceptions to manage world affairs.

Fourth, Sanctions, that has also not been effective in the recent past. For e.g. Sanctions slapped on Russia after Crimean annexation in 2014 did little to deter Mr. Putin from taking more military steps. Sanctions increase the chances of the adverse state for increasing closeness with China. Fifth, Biden may go for the option to blink first. ‘In the case of Iran, if the US blinks first and lifts the sanctions, it could be read as another sign of weakness’ (Stanley Johny).

In conclusion, the US has been weakening every day in every way. From global financial crisis, 2008 to COVID-19 has exposed the US state of affairs. A counter-hegemony is being built against the US hegemony. Biden may become the straw that breaks the camel’s back similar to the Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR.

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