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Editorial: At the summits the ‘challenges’ of Russia and China kindle some unity for declining empires

AT the G7 a bombastic Boris Johnson pledged to “vaccinate the world.” Measured against the global need — the World Health Organisation says 11 billion doses are needed — the G7 actually pledged just 613 million.

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown — still unrepentant over his role in launching the Iraq war — rivalled the summit in hypocrisy with the remark that the 2021 G7 will “go down as an unforgivable moral failure.”

China alone has already delivered more than 350 million doses.

President Joe Biden’s pitch at the G7 and this week at the Nato meet is that America back. But strip away the self-serving rhetoric — the US is not America, not even all of North America — and we have a continental power that cannot command its own continent and finds its reach into other continents circumscribed.

Biden is in office not because he is the most energetic figure available to a divided US ruling class — the White House press pack dutifully ignore those “senior moments” when even critical historical detail escapes him — but because he represents a continuity in foreign policy that was briefly subverted by Donald Trump.

Biden possesses a detailed grasp of US foreign policy and, for all his frailty, he has the confidence of the military-defence-industrial-finance nexus.

Nato is the principal instrument of US foreign policy and is the place where the contradictions between US aims and the often different interests of its allies disappear into a cloud of careful phrasing.

In its mannered and socially distanced finale, Nato presented itself as the collective guardian of Western values against a variety of threats and enemies.

So today Biden will continue his European tour meeting with Vladimir Putin, in whom he will find a figure disinclined to obscure his real opinions behind careful words.

The core of the Russian’s hostility to Nato strategy lies in the betrayal of the pledge — eagerly seized by the gullible Mikhail Gorbachov — that Nato would not expand eastwards and bring its military front line to the Russian border or deploy its nuclear missiles any closer.

Today Russia is ringed with Nato bases on former Soviet territory with the consequence that its frontier regions are zones of perpetual tension.

The US under George W Bush and Barack Obama had a yoyo approach alternating between a ramped-up aggression and the cuddles of a shared crony capitalism.

It may be that Biden would desire a more constructive relationship with Putin, and perhaps be inclined to restore ambassador-level relations, but he is constrained by the toxic domestic climate sustained by the bogus Democratic Party strategy to blame Russia for Trump’s electoral coup d’theatre.

However, Putin seems to favour a convergence on climate change policy and Biden a willingness to double track on arms control negotiations.

Russia has a superpower military capacity bequeathed it by the Soviet Union, but capitalist restoration at the hands of US advisers and its own gangster oligarchs has left it economically weakened.

The most powerful European economic power, Germany, has its own interests and the Russia question finds fissures running through party divisions rather than between them, with realistic capitalist elements in the CDU and CSU favouring detente, trade and secure energy supplies, while the Greens and elements in the Social Democrats reprise rabid cold war rhetoric.

As ever, Nato language is contradictory. The alliance communiques this week claimed that “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security,” while “China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.”

The message was clear. China is the enemy precisely because it is a real economic challenge.

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