Provoking China, Punishing India

This country launched an illegal war without UN approval. Their airstrikes and bombs killed hundreds of civilians. They then carved out an independent republic and recognized the secessionist state.

The invading country was the United States, the country they invaded was Serbia and state they sliced off was Kosovo. Kosovo would unilaterally declare independence from Serbia without a referendum; the US supported and recognized the secession.

In Fools Crusade, Diana Johnstone says that the US went to war in Yugoslavia "without seeking UN Security Council authorization." She says that the US and NATO "circumvented" international law. Kosovo was NATO’s first war of aggression, revealing that it was not a purely defensive alliance.

So, it is with bold hypocrisy that Antony Blinken has called out China for being inconsistent with its own foreign policy of "respecting sovereignty" in supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China opposes circumventing the Security Council, invading other countries and not respecting the sovereignty of nations. But so, publicly, does the US. But the US has invaded myriad countries, like Iraq. It has circumvented or gone beyond the UN a number of times, as in Kosovo and Libya. All three of these were blows to Russia. Perhaps most hypocritically, the US has also recognized the illegal secession of several countries, beginning with Kosovo and extending, most recently, to Western Sahara with other notable examples in between.

The public criticism of China is part of a pattern that is emerging in the past few of the US provoking China, the other target in the US battle against a multipolar world that is attempting to balance the US led unipolar world. The New York Times first reported that Western intelligence had credible intelligence that Chinese officials told Russia not to invade Ukraine during the Olympics, while conceding that "different intelligence services had varying interpretations."

The story seems intended to imply that China approved of Russia’s actions and gave them a delayed green light.

Similarly to China’s response to Crimea in 2014, China has supported Russia’s security concerns, blamed NATO encroachment toward Russia’s borders for causing the problem and refused to criticize Russia while stopping short of condoning the invasion.

China has denied The New York Times report and accused the US of shifting the blame. China again repeated that it is the US, not China, who needs to take responsibility for the causes of the war: "We hope the culprit of the crisis would reflect on their role in the Ukraine crisis, take up their responsibilities, and take practical actions to ease the situation and solve the problem instead of blaming others."

China abstained from both the United Nations Security Council vote and the more recent General Assembly vote condemning the war. China has consistently blamed the US for its Cold War NATO bloc mentality while insisting that Russia’s legitimate security concerns be addressed.

The decision to publicly shame China was not the only US move in recent days that will be seen as provocative by China. Perhaps even more provocative was the delegation of former high ranking US officials that Biden decided to send to Taiwan. The delegation was led by former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Michael Mullen and told Taiwan that the US "will stand firm behind its security commitment" to Taiwan.

Though the delegation may have been sent, in part, to control any damage that may be caused by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s upcoming visit and to Taiwan—days later, Pompeo tweeted that the US should recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state – the delegation itself may be seen as provocative by China since joint communiqués negotiated with China between 1972 and 1982 commit the US to only low-level, unofficial diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a definition that the current delegation meets while, perhaps, provocatively flirting with a fine line.

The delegation’s message may be seen as provocative too. It seems to have been meant, at least in part, to assuage Taiwan’s concerns "over whether the US would remain hands-off in the event of a cross-strait conflict, given the US administration’s decision not to send troops to fight in Ukraine." Assuaging those concerns of Taiwan may provocatively raise concerns in China.

This is not the first time Biden has provoked China in this way. Biden began his presidency by inviting Taiwan’s representative to the US to his inauguration. He then sent an unofficial delegation of former US officials to Taiwan. On April 9, State Department spokesman Ned Price “issued new guidelines for US government interaction with Taiwan counterparts to encourage US government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship.” It called Taiwan “an important security and economic partner” and determined to “liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan.”

These actions and accusations may be seen as provocations by Russia’s strategic partner at a very volatile time.

But it is not only China that is feeling US pressure. China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, have both refused to join the US in condemning and sanctioning Russia. The US has prioritized pulling India into the US sphere. But India has also signed a strategic partnership with Russia that has been deepening. In both the United Nations Security Council vote and the General Assembly vote to condemn Russia, India abstained. India has also refused to join the sanctions against Russia.

India’s refusal to follow orders and join the US led unipolar world have angered the US who has demanded India "take a clear position." But the demand has been followed by provocative threats. Donald Lu, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, declared that "It’s now time [for India] to further distance itself from Russia." The demand was followed by the warning that "The Biden administration will consider CAATSA." CAATSA would allow Biden to impose sanctions on India for purchasing Russian military equipment. India recently again defied the US by acquiring a missile defense system from Russia. India defended its actions by calling itself a strategic partner of both the US and Russia.

In 2018, when India also purchased a missile defense system from Russia, the US did not invoke CAATSA and sanction India. This time, the Biden administration is considering it "as part of the wide-ranging consequences the West is seeking to impose on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine."

While the US battles Russia on one front of the battle to maintain a unipolar world, it is also provoking China and punishing India on the others.

Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.