Secretary of State Blinken throws down the gauntlet to China and Russia…again
America began a new week with Secretary of State Antony Blinken appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. One might forgive a traveler from another land or time forming the impression that almost all U.S. television news, cable and network alike, consisted of different channels of Voice of the White House. (Or the Pentagon Broadcasting Service.) Being the foreign policy chief of the Biden-Harris administration, Todd was treated with the utmost deference except when he appeared to be slipping away from saber-rattling and toward some facsimile of diplomacy, as will be seen below. In return Blinken endearingly addressed Todd as Chuck. The direct address with the personal touch didn’t prevent Todd from goading Blinken on to new heights of obloquy and hostility toward Russia and China, though. Asking the tough questions is how the likes of Todd would phrase it, no doubt.
Perhaps the first third of the program focused on Covid-19 and what Blinken matter of factly referred to COVAX, though it’s doubtful many viewers had heard the term before. Even in that context he didn’t let slip the opportunity to deliver himself of this chastisement:
“I think China knows that in the early stages of Covid, it didn’t do what it needed to do, which was to, in real time, give access to international experts, in real time to share information, in real time to provide real transparency. And one result of that failure is that the vaccine – the virus, excuse me, got out of hand faster and with, I think, much more egregious results than it might otherwise.”
Nothing more perturbing than an egregious virus.
Without blinking an eyelid Todd then fired this question at his guest:
“Are we prepared to defend Taiwan militarily?”
Quite a segue from the Corona virus. In fact, as will be seen, Todd regularly prompted, and prodded, Blinken into making bellicose statements in relation to China and Russia, at one point questioning the resolve if not the manhood of his guest.
Blinken responded in the manner he was primed to: “So, Chuck, what we’ve seen, and what is of real concern to us, is increasingly aggressive actions by the government in Beijing directed at Taiwan, raising tensions in the Straits. And we have a commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act….And all I can tell you is it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force.”
He repeated the last line twice in the interview, as he did a comparable one directed toward Russia.
Todd then raised the ante by stating: “I understand that. So it does sound like you’re saying that, look, we have commitments. And if China does try something in Taiwan, we will militarily respond?”
No subtlety there. Recall he was speaking to what is traditionally described as the U.S.’s top diplomat yet he eliminated all intermediate steps and measures to push for the military necessity. Blinken answered by again asserting “it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force.”
Todd then chided, really reproached, Blinken by saying that as the U.S. hasn’t been confrontational enough with Russia over the Donbass and Crimea then China will question America’s commitment to defending Taiwan. The secretary hastened to disabuse Todd of any notion that he wasn’t as assertive as Todd would want him to be in saying, “the United States…led a very significant international effort to impose real costs and sanctions on Russia for its aggression in Crimea, in the Donbas.”
Afraid that he couldn’t coax any more aggressive and threatening content from his guest, Todd followed up Blinken’s assurances with: “How’s that worked out? In fairness, sir?”
The point is transparently that if Washington would be more confrontational with Russia, up to and including with military force, China would get the message that it’s prepared to go to war against it as well.
Blinken fumbled for a minute and Todd, nothing loath, intensified the demand for confrontation with Russia over Ukraine with, “I mean, it hasn’t worked out very well.”
That last sentence succeeded in coaxing out of Blinken (most likely it was meant to assign him the role of a reluctant advocate of the military option) the reaction he was aiming at: “If Russia acts recklessly, or aggressively, there will be costs, there will be consequences.”
Still not content with his efforts to push the world’s two major nuclear powers further down the path of no return, Todd didn’t relent and offered this: “Mr. Secretary, what you just outlined on Russia sounds like the exact same policy the Obama-Biden administration had towards Russia on this. That was – that has not positioned Russia to be better actors. That didn’t – that policy, arguably, didn’t work. We’re not saying that Trump’s policy worked either. What do you say to that?”
Nothing short of Blinken announcing that the U.S. was bombing Moscow in five minutes would have slaked Todd’s insatiable thirst for a U.S.-Russia showdown. The Punch and Judy show continued with Blinken repeating again in relation to Russia what he had said regarding China twice as well, that “when it comes to Russia’s actions, there’ll be costs and consequences if it acts recklessly and aggressively….”
Once again with no approximation or pretense of transition Todd blurted out:
“You said that China’s treatment of the Uyghurs was, quote, ‘an effort to commit genocide.’ And I guess I’ve got to ask it this way: How do you justify doing business with China or any country that you believe is committing genocide?”
Blinken complied with: “When it comes to what we’re seeing from the government in Beijing, including with regard to the Uyghurs and the actions it’s taken in Xinjiang, yes, I think that’s, that’s exactly the right description….”
He added that he was prepared to work with China on other matters “even as we stand resolutely against egregious violations of human rights or in this case, acts of genocide.”
The two then moved on to Afghanistan concerning which Blinken at NATO headquarters last month repeated the NATO bromide about “we went in together, we’ll come out together.” That is, the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of the nation by the U.S. and NATO will not be the last one.
Though no two cases are exactly alike, the irony of threatening one fellow nuclear power – Russia – for obstructing the reunification of Ukraine while threatening another – China – for seeking reunification of its country seems rather contradictory. The country the U.S. identifies as its closest ally in the world has for decades occupied territory it seized from its neighbors and treats a religious and ethnic minority within that territory in a manner some would compare to Todd’s and Blinken’s characterization of China’s treatment of its Uyghurs. That country wasn’t mentioned in the Meet the Press episode. It’s never been told that “it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force” or “If [it] acts recklessly, or aggressively, there will be costs, there will be consequences.” Nor was U.S.-armed Saudi Arabia dressed down over its role in the incontestable genocide in Yemen.
No, those threats are reserved for Russia and China. When Blinken arrives at NATO headquarters later this week to join Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin the anti-Russian and anti-Chinese rhetoric will be ratcheted up yet more.