In times of general exacerbation of the international situation, almost any event, at least somehow related to national security, becomes important in relations between rival powers. Especially now, when the line between state policy and the actions of private individuals not controlled by anyone is not just blurred — it actually does not exist.
The authorities of the United States and other Western countries easily talk about the possibility of interference in the work of global free market institutions in order to «punish» Russia or China more painfully for the next imaginary sins. And they themselves, in turn, are ready to see in any tornado the result of malicious intent on the part of Moscow and Beijing.
This also happened with the attack by unidentified hackers on the control system of the largest pipeline operator in the United States, which eventually paid the attackers for something $5 million. It would seem that nothing exceptional happened — [it is] a private company. Had this happened 20-25 years ago, no one would have thought of giving the incident a geopolitical dimension. But now, the US authorities immediately created reasons to think that they were going to blame Russia as a state for a hacker attack on their private company. Then, it seems, they still thought about it and decided not to stage another performance all over the world with accusations that cannot be proved. In general, the Biden administration seems to be so interested in the US-Russia summit that it decided to take a break in its hostile attacks.
The fact that now the story of the cyber attack has not (yet) become a pretext for aggravating interstate relations is not of great importance. The next time, the political circumstances will be different, and Moscow may even be accused of a meteorite falling. Primarily because it is in line with our partners’ own strategic culture. In one of the encyclopedias of American life — the famous novel by Mario Puzo «The Godfather» — the main character warns his colleagues in the difficult criminal business that even if his son is struck by lightning, he will still attribute it to them. He does this because he himself is ready to resort to any method.
The United States is inclined to blame all sins on those whose behavior they cannot control, precisely because they themselves easily admit the possibility of acting outside any rules. For decades, the US intelligence community has been waging a secret war on all continents, which is why it needs such bloated embassy staffs in various countries. This inevitably creates a culture of suspicion and, to some extent, even paranoia towards others.
Agree, if you know for yourself the ability to go to any unseemly act, then you expect the same from others? So the Americans live in a constant regime of a besieged fortress, against which, in their opinion, hostile conspiracies are woven day and night. It is the besieged fortresses that the US embassies look like anywhere in the world.
A paranoid perception of the world is generally characteristic of isolated cultures. It is known that savages on one of the Andaman Islands generally reject any contacts outside their fragile civilization. Every stranger for them is a danger that is best killed right away. Despite the fact that after the Second World War, the United States took a leading position in the global market economy and turned out to be a center of attraction for people from all over the world, the foundations of the worldview of a culture separated from the Old World did not change much. All the benefits and freedoms of global openness began to be used not just for profit, but for constant surveillance of «outsiders» and pushing back the boundaries of their own complete safety.
As long as close relations with the United States were extremely beneficial to everyone, the rest of the peoples put up with American kinks. Education in the best universities in the world, business in the most liberal economy or a visit to Broadway for many was worth turning a blind eye to all the eccentricities of a country that remains mentally isolated. As the domestic crisis in the United States grows in scale, the attractiveness of all this will diminish, while the costs of communicating with Americans will increase.
Moreover, the need for some distance will be dictated by security considerations. The life philosophy of «The Godfather» does not disappear anywhere, the United States will not limit its actions to the norms of law or morality, as they never did. The complete transfer to politics of the norms of free business, where deception of a partner is a blessing and feat, does not leave them the opportunity to join the achievements of more morally advanced civilizations — European, Russian or Chinese.
The most suitable partner for the United States is indeed North Korea, which also lives not in the real world, but surrounded by its own fears and complexes, transferred to others. Even very intelligent colleagues now easily admit the possibility that in the next outburst of the struggle with Russia, the Americans will begin to disconnect it from the most important systems that ensure participation in the global economy, or turn our smartphones into «useless dialers». That is, we know that the United States is a partner from whom, even purely theoretically, anything can be expected, and we are preparing for this.
However, there is always a risk of escalation, which is especially dangerous in an interconnected world. An episode with a hacker attack on a pipeline operator showed how vulnerable modern technological systems are to hostile influences. And we have every reason to think that major sovereign powers can take advantage of this vulnerability of the adversary when it comes to responding to actions that really threaten them. Even if such actions are dictated not by real reasons, but simply by conspiracy theories. Russia or China, after all, does not care why the Americans decide to do nasty things to them — the answer will have to be given in any case. The problem is that the real source of hostile action may not be states, but unknown perpetrators. But in response, the blow will be dealt to the states.
International politics at an ever more vigorous pace is returning to its historically normal state, in which each power plays for itself. There are exceptions — the nature of relations between Russia and China is such that they can be sure of each other’s intentions. It seems that the same can be said about the relationship between the United States and its European allies. But in all other respects the world is at the mercy of its natural chaos. But before the selfish and competitive policy of states did not take place in conditions of such a strong interconnection. Primarily in the technological field.
The nature of the behavior of states does not change, as well as the cultural characteristics inherent in them. But technological progress has completely changed the environment in which they operate. Even in the context of a pandemic, it is impossible to bring external conditions in line with the content of world politics — the Internet cannot be restricted as easily as prohibiting citizens from crossing state borders. This is precisely the main danger of our time.
Nobody wants a general war. But no one can control what is happening on a sovereign territory so successfully that they know the origin of each threat and accordingly respond to it. Therefore, if they do have a drop of rational behavior, the United States and its allies will still have to respond to the proposals of Russia and China to create a joint management system for «gray zones» in which it is no longer possible to ensure control at an exclusively national level.
Timofey Bordachev, Program Director of the Valdai Club, 14.05.2021 / Source.