The United States claims to follow a values-based foreign policy, but is this really reflected in its handling of the war in Ukraine?
For many years now, the United States has claimed that their foreign policy is centered around its ‘values’, namely “[protecting] fundamental human rights” and supporting democracy to advance a greater “freedom agenda,” as written on the State Department website. The Biden administration, in particular, has emphasized the importance of ‘values’ to their foreign policy. In a speech in early 2021, then-newly appointed Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, declared, “The Biden administration’s foreign policy will reflect our values.”
In the Biden-Harris National Security Strategy, a 48-page document, released in October 2022, the word “values” appears 29 times. The document asserts that “Actions to bolster democracy and defend human rights are critical to the United States not only because doing so is consistent with our values, but also because respect for democracy and support for human rights promotes global peace, security, and prosperity” (emphasis added). It further claims that, faced with a “strategic competition to shape the future of the international order… the United States will lead with our values.”
The United States’ claim that its foreign policy decisions are derived from moral values is not new. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, then-President George W. Bush portrayed it as a conflict of good vs. evil, stating: “Our enemies… embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We stand for a different choice… we choose freedom and the dignity of every life.” Bush also famously referred to three countries, including Iraq, as the “axis of evil.”
The publicly stated reasons for the invasion were to democratize Iraq, to “disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction […] and to free the Iraqi people.” While these seem like morally righteous and valiant aims on the surface, it is now common knowledge that the true reasons were, in fact, much more sinister, particularly given that alleged US intelligence suggesting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was entirely false. Political Scientist Ahsan I. Butt, for instance, argues that the Bush administration invaded Iraq for its “demonstration effect”, stating: “Put simply, the Iraq war was motivated by a desire to (re)establish American standing as the world’s leading power.”
In hindsight, it is extremely difficult to argue that the US interfered in Iraq based on its moral values, especially when considering the negative impact the invasion has had on Iraq, with hundreds of thousands of civilians having been killed, and the country having slid further into political turmoil.
The latest US foreign policy endeavor is in Ukraine, where conflict between Ukrainian and Russian forces rages on, nearly a year after Russia’s initial invasion. While there are officially no American boots on the ground in Ukraine, the US is doubtless still heavily involved in the conflict, having sent over $68 billion in aid to Ukraine in 2022.
The US’s proclaimed goals in supporting Ukraine are once again closely tied to its values. Central to the US’s support for Ukraine is the notion that Russia vs. Ukraine is a battle between authoritarian and democratic values, and that the US must provide Ukraine – the democracy – with the opportunity to defend itself against authoritarian encroachment. As stated by Antony Blinken, “The United States is committed to strengthening our relationship with Ukraine as we work to build a prosperous future for all Ukrainians.”
In a speech to the Ukrainian parliament in May, Boris Johnson, then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a country that can be considered an extension of the US on this matter, given its extremely close political relationship and previous alignments in foreign policy matters, proclaimed that the war “is about Ukrainian democracy against Putin’s tyranny. It is about freedom versus oppression. It is about right versus wrong. It is about good versus evil.” In other words, the US and its Western allies are portraying their support for Ukraine as a humanitarian act, guided by morality.
However, when analyzed closely, the Western narrative with regard to Ukraine is incongruent with its actions. Yes, the US and other Western institutions have provided extensive financial and military support for Ukraine, but the extent to which its actions have ultimately benefitted the Ukrainian people can be questioned.
Just weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several reports emerged that the two sides were close to agreeing a peace deal that would put a halt to the fighting. These reports came after Russian and Ukrainian delegates convened in Istanbul for negotiations on March 29, in which billionaire Roman Abramovich and Russian political figure Vladimir Medinsky were key participants. Ukraine agreeing to distance itself from the West and forgoing to join NATO was crucial to the structure of the deal.
While one cannot be certain as to precisely how close a deal was to being agreed, an unexpected obstacle prevented negotiations from continuing. On April 9, Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv, urging Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials to stop talks with Russia. As Ukrainian news outlet, Pravda, reported in early May, “As soon as the Ukrainian negotiators and Abramovych/Medynskyi agreed in general terms on the structure of the future possible agreement based on the results of Istanbul, the Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson appeared in Kyiv almost without warning.” According to a high-ranking Ukrainian official, Johnson brought two key messages to Kyiv, namely that an authoritarian figure like Putin is not to be negotiated with, and that even if Ukraine were ready for peace talks, the collective West, Ukraine’s key ally, was not willing to support negotiations – a deal breaker for Ukraine, given its dependence on Western aid.
The reason for the West’s unwillingness to strike a deal with Russia is apparent: The West wants to use Russia’s war with Ukraine (and the ensuing sanctions on Russia) to force regime change in Russia. “The collective West… now felt that Putin is actually not as all-powerful as they imagined him to be… right now there was a chance to ‘press him’. And the West wants to use it.” Only a few days after Johnson’s unexpected visit to Kyiv, Putin publicly stated that negotiations had reached a deadlock and would not continue. The Russian President has since declared multiple times that he is still willing to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict, most recently in an address on December 22.
Generally, Western leaders have attempted to keep their goal of regime change in Russia quiet, but occasionally, the truth has slipped out. In a speech in March, US President Joe Biden proclaimed: “For God’s sake, this man [Putin] cannot remain in power.” Meanwhile, in late February, a spokesperson for the Johnson government stated that Western sanctions on Russia are meant “to bring down the Putin regime,” by engineering an economic and political crisis.
While attempting to bring down a foreign government is nothing new for the US, it is important to understand what this aim means with regard to their decision-making vis-à-vis the Ukraine conflict. Effectively, the US and its allies are using the Ukrainian territory and, more importantly, the Ukrainian people, to fulfill their self-interested political aspirations. In other words, Western leaders, led by the US, are encouraging Ukraine to keep fighting as long as possible, no matter the military circumstances and substantial Ukrainian losses, in order to “bleed” Russia, and increase the chances of Putin being forced to step down as President. An article in the Washington Post summed the situation up nicely: “For some in NATO, it’s better for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too early or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.”
So, how has the US and Western-backed war of attrition versus Russia worked out for Ukraine? As the fighting in and around the Donbas continues, numerous Western media outlets still insist that Ukraine has a fighting chance against Russia. But, with Russia recently having mobilized 300,000 troops, it is sensible to predict that Russia will eventually get the upper hand in the conflict, if they do not already have it.
Aside from the military situation, Ukraine’s economy shrank an astonishing 33% in 2022 and is expected to shrink a further 10% in 2023. Ukraine has also suffered a 35% decrease in its exports, ranging from wheat to steel, while unemployment – already at over 30% – is expected to continue rising. The Ukrainian government was also forced into quantitative easing to steady the economic ship, which has led to a stark increase in inflation. As observed by Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, “We’re already giving them just enough to avoid hyperinflation… but there’s clearly a risk of a more serious economic contraction, and the only way to stop that will be to provide more financial assistance.” In contrast, Russia’s economy shrank around three per cent in 2022, much lower than most Western analysts anticipated, at the start of the sanctions.
In addition to the grim economic situation, the war in Ukraine has caused a major crisis for its inhabitants. Since the beginning of the war, around eight million refugees have fled the country, while many more have been displaced internally. The UN estimated in September that around 18 million Ukrainians needed humanitarian aid, and the World Bank has warned that poverty in the country could rise tenfold. Furthermore, Ukrainian officials have estimated that rebuilding the country will cost approximately $750 billion. In short, the country of Ukraine is in tatters and will be heavily reliant on Western financial aid for the foreseeable future, to prevent a total collapse.
Against this background, it is reasonable to say that the drawn-out conflict has not paid off for Ukraine and that finding a diplomatic solution would likely have been in the country’s best interest. However, at least in part due to Western influence on Ukraine, a peace deal was not an option for the Ukrainians.
It is important to note that Western influence on Ukraine did not begin in 2022, but has been prominent for several years, dating back to the Maidan Revolution that took place in 2014. In fact, due to US involvement in Ukraine around 2014 and frequent discussion about the country joining NATO, some accurately predicted that Ukraine would eventually become entangled in a conflict between Russia and the West, and get destroyed in the process.
John Mearsheimer, an International Relations scholar, gave an enlightening lecture on this issue in 2015, where he said:
“What we’re [the West] doing is encouraging the Ukrainians to play tough with the Russians. We’re encouraging the Ukrainians to think that they will ultimately become part of the West, because we will ultimately defeat Putin and we will ultimately get our way.
“The Ukrainians are playing along with this, and are almost completely unwilling to compromise with the Russians and, instead, want to pursue a hardline policy. If they do that, the end result is that their country is going to be wrecked. And what we’re doing is, in fact, encouraging that outcome.”
Seven years later, Mearsheimer has been proven correct. In an attempt to land a knock-out punch on Putin, the West has driven Ukraine into economic and humanitarian turmoil. The sad reality is that the US sees Ukraine as merely one piece on a grand chessboard of world power and politics, rather than a true ally. Moreover, the complete lack of regard for Ukrainian infrastructure, civilians and soldiers show that the US’s long-standing claims that values drive its foreign policy are nothing more than a façade, used to establish moral superiority over its adversaries, and to justify self-serving interventions around the globe.
Brief Review of Wilson’s Study of Administration
U.S. Leadership is Essential in Delivering on our Promise of Universal Education
John Horstmann obtained a Master’s Degree in Political Economy from the University of Amsterdam in 2022. He writes on all things politics, with a particular interest in analyzing global power dynamics and geopolitics.
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Brief Review of Wilson’s Study of Administration
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Public Administration is an action part of the government responsible for policy formulation and implementation. It can be defined broadly as a part of government activity and academic discipline. This field emerged from the mother discipline, Political Science.
The root of public administration emerged from The Study of Administration, an article by Woodrow Wilson that appeared in Political Science Quarterly in 1887 and is credited with establishing the foundation of public administration. This is the beginning of public administration. This first paradigm is known as the Public-Administration Dichotomy with many facets. Political-administrative dichotomy, which serves as the theoretical foundation of public administration, has a profound historical basis but continues to spark heated debates and disputes.
Administration, according to Wilson, falls outside the proper realm of politics. Frank J. Goodnow asserts that although the administration “has to do with carrying out these policies,” politics “has to do with the manifestation of the national will.” Shortly said, Goodnow advanced the Wilsonian theme with more daring and passion and proposed the politics-administration dichotomy.
Wilson’s article is primarily concerned with the United States of America, although its arguments can be applied wherever in the world. He discusses three broad subjects in this essay, all of which relate to public administration as a science that must be examined. To begin, a brief history of the study of public administration is provided. Second, there is the subject matter, or, more precisely, what really is public administration. Finally, he strives to determine the most effective strategies for developing public administration as a science and helpful tool within the framework of the United States of America’s democracy.
The science of administration is the ultimate fruit of the study of politics that began around 2200 years ago. The administration is the executive, functional, and most noticeable side of government and is as old as the government itself. Wilson says, until the twentieth century, no one wrote about administration as a science of governance. Administering a constitution is getting tougher than formulating one. He compares the old and contemporary public administration. Nations like Prussia (Germany) and France, who set an example of first regarding themselves as servants of the people and then creating a constitution with organized government offices, easily incorporated administrative science in their administration. Wilson claims that democracy is more difficult to govern than monarchy. Monarchies ruled by a few men made decisions easy. But in a democracy, the people decide. A monarchy may easily reform, but not a democracy.
For instance, to amend a constitutional mandate in Bangladesh, It is necessary to have the backing of a majority equal to or greater than two-thirds of the total number of parliament members. Ziaur Rahman, the president of Bangladesh, declared in 1978 that a referendum was necessary in addition to 2/3 of the vote in order to modify certain articles. By contrast, it is difficult and time-consuming to amend the constitution USA. Two-thirds of both chambers of Congress must approve a proposed constitutional amendment before it can be adopted by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
Wilson distinguishes administration from politics in his article, despite its ideas being integrally linked to politics. Unlike earlier reformers, Wilson believes that administration should be separate from politics and should not be manipulated. Public Administration is a detailed and systematic way of public law, and every application of general law as an act of administration, in his view. He contends that public opinion holds officials for being accountable, which is a part of the modern philosophy of Democracy. Compelling technical education and rigorous civil service examinations are required to qualify officials for the responsibility challenges.
Wilson discusses the development methods of the study. The government must find measures to reduce the enormous administrative burden. A comparative administration distinguishes democratic values from non-democratic ones. For example, in Syria, Bashar Al Assad practised autocracy for a long time which is different from democracy in the USA. A strong political system is essential to run the government. The method’s application While the American administration has a European legacy, Wilson contends that it must establish its own path via comparative research.
By investing in the education of the world’s most vulnerable children, we are investing in stability, peace and economic prosperity across the globe.
By Yasmine Sherif and Joan Rosenhauer*
We are experiencing an unprecedented global education crisis. In all, 222 million children are caught in the crosshairs, their education – and their futures – pushed aside by the brutal impacts of conflict, forced displacement, climate change and other protracted crises.
Without the safety, opportunity and protection that a holistic quality education provides, these girls and boys will fall through the cracks. Girls will continue to be forced into child marriage and abused, boys will be recruited as child soldiers, and massive portions of our human family will be displaced from their homes.
This will wreak havoc on our global efforts to end hunger and poverty and build a more peaceful world as outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The United States has the opportunity to stand up for the 222 million children and youth that need our support by investing in their education.
It’s the single best investment the U.S. could make in solidifying its position as a global leader. It’s the single best investment in spreading the seeds of peace, democracy, and sustainable development the world over. And it’s the single best investment in delivering on the United States’ foreign policy priorities as outlined in the Department of State and USAID Joint Strategic Plan.
Among its key goals, this plan calls for renewed U.S. leadership and the mobilization of multi-lateral coalitions to promote global prosperity and shape an international environment in which the U.S. can thrive. It calls for the promotion of democratic institutions, universal values and human dignity.
What better tool than an education to achieve these goals?
Think about our world today. A war in Ukraine is creating economic, energy, and food crises across Europe, Asia and much of Africa – and having a sizeable impact on the American way of life.
Massive displacements triggered by war, hunger, climate change, and other factors are creating renewed instability in South America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and even in Europe and the United States.
Danger isn’t just a world away. As we’ve seen from the senseless violence in Haiti, Venezuela and across much of Central America, danger is at our door.
The Venezuela regional crisis alone – marked by violence, food insecurity and a lack of essential services such as education – has created 7.1 million new refugees and migrants. This is now the largest displacement crisis in the world today.
Climate change also poses substantial risks to the world order. In all, 9.8 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2020. This number is expected to rise to 140 million people across South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America by 2050.
When the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies Education Cannot Wait (ECW) was formed in 2016, there were an estimated 75 million crisis-impacted children in need of educational support. That number has tripled today.
This is bad for the world, and it’s bad for the people of the United States. But there is a light on the horizon.
US leadership – built through close partnerships among USAID, the State Department, Congress and other key champions – could be a driving force in catalyzing the transformational change we need to address these intersecting crises through the power of education.
Think about the potential return on investment. For each dollar invested in education, more than US$5 is returned in additional gross earnings in low-income countries and US$2.50 in lower middle-income countries.
The World Bank estimates that if every girl worldwide were to receive 12 years of quality schooling – whether there’s a crisis or not – the human capital wealth represented by their lifetime earnings could increase by $15 trillion to $30 trillion.
Through the Global Campaign for Education-US, leading civil society organizations, including Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, the International Rescue Committee, Global Citizen, Save the Children, World Vision, and many others, have united in an effort to ensure the U.S. commits US$158 million over the next four years to support ECW in achieving its goals to reach 20 million children with the safety and power of an education.
By demonstrating continued, multi-year support for ECW and its wide range of strategic partners, the U.S. will remain a leader in global efforts to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, address the climate crisis, protect the interests of the American people both at home and abroad, and build a more peaceful and prosperous future.
Education isn’t just a human right, education for all is a moral imperative. This February, world leaders will convene in Geneva for the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference. The United States must take this opportunity to stand up for justice, stand up for humanity, and stand up for the inherent right to an education of every child on planet earth.
*Joan Rosenhauer is the Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
The US began to relax its oil embargo against Venezuela in November last year in response to the global oil crisis. Triggered by the Russia–Ukraine War, the crisis has been exacerbated by President Biden’s failed attempts at negotiating with Saudi Arabia and Iran regarding oil production and human rights. It is thus unsurprising that the US is looking to improve relations with Venezuela, another authoritarian state with abundant oil resources. However, lifting sanctions against Venezuela seems to be self-contradictory, especially after the US recently imposed fresh sanctions on Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini. It has been argued that Biden’s move shows that the US is unable to tackle both the global oil crisis and Venezuela’s crackdown on dissents in the short run.
The Biden administration indirectly admits that sanctions against Venezuela are ineffective
The question of whether the West should continue to impose sanctions on Venezuela has long been a subject for debate. Critics argue that the US’s indiscriminate sanctions, albeit with the initial support of many Western states, only harm Venezuela’s people and do not help with the overthrowing of Maduro’s dictatorship. Some commentators even state that Maduro’s dictatorship has been consolidated because of the sanctions. In fact, the pro-Maduro camp has dominated the Venezuelan legislature despite exiled opposition leader Guaidó’s calls for a boycott of the rigged legislative election. William Neuman, author of Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela, says that relying entirely on Guaidó is nothing more than upholding a fiction that will never happen in reality. Neuman and a number of others reiterate that the US should ease sanctions against Venezuela to encourage the Maduro regime to reconcile with the various opposition parties. Furthermore, Neuman believes that the majority of the six million Venezuelan refugees are anti-Maduro voters, and the root cause of them fleeing abroad is the collapse of Venezuela’s economy, which is attributed to the US’ indiscriminate sanctions. If the US eases sanctions, Venezuela’s economy could begin to recover. Subsequently, more Venezuelan refugees would have a stronger incentive to return home and “vote Maduro out” in the next presidential election.
By contrast, those advocating for the upholding of sanctions emphasize the following. First, there is little sign that Venezuela’s democracy and human rights have improved or are likely to improve in the foreseeable future. The US compromise is thus equivalent to surrendering to Maduro’s dictatorship. In addition, as early as 2014–2018 (before the US sanctions came into effect), more than 2.3 million Venezuelan civilians had fled abroad. In other words, it is Maduro’s dictatorship, rather than US sanctions, which is responsible for the misery of Venezuela’s civilians. As such, there is no guarantee that the removal of sanctions alone will encourage Venezuelan refugees to go back home. Worse still, by easing sanctions, Maduro’s crackdown on dissidents will be easier because his dictatorship will have access to more foreign funds.
Moreover, although Venezuela has abundant oil resources, there is no way to quickly restore the country’s oil production to its height of more than three million barrels per day after years of mismanagement. Consequently, Biden has damaged the moral reputation of the US without achieving the desired results. Similar criticism also highlights Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July last year, and then his administration’s granting of immunity to the Saudi crown prince in November of the same year in the murder trial of dissident journalist Khashoggi. Moreover, some critics are worried that with the setting of such a precedent, other dictatorships will not take US sanctions seriously in the future.
Biden’s controversial decision will inevitably frustrate Guaidó and other human rights activists who strongly oppose the West’s pause in its punitive approach to Venezuela. Nevertheless, they have been hit by a number of harsh realities in the past two years. In September 2020, The Economist reported that the Venezuelan opposition is divided over its support for Guaidó. Specifically, Guaidó criticized any politician who participated in the rigged legislative election and made any form of compromise with the Maduro regime as being cowards and traitors. He also urged the US to impose tougher sanctions. However, some opposition leaders who stayed in Venezuela, such as Henrique Capriles, have argued that Guaidó’s approach is unrealistic.
Venezuela’s opposition dissolves Guaidó’s “interim government” and shifts hope to the next presidential election
It should also be emphasized that while Guaidó’s interim government heavily relied on moral support from the West, the EU has not called him “interim president” since 2021. Furthermore, late in Trump’s administration, Guaidó’s requests to meet with the president in person were repeatedly ignored or rejected. Worse, the Biden administration has shown its intention to adopt a more reconciliatory approach towards the Maduro regime, especially since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Last June, despite Biden reiterating his support to Guaidó in a phone conservation, the media focused more on the subsequent development that Guaidó was not invited to attend the 9th Summit of the Americas, which was held in Los Angeles.
It is therefore clear that Guaidó was marginalized for some time before the US formally relaxed its sanctions on Venezuela. It is no wonder that the Venezuelan opposition camp is increasingly reluctant to support him. According to the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal last October, several major opposition parties in Venezuela were considering no longer recognizing Guaidó as the interim president in exile, and instead are looking for other ways to oust Maduro. This rumor was confirmed last month by the formal removal of Guaidó as interim president after three of the four major opposition groups (Justice First, Democratic Action, and A New Era) voted to support this bill.
Any choice is a political gamble with no guarantee of success
Of course, any attempt at ousting Maduro through the next Venezuelan presidential election is a political gamble. After all, the Maduro regime can continue to modify electoral rules in his favor and use administrative and judicial means to disqualify any popular opposition leaders from running. Even if Maduro loses the next election, a peaceful transition of power will not be easy. For example, the Venezuelan military has benefitted greatly from their support of Maduro in recent years, and they might not be willing to let go of their privileged position should a transition of power take place. Indeed, they may follow in the footsteps of Myanmar’s Tatmadaw and initiate a coup d’état.
Unfortunately, the US and Venezuelan opposition can do little to prevent such an event. After all, the US is strongly against sending troops to Venezuela as it is not in their best interest and US military intervention in the past 30 years has largely caused more problems than it has solved. Consequently, it would be unrealistic for the Venezuelan opposition to expect any significant military help from the US. In reality, while the re-imposition of sanctions is likely to be the US’ toughest response, their impact would be no more effective than its sanctions against Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.
Some factions in Venezuela’s opposition understand that foreign support is limited, which is why they are resorting to other means to achieve their political goals. However, the lack of any armed forces is a problem. Ultimately, unless some as yet unseen variable fundamentally changes the political landscape in Venezuela, the prospects for the opposition remain slim.
An earlier Chinese version of this article appeared in print on December 30, 2022 in Section B, Page 14 of Ming Pao Daily News. This version includes updated content.
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