18 mar 2023 6:44 p.m
By Carmen Parejo Rendon
For the past thirty years, international relations have been hijacked by the arbitrariness of a corrupt “sheriff”.
“Right now we are facing two world powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, and both intending to change the current rules-based order,” said General Mark Milley, chairman of the United States Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, in June 2022. in front of a group of cadets at the West Point Military Academy in New York.
However, this was not the first time we had heard US officials speak of such a “rules”-based international order. It wasn’t the last time either. Perhaps it would be important to know what they mean by this rules-based world.
non-interference in internal affairs
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was more specific when he referred to the “principle that no country may change the borders of another by force”. And on “the principle that one country cannot dictate the decisions or policies of another”. Blinken’s statement could make the most ignorant of international relations issues of recent years blush when we recall the cases of Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela or Cuba, among many others. But what do such words really mean?
What is the United States doing in relation to international law, in relation to its signed treaties with other countries, and in relation to its international relations in general? Does the US itself abide by the “rules” it claims to defend?
The appeal to the principle of “non-interference” sounds strange when the true rule of the United States has always been to use mechanisms of interference in the internal affairs of other countries in order to ensure its own hegemony. At least sometimes – albeit rarely – under the protection of the United Nations. Completely unilateral in most cases.
And when any institution or organization questioned their actions, the US simply ignored that body or sanctioned its members.
US sanctions against the International Criminal Court
Such was the case with the International Criminal Court (ICC) when it sought to investigate crimes committed by the US Army in Afghanistan. The administration of Donald Trump (2017-2021) decided without further ado to refuse the prosecutor and the investigators visas and to impose sanctions on them.
Not to mention that the US never signed the Rome Statute (the founding legal basis of the International Court of Justice). Until then, however, it had never happened that members of this court were punished for the performance of their duties. Eventually, the ICC decided that while it would continue its investigation into Afghanistan, it would set aside US actions.
Republicans and Democrats complement each other
During the Trump administration, the US unilaterally withdrew from several treaties and international organizations. They stopped funding the World Health Organization (WHO), withdrew from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and from the UN Human Rights Council, among many others. With the arrival of Joe Biden, the US again funded the WHO and rejoined the Paris Agreement. However, in many other cases, Trump’s decisions stood.
The nuclear deal with Iran
A significant case is the nuclear deal with Iran, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between the US, Britain, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran. In line with the policy of maximum economic pressure against the Persian country during the Trump administration, the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and imposed new economic sanctions on Iran. Since then, the European contracting parties have been trying unsuccessfully to find alternatives to circumvent the US sanctions. With Biden’s arrival at the White House, the Democratic president, who was vice president when the deal was signed in 2015, pledged a return to the JCPOA, which implied the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran.
But the maximum pressure against Iran is still maintained. Once again, we see US European partners submitting to Washington’s interests and unable to pursue their own international policies.
The Biden administration first tried to change the content and terms of the agreement. Since then it has boycotted all rounds of negotiations between the still integrated parties and refuses to end its unilateral coercive measures against Iran. This suggests that the policies implemented by Trump ultimately benefited Biden’s strategy as well. And behind the seeming contrast between the two, there is also a certain complementarity.
“The United States’ withdrawal from a key Cold War treaty raises fears of an arms race,” the Spanish newspaper headlined El País on August 2, 2019, referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Spanish media pointed out that Washington already had plans to conduct new tests of missiles banned by the INF that same summer. At the same time, they stressed the US obligation to break with these “old agreements” in order to consolidate new ones that also include the People’s Republic of China.
After the “missile crisis” in 1962, the US and USSR expressed the need to create dialogue mechanisms to prevent a mistake or misunderstanding from triggering a major nuclear conflict. Today, the US unilaterally distances itself from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002, the INF in 2019, and the Open Skies Treaty in 2020. Although the latter two decisions are directly related to the Trump administration, it should be noted that the Biden administration has not returned to these agreements. Here, too, we see a mutual interaction rather than a contradiction between the international politics of the Democrats and the Republicans.
New START Treaty hollowed out
Although Joe Biden agreed to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in 2021, none of the 18 planned inspection visits have been carried out since. However, the US used the treaty as a bargaining chip to force the Russian Federation to unilaterally inspect its territory. Moscow now believes that in the context of the current extreme confrontation between NATO and the Russian Federation and the only unilateral willingness to fulfill the treaty, the agreement is meaningless. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on February 21 that he would suspend Russia’s participation in the treaty.
We held that the rules-based international order refers to multilateral agreements and organizations between different states. Whereas the self-appointed world “sheriff” sees it as a system whereby his arbitrary rules are imposed on everyone else.
According to the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spanish Language, a rule is something “that must be fulfilled because it has been agreed upon in a community”. To avoid misunderstandings or erroneous interpretations, it should be added: a “norm” is nothing more than a “rule to be followed or to which behavior, tasks, activities must conform”.
Perhaps the problem is that we believed that the norms-based international order referred to the multilateral organizations and agreements between different states; while the self-appointed world “sheriff” only understood it as a system with which he imposed his arbitrary rules on everyone else.
The claim to supremacy in Latin America
An example of this conception, US Republican Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar recently made a statement in Congress in Washington:
“I’m going to say it in Spanish so my Argentinian friends can understand very clearly. Your President (Alberto Fernández) and Vice President (Cristina Fernández) are making a deal with the devil that could have biblical consequences.” And further:
“The US cannot tolerate an ally that builds Chinese military aircraft and exports them to its neighbors,” Salazar said at a House Foreign Policy Commission hearing. She threatened:
“If you have a factory to build Chinese warplanes would be a very bad idea for you, and especially as far as your relationship with the US is concerned!”
Back to the top, when Blinken referred to the principle “that one country cannot dictate the decisions or policies of another,” he failed to add that his rules-based world includes America’s self-proclaimed special status.
In short, it will only be possible to build a world with rules worthy of being called such when the great hegemony of recent decades ends. Rules in the sense of agreements that help guarantee peace and development for all states.
Translated from the Spanish.
more on the subject – The Hague Accords: A Russian idea now to be used against Moscow
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