Jens Stoltenberg’s recent statement, after the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs on April 7, brings to mind the famous saying, “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” One of the greatest sins in ancient Greek tragedy is the sin of hubris. But the hubris expressed by the NATO Secretary General in his recent statements is almost mind-boggling. Stuck with a situation in which the NATO countries are pouring in an incredible amount of military hardware to the Ukrainian forces to keep that conflict going, Stoltenberg is now expanding the NATO prerogatives to the Asia-Pacific region, particularly targeting China.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a press conference after a meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 7, 2022. (Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)
Stoltenberg claims that because China has not condemned the Russian actions and therefore does not support “the right of nations to choose their own path,” intimating that China is siding with Russia in the Ukraine conflict. But China has made it very clear that “China stands for peace and opposes war” and will do what it can to bring about a peaceful resolution. Perhaps that is not what NATO wants, and they hope to draw out the conflict for as long as possible in the hope that the Russian military position will get worse. At least that is the only conclusion that one can draw from the actions of the NATO countries in adding fuel to the fire in Ukraine.
It is clear that the decision by NATO to effectively ignore any of Russia’s attempts to resolve this crisis diplomatically and asserting NATO’s right to “set the rules,” has effectively lit the flames of military conflict in the heart of Europe. Without a peaceful resolution of the conflict, it is unclear what long-term effects this will have on Europe and the world.
In addition, the draconian sanctions which the NATO countries have imposed on Russia will have serious consequences for the global economy, leading possibly to a global depression and most assuredly to a major famine, in which millions more people will be faced with starvation as a result of the economic effects of the sanctions. Because of this situation, one of a few still fully functioning production apparatuses is found in the Asia-Pacific, and now NATO wants to enter and create more chaos there as well. It seems that NATO has something of a reverse Midas touch: Everything it touches turns not to gold, but to ashes.
Certainly Stoltenberg is really just a minor figure in this drama. The decisions that were taken at the NATO meeting were primarily determined, not by this Norwegian politician, but by the United States, which has cajoled some of its allies to remain on board. So the insanity is not limited to Stoltenberg alone, but is more of a group insanity.
The real problem here is the futile attempt to impose some kind of global imperial control on the world as a whole. Empires have never ended well, nor have attempts to control the world by a small group of countries. We have seen the results in the Roman Empire, or in the Congress of Vienna and the creation of the Holy Alliance, or more recently in that initial “alliance of democracies” called the Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920). The Roman Empire was overrun by the barbarian tribes, the Congress of Vienna led to the revolutions of 1848, and the Paris Peace Conference led to the rise of fascism and to World War II.
The problems facing the world today are much more complicated than any humankind has hitherto faced — and the world is now more complex. The only possibility humankind has in assuring peace, security and prosperity is if we can find solutions that areallinclusive. This is what China proposes in dealing with the crisis in Ukraine, and it is what it has proposed in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in assuring a supply of vaccines to even the poorest countries, or the development crisis in many countries by establishing a major infrastructure program called the Belt and Road Initiative.
If one would remove the ideological blinders of yesteryear, and look at the reality of the world today, one sees that the only real forward thrust for humankind exists today in the policies proposed by China. And the world is not totally blind to this fact. In spite of whatever pressure the U.S. or NATO may apply, most countries are not going to go down a path that promises only more conflict, more dissension, and, yes, more wars. Russia cannot be ejected from the international system without the system descending into total chaos. This is even more true with regard to China. So the NATO countries should take a step back and look at what is happening as a result of their hubris, and try and overcome their madness before it destroys the world. The world needs a new security architecture in which all countries feel secure. The sooner our overly hubristic Western leaders realize this fact, the sooner we will be able to put out the fires they have already lit.
WILLIAM JONES is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a Non-resident Fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.