Jeffrey D. Sachs – An Asia-Pacific NATO: fanning the flames of war

“My country, the U.S., is unrecognisable. I’m not sure who runs the country. I do not believe it is the president.”. “U.S. actions are putting us on a path to war with China in the same way that U.S. actions did in Ukraine.”

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, is Director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He has served as Special Adviser to three UN Secretaries-General. His books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth, The Age of Sustainable Development, Building the New American Economy, and most recently, A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism.

Cross-posted from Pearls and Irritations


Good afternoon to everybody. I want to thank you for inviting me and thank SHAPE for its leadership. I just had the privilege to listen to Alison Broinowski and Chung-in Moon, and these are brilliant statements that we’ve all been treated with, absolutely insightful. I absolutely agree with all that has been said. The world has gone mad but especially the Anglo-Saxon world I’m afraid. I don’t know whether there is any sense in our little English-speaking corner of the world. I’m of course speaking of the United States, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

There’s something profoundly disheartening about the politics of our countries right now. The deep madness, I’m afraid, is a British Imperial thinking taken over by the United States. My country, the U.S., is unrecognisable now compared even to 20 or 30 years ago. I’m not sure, to tell you the truth, who runs the country. I do not believe it is the president of the United States right now. We are run by generals, by our security, establishment. The public is privy to nothing. The lies that are told about foreign policy are daily and pervasive by a mainstream media that I can barely listen to or read anymore. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the main television outlets are 100 per cent repeating government propaganda by the day, and it’s almost impossible to break through.

What is this about? Well it, as you’ve heard, it’s about a madness of the United States to keep U.S. hegemony, militarised, dominated by the thinking of generals who are mediocre intellects, personally greedy, and without any sense because their only modus operandi is to make war.

And then cheerled by Britain, which is unfortunately, in my adult life, increasingly pathetic in being a cheerleader for the United States for this hegemony and for war. Whatever the U.S. says, Britain will say it ten times more enthusiastically, and it could not love the war in Ukraine more, which is the great second Crimean War for the British media and for the British political leadership.

Now, how Australia and New Zealand fall for this idiocy is really a deep question for you. Because people should know better. But I’m afraid that it is the Five Eyes and the security establishment that told the politicians, to the extent that the politicians are involved in this, ‘well this is how we have to do it’. This is our Security State and I don’t think our politicians necessarily have much role in this. By the way, the public has no role in U.S. foreign policy at all. We have no debate, no discussion, no deliberation, no debates over voting the hundred, now 113 billion, but in fact much more money spent on the Ukraine War.

So far there’s not been an hour of organised debate even in the Congress on this, much less in the public, but my guess is that your security establishment is really the driver of this, and then they explained to the Prime Minister and to the others: ‘you know this is the utmost National Security, and this is what America has told us. and let me explain what we’re seeing, and, of course, you cannot divulge this to the broader public, but this is at the essence of the struggle for survival in the world’.

Everything I see myself, I’m 43 years in this activity as an economic advisor all over the world, suggests that this is nonsense. And one thing that would be interesting for people to look at, to understand these developments, is a very telling article by a former colleague of mine at Harvard, Robert Blackwell and Ashley Kellis, written for the Council on Foreign Relations about eight years ago now. I just want to read a couple excerpts from it because it laid out the whole plan of what’s happening right now pretty directly, which is how things work in the U.S., and which is through the establishment media.

You’re basically told, in not necessarily completely explicit terms, what’s going to happen because what is unfolding right now is really part of a longer term planned agenda, it’s not ad hoc. So here’s what Blackwell and Kellis wrote in 2015. First, “since its founding, the United States has consistently pursued a grand strategy focused on acquiring and maintaining preeminent power over various rivals. First on the North American continent, then in the Western Hemisphere, and finally, globally.” And then argues that “this goal of primacy ought to remain the central objective of U.S. grand strategy in the 21st century.” So what’s the goal? The goal is very straightforward, it is primacy of the United States globally. Blackwell and Kellis lay out the game plan for China. So they tell us what to do. Here’s the list, I’m only excerpting: “Create new preferential trading arrangements among U.S. friends and allies to increase their mutual gains through instruments that consciously exclude China.”

Okay, this is the game that already Obama started with TPP, he couldn’t get it through but I’ll go on and then I’ll comment. “Second, create a technology control regime to block China’s strategic capabilities.” To build up “power political capacities of U.S. friends and allies on China’s periphery and strengthen U.S. military forces along the Asian rimlands despite any Chinese opposition.” What I find remarkable about this is this was a list made in 2015. It’s exactly the step-by-step plan of action. This is repeated in recent history, in 1997 Zbigniew Brzezinski in an article in Foreign Affairs laid out exactly the timeline for NATO enlargement and the intention to include Ukraine in NATO enlargement because this was already the security establishment plan.

Of course it’s led us directly to the Ukraine War which is a war over NATO enlargement. Now the friends and the geniuses that have brought the world the Ukraine War, are to bring the war to your neighbourhood with the, as Professor Moon said, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation starting to open its offices in Asia, which is not exactly the North Atlantic.

So this is where we are. It’s not absolutely simple to see through for one main reason, at least in the U.S., I don’t know what its like in Australia but I expect that it’s the same, we have no honesty or discussion at all about this. The policies are owned entirely by the security establishment, the military-industrial complex, the network of “think tanks” which are non-think tanks in Washington, every one of which is funded by the military-industrial complex.

They’ve taken over the East Coast universities entirely where I teach. I taught 20 years at Harvard, I teach at Columbia University. This is our milieu right now and the silent coup happened in essence. No debate, no public politics, no honesty, no documents revealed. Everything secret, everything confidential and mysterious moves; and, since I happened to be an economist that engages with the heads of state around the world, I hear a lot of things and so I’ve seen and heard a lot of things directly which helped me to understand the lies every day.

But you will not find any of this in our public discourse. Just a word about the Ukraine War: completely predictable, and part of a plan of action that goes back to the early 1990’s to essentially bring Ukraine into the U.S. military orbit and Brzezinski again in 1997 in The Global Chess Board, his geopolitical book, laid it out completely. Russia without Ukraine is nothing, Ukraine is the geographical pivot for Eurasia, and basically go get it. Interestingly Brzezinski said in 1997 in the book, but the one thing absolutely American policy makers need to ensure is that they don’t push Russia and China into an alliance together, but then he says that’s pretty much unthinkable, you know don’t worry, about that. But that would be the craziest thing in the world and its exactly what these crazy people have done.

I happen to have been an advisor to Gorbachev, to Yeltsin and to Kuchma in the early days of both the late days of perestroika and the early days after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I watched very closely what was happening. I saw that the United States was absolutely uninterested in any way in helping Russia to stabilise.

The idea from the start was unipolarity, keep Russia down and take steps already decided in 1992 basically in direct contradiction to what had been told to Gorbachev and Yeltsin to start expanding NATO. So this is a game plan with a long horizon, when it comes to China.

And by the way the U.S. was deeply implicated in the overthrow of Ukraine’s president in 2014, it was a coup. It was, to an important extent, a regime change operation of the United States, not entirely, but to a very significant extent. I happen to see part of it, a very weird way, up close, and I know how U.S. money poured into supporting the Maidan and it was incredibly disgusting and very unnerving and who noticed that the U.S. contributed to the overthrow of a friendly government next door within the context of the explicit intention of expanding NATO, by the way, not only to Ukraine but also to Georgia. When one looks at the map it’s Brzezinski’s idea – surround Russia in the Black Sea region. Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia would all be members of NATO. That would be the end of Russian power projection in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. So go these geniuses, and Putin gave many opportunities for negotiation out of this.

The Minsk Agreements endorsed by the U.N security council in 2021 December 17, he put on the table a perfectly reasonable document for negotiation, the draft U.S. Russia security arrangements which called for an end to NATO expansion –  the U.S. blew it off. I called the White House after that was put on the table, spoke to one of our top security officials and said “Negotiate. Stop the NATO enlargement, you have a chance to avoid war”. But the United States’ formal response to Putin was: NATO is non-negotiable. This is something only between the U.S. and Ukraine and Russia has no say in NATO enlargement to Ukraine.

It’s a mind-boggling way to pursue foreign affairs because it is a direct road to war as you know. I hope everybody understands this war in Ukraine was close to ending in March 2022 with a negotiated agreement a month after Russia invaded on February 24th – with an agreement between Ukraine and Russia that the United States stopped because the U.S. said “fight on, fight on, don’t negotiate, don’t accept neutrality” and so here we are in a war that continues to escalate towards possible nuclear war.

Which is what would happen if Russia were to suffer deep defeats on the battlefield. It’s not doing that right now. It’s not experiencing that, but if it did it just escalates to nuclear war. Russia is not going to be defeated, pushed out of Crimea and go home meekly and saying, “we’re sorry we did that”. It’s going to escalate if it needs to escalate. So, we are right now in a spiral that is extremely dangerous. Japan plays utterly into this. And Australia, it’s so sad to watch Australia accepting to be used in this reckless way. To pay a fortune to be used in this reckless and provocative way.

And U.S. actions, by and large till now with very few exceptions, U.S. actions are putting us on a path to war with China in the same way that U.S. actions did in Ukraine. Only this war, well either war could end everything, but the whole idea of the U.S. and its allies fighting China is mind-boggling in its implications, in its stupidity, in its profound dangers and in its utter divorce from real security interests and from reality because China is not a threat to Australia. It is not a threat to the world.

And last time I looked, correct me because there’s some experts in the room, many more than I, but I don’t know of a single overseas Chinese invasion in its history, by the way, other than on the borders. I don’t know in its whole history except when the Mongols briefly ruled China and tried to invade Japan. Other than the Mongol invasion defeated by a typhoon. Other than that I don’t know of another single case in 2,200 years of Chinese statecraft.

So this is not exactly at the top of my worry list. What worries me about the world is a deeply neurotic United States that aims to be number one, that can’t be number one in the way that it self-believes to be number one. That has a pathetic and, I’m sorry to use the term but it is pathetic, cheerleader in London everyday saying how wonderful it is. Empire is great, you should go try it, we love it.

I’m gonna stop here, sorry to go on and on, but let me, just if I could take one minute to say what should be done.

The war in Ukraine could end the day after Biden steps up and says NATO will not enlarge to Ukraine. Believe it. The basis for negotiation has been there for 20 years and rejected by the U.S.

Second, the idea of opening NATO offices in Asia is mind-boggling in its risk and its stupidity and please tell the Japanese, stop this, it’s reckless.

Third, the U.S. approach to Taiwan, except in a glimmer of reality of Blinken last month, is profoundly dangerous, provocative and deliberately so.

Fourth, what is needed is regional dialogue in Asia. In Asia, among Asians and among the Asia Pacific.

Fifth, use RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement]. Because RCEP is actually the correct concept for the region to bring together China, Korea, Japan, ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand in a coherent framework especially around the climate challenge, energy policy, trade policy, investment policy. This would do a world of good, not only for the 15 in the Asia Pacific but for the entire world.

Sorry to have run on so long but it’s so important what SHAPE is doing. You’re completely on the right track and all best wishes to your efforts.

Thanks to many generous donors BRAVE NEW EUROPE  will be able to continue its work for the rest of 2023 in a reduced form. What we need is a long term solution. So please consider making a monthly recurring donation. It need not be a vast amount as it accumulates in the course of the year. To donate please go HERE.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.