The Biden administration looks set to become even more warlike than it already was if you can imagine, with virulent Russia hawk Victoria Nuland and virulent China hawk Charles Q Brown now being elevated to lofty positions by the White House.
Nuland, the wife of alpha neocon Robert Kagan, has been named acting deputy secretary of state by President Biden, at least until a new deputy secretary has been named. This places her at second in command within the State Department, second only to Tony Blinken.
In an article about Nuland’s unique role in souring relations between the US and Russia during her previous tenure in the State Department under Obama, Responsible Statecraft’s Connor Echols writes the following of the latest news:
Nuland’s appointment will be a boon for Russia hawks who want to turn up the heat on the Kremlin. But, for those who favor a negotiated end to the conflict in Ukraine, a promotion for the notoriously “undiplomatic diplomat” will be a bitter pill.
A few quick reminders are in order. When Nuland was serving in the Obama administration, she had a now-infamous leaked call with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. As the Maidan Uprising roiled the country, the pair of American diplomats discussed conversations with opposition leaders, and Nuland expressed support for putting Arseniy Yatseniuk into power. (Yatseniuk would become prime minister later that month, after Russia-friendly former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country.) At one memorable point in the call, Nuland said “Fu–k the EU” in response to Europe’s softer stance on the protests.
The controversy surrounding the call — and larger implications of U.S. involvement in the ouster of Yanukovych — kicked up tensions with Russia and contributed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to seize Crimea and support an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Her handing out food to demonstrators on the ground in Kyiv probably didn’t help either. Nuland, along with State Department sanctions czar Daniel Fried, then led the effort to punish Putin through sanctions. Another official at State reportedly asked Fried if “the Russians realize that the two hardest-line people in the entire U.S. government are now in a position to go after them?”
In a 2015 Consortium News article titled “The Mess That Nuland Made,” the late Robert Parry singled out Nuland as the primary architect of the 2014 regime change operation in Ukraine, which, as Aaron Maté explained last year, paved the way to the war we’re seeing there today. Hopefully her position winds up being temporary.
In other news, the Senate Arms Services Committee has voted to confirm Biden’s selection of General Charles Q Brown Jr as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing Mark Milley. A full senate vote will now take place on whether to confirm Brown — currently the Air Force Chief of Staff — for the nation’s highest military office.
Brown is unambiguous about his belief that the US must hasten to militarize against China in the so-called Indo-Pacific to prepare for confrontation between the two powers, calling for more US bases in the region and increased efforts to arm Taiwan during his hearing before the Senate Arms Services Committee earlier this month.
Back in May, Moon of Alabama flagged Brown’s nomination in an article which also noted that several advocates of military restraint had been resigning from their positions within the administration, including Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state who Nuland has taken over for.
It’s too soon to draw any firm conclusions, but to see voices of restraint stepping down and proponents of escalation stepping up could be a bad portent of things to come
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