Even during the Tokyo Quad meeting, President Biden refused to let go of his obsession with Vladimir Putin and the country he leads. It was therefore a surprise when the US President unveiled his proposal for an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) for those countries that are opposed to the bid by a particular country to dominate the Indo-Pacific, including through dictating the rules of engagement between not just itself and other countries in the region, but which would apply to engagement between such countries as well. So far as India is concerned, it was not accidental that the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), although launched a decade earlier, remained in cold storage until revived by Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi in 2017. Both have a strategic mind, and understand the growing danger faced by a country whose aggressive stances were matched by its economic prowess. The proposal for a revival of the Quad was immediately supported by President Trump and the Australian Prime Minister. Since then, the Quad has moved at a respectable clip, as witness the frequency of meetings between the Heads of Government of the four member-states. Clouds caused from within still exist. President Biden needs to discourage those in the White House who have signed on to the UK-France project of expanding the ambit of NATO from not just Europe but Asia. A reality check would show that NATO is a formidable alliance on paper and in the media, but which has yet to fight a major war in Europe, if the ruthless bombing campaign in 1999 against Serbia to separate Kosovo from that country is disregarded. The record of NATO in the wars it has fought in Asia, in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, has been terrible, which is why countries in Asia are wary of that military bureaucracy trying to police Asia. Of course, while Ukraine may be getting pummelled, the 2022 intensification of the war has helped Prime Minister Boris Johnson to move beyond the dust clouds over his future that have been caused by a propensity to host cheese and wine parties for his staff at 10 Downing Street even during the 2020 lockdowns. Similarly, the success in slicing away Kosovo from Serbia allowed President Clinton and his party to escape the stain of Monicagate. Those tracking such visits say that the luxury hotel in Delhi the Clintons stayed in during their visit to India sent a waitress in the hotel on leave for the duration of the visit. The reason was that a hyper-cautious US embassy staffer was anxious lest the name tag of the waitress ever come within seeing distance of the First Lady, who apparently (and not entirely unreasonably) was said by the staffer to be allergic to the very name Monica, at least at that time (2000). Even Houdini would have found it difficult to survive politically after the US President’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky was made public in embarrassing detail during the impeachment hearings on the subject. Clinton’s public show of repentance, despite being accompanied by the testimony of several other ladies who claimed to have more than a passing friendship with him, ensured that public opinion remained on his side almost from the start of the outing of the Clinton-Lewinski relationship. During the process, the unfortunate young lady was all but ignored, despite going through visible trauma as a consequence perhaps not of her (albeit temporary) connect with Clinton but the salacious manner in which it was being presented by politicians eager to see the end of the Clinton presidency.
The Republican Party leadership understood from the start of Monicagate that the somewhat professorial Al Gore was a much easier candidate to defeat for their side than Bill Clinton had been, especially when the opponent had the majority in the US Supreme Court on his side, as Gore’s challenger George W. Bush did in the elections that took place soon after President Clinton’s visit to India. Sadly for President Biden, rather than allowing him to escape from the ignominy of having been the US President who in 2021 lost Afghanistan to the Taliban, the ramping up of the US-UK-EU effort at kneecapping Russia and thereby securing the fall of Putin has begun to backfire on Biden. Apart from the by now obvious fact that Ukraine has lost much more of its territory during the war launched by Russia on February 24, 2022, the NATO sanctions regime that is understood to have originated in the White House and the Executive Office Building has devastated the economies and living standards of the public in its member states almost as much as it has affected the Russian economy and people. Not surprisingly, President Putin has recovered much of the popularity he had earlier lost as a consequence of worsening economic conditions in Russia during a period when commodity prices were falling. The Ukraine war has reversed that trend, thereby enabling Russia to continue to pummel Ukraine until Kiev concedes, most likely by the winter, when public opinion in member states is likely to turn against the governments that are presently in lockstep with Biden and Johnson in their mission to kneecap Russia and remove Putin from the Kremlin. The Sino-Wahhabi lobby must be delighted at the way in which Biden is seeking to stop Japan and India from buying Russian oil and gas, thereby seeking to force them to buy much higher-priced substitutes. Such a stance by the White House only helps China, as the country is buying as much Russian natural resources as it needs and more. Such purchases are critical to keeping Russia financially afloat during the war. If Biden’s advice to switch from Russian oil, gas and other resources is followed, it would handicap India and Japan vis-a-vis China, which is exactly what the Sino-Wahhabi lobby and the Sino-Russian lobby in the US wants. The IPEF initiative unveiled by the US President shows that the adults within the Biden administration understand where the actual existential conflict that the US and its friends are facing is taking place, and which country is the real 21st century threat to US primacy, in the way that the USSR (but never the Russian Federation) was during much of the 20th. Prime Minister Modi has taken the correct decision in rejecting the advice of those who asked him to be cautious in welcoming this initiative by Biden, for the IPEF has the potential to not just emerge as an engine of growth, but as an important factor in moving critical supply chains away from China in the coming period.