America to the world: do as I say, not as I do

  • Washington’s top envoy, Mike Pompeo, has slammed Russia for landing two of its long-range bombers in Venezuela, on the invitation of its government
  • But US Navy warships routinely undertake missions in the Taiwan Strait, on the principle of ensuring freedom of navigation
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 11:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 9:42am

As the top diplomat of the most powerful country in the world, Mike Pompeo seems to follow an inversion of Spider-Man’s famous dictum: with great power comes great bullying.

The US secretary of state recently went berserk at the Russian air force, seemingly unaware, or not caring, that America’s own navy was doing pretty much the same thing to China.

Two Russian long-range strategic bombers landed in Venezuela last week for what the Venezuelan government said were air force exercises aimed at strengthening the country’s defences. How was that any business of the Americans?

Weren’t the Russians exercising the freedom of navigation in international air space and, afterwards, invited to land in Venezuela? After all, Nicolas Maduro, the socialist Venezuelan president, is worried the Americans are out to get him. Are they?

I am vaguely paraphrasing a statement released by the US Navy when it dispatched a guided missile destroyer, USS Stockdale, and the USNS Pecos, a fuel tanker, to cross the Taiwan Strait less than three weeks ago. That was right after the “one-China” Kuomintang swept to victory in island elections.

The two warships “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait Transit on November 28, in accordance with international law”, said the US Pacific Fleet spokesman, Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Can South China Sea conflict between Washington and Beijing be avoided?

Perhaps the same marine logic doesn’t apply to international air space, or when it comes to other countries? On Twitter, Pompeo condemned Russia for “sending bombers halfway around the world”, in a case of “two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer”.

That is so unlike the US Navy’s latest excursion off the coast of China, clearly a valuable use of American tax dollars.

Outsiders, however, may conclude the naval exercise was designed to create tensions because the KMT usually has warmer relations with Beijing. At least the Russians have only done it once. The US Navy held similar exercises through the strait in October and July. Previously, such operations were carried out once a year.

The Russians dismissed Pompeo’s response as US “hysteria”. Actually, it’s more like sheer arrogance. America’s message to the world: my security covers the globe; your security does not extend beyond your shores.