A Treaty Not to Be Trusted
The Democratic president signs a treaty with the leader of America’s greatest geopolitical rival. The two countries had once been allies, but they have stopped trusting each other. Still, the U.S. president thinks that he can strike a deal on one particular issue—an issue that many of his supporters deem to be a matter of life and death. Indeed, this presidential deal-making is controversial, because critics say that the other country simply can’t be trusted.
Yet the American president persists in his deal-quest, saying that not only is this agreement a good idea, but that further agreements should be made as well. He says that his diplomatic dealing “allows us to continue on course toward a safer world with even more substantial limitations” in the future.
Not surprisingly, the foreign leader is delighted by this windfall deal; as he says, “In signing this treaty, we are helping to defend the most sacred right of every man—the right to live.”
At the summit, there is nothing but tidings of good cheer. And so concerns about the bad terms of the deal—to say nothing of outright cheating—are brushed aside.
Does this sound a bit like the climate agreement that President Joe Biden has struck with Chinese leader Xi Jinping?
You know, all the optimism? All the honeyed words at the summit—and the dismissal fears that the U.S. will sit and watch as the Chinese regime flouts the agreement?
Sure, Biden-Xi is exactly what it sounds like. And yet while the preceding paragraphs might seem to be a description of the effort by the 46th president, they are in fact taken from the actual record of the 39th president, Jimmy Carter.
Back in June 1979, Carter traveled to Vienna, Austria, there to to meet with Leonid Brezhnev, president of the Soviet Union. The purpose of the summit conference was to sign a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, known as SALT II.
For his part, Brezhnev was so happy with the deal that he actually kissed Carter.
Yet not everyone wanted to kiss Carter.
Back in the U.S., far from Brezhnev’s embrace, many Americans had grave concerns about the treaty. One such was conservative author and activist Phyllis Schlafly; in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 1979, Schafly was scathing:
SALT II not only allows the Soviets to have the power, but also the perception of power. It is obvious that SALT is so unequal, so unfair, so humiliating to the United States. It gives so many advantages to the Soviet Union that I don’t know how the Kremlin could have anything but contempt for a country which would acquiesce in such an unequal, unfair deal.
Indeed, widespread criticism wilted support for SALT II in the Senate, and so the treaty languished, never getting close to the two-thirds support it needed for ratification.
Then in December 1979, the Soviet Red Army invaded Afghanistan, thus underscoring Russian malevolence and duplicity. At that point, even Carter had to give up on getting his precious treaty ratified. In January 1980, he withdrew the deal from senate consideration.
Yet even so, the Carter administration insisted that the U.S. would still abide by the terms of SALT II. es, Carter—joined by the liberal diplomatic establishment—was that much in love with the idea of an arms control treaty with Moscow.
Fortunately, there was another point of view, skeptical of dumb treaties made with untrustworthy “partners.”
And 1980 was a presidential campaign year, and the 1980 Republican platform was unsparing: “The Republican Party rejects the fundamentally flawed SALT II treaty negotiated by the Carter Administration.”
That November, Ronald Reagan swept Carter out of office, winning 44 of the 50 states. Once in office, Reagan declared, “We’ve given up on SALT.”
So we can see: A long time ago, a Democratic president made a foolish deal with an adversarial superpower, and yet fortunately, he was blocked from implementing that deal. Indeed, that president was tossed out in the next election.
But actually, come to think of it, the events of 1979-80 weren’t that long ago. In fact, one of the major figures in the SALT II debate is still on the national stage today, still looking to make a one-sided deal with an adversary.
What Did Joe Biden Do?
In 1979, Biden was serving his second term in the U.S. Senate, and was already a loud voice on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In August of that year, Biden and his senatorial colleagues traveled to Moscow, holding what he described at the time as a “very cordial” meeting with top Soviet leadership, aimed at smoothing the ratification of the SALT II treaty.
In those days, the Soviet Union’s egregious human rights record—you know, the Gulag Archipelago and all that—was a major concern of many Americans. The Soviets had made myriad promises about human rights and had broken all of them, and so it seemed bizarre to be trusting those same communists on arms control.
Yet in the minds of many liberals, arms control was paramount. And so, with the same sort of obsession with which Captain Ahab pursued the white whale in Moby Dick, Carter, Biden, and other Democrats pushed hard for SALT II, including minor modifications that Biden hoped would make it more palatable.
Interestingly, decades later, Front Page Magazine reported that during those 1979 sessions in Moscow, Biden told the Soviets not to worry about human rights because nothing was more important than securing the arms control treaty. As Biden reportedly said 42 years ago, the issue of human rights should not be allowed “to spoil the atmosphere with problems which are bound to cause distrust in our relations.”
In other words, the SALT II deal was all. And as an aside, we can see, here, a familiar and perverse dynamic in our diplomatic dealings with adversaries: Once the U.S. foreign-policy establishment—we might dub it Big Diplomacy—gets fixed on a goal, such as the ratification of a treaty with a foe, it tends to get so preoccupied with that goal that, Ahab-like, it waves away counter-indicators that argue against the goal. Indeed, Big Diplomacy often finds itself covering up contrary evidence so as not to allow the stopping of “progress.”
Fortunately, the nation as a whole is bigger than Big Diplomacy, and so that’s why SALT II failed.
Yet revealingly, Biden still sees SALT II as a good thing.
In October 2007, when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination for the second time (as we know, the third time’s the charm), the Delawarean found himself in a debate with other hopefuls, including former Rep. Bill Richardson. Since Richardson was well known as a diplomat, Biden was eager to demonstrate his own diplomatic chops, and so he declared, “And with regard to my experience, hey, Bill, in 1979 I was–I led a delegation of 19 senators negotiating the [SALT II] agreement with Brezhnev.”
In Biden’s mind the failed treaty with an evil empire is still something to brag about.
Now, Climate Change
Now let’s fast-forward to today. At the April 22 virtual summit on climate change, President Biden said of the issue, “This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative. A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”
Then, surveying his fellow world leaders gathered together onscreen—including Xi Jinping of China—he added, “I’m confident that we are going to get this done together.”
Biden then pledged to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by between 50 and 52 percent by 2030—as in, a mere nine years from now—compared with 2005 levels. As the Washington Post described it, Biden’s pledge is “significantly more aggressive than the target set by President Barack Obama six years ago.”
So while the U.S. is pledging to do all that—with all the dislocations and impoverishments sure to come—what are the Chinese pledging to do?
Before we come to their pledge, let’s consider some baseline data: Today, China accounts for 28 percent of all planetary CO2 emissions, while the U.S. accounts for just 15 percent. So one might think that in a fair negotiation, the Chinese would have agreed to substantial reductions.
And yet in point of fact, the Chinese have been busy increasing their CO2 output by burning ever more coal. As Global Energy Monitor reported in February:
China now has 247 GW [gigawatt, or one billion watts] of coal power under development (88.1 GW under construction and 158.7 GW proposed for construction) – a 21% increase over end-2019 (205 GW), and nearly six times Germanyʼs entire coal-fired capacity (42.5 GW).
So with those numbers in mind, let’s take at look at the Chinese commitment, as reported by the Washington Post:
China’s Xi Jinping, the first national leader to speak at Thursday’s summit, reiterated the nation’s pledge to “strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.” On coal consumption, Xi said China might “phase it down” during its 15th Five Year Plan, which runs from 2025 through 2030.
We might step carefully over some of those words, because they are slippery. Xi said that China will “strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030.” We can note that “peak” suggests that emissions will continue to rise between now and then. Moreover, the phrase “strive to,” doesn’t exactly connote a rock-solid commitment. Nor does the verb “might,” as in, the Chinese might “phase down” coal later in this decade.
Moreover, if we think back on the Beijing regime’s mendacity on other issues—including, but hardly limited to, the treatment of minorities and dissidents from Tibet to Xinjiang to Hong Kong—then it should come as no surprise that this agreement, too, is likely to have no effect on Chinese behavior.
So we can see the danger: If the U.S were to abide by Biden’s CO2 restrictions, our economy would be damaged, and perhaps crippled, while the Chinese are still building coal plants.
Yet in the meantime, Biden is basking in praise from the Main Stream Media; typical is this trilling headline from CNN: “Biden’s remarkable success on climate.” With plaudits such as that, why would Biden pour rain on his own parade by allowing that the Chinese haven’t committed to doing much of anything–except to keep going in the wrong direction? (We can also add that Russia accounts for some five percent of global CO2 emissions, and its leader, Vladimir Putin, promised little.)
So now we come back to that familiar and perverse dynamic of Big Diplomacy: our foreign-policy elite has become so invested in the process, and the agreement, that it becomes blind to evidence that it is being hoodwinked. That is, the diplomatic process must be preserved, even at the expense of the American national interest. (In the meantime, green groups, powerful in the U.S. but outlawed in China, will be policing adherence here while likely downplaying China.)
And so in 2021, in our dealings with China, we find ourselves in a situation akin to that of 1979. Back then, Big Diplomacy, enraptured by champagne chats with the Russians in palatial settings, actively lobbied on behalf of a bad deal for Uncle Sam.
Yet this time around, SALT II supporter Joe Biden isn’t in the U.S. Senate; rather, he’s in the White House, pushing yet another giveaway agreement, this time on climate.
Still, it remains to be seen how much effect Biden’s deal will have on the U.S. Why? Because the April 22 commitments in and of themselves have little legal force. To be sure, the 46th president can give marching orders to his own administration, and he is indeed doing that; sample headline from the New York Times: “Biden’s Intelligence Director Vows to Put Climate at ‘Center’ of Foreign Policy.”
So we shouldn’t underestimate the ability of Biden departments and agencies to write regulations—and even outright prohibitions—by executive fiat. In fact, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) is already accusing the Bidenites of climate “dictatorship.”
Yet unlike SALT II, the agreement Biden has just reached is not a treaty, and so he won’t be sending a document to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent. (He realizes that he could never get the two-thirds vote it would need to go into effect).
And yet because Biden’s April 22 deal is not a treaty, it has no force beyond the Biden administration. To put that another way, Congress, which is not formally involved in any of the April 22 happenings, could vote to undo any and all of it.
To be sure, just about every Democrat in Congress supports what Biden is doing, and so if opponents wish to see change, well, they’ll have to engage in the hard work of freedom: they’ll have to win elections and thereby change the Senate and the House.
So that’s an encouraging thought. What we have here is a Biden deal, not a Congressional deal—and thus it’s not officially an American deal. The Congress is, after all, the first branch of government; it’s Congress that funds and oversees the Executive Branch. And so if opposition Republicans do well in the 2022 midterms, much of what Biden has done can be undone.
And then, of course, we have the 2024 elections; this balloting will include a judgment on the Biden presidency.
We can recall that Jimmy Carter’s actions on SALT II were a part of his record when he sought a second term in 1980, and as we have seen, he and SALT were thunderously rejected.
And so now today, opponents of Biden’s new deal—his one-sided deal with Xi, which is all gain for the Chinese, all pain for America, and all for nothing, climate-wise—must start making their case and preparing for the election in three years.
To be sure, the April 22 climate deal is not the only argument against Biden, and some of those arguments include eerie parallels to the 1970s. Here at Breitbart News, past articles have compared Biden’s economic policies, as well as his energy policies, to those of Carter.
Without a doubt, the Carter-Biden parallels are starting to add up.
And we know what happened to Carter.