Putin-Phobia - The Only Bipartisan Game In Town

Authored by Doug Bandow via The American Conservative,

Hawks and doves in Washington agree Vlad is bad. Can Trump act as the lone realist?

Few issues generate a bipartisan response in Washington. President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin is one.

Democrats who once pressed for détente with the Soviet Union act as if Trump will be giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Neoconservatives and other Republican hawks are equally horrified, having pressed for something close to war with Moscow since the latter’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Both sides act as if the Soviet Union has been reborn and Cold War has restarted.

Russia’s critics present a long bill of requirements to be met before they would relax sanctions or otherwise improve relations. Putin could save time by agreeing to be an American vassal.

Topping everyone’s list is Russian interference in the 2016 election, which was outrageous. Protecting the integrity of our democratic system is a vital interest, even if the American people sometimes treat candidates with contempt. Before joining the administration National Security Adviser John Bolton even called Russian meddling “a casus belli, a true act of war.”

Yet Washington has promiscuously meddled in other nations’ elections. Carnegie Mellon’s Dov H. Levin figured that between 1946 and 2000 the U.S. government interfered with 81 foreign contests, including the 1996 Russian poll. Retired U.S. intelligence officers freely admit that Washington has routinely sought to influence other nations’ elections.

Yes, of course, Americans are the good guys and favor politicians and parties that the other peoples would vote for if only they better understood their own interests - as we naturally do. Unfortunately, foreign governments don’t see Uncle Sam as a Vestal Virgin acting on behalf of mankind. Indeed, Washington typically promotes outcomes more advantageous to, well, Washington. Perhaps Trump and Putin could make a bilateral commitment to stay out of other nations’ elections.

Another reason to shun Russia, argued Senator Rob Portman, is because “Russia still occupies Crimea and continues to fuel a violent conflict in eastern Ukraine.” Moscow annexed Crimea after a U.S.-backed street putsch ousted the elected but highly corrupt Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The territory historically was Russian, turned over to Ukraine most likely as part of a political bargain in the power struggle following Joseph Stalin’s death. A majority of Crimeans probably wanted to return to Russia. However, the annexation was lawless.

Rather like America’s dismemberment of Serbia, detaching Kosovo after mighty NATO entered the final civil war growing out of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Naturally, the U.S. again had right on its side—it always does!—which obviously negated any obligations created by international law. Ever-virtuous Washington even ignored the post-victory ethnic cleansing by Albanian Kosovars

Still, this makes Washington’s complaints about Russia seem just a bit hypocritical: do as we say, not as we do.

In August 2008 John McCain expressed outrage over Russia’s war with Georgia, exclaiming: “In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.” Apparently he forgot that five years before the U.S. invaded Iraq, with McCain’s passionate support. Here, too, the two presidents could agree to mutual forbearance.

Worse is the conflict in the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, between the Ukrainian army and separatists backed by Russia. Casualty estimates vary widely, but are in the thousands. Moscow successfully weakened Kiev and prevented its accession to NATO. However, that offers neither legal nor moral justification for underwriting armed revolt.

Alas, the U.S. again comes to Russia with unclean hands. Washington is supporting the brutal war by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates against Yemen. Area specialists agree that the conflict started as just another violent episode in a country which has suffered civil strife and war for decades. The Houthis, a tribal/ethnic/religious militia, joined with their long-time enemy, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to oust his successor, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi attacked to reinstall a pliable regime and win economic control. The U.S. joined the aggressors. At least Russia could claim national security was at stake, since it feared Ukraine might join NATO.

The “coalition” attack turned the Yemeni conflict into a sectarian fight, forced the Houthis to seek Iranian aid, and allowed Tehran to bleed its Gulf rivals at little cost. Human rights groups agree that the vast majority of civilian deaths and bulk of destruction have been caused by Saudi and Emirati bombing, with Washington’s direct assistance. The humanitarian crisis includes a massive cholera epidemic. The security consequences include empowering al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Perhaps the U.S. and Russian governments could commit to jointly forgo supporting war for frivolous causes.

Human carnage and physical destruction are widespread in Syria. It will take years to rebuild homes and communities; the hundreds of thousands of dead can never be replaced. Yet Moscow has gone all out to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. The Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey and Alexis Mrachek demand that Moscow end its support for Assad “and demonstrate a genuine willingness to work with the international community to bring a political end to the Syrian civil war.” The American Enterprise Institute’s Leon Aron urged “a true Russian withdrawal from Syria, specifically ceding control of the Hmeymim airbase and dismantling recent expansions to the Tartus naval facility.”

But the U.S. is in no position to complain. Washington’s intervention has been disastrous, first discouraging a negotiated settlement, then promoting largely non-existent moderate insurgents, backing radicals, including the al-Qaeda affiliate (remember 9/11!?) against Assad, simultaneously allying with Kurds and Turks, and taking over the fight against the Islamic State even though virtually everyone in the Mideast had reason to oppose the group.

At least Russia, invited by the recognized government, had a reason to be there. Moscow’s alliance with Syria dates back to the Cold War and poses no threat to America, which is allied with Israel, the Gulf States, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt. Washington also possesses military facilities in Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates. For most Middle Eastern countries Moscow is primarily a bargaining chip to extort more benefits from America. Trump could propose that both countries withdraw from Syria.

Coffey and Mracek also express outrage that Moscow “has weaponized its natural gas exports to Europe, turning off the tap when countries dare go against its wishes.” Russia’s customers should not fear coercion via cut-off. Of course, the U.S. never uses its economic power for political ends. Other than to routinely impose economic sanctions on a variety of nations on its naughty list. And to penalize not only American firms, but businesses from every other nation.

Indeed, the Trump administration is insisting that every company in every country stop doing business with Iran. The U.S. government will bar violators from the U.S. market or impose ruinous fines on them. The Trump administration plans to sanction even its European allies, those most vulnerable to Russian energy politics. Which suggests a modus vivendi that America’s friends likely would applaud: both Washington and Moscow could promise not to take advantage of other nations’ economic vulnerabilities for political ends.

Cyberwar is a variant of economic conflict. Heritage’s Mracek cited “the calamitous cyberattack, NotPetya,” as “part of Russia’s effort to destabilize Ukraine even further than in the past.” Yes, a criminal act. Of course, much the same could be said of Stuxnet, which was thought to be a joint American-Israeli assault on Iran’s nuclear program. And there are reports of U.S. attempts to similarly hamper North Korean missile development. Some consider such direct attacks on other governments to be akin to acts of war. Would Washington join Moscow in a pledge to become a good cyber citizen?

Virtually everyone challenges Russia on human rights. Moscow falls far short, with Putin’s control of the media, manipulation of the electoral process, and violence against those perceived as regime enemies. In this regard, at least, America is far better.

But many U.S. allies similarly fail this test. For instance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has created an authoritarian state retaining merely the forms of democracy. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has constructed a tyranny more brutal than that of Hosni Mubarak. Saudi Arabia’s monarchy allows neither religious nor political freedom, and has grown more repressive under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It is not just Trump who remains largely silent about such assaults on people’s basic liberties. So do many of the president’s critics, who express horror that he would deal with such a man as Putin.

Moscow will not be an easy partner for the US...

Explaining that “nobody wanted to listen to us” before he took over, in March Putin declared: “You hear us now!”

Compromise is inevitable, but requires respect for both nations’ interests. A starting point could be returning the two nations’ embassies to full strength and addressing arms control, such as the faltering Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and soon-expiring Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. A larger understanding based on NATO ending alliance expansion in return for Russia withdrawing from the conflict in the Donbas would be worth pursuing.

Neither the U.S. nor the Russian Federation can afford to allow their relations to deteriorate into another Cold War. Russia is too important on too many issues, including acting as a counterweight to China, the most serious geopolitical challenge to the U.S. Hopefully the upcoming summit will begin the difficult process of rebuilding a working relationship between Washington and Moscow.

Comments

takeaction Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:25 Permalink

So the Lib/Dems  just cant EVER support anything this President does.  Never in my life have I seen the office of the President of the United States so disrespected.  Oh...Monday will be a wonderful day again...Supreme Court Justice picked...for the rest of my life.

Guns are safe my friends...

I am Groot are we there yet Fri, 07/06/2018 - 20:13 Permalink

Oh come on, it would be: he's guilty of collusion to undermine the US Constitution, he's a fascist, he's Hitler, He's killing children, he's racist, he's a sexual predator, he hate muslims, he hates gays, he's going to destroy the economy, he's acting like a dictator, and my personal favorite, he eat two scoops of ice cream when everybody else only gets one.

Fucking psychotic Democrats. They should change their name to the Gladys Kravitz Party and all heavily self medicate themselves.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mdFctlvB3w

In reply to by are we there yet

jm takeaction Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:59 Permalink

The worst part of the Obama debauchery is not that he weaponized government institutions like the DOJ, corrupted and seriously impaired the effectiveness of the DOD by making it a hyper-affirmative action social experiment. The worst part is that his policies and persona so demoralized the majority of Americans (sans "social justice warriors") to the point that they will accept any opposite that runs for office.

Hillary or Trump?  Good God... what happened to a minimum threshold of virtue and integrity?  Maybe it's always been thus, but perhaps the low threshold is the seed of democratic failure.   

The next step, which ZH wholeheartedly pimps, is to portray an anti-democratic thug like Putin as an equal, if opposite, alternative.  There is bipartisan agreement there is a gigantic difference.  They are just too self-serving to convince anyone that doesn't already see this. 

In reply to by takeaction

el buitre jm Fri, 07/06/2018 - 23:19 Permalink

Exactly who did your estimating.  Real evidence please.

You mean KGB thug like Poppy Bush was a CIA thug, a collaborator in the murder of the best president this country has seen in a 100 years and whose buddy's eldest son came within a half inch of killing a second president while he was VP, and whose family is still running the world's narcotics trade while he besoils his Depends and our nation.

In reply to by jm

jm el buitre Sat, 07/07/2018 - 08:17 Permalink

You can find estimates of Putin's net worth all over the place.

But thanks for making my point: the objective is to make everyone and all institutions look just as murderous and equivalent to the Putin regime, facts be damned.

You talk about proof, then throw up a theory to implicate people into a presidential assassination that categorically has no proof.  Get some help.

 

In reply to by el buitre

Deep Snorkeler Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:30 Permalink

Tsar Putin

plays Trump like a balalaika 

he hypnotizes Trump like Rasputin

Putin has the evidence: pee pee naughties,

money laundering, emoluments and collusion.

SybilDefense Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:33 Permalink

Pay attention to the couple who recently were hospitalized in the UK by lingering Russian nerve agent (left over from 6 months ago?).  This seems like a false flag favour done by British intelligence still loyal to the Obama camp to keep Russia (x3) in the news as the nefarious bad guy.  Wouldn't be surprised that the victims both work for MI6 and are alive and well in Malta, if they even ever existed at all.  Seems sandy hookish to me.  Hard to believe that the stuff is still floating around out there in the same if not stronger concentration as when originally deployed to off the Russian expat and his niece.  Also hard to believe no one else happened upon it.  Sounds fishy n chips

el buitre bluecollartrader Fri, 07/06/2018 - 23:44 Permalink

Those Russki's are very clever.  They knew in advance what idiots Teresa May and Boris Johnson are, and that they would play into their hands and make a fucking laughing stock of the whole psy-ops. Putin is a genius.

On a more serious note, there is considerable evidence that Sergei Skripal was deeply involved with the "Steele Dossier" as a resource.  My speculation is that he tried to extort money for his silence and MI6 decided to kill him and blame it on the Russians.  Then we have the couple with the red satchel.  My theory, and it is only a theory, is that MI6 laced the money with carphentanil and Sergei asked his daughter to help him count the money.  Makes a lot more sense than the official story.

In reply to by bluecollartrader

Let it Go Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:34 Permalink

This may soon be the "topic of the week" with the Trump-Putin summit about to take place. Putin is in the news a great deal and the line Americans hear week after week during interviews with Washington's politicians and those entrusted with protecting our security is that Putin is a thug and a bully. The problem with Putin may be linked to the fact that with blunt rhetoric he refused to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world under a system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders hell-bent on their New World Order. The article below explores this issue and his role as a statesman.

 http://Putin, A Bully And A Thug Or A Great Statesman.html

Yen Cross Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:40 Permalink

  Did Pat Buchanan write this POS article?

  Pat likes to pick apart his constituents, because he's a washed up sociopathic prick.

  Pat should be helping the party circle the wagons, and taking one for the team.

 Instead he creates divides, and creates distractions for his own self- aggrandizement

Quantify Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:42 Permalink

I would detest any leader who didn't support their own citizens. So basically that explains my hate for Obama and Merkel. And my respect for Putin.

MuffDiver69 Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:58 Permalink

Probably the thing I like most about Trump is he really doesn’t give a crap what others say...not always right or wrong, doesn’t matter if you agree or not...The media and the rest think they are relevant...they are just his entertainment

Nuclear Winter Fri, 07/06/2018 - 19:45 Permalink

The next biggest LIE in DC after 9/11 and the Saudis did it with 2 planes, 1 missile, and 1 embedded bomb in Western PA... Putin is the RED Terror incarnate.

 

What a load of shit, San Francisco style. 

uhland62 Fri, 07/06/2018 - 21:13 Permalink

Destroying Russia would be the biggest prize for Washington at the moment. Once they have destroyed Russia (although I do not think they will succeed with that), it's China's turn.

Destroying countries is their speciality but some parts of the world are waking up after Yougoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan etc. Obey or we'll destroy you - America wants to write records and become the worst hegemon in history. 

VW Nerd Fri, 07/06/2018 - 23:02 Permalink

Almost every article regarding Russia states as fact that Russia annexed Crimea.  Assuming Russia did annex Crimea, then the US must come face to face with what they did to Hawaii in 1898 (annex a soverign kingdom by military coercion) before Washington DC makes any demands to Russia regarding Crimea's return to Ukraine authority.  Both events would be equal in my eyes. 

That said, I do not believe Russia annexed Crimea.  Unlike Queen Liliʻuokalani and the Hawaian people, I think the people of Crimea voluntarily chose to unite themselves with Russia.  I am sure the Crimea annexation narrative is just geopolitical spin to demonize Russia and Putin.

activisor Sat, 07/07/2018 - 03:21 Permalink

Putin will go down in history as Putin the Great. He will be acknowledged as the man who began the the move toward the new global paradigm in which good defeated evil, and peace reigned.

So it is written, so it will be.

 

mpcascio Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:03 Permalink

Like or hate Putin and Trump they want what's best for their country. You may not agree with it but that's what a good leader does. Obama was a lousy leader because what he did was everything he could to transform/destroy America. That's the difference.