By David Swanson, October 24, 2017, Let’s Try Democracy.
Even as some Democrats are at long last growing frustrated with the lack of actual evidence for the past several months of stories about Russia stealing a U.S. election, Russiagate has penetrated so deeply that Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations has declared Russia’s alleged crimes to be acts of war. That Russia’s fictional actions being warfare would make Donald Trump guilty of treason is really a minor glitch not to be fretted over if we step back and view the situation calmly and wisely from the point of view of the weapons dealers.
The University of Virginia’s Miller Center has hardly met a war criminal it didn’t love. It’s now planning three days of nonstop Russophobia:
“Since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the United States and Russia have been geopolitical and ideological rivals.”
That’s one way of noting that the U.S. and its allies immediately sent their militaries into Russia to fight against the revolution — an action which had absolutely nothing to do with defending the United States or upholding the rule of law or preventing genocide or expanding women’s rights or spreading democracy or respecting national sovereignty, or any of the other pieces of nonsense put forward as excuses for wars these days. In fact, this warmaking was a blatant violation of the sixth of Wilson’s 14 Points, and of each of the first five general Points as well.
“In aftermath of the First World War, the Bolshevik challenge to American ideals of democratic capitalism set the tone for the rest of the century.”
So, the U.S. sending troops into Russia didn’t set any tones, but the Bolsheviks’ disagreements with the “democratic capitalism” that is working out so well for us did that.
“Despite a period of partnership during the great war against Hitler, the USA and the USSR viewed one another with deep suspicion and eventually came to see the other as an existential threat. Even with the collapse of the Cold War order, America and Russia could not develop a stable, mutually beneficial relationship, and since the advent of Vladimir Putin to power in 2000, the relationship has reached a level of mutual enmity not seen since the depths of the Cold War.”
Putin, huh? His offer of friendship and support and gift of a memorial following September 11, 2001, his willingness to help with a U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan just doesn’t exist? We have to jump straight to the decline in relations that began when Putin would not support attacking Iraq, and pretend it happened three years earlier? Boy was he wrong about attacking Iraq, eh? That sure has paid off big time and set a moral standard for a world full of slimy rivals. (That the year 2000 is the wrong date on which to begin the “enmity” is acknowledged by one of the Miller Center’s articles.)
“This conference aims to place the current US-Russia relationship into broad historical context by returning to key historical moments of crisis and controversy as well as restraint and compromise. By exploring U.S. presidents and their ties to Russian and Soviet leaders, and by analyzing the perceptions of the latter, we hope to illuminate the real nature of the bilateral relationship: the underlying forces, ideological, geopolitical, strategic, historic—that have placed the United States and Russia at cross-purposes for the past century.”
Sure you do. In preparation, the center has published several articles online. Here’s the conclusion of one that begins with Wilson and Lenin:
“Putin, we are told, sees international politics as a great power game, governed by that old Thucydidean maxim that might makes right.”
Never mind by whom we are told this and what value it may have!
“This was precisely the logic of the pre-1919 world order that both Wilson and Lenin rejected. They both wanted a world governed by norms and institutions of international cooperation; they founded the League of Nations and the Third International, after all, around the same time. Wilson, of course, wanted an order that reflected the principles of democratic capitalism, and Lenin, those of Communist internationalism. Both, however, would have rejected Putinism as an abomination.”
Putin is very quickly transformed into “Putinism” on the basis of what “we are told,” and then denounced as an “abomination.” Egad! What can we do to avoid this abomination?
“The United States, then, has two choices in its general posture toward Russia today. One is to accept Putin’s premise and shape its policy based on the principles of great power politics. Washington still enjoys vast economic and military superiority over Moscow, and this, combined with America’s favorable geostrategic position, gives it considerable leverage. Such a strategy, however, would require a clear definition of strategic priorities and some recognition, however distasteful, of Russia’s perceived interests in its own near abroad. As much as Washington opposes Russian involvement in Ukraine, for example, or a potential incursion into the Baltics, how far is it really willing to go to stop them?
“The second choice is to adopt a more principled, Wilsonian perspective, as Wilson himself did toward Lenin. In this scheme, Putin’s refusal to abide by the international norms and institutions crafted after 1945 under US influence (if sometimes flouted by US policies) would render his regime internationally illegitimate. The United States would rally like-minded allies (presumably, mainly in Europe) to tighten economic sanctions and further reduce diplomatic contacts.”
This festering turd of an analysis was produced by Erez Manela of Harvard “No Whistleblowers Allowed!” University. The proposal, to be clear, is for the United States, with more wars and overthrows than it can keep track of, having utterly destroyed Iraq, having turned the Middle East into a terrorism factory, in the process of starving the entire population of Yemen, should use moral pressure to urge Russia to start complying with the norms of good civilized cooperative behavior.
Another Miller Center article comes from Eugene B. Rumer of the Carnegie Endowment for International “Peace,” who gently hints at the possibility of questioning the wisdom of having expanded NATO before concluding: “In retrospect, it was a sensible approach to take during that time.” Rumer also tells us that the reason for hostile U.S.-Russian relations is all Russia’s fault and good justification for U.S. hostility:
“The standard answer these days in Washington is because of Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election, because of Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea and war against Ukraine, and because of Putin—his onslaught on democracy at home and dangerous and megalomaniacal agenda abroad. Each of these is a serious charge capable of doing serious damage to any relationship between almost any two countries. Taken together, they amount to a legitimate cause for a new Cold War.”
Then Derek Chollet of the German Marshall Fund of the United States tells us that, “As long as Putin remains in charge, there is very little chance for a productive US-Russian relationship, and presidents should set expectations accordingly. . . . The United States should not be afraid of isolating Russia or plainly stating that it will work to contain Russia’s aspirations.”
Well, that ought to help things.
Vladislav Zubok, professor of international history at the London School of Economics, piles on the anti-Putin propaganda:
“Putin, like Brezhnev, is deeply illiberal. He respects force and supports militarism, venerates ‘Great Fatherland war,’ and promotes state patrimonialism. Yet he is much more than a Soviet ‘KGB man.’ He had a steep learning curve, when the Soviet state was destroyed and Russia was flooded by the realities of political and economic liberalization. He accepted fundamental failure of Communism as economic and ideological doctrine, and does not want to rebuild a territorial Soviet empire. His project is to improve Russia’s place in the existing world order, not to create a new one. And his idea of power is closer to what he perceives Arab sheiks, China, and Latin American politics to be than to the tsars and the commissars.”
It’s remarkable how little any of these demonizers of Putin even mention the existence of Donald Trump.
In a nod to fact-based reality, the Miller Center has included one article by Allen Lynch, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, which reminds us that, beyond Russia’s refusal to back an attack on Iraq in 2003, a big cause of animosity was the way in which the U.S. played Russia and other nations at the U.N. in 2011, when it pretended it wanted to attack Libya merely to prevent a fictional threat of genocide, but immediately proceeded to overthrow the government. It was this experience that led Russia to take a very different approach to U.S. actions in Syria.
Even Lynch, however, brings up the “Ukraine crisis” without ever mentioning the U.S. role in creating it. He does, however, acknowledge a Russian perspective:
“So long as countries like Ukraine and Georgia remain eligible for NATO membership, Moscow cannot assume that it can provide for its security at the negotiating table with Washington.”
That’s reality. I don’t expect it to get in the way of the Miller Center’s work.