Frenzy over Russian alleged meddling in the 2016 election has replaced rational discourse in the American media. The emotion displayed is similar to that which would follow a military attack, as if none of those expressing indignation were living on the same planet upon which the US has repeatedly visited such acts.
A senior Democratic congressman, Jerold Nadler, actually compared Russian alleged mischief to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to the surprise of anchor Chris Hayes, who departed from his usual cool by asking him: “Do you really believe that?” Nadler shot back that the US is defined as a demo-cratic country, thus Russian meddling was the equivalent of ‘breaking’ our democracy. To which Hayes felt compelled to admit that it was, after all, an attack ‘on our soil’…..
Having internalized the myth that the US brings demo-cracy to the world by military means, intelligent Americans now suggest that the activities of a ‘foreign power’ involving bots and other electronic tools is equivalent to a kinetic attack —even though there are no fatalities! (They also appear to have confused the Communist mantra that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, with the idea that democracy does likewise — when the gun is in foreign hands.)
The other complaint regarding Russia’s ‘meddling’ is that it has ‘divided Americans’ and caused them to lose faith in their democratic system. But how can they have faith in the American system when it condemns Americans to being light years behind the rest of the developed world in terms of their security, both military and civilian? After the worst mass school shooting, Paul Ryan, the Republican who runs the House of Representatives ruled out new legislation on guns demanded by the soon-to-be- adult high school students who survived the ordeal.
Progressives wonder why so many low-income voters cast their ballots for the right, as in the election of Donald Trump, discounting the colossal amounts of money devoted to convincing workers of ideas like “Trade unions deprive you of your individual rights.” An article in the current issue of In These Times, one of the few left-wing publications in the US, goes into excruciating detail over the right’s successful campaign to all but destroy trade unions in the US.
After ruling that trade unions cannot force all employees to join, in 1977, the Supreme Court held that they can, however require contributions from non-members to cover the cost of obtaining benefits shared by all. Since then, wealthy right-wingers have contributed billions of dollars to organizations devoted to securing limitations on workers’ rights. To this end they crafted the notion of ‘the right to work’, affirming that non-union members should be ‘free’ to work without contributing even a fraction of what members pay to finance the unions that protect them as well. (President Trump’s latest ‘democratic’ idea is to no longer allow ‘food stamps’ to be used to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, using the money saved to deliver boxes of non-perishable items such as cereal to low income families. )
In the midst of all this evidence that democracy is wanting in America, it was not until three days after the Special Counsel indicted thirteen Russians for their ‘criminal’ activity during the 2016 election campaign, that someone thought to ask: ”Why would Vladimir Putin do this?”
Why indeed? Every aggressor has a motive, but until now, the only one ascribed to President Putin for his recent behavior toward the US has been a hatred of Hillary Clinton for fomenting demonstrations against him in 2011, when he announced he would run for another term as president. This incident alone could hardly explain years of worsening relations. It does, however allow pundits to overlook Hillary’s history of admiration and encouragement of the military.
Remembering having read something about this a couple of years ago, I queried Google and came up with articles in three major publications: The New York Times ‘How Hillary Became a Hawk, Foreign Policy’s Hillary the Hawk, and the Washington Post’s From Reset to Pause.
Two quotes from the Post article are especially revealing: “(Hillary) remained broadly skeptical that the relationship with Russia would ever extend beyond specific issues where Moscow saw an advantage in cooperation,” and “there was this logic that we were in a terrible place with Russia and we should give it a shot to see if we could get some concrete things done, in our own interest.” These statements suggest that each side was looking out for its own advantage, which is nothing unusual. The significant quote is: ”Structurally we still faced a lot of problems dealing with Russia, including a fundamental difference in worldview.” Most Americans would have assumed this referred to Russia’s so-called attempts to recreate its empire. In reality it refers to Russia’s insistent calls for a multi-polar world in lieu of US hegemony.
Recent US presidents have appeared to recognize that it is not America’s job to be ‘the world’s policeman’, while point-ing out that it was the US that fashioned the ‘existing world order’, implying that this gave it a ‘right’ to oversee it. A growing number of countries, however, do not approve of one country running the world. (Referring to the ‘reset’ launched by President Obama, the Post article notes that “Putin, according to US officials who met with him, concluded that it was the Kremlin that the US most wanted to change. Logi-cally Clinton, a strong proponent of US military action in Lybia and Syria, would be on the side of those seeking new leadership in Moscow, he believed.”)
After many decades of means-imposed acquiescence with the status quo, third world countries are now coalescing around Russia and China, the first with the largest land mass and the second with the largest population. They are doing this because the ‘authoritarian’ rulers of both are committed to creating a system in which the largest countries in each region work together to keep the world safe. This approach to international relations that does not sit well with a country used to imposing regime change on rulers it does not like.
Turning now to the legal case against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, it implies that whatever Moscow’s reasons, they pale in comparison to the US right to decide who rules elsewhere. Americans fail to challenge this idea because they are unaware that since the fall of the Soviet Union, its military alliance has moved tanks and troops from bases in Western Europe right up to Russia’s western borders, claiming that Poland and the Baltic countries, in particular, demand protection from their historical nemesis.
(According to the Post, during the 2011 election in Russia, when Thousands of Russians took to the streets in protest “Clinton — with the White House’s explicit blessing — spoke publicly in their defense, condemning Russian officials for manipulating the vote and systematically harassing election observers. ‘The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices hard and their votes counted,’Clinton said during a speech that month in Lithuania.”)
What was the US Secretary of State doing in that tiny Baltic country? The long history leading up to this visit can only be adequately covered in a separate article. For now, suffice it to say that to dispassionate on-lookers, Russian behavior toward its Baltic neighbors can hardly be said to justify the presence of NATO tanks and troops on its entire western border, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Would not any Russian president react to such a tangible provocation? And if he believed that the American president had at least some influence over the deep state, would he not try to influence the choice of the next one, starting in 2014, when it had become clear that ‘the reset’ was not working? American Vice President Joe Biden was in fact dispatched to the 2015 Munich Security Conference to pronounce its demise “…We all invested in a type of Russia we hoped -— and still hope -— will emerge one day: a Russia integrated into the world economy; more prosperous, more invested in the international order.” As I wrote in a previous post: “This statement did not sound anodyne to Vladimir Putin, who since the 2007 Munich Security Conference had consistently laid out his opposition to the international order touted by the United States, because it is defined first and foremost as total US hegemony over the world.”
Notwithstanding the continued assertion of the Monroe Doctrine, which asserts US overlordship of Latin America, the operative sentence in President Biden’s speech refers to US opposition to ‘zones of influence’. In reality, it rejects Putin’s concept of a multi-polar world, which is about cooperation among equals, with a nineteenth century notion that ensures the hegemony of one country over others in a given region. Thus, if Russia backs eastern Ukrainians who oppose a US-installed fascist regime in their capital, it is accused of ‘invading Ukraine’, and if it responds to the presence of fully-armed foreign troops on its borders, by making election mischief, it is also accused of aggression!
Inevitably, Russia and China have had to boost their militaries in the face of America’s refusal to become a team player. (The equivalent to NATO troops and weapons massed on Russia’s western border is the US pivot to Asia intended to somehow ‘contain’ an increasingly internationally-oriented China.)
But we must not forget Europe. For decades after the end of World War II, the US claimed that without its military presence, Soviet tanks would roll across the central plane all the way to Dunkirk. Given the Soviet Union’s failure to oblige, Washington now warns that Russia is interfering in Europe’s elections, to mixed results.
Recently, documents released by the National Archives confirmed that in 1990, Western leaders to a man assured then Soviet President Gorbachev that if the West would agree to Germany’s reunification, NATO would not move one inch beyond its eastern border. President Putin began reminding the west of that promise at the 2007 Munich Security Conference, by which time, of the twenty-eight European countries, only Croatia, Albania and Montenegro remained outside of NATO. (The European Union’s 2014 attempt to woo Ukraine also implied that it would eventually join NATO, and the US states its intention to incorporate Georgia as well into its military alliance.)
NATO got around the recent proof of its duplicity regarding a crucial historical fact, by claiming that its decisions are taken by consensus among the member states and that there is no record of these assurances having been given. Notwithstanding NATO’s pretense of ‘democracy’, we are expected to believe that in 1990, European officials assigned to NATO failed to confirm the policies announced by their presidents and prime ministers to the leader of the Soviet Union!
At the end of the day, grandstanding over Russia’s ‘dirty tricks’ actually suggests that the United States is coming apart at the seams — to the relief of many around the world.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.