This morning, as the country was bracing for news that the US had attacked Syria in retaliation for the most recent use of chemical weapons, the President tweeted:
“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”
After hearing this tweet on the nine-o’clock news, I had to go to several news sites to makes sure I was quoting it correctly: all except The Guardian had ignored it, citing only the threats the US president made to Russian forces in Syria. MSNBC described today’s tweets as ‘threatening Russia’, getting tough on Russia (you could almost hear the champagne glasses tinkling in press rooms across the country – well, not across the country, because most Americans are only entitled to local papers, but certainly among the Big Three in New York, D.C. and San Francisco).
Clearly, President Trump is not his own man. No more than was his predecessor. I have always believed that Obama was ‘permitted’ to become the Democratic candidate in 2007 on condition he do as he was told by the Clintons, at first on the financial front and then on relations with Russia. Today, Obama is judged mainly with respect to his domestic policies, in particular with respect to relations of the white majority with the black and hispanic communities.
That is partly because foreign affairs has always been kept under wraps when it comes to the American people, the media claiming that ‘Americans are not interested in foreign affairs’. But how can they take an interest in something about which they are given little or no information?
When Trump campaigned insisting that it made sense to have good relations with Russia, he upset decades of carefully curated tense relations with the country that we had considered an enemy from 1917 to 1991, when the Soviet Union (with a little help from its frenemy) imploded. We rushed in to help the new president, hard-drinking Boris Yeltsin ‘democratize’ his country by making its vast mineral wealth available to American — and newly baptized Russian investors.
When ailing Yeltsin chose the unobtrusive but loyal Vladimir Putin as his successor, relations between the two nuclear nations appeared poised to become mutually productive: President George Bush met with President Putin several times, and once declared that he had looked into his eyes and seen his soul.
However, by 2007, as Bush was getting ready to leave the White House, it had become clear to the Russian President that his country was not being offered a relationship suited to military equals anymore than were, say, France, with its minuscule ‘force de frappe’ or Germany, long recognized as the leading European nation. In a speech to the early Munich Security Conference, Vladimir Putin declared that his country’s efforts to cooperate with NATO had been met with disdain. He did not whine about the fact that the American-led military alliance had gone back on the promises made to Gorbachev on the eve of Germany’s reunification, that NATO would not move one inch beyond that country’s new eastern border. In fact, he alluded to the US’s declared policy of wanting Russia to become part of the alliance, noting that the plan had not been implemented. (Since that time, those in charge of US foreign policy have repeatedly ‘lamented’ Russia’s failure to accept our invitation to become ‘integrated’ into the US-led military alliance, denigrating it for demanding equality, and distorting its well thought out vision of a multi-polar world.
That vision was based on the conviction that no single country should rule the world, clashing with the basic premise of US National Security Policy which is, precisely, that we must remain the world hegemon. Starting with the Obama administration, that policy has been implemented by fomenting color revolutions in Russia’s ‘near abroad’, which it, like any other country, put down: in 2008 it was Georgia, which fizzled, yet continues to be referred to as a Russian ‘invasion’.
In 2014, the US hit the jackpot, having spent, as the State Department’s Victoria Nuland attested to the Washington Press Club in November of 2013, more than five billion dollars encouraging ‘democratization’ in Ukraine. In February 2014, demonstrations broke out in Kiev’s Maidan Square, which were quickly joined by fascist militias that had been training, as one of them explained proudly in an interview with Newsweek, for almost 25 years.” The motivation was to realize the dream of World War II hero, Stepan Bandera, who tried to secure an independent Ukraine by collaborating with Nazi Germany. Although it hand-picked the current government of Ukraine, the US has been unable to birth a democratic regime, Kiev’s first impulse being to go to war with its eastern provinces whose Russian population is allergic to fascism. When Moscow came to the assistance of the declarations of independence of Lugansk and Donetsk, the US claimed that Russia had ‘invaded’ Ukraine, (and, subsequently, annexed Crime, which it did via a referendum similar to the US-backed Kosovo referendum of 1991).
After four years of chaos, during which Russian soldiers have been seen only in the rebel provinces, the US continues to accuse Russia of having ‘invaded’ Ukraine and Crimea (knowing full well that by treaty with Ukraine it is entitled to maintain 25,000 troops in its naval base there).
Now the Syrian civil war, largely fomented by the US on the back of the population’s discontent (whose economic causes are eloquently analyzed in this article in Syria Comment:
Syria having long been a thorn in Israel’s side besides being an oil producer and an ally of Shite Iran.
Today, as President Trump gears up to launch missiles on Syria in retaliation for Assad’s supposed use of poison gas, he clung to his laudable policy of seeking cooperation with Vladimir Putin, by advising him to unfriend Iran over Assad. Clearly oblivious to the fact that Russia’s relationship with Iran is not some fly-by-night event, but one that is grounded on a common commitment to an anti-Western, traditional view of society, as well as to the socialist worldview upon which the Iranian Revolution was based, and which is shared by Assad, his recipe for cooperation with Russia will require more schooling
Although Iran’s ‘Mullahs’ are not nearly as popular with their people as Vladimir Putin is with most Russians, the latter’s consistently high ratings are not the fruit of a muscular foreign policy, as Washington contends, but of the fact that domestically, he has not thrown the socialist baby out with the bathwater. And he is no more likely to jettison that relationship in order to improve relations with the US than he was to take a subordinate role in NATO in 2007.
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”.