President Trump’s ‘daring’ step over the demarcation line between North and South Korea to shake hands with Chairman Kim wouldn’t be making such headlines were the American media capable of remembering the Soviet Union’s long history of ‘Friendship’ Institutes. Even more frustrating, if they remembered it, today’s pundits would dismiss the decades long ‘friendship’ between the Communist nuclear power and the leaders of what was then known as ‘The Third World’.
Alas, even America’s leaders are unlikely to realize that for Vladimir Putin, ‘Making Friends and Influencing People’ (the title of the best-seller published in 1936 by the ‘self-made man’, Dale Carnegie) has been built on personal contacts. Washington routinely refers to the Russian President’s outreach policy, as ‘desperate efforts to make Russia a relevant player on the world stage’, hiding its resounding success from American voters.
In fact, when supposedly trying to pierce the veil of mystery that its own ignorance has drawn over Russian foreign policy, the media ignores the plethora of events that enable foreign business and academic leaders to hear Russia’s foreign policy directly ‘from the horse’s mouth’. For more than a decade Vladimir Putin has presided over two yearly sessions of the Valdai Discussion Group, that covers a wide range of issues of interest to the international community from different Russian cities, in addition to the yearly economic forum known as SPIEF which has been held in St.Petersburg since 1997, coming under the Russian Presidency in 2005.
These fora draw hundreds of high level professionals every year, but they would only be half as effective without President Putin’s regular meetings with foreign leaders across the globe. When the American press criticizes Donald Trump for ‘cozying up to foreign leaders’, they show that they haven’t a clue as to what diplomacy is about. Yet in the better American schools, children are taught about France’s famous prime ministers such as Richelieu (1585-1642) and Talleyrand (1754–1838), whose German counterpart was the no less famous Metternich (1773-1859). Although their countries were often locked in combat, they represented the epitome of diplomatic skill.
News that President Trump had stepped over the demarcation line between North and South Korea on his way home from the G20 held in Japan, was greeted with a salvo of insults.l Absent was any recognition that since 1953 by American fiat, that peninsula remained divided, without an end of war treaty, with 24,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines permanently stationed in South Korea. (The very discreet presence in Eastern Europe of Soviet soldiers from the end of World War II until Europe was reunited in the late eighties, had nothing in common with the arrogant, brawling presence of American troops in South Korea (and Japan’s Okinawa Island, notwithstanding that population’s staunch opposition). Rather than its efforts to develop a nuclear capability, the never mentioned nub of the Korea problem is US refusal to allow a peace treaty, which would lead to the reunification of North and South. (While grateful for Xi’s help in managing North Korea, Washington rules out a reunified peninsula likely to side with China as it tries to ‘pivot’ to Asia.)
As the American Deep State and its ‘presstitutes’ (media whose news coverage is highly influenced by business or political interests), continue to beat the drums of war against Russia, China and their respective allies, they blissfully ignore the value of personal contacts as practiced by ‘authoritarians’ on the world stage, unable to imagine any other way for leaders to relate than that developed by Washington after World War II, based on military (and investigative) principles. As I pointed out in a recent article, the secretive FBI and the CIA have the high hand over American governance, including diplomacy and war, while traditional diplomacy relies on personal interaction.
President Putin has transformed Stalin’s doctrine of ‘Friendship Between Peoples’ used to justify military control of other nations during the face-off between capitalism and ‘Communism’. His policies continue the tradition of technical assistance that it involved, however, Vladimir Putin’s international conferences have replaced Soviet diktats, extending Russia’s influence far beyond government circles.
As for US influence, in 1945, Senator J. William Fulbright proposed using the proceeds from sales of surplus American war property to fund international exchanges with other countries. Officially, the Fulbright Program was meant to promote peace and understanding through educational exchange, however it involved cancelling foreign debt built up during the war in return for governments funding the US program. Touted as an essential vehicle to promote peace and mutual understanding, as I observed it during the mid-seventies when I wrote speeches for the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of it, its main component was the opportunity to experience personally ‘the American Way of Life’ of the upper reaches of society. Participants were chosen from among high level government officials and also, crucially, opinion makers. (The gradual and now total shaping of the European press to American standards was part of that effort….)
What is the difference between America’s approach to influence spreading and Russia’s? The former aims to shape ‘presstitutes’ in the broadest sense, while the latter highlights leaders on the international stage, replacing closed door directives with up-front participation — as Trump just did with Kim.
P.S. The Iranians’ “Death to the US” is on a level with the insults hurtled daily by the American press at members of the ‘Axis of Evil’, (Russia, China, Iran and North Korea) such as ‘dictators, bullies, and assassins.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years. She can be reached at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.