New Cold War Spins Out of Control

U.S. enthusiasts for the New Cold War with Russia appear to be ignoring less-belligerent orders from President Obama and pushing for a dangerous escalation of tensions, reports ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

By Alastair Crooke

In the aftermath of the U.S. attack on the Syrian army positions overlooking and commanding the Dier A-Zor airfield – the airfield, whose daily “Berlin air-bridge” style flights, are the sole lifeline to a city long besieged by ISIS – the Russian U.N. Ambassador asked a pertinent rhetorical question at the United Nations Security Council: Who is running U.S. policy: Is it the Pentagon or the White House?

There was no official response, of course, but one was not necessary: the New York Times editorial board gave us the answer in its verdict of Sept. 15:  Praising the U.S. Secretary of State for his energetic, but “quixotic” diplomacy, the “Board” wrote:

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“The [Syria ceasefire] agreement also has powerful critics inside the Obama administration, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. On Tuesday, Pentagon officials refused to say whether they would comply with their part of the deal, which calls on the United States to share information with the Russians on Islamic State targets in Syria if the cease-fire holds for seven days. This would be an unusual and possibly risky collaboration with a Russian regime that has become increasingly adversarial and could profit from learning American military secrets.”

What is so surprising here is the non-surprise evinced by the editorial writers of the New York Times. The Board blandly states that the Defense Secretary and the Pentagon might not comply. Not a hint of surprise is evident at the constitutional implications of this open defiance of Presidential authority.

No, rather the Board seems to view it as quite natural and commendable that Carter should refuse to comply with this “unusual and risky” proposition. But this was not some “proposition for collaboration.” This was an agreed formal accord between the United States and another state – reached after lengthy negotiations, and done with Presidential mandate.

In brief, President Obama’s authority is no more – if it runs against the settled opinion of the Pentagon, the CIA, the New York Times, the Washington Post and of the Democratic Party’s Presidential candidate. It is not unreasonable therefore to assume that Obama’s grudging détente with a Russian President that he personally, viscerally dislikes, is now no more than diplomatic chatter.

Professor Stephen Cohen, the eminent Russia scholar, has pointed to the parallel when U.S. hardliners in the national security bureaucracy sank presidential attempts at détente with Russia. One such case was the CIA sending Gary Powers in his U2 spy plane over Russia, contrary to President Dwight Eisenhower’s agreement with Russia (subsequently only to be shot down by the Russians).

Challenging Obama’s Authority

Cross-accusations are flying over who did what in Syria these last days, but what comes through is that Obama is facing likely insurmountable dissidence, even open disobedience, within his own Administration.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department, as viewed with the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., in the background. (Defense Department photo)

The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department, as viewed with the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., in the background. (Defense Department photo)

This Syrian “ceasefire” will not be recovered – not just for the bitter exchange of recriminations, which have irreversibly crossed certain unstated boundaries – but because, separately, we have a detailed and compelling account (from an American military insider) on How US Forces Sabotage White House Policy, Gone Disastrously Wrong with Covert Ops in Syria. 

It is clear from this account that – what has long been suspected – is true: that the U.S. does not, and cannot, control the jihadi monster it has created, owing to warring disparate factions within the U.S. “‘security state,” turning a very blind eye to the nature and true intent of those it has been training, financing and arming.

In other words, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and CIA Director John Brennan cannot deliver on the ceasefire, which may go to some way to explain the turmoil swirling around Washington. Did the White House fully comprehend how much the various U.S. “special” services were working at cross-purposes, and thereby undermining any real prospect of U.S. control, cutting away his negotiating stand?

The other aspect to this may be the nagging suspicion that Donald Trump has been given the space now to intervene with his “I told you so” – in terms of who “created” the jihadi “monster” – if he so chooses.

The “image” of concerted, wide, international will to resolve the Syrian conflict has been shattered – leaving only the splintered interests of diverse insurgent movements in Syria, and the polarized rhetoric of states outside. The Syria conflict most likely will enter a new, troubling phase – and with it too, Ukraine will probably become more intractable, as the two civil conflicts seem to be paired.

Noticeably, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is playing “on-off-on” with the Europeans, will be in New York meeting with Hillary Clinton, whereas Donald Trump has declined to meet him. Are the Democrats planning to double-down with Poroshenko?

So where next?  Well, the Russian Duma elections have come and gone. They offered no surprises, but that does not mean that that they were without significance. With hindsight, we may conclude that they were more than just routine.

The party of the ruling authority, United Russia, won – albeit on a low turnout, but then Duma elections do not particularly stir imaginations among Russians. Putin is not strictly a member of U.R., but the party is directly associated with him. It is tied to him – and it won essentially on Putin’s popular coat-tails – and despite its poor economic record.

What was significant were two things: firstly, U.R. passed the 300-seat threshold.  With 343 seats in the 450-seat parliament, UR now has a “super majority.” It can now change the Russian constitution – and that is important. Secondly, the three pro-Western, liberal parties contesting the elections achieved only a combined total of 4 percent of votes cast. Individually, they achieved but only 1 to 2 percent.  And the threshold for entry by any one party into parliament is 5 percent. As Professor Cohen notes uncharacteristically bluntly: “The pro-western, liberal, political movement in Russia is dead – and was killed by Washington.”

Russian Election Empowers Putin

In short, the economic sanctions and consequent belt-tightening resulting for Russians have not harmed Putin one jot. Russians blame the West (but still heartily dislike Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev’s economic team). That is now clear to all.

Russian President Vladimir Putin after the military parade on Red Square, May 9, 2016 Moscow. (Photo from: http://en.kremlin.ru)

Russian President Vladimir Putin after the military parade on Red Square, May 9, 2016 Moscow. (Photo from: http://en.kremlin.ru)

So, President Putin is now in a position – with a Duma “super-majority” – to make changes. The rumors are that big changes indeed are in prospect. One well-known Russia commentator, suggests wryly that Putin’s real opposition lies not in the Duma, but in the “party of power” itself:

“The truth is, the real opposition to Putin is precisely that [of] the economic-financial ministers of the Medvedev government and all the factions which they represent: bankers, IMF-drones, corrupt businessmen from the 1990s who hate Putin because he does not allow them to steal like in the past, all the ex-Nomenklatura and their kids who made a killing in the 1990s and whose heart is in the West, the Atlantic Integrationists à la Kudrin who are basically ‘Washington consensus types’ and who hate the Russian people for voting for Putin.

“That is the real opposition; and that opposition is far more dangerous than the US and NATO combined. And for that opposition the result of the [Duma] elections is a crushing defeat. Why? Because besides the hyper-official ‘power party’ United Russia, all the other parties in the Duma are far more anti-capitalist and anti-American than Putin. For the Empire, ‘United Russia’ is as good as it will ever get. Any alternative will be far, far worse.” So writes the Saker.

And here is the point: the situation in Syria for the coming months seems set to aggravate, but not to the point of a strategic defeat for Russia. Russia’s military intervention, and the shift by Turkey – though still not certain – makes it unlikely that the U.S. can achieve its sought-after “regime change.” In Ukraine, the “cards” are largely in Russian hands – and the Europeans understand this.

But in parallel to rising tensions in Syria and Ukraine and NATO build-up in the Baltics, the latest G20, by contrast, signalled the rising geo-strategic co-operation between Russia and China – and now the Duma elections promise Putin the possibility of making strategic shifts within Russia itself. Shifts in economic policy – almost certainly – but also Putin may feel more confident in his posture vis-à-vis the West.

This is not to say that Putin wishes to escalate tension versus the West. There is no evidence for that at all (as the deputy head of NATO has confirmed). But the Russian President no longer has to look over his shoulder – either. He can afford to wait out the West’s own economic and political crises.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, which advocates for engagement between political Islam and the West.

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14 comments for “New Cold War Spins Out of Control

  1. Joe Tedesky
    September 26, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Agitators all of them. Our MIC along with our Israeli overlords are pushing us ever closer to a Russian American showdown, and for what? All so as to divide and conquer the Middle East, so that there maybe a Greater Israel. The Saudi’s and their Gulf State Arab countries of course, because of their oil wealth will be honored a place in this new Middle East, that is until Israel decides to spread it’s wings even wider to take what’s left.

    Between the Pentagon and our Neocon State Dept. who are attempting to put America into such a situation, as to ruin any chance of a President Donald Trump to shake hands with the likes of a Vladimir Putin. If Trump doesn’t take the Oval Office, then even better, to have warmonger Hillary take her throne.

    It’s like watching a slow motion train wreck.

    • Joe B
      September 26, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Here is an important new interview with an AlQaeda member by a German journalist quoted at MoonOfAlabama: http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/09/todenh%C3%B6fer-interview-with-al-nusra-commander-the-americans-stand-on-our-side.html#more

      The AlQaeda member says that the US supplied TOW missiles and expert trainers directly to AlQaeda and that these were a major factor in their meeting government firepower, and they want more. He distinguishes only ISIS and says that the FSA etc from Turkey are weak and irrelevant, that all of the rebels claim to be “moderate” when they need food and supplies, that Israel is supporting them directly, and that they get major payments directly from Gulf governments not from civilian sources..

      Quote:
      Were those missiles first given to the Free Syrian Army by the U.S. and from there to you?

      No, the missiles were give directly to us. They were delivered to a certain group. When the “road” was closed and we were besieged we had officers here from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

      What did those officers do?

      Experts! Experts for the use of satellites, missiles, reconnaissance work, thermal surveillance cameras …

      Were there also American experts?

      Yes, experts from several countries.

      • Joe Tedesky
        September 26, 2016 at 11:18 pm

        Joe B thanks for the link to moonofalabama I have been meaning to read that interview all day.

        Remember when AlQaeda was our enemy? What a bunch of lies. Way back when this Syrian thing started I saw headlines to articles speaking about the U.S. supplying AlQaeda with weapons, and I resisted at first to even read those articles. Then came Benghazi, and that’s when I decided to start reading what the alternative media had to say in regard to America’s involvement with the terrorist group who was suppose to have been the same terrorist who brought down the Twin Towers, bombed the Pentagon, and was the cause of the loss of Flight 93. I remember reading an article by Tony Cartalucci, where he stated how John McCain had been seen with Ambassador Stevens shaking hands in Benghazi with AlQaeda leaders, but as shocking as that was it all seemed Neocon reasonable as well.

        http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2012/03/john-mccain-founding-father-of.html

        In the interview the terrorist interviewee made a claim to how they will defeat Russia, and then defeat the West. Is he referring to America, when he says how they will defeat the West? If you recall the 2012 leaked DOD paper advocating we support the terrorist to defeat Assasd, the U.S. name was never mentioned, but there was a reference to the ‘West’….is that us, and should we prepare to fight the same terrorist we support? This Syrian war always appears to have way to many different moving parts. Is it really all that complex, or is it made to look that way? The Yinon plan calls for a lot of small states, and lots of destabilization….add in a ton of chaos, and there you have it, nothing substantial surrounding Israel. Although, a strongly defended Israel could keep the crowd noise down to a whispering moan. If Syria’s Assasd should fall you can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t end there.

    • Lisa Smith
      October 2, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      It is a train wreck whoever gets in. Putin didn’t say good things about Trump. He thinks the same as the rest of us. Hillary is no better. Poor world!

  2. Wobblie
    September 26, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Obama is just a cover. He’s the “good guy”, War Dept is “bad guy”.

    That they can’t control the “jihadi monster” is not a “problem” for them. If it was, we would have a well established tradition of creating thug organization that do our bidding.

    https://therulingclassobserver.com/2016/09/04/paradise-suppressed/

  3. Bill Bodden
    September 26, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Who is running U.S. policy: Is it the Pentagon or the White House?

    This Shakespearean-like drama is another example of the limits of presidential power when the real power – the plutocrats and the duopoly’s oligarchs – decides to run the show. Just ask Jimmy Carter about how Speaker Tip O”Neill and Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd from his own Democratic (sic) Party aligned with their counterparts in the Republican (sic) Party to gang up on Carter.

  4. Bart in Virginia
    September 26, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Could the Pentagon be pulling what Senator McConnell did to Obama’s ability to appoint a supreme court justice: That the next president should be the one to make strategy in the Middle East?

  5. Joe B
    September 26, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Obama must agree with those who refuse cooperation with Russian forces, and whomever controls them: If the dispute extends beyond rational dissent to Disobedience, he can easily fire the disloyal. If MPs, national guard, secret service, DIA, and CIA all refuse to arrest disloyal commanders, he can order loyal forces to do so. Any refusal to do so would be tantamount to treason, easily exposed in a speech to Congress about military disloyalty. If he chooses not to do so, he allows them to make policy, an act of cowardice before them or whomever controls them: it is not likely that he would be the only coward, nor that he would be afraid even to mention that he cannot control the military. So Obama must have agreed with them to refuse to implement the truce, and apparently never intended a truce, just as he intended to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons by diplomacy but just can’t seem to figure out where those rebels are when bombing Syrian positions.

    • Joe B
      September 26, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      I should add that Obama just can’t seem to figure out how those thousands of tons of advanced munitions keep slipping into the hands of “terrorists” he claims to oppose, nor whether it might be a good idea to stop such flows until he knows, nor whether that indicates where their loyalties really lie. Obviously he knows and approves of the whole business, as does Hillary, or he would have stopped it altogether long ago.

      It is no coincidence that this aggression and these major arms sales occur during the election campaign. This money comes back as campaign bribes from Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are clearly calling the shots in US foreign policy. Obama and Hillary have rented out the US military for pennies on the dollar to get campaign bribes, like Bush and others, and should all be arrested and tried as secret agents of foreign powers, along with most of Congress.

  6. John
    September 26, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    The weakest link in the “take over the world game” by the neocolonialist is the US dollar and to a small part the euro…..I hope Putin understands the neocolonialist will choose war over lost dollar market share. We are no more than 1 year from WWIII….The US dollar is the life blood of the monster…….Prepare accordingly…….

  7. Secret Agent
    September 26, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the Empire has not negotiated in good faith for a generation, and Obamas word is worthless trash. Obama is a weakling. He can’t stand up to men and they just ignore him and do what they want. Obama does not possess the courage to make HIS appointees accountable for defying his orders. that’s why he surrounds himself with mollycoddles.

  8. Andrew Nichols
    September 27, 2016 at 5:40 am

    Has the SOHR/corporate reported on how many civilians are suffereing dying in Dier A-Zor? Any laudatory items about “Whitecaps”
    mopping up after jihadi mortar attacks? There must be something……Surely….

  9. Richard Steven Hack
    September 27, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Once again – at least the third time this week – a so-called “antiwar pundit” decides to give Obama a pass, as if Obama does nothing by lie in bed or play golf all day. It’s all the Pentagon’s fault, or it’s all Kerry’s fault, or it’s all the CIA’s fault…

    These people just don’t get it. This is HOW Obama operates. This is what “leading from behind” MEANS. It means Obama says one thing in public, does the exact opposite in private, and arranges for someone else to get the blame.

    Yes, Obama is nothing but a front man. He only relays orders from his rich masters in Chicago and elsewhere. That doesn’t mean he’s some kind of “reluctant Peace President”. He HAS NO PRINCIPLES. His only desire is to “look good”, like some cheap black Chicago hustler – which is what he is.

    Get a clue.

  10. Brad Benson
    September 29, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    I hope Trump fires all of these bastards.

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