How the West Provoked the New Cold War

The mainstream U.S. media portrays the New Cold War as “white-hatted” Americans standing up to “black-hatted” Russians to stop aggression against NATO and to save children in Syria, but the reality is much more gray, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

How did the “growing trust” that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said marked his “working and personal relationship with President Obama” change into today’s deep distrust and saber-rattling?

Their relationship reached its zenith after Mr. Putin persuaded Syria to give up its chemical weapons for verified destruction, enabling Mr. Obama at the last minute to call off, with some grace, plans to attack Syria in late summer 2013.

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session. 20 September 2016 (UN Photo)

President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly’s seventy-first session on Sept. 20, 2016 (UN Photo)

But at an international conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi last week, Mr. Putin spoke of the “feverish” state of international relations and lamented: “My personal agreements with the President of the United States have not produced results.” He complained about “people in Washington ready to do everything possible to prevent these agreements from being implemented in practice” and, referring to Syria, decried the lack of a “common front against terrorism after such lengthy negotiations, enormous effort, and difficult compromises.”

A month earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who chooses his words carefully, told Russian TV viewers, “My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the U.S. military machine. Despite [Mr. Kerry’s] assurances that the U.S. commander in chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin) apparently the military does not really listen to the commander in chief.”

Do not chalk this up to paranoia. The U.S.-led coalition air strikes on known Syrian army positions killing scores of troops just five days into the September cease-fire — not to mention statements at the time by the most senior U.S. generals — were evidence enough to convince the Russians that the Pentagon was intent on scuttling meaningful cooperation with Russia.

A New Nadir

Relations between the U.S. and Russian presidents have now reached a nadir, and Mr. Putin has ordered his own defense ministry to throw down the gauntlet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

On Oct. 6, ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russia is prepared to shoot down unidentified aircraft — including any stealth aircraft — over Syria, and warned ominously that Russian air defense will not have time to identify the origin of the aircraft.

It seems possible that the U.S. air force will challenge that claim in due course — perhaps even without seeking prior permission from the White House. Last week, National Intelligence Director and former Air Force General James Clapper commented offhandedly, “I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an American aircraft … if they felt it was threatening their forces on the ground.”

Injecting additional volatility into the equation, major news outlets are playing down or ignoring Russia’s warnings. Thus, Americans who depend on the corporate media can be expected to be suitably shocked by what that same media will no doubt cast as naked aggression out of the blue if Russian air defenses down a U.S. or coalition aircraft.

Meanwhile in Europe, as NATO defense ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters the U.S. is contributing “a persistent rotational armored brigade combat team” as a “major sign of the U.S. commitment to strengthening deterrence here.”

“This was a decision made by the alliance leaders in Warsaw,” he explained, referring to NATO’s July summit meeting in the Polish capital. “The United States will lead a battalion in Poland and deploy an entire battle-ready battalion task force of approximately 900 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is based in Germany.”

On Thursday, at the Valdai Conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, President Putin accused the West of promoting the “myth” of a “Russian military threat,” calling this a “profitable business that can be used to pump new money into defense budgets … expand NATO and bring its infrastructure, military units, and arms closer to our borders.”

Myth or not, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was correct to point out last spring that military posturing on Russia’s borders will bring less regional security. Mr. Steinmeier warned against “saber-rattling,” adding that, “We are well advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.”

Speaking of such pretexts, it is high time to acknowledge that the marked increase in East-West tensions over the past two-and-a-half years originally stemmed from the Western-sponsored coup d’état in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, and Russia’s reaction in annexing Crimea. Americans malnourished on the diet served up by “mainstream” media are blissfully unaware that two weeks before the coup, YouTube published a recording of an intercepted conversation between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, during which “Yats” (for Arseniy Yatsenyuk) was identified as Washington’s choice to become the new prime minister of the coup government in Kiev.

This unique set of circumstances prompted George Friedman, president of the think-tank STRATFOR, to label the putsch in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, “really the most blatant coup in history.”

It’s time for Western politicians and media to learn their lesson and pay attention to the statements coming out of Russia. Ask yourselves: Why all this hype now?

Ray McGovern ([email protected]) was an Army officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, during which he was chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and later a presidential briefer during President Reagan’s first term. [This article was originally published in The Baltimore Sun and is reposted here with the permission of the author.]

32 comments for “How the West Provoked the New Cold War

  1. Tristan
    November 2, 2016 at 00:23

    Points well made, but as is the case among many who are trying to stay informed, this is currently our understanding of the present dangers that are not regarded by the main stream media. Yet, the point is correct, we (soylent greens of the West) are now finding that our lives are less than relevant in the context of the capitalist globalized extreme short term profit over long term stability and reasonable gains.

    War is Hell, but profits are now. F**k the collateral damage, full steam ahead, there’s money and power on the horizon. Meet you back in the bunker old chum.

  2. jaycee
    October 31, 2016 at 23:42

    A deal was brokered between the sitting Ukraine government and the Maidan protesters and political opposition which resolved the standoff, and which was mediated and guaranteed by Russia, Poland, and France.The deal was then scuttled by what the NY Times described as “angry protesters” – namely the far-right militia elements from western Ukraine – who stormed the parliament building and threatened violence against members of the elected government. In defiance of the brokered accord, first the angry mob declared a new government and then, astonishingly, the United States, Britain, and Canada immediately recognized this “new” government as somehow “legitimate”. This was the exact start of this new cold war – an anglo alliance defied an internationally mediated agreement to peacefully resolve a conflict.

    • J'hon Doe II
      November 1, 2016 at 17:22

      How they provoked
      the new cold war is same as.
      no different in 1950
      as tonkin in ’64
      or all the targets struck,
      and real people die
      4 no Other purpose
      – economic exploitation
      aka – National Interests. than economic exploitation

    • kooka
      November 2, 2016 at 10:00

      It was not Russia but Germany (frank-walter steinmeier FM).

  3. Helen Marshall
    October 31, 2016 at 20:15

    In the “old” Cold War we at least recognized that we needed to have mutual respect and ways to reduce the tension, to ensure that the bombs did not go off. There was nothing like the kind of insults hurled at Putin … I find the attitude and behavior of Obama, Clinton, Nuland and so many others to be completely terrifying. I guess I should be glad I’m in my 70s and at least had most of my life-span. Who will stop these idiots???

    • Joe B
      November 1, 2016 at 13:33

      It’s a good point that interpersonal insults and unsupported accusations among superpower leaders signal a departure from the era when moral and institutional restraints counted with the public, and war was considered actually injurious, rather than just a personal statement. It appears that the US lives in virtual reality now, and sees only war games ahead rather than wars, until war is brought home as we may hope is done sooner rather than later.

      I would add that respect for truth and justice has disappeared with concern for reality and decency of behavior. That I attribute primarily to the influence of money upon mass media and elections, resulting in the equating of power and virtue, and the vindication of corruption in our corrupted courts, so that anything goes as long as it wins.

  4. F. G. Sanford
    October 31, 2016 at 20:14

    I regularly watch European TV. The big story competing with earthquakes and “the jungle” refugee camp is – wait for it – “FBI investigating ex-Trump campaign chairman for ties to Russia”. That, I suppose, refers to Paul Manafort, who to my recollection was hired by Victor Yanukovich as a PR and lobbying service provider. Yanukovich’s desire to accept an aid package from Russia as opposed to a debt servitude wealth extraction program offered by the IMF and World Bank made him a “Russian puppet”, as near as I can interpret U.S. Doublespeak. By extension, Trump’s utilization of Manafort as a campaign manager means Trump is also – guess what – a Russian puppet! I don’t know if any of this is true – some democratic operatives have apparently suggested that the FBI investigate this relationship, but according to mainstream European propaganda, one would surmise that the ONLY thing currently under FBI investigation is Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The “west”, as far as I can ascertain, is completely “in the bag” with Washington propaganda. I have been hoping saner minds might prevail, especially since those new NATO tank battalions in Poland and those bases in Germany would be the likely first recipients of tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a NATO excursion into unadulterated folly. Only Huma Abedeen’s laptop can save us now…

    • Abe
      November 1, 2016 at 01:16

      “Your every wish is my command
      All you gotta do is wiggle your little hand”
      – Hillary and Donald to Israel lobby

    • Joe Tedesky
      November 1, 2016 at 01:26

      Somehow I see some teen out in Nebraska reading State Department emails, and crying over wondering where Carlos Danger has gone. It’s never the simple things like, hey madam secretary it’s against the law to use your own servers. I mean isn’t that where our Hillary went wrong first? Another thing, why did Anthony Weiner have all those State Department emails on his porn-master? Meanwhile Anthony’s out there in cookie world flashing his out of work Johnson for all the underage teens to see, and that’s not counting any NSA or foreign government who could use and blackmail Weiner and his then wife. Disgusting as that may seem, I might add that Anthony’s internet travels with all that stored National Security information could be a worrisome breach. And then we get back to Hillary’s basement computer servers. Hmmm!

      One last thing, I’m so damn cynical I don’t know what to make of Comey’s announcement over more Hillary emails, or that Trump is owned by the Russians. If it’s true, that everybody has there day, well then I know of some American politicians who’s day is long overdue….but, by my pass experience of watching the Clintons I have just come to the state of mind that they are exquisitely untouchable, and not exquisitely in a good way, but in an elitist way. I mean I’m starting to belief those rumors that Bill was an illegitimate son of a once very rich republican billionaire from New York.

      • Joe Tedesky
        November 1, 2016 at 01:39

        Another thing about Anthony Weiner is he should be suspected for being a possible spy. This subject should be further examined. Another question would be what country would employ an out of work legislator to gain inside government knowledge? Another Hmmmm!

    • Abe
      November 1, 2016 at 12:26

      To seal the prevailing covenant, circumcision is mandatory for red and blue weiners in Washington. Females are not exempt, blood must be drawn from the wound, the mark is permanent, and strings are attached so that the weiners will stand while applauding.

    • Abe
      November 1, 2016 at 12:35

      Reasonable doubt:
      Huma points at weiner, plausibly insisting that it hasn’t visited her and Hillary’s bed

  5. Bill Bodden
    October 31, 2016 at 19:34

    … apparently the military does not really listen to the commander in chief

    Perhaps, the top of the organizational chart at the Pentagon may be more of a threat than Hillary and her neocon friends who will probably be willing accomplices in a military takeover. Or, perhaps that should be “reluctant accomplices” because they will want to be at the top of the resulting dung heap.

    When the military went along with the Bush/Cheney war on Iraq they proved they were no more constrained by their oaths to the Constitution than the politicians.

  6. Andrew Nichols
    October 31, 2016 at 18:37

    “This was a decision made by the alliance leaders in Warsaw”

    Oh – The irony A new Warsaw Pact?

    • Antiwar7
      October 31, 2016 at 23:28

      Good one!

  7. delia ruhe
    October 31, 2016 at 16:54

    This anti-Putin propaganda campaign together with all the sabre-rattling (i.e., dick-waving) is Washington’s way of rolling out the red carpet for Hillary “Regime-Change” Clinton. Besides, how can the US “contain” Russia if Putin isn’t doing anything rash, like a kneejerk reaction to US provocation.

    Unpleasant though he is, I think Putin is smarter than to fall for that. He’s no insecure and paranoid Soviet leader. He’s still got the support of 80 percent of Russians. Washington has pushed him into the arms of Beijing — which is where Russia belongs anyway. While the US cripples and bankrupts itself in war after war, not to mention drone-murdering and destroying the villages of countless Middle Easterners, Putin is preparing Russia for its role in OBOR, the biggest development project in history.

    To choose development over destruction is to be on the right side of history. When was the last time the US was there?

  8. October 31, 2016 at 13:40

    Perhaps it should not be surprising that our main stream media tote the neolib/neocon line that Russia is the bad guy and Putin has become Vladimir the Terrible. After all, the ruling corporate oligarchy has defense production establishments in 44 states, and their blandishments on the elected officials to keep employment in their states, as well as their own elected job, makes them the callers of the shots. They, the MSM, will not let the American republic remember the 27 million Russian military fatalities in WWII, nor the 19 DAY remembrance parades (24/7) that took place last spring (May, 2015) in Russian cities and villages on the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism. Americans used to able to say thank you tor sacrifices like this, but then we’d have to admit we were on the same side as Russia – they were an actual ally! Instead, well we need an enemy today, and the Russian bear looks like one country we can throw under the bus. Doesn’t this make things worse instead of better?

  9. James lake
    October 31, 2016 at 12:21

    America can only get away with this warmongering because of the poor information available to the population coming from the MSM.
    It’s sad but the poor ones sign up to the army for the endless adventures all to make corporations MIC rich.

    • Bob Van Noy
      October 31, 2016 at 13:21

      Thanks James Lake. As a “poor one” fulfilling my Military Obligation, l sat with my draftee brethren in Florida awaiting orders to invade the “commies” in Cuba; trembling but sure My Country would not lead us astray, I was wrong, and ultimately learned, like Smedley Butler before me, that it had nothing to do with Soviet Communism and everything to do with preparing the World for Corporatism, something few of us would have fought for…

      • Joe L.
        October 31, 2016 at 22:56

        Very insightful comment, thank you.

        • Bob Van Noy
          November 1, 2016 at 13:28

          Thank you Joe…

  10. October 31, 2016 at 12:02

    The Beltway Warriors are intent on ruling the world. They get setbacks, like detente, and attempts at peace, but they never have, and never will give up on the original objective and that is to be the supreme rulers of the planet. They will onlt lose this goal when they are dead. Because while they draw breath they will never give it up.

  11. John V. Walsh
    October 31, 2016 at 12:00

    Given this crisis situation and the oft stated position of Donald Trump, that we should get along with Russia and work together with Russia on the fight against ISIS, a position that has cost him votes and the opposition of the entire Elite including his own VP candidate – given all this, is it not clear that on November 8, we vote for war or peace with Russia.
    This is missing from all liberal leaning web sites.
    It is missing from Ray McGovern’s piece above.
    Such is the fear of being labeled a “deplorable.”
    But the choice between Hillary and the Donald is a choice between war and peace with Russia.
    That is the truth.
    It should be said clearly and frankly and very explicitly.
    To downplay it or hide it takes us one step closer to war.

    • backwardsevolution
      October 31, 2016 at 17:27

      John V. Walsh – you are right, it all comes down to this: do you want war or peace? Nothing else matters at this point.

    • JayHobeSound
      October 31, 2016 at 23:41

      Trump is far too vulnerable to deny the spooks. The spooks will not break a sweat turning Trump into a pro-war cheerleader.

      • Brad Owen
        November 1, 2016 at 12:23

        Or “Reaganize” him somehow, turning him into a nappy, drooling idiot, still able to entertain his fans, while day-to-day business of Empire will be handed over to Pence. Too many R operatives surround Trump, just like too many D operatives surrounded Sanders. The problem is the Rs and the Ds; Wall Street owns them.

      • November 2, 2016 at 17:15

        Agreed. It is absolutely clear that Trump supports U.S. military industrial complex fascism with financial backing from the Dakota pipeline and their security goons, with ties to the U.S. military. Trump is unable to make the connection between U. S. foreign policy as a catalyst for immigration: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Honduras, Columbia, to name a few. Nobody seems to be able to make the connection between recent events in Alabama, and the Dakota pipeline; the explosion of the pipeline in Alabama undermines first and foremost public health; instead, media focus on shortages of gasoline. Trump supports stop and frisk and the war on people of color, a continuation of the war on drugs, and continued financial support for militarization of local police forces. The “spooks” have taken over. Americans need to realize that they have been incorporated in to military industrial complex fascism which rules the country and is seeking to rule the world. The only choice for countries like Russia and China is to act in a likewise manner. “Oliver’s Army are on their way. Oliver’s Army are here to stay. And I would rather be anywhere else than here today” (E. Costello). The military paid no attention to attempts in Syria for a ceasefire by bombing Syrian troops just five days into the truce. Obama and Kerry were simply ignored. While Obama pretends to have influence on the Army Corps of Engineers re-routing the pipeline, the Army corps of Engineers is backing the beefed up militarization of its security forces in North Dakota to squash the protesters and continue building its currently proposed route. Why does reaction to environmental and public health concerns always result in clampdown by military goons, instead of development of environmental and public health initiatives and JOBS to react immediately to incidences like those in Alabama, or even Flint, Mi? Neither Trump, nor Clinton, nor Obama, nor the military, nor the protesters themselves have the intellectual capacity to offer a myriad of solutions in the realm of public and environmental health, creating jobs and security buffers to exploding pipelines. Instead we wallow in a stupid realm of “for” or “against”, resulting in clampdown and more incarceration. Bravo America. You suck!

  12. Drew Hunkins
    October 31, 2016 at 12:00

    It’s important to note — despite what the politically brain dead Pussy Riot and some others might have you believe — that there is one reason and one reason only that Putin’s being vilified by virtually every single spoke of the Western mass media: _He’s a relatively independent leader of a relatively independent state_ that doesn’t necessarily genuflect to every politico-economic directive that emanates from the Washington-Wall Street ruling class. _This is his unforgivable sin._

    If you know this and nothing else, you know more than knowing everything else and not this.

    I should add that the Baltimore Sun gets a few kudos for running this piece by McGovern. It’s a rarity that an even handed essay of this type ever sees the light of day in the mainstream American press. For this piece to prominently appear in WaPo or NYT is pretty inconceivable.

  13. Abe
    October 31, 2016 at 11:47

    “NATO, the White House, the houses of leadership in Europe have now seized upon a situation they caused in the first place. Russia as the aggressor, given all that we have seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s just a comedy. The United States and her allies (satraps) have invaded, or outright overthrown governments around the world, and now Russia is aggressive for protecting her closest interests? An aircraft carrier from the Reagan era sent out alone to conquer the world? Nobody in their right mind could believe this. CNN is calling the move ‘Heavy Metal’, and The Mail calls the vessels ‘Nuclear Battleships’ to garner readership, while another article speaks of ‘Putin’s Satan II’ killer missile with it’s 40 megaton payload. But no media outlet depicts the real situation. No news reflects who has really been building up arsenals for a potential war. The United States has increased in multiplicity systems aimed not at conflicts with Arab lands, not in defense against global terror, but for engaging more powerful foes. When the sole Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov was sitting in port collecting barnacles and rust the last 15 years, American companies planned and cranked out devastating new weapons. The trillion dollar F-35 can’t fly well yet, but sooner or later it will. The Gerald R. Ford super-carriers may have design flaws, but they were planned long before Russia reemerged as any advertised threat back in 2005. There are 100 examples of an ongoing US military buildup meant aimed at Russia and China, but Congress makes no secret of the US mission with regard to armed superiority, as this Congressional Research Service paper from September, 2016 shows:

    “‘The U.S. goal of preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon in one part of Eurasia or another is a major reason why the U.S. military is structured with force elements that enable it to cross broad expanses of ocean and air space and then conduct sustained, large-scale military operations upon arrival. Force elements associated with this goal include, among other things, an Air Force with significant numbers of long-range bombers, long-range surveillance aircraft, longrange airlift aircraft, and aerial refueling tankers, and a Navy with significant numbers aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered attack submarines, large surface combatants, large amphibious ships, and underway replenishment ships.’

    “Now my point seems well made. Had Vladimir Putin and Russia been intent on taking over the world, Military developments beyond the new Armata T 14 tanks, fifth generations fighters and some missiles would have been ramped up long before now. It’s crystal clear to the keen observer that Putin’s Russia was in infrastructure and economy building mode up until Senator John McCain played cheerleader for the Ukraine revolution in Kiev. Today, with NATO posturing on every Russian frontier, Vladimir Putin is making the best use of what his nation has in order to defend against the unthinkable. This is the truth of these matters.”

    When Russia Threatens by Sea – Maybe Intelligence Can Prevail?
    By Phil Butler

  14. duke-rules
    October 31, 2016 at 11:43

    Foro more real news and reporting on the dangers of our new cold war we are picking with Russia, read Stephen Cohen’s column in The Nation magazine.

  15. Joe Tedesky
    October 31, 2016 at 11:20

    For many this is a New Cold War, but in reality America is still persisting to carry on the Original Cold War.

    • Tristan
      November 2, 2016 at 00:32

      I don’t remember during the years of the Cold War, that the Nato alliance and the US acted so provocatively and so pronouncedly on the border of the then USSR. Presently Russia is assuming the worst, as history has proven to that nation, and it is preparing for war. A war to defend the Motherland of Russia again. I don’t think the Russians think this is preparation for a “cold” conflict. To put one’s self in the shoes of a Russian, one would have to conclude that an attack is coming.

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