A Dangerous Hysteria on Russia

A grave danger from the U.S.-Russian hostilities bubbling in Official Washington is that both sides have narratives asserting their complete innocence rather than seeing the two sides of the story, observes James W Carden.

By James W Carden

The hysteria that has, for many months now, gripped our media and governing elites, as well as the Democratic Party’s chattering class, over Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election, has also begun to affect the Republic of Letters. Last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review featured a review of a new novel that begins with the declaration that “Russia once again poses a threat to American democracy.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

This gives us a sense of the environment that the new and struggling Trump administration must confront as it attempts to fashion its policy toward Russia, a daunting task, made even more so by the poisonous – or even what might accurately be described as a McCarthyite – atmosphere that currently envelops Washington.

So, where to begin? I think that in order to help point the direction in which the Trump administration should go, we ought to begin by performing a kind of autopsy on the Obama administration’s Russia policy to see what lessons we might draw from the mistakes that were made over the past eight years.

This, unavoidably, entails a discussion of the Obama “Reset” policy, and the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, which oversaw the implementation of that policy at the inter-governmental working level. After what could fairly be described as a brief period of tangible achievements in 2009-2010 – during which time the U.S. and Russia signed the NEW START treaty and together formed 21 working groups focusing on issues as diverse as Space, Agriculture, Education, and Military Cooperation – things quickly foundered.

I would submit that one of the primary reasons things unraveled so quickly is that President Obama made a miscalculation by over-personalizing the relationship with his counterpart, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and placed unrealistic hopes in someone who was essentially a placeholder president.

While it was obvious to many that that was exactly what Medvedev was, the Obama administration clung to the unrealistic (and in retrospect, baffling) hope that the U.S. could somehow convince then-Prime Minister Putin to stand aside and not run for election in 2012. Indeed, Vice President Biden went so far as to make the point explicit during an appearance at Moscow State University in 2011.

But to be fair, Obama was not the first U.S. president to substitute personality for policy: we can recall Bill Clinton’s courtship of Boris Yeltsin – and we recall how well that turned out. But in the context of the Obama years, it was particularly damaging because once you stripped away the personal chemistry between Obama and Medvedev, and as well-intentioned as the Reset policy was, it was largely small ball. Sponsoring “people to people” programs like high school sports exchanges are great and should be encouraged, but they don’t add enough ballast to balance and stabilize a great power relationship when things go off track.

And go off track they did: by mid-2011and early-2012 decisions made at the very top ensured the premature death of the Obama Reset: Obama’s nomination of democracy promotion/regime change theorist Michael McFaul as U.S. Ambassador, Putin’s decision to return to the Kremlin in 2012, the passage of the Magnitsky Act and the Russia’s retaliatory Dima Yakovlev Act foreshadowed even bigger conflicts to come: such as those in Ukraine and Syria.

A Better Reset

One should note that the approach Obama took in fashioning a Reset was not exactly new. What animated the “Reset” policy – which, according to one its primary architects, was based on the old Reagan-Shultz policy of what was then called “de-linkage” that is, the U.S. would not explicitly link progress on areas like human rights to progress on issues like nuclear non-proliferation.

President Reagan meets with Vice President George H.W. Bush on Feb. 9, 1981. (Photo credit: Reagan Presidential Library.)

Obama’s rationale was similar to Reagan’s: Where we are in conflict with Russia, we will speak up – but where we find there are areas of cooperation – then we will move forward on those. In other words: progress in one area is not necessarily contingent on progress in other areas. As it turns out, this approach  – which worked rather well 30 years ago toward the end of the Cold War – worked rather less well under President Obama.

Part of the problem is that the world – and Russia in particular – had changed during the intervening three decades – and so a simple updating of the Reagan-Shultz formula proved to be inadequate to the challenges we face today. Another part of the problem is that during the intervening years between the end of the Cold War and the election of President Obama, successive U.S. governments began to distain pragmatism in favor of a pursuit of global liberal hegemony, by which I mean, the promotion of American-style democratic norms and social values came at the expense of the pragmatic engagement characteristic of the late-Reagan/George H.W. Bush era.

To put it plainly then: since the early 1990s, the mission to spread our values has come at the expense of our interests, at home and abroad. Consider the expansion of NATO, a project begun in the early-mid 1990s under the Clinton administration, where the U.S. mistook membership in – and the expansion of  – a military alliance for the advancement of liberal ideals. In creating an exclusionary rather than inclusionary European security architecture, we were inviting problems down the road, such as those that have bedeviled U.S.-Russian relations in recent years.

All of this is to say that we cannot simply address the problem of Russia in 2017 in isolation from the wider, expansionist and hegemonic trends of U.S. foreign policy of the last quarter century. Today, we too often begin the by now well-established narrative of Russian malfeasance and “revanchism” with its 2008 “invasion” of Georgia — or — in recent years, its “annexation” of Crimea and “invasion” of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Yet the problem with the American version of the story is that it mistakes the middle of the story for the beginning. If we look carefully, and if we are honest with ourselves, the problems with Russia began in the 1990s with the Clinton policy of NATO expansion – problems which were further exacerbated by subsequent American interventions in Serbia and Kosovo, in Iraq, in Libya, and in Syria.

This is not to say Russia has not compounded the current tensions with provocations and missteps of its own. But worryingly, as during the first Cold War, we are in a situation where, as the Christian socialist theologian Reinhold Niebuhr observed in 1952, the U.S. and Russia are engaged in a struggle and – in his words – “are particularly innocent according to their own official myth and collective memory.” Propelled by best of intentions – the situation that obtains on the Continent is perhaps the most dangerous since the Berlin crisis of 1961.

A Troubled Détente 2.0

What does this background mean for prospects for U.S.-Russia policy under President Trump? I would submit that the prospects for a kind of Detente 2.0 are really not very good. To begin with, we would have to address the underlying causes behind the seemingly never-ending problems in the U.S.-Russian relationship.

Donald Trump at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

It seems to me that all (or most) of the problems stem from what are essentially irreconcilable approaches to international affairs; in an odd twist of history, since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s foreign policy has become essentially Westphalian, while it is we Americans who have become the Trotskyite revolutionaries – in thrall to the ideal of waging a permanent “democratic” revolution on the rest of the world. As Americans, we should find this turn of events distressing.

Trump will also have to avoid the mistake of substituting personality for policy – as he seems to be doing with Putin. He will also have to make a definitive break with past thinking – he will have to follow through on his promise to pursue a policy which puts American interests first and in so doing face down Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ben Cardin and other Russia-paranoiacs (to say nothing of Kiev’s vast number of apologists in the Congress, media and think tanks) in order to break the war fever in Washington.

Yet – so far anyway – the administration has simply echoed the Obama administration’s talking points on Russia. Consider: Ambassador Nikki Haley’s maiden speech to the United Nations condemned Russia in terms no different in their ferocity from what we all had come to expect from Samantha Power, while, at his confirmation hearing to be Defense Secretary, General Jim Mattis claimed that Russia was a principal adversary of the United States.

On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan collection of senators has just introduced legislation to sanction Russia over its alleged interference in the U.S. election. Meanwhile, the Trump team’s obsession with Iran – threatens not only to derail any detente with Russia but may embroil us in yet another war in the greater Middle East.

The final reason I do not see cause for optimism is that frankly, it seems to be amateur hour at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Consider the Muslim immigration ban. Leave aside the grotesque motives behind it as well as the unconstitutional and dangerously counterproductive nature of the thing and, instead, simply consider its roll-out:

The very agencies which were tasked with carrying it out were left in the dark – no guidance was given – and a situation at the airports developed where customs officials were conducting ad hoc loyalty tests on green-card holders; children and elderly travelers where held in detention; and people who had valid visas were cruelly turned away and boarded on to flights out of the United States against their will. Whether Trump even read the text, widely assumed to be the handiwork of a hard-right advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, is something we still don’t know.

And so to conclude: It seems clear to me that the Trump administration is flying blind, and its national security team seems to be firmly in the grip of the bipartisan foreign policy consensus of the last 25 years. And while it is still very early on – I would submit that Trump’s first three weeks in office should be cause for grave concern, and that hopes for a detente with Russia are quite overblown.

James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department. [Adapted from a talk given at the inaugural meeting of the Simone Weil Center, Washington, DC on February 11, 2017.]

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44 comments for “A Dangerous Hysteria on Russia

  1. Drew Hunkins
    February 15, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    For a quick example of the subtle (and not so subtle) Russophobia floating around liberal circles, go over to CommonDreams and check out Michael Klare’s piece (“American Third”) on how Trumpie’s supposedly putting Russian interests ahead of the United States. Klare’s piece is a fount of the same anti-Kremlin talking points coming out of the McCain wing of the Republican Party, CNN, and other mass media outlets.

    • jo6pac
      February 15, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks I’ll look it up. The other insane story over there in by Bill Moyers and his buddy WP. Sadly just more talking points from the neo-conns.

      • Drew Hunkins
        February 15, 2017 at 5:58 pm

        Et tu, Moyers?
        Exactly jo6pac. Alas, Moyers has gone along with much of the Moscow vilification of late. He also piled on the Slobo bashing back in the late 1990s (see Michael Parenti’s phenomenal book, “To Kill a Nation”). Disturbing.

    • Hank
      February 17, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      Russia to the USA

      “Do you feel lucky punk? Go ahead, make my day!”

      Dirty Harry with Clint Eastwood

  2. mike k
    February 15, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    The festering sickness that has been true of the United States since it’s inception, has broken out now in all it’s psychotic fury. The end stage of industrial civilization, capitalism, empire, and environmental destruction is now escalating out of control. There is really little to do now but step back and contemplate the death of the human experiment by it’s own hands. Those who most deeply understand what is now unfolding have correctly given up all hope. Those who desperately cling to some last shreds of hope will be destroyed with all the rest. The refusal to see clearly what is now happening is ironically one of the causes of it’s relentless inevitability.

    Only love and forgiveness matter now, even though they will be inadequate to save us from ourselves.

    • elmerfudzie
      February 16, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Mike K, your contention seems to be derived from a Hollywood movie-Omen, with some sort of “Damien” in the White House. Not so fast! Trump may prove to be the wrench in the gears of the “deep-state apparatus” , You know, the same hope we all had with that photo-op of Lavrov and Hitlery with a hand on that red reset button?

    • Ol' Hippy
      February 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Last summer I also saw the ‘writing on the wall’ so to speak and suffered a major depressive episode. Yes I’m a pessimist but all the signs are there. The US government is pursuing, in typical fashion, it’s militaristic policies that are destroying all sorts of people and destruction of the only environment we all have to live in; there is no alternative. The destruction of Earth will quicken with the new administration’s complete denial of the problems facing mankind and proceeding as if the supplies of resources are endless. I especially feel for the children of today because they will inherit a place not suitable for life. If there’s a major war, a growing possibility, things will end even more quickly; take your pick. I’m just glad I haven’t any children to live in this mess humans have made.

    • Sam Glasser
      February 17, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Your ‘festering sickness’ starts with slavery, acquisition of Indian lands (despite the ‘Indian Intercourse Act of 1834) , invasion of Mexican territory in 1846, Chinese Exclusion Act, (self) sinking of Maine in 1898 and Spanish War, bounty on Indian scalps (in California), incarceration of citizens who were ethnic Japanese, on-going monetary inflation and public debt. and worst of all: deceit of the physical* cause of ‘9-11’ destruction, etc.

      * My credentials are in science, engineering (licensed), and physics

  3. Sam F
    February 15, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    There is no such problem of two sides seeing themselves as innocent. There is zero evidence of any aggression by Russia whatsoever. Obviously the problem is that the US mass media and politicians are all lying. That is the problem. The US mass media and politicians are all lying. They are nearly all traitors and should be deposed by any and all means.

    The US has never attempted to export democracy. The US has overthrown numerous democracies and has substituted dictatorships. It has never established a democracy, unless you count the disasters of the Philippines and Iraq. The US is not a democracy itself, has no intention of becoming one, and if it had any intentions to promote democracy anywhere it would instantly eliminate money control of US elections and mass media.

    The US has no humanitarian intentions whatsoever, domestic or foreign. US foreign aid consists of killing machines for its dictators, and about one hamburger a year to the world’s poorest. Don’t say we never gave ya nuthin.

    The US is a gang operation and nothing else.

  4. jaycee
    February 15, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    The “democratic revolution” the Obama administration was offering the world was exemplified by the now stalled trade deal TPP, or the IMF imposed austerity program which greeted the Maidan protesters. See his remarks during his visit to Argentina last year to support the Macri government to get the full flavour, or consider the removal of Honduras’ Zelaya in 2009.

    As well, the evidence shows Russia in a reactive posture concerning events in Ukraine 2014. The hasty move of the USA, Canada, and Britain to “legitimize” the unconstitutional overthrow of the elected government – which happened despite the successful international mediation of the previous day – was a rather infamous act of belligerence and should be seen as a crime against the peace. As a hunch, I suspect the belligerent parties fully expected the Russians to drive the tanks to Kiev to restore the Yanukovich government and thus fully kick off Cold War 2. All they managed to get was the Crimean referendum and the eastern Ukraine stalemate, but policy being policy, the new Cold war was engaged anyway. The extreme bad faith was on display as NATO commanders professed “shock” over Crimea, even as their analysts had concluded a decade before exactly that would happen if the West pushed too far over Ukraine.

  5. SteveK9
    February 15, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    ‘This is not to say Russia has not compounded the current tensions with provocations and missteps of its own. ‘

    For once, please say what they are. I’d be interested to know.

    It’s almost a reflexive ‘well they’ve done some bad things too’, without recognizing whether it is actually true. The question arises because a statement like that above is never followed up with an example.

    • John
      February 16, 2017 at 12:21 am

      I second that.
      From what I have seen, Russia has been amazingly restrained and well-behaved throughout…

    • Soloview
      February 16, 2017 at 12:23 am

      I suppose by ‘tensions and provocations’ he means Putin’s referring to the US as ‘partners’ while the commonest official descriptions of him in the US in the last two years is ‘thug’ and ‘murderer’.

    • David
      February 16, 2017 at 11:02 am

      I agree. As far as I can tell they have done nothing wrong, and have reason to doubt our intentions.

      If we do start fighting with them, I hope it is after they bring our astronauts home from the ISS. :-)

    • February 16, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      There is always that statement somewhere buried in the narrative. That translates to mean they are just as bad as we are. Well I for one am not aware of Russia starting thirteen wars in just the last thirty years. Nor have i been aware of Russia interfering in, bombing, regieme changing, invading and occupying 61 other countries just since the Second World War, and I am 76 so have been around for all of that time.

      No emphatically no, the Russians are not as bad as Americans. And please don´t give me that old chessnut about the world loving American citizens because it is their government that is bad not them. The American citizens cheerfully elect these war criminals over and over again. Since both parties love war, then there is no daylight between American Democrats and American Republicans. So that makes most of the country bad, citizens and government. i will grant you that there probably are a few good Americans scattered across their 325 million people, Personally I just haven´t run into any and obviously there are way to few to make a difference.

      • Gregory Herr
        February 17, 2017 at 11:57 pm

        Your points are are well taken…except for the one about “most” of our citizens being “bad”. I’ve had the pleasure to know quite a number of really good-hearted and generous people in this land of my birth from many different walks of life. There are of course millions of willfully despicable types residing here and we do have some pretty serious “societal” problems…including widespread misunderstanding and/or ignorance of historical truths and current events. But there are also millions upon millions of “good” people who happen to be “American”.
        There is nothing exceptional nor particularly unexceptional about this state of human affairs. “People are people” throughout this world, this “bale of tears”, and I would suggest that the “good and bad” has been a relative “constant” of the human condition wherever and whenever.

        • Gregory Herr
          February 17, 2017 at 11:59 pm

          I do miss the editing function… “bale” of course should be “vale”

    • Bart in Virginia
      February 17, 2017 at 11:35 am

      As someone said below, they acted like we do.

      They “invaded” Ukraine to protect the Russian speaking areas in the east, just as we invaded Grenada to rescue some medical students (and, while we were at it, overthrow another unfriendly govt).

      Seeing NATO’s ever expanding eastern front, they decided to ensure that their warm water port in Crimea was secure.

      Finding themselves largely surrounded by U.S. and NATO bases, began upgrading their military capability, something we do constantly due to weapon production being the engine that drives our economy.

  6. Gregory Herr
    February 15, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    http://www.nbcnews.com/video/watch-full-interview-with-kremlin-spokesman-dmitry-peskov-853603395519

    Dmitry Peskov is worth a listen (provided one can stomach Neely).

    • Soloview
      February 16, 2017 at 12:51 am

      Peskov is a smart guy: I loved his denials that Russian intelligence is trying to recruit business people. At any rate, basically Russia is not a danger to anyone at present time and in near future. They have a lot of catching up to do to become a 21st-century power and they know it. (They are the largest country in the world with GDP smaller than South Korea!). They want stability; the US has been trying to deny it.

      • Realist
        February 16, 2017 at 2:41 am

        Bingo. Putin wants trade and a stable relationship with the West. He wants to sell us Russia’s natural resources, buy our technology and develop Russia’s economy. He wants the same with the East in China, India and anyone else in the region. He’s not looking to conquer new territory or subjugate new vassals. As Stephen F. Cohen constantly puts it, he wants a PARTNER in the West to realise his goal of developing Russia’s potential. He doesn’t need a FRIEND in the West if we refuse to be such.

        • February 16, 2017 at 6:17 pm

          Thats just it isn´t it. The West does not want Russia to rise to it´s potential. Russia like China, for the USA trying it´s best to drive those two countries back into the bottle. You know like the Genie. the US will try and try, but Russians and Chinese do not suffer fools willingly so in the end will focus on the Eurasion Continents. In any event thats where the money is not scraps of useless paper. run off the printing presses at the Fed by the ton.

        • Pixy
          February 18, 2017 at 1:15 pm

          Wrong. Putin wants what is the best for his country, and therefore he does not want “sell us Russia’s natural resources, buy our technology”. He want his own technology, and he will get it, rest assured. Because recent events taught the Russians NEVER to put themselves in the position where they could depend on the West on anything of importance. West has proven itself to be not trustworthy. Depending on them for anything vital is like being dependant on an abusive husband – one day you would be killed and could do nothing to save yourself. So I am afraid you would be loosing Russian market there too.
          The rest is true though: Russia has other, more important things to do than to conquer some territories. I mean, look at the map: as long as territories go, we really have enough as it is.

          • Realist
            February 18, 2017 at 8:23 pm

            Of course, he wants to develop Russian technology, but he is pragmatic enough to purchase what he needs now wherever he can obtain it. And he does want to sell his own products, including resources, for a nice profit. That would be a win-win arrangement. If world markets were truly “free trade” people could obtain what they need from anywhere with no strings attached, because after all most countries are specialised in what they produce, but America has always imposed sanctions, tariffs, embargoes, duties and the like. The so-called “free trade” agreements that Obama wanted implemented were shams meant to obstruct mainly China, but also Russia, Iran and other countries whose development the West wants to impede. What I said was by no means a slur against Russia, Pixy, and I hope that Russia gets back to competing in world markets with the United States in aeronautical, aerospace and other sophisticated technologies. As it is, your rocket motors have kept the American space program going during a severe down time right now. Thanks for not refusing to sell them to us, and for giving our astronauts rides to the space station.

  7. Joe J Tedesky
    February 16, 2017 at 12:58 am

    If God forbid we blow everything on earth up, a future creature will study today’s American society and be dumbfounded by our stupidity. Here we are a nation with 800 or more Miltary bases scattered across this globe, and having pretty much the largest of every kill toy a nation can own, we will look stupid for not using our military superiority to leverage through diplomacy a better world. Our might could bring battles to a halt, and if we partnered with Russia to bring stability to areas of conflict, why we would be the praise of all earths history.

    One thing America got to understand is that every natural resource on earth isn’t ours, and our social push for superiority over other governments and cultures is conceded, vain, and unbecoming of a true leader. Ask a Native-American how well the U.S. Government honors a treaty. Allow an American NGO to operate in your country is at your own risk. It’s our reality or no ones. The day we as a people may turn these values around will be the day for rejoice. This is something to strive for.

  8. February 16, 2017 at 1:26 am

    If one think deep, to understand the Russian policy their aim is to destroy democracy by any means posible.

    • Realist
      February 16, 2017 at 2:33 am

      Any particular reason for making this statement?

    • Gregory Herr
      February 16, 2017 at 4:53 am

      You might want to reconsider all that head first diving into the shallow end of the pool.

      • Sam F
        February 16, 2017 at 9:30 am

        Yes, he must “think deep” before doing that.

  9. Realist
    February 16, 2017 at 2:27 am

    So, let me ask what seems to becoming a less and less hypothetical question. If a foul triumvirate of the neocons, the intelligence agencies and the corporate media succeed in pulling off a coup that deposes Donald Trump as our elected president, will we all be expected to march along with the brown shirts just like good Banderistas? Or will dissent be tolerated by the new bosses? What if some sections of the country don’t cotton to the great historic event and want to secede? Like they don’t want their kids drafted as canon fodder to fight World War III with Russia. Will they get Donbassed by Washington or given permission to walk? I would expect the country to fragment into several rather large pieces if it came to that. I’d probably be stuck in the New Confederacy down here in Florida, unless South Florida declares itself an autonomous republic. Don’t ask me how accounts or debts would be settled. The money issues alone would probably ensure a scorched earth civil war. The one positive thing is it would give more Americans a better perspective of what is transpiring in Ukraine and that a revolutionary government will never be accepted by all the people.

    And, just let me be clear for all those aghast that anyone could support what they perceive to be a miscreant such as Donald Trump as president and that any means of removing him would be justified. I have never been an unconditional supporter of all the man’s policies, nor of his character or style. He dispenses a lot of both good and bad in his statements. I am, however, a staunch defender of the constitution and all processes specified within its rubric. I would oppose the overthrow of any president especially through the efforts of secretive spy agencies such as the CIA, NSA and FBI. I would defend Trump even if I hated him to save the constitution and the country. If any recent president deserved to be stripped of office it was Dubya who started the ball rolling on all these wars, but unless that had been done through due process (prosecution for his war crimes) I would have opposed it. I would have and will oppose the use of impeachment in a kangaroo court such as was applied to Bill Clinton for his reckless personal conduct. The charges had damned well better pose an existential threat to the republic, not merely that the president-elect or the candidate chatted up foreign leaders on international policies. If that’s the standard, John McCain should have been in chains for years already. That man influenced as much foreign policy, especially in the Caucuses, the Ukraine and the Middle East, as Barack Obama.

    • Sam F
      February 16, 2017 at 9:17 am

      I would expect that the federal gov would love the chance to send in the army to suppress insurrection, using the Civil War as a precedent, although many southerners would be just as happy to fight it over again. The civil war was a triumph of stupidity, as the centers of abolitionism (northern state and England) were also the principle markets of slave cotton, so they were going to pay for wages anyway, while obviously no plantation could unilaterally add wages to its prices and survive. So the solution required federal taxation of slave products to subsidize slave wages, liberation and assimilation during a transition period, which no one ever proposed. The south-controlled Supreme Court could have said so in Dred Scott, by simply noting that Yes, he was liberated by going to a free state, but that state would pay all direct and consequent damages to his owner. That would at least have stated the problem.

      But nowadays the only successful rebellion would be a guerilla insurgency that DC can’t fight, and almost no one in the US has that hardiness now; they can fight only on video screens. And almost all of them are as corrupt as their oppressors, ready to let the next fellow pay the price, or join the oppressors for profit or promotions. And their oppressors keep enough of them just happy enough with lies and toys and content-free entertainment to accept oppression as the easy way out “for now” and forever.

      Yes, the Constitution should not be ignored without very good reason. But its failure to protect elections and media from money, and its failure to properly implement checks and balances, leading to executive warmaking, are fatal because it can no longer be reformed by democratic processes. That would take extreme executive overreach to purge the corrupt legislative and judicial (and executive) branches, and not surprisingly our most extreme executives are reaching the wrong way, towards the dollars.

      • Sam F
        February 16, 2017 at 9:19 am

        Typos “states/state” and “principal/principle”

    • Pixy
      February 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Wow… A sane person in US. It is weird that is exactly how it looks from across the ocean : USA is headed into civil war unless someone sees it for what it is and stops it. You might even deserve it after all civil wars you have caused all over the globe. You might even deserve people in US shooting each other on the streets and burning houses and bombing each other (sometimes I think if americans really KNEW what war is, they wouldn’t be so cheerfully supporting the destruction of other countries). But really no one should be put through such horrible things, not even cruel, stupid people. So I hope this horrible division in your society could be peacefully resolved.

  10. Josh Stern
    February 16, 2017 at 7:18 am

    I second or third the tone of the comments above that the author’s attempt at a “balanced” view is not balanced. It mentions a series of one-sided, distorted assertions about what Russia has done to be provocative. This includes the propaganda-based fact-free claims of US election meddling. And it includes mention of Crimea, an ethnically Russian area that was only part of Ukraine due to an arbitrary administrative partitioning and which was re-connected with Russia, based on the popular will of the people there – after a CIA-sponsored coup deposed the elected govt. of Ukraine in 2013 and helped bring a neo-Nazi linked anti-Russian successor to power.

  11. February 16, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Lots of good comments, but please tell me Noorzad where’s a democracy in the world? I think the last one may have been the Iroquois Nation. And if Russia’s GDP is smaller than South Korea’s, it is because they have been so poorly treated by the West, which simply wants to victimize them so as to get their corporate hands on their natural resources. There is good reason to have sympathy for the Russian people, they have been through a lot historically what with tsarism and the Bolshevik Revolution, for which there is clear evidence was fostered by Western industrialists (many writings on that), then WWI, for which Russia deserves tremendous credit for their defeat of the Nazis, then Stalinism and breakup of communism, which then rendered them susceptible to what Naomi Klein names The Shock Doctrine, disaster capitalism, allowing the buffoon Yeltsin to nearly sell off Russia, impoverishing a huge number of Russians. Americans are so ignorant of history, it is appalling! That Moyers and so many of what appeared to be saner people are falling into the trap of blaming Russia is truly maddening! I think Putin would be well advised to maintain alliances with China and other leaders who are calling out the US, UK, and other western nations who show they will not be a friend to Russia, just want to exploit.

  12. February 16, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Meant WWII for Russia defeating Nazi, missed the I and overlooked in proofing. (Consortium News word proof correction for typing bugs me, e. g. corrects “Soros” to “Doris”)

  13. February 16, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Are The Unelected In Control?
    ————————————————————————————
    Spies Spying On White House?

    By ROD DREHER • February 16, 2017, 7:42 AM

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/spies-spying-on-trump-white-house/
    January 10, 2015
    ——————————————————————————————-
    The Modus Operandi of a Monstrous Evil

    “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”
    – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

    Do the people ‘love their servitude’ because evil appears to be in control?…
    This is a world in hellish turmoil, ruled by total hypocrisy and satanic evil, [5] and its master is the ‘Great Satan’ and his helpers. [6] Where and how will it end, one might ask? Will a nuclear war [7] bring an end to this evil filth that is running amok?…
    [read more at link below]

    http://graysinfo.blogspot.ca/2015/01/the-modus-operandi-of-monstrous-evil.html
    ————————————————————————————————————
    July 7, 2013
    The Evil of Empires

    We have seen and read the latest revelations of a “democratic” empire spying on its citizens and the whole world. The man who revealed the secret spying of the empire was Edward Snowden. His reward for speaking out and telling the truth about illegal acts is to be vilified in much of the corporate owned media and to be refused asylum for his service to humanity. Some of the countries refusing him asylum are ones who claim to be outraged over the spying on them by a “democratic ally.” What we are seeing is open hypocrisy by the puppets of the empire which are all in lockstep with the dictates of the empire of evil….
    [read more at link below]
    http://graysinfo.blogspot.ca/2013/07/the-evil-of-empires.html

  14. Stephen Berk
    February 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    I have a hard time with the idea that the US is really trying to spread “democracy” around the world. The ruling elites are simply trying to corner resources and project power. We no not have democracy in the US. We have plutocratic oligarchy, and a renegade plutocrat for president. I was a Democrat all my adult life, am now in my seventies and still teach US history on the college level, which I have done since the late sixties. Russia and foreign policy experts John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago), Stephen Walt (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard), as well as Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of international relations, Princeton and contributing editor at the Nation: all these scholars have emphasized that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was a defensive move and more legal under international law than US actions in Kosovo. The US foreign policy elites are mostly all militarists (Andrew Bacevich, emeritus professor of international relations, Boston University, calls them Wilsonians under arms). And they have a tight hold on Washington politicians, in part through AIPAC and the Israel lobby, which wants Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. They all accept in some form the Wolfowitz extremist neocon doctrine that the world must by unipolar (US full spectrum dominance and opposition to any growth in Russian power). This is pushed by their media stenographers principally in the New York Times and the Washington Post. These policies have caused me to disaffiliate from the Democratic Party. As long as the party holds these neo-McCarthyite views of Russia and crusades for world dominance, I will not support its candidates. Of course, the Republicans are no better and many like McCain and Graham are worse. One of the main reasons for the hysteria against Trump (whose terrible domestic policies and appointments are equivalent to Reagan’s) is his desire for detente with Russia. The hardliners (which were not so dominant at the time) also opposed Nixon’s detente with Brezhnev, a communist in a very different kind of Russia than Putin’s. These people in both parties are likely to be the ones who bring on nuclear war with Russia, if it occurs.

    • Realist
      February 16, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      Thank you for an outstanding critique of this crossroad in history, and thank you for what still seems to be a long and valiant career of teaching truth to college history students. It makes me wish that wise men like you and Professor Cohen could teach another 50 years, for what perspectives you have.

      BTW, the Democratic Party conspirators with the neocon, IC, MIC, & MSM insurrectionists no longer deserve your consideration. I too have abandoned them at age 70 after a lifetime of support. The treachery of Obama and Hillary were finally just too much to take. I’m pretty sure they still don’t realise that more than anything it was the abandonment by the progressive intelligentsia of the party that cost them the election, not Putin or any other of their favored scapegoats. The issue was determined by people with facts, not propaganda, in their heads who decided not to pull the lever out of last-resort partisanship at least this one time. There are limits that a rational principled person can tolerate. The Dems breached those limits in Hillary, and now they are completely jumping the shark in their insurrection against the elected president, love him or hate him.

  15. watchdog
    February 17, 2017 at 7:59 am

    at the risk of over-simplifying, it would be beneficial if the “exceptional” americans would compare the death, destruction and general mayhem resulting from their depredations over recent years with that caused by russians during the same period. american hypocrisy is tedious indeed

  16. Mark Thomason
    February 17, 2017 at 8:08 am

    “the promotion of American-style democratic norms and social values” is not a fair description of what happened, nor of the real motives of those doing it from within the American bureaucratic national security machine.

    What they promoted was American dominance. Any regime on our side was acceptable. Any regime change was acceptable if it came over to our side. Destruction of an independent minded secular regime like Assad was acceptable even if there was no good option to replace it.

    It was pure aggression, aimed at hegemony for the profit of those who own and run the American economy. It had nothing to do with social values, except as useful excuse if not examined too closely.

  17. February 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    “U.S. mistook membership in – and the expansion of – a military alliance for the advancement of liberal ideals” — no, the US mistook membership in and the expansion of a (now utterly transformed from defensive to aggressive) military bloc as advancement of security. Au contraire!

  18. James Richardson
    February 17, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Donald Trump had better grow into the Presidency and fast and learn how to be a President. We don’t have much time for a learning curve here. There are dangerous forces at work that want to take this country into conflict with Russia and they must be stopped before we are all dead. The idea of an American Military Empire to rule the World are absurd and those who insist on pushing this will lead us all to doom if they are not brought to heel.

  19. Dieter Heymann
    February 17, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Do the “let us make a deal with Putin” people believe that Putin trusts a Trump America more than he trusted the Obama America or would have trusted a Hillary Clinton America? Of course not. We remain close to a potentially dangerous enemy for him which keeps messing around in the Baltic and in the Black Sea.
    He has certainly noticed how easily and with Mosaic fanfare president Trump signs Executive Orders. He knows that Trump can scratch a measure against Russia today and reinstate it tomorrow.
    Yes it is in Russia’s interest that the wars in the Middle East come to some political solution but Putin will never sacrifice what he considers Russian national interests to please the Putin administration.
    Secretary Tillerson has already put his finger on the big wound: what can Putin give America? The answer is obvious: next to nothing.
    Hence, if nothing comes of a “reset” with Russia do not blame the US “leftists” let alone the Clintonites. It will be simply because Putin said “nyet” because he has concluded that it is better for Russia than “da”.
    President Obama negotiated the Iran agreement under constant and loud criticism from the right. He succeeded because the rulers of Iran had a lot to give.

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