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Does the United States have a future? A new book by Gilbert Doctorow (book review)

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most deeply frustrating things for anyone with any knowledge of Russia who has been following the Russiagate saga is the staggering ignorance of basic facts about Russia which is so prevalent amongst elites in the US.

What makes this especially frustrating is that there is actually no shortage of knowledgeable and erudite experts about Russia who could be called upon if any true desire for knowledge about Russia actually existed.

Of those one who who stands out is Gilbert Doctorow, who has been a professional Russia watcher since 1965.

Gilbert Doctorow has now offered us a new book – “Does the United States have a Future” – which brings together his splendid collection of essays about Russia and about Russian-American relations which he has been writing since 2015.

This is of course the same period when in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis and because of Russia’s intervention in Syria Russian-American relations entered upon their present catastrophic downward spiral, with the US rolling out successive sanctions against Russia, and deploying ever greater numbers of its troops ever closer to Russia’s border.

In this heavy atmosphere of heightened Russian-US tensions, and amidst a shrill media campaign, the Russian side of the story rarely gets told.  What we get instead is an exaggerated focus on the largely misunderstood doings of one man – Vladimir Putin – who is not just routinely blamed for everything that goes wrong – be it Trump’s election, the Brexit vote, the 2015 European refugee crisis, the secessionist outbreak in Catalonia and the rise in Germany of the AfD – but who has become dangerously conflated with Russia itself.

The huge achievement of Gilbert Doctorow’s essays is that they put entirely behind them this disastrous paradigm.

For someone fixated on psychoanalysing Putin’s personality and on learning the gossip about the internal squabbles of the Kremlin this collection of essays has little to offer.  Doctorow has as little patience for this sort of thing as do I.  Suffice to say that one of the essays, which goes by the dismissive title “Kremlinology is alive and well in Russia”, turns out to be focused not on mythical Kremlin power struggles but on the impact on the people of St. Petersburg of a visit by Putin to their city.

For anyone interested in Putin what anyone reading these essays will get instead is detailed and erudite analyses of his speeches, of his massive and truly astonishing Q&A sessions, of his media interviews, and of the effect of all these doings on Russian public opinion and what they tell us about Russian policy.

Not by chance, the only reference to me in the whole collection is when Doctorow disagrees with me about an interview Putin gave to the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung.  I gave the German interviewers high marks for their conduct of the interview.  Doctorow politely expresses his incredulity.

Ultimately far more interesting to anyone genuinely interested in understanding the rapidly recovering Great Power which is Russia, and who wants to get a genuine grasp of the sort of things that move its people, are those essays which touch on topics other Western reporters of Russia tend to ignore.

Here Doctorow’s immense knowledge of Russia and of Russian history is essential, and it shines through every essay.

Thus we find masterful discussions of works about tsarist history by the historian Dominic Lieven, and an outstanding discussion – the best I have come across – of Henry Kissinger’s insights and  limitations as they concern Russia.  There is even a remarkable essay which takes Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina as a starting point to discuss war.

However the single thing which sets the essays which are specifically about Russia apart is the extraordinary rapport Gilbert Doctorow has with Russia’s ‘everyman’.  Take a comment like this one from the very first page of the very first essay in the book, which is dated 30th May 2015.  Against a background of a deepening recession Gilbert Doctorow tells us this

I say assuredly that the mood across the social spectrum of my “sources” is uniformly patriotic and uncomplaining.  These sources range from the usually outspoken taxi drivers; through the traditionally critical journalists, academics, artists and other intelligentsia who are family friends going back many years, to former business contacts and other elites.

How many of those who report from Russia are able to speak to a wide range of contacts like this?  How many of them pay heed to the opinions of Russia’s “usually outspoken taxi drivers”, reliable purveyors of the public mood though those people are?  How many of those who report from Russia even know how to talk to such people? (confession here: I don’t).

Or take Gilbert Doctorow’s deeply moving account from 10th May 2016 of the March of the Immortal Regiment, held now every year on 9th May to commemorate Russia’s sacrifice in the Second World War.  What other Western reporter of Russia has both the erudition and the common touch necessary to write a passage like this?

Given the manifestly patriotic nature of Victory in Europe Day celebrations, which open in Moscow and cities across Russia with military parades, precise marching columns, displays of military hardware on the ground and in the air, I was uncertain how possibly strident the Immortal Regiment component might be.  As it turned out, the crowd was uniformly good humoured and focused on its private obligations to be met: the celebration of parents, grandparents, even great grandparents’ role in the war and reconfirmation of their status as family heroes whatever their military or civil defence rank, whether they survived or were among the countless fatalities.

Elsewhere Gilbert Doctorow is able to talk knowledgeably in two different essays about the state of the Russian shopping basket – a matter of fundamental importance to Russians and therefore given Russia’s power and importance to everyone – of Russian responses to the Trump-Clinton debate, of the Russian public’s response to one of Putin’s mammoth annual Q&A sessions, and of the steely response – utterly free of sentimentality and hysteria – of the people of St. Petersburg and of Russia generally to a terrorist attack on the city.

Of the essays specifically about Russia it is however what Doctorow writes about the Russian media which Western readers may find most surprising.

It is now generally conceded even in the West that Russia does have a public opinion, something which tended not to be admitted in Soviet times, though there still seems to be little genuine interest in finding out what it is.

The lazy assumption is anyway that in Russia public opinion is effectively manipulated by the government through its supposedly all-encompassing control of the news media.

Though it is sometimes grudgingly admitted that the printed media does have some independent voices, and that the Russian media now has a degree of sophistication unknown in Soviet times, the prevailing opinion in the West is that it remains every bit as propagandistic and mendacious as it was in Soviet times.  The classic statement of this view is Peter Pomorantsev’s “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia”.

Doctorow’s essays are an important corrective to this bleak and distorted picture.

Doctorow does not sugarcoat the reality.  He concedes that the television media has a bias favouring the Kremlin and that ‘non-system’ politicians whose parties are not represented in the Duma like Kasyanov and Navalny have difficulty gaining access to it.

I would say in passing that Russia’s television media is not exceptional in this.  In my opinion Russian television today is much less controlled by the government than was French television during Charles De Gaulle’s and Georges Pompidou’s time in France, when I was in Paris as a child.

In any event, as a regular participant in Russia’s extraordinarily extended and elaborate political talk-shows – a vital and massively popular information tool for the Russian population – Doctorow shows that the common Western view that Russian television viewers get no exposure to the Western view-point and hear only the Kremlin’s view is simply wrong.  Here is one passage where Doctorow describes them

The regulars of these talk shows are a mix of Russians and foreigners, pro-Kremlin and anti-Kremlin voices.  There inevitably is at least one American who can be counted on to purvey the Washington Narrative.  A reliable regular in this category has been Michael Bohm, who was for a long-time op-ed manager at The Moscow Times and now is said to be teaching journalism in Moscow….

From among Russians, the talk show hosts bring in one or more representative of opposition parties.  On the 11th it happened to be a personality from the Yabloko Party (Liberals).  But at other times there will be the leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, the founder of the right nationalist LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, or the leader of the social democratic party, Just Russia, Sergei Mironov.  They all get their time on air in these shows.

Elsewhere Doctorow gives vivid accounts of these sprawling and at times chaotic talk shows, which have no precise analogue anywhere else that I know of.

Doctorow’s book, as its title shows, is not only about Russia.  Rather it is about the collapse of any sort of dialogue based on mutual respect and understanding between the US and Russia.

In essay after essay Doctorow pinpoints the cause: at a time when the Russian mind is becoming increasingly open, the American mind is becoming increasingly closed.

The title of the book – “Does the United States have a future?” – is in fact an intentional exercise in reverse imaging.

At its simplest it refers back to Doctorow’s previous book: “Does Russia have a future?” published in 2015.

However the title of both books must also be seen as a comment on the ‘disaster literature’ about Russia which has become so prevalent in the West, and which continues unabated to this day even as it is repeatedly proved wrong.

Basically what Doctorow is saying is that it is in the US not Russia that the suppression of debate and independent voices is putting the future in jeopardy.

It is in these essays that look at the situation in the US where Doctorow dissects the evolution or rather regression of US policy towards an increasingly strident Russophobia, and where one senses Doctorow’s growing exasperation and alarm.

Take for example what Doctorow has to say about one of the most outspoken Americans calling for ever more confrontation with Russia: NATO’s former military chief General Breedlove

Most everything is wrong with what Breedlove tells us in his article.  It is a perfect illustration of the consequences of the monopoly control of our media and both Houses of Congress by the ideologists of the Neoconservative and Liberal Interventionist school: we see a stunning lack of rigour in argumentation in Breedlove’s article coming from the absence of debate and his talking only to yes men.

Perhaps the biggest mistakes are conceptual: urging military means to resolve what are fundamentally political issues over the proper place of Russia in the European and global security architecture.  Whereas for Clausewitz war was ‘a continuation of politics by other means’, for Breedlove politics, or diplomacy, do not exist, only war.

The alarm in the last paragraph finds still greater emphasis in the essay which immediately precedes ot.  This has the ominous title “The Nuclear Clock is at Two Minutes to Midnight”.

It is however in the closing of the American mind where Doctorow pinpoints the danger

My point is not to ridicule the very earnest and well-intentioned anti-war campaigners whose ranks I joined that day.  It is to demonstrate how and why the highly tendentious reporting of what we are doing in the world and what others are doing to us, combined with the selective news blackouts altogether by major media has left even activists unaware of real threats to peace and to our very survival that American foreign policy has created over the past 20 years and is projected to create into the indefinite future if the public does not awaken from its slumber and demand to be informed by experts of countervailing views.  We are living through a situation unparalleled in our history as a nation where the issues of war and peace are not being debated in public.

Along with the alarm and frustration there is also very real disappointment.

Like most people who lived through the later stages of the Cold War Doctorow remembers a world where the US’s European allies acted as a force of restraint on the US.

Based now in Brussels at the very epicentre of the European Union Doctorow is shocked at the extent to which this is no longer the case, and at the degree to which the same attitudes of hubris, belligerence and hysteria which have gained such a hold in the US have now also managed to gain a hold in Europe.

Like many others Doctorow is totally unimpressed by the current crop of European politicians, and as someone able to remember the likes of Charles De Gaulle and Helmut Schmidt Doctorow does not balk from expressing his scorn in withering terms.  A good example is to be found in the title of one of his essays: “News flash: Europe is brain dead and on the drip”.

It is in his discussions of Europe that Doctorow allows himself his brief flashes of anger.  Take these comments he makes about Elmar Brok, the truly dreadful chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs

I remember with a shudder an exchange I had with Elmar Brok on 5 March 2015 on The Network, a debate program of Euronews. Brok, a German, is the chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. He comes from Angela Merkel’s CDU party and within the Parliament is in the European People’s Party bloc, on the center right, the bloc which really calls the shots in the EP.

Brok is big, brash and does not hesitate to throw his weight around, especially when talking with someone outside the Establishment whom he has no reason to fear. We were discussing the shooting of Boris Nemtsov, which occurred just days before. Brok insisted the murder was the responsibility of Vladimir Putin. Not that Putin pulled the trigger, but he created the atmosphere where such things could happen, etc., etc. One way or another the talk shifted to the allegedly autocratic nature of the Putin ‘regime,’ with its crackdown on freedoms, and in particular ever tightening control of media.

At that point, I objected that the Russia media were very diverse editorially, with many different points of view expressed freely. Brok shot back that this was patently untrue, and he did not hesitate to cross all red lines and indulge in libel on air by asking how much the Kremlin paid me to say that.

Apart from the obvious truth that an authoritarian like MEP Brok would not know freedom of speech if he tripped on it, I think back to that exchange every week whenever I turn on Russian state television and watch one or another of the main political talk shows.

Doctorow’s strongest feelings of disappointment however remain firmly focused on the US.

Doctorow’s essays show that like many people he entertained very cautiously worded hopes about Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton after all was the self-styled ‘war candidate’ and the preferred choice of the Neocons, whilst Trump at least spoke of the need for better relations with Russia.

Not for nothing is one of Doctorow’s essays entitled “War or Peace: the essential question before American voters on November 8th”.

Doctorow’s hopes were never very high and like many others he was appalled by the conduct of the 2016 election, which he calls disgraceful.  His essays which follow Trump’s election victory show the speed of his disillusionment.  Not only has Trump proved completely incapable of fulfilling any of Doctorow’s hopes; he seems to have no idea of how to conduct foreign relations, and is rapidly reverting to the aggressive belligerence which is now the default position of all US Presidents.

In the meantime his election has heightened partisan tensions within the US to unheard of levels.

In his final chapter, which has the same title – “Does the United States have a future?” – as the whole book, Doctorow sets out the consequences.

A US which twenty years ago bestrode the world is now incapable of governing itself, whilst its increasingly reckless conduct is spreading conflict and alarm around the world.

Not only has trust in “American leadership” as a result all but collapsed but the two other Great Powers – Russia and China – have been completely alienated, and are busy forging an alliance whose combined resources will soon dwarf those of the US.

About all that the US however remains in denial, as it is about the world crisis its actions are generating.  In a political system where all dissenting opinions are excluded it cannot by definition be otherwise.  Thus the US looks set to continue on its present ruinous course, with no ability to change direction

….a still greater threat to our democracy and to the sustainability of our great power status has come from the inverse phenomenon, namely the truly bipartisan management of foreign policy in Congress.  The Republican and Democratic Party leaderships have maintained strict discipline in promotion of what are Neoconservative and Liberal Interventionist positions on every issue placed before Congress.  Committees on security and foreign affairs invite to testify before them only those experts who can be counted upon to support the official Washington narrative.  Debate on the floor of the houses is nonexistent.  And the votes are so lopsided as to be shocking, none more so than the votes in August on the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act”….

It would be comforting if the problems of our political culture began and ended with the elites operating in Washington DC.  However that is patently not the case.  The problem exists across the country in the form of a stifling conformism, or groupthink that is destroying the open marketplace for ideas essential for any vital democracy.

I recognise the accuracy of this picture and am prey to no illusion.  However in my opinion it is still too early to give up hope.

Trump’s victory, if it shows nothing else, shows that there is more resistance to the ‘groupthink’ in the US than Doctorow in these passages perhaps allows.  What is the Russiagate hysteria after all if not the expression of a collective nervous breakdown on the part of the US elite at the discovery that the American people as a whole do not share their obsessions?

A state of hysteria of the sort we are going through now cannot be sustained indefinitely.  Eventually a reaction will set in, at which point those at the forefront in spreading the hysteria will be exposed as the charlatans that they are, whilst many of those they fooled will feel ashamed.

When that point comes it is good to know from this outstanding collection of essays that there are still genuine experts available that the US can call upon to guide its policies like Gilbert Doctorow.

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Ariel Cohen exposes Washington’s latest twist in anti-Russia strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’

Too many reputations and other interests are vested in the legend for it to vanish from American politics anytime soon.

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


Russiagate allegations that the Kremlin has a subversive hold over President Trump, and even put him in the White House, have poisoned American political life for almost three years. Among other afflictions, it has inspired an array of media malpractices, virtually criminalized anti–Cold War thinking about Russia, and distorted the priorities of the Democratic Party. And this leaves aside the woeful impact Russiagate has had in Moscow—on its policymakers’ perception of the US as a reliable partner on mutually vital strategic issues and on Russian democrats who once looked to the American political system as one to be emulated, a loss of “illusions” I previously reported.

Contrary to many expectations, even if the Mueller report, said to be impending, finds, as did a Senate committee recently, “no direct evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Russiagate allegations are unlikely to dissipate in the near future and certainly not before the 2020 presidential election.

There are several reasons this is so, foremost among them the following:

  1. The story of a “Kremlin puppet” in the White House is so fabulous and unprecedented it is certain to become a tenacious political legend, as have others in American history despite the absence of any supporting evidence.
  2. The careers of many previously semi-obscure Democratic members of Congress have been greatly enhanced—if that is the right word—by their aggressive promotion of Russiagate. (Think, for example, of the ubiquitous media coverage and cable-television appearances awarded to Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Maxine Walters, and to Senators Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal.) If Mueller fails to report “collusion” of real political substance, these and other Russiagate zealots, as well as their supporters in the media, will need to reinterpret run-of-the-mill (and bipartisan) financial corruption and mundane “contacts with Russia” as somehow treasonous. (The financial-corruption convictions of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s single “big win” to date, did not charge “collusion” and had to do mainly with Ukraine, not Russia.) Having done so already, there is every reason to think Democrats will politicize these charges again, if only for the sake of their own careers. Witness, for example, the scores of summonses promised by Jerrold Nadler, the new Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
  3. Still worse, the top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal—subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted—to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries. Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia. Anything Trump suggests must be opposed, regardless of the cost to US national security. Will the Democrats go to the country in 2020 as the party of investigations, subpoenas, Russophobia, and escalating cold war—and win?

Readers of my new book War With Russia?, which argues that there are no facts to support the foundational political allegations of Russiagate, may wonder how, then, Russiagate can continue to be such a major factor in our politics. As someone has recently pointed out, the Democrats and their media are now operating on the Liberty Valance principle: When the facts are murky or nonexistent, “print the legend.”

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