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The End Of Russia’s “Democratic Illusions” About America

How Russiagate has impacted a vital struggle in Russia.

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


For decades, Russia’s self-described “liberals” and “democrats” have touted the American political system as one their country should emulate. They have had abundant encouragement in this aspiration over the years from legions of American crusaders, who in the 1990s launched a large-scale, deeply intrusive, and ill-destined campaign to transform post-Communist Russia into a replica of American “democratic capitalism.” (See my book Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia.) Some Russian liberals even favored NATO’s eastward expansion when it began in the late 1990s on the grounds that it would bring democratic values closer to Russia and protect their own political fortunes at home.

Their many opponents on Russia’s political spectrum, self-described “patriotic nationalists,” have insisted that the country must look instead to its own historical traditions for its future development and, still more, that American democracy was not a system to be so uncritically emulated. Not infrequently, they characterize Russia’s democrats as “fifth columnists” whose primary loyalties are to the West, not their own country. Understandably, it is a highly fraught political debate and both sides have supporters in high places, from the Kremlin and other government offices to military and security agencies, as well as devout media outlets.

In this regard, Russiagate allegations in the United States, which have grown from vague suspicions of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election to flat assertions that Putin’s Kremlin put Donald Trump in the White House, have seriously undermined Russian democrats and bolstered the arguments of their “patriotic” opponents. Americans, who may have been misled by their own media into thinking that Russia today is a heavily censored “autocracy” in which all information is controlled by the Kremlin, may be surprised to learn that many Russians, especially among the educated classes but not only, are well-informed about the Russiagate story and follow it with great interest. They get reasonably reliable information from Russian news broadcasts and TV talk shows; from direct cable and satellite access to Western broadcasts, including CNN; from translation sites that daily render scores of Western print news reports and commentaries into Russian (inosmi.ru being the most voluminous); and from the largely uncensored Internet.

How many Russians believe that the Kremlin actually put Trump in the White House is less clear. Widespread skepticism is often expressed sardonically:

“If Putin can put his man in the White House, why can’t he put a mayor in my town who will have the garbage picked up?”

Others, who believe the allegation, often take some pleasure, or schadenfreude, from it, having grown resentful of US “meddling” in Russian political life for so many years. (In recent history, the remembered example is the Clinton administration’s very substantial efforts on behalf of President Boris Yeltsin’s reelection in 1996.)

But what should interest us is how Russiagate allegations have tarnished America’s democratic reputation in Russia and thereby undermined the pro-American arguments of Russia’s liberal democrats, who were never a very potent political or electoral force and whose fortunes have already declined in recent years. Consider the following:

  • Russian democrats argue that their country’s elections are manipulated and unfair, including, but not only, those that put and kept Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. “Patriotic nationalists” now reply that Russiagate rests on the allegation, widely reported and believed in the United States, that an American presidential election was successfully manipulated on behalf of the desired candidate and that the entire US electoral system may be vulnerable to manipulation.
  • Russian democrats protest that oligarchic and other money has corrupted Russian politics. Their opponents argue that special counsel Robert Mueller’s convictions and other indictments – in the cases of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, for example -prove that American political life is no less corrupt financially.
  • Going back to Soviet times and continuing today, a major complaint of Russian democrats has been the shadowy, malevolent role played by intelligence agencies, particularly the KGB and its successor organization. Patriotic nationalists point to disclosures that their US institutional counterparts, the CIA and FBI, played a secretive and major role in the origins of Russiagate allegations against Trump as a presidential candidate and since his inauguration.
  • Russian democratic dissidents have long protested, and been stifled by, varying degrees of official censorship. Their Russian opponents argue that campaigns now underway in the United States against “Russian disinformation” in the media are a form of American censorship.
  • Many Russians distrust their media, particularly “mainstream” state media. Their opponents retort that American mainstream media is no better, having undertaken a kind of “war” against President Trump and along the way having had to retract dozens of widely circulated stories. In this connection, we may wonder what Russian skeptics made of an astonishingly revealing statement by the media critic of The New York Times – an authoritative newspaper in Russia as well – on January 21 that the “ultimate prize” for leading American journalists is having “helped bring down a president.” By now, Americans may not be shocked by such a repudiation by the Times of its own professed mission and standards, but for Russian journalists, who have long looked to the paper as a model, the reaction was likely profound disillusionment.
  • Putin’s Russian democratic critics often protest his “imperial” foreign policies, so imagine how they interpreted this imperial statement by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on January 15: “Nations, like children, crave predictability. They need to know the rules. The United States is like a parent. Other countries look to it for guidance and to enforce the rules. Trump has utterly failed in that regard.” Any Russian with a medium-range memory is unlikely to miss this echo of the Soviet Union’s attitude toward the “children” it ruled. And yet, a columnist for The Washington Post – also an authoritative newspaper in Russia – emphasizes Trump’s failure to “enforce the [imperial] rules” as a Russiagate indictment.
  • Perhaps most Russians who are informed about Russiagate believe that all the various allegations against Trump are actually motivated by US elite opposition to his campaign promise to “cooperate with Russia.” This means, as Russia’s “patriotic nationalists” have always argued, that Washington will never accept Russia as an equal great power in world affairs, no matter who rules Russia or how (whether Communist or anti-Communist, as is Putin). To this, Russia’s liberal democrats have yet to find a compelling answer.

One Russian, however, who personifies biographically both that system’s recent democratic experiences and its nationalist traditions, has had a mostly unambiguous reaction to Russiagate. Despite US mainstream-media claims that Russian President Putin is “happy” with the “destabilization and chaos” caused by Russiagate in the United States, such consequences are incompatible with what has been Putin’s historical mission since coming to power almost 20 years ago: to rebuild Russia socially and economically after its post-Soviet collapse in the 1990s, and to achieve this through modernizing partnerships with democratic nations – from Europe to the United States – in a stable international environment. For this reason, Putin himself is unlikely to have plotted Russiagate or to have taken any real satisfaction from its woeful consequences.

Which leaves us with an as-yet-unanswerable question. Eventually, Trump and Putin will leave office. But the consequences of Russiagate, both in America and in Russia, will not depart with them. What will be the subsequent, longer-term consequences for both countries and for relations between them? From today’s perspective, nothing good.

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GyreOlivia KrothWayne FeeBob ValdezManInTheMoon Recent comment authors
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Olivia Kroth
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There is nothing worthwhile emulating in the USA. It is a mafia-ruled entity, under the boots of such gangsters as the FBI and CIA.

Normski
Member
Normski

Exactly! -I can’t understand why any country would aspire to be like the totally corrupt USA. If Russia wants democracy – that’s fine but it should find it’s own type /style of democracy that fit’s in with Russian traditions and values.

therevolutionwas
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therevolutionwas

Democracy is not a desirable thing. The US was founded as a republic, they knew a democracy would turn into mob rule. Russia is going to be alright economically if they keep on their current path of low debts and precious metal accumulation. And yes, the roaches have come out of the woodwork in the US(or have been outed); I have a strong feeling this is the final act in the play – US Civil War II is on the way. There are good people in the US who want their freedom back.

Olivia Kroth
Guest

“Russiagate” is like damaged goods with salmonella, having exceeded its expiration date. When will the US Deep State finally throw it out? They are poisoning themselves with it.

Ray Joseph Cormier
Guest

Having the benefit of 43 years hindsight, this excerpt published by The Kansas City Times September 13, 1976, was prescient. Reading the news stories and comments on them these Days confirm that. “He came to town for the Republican National Convention and will stay until the election in November TO DO GOD’S BIDDING: To tell the world, from Kansas City, this country has been found wanting and its days are numbered […] He gestured toward a gleaming church dome. “The gold dome is the symbol of Babylon,” he said.” […] He wanted to bring to the Public’s attention an “idea… Read more »

Shaun Ramewe
Guest
Shaun Ramewe

Russia smiles for the sake of detente and Putin for statesmanship – but Moscow has known for decades that the dirty lying hypocritical thieving murdering cowardly perverted false-flagging terrorist-abetting war-criminal global-traitor media-faking political-meddling deal-breaking back-stabbing double-speaking threat-bluffing ZioYanks can never be trusted.

Gyre
Guest
Gyre

Maybe some, but not all. I suspect the self-deluding groups identified in the first sentence have been wearing their rose-colored glasses until they were summarily ripped off their faces by any number of recent American and Israeli actions against Russia and it’s few quasi-client states. But better to wake up before a preemptive first strike than after.

dennis morrisseau
Guest

“most Russians who are informed about Russiagate believe that all the various allegations against Trump are actually motivated by US elite opposition to his campaign promise to “cooperate with Russia.”

THIS IS TRUE. BUT THE UNANSWERED [by Cohen] QUESTION IS…….WHY? [email protected]

Olivia Kroth
Guest

US citizens should not delude themselves. Most Russians strongly dislike the USA, and this is not a new attitude but goes way back to Soviet times, to the early days of the Cold War. In some of the latest Russian population polls, the United States and its allies consistently top the list of greatest enemies. Russiagate has nothing to do with it.

ManInTheMoon
Guest
ManInTheMoon

Surely this goes for most people all over the world? Certainly, I’d say very few Europeans have the least liking for American ‘democracy’. Once people lose their fear of the USA (or rather their military and their dollar), their power will collapse and collapse very quickly – as happened with the Soviet Union. Obedience based on fear is never a substitute for loyalty based on respect. Self interest will work for a while, but with sanctions against a whole host of countries the Zio-Yankee elite dislike, hurting many, this also will ultimately undermine Washington. Thee skids are definitely on.

Wayne Fee
Guest
Wayne Fee

There are alot in the West that are in full agreement.

Bob Valdez
Guest
Bob Valdez

Honestly, I don’t think Russia has EVER had any “illusions” about the sewer empire.

Olivia Kroth
Guest

Very true, I agree.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy 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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