Saturday, May 25, 2019

Trump and Russia: Why Doesn't Trump Get Real?

Trump and Russia: Why Doesn’t Trump Get Real?
Peter Schultz

            President Trump is more than willing to call Russiagate a hoax, composed of essentially baseless accusations that are being used to undermine his administration. Nothing surprising here. But it is surprising that Trump has not said what would make his claims even stronger, viz., that Russiagate is just a continuation of a neo-conservative project to render Russia a relatively powerless nation that could have little impact in the world and especially in the Middle East.

            As Max Blumenthal has argued in his latest book, The Management of Savagery, charging that Russia was “a foreign evil that supposedly controlled the White House,” the Democratic Party was turned “into a paranoid war party,” thereby serving to facilitate “a quiet neo-conservative campaign set in motion over a decade before” whose goal was “to encircle the largest and most militarily powerful nation in Eurasia and gradually transform it into a toothless, economically dependent vassal of the United States.” [276-77-] This project began with “the wholesale looting of [Russia’s] state assets by ‘the Harvard boys,’ who were imposing “shock therapy” under the watchful eyes of Lawrence Summers. Boris Yeltsen was the “American-installed president” and Russia’s poverty rate rose from 2% to 40%, which eclipsed that of the Great Depression in the US. The looting was hailed in D.C. as “free-market reform” and “liberalization,” but was stopped once Vladimir Putin took over from Yeltsen.

            This led to increased pressure in D.C. “for a confrontation with Putin’s Russia” and “while Americans were transfixed by Bush’s ‘war on terror’ drama, a bipartisan coalition was quietly coalescing to confront the resurgent Russia menace.” [279] With the approval of vice president Cheney, Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, “sent troops into the semi-sovereign Russian territory of South Ossetia, claiming it as his own.” [279] The invaders were clobbered by the Russian counterattack. But this led to a bipartisan congressional denunciation of Putin for having the gall to resist what was essentially a NATO aggression. And to make matters worse from D.C.’s viewpoint, Putin was only too willing to call out the U.S. and its proxy war for regime change in Libya where, according to Putin, “under the pretext of protecting civilians. . . it’s the civilian population who dies during airstrikes against (Libyan) territory.” [280] And more generally, Putin charged the U.S. with being the cause of “global destabilization” and with creating “new human tragedies and new centers of tension.” [278-9]

            The neo-cons continued their project, arousing war fevers when Putin annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, where the population had voted to join the Russian Federation. Fighting broke out and the Pentagon supplied the Ukrainian military quietly but the neo-cons knew, as William Kristol pointed out, that “All that’s needed is the rallying. And the turn around [among the people] can be fast.” As Blumenthal says: “That moment would arrive amid the 2016 general election, when allegations of Russian hacking dominated headlines and triggered Democratic Party outrage.” [283] The rest is history, as we know and, of course, as it continues.

            But why doesn’t Trump put this hoax in its political context? It is puzzling insofar as it would allow Trump to strengthen his case that Russiagate is a hoax or is part of a political project that should be considered, at the very least, controversial. But perhaps it is the controversial aspects of the neo-cons “Russia project” that Trump does not want to bring up insofar as that would necessitate making American imperialism controversial. Better to go on acting like an insecure, somewhat addled old white male than to take on and rattle our Orwellian oligarchy.

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