Will Tired Clichés Save US-Russia Relations? No
“Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia”, says it’s an appeal for a change of strategy between the US and Russia. It's not.
Deep in the inner recesses of the Kremlin there is a Russian group who crave to be loved by the American Establishment. For them shaking the hands of stuntman Steven Seagall or boxer Roy Jones Jr. – recent recipients of celebrity Russian passports -- or of moviemaker Oliver Stone, doesn’t quite cut it.
So they draw large sums of money from the Russian state budget to media studios like RT, talk-shops like the Valdai Discussion Club, and think-tanks like the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy to host the conferences and banquets at which they can ingratiate themselves with their American inamorati – and most importantly, be seen to be loved in this fashion by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. For they, too, want to be loved.
The Russian demand for American love potions extends with special keenness to US warfighters against Russia, and US spies against Russia.
In reciprocation, two – one of each type -- have just combined to publish a book of reverse ingratiation. Called “Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia”, the book says it’s an appeal for a change of strategy between the US and Russia. The authors are Samuel Charap (pictured below, left) and Timothy Colton (right).
To ingratiate with their Russian friends, the authors of “Everyone Loses” conclude that “the extension of Euro-Atlantic institutions eastward towards the Russian border, but not across it – is no longer viable”. To ingratiate with their US and NATO paymasters, the book republishes every cliché on Russian culpability in the dirty deeds committed in Ukraine since the start of 2014, including the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. That, “as best we know,” the book claims, “was shot down either by a Russian army unit or by rebels who thought they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane”.
Also, the overthrow of the Yanukovich government of Ukraine was “no Western conspiracy”; while “Russia’s incursion into Crimea” was actually an “invasion le[ading] to an improvised annexation operation…[a] preposterously lopsided referendum in flagrant violation of the Ukrainian constitution”, followed by “an unrelenting campaign of intimidation against independent media and and groups speaking for the Crimean Tatars”.
The list of clichés is a long one. The Russian prime minister the US hated, Yevgeny Primakov, is characterised as “hard-nosed” because he “suspected the Americans of trying to trick the Russians.” Boris Yeltsin, compared to Vladimir Putin, was “his more forward-thinking predecessor”. Russian policy was “to have its way in post-Soviet Eurasia…it meddled persistently, though without a master plan.” America’s “prime aim,” by contrast, “was to craft a presence in every capital…and to forge working relationships with the fledgling countries.”
Some of the Charap-Colton clichés are camouflage for falsification of the facts. Yulia Tymoshenko, the corrupt Ukrainian prime minister who was an unindicted conspirator in corruption prosecuted in US courts, was convicted in a Ukrainian court on “trumped-up charges” by “arch-foe”, President Victor Yanukovich. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s plotting of Yanukovich’s downfall in Kiev, as revealed in her leaked telephone call with US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, was “deep involve[ment] in trying to forge a settlement to the crisis…Given that the recording was, in all likelihood , made and leaked by Russian operatives, it is safe to assume that the Kremlin believed the US was mounting another regime-change operation.
Never mind what the Kremlin believed, what does Charap, who was in a plotter’s position at the State Department at the time, believe to have been the truth? “Love is blind, and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit” – that’s Shakespeare’s diagnosis. But the incongruity of the love-match between Americans and Russians which Charap and Colton propose cannot be camouflaged by the fancy phrasing.
There’s worse -- the combination of their big conclusion and their big recommendation is a monumental contradiction. “Russian decision-makers,” they declare on page 163, just before the book ends, “believe that only military force could compel Washington to take into account its interests…” That being so, the earlier and remaining portions of the book might be judged a waste of ink and paper. So what do Charap and Colton recommend? “Breaking the taboo on open-ended, precondition-free dialogue on regional order is the essential first step if we are to mitigate the ruinous geopolitical, geo-economic and geoideational [sic] competition and end the Russia-West confrontation…”
Charap and Colton say they want to talk, not shoot – but talk to whom, if it’s true that Russians no longer believe what Americans say, especially US officials and their agents? The taboo for breaking can’t be on the Russian side, because Charap, Colton, and many other US officials and their fellow-travellers have been invited and welcomed to say whatever they think in Moscow for years. So the taboo against dialogue must be on the American side: “Everyone Loses” is a catalogue of signs that Charap and Colton don’t dare to break the taboo themselves.
Can they be proposing years of more gainful employment for each other in order to convince US government officials not to think or act towards Russia like Charap and Colton have been advising them to do for years? Or are they making their pitch to Russians?
The price-tag, they acknowledge, isn’t cheap. “Holding such talks in the current atmosphere of mistrust, mutual recrimination and fear-mongering will require a significant investment of political capital.” That’s Charap’s and Colton’s way of saying that even if “everyone loses”, so long as they are paid handsomely to keep talking by Russians who want to be loved, they won’t be the losers.
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