Top US Diplomat Says Putin Paranoid, US Has No Desire for Regime Change

The former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, wants to reassure all Russians that America does not seek regime change. The US only wants what's best for Russia and its people ... perhaps a return to the Yeltsin "golden years" is what McFaul has in mind?


MORE: Opinion

Mark Chapman is our regular contributor. This article also appeared at The Kremlin Stooge

Michael McFaul wants you to know that he is hurt. The Russian outlook has not been so anti-American (and anti-EU) since before 1990 – perhaps since never (thanks for the graphic, Kirill). The United States of America is hated – hated – in Russia in a way it probably was not even during the Cold War. And why? Well, because of Putin, of course. Putin the paranoid nutjob, who believes the United States government is trying to overthrow his government and replace it with some supplicant liberal who will allow America a free hand to dabble and meddle to its heart’s content. Which America could not be less interested in doing – that’s all in Putin’s head. Quoth McFaul:

But the more I listen to him directly and the more I saw the activities of his government – they have a paranoid view about American intentions. They believe that President Obama and the CIA want to overthrow Putin’s regime and want to weaken Russia and some would even say, dismember Russia. It’s totally crazy. I want to emphasize that. There is no policy of regime change in Russia. Unfortunately, however, I think that is Putin’s view. (Thanks for the link, Peter)

A paranoid view about American intentions. There is no policy of regime change in Russia. Hmmm. Forgive me if I find that a little hard to believe.

Probably because it’s … what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yeah – horsesh*t.

Michael McFaul is an educated man, and the educated man has a weakness – he can seldom resist being seduced into showing off his worldly education, the payback for those years with his nose in the books instead of going fishing, chasing skirt or hanging out down at the pool hall. Michael McFaul is not made of wood, and when he is asked to give the folks back home in Teaneck, New Jersey or Boring, Oregon or Cranky Corner, Louisiana the benefit of his worldly experience and that fine Oxford schoolin’, why, he sings like a canary.

Such as:

And, as before, the current regime must be isolated. The strategy of seeking to change Kremlin behavior through engagement, integration and rhetoric is over for now. No more membership in the Group of 8, accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or missile defense talks. Instead there must be sanctions, including against those people and entities — propagandists, state-owned enterprises, Kremlin-tied bankers — that act as instruments of Mr. Putin’s coercive power. Conversely, individuals and companies not connected to the government must be supported, including those seeking to take assets out of Russia or emigrate. … Mr. Putin’s Russia has no real allies. We must keep it that way. Nurturing Chinese distance from a revisionist Russia is especially important, as is fostering the independence of states in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Even, some would say, dismember Russia. Wasn’t that what you just said, above, in tones of “do you believe anyone could think something so crazy?” No sanctions on individuals and companies not connected to the government, including those “seeking to take assets out of Russia, or emigrate.” Those must be supported. Meanwhile, “fostering the independence of states in Central Asia and the Caucasus” is “especially important.” Who says so? Michael McFaul, in whose innocent mouth butter would not melt, said so, not even a year ago.

The United States, Mr. McFaul will have you know, is just misunderstood. The more it tries to help people – well, certain people, anyway, such as those receptive to American global leadership – the more it is accused of low-down, sneakin’, backstabbing regime change. The injustice of it!! Why can’t the world just accept that American motives are guileless and straightforward, and that America means Russia no harm?

Gee, I don’t know … maybe because of stuff like this: “American Efforts at Promoting Regime Change in the Soviet Union and then Russia: Lessons Learned," by Michael A. McFaul. How ’bout that, Michael? Cat got your tongue? Want to take a look inside? Oh, let’s do.

Well, we’re off to a great start.

For much longer and with much greater capacity than Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Soviet regime threatened the United States. The destruction of the Soviet regime and the construction of a pro-Western, democratic regime in its place, therefore, was a major objective of America foreign policy. Some presidents pursued this goal more vigorously than others: Nixon cared less, Reagan more. Yet, even during the height of Nixonian realism, Senator Jackson and Congressman Vanik made sure that the human rights of Soviet citizens were not ignored.

Mmmm … interesting. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment – which was actually signed into law by President Ford, after President Nixon was taillights, so that it was never in effect during “the height of Nixonian realism” unless we presume it outlived his presidency and carried on after he was gone – pertained only to Soviet Jews. In that context, “making sure the rights of Soviet citizens were not ignored” is painting with a little bit of a broad brush, it seems to me.

At the time the whole argument – replete as usual with sound and fury – was going on about repealing the Jackson-Vanik Amendment so that Russia could join the WTO and maintain the same trading relationship with the USA it would maintain with other members, it escalated into a bitter partisan battle by groups who did not know the first thing about it, only that the honour of Old Glory was at stake. In fact the amendment was inserted into the Soviet-American Comprehensive Trade Agreement, and basically gutted it unless the Soviet Union allowed free emigration to its Jews. Among that group were many who had received a free superior education at a state school of higher learning and who wished to take it with them to America or Israel to make a pile of money. The Soviet Union said sure, you can go – just as soon as you pay back the state for your education, which is only free if you are going to use it to benefit the state that gave it to you. Unreasonable? You tell me.

The Soviet Union sent a delegation to the USA, to explain its position to the business community; implementing the amendment, it said, would elevate anti-semitism in the Soviet Union, and the 90% of Soviet Jews who did not want to leave would suffer for American meddling, as the rest of the Soviet Union’s citizens perceived American favouritism. And it almost worked. Enter Soviet Jewish activists, like the kreakly of today, the group America has never been able to resist – they’re just so smart. And they swayed opinion back the other way, and the amendment passed. And stayed in effect until Obama repealed it in 2012, long after it had outlived its usefulness and just in time for it to be replaced by the Magnitsky Act so the United States could go on treating Russia differently than it treated every other nation on the planet, and have a law that said it could.

For the record, Nixon preferred to take the path of “quiet diplomacy” where the Jackson-Vanik Amendment was concerned, and was satisfied with Moscow’s concession that it would not implement the “diploma tax”. You could call that “Nixonian realism,” if you want, but it sounds like “we got what we asked for – why be jerks?” So more or less everything McFaul tells you there about the Jackson-Vanik Amendment is self-serving blather, bullshit and boilerplate.

As to the “capacity with which the Soviet Union threatened the United States,” a study prepared by George Washington University’s National Security Archive and released in 2009 revealed that the Pentagon and others deliberately exaggerated the Soviet threat out of all proportion, departing on wild flights of fancy to justify ever-larger defense budgets and ever-more-costly weapons systems; “as recently as 1986, the CIA reported that the per capita income of East Germany was ahead of West Germany and that the national income per capita was higher in the Soviet Union than in Italy. Several years later, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact collapsed, and former CIA director Stansfield Turner wrote that the “corporate view” at the CIA “missed by a mile.” So, less writing and more reading for you, Mr. McFaul, if you don’t mind a bit of free advice.

Although the United States is the most powerful hegemon in recent history and maybe ever, the U.S. government has seemed ineffective, weak, and unable to foster democratic development in Russia. This apparent impotence is especially striking when one remembers the strategic importance of democratic development in this country still armed with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. It was democratic regime change inside the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War and made the United States more secure. It will be autocratic regime change that will once again animate a more confrontational relationship between the United States and Russia. And yet, the United States government has not developed an effective strategy either to foster Russian democracy or to help it survive.

It sure sounds to me like you are advocating regime change there, Mr. McFaul.

What should come first, founding elections or a constitution? Which is better for Russia, presidentialism or parliamentary system? What should be the strategy for dealing with communists and their NGOs—engagement or destruction?

Uhhhh … were you planning to ask the Russian government about any of this? Or was it just going to be between you and the excited business and cultural elitny who always thought the running of the country should have fallen to them? The elitny who, not to put too fine a point on it, would throw their shoulders against the great wheel of American global hegemony?

At times, however, officials representing the U.S. government and representatives from the non-governmental organizations clashed regarding appropriate engagement with Russia’s “revolutionaries.” These American NGOs vigorously defended their independence from the U.S. government and occasionally engaged in domestic“meddling” inside the U.S.S.R. that contradicted Bush’s pledge of noninterference. Most of the time, under the steady stewardship of Ambassador Matlock, these nongovernmental worked closely with local U.S. officials. Matlock himself was an active promoter of engagement with Russia’s revolutionaries. He hosted dinners and discussion groups with these anti-Soviet leaders and groups at Spaso House, the ambassador’s residence in Moscow, including a luncheon with human rights activists with Ronald Reagan in May 1988. These events gave symbolic but important recognition to these new political leaders.

Certainly must have been inspirational, because Ambassador McFaul did just the same thing as soon as he arrived in Russia in 2012 – he had barely presented his credentials before he was hobnobbing with opposition leaders, many of whom had well-documented ties to the U.S. State Department, including Evgeniya Chirikova (NED-funded “Strategy 31″), Lilia Shevtsova (NED-funded GOLOS) and Lev Ponomaryov (NED-funded Moscow-Helsinki Group). Mr McFaul was incensed at the criticism he received from the Russian government and Russian social media for it – regime change? Perish the thought – this is just a meeting of friends, and meeting with the opposition is routine, harmless. Just keep eye contact and continue talking in a soothing, low voice, and the rubes will fall for it, every time. Given the opinions expressed in the referenced text, can there be any doubt that the objective was to pave the way for revolution?

Michael McFaul is as two-faced as a halibut; when he shakes your hand, check to see if you still have your wristwatch when you get your hand back, and it might not be a bad idea to count your fingers. When he says the government he represents is not interested in regime change in your country, a wise man would inspect all the riot-control equipment and get it laid out so it is ready to hand.

The USA never speaks in a conciliatory fashion when it is winning – ever notice that? It’s too busy waving the flag and trumpeting about exceptionalism and feats of can-do. Therefore, when it does speak in a conciliatory fashion, it is possible it has realized it is losing. And it doesn’t do losing well. A word to the wise is sufficient.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Anyone is free to republish, copy, and redistribute the text in this content (but not the images or videos) in any medium or format, with the right to remix, transform, and build upon it, even commercially, as long as they provide a backlink and credit to Russia Insider. It is not necessary to notify Russia Insider. Licensed Creative Commons

MORE: Opinion