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Some of the Best Critique of America's Russia Stance Is US-Made

Analysis and commentary by Stephen Cohen, Patrick L. Smith, Pat Buchanan is a good example

Danielle Ryan is our regular contributor. This article also appeared at Journalitico


I am often, of late, accused of sounding “anti-America” on this blog.

It seems odd to people who know me that I could have spent a couple of years living in Washington, living and breathing Capitol Hill, and spent many years before that seemingly supporting American foreign policy — or at least not not supporting it.

But this isn’t about being “pro-Russia” or “anti-America”. This is about right and wrong — and while no one side has a monopoly on right — we have come to a point in time when it seems that, by and large, we have accepted that one side does hold that monopoly.

We have, for the most part, blindly followed one narrative and dismissed all dissenting voices as nonsense.

That acceptance of a black and white view has led us to a dangerous precipice in Europe. 

Yet in the midst of this crisis there have been a number of brilliant and astute geopolitical commentators trying to shake some sense into the mainstream media and policymakers in Washington and Brussels.

They have largely been ignored or sidelined as “apologists” and “useful idiots” aiding a Russian “dictator” whose geopolitical adventurism has led to the crisis we see today in Ukraine.

They have explained, time and time again, why this narrative is false and why it deserves to be held up to much tougher scrutiny.

Yet because they are ostracized by the biggest networks and newspapers, their commentary and incredibly useful insights rarely are allowed to filter out into the mainstream.

It is no exaggeration to say this is entirely deliberate. My own experience within the lower ranks of mainstream US print media have proved this to be true.

Some of the strongest and sanest voices however, are actually American voices — and they are all well-worth reading — if you know where to look.

I have chosen three (although there are many more) and have summarized some of their comments:

Stephen Cohen – American scholar of Russian studies

On the importance of Ukraine to Moscow:

Ukraine is “a region absolutely essential in Moscow’s view to its national security and even to its civilization”

On the US-NATO military encirclement of Russia:

“The ongoing US-NATO encirclement of Russia with bases, as well as land and sea-based missile defense, only increases this possibility” (of the use of nuclear weapons)

…every American president and congress has treated post-Soviet Russia as a defeated nation with inferior legitimate rights at home and abroad. This triumphalist, winner-take-all approach has been spearheaded by the expansion of NATO—accompanied by non-reciprocal negotiations and now missile defense—into Russia’s traditional zones of national security, while in reality excluding it from Europe’s security system.”

On the vilification of Vladimir Putin:

“Indeed, highly charged suspicions, resentments, misconceptions and misinformation both in Washington and Moscow may make such mutual restraints even more difficult. The same is true of the surreal demonization of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin—a kind of personal vilification without any real precedent in the past…”

On the failure of American political discourse:

“We do have access to important alternative media, but they are not considered authoritative, or even essential, inside the Beltway. In my long lifetime, I do not recall such a failure of American democratic discourse in such a time of crisis.

Moscow’s view of the Ukrainian crisis “is almost entirely missing in mainstream coverage”.

On who is to blame for sparking the crisis in Ukraine:

In short, it was not Putin’s alleged “aggression” that initiated today’s crisis but instead a kind of velvet aggression by Brussels and Washington to bring all of Ukraine into the West, including (in the fine print) into NATO.”

“Washington and Brussels endorsed the coup, and have supported the outcome ever since. Everything that followed, from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the spread of rebellion in southeastern Ukraine to the civil war and Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation,” was triggered by the February coup. Putin’s actions have been mostly reactive.

On who is responsible for escalating the crisis:

“The underlying causes of the crisis are Ukraine’s own internal divisions, not primarily Putin’s actions. The primary factor escalating the crisis since May has been Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” military campaign against its own citizens, now mainly in the Donbass cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Putin influences and no doubt aids the Donbass “self-defenders.” Considering the pressure on him in Moscow, he is likely to continue to do so, perhaps even more, but he does not control them. If Kiev’s assault ends, Putin probably can compel the rebels to negotiate. But only the Obama administration can compel Kiev to stop, and it has not done so.”

Patrick L. Smith – columnist for Salon

On the US’s ultimate goal in Russia:

“…there can be no Cold War II because the Cold War as we knew it never ended. NATO’s eastward creep, Georgia in 2008, Ukraine now, the merciless, reckless sanctions—all that has changed since 1991 are tactics, not strategy.

To put this precisely, Washington’s intent is not to destroy Russia: It is to destroy what we may as well call “Putin’s Russia.” The implications here should be evident. This is “regime change” on the grandest scale.

On the Western superiority complex:

“In my read, the war we have entered upon brings into sharp focus the 21st century’s single most vital zone of conflict. This is the non-West’s historically unprecedented insistence that it is the equal of the West, that its values are as valid as the West’s, that the world is multiple now and that “to become modern” no longer means “to become Western.”

It is this the American elite thinks is worth a war. It is Putin’s sin that he fights this war. Bitter truth No. 2: In this context we must hope he wins it, for the world will be far better off when America’s compulsion to dominate it is defeated.

On the failure of the American press:

“It has proven impossible to write about foreign affairs this year without becoming something of a media critic. The logic here should be evident. Few would argue that the American press has performed well on the foreign side since the earliest days of the Cold War. But the deterioration of overseas coverage is something else that has accelerated markedly this year.

On the purposeful misreading of Putin:

“Read the transcript of Vladimir Putin’s press conference last week, an annual affair with none of the phony staging and screened questions American leaders require. It is here. “We are protecting our independence, our sovereignty and our right to exist,” the Russian leader said among much else. Think about this. It is not the remark of a man who plans to go anywhere soon. Think about it again while looking back on the year now ending. Then ask: How did it come to this? Why would a Russian leader be moved to say this?

The American press did all it could to caricature Putin’s exchange with journalists. My favorite among the strivers was BusinessWeek, for which … magazine, I suppose we have to call it, Putin’s press conference was “surreal,” “extremely long and very weird.” Read the piece here. The juvenile vocabulary is for a purpose. Surreal, weird press conferences do not have to be considered, to say nothing of understood. The above questions do not have to be asked. Asking them would be a very bad thing. So would understanding.

On a post-Western multi-polar world:

“One could say it is not the West’s world any longer, and I called it “post-Western” in a book several years ago. This is not quite so. It is ours, but only to the extent that it is destined to be everybody’s, if I read history rightly. As an American, my biggest regret on this score — apart from all the suffering caused in our names — is  that my country seems bent on doing almost everything it can to lose out on a great deal of what would be its share in the arriving era; this in the name of prolonging a time that is no longer.”

Pat Buchanan – former US presidential candidate, commentator and author 

On the West’s part in sparking the crisis:

“What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy and a disaster. And we are in part responsible, having egged on the Maidan coup that overthrew the elected pro-Russian government.”

On the US arming Ukraine:

“America has never had a vital interest in Crimea or the Donbass worth risking a military clash with Russia. And we do not have the military ability to intervene and drive out the Russian army, unless we are prepared for a larger war and the potential devastation of the Ukraine.

But a greater disaster looms if we get ourselves embroiled in Ukraine’s civil war. We would face, first, the near certainty of defeat for our allies, if not ourselves. Second, we would push Moscow further outside Europe and the West, leaving her with no alternative but to deepen ties to a rising China.”

“Why would a moral nation arm Ukraine to fight a longer and larger war with Russia that Kiev could not win, but that could end up costing the lives of ten of thousands more Ukrainians?”

On the 2008 Georgian war (which is often cited in recent times as “expansionist” Putin’s first geopolitical adventure):

Georgia invaded South Ossetia, a tiny province that had won its independence in the 1990s. Georgian artillery killed Russian peacekeepers, and the Georgian army poured in.

Only then did the Russian army enter South Ossetia and chase the Georgians back into their own country. The aggressor of the Russo-Georgia war was not Vladimir Putin but President Mikheil Saakashvili.

On the rank Russophobia to be found on Capitol Hill:

We seem to support every ethnic group that secedes from Russia, but no ethnic group that secedes from a successor state.

This is rank Russophobia masquerading as democratic principle.

What do the people of Crimea, Transnistria, Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Luhansk or Donetsk want? Do we really know? Do we care?

…..

This is not to even mention the excellent analyses of people like Robert Parry, Noam Chomsky and even Henry Kissinger — who have, to varying degrees — been able to see the wood from the trees when it comes to deciphering the follies of American policy on Ukraine and Russia.

It is only through a consistent and deliberate attempt to allow a counter-narrative to reach the mainstream — through websites like Russia Insider and the ever-persistent RT — that public opinion can gradually start to be turned.

This is what they call the “information war”.

It’s a whole lot safer than a nuclear one — so get reading.

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