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Why Russians believe America has been attacking them for over 25 years (PODCAST)

Stephen Cohen joins John Batchelor for another in depth look at US-Russian relations

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(TheNation) – Professor Emeritus of Politics and Russian Studies (at Princeton and NYU) Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their (usually) weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fourth year, are at TheNation.com.)

Cohen’s subject is both contemporary and historical. The most central, ramifying, and dangerous allegation of Russiagate is that “Russian attacked American democracy” during the 2016 presidential election. After 18 months, there is still no credible evidence for this allegation. On the other hand, many Russians—in the policy elite, the educated middle class, and ordinary citizens—believe that “the United States has been at war with Russia” for 25 years, a perception regularly expressed in the Russian media. They believe this for understandable reasons.

American commentators attribute such views to “Kremlin propaganda.” It is true, Cohen points out, that Russians, like Americans, are strongly influenced by what appears in the media, especially on television, and that Russian television news reporting and commentary are no less politicized than their US counterparts. But elite and middle-class Russians are no less informed and critical-minded than American ones. Indeed, they have more access to daily American news and opinions—from cable and satellite TV, US-funded Russian-language broadcasts and Internet sites, and from Russian sites, such as inosmi.ru, that translate scores of American media articles into Russian daily—than most Americans have to Russian media. (The recent censoring steps taken by the Department of Justice against RT and Sputnik might be viewed in this context.) Generally, Cohen argues, many more Russians are much better informed about Washington politics than Americans are about Moscow politics.

Above all, Russians consider the history of US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since the early 1990s, enacted by both Democrats and Republicans, particularly major episodes that they perceive as warlike and as including acts of “betrayal and deceit” in the form of promises and assurances made to Moscow by Washington and subsequently violated. Cohen briefly itemizes the main examples:

§ Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush negotiated with the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, what they thought was the end of the Cold War on the shared and often expressed premise that it would end “with no losers, only winners.” (For this crucial mutual declaration, see two books by Jack F. Matlock Jr., both presidents’ ambassador to Moscow: Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended and Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray.) But in 1992, during his reelection campaign against Bill Clinton, Bush suddenly declared, “We won the Cold War,” paving the way to the triumphalism of the Clinton administration and the implication that post-Soviet Russia should be treated as a defeated adversary, as were Germany and Japan after World War II. For many knowledgeable Russians, certainly for Gorbachev himself, this was the first American betrayal.

§ For the next eight years, in the 1990s, the Clinton administration based its Russia policy on that triumphalist premise, with wanton disregard for how it was perceived in Russia or what it may portend. The catastrophic “shock therapy” economics imposed on Russia by President Boris Yeltsin was primarily his responsibility, but that draconian policy was emphatically insisted on and (meagerly) funded by Washington. The result was the near ruination of Russia—the worst economic depression in peacetime, the disintegration of the highly professionalized Soviet middle classes, mass poverty, plunging life expectancy, the fostering of an oligarchic financial elite, the plundering of Russia’s wealth, and more. There was also flagrant American “collusion” in Russian politics, particularly in Yeltsin’s 1996 reelection campaign. The Clinton administration bankrolled Yeltsin’s campaign with billions of dollars in loans through international agencies and sent a team of American experts to Moscow to advise and oversee Yeltsin’s initially failing reelection bid. That is, Washington “colluded” with Yeltsin against his presidential rivals. Later, Putin was, and continues to be, misquoted as saying that the end of the Soviet Union was “the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.” What he actually said was that it was “one of the greatest catastrophes,” pointing to the fate of Russia in the 1990s. He was not wrong, as Cohen spelled out in articles in The Nation in the 1990s and in his book Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Russia (published in 2000 and in an expanded paperback edition in 2001). As American “advisers” encamped in Moscow and spread across the country in the 1990s, little wonder so many Russians felt they had been defeated, occupied, and plundered by a foreign power.

§ In 1999, Clinton made clear that the crusade was also a military one, beginning the still-ongoing eastward expansion of NATO, now directly on Russia’s borders in the three Baltic states, and today knocking on the doors of two other former Soviet republics, Georgia and Ukraine. That so many Russians see NATO’s unrelenting creep from Berlin to within artillery range of St. Petersburg as “war on Russia” hardly needs any comment, especially given the living memory of the 27.5 million Soviet deaths in the war against the Nazi German invasion in 1941. But herein lies yet another “betrayal and deceit,” one that has never been forgotten. In 1990, in return for Gorbachev’s agreement that a reunited Germany would be a NATO member, all of the major powers involved, particularly the first Bush administration, promised that NATO “would not expand one inch to the east.” Many US participants later denied that such a promise had been made, or claimed that Gorbachev misunderstood. But documents recently published by the National Security Archive in Washington prove that the assurance was given on many occasions by many Western leaders, including the Americans. The only answer they can now give is that “Gorbachev should have gotten it in writing,” implying that American promises to Russia are nothing more than deceit in pursuit of domination. (In any event, Cohen thinks that Washington would have violated such a treaty agreement in pursuit of pushing NATO to Russia’s borders, just as it soon violated another crucial treaty.) Later in 1999, Clinton made clear that NATO expansion was not the non-military policy it was proposed to be. For three months, US-led NATO war planes bombed tiny Serbia, Russia’s traditional Slav ally, in effect annexing its province of Kosovo. Visiting Moscow at the time, Cohen heard widely expressed shock, dismay, anger, and perception of yet another betrayal, especially by young Russians, whose views of America were rapidly changing from benign well-wisher to warlike enemy. Meanwhile, also under Clinton, Washington began its still-ongoing campaign to diminish Moscow’s energy sales to Europe, thereby also belying US wishes for Russia’s economic recovery.

§ President Obama came to office promising a “new era of American diplomacy,” but his approach to Russia was no different, and was arguably even more militarized and intrusive than his predecessors’. During the short-lived “reset” of relations with the Kremlin, then under President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama’s vice president, Joseph Biden, told a Moscow public audience, and then Putin himself, that Putin should not return to the presidency. (In effect, Obama and Biden were trying to “collude”—however ineptly—with their imagined partner Medvedev against Putin.) In addition to other US “meddling” under way, the administration, particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stepped up “democracy promotion” by commenting critically on the Russian parliamentary and presidential elections that followed. By 2011, the administration felt free to betray its own chosen Russian partner, Medvedev, breaking its promise not to use a UN Security Council resolution in order to depose Libyan leader Gaddafi, who was tracked by US-NATO war planes and murdered in the streets. Meanwhile, Obama, like his predecessors, pushed NATO expansion ever closer to Russia, eventually to its borders.

§ Given this history, the fateful events in Kiev in 2014 seem almost inevitable. For the anti-Russian NATO expansionists in Washington, Ukraine had always been “the biggest prize” in the march from Berlin to Russia, as Carl Gershman, head of the official US regime-change institution, the National Endowment for Democracy, candidly stated, and indeed as was clear from American involvement in Ukraine’s earlier “Orange Revolution” in 2004–05. Though the European Union partnership agreement offered to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013 is unfailingly presented as a purely economic and “civilizational” choice, it determinedly excluded Russia as a mutual trading partner while including “military and security” provisions binding Kiev to NATO policy. Yanukovych’s overthrow by what was essentially a planned street coup in February 2014, accompanied by a demonstrative US presence on Maidan Square, led to the highly militarized new Cold War that now so endangers American and international security. Here too there was a broken US promise. Obama assured Putin that he supported the truce between Yanukovych and the street protesters brokered by three EU foreign ministers. Within hours, the protesters headed toward Yanukovych’s official residence, and he fled, yielding to the US-backed ferociously anti-Russian regime now in power and to the US-Russian proxy war in Eastern Ukraine. Certainly, Obama did not prefer real diplomacy with Russia. Repeatedly he refused, or stepped back from, Moscow’s offers of cooperation against ISIS in Syria, until finally Putin acted on his own in September 2015. Typically, Obama left office by imposing new sanctions, essentially economic warfare, on Russia—this time for the alleged but unproved allegations of Russiagate. The sanctions included an unprecedented and reckless threat of covert cyber attacks on Russia. (Assuming this is what Michael Flynn asked the Kremlin, on President-elect Trump’s instructions, not to react to, both deserve our gratitude, not persecution.)

§ It’s through this 25-year history that so many Russians perceive the meaning of Russiagate, which is reported obsessively in their media. For them, an American presidential candidate, and then president, Donald Trump, suddenly appeared proposing to end the US war against Russia for the sake of “cooperation with Russia.” The fictions of Russiagate—Russians have seen multitudes of American “contacts” with their officials, oligarchs, politicians, wheeler-dealers, and ordinary citizens ever since the Soviet Union ended—are designed to prevent Trump from ending the long “war against Russia.” When influential American media outlets denounce as “treasonous” Trump’s diplomacy with Putin regarding Syria and terrorism, for example, Russians see confirmation of their perceptions.

§ Cohen concludes by letting Americans themselves decide whether this Russian perception of US policy is correct or not. Put another way, whether Putin really is the “aggressor” presented almost unanimously by the American political-media establishment or a Kremlin leader reacting to a decades-long “American war against Russia.” Perceptions are at the core of politics, and even if Russians misperceive American intentions, has Washington given them cause to do so? In any case, when a nation-state perceives itself to be under attack, especially a nation with Russia’s history, relations with it become ever more dangerous. There is, Cohen adds, one anomaly: Putin, almost alone among high Russian officials, rarely—if ever—speaks of an “American war against Russia.” Dare we call this statesmanship? Especially in the context of bellicose statements issued almost daily by the US Congress and mainstream media?

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops occupying Idlib will take control over that land, and have responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet.

Eric Zuesse

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As I recommended in a post on September 10th, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan jointly announced on September 17th, “We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15-20km wide,” which compares to the Korean DMZ’s 4-km width. I had had in mind the Korean experience, but obviously Putin and Erdogan are much better-informed about the situation than I am, and they have chosen a DMZ that’s four to five times wider. In any case, the consequences of such a decision will be momentous, unless U.S. President Donald Trump is so determined for there to be World War III as to stop at nothing in order to force it to happen no matter what Russia does or doesn’t do.

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops who now are occupying Idlib province of Syria will take control over that land, and will thus have the responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet: Idlib. It contains the surviving Syrian Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters, including all of the ones throughout Syria who surrendered to the Syrian Army rather than be shot dead on the spot by Government forces.

For its part, the U.S. Government, backed by its allies and supported in this by high officials of the United Nations, had repeatedly threatened that if there occurs any chemical-weapons attack, or even any claimed chemical-weapons attack, inside Idlib, the U.S. and its allies will instantaneously blame the Syrian Government and bomb Syria, and will shoot down the planes of Syria and of Russia that oppose this bombing-campaign to conquer or ‘liberate’ Syria from its Government. The U.S. has announced its determination to protect what one high U.S. official — who is endorsing what Trump is doing there — “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” He admits it, but he wants to protect them from being bombed by Syria and by Russia.

During recent weeks, the U.S. military has increasingly said that even if the jihadists they’ve been assisting to assemble the materials for a chemical-weapons attack fail to carry it out or to stage one, any attempt by Syrian and Russian forces to destroy the jihadists (which the U.S. side calls ‘rebels’) in Idlib will be met with overwhelming U.S.-and-allied firepower. That would spark WW III, because whichever side — Russia or U.S. — loses in the Syrian battlefield will nuclear-blitz-attack the other side so as to have the lesser damage from the nuclear war and thus (in military terms) ‘win’ WW III, because the blitz-attack will destroy many of the opposite side’s retaliatory weapons. In a nuclear war, the first side to attack will have a considerable advantage — reducing the number of weapons the other side can launch.

If, on the other hand, the DMZ-plan works, then Turkey’s forces will be responsible for vetting any of Idlib’s residents who try to leave, in order to prohibit jihadists and their supporters from leaving. Once that task (filtering out the non-dangerous inhabitants and retaining in Idlib only the jihadists and their supporters) is done, the entire world might be consulted on whether to exterminate the remaining residents or to set them free to return to the countries from which they came or to other countries. Presumably, no country would want those ‘refugees’. That would answer the question.

America’s Arab allies, the oil monarchies such as the Sauds who own Saudi Arabia and the Thanis who own Qatar, and which have funded Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, would then be put on a spot, because if they say “Exterminate them!” then their clergy who have provided the moral imprimatur upon those families’ ownership of those nations, will either be in rebellion or else will themselves become overthrown either by their own followers or else by their monarch — overthrown from below or from above.

Alternatively, after Turkey’s forces in Idlib will have allowed release from Idlib of all who will be allowed out, Syria’s and Russia’s bombers will simply go in and slaughter the then-surrounded jihadists and take upon themselves the responsibility for that, regardless of what the leaders of the U.S. and its allied governments might say.

On the night of September 17th in Syria, there were missile-attacks “from the sea” against several Syrian cities; and those attacks could have come from either Israel’s or America’s ships, or from other U.S.-allied ships. Russian Television bannered, “Russian plane disappears from radars during Israeli attack on Syria’s Latakia – MoD” and reported:

A Russian military Il-20 aircraft with 14 service members on board went off the radars during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Air traffic controllers at the Khmeimim Air Base “lost contact” with the aircraft on Wednesday evening, during the attack of Israeli F-16 fighters on Latakia, said the MOD.Russian radars also registered the launch of missiles from a French frigate in the Mediterranean on the evening of September 17. …
The attack on Latakia came just hours after Russia and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of the Idlib province

If the missiles were authorized by President Trump, then WW III has already begun in its pre-nuclear stage. However, if the attacks were launched by Israel’s Netanyahu, and/or by France’s Macron, without U.S. authorization, then the U.S. President might respond to them by siding against that aggressor(s) (and also against what he used to call “Radical Islamic Terrorists”), so as to prevent a nuclear war.

Late on September 17th, Al Masdar News bannered “NATO warships move towards Syrian coast” and reported “The NATO flotilla cruising off the Syrian coast reportedly consists of a Dutch frigate, the De Ruyter, a Canadian frigate, the Ville de Quebec, and a Greek cruiser, the Elli.” Al Qaeda and ISIS have influential protectors.

Ultimately, the decision will be U.S. President Trump’s as to whether he is willing to subject the planet to WW III and to its following nuclear winter and consequent die-off of agriculture and of everyone, in order to ‘win’ a nuclear war, such as America’s aristocracy has especially championed since the year 2006. The nuclear-victory concept is called “Nuclear Primacy” — the use of nuclear weapons so as to win a nuclear war against Russia, instead of to prevent a nuclear war. That concept’s predecessor, the “Mutually Assured Destruction” or “M.A.D.” meta-strategy, predominated even in the U.S. until 2006. Trump will have to decide whether the purpose of America’s nuclear-weapons stockpiles is to prevent WW III, or is to win WW III.

In Russia, the purpose has always been to have nuclear weapons in order to prevent WW III. But America’s President will be the person who will make the ultimate decision on this. And Idlib might be the spark. Netanyahu or Macron might be wanting to drag the U.S. into war even against Russia, but the final decision will be Trump’s.

The ultimate question is: How far will the U.S. go in order to continue the U.S. dollar as being the overwhelmingly dominant global currency?

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Russian MoD: Il-20 downed by Syrian missile after attacking Israel’s F-16s used it as cover

Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces.

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Russia has stated that it “reserves right to response” after claiming that Israel’s actions led to downing of Il-20 by Syrian S-200 missiles.

The Russian military accused their Israeli counterparts for causing the downing of a Russian Il-20 plane by the Syrian air defense forces, which were responding to an Israeli air raid on Latakia.

Via RT


The Russian military say the Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events, which led to the shooting down of a Russian Il-20 plane by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

On Monday evening four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean, a statement by the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday. The Israeli warplanes came at a small altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region”, it said.

The military said the French Navy’s frigate “Auvergne” as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area of the Israeli operation.

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” the statement said.

The Russian ministry stressed that the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, which didn’t stop them from “the provocation”. Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,” the statement said.

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