I stated in my last blog that my hope is to write about politics one more time before moving back to writing about daily life in my next few blogs. Of course, given the relationship between America and Russia who knows what will transpire? I write this blog entry because the situation between my homeland and my chosen country of residence is becoming more intense, and I don’t think my friends in America are getting an accurate picture of things from the press and the politicians there. Events here are seen very differently from the picture presented in my “other world” of America.
In my last blog I indicated there were a couple of developments that I considered to be positive as Joseph Biden began his presidency. Biden signed the extension of the START treaty with Russia. I also referred to an article in The New York Times which stated that some of his advisors had concluded that future sanctions on Russia would not be productive.
Events since then have not left me so positive. I have selected some public statements Biden himself has made about Russia and will comment on the presuppositions of those statements that he and his foreign policy advisors want the American people to accept without proof or justification. The danger of the old adage, “If you keep saying it enough, then they’ll think it’s true” comes to mind when I hear the same old cliches used about Russia. I will summarize the major assertions Biden has set forth about Russia and then respond.
I will add one caveat. I have no idea if Biden understands what he himself says or the significance of said statements. I personally think his mental capacities are diminished, but that is a topic outside the realm of this blog. He is the President of the United States, and his statements must be accepted as such. He has condemned Russia for its interference and aggression and promised to retaliate.
RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE. As early as January 27 Biden raised the issue of Russian interference in U.S. elections—including the election of 2020. He has also mentioned Russian hacking into SolarWinds. I’m sure all my readers will remember the repeated cries over the last four years from Democrats claiming Russian interference led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
RESPONSE. The Mueller investigation took 22 months. Mueller used 19 government lawyers, 40 FBI agents, and issued about 2,800 subpoenas. He spent around $35 million tax dollars investigating charges of Russian collusion and found nothing. Further, the accusations against Concord Management by Mueller that Russian hackers in St. Petersburg were involved in changing the election outcome were dropped with no evidence of such hacking ever presented.
I cannot really respond to the accusations about SolarWinds and the 2020 election, since neither Biden nor any of his staff presented any evidence other than the generic and meaningless statement, “It has all the earmarks of Russian interference.” None of those “earmarks” were ever defined by anyone. The intelligence folks involved actually said they had no evidence. The “Russian hackers” narrative has almost become a part of the Democratic party’s folklore. No evidence was found from 2016 and no new evidence has been presented for the more current accusations.
RUSSIAN AGGRESSION. Biden did not initially say what he meant by Russiaian aggression, but on February 24 he focused specifically on the return of Crimea to Russia in 2014. Biden chose the upcoming observance of the seventh anniversary of that event as the occasion for his remarks. He called it a “somber anniversery” and said, “We affirm a simple truth: Crimea is Ukraine.” He then went on to say the United States will never recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.
Many in the Western press still refer to it as a Russian invasion, and I still see posts about the violence of the invasion, despite the fact there was no loss of life or any concrete evidence of armed Russian soldiers roaming the streets. (Go to YouTube and check out videos by my friend Regis Trembley who lives there.) This month the U.S. Department of State announced it is appropriating 125 million dollars worth of “lethal” military hardware for Ukraine, apparently to supply forces from Kiev if they want to attack fellow Ukrainians in the Donbass region. Since 2014 the U.S. has given over 2 billion dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine. This money is supposedly for the defence of the American people.
RESPONSE. I don’t deny that Russia has helped the residents of the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine. They have been repeatedly attacked by the Nazi led groups supported by the late John McCain and others. The difference between Russia and the U.S. is that Russia shares a LONG border with Ukraine. America is half way round the world. Many of the residents of Eastern Ukraine are ethnically Russian. They speak Russian and think of themselves as Russian.
Before I came to Russia I could not have found Ukraine on a map and knew absolutely nothing about the country or its history. I think most Americans are like I was. Ukraine is not an ancient country. Its history is tied to “old Russ.” Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, was at one time the capital of what was known as Kievan Russ (ancient Russia). Later, for 70 years Ukraine and Russia were part of the same country—the USSR. Thus, the bond between Ukraine and Russia is unlike the bond between America and any other country.
While the U.S. continues to blame Russia for the crisis in Ukraine, I will remind my readers of the clear evidence that it was the U.S. who was behind the coup to oust Victor Yanukovych, the duly and legally elected President of Ukraine in 2014. One can still access the recording of the leaked phone call between the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Jeffrey Pyatt. This phone call became well known because of the crude remark Nuland made when she agreed the EU might not like the planned coup. In her words to Pyatt, “F##k the EU.” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2XNN0Yt6D8.
As I said in an earlier blog, I regret that she made this comment. It’s not because this old Marine has never heard bad language. What I regret is the fact the press focused on the profanity and not on the rest of the conversation. She actually details who the next president of Ukraine should be—because the U.S. has decided. Nuland believed she should pick the president of Ukraine, not the majority of Ukrainian voters. And they called it “spreading democracy.”
As an addendum the man she chose, “Yatz” as she refers to him in the conversation, did become president. He turned out to be a disaster. After his shameful departure, Petro Poroshenko, another corrupt U.S. puppet was designated as president. (You may recall this is the man who Joe Biden bragged about pressuring to fire the investigator of the corruption involving Biden’s son, Hunter. The investigator was dismissed without cause.) As a result of the leadership of these men, the Ukrainian economy has tumbled to the worst in Europe. Poroshenko was replaced by Vololdymyr Zelensky, who has no political experience other than playing the part of the President of Ukraine in a TV series. The point is that it was the U.S., not Russia, who initiated the interference in Ukraine to remove the democratically elected President. The American mainstream media referred to those Ukrainians who disagreed with America choosing their president as terrorists sent by Putin. It was all Putin’s fault.
PUTIN THE MURDERER. Biden recently and dramatically raised the stakes in the antagonistic relationship between Russia and America when he said in response to a question by George Stephanopoulos that he thinks Putin is a killer. Then he boasted about how he confronted Putin over his misdeeds. He also said he will make Russia pay for interfering in the last presidential election.
RESPONSE. There are some basic flaws in what Biden said. I won’t go into most of them. Suffice it to say for one national leader to call another national leader a murderer without any trial, investigation or presentation of evidence is horrible. Apparently he is referring to the unproven accusations that Putin had journalists killed. I reviewed those cases quite some time ago in a blog and see no reason to revisit. Again, no actual evidence was ever presented that linked the very popular Putin to the deaths of the journalists other than the fact the journalists did not like Putin. I have read a number of articles written by journalists here who obviously do not like Putin or his policies. They don’t seem to fear for their lives.
The reference to Putin as a killer is even more horrible when the accuser (Biden) just ordered the bombing of a country with whom the United States is not at war. He ordered the deaths of individuals about whom we know nothing.
EXCURSIS: THE BOMBING IN SYRIA. On February 25, even before his first press conference, Biden ordered the U.S. to bomb Syria. This decision is not directly related to Russian-American relationships, but Russia was invited to help fight terrorism in Syria by President Assad. The U.S. has also been present as an uninvited guest who supports and arms rebels opposed to Assad.
The reason for the bombing given by the Biden administration spokesperson John Kirby was that the U.S. was responding to alleged Iranian-linked violence against the U.S. in Iraq and Syria. It was a bit hard to follow his logic, but I’ll try to summarize as best I can. According to Kirby, an “Iranian linked militia group” attacked a location in Iraq, and an American contractor was killed and an American soldier was wounded. So the U.S. responded by bombing a facility in Syria, which ostensibly was used by one of the Iranian militia groups. Approximately 22 people were killed, but no one seems certain of the exact number.
A bit of background: In the spring of 2003 America decided to invade Iraq based on the unambiguous testimony of Colin Powell that Iraq had acquired weapons of mass destruction. After the invasion the U.S. had to admit to the world that there were no such weapons in Iraq. Rather than leaving the country it had invaded, the U.S. still has troops and personnel there 18 years later.
So to summarize, the U.S. declared it bombed Syria because Iranians had attacked Americans in Iraq. That rationale seems strange to me. Now, to be clear: According to international law the U.S. has no right to be in any of the three countries. The question of why the U.S. still has contractors and military personnel in Iraq was never asked. Nevetheless, the U.S. declared it was an issue of national defense.
The U.S. has invaded Syria, openly stolen its oil, and believes it has the right to bomb the country without any attempt at diplomacy with the leadership of Syria or any other country or international forum. Caitlin Johnstone accurately describes the attitude of American political and military decision-makers: “The U.S. can bomb who it likes, whenever it likes, and when it does it is only ever doing so in self defense, because the entire planet is the property of Washington, DC.” https://consortiumnews.com/2021/02/26/us-bombs-syria-ridiculously-claims-self-defense/?fbclid=IwAR3BTfUNNCHwZGkzUk1ycRnx7l5SqW0zHpcFvH07p9GwHITdTNmYiWjmM38. No evidence of any link to attacks on Americans by those people in Syria was ever presented. Biden wanted to kill them to make a point. There is far more actual evidence for calling Biden a murderer than Putin.
Putin’s response to Biden calling him a killer was very reserved and diplomatic—and translated incorrectly in most U.S. news outlets. I have already heard from Russian family members and friends very upset that Putin’s answer was translated as, “It takes one to know one.” We used that phrase as kids in America when we were called names. In Russia, there is also a child’s retort that is similar, but it is accurately translated, “You yourself are what you are calling me” (Кто как обзывается, тот так и называется). Putin went on to make the point that we often project onto others our own characteristics. I think American leaders have been doing that to other leaders for some time!
The Russians I’ve heard from were not overly upset that Biden called Putin a killer. They already think Biden is a bit demented and don’t take seriously what he says. Americans should know that much of the world thinks Biden is demented. What my Russian friends were angry at was how the press mistranslated Putin’s response. “Takes one to know one” sounds to them like Putin was saying he and Biden are both killers. The truth is this is far from the first time Putin has been mistranslated by the American press.
“I’ll make Russia pay…” Lastly, I will focus on the emptiness of the threats that Biden made that he would make Russia (and Putin) pay for the concocted charges of interference and aggression.
WHY AMERICA CANNOT CONTROL RUSSIA. The United States is desperately trying to recover the monopoly on power it enjoyed after the dismantling of the Soviet Union. The world has changed, however. First, while America is still the biggest economy in the world, it also has the greatest debt by far. Senator Rand Paul stated recently that America has borrowed 6 trillion dollars in one year. The national debt is now larger than the national economy. The economy of China is rapidly gaining on America, and the U.S. has a $5.5 trillion trade deficit with China. Russia is also increasingly doing business with China, but Russia has a trade surplus with China of almost $12 billion.
SANCTIONS & SELF-SUFFICIENCY. Biden has mentioned more sanctions against Russia several times recently. In addition to the fact that sanctions against Russia have never worked and, in some cases, have been counter-productive, the uncomfortable truth for the Putin-bashers in the U.S. is Russia could sustain itself no matter what America does.
Even in a global worst case scenario Russia would fare better than the U.S. In May of 2020 President Putin announced that Russia is self sufficient in terms of feeding itself. Production of wheat, grains, meats, dairy and fish have gone way up since the sanctions started. Further, Russia could supply itself and its allies with natural gas, crude oil, timber, coal and other natural resources. [*As an aside, despite sanctions on other countries, the U.S. still buys crude oil from Russia. https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Why-Is-The-US-Importing-So-Much-Russian-Fuel-Oil.html.] The areas in which Russia is still dependent are auto-technology, medicines and fruit, but Russia has already formed trade alliances with countries outside the U.S. field of influence.
Putin would still like a good relationship with the U.S. He repeats that often, but he insist that it must be “based on the principles of equality and mutual respect.” Biden, however, said in January that America is back “at the head of the table.” So Russia has found trade partners outside the U.S. field of influence. China is the biggest economic ally. Trump let Pompeo have his way in international relations, and now Russia and China are working even more closely together and trade between them is increasing. China has not gone along with U.S. sanctions, and I do not believe that it will do so in the future. https://www.rt.com/russia/518544-china-invite-lavrov-meeting/?fbclid=IwAR3rUnUMc1oQ3g5dm73DqJoKbzhJhJ_Tq6g1lw4JeviYs9oloY-iysVSnvk.
MILITARY ADVANCEMENT. President Biden also mentioned “other means” than sanctions for making Russia pay for its bad behavior. He and his spokesperson Jen Psaki tried to be very coy. Of course we are to wonder what else it could be. Given the current low level of diplomatic expertise in the White House and Department of State, I don’t think outmaneuvering Sergei Lavrov with super clever diplomacy is in the realm of possibility. The U.S. has had to push rather hard on old allies to keep them in line already. Some easily fall in line, but none of those are any match for Russia and China.
In the background the fear of military conflict looms. Of course, for many in the so-called Military Industrial Complex this is not a fear—it would be a windfall. The U.S. has long proudly proclaimed it has the finest military in the world. But does it?
Toward the end of last year I made myself read a book I had been intending to read for some time. It was Gilbert Doctorow’s A Belgian Perspective on International Affairs. I don’t mean I had to force myself to read it because I don’t enjoy Doctorow’s works. I have high regard for him as a Russian scholar and enjoy his books and blog. But this book is 651 pages, and when I start a book I like to finish it. Fortunately I was able to set aside time to complete it.
It is a collection of essays and blogs he has written since 2016, some of which I had previously read. He has several entries on Russian military preparedness. One from 24 February 2019 caught my eye. I remembered reading it when he first published it. Doctorow gives a detailed analysis of both Russia’s offensive and defensive missile systems. It was the first article I had read by a scholar I really trust that asserted that Russia was not just equal to the U.S., it has military superiority.
I have long admired the S-400 (and now S-500) defense system. In recent years, however, Russia has “upped” its offensive arsenal. America has continued to move its missiles closer and closer to Russia’s borders. Their attempts to intimidate have been obvious, and Russia responded. Doctorow gives the details of how America is completely vulnerable to a Russian attack simply because of the speed of the Zircon missile. Even if America fired the first nuclear missile, Russian missiles would reach the Pentegan first. Another author said, “There is no technological solution for stopping this type of weapon in the US currently—the ramifications are colossal.”https://anti-empire.com/russias-zircon-missile-relegates-carriers-to-bombing-small-poor-countries/?fbclid=IwAR3-3BZk0gJicUn269OPqHfotR-US0pqcvPUWffluE10v0DeUBPBTyu8aA0.
America has long pointed to how much more it spends on defense than any other country by far as proof of its military superiority. Yet much of that money is to support the over 800 military bases outside its borders. Further, the spending of huge amounts of money clearly does not mean superiority in quality. The F-35 stealth fighter cost $100 million per plane, yet the Air Force admitted in February that it is simply not reliable. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2021/02/23/the-us-air-force-just-admitted-the-f-35-stealth-fighter-has-failed/?fbclid=IwAR2Dq_NOcQoxunazYDDeurw0u62ZBYqvKfn2XWF3eg_Guf5y_UyXJ5Hgfjs&sh=129bf3851b16.
The overall cost of the program was $1.7 trillion. https://www.rt.com/usa/516507-f35-failed-airforce-reactions/.
Wars usually do not start because both sides line up and arrange a starting date. They often begin as mistakes or misunderstandings. I am anti-war. We live in a nuclear age.The thought that a nuclear war could begin just as an idiotic attempt to show off superiority or a misevaluation of an opponent is a horrible thought. Back in the Cold War days Gorbachev and Reagan agreed that “a nuclear war can never be won and should never be fought.” Now, it seems American leaders, often elected with contributions from the MIC, are afraid to appear weak. Even authentic diplomacy itself gets labelled as a weakness.
The massive ignorance of the truth about Russia is scary to me. I fear America grossly underestimates Russia’s military capacities. What bothers me about Biden’s recent statements is his misplaced confidence. His attitude is one of pure hubris. I guess it impresses some voters. I suppose he or his team believe it will quiet the suspicions that he has lost something mentally. Maybe he can make up for his frail, uncertain gait and confused expression by boasting of “making Russia pay.” Let me be clear. I don’t think Biden or most of his advisors have decided to start a war. But then I don’t think anyone actually decided to start the first world war.