June 13, 2018
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Russia, the Neoconservatives, and the Real Issues Involved
Almost one year ago the United States Congress (with only a handful of “nay” votes) adopted new and severe sanctions against Russia for its supposed attempt to influence and interfere in the 2016 national elections [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/02/donald-trump-sanctions-russia-signs-bill]. Included in that legislation was a provision—specifically placed there by Russophobe Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC)—that President Trump cannot alter or lift any of the sanctions without future Congressional approbation.
The government of Vladimir Putin, in response to this provocation, announced that the American diplomatic presence in Russia would be reduced by 755 persons, a drastic move by any standards. But we should not and cannot say it was unexpected—or undeserved.
That sanctions vote was fascinating as it illustrated during the first year of the contentious Trump presidency a rare point of political unity between the socialist Left, the Democrats and the mainstream media—formerly noted for their “soft” and favorable attitude to the old and unloved Soviet Communist Russian regime—and the conservative/GOP mainstream, dominated by the Neoconservatives. Of course, perspectives and approaches to the question differ, whether it was the Trump campaign that was colluding with Moscow, or if it was Hillary and the Clinton Foundation that had collaborated in some way, but their target remained the same: that man in the Kremlin and the country he governs.
One thing was clear: the result of the 2016 presidential election had that most unheard of and remarkable result in recent American political history: a de facto alliance of these supposedly antipodal political forces. And what we have witnessed is a phalanx of the pseudo-Right Neocons and the formerly pro-Soviet Left linked together, competing to see who could be more “anti” and who could come up with the more far-fetched Russia conspiracy theories, and—as with the 2017 sanctions—the latest unwarranted, over the top legislation.
Consider the recent—but largely unreported—formation of an umbrella group, the Renew Democracy Initiative (RDI), with the goal of “uni[ting] the center-left and the center-right.” Its leaders include former John McCain foreign policy advisor Max Boot, The Washington Post’s Anne Appelbaum, Never Trumper Bill Kristol, former chess wizard Gary Kasparov, and Richard Hurwitz of Council on Foreign Relations. [See “Neocons & Russiagaters Unite!," April 27, 2018: https://www.rt.com/usa/425303-renew-democracy-initiative-neocons-rdi/] RDI’s manifesto calls for "fresh thinking” and urges “the best minds from different countries to come together for both broad and discrete projects in the service of liberty and democracy in the West and beyond…. Liberal democracy is in crisis around the world, besieged by authoritarianism, nationalism, and other illiberal forces. Far-right parties are gaining traction in Europe, Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on Russia and undermines democracy abroad, and America struggles with poisonous threats from the right and left.” [bolding mine]
Or, recall those on-camera Fox News Russia experts—think here of General Jack Keane or the unhinged Colonel Ralph Peters who literally foamed at the mouth when talking about Putin, calling him “the new Hitler,” and who asserted that Putin had committed “worse crimes” than the German dictator. (Peters is so anti-Russian that he finally left the Fox News network stable in March 2018; see http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-peters-fox-20180320-story.html)
When Tucker Carlson on his prime time program last July 11, 2017, demanded that Peters provide facts and figures for his accusations, Peters immediately exploded and implied that program host Carlson was a “Hitler apologist.” [https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/07/11/tucker_carlson_vs_ralph_peters_russia_putin_syria_assad_status_of_middle_east_iraq_war.htm] It was a classic argument and instance of reductio ad Hitlerum.
Of course, such examples aren’t rare in the establishment “conservative movement” media. Pick up any issue of National Review or The Weekly Standard or listen to the Glenn Beck radio program and you can find the same hysteria, largely laced with faked quotes or disinformation (e.g., “Putin wants to re-establish the Soviet Union” or “Putin was head of the KGB” or “Putin has had his enemies assassinated,” and so on, ad nauseum).
Indeed, another ploy by Neocon pundits (and Congress) has been to parade Bill Browder, the grandson of American Communist Party boss Earl Browder, as a star witness to President Putin’s nefarious dealings. Of course, it should be noted that Browder fils lost big time financially in his manipulations in Russia, as investigative journalists Philip Giraldi [http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-new-know-nothings-in-congress/ and https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/02/01/meet-corrupt-billionaire-who-has-brought-about-new-cold-war.html] and Robert Parry [https://consortiumnews.com/2017/08/02/a-blacklisted-film-and-the-new-cold-war/] have documented, and he is engaged in a vicious personal vendetta against Vladimir Putin.
For the Neoconservative leaders of what passes for “conservatism” these days, it is as if nothing has changed since 1991, since the ignominious fall of Communism. It’s even arguable that their hostility to Moscow has increased since then.
Let me suggest several reasons for this: First, many of the more prominent Neoconservatives descend from Russian Jews from the Pale of Settlement, whose memories go back to the pre-Communist days of pogroms under the Tsars. They originally welcomed Lenin and the Communist regime as liberators and formed some of its staunchest supporters and apparatchiks in the regime of terror that followed (especially in the Cheka and the NKVD) until Josef Stalin unleashed a wave of anti-semitism after World War II. [See the partially translated excerpts from Solzhenitsyn’s Two Hundred Years Together at: https://200yearstogether.wordpress.com, and the commentary: https://russia-insider.com/en/solzhenitsyns-damning-history-jews-russia-review/ri22354 ]
Putin, despite his strong support from native Russian Jews and from the Moscow Rabbinate, is a Russian nationalist and fervent supporter of the traditionalist Russian Orthodox Church, and those two factors bring up painful memories of the “bad old days” of discrimination and Jewish persecution for the Neocons.
A prime example of this comes in a recent volume authored by prominent Neocon journalist and homosexual activist (yes, the two traits often seem to go together), James Kirchick: The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age, 2017). In this jumble of Neocon ideology and prejudice, Kirchick evaluates what for him seems to be happening ominously in Europe. He is deeply fearful of the efforts to “close borders” against Muslim immigrants from the Middle East. He blasts Marine Le Pen as a racist—and most likely a subtle “holocaust denier!”—and attacks the attempts in places like Hungary and Poland to reassert national traditions and Christian identity; for him these are nothing less than attempts to bring back “fascism.” [http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2017/04/the_end_of_europe_by_james_kirchick_reviewed.html]
Russia comes in for perhaps his harshest criticism, and the reason is unmistakable: Russia seems to be returning to its older national and pre-Communist heritage, to its age-old Orthodox Christian faith. Russians are returning by the millions to the church and the “old-time” religion. For Kirchick this can only mean one thing: the triumph of bigotry, anti-semitism, and “extreme right wing” ideology, and the failure of what he terms “liberal democracy and equality” (including, he would no doubt include, feminism, same sex marriage, across-the-board equality, and all those other “conservative values”!).
Kirchick’s critique, shared by many of the leaders of the national Republican Party and dominating the pages of most establishment “conservative” publications and talk radio these days, joins him arm-in-arm with globalist George Soros in efforts to undermine the Russian state and its president…all in the name of “democracy” and “equality.” [See, “George Soros Aghast as Collapsing EU, while Russia Resurgent,” January 19, 2018: http://russiafeed.com/george-soros-aghast-collapsing-eu-russia-resurgent/]
But, just what kind of “democracy” and what kind of “equality” do Kirchick and Soros defend?
Beyond the ideological foundations for their hatred of nationalist Russia are economic considerations and the issue of who controls and manages the Russian economy: Wall Street and Bruxelles, or Russia, itself. Unlike the weak and pliant Boris Yeltsin, Putin the nationalist ended the strangle-hold of Russian industry, in particular control of Russia’s important energy sector, by those few international businessmen, the oligarchs (many of them Jewish), most of whom fled the country. That could not stand! How dare Russia—and its president—oppose the economic diktats of Bruxelles and Wall Street!
Lastly, we should add one more reason for hostility, and that is Russia’s remaining international presence, in particular, in Syria. It is very simple: you don’t go from being one of the world’s two “superpowers” to all of a sudden a second-rate, economically-handicapped “has been” without some remorse. As a patriot and nationalist President Putin has, understandably, attempted to reassert Russian power—certainly, not as much or in the same manner as the old Communist leaders. But, from his reasonable point of view, the largest country in the world does have interests, and not just in what goes on in neighboring nations where millions of Russians (formerly within Russia) reside, but also with long-time allies such as Syria.
Is not this same criterion true for the United States and its dealings with its neighbors and allies?
More, for the past twenty-five years Russia has experienced the poisoned tip of Islamic terrorism, domestically, including the brutal war in Tchechnya in the Caucasus region and the horrid bombings in the heart of the country, Moscow. From the beginning of his tenure Putin has offered to cooperate with the United States in the fight against international Islamic terror, but each time it was the United States—us—who refused, including famously Paul Wolfowitz during the George W. Bush administration who replied to one such offer: “We don’t need your assistance or intel.” And thus, the revealing files on the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston bombing) were not received. But, as Neocon Charles Krauthammer once declared: “We live in a unipolar world today, and there is only ONE superpower, and that is the United States.” That attitude was not received with equanimity by post-Communist Russia, a Russia that has discovered its heritage and its traditions and has asked for partnership with the United States, and not the hysteria we have witnessed in the United States sweeping aside all rationality.