From Détente with the Soviet Union under Reagan and Gorbachev to Open Confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and Syria – Washington’s Russia Policy under Donald Trump is the same as it was under Barack Obama.on Monday, July 24, 2017
Wrecking Russian-American Relations becomes a Bipartisan Effort
Washington’s Russia Policy under Donald Trump Appears to be the same as it was under Barack Obama.
By Scott Rohter, September 2015 Updated July 2017
Dateline: July 24, 2017 Congress has just passed a new sanctions bill against Russia. What is even more troubling is that the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump has signed it.
Someone has coined a new word to describe Washington’s bellicose foreign policy toward Russia. Since long before World War II and more recently under the last four American Presidents the United States has looked upon Russia with an equal measure of fear and indifference. The word for our attitude is “triumphalism”. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, American presidents have consistently been treating Russia as if it was some kind of a“vanquished foe” rather than a strategic partner and ally. As a result of this, most of America’s foreign policy initiatives in the world have turned out to be dismal failures. If we could just enlist the help of the Russians, but only when Ronald Reagan was President did we enjoy a good relationship with Russia.
The Reagan Administration reached out to Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and together they forged a new era of peaceful coexistence. That meant cooperation between our two countries. Unfortunately it didn’t last for long. The co-operation ended on the day that Ronald Reagan left office. Since then we have been squandering the remainder of good will they had built up. Now we are continually placing more and more sanctions on Russia to try to get them to do what we want and we are mistreating Russians as if they are some kind of a mortal enemy. They are not and placing sanctions on them is not going to get them to do things our way. The sanctions are going to backfire. Mutual respect has gone out the window and been replaced by mutual contempt. Senator John McCain even had the nerve to call Russia, “a gas station masquerading as a country.” That has to stand as one of the worst bits of American diplomacy and statesmanship I have ever heard. With John McCain as the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee nothing good is ever going to come from Congress with respect to Russia. Capitol Hill is way too busy investigating the false allegations of Russian interference in our last election to worry about the long term consequences of their reckless decisions. The lack of diplomacy exhibited by the senior Senator from Arizona doesn’t make the Russians feel very warm and friendly toward us either and thanks to elected officials like John McCain we are right in the middle of a new Cold War with Russia.
American foreign policy toward Russia is evolving… not for the better, but for the worse. It has gone from good, to bad, to beyond explanation… Gone is the policy of détente which existed under Ronald Reagan. Instead Washington has substituted a foreign policy of confrontation on every issue from Ukraine to Syria. We are squandering all of the good will that we had enjoyed under Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Barack Obama thumbed his nose at the accomplishments of Reagan and Gorbachev and he actively worked to undermine their legacy of mutual respect and cooperation. Instead of that he went back to the Cold War rhetoric of the 1950’s and the confrontational tactics of the 1960’s. What is even more distressing is that many of the so called conservative Republicans in Congress are on board with this. They don’t seem to mind the fact that they are undermining the legacy of their Party’s most beloved President since Abraham Lincoln.
Just for the record Russia is not our enemy. It has been our staunch ally during two World Wars, and the truth is that we couldn’t have defeated the Nazis without them, yet today we are friends with our former enemies in Germany and Japan, and we have chosen to be the enemies of our former allies in Russia. For their part the Russians have neither initiated nor provoked this change in American foreign policy. The Russians have never initiated any unprovoked attack upon any Western country in their entire history, while Western nations have launched numerous attacks upon them most notably. France declared war upon Russia under Napoleon, and Germany invaded the country under Adolph Hitler. Each time the Russians were attacked they rallied to defeat the invaders. Now western countries are provoking the Russians by supporting a revolution on their border in Ukraine and positioning NATO troops along their western flank which is a direct violation of the promise Ronald Reagan made to Mikhail Gorbachev. Why are we poking a proverbial stick at the normally harmless Russian bear?
The United States has imposed sanctions against Russia at the same time we have removed sanctions against one of America’s real enemies, the Islamic Republic of Iran. We have positioned American soldiers in former Soviet bloc countries and we are preparing them for a completely non existent Russian threat that is not forthcoming. It is very clear that the United States is trying to provoke Russia, but why?
We may not like to acknowledge it, but Russia is a great world power just like we are, so it is not in our best interest to keep stoking the flames of confrontation. The Russians can make life very difficult for us in many different areas of the world if they want to so why is our government trying to start a new Cold War? What is so important about Ukraine or Syria that Barack Obama and now Donald Trump is waving a red flag right in front of the Russian bull?
Oil and Gas
Ukraine used to be known as the bread basket of Russia. Now it is flat broke thanks to the United States. Their biggest creditor is Russia which they keep blaming for all of their problems. Ukraine owes Russia over two billion dollars for natural gas which they purchased on credit to heat their homes and power their industries. Any country that tries to bail them out will be taking on a huge financial burden for many years to come. Europe barely had the funds to bail out Greece more less Ukraine which is many times bigger than Greece. So what is America’s fascination with Ukraine all about, and why are we doing meddling in their internal politics at the expense of our relationship with Russia? The answer to that question can be summed up in just two words… oil and gas.
Russia has a virtual monopoly on the export of natural gas to Europe and the pipeline that supplies natural gas runs right through Ukraine. As a result of recent innovations in the oil and gas industry in America, the United States is experiencing a huge surplus of natural gas due to fracking. American oil companies would like to have a piece of the lucrative European natural gas market… They want to export American natural gas to Europe, thus removing the Russian’s monopoly. For their part the Europeans would love to see increased competition in the energy market. It should help to lower prices… That is why we are meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine. That is why we are starting a new Cold War with Russia… to enrich the pockets of American corporations and investors. The one important lesson we have not learned from World War II is that competition among nations should not be allowed to lead to war.
The first Cold War began shortly after World War II ended. The victorious Allies divided Germany into two parts, East and West. Berlin, the German capitol was located in the East, but it was also divided into East Berlin and West Berlin. Almost immediately the United States began airlifting supplies into West Berlin.
That Cold War lasted for more than forty years. It started because Russia and America could not agree to cooperate in the post war reconstruction of Germany. The Russians wanted a sphere of influence in Germany and we wanted our own separate sphere of influence there… That began to change in 1985 when Ronald Reagan reached out to the Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev in the first of five summit meetings they held. Russia and America agreed to begin cooperating with each other. We agreed to mutual respect instead of mutually assured destruction.
As a result of this the hands of the nuclear clock were dialed back and the whole world breathed a collective sigh of relief. By the time of the fifth summit meeting was held in 1988 the practice of détente had proven to be very good for for business too. The Cold War officially ended in 1991 with the breaking up of the old Soviet Union and in its place the creation of the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) of which the Russian Federation is the single largest member. Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post on Christmas Day, December 25th, 1991 and he was succeeded in office by Boris Yeltsin who presided over the transition period…
In retrospect, one of the chief reasons for World War II was competition… competition among nations… competition for land, competition for resources and raw materials, and competition for markets to sell goods and services. In addition, the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI was patently unfair to Germany. It placed a heavy financial burden on Germany for its roll in starting World War I. The lesson that should be learned from all of the carnage and devastation of World War I and II is that competition among nations should not be allowed to lead to war. Nations need to learn how to compete with each other peacefully. Then peace can be managed just as economically as war. That is what détente proved. Peace can be good for business too, but right now we are in the grips of another Cold War that could lead to actual combat if we are not careful. The cause of this freeze in relations with Russia is the current competition between the East and the West interest in and over Ukraine and Syria.
Ukraine is a contradiction. It is a country that really isn’t a country. On the one hand it stands at the gates of Europe, but it is not part of Europe.. On the other hand it lies on the border with Russia and it shares a long history and cultural ties with Russia. It stands at the crossroads of both East and West… at the crossroads between two different cultural and political models and two different spheres of influence. Europe has never been completely comfortable with Russia because of a deep seated fear that if Russia was ever welcomed into the European Union that it would come to dominate the much smaller nations of Europe.
Europeans have always regarded Russia with distrust and suspicion and therefore they have always kept Russia at arm’s length. The same thing is not true for Ukraine. Although Ukraine has strong Russian ties most Europeans do not believe that Ukraine presents the same kind of existential threat to Europe that Russia does because of its size, but they frequently forget that Ukraine is the place where Russian history and Russian civilization actually began. Ukraine has a special significance to Russians. It has one foot firmly planted in the future of Europe and the other foot firmly rooted in its Russian past.
Ukraine has been an independent country for only fifty years. The ties that hold it together are tenuous and weak. Before it became independent it was a part of several different empires.. the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian, the Lithuanian, and the Polish… That is why there is so much disagreement between different Ukrainians. There is no common thread that binds all of its people together into one cohesive unit. Ukrainians are not united about virtually anything. The only solution to the Ukrainian problem is to implement the Minsk Peace Accords which were agreed to by Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine, but the government in Kiev does not want to do that because it calls for the federalization of Ukraine which would mean more local control for the various regions of Ukraine including the Donbas where a separatist movement thrives… In the absence of enforcing the Minsk Accords the only other solution would be to divide the country into two parts, but it is none of America’s business how the Europeans and the Russians settle this peculiar problem… We should learn to mind our own damn business for a change… It is a distinctly European and Russian problem, and competition for oil and gas markets is not worth the price of another World War.
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