Two news items struck me over the weekend: President Trump’s enthusiastic rally in one of the poorest states in the country, West Virginia, and the meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, at a Southeast Asian forum, which had not been announced and thus did not give rise to any advance pronouncements. Tillerson let Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov know that he and President Trump consider the new sanctions imposed on Russia ‘inappropriate’.
Meanwhile, Russia joined in voting UN sanctions against North Korea, presented by the media as a big win for the Trump administration, obfuscating the fact that President Putin has long called for a multi-polar world, meaning more systematic cooperation between the major power centers than that illustrated in a Security Council vote.
While Donald Trump’s boisterous reception in coal country testified to his die-hard support among America’s dispossessed, very differently, the Manila meeting followed Congress’s passing of a measure that would prevent the President from walking back sanctions on Russia.
Congress has been eager to take back the foreign policy pre-eminence granted to it by the Constitution from the “imperial presidency”, master-minded by George W Bush’s infamous Vice-President, Dick Cheney, and continued through the Obama years. Ironically, the circumstances under which it just did so could prevent the current President from abandoning the imperial presidency’s penchant for military confrontation, which is what so-called ’indignation’ over Russian ‘interference in our democracy’ is meant by the deep state to lead up to.
Making matters worse, that change may be accompanied by a hard right turn at home. The fact that Trump brings up Hillary Clinton, a cue for raucous condemnation, is not what the press should be focusing on, anymore than his inflated job figures. What really deserves media attention is Trump’s claim that the Deep State is trying to ‘take our country away from us,’ and his threatening assurance that ‘we won’t let them’. (Any mention of Russia falls flat, for the simple reason that the American public is kept in the dark about foreign affairs.)
(In continuing evidence of remote control, the media condemns Trump’s mention of Hillary in what has traditionally been a non-partisan speech by ‘the President’ to ‘the Boy Scouts of America, comparing it to Hitler’s recruitment of German youth. In fact the rest of the speech was all about patriotism and good old American competition.)
What we are losing is not our country, but the limited right we have to participate in its governance. The battle that is taking place in Washington is not one between Democrats and Republicans, but between the Deep State, which nobody can control, and what passed for democratic governance during the last several decades.
No country in the world that I can think of is truly ruled by its people, but in the struggle between ‘democracy’ as it has been practiced in the West for roughly a hundred years, and authoritarianism, the modern alternative to monarchy or dictatorship, the US is threatened with Steve Bannon and Steve Miller’s blueprint for ‘Nazism’ short for National Socialism.
When US pundits accuse Vladimir Putin of ‘authoritarianism’ they conveniently overlook the fact that Russians have never forgotten the Nazi invasion of their country, and that Putin’s “managed democracy” preserves the social gains instituted under communism. Raised on the American mantra ‘may the best man win’, our elite literally cannot comprehend Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal of cooperative world leadership, feigning surprise that both China and Russia voted for the US-drafted Security Council Resolution against North Korea, (“especially Russia,” according to Wolf Blitzer), which in fact is an example of a multi-polar approach to world governance.
The idea of cooperation is closely related to that of solidarity, a tradition which in Russia existed long before the Communist Revolution of 1917. Very differently, American ‘exceptionalism’ is based on the notion that we are ‘better’ than other peoples thanks to competition, those previously said to have been ‘left behind’ now referred to as ‘losers’.
Based on the notion that a country is something you ’have’, ‘taking it back’ is a synonym for ‘winning’, while running the world cooperatively implies the risk of ‘losing’ it. Very differently, Russians consider country as something to which people belong, a condition bolstered by cooperation. The unseen difference between those two worlds underlies the constitutional crisis over our relations with Russia, as we continue to believe that ‘we alone’ can solve the crisis over North Korea.
P.S. Does TIllerson realize that when he announces that we will try to bargain with the Russians over how manhy of our embassy staff will have to leave as a tit for tat for Obama's expulsion of their diplomats here, he is opening the door for Europeans to bargain with the US over Russia sanctions that would hurt their energy sector?