Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Wall St. Journal Reality-Check

This weekend’s Wall St. Journal, borrowed from a friend, is a clever anti-Russian montage, half of which has little basis in reality. (The other half is a review of six books about Russia, all of which appear interesting in one way or another, but none of which appears to have anything positive to say about the present, a    standard media two-fer.
  Page 6 of the Review section leads with a headline warning readers that “Russia is Going Global”, by Eugene Rumer and Andrew S. Weiss. The subtitle is “Russia Lines up Allies Against the US”.  In reality, there is no Russian counterpart to NATO, where the US has lined up no fewer than twenty-nine allies against Russia. The Soviet-led Warsaw Pact was disbanded in February, 1991, followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December of that year. The understanding between the two superpowers was that in exchange for Russia acquiescing to the reunification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch beyond its eastern border. Since then, NATO has steadily moved its troops, tanks and missiles eastward, all the way Russia’s western border, within firing range of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Yet it is Moscow that is guilty of “lining up allies”. According to the WSJ, they consist of Turkey — with which Russia has historically had a rocky relationship, but is now establishing more friendly ties (normally considered a good thing between neighbors), and Libya, where it has backed a military leader “who is battling Islamists in Benghazi.” (There is no mention of the rocky relationship between Benghazi and Tripoli, which Russia is mediating….) In 2011, Russia condemned the US intervention that resulted in the brutal murder of Muammar Gadhafi, the leader who brought an oil-rich but backward desert country into the twenty-first century, and whose Arab Socialist Republic had long been a Moscow ally. Also on the list of Moscow’s misdeeds, in that corner of the world, is ‘wooing’ Egypt. But that’s not all.
“Russian intrigue is also creating headaches for the West in an often overlooked theater, the Balkans, NATO’s newest member, being tiny Montenegro.” The WSJ claims the Russians plotted to kill that country’s leader in order to prevent it from being the last non-NATO member in Eastern Europe. (The only European countries who are not NATO members are Sweden, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland and Malta.) 
While the possible defection of Turkey would be a major upset, it having been the “southern bulwark against the Soviet Union” since 1950, the writers feign to ignore the recently warming relationship between Erdogan and Putin. The prospect of Turkey joining the various military and trade pacts that encompass the countries between Moscow and Beijing is apparently too horrible to mention.
Normally, major journalists try to avoid showing their ignorance of important facts, but when it comes to Russia, it’s a different ball game. These writers deliberately make no mention of the China-Russia One Belt One Road project, which is linking the farthest reaches of Asia to Europe, via a series of roads, rail lines, and ports.  The project has its own financing via the Asian Infrastructure Bank and dwarfs anything the West has even imagined. It’s clear that the assignment was to concentrate on Russia, while avoiding any ‘inconvenient truths’. 
Turning to Europe, Rumer and Weiss affirm that “Even the resounding defeat of France’s Marine Le Pen, France’s pro-Russian candidate…. was a reminder that no country in Europe can dare to ignore the risk of Russian interference in its politics.” This cleverly turned phrase is part of the never-ending litany over Russia’s supposed interference in the US elections, (which, if true, could not even remotely compete with the US’s routine recourse to regime change around the world) justifying claims that it is doing the same thing in Europe. As a neighbor on the same continent, Russia’s goal is to “pry Europe away from the US” and fold it into a vast Eurasian Alliance, which makes more geographic sense than a trans-Atlantic alliance that relies on alleged “shared values” that invariably favor the US. Never mind that according to former Assistant Secretary of State for East European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, the US spent 5 billion preparing demonstrations in Ukraine that in 2014 enabled it to engineer a coup against the elected pro-Russian president, with the help of neo-Nazi militias, that lead to a civil war with the Russian population in the east of that country who are allergic to Nazis.
Further, as to Europe, were American journalists specializing in Russian affairs only able to read French, they would know that the foreign policy priority of the man who defeated Ms Le Pen, the youthful Emanuel Macron, is to be the statesman who engineered a US-Russia rapprochement. for which his own press teases him. (See,, 
According to the WSJ, “Russian government-owned arms companies, unburdened by scruples about human rights and democracy” (as opposed to Boeing or Northrop Grumman….), are eager to recoup the market share they lost when Egypt left the Soviet orbit”. (However, it’s not Russian but American weapons that are bombing Yemen…) 
As with One Belt One Road, there is no mention of the Putin-Xi view of how the world should be organized: instead of one hegemon (the US) they call for a ‘multi-polar world’ in which the major countries, each with its sphere of influence, cooperate to meet international challenges and maintain peace. Clearly, the US fears that were its people to hear about this worldview, they would approve it, hence the need claim that Russia simply wants to take America’s place on the throne. 
Havana Book Fair, 2011, La Cabana Spanish Fort, Havana

“Russia’s renewed activism isn’t about dictating events in particular corners of the world.” In the new abracadabra, “it is about exploiting opportunities to undermine and hollow out the US-led international order, with its norms of economic openness, democratic accountability and the rule of law”.
Even the least informed Americans are likely to find the latter part of that sentence highly questionable, not to mention the rest of the world.

P.S  Robin Wright today in “American leadership in the world—how do I phrase this, it’s so obvious, but apparently not to him—is critical to our success." 

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