On August 8 the former Acting Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Morell, appeared on the popular Charlie Rose TV talk show, having said, three days before, in a New York Times OpEd piece, that «I ran the CIA. Now I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton». He wrote that she would be a «highly qualified commander in chief» and a «strong proponent of a more aggressive approach» concerning US support of rebels in Syria. It is obvious he wants a job in the Clinton Administration that is almost certain to be in power next January.
Charlie Rose asked Morell what should be done about Syria and Iran, and was told that «we need to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria. We need to make the Russians pay a price in Syria». This was a surprising statement, so Rose asked if «we make them pay the price by killing Russians?» to which Morell replied «Yeah».
Rose then inquired if Morell would also recommend the killing of Iranians and received the astonishing response that, yes, he would, and that «You don’t tell the world about it. But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran».
This is an intriguing glimpse into the CIA’s values and methods, but the illuminating feature of the interview is that Hillary Clinton has not attempted to assure the world that he was not speaking for her. And the more certain she is of becoming president, the less likely it is that we can expect any such stricture. Last year, for example, she said that Washington should give Kiev more money and provide «new equipment, new training for the Ukrainians,» and this still seems to be her line, which is disturbing, as is her stance on Russia – or such of that policy as she is prepared to divulge.
Two years ago the Washington Post noted one indication of her feelings when it reported her saying that «Putin’s campaign to provide Russian passports to those with Russian connections living outside his country’s borders is reminiscent of Hitler’s protection of ethnic Germans outside Germany». She warned of a Russian invasion of its neighbours on the grounds that «the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that’s what's gotten everybody so nervous».
Time magazine reported her as pushing for sanctions against Russia on the grounds that «I think you’ll see a lot of other countries either directly facing Russian aggression or suborned with their political systems so that they are so intimidated that in effect they are transformed into vassals, not sovereign democracies». She considers there is a «clash of values» between Russia and America, and she is right – but not in the way she thinks she’s right, because the ethos in Washington is that the US is and must remain «the one indispensable nation in world affairs».
The arrogance of that pronouncement is one of the main reasons for so much of the world regarding the United States as a patronising and intolerant self-appointed commandant that demands obedience without question. And nobody likes that sort of approach. Indeed, it creates much more resentment than respect, and encourages what is known as «blow-back» – production of exactly the opposite effect it is intended to have.
As I’ve written before, we may find it difficult to believe the content of a speech by US President George W Bush in November 2001 when he met with President Putin in Texas and, among other things, declared that «a lot of people never really dreamt that an American president and a Russian president could have established the friendship that we [have]. When I was in high school, Russia was an enemy. Now the high school students can know Russia as a friend, that we’re working together to break the old ties, to establish a new spirit of cooperation and trust so that we can work together to make the world more peaceful». How encouraging that was.
But the Pentagon and its arms industry didn’t and don’t want cooperation and peace. The State Department was willingly enlisted in the subsequent movement to confront enemies, both extant and illusory. So Russia became and remains an imagined enemy, although all that Russia wants is to trade with its neighbours and the wider world, while desiring equable treatment for Russian-cultured, Russian-speaking residents of adjacent countries.
But, as the Christian Bible has it «Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall». The «one indispensable nation» might be taking on more than it can cope with, if it continues its belligerent provocation.
In a new development the Washington Post, that droll but quite influential supporter of Washington’s policies, lamented that «in their zeal to portray Donald Trump as a dangerous threat to national security, the Clinton campaign has taken a starkly anti-Russian stance, one that completes a total role reversal for the two major American parties on US-Russian relations that Hillary Clinton will now be committed to, if she becomes president».
Hillary is heading for more malignant confrontation with Russia, while the British government seems to have realised that spiteful aggression is not prudent.
Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, is a pragmatic and sensible person, and her accession to the appointment was about the only positive and encouraging outcome of the UK’s vote to leave Europe. She demonstrated her astuteness and grasp of world affairs by contacting President Putin on August 10 to try to improve relations, and even the virulently anti-Russian Daily Telegraph had to report that «the prime minister noted the importance of the relationship between the UK and Russia and expressed the hope that, despite differences on certain issues, they could communicate in an open and honest way about the issues that mattered most to them».
Although it is distasteful for the Telegraph to report moderation and common sense in any approach to Russia, there is no doubt that Theresa May’s initiative was appreciated in Moscow and will result in movement towards a more balanced and functional relationship. The world cannot but benefit from rapprochement between nations, and even Mrs May’s foreign secretary, the erratic Boris Johnson, said (in fact, was ordered to say) that «we need to continue to build a constructive dialogue on issues of mutual concern as well as on points of disagreement».
Come next January we’re going to have President Clinton and Prime Minister May. Confrontation and moderation on opposite sides of the Atlantic. For all our sakes, let’s hope that Mrs May can persuade her counterpart to keep her finger away from the button.