Reality Check Needed On Capitol Hill, Regarding US-Russian Relations
Michael AVERKO | 31.01.2017 | OPINION

Reality Check Needed On Capitol Hill, Regarding US-Russian Relations

A good example of US foreign policy establishment realism was evident at the January 27 Center For The National Interest (CFTNI) panel discussion on US-Russian relations.

At this gathering, former George W Bush administration officials George Beebe and Paul Saunders, suggest a Capitol Hill limit in discussing Russia related issues. Saunders negatively referenced the McCarthy era period, relative to how some in the present day US disparage individuals, second guessing much of the negative commentary on Russia.  

Besides US foreign policy establishment realists, this panel discussion included invited personnel from the neocon/anti-Russian leaning Washington Post and Atlantic Council. At this particular event (unlike some other past CFTNI events), there weren't any folks who spoke from a constructively critical pro-Russian realist position, that has some differences with the US foreign policy establishment realists.  

Saunders' reference to the Russian government funded RT as «propaganda», serves to feed the anti-Russian biases. RT is less propagandistic than the largely US government funded RFE/RL. The Russian TV network in question includes half hour one on one (host to guest) shows with the likes of James Woolsey, Michael O'Hanlon, Kenneth Roth and Dick Pound. These guests get to express themselves without the rude interruptions that CNN hosts Christiane Amanpour and Chris Cuomo engage in when interacting with RT hosts and others thinking similarly. When compared to neocon and neolib leaning perspectives, the pro-Russian perspective gets considerably less time on CNN and other leading US media venues. On the matter of propaganda, Saunders would do a service by noting the numerous propaganda segments on CNN, MSNBC and US mass media at large.

Consistent with his December 16, 2016 National Interest article, Beebe (who has a CIA background) provided a detailed breakdown on the lack of conclusive evidence, concerning the claim that the Russian government had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to benefit Donald Trump. Beebe said that Russia has unrealistically upbeat views of the Trump administration. On that last point, there's good reason to disagree.

Russians at the higher levels of government have a keen sense that the newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump, faces noticeable opposition (from inside and outside his party) to his stated desire to improve US-Russian relations. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, has cautioned to not get too rosy about improved US-Russian ties. Medvedev has been considered to be more agreeable to the Western establishment than Putin. The Russian president's decision to not retaliate against Barack Obama's expulsion of Russian diplomats is premised on a wait and see approach to how US-Russian relations develop with the Trump administration.   

Among US foreign policy establishment realists, there've been limits to confronting the wrongheaded anti-Russian stances. The CFTNI panel supported the continuation of US sanctions against Russia - noting that the state of US-Russian relations isn't good enough for a dramatic change. If not now, when? What can be reasonably expected from the Kremlin?  

Given the existing political climate in Washington, I regretfully concur that it's unrealistic to expect the Trump administration to drop the sanctions on Russia at this point in time. For the purpose of change, gradual steps have to be taken to curtail the skewed mindset at play. In the US, there's a good deal of talk about that nation needing to be inclusive by respecting diversity. Too often, that noble belief seems to be challenged, when it comes to loyal Americans having a constructively critical pro-Russian outlook.

It's highly unrealistic to expect Russia to leave Crimea. The matter of hypocrisy relative to northern Cyprus and Kosovo should be enough to put the lid on actively opposing Crimea's reunification with Russia.

The situation in eastern Ukraine concerns fault lines on the side of the Kiev regime. That entity has been coddled by the West - especially by Canada and the Obama administration. (As one case in point, the appointment of Chrystia Freeland as Canadian foreign minister, is an unnecessarily provocative act against Russia).

Regarding Syria, the Russian government isn't for keeping the US out of the negotiating process. The Kremlin talks to the Syrian government and the rebels without ties to Al Qaeda and ISIS. In contrast, the Obama administration sought to not engage the Syrian government, while being involved with some rebels having ties to terrorists, if not being terrorists themselves. Just how realistic is that?

Appearing on Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, Tom Switzer, has hosted some good segments, including a recent one, involving US political establishment pundit Eleanor Clift and Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University and New York University. From the perspective of good journalism on the subject of Russia: CNN, MSNBC and some others should take note of Switzer - unless of course the preordained aim is to engage in one-sided propaganda.

Clift wasn't convincing in her belief that the reported "evidence" of Russian government involvement in support of Trump during the 2016 US presidential election is clear enough. On Syria, she expressed the subjectively faulty line about the presentation of Russian atrocities. It'd be objectively appropriate for a US political establishment journo to acknowledge that America's distant and more recent past isn't a glowing example of successfully avoiding many civilian deaths, referred to as collateral damage.

Elsewhere, a Trump supporter communicated to me a faulty theme about Putin which has appeared in US mass media. According to that take, Putin's popularity in Russia is predicated on his being confrontational with the US.

Putin is popular because he doesn't take BS from a pragmatic position. At the same time, Putin hasn't gone out of his way to tweak the US in the manner that some erroneously claim.

For their part, the Russian public has leaned towards Trump because he favors improved US-Russian ties, as his main opponent Hillary Clinton got the support of the anti-Russian neocons.

Tags: Russia  US 

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