Relative to the claims of Trump-Russia collusion, or lone Russian government meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the debunked Russiagate hoax hasn’t stopped new efforts to demonize Russia with faulty innuendo. For those of you still believing the hustled Russiagate narratives, kindly provide direct counter replies to Daniel Lazare’s March 20 Strategic Culture Foundation article “Russiagate: The Great Unraveling“, Larry Johnson’s recent commentary “Why is Crowdstrike Confused on Eleven Key Details About the DNC Hack?” and Gareth Porter’s American Conservative piece “U.S. States: We Weren’t Hacked by Russians in 2016” of this past August 16.
The coronavirus pandemic has given Russia bashing a new twist. As was true beforehand, the latest edition of disparaging Russia is short on conclusive supporting facts.
The title of Thomas Rid’s March 16 New York Times article “Can Russia Use the Coronavirus to Sow Discord Among Americans?,” is a tell all, as is his take on (as he puts it) “Russia’s bumbling military spy agency, GRU. It was GRU that was caught red-handed in 2016 meddling in the presidential election.”
Rid’s article diverts to the issue (which he presents as fact) of the USSR and post-Soviet Russia looking to sow ethnic discord in the U.S. – something I partly addressed in my Strategic Culture Foundation article “Getting Real with the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment Realists“, of this past August 21. Besides the example (in that article) of George Kent suggestively seeking to sow ethnic tension in Russia, I’ll add that the Cold War era U.S. government interacted favorably with the anti-Russian Captive Nations Committee, creating Captive Nations Week (an official U.S. holiday), which (as outlined in its program) portrayed Russia and Russians as a negatively exploitative grouping – something that understandably offended anti-Communist Russian Americans and some others having a sense of universal ethics. So there’s no misunderstanding, I don’t dispute that the USSR made propaganda out of ethnic intolerance in the U.S.
Rid doesn’t lay out how Russia can successfully subvert the U.S. relative to the coronavirus pandemic. He comes across as someone who might downplay instances like the U.S. government’s conducting of chemical experiments on the American population. Is that Soviet and/or Russian disinformation?
James Holmes’ March 20 National Interest article “Beware of Pandemic America“, starts off with this tabloid thought: “Note to China and Russia: despite appearances, the time of coronavirus may not be an opportune time for you to chisel away at America’s global standing.” With this take in mind, it’s somewhat ironic to see EU and NATO member Italy, seeking and getting Chinese and Russian assistance to combat the coronavirus.
Does Holmes prefer that Russia and China not assist others in addressing the coronavirus pandemic? China is just now starting to rebound from its bout with the coronavirus. Russia isn’t out of the woods on this challenging health issue. With these factors in place, it doesn’t seem likely that either of these two countries are in an especially improved condition to successfully thwart the U.S.
Holmes’ article references some past historical occurrences which don’t involve Russia or China. His piece ends with a bravado warning about what has happened to some of America’s prior adversaries. Before accepting Holmes’ article, one would think that a realist leaning venue like The National Interest, might ask him to offer examples of where Russia and China might “chisel away at America’s global standing“?
Holmes’ piece is a classic example of not attempting to acknowledge and understand the positions of others being targeted for mischievous behavior, while suggesting that virtue is completely on only one side. When left unchecked, this kind of thinking serves as a recipe for increasing the likelihood of a future conflict. An earnest American red, white and blue patriotism shouldn’t be confused with a rah, rah, red, white and bull skullduggery.
The U.S. remains quite militarily engaged in China’s near abroad, much unlike Beijing’s presence in the Western Hemisphere. With or without the coronavirus, like it or not, China appears destined to achieve greater worldwide influence. For American geo-strategists and some others, managing this likely reality in the peacefully best possible way, seems like the best case scenario.
In the post-Soviet era, Russia has a military position, which (much unlike the Soviet period) primarily concerns itself with its immediate periphery. Moscow’s activity beyond its near abroad is comparatively quite limited, when compared to the U.S. Given its size and geostrategic predicament, Russia’s annual defense expenditure is indicative of a country that’s not so interested in a traditional big power expansion. In military spending, Russia doesn’t rank among the top five nations.
Shifting gears, Isabelle Khurshudyan’s and Simon Denyer’s March 20 Washington Post (WaPo) article “Suspected Russian hackers struck the last Olympics. Tokyo worries it could be next.“, doesn’t conclusively prove that the Russian government has been involved with attempts to undermine the last and next Summer Olympics. The modus operandi of this article is along the lines of the Russiagate narrative. Politically partisan sources are uncritically referenced. Among them is the American sports legal politico, Travis Tygart, whose use of “despicable” is projection on his part. Tygart has repeatedly called for all Russian athletes to be banned from the next Olympics. He’s comparatively lax when it comes to being so heavy handed against others. It’s therefore not inaccurate to view his stance as bigoted.
Its government included, Russia at large embraces the Olympics, thereby making it suspect that there’s an underhandedly concerted effort by that country to ruin the Summer Olympics. Before the announced postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Russian affiliated sports organizations weren’t at the forefront in calling for that stoppage, when compared to a number of non-Russian sports bodies.
The WaPo article at issue makes reference to the attempt to formally ban Russia from the next Summer Olympics. It’s within reason for Russians en masse to oppose that endeavor. Linking that opposition to a Russian attempt to destroy the Olympics altogether is (put mildly) unproven and quite suspect.
Western mass media has generally continued to skew the particulars involved with trying to formally ban Russia from the next Summer Olympics. As an example, a March 12 BBC piece “Tokyo 2020: Maximum of 10 Russian Track and Field Athletes to Compete as Neutrals“, says without any challenge:
“It has also fined the Russian Athletics Federation $10m (£ 7.8m) for breaching anti-doping rules.
Athletes will be banned from Tokyo 2020 if half of that fine isn’t paid by 1 July.
In December, Russia was given a four year ban from all major sports events.”
A number of otherwise pertinent issues aren’t delved into. If the UK were substituted for Russia and with the same circumstances, one suspects that the above linked article would’ve been written much differently.
Why the collective guilt against athletes, if a fine by an organization isn’t paid? How are the athletes by default responsible? Is it because they’re Russian? That’s collective guilt bigotry. In other situations, it’s considered bigoted to collectively caricature a given ethnic and/or national group based on crime statistics, as I’ve previously noted.
Why only have ten Russian track and field athletes compete, if there’re more clean Russians whose performances qualify? In some other instances, quotas against an ethnic and/or national group have led to reasonable claims of discrimination. Shortly after the announced postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Sebastian Coe, the head of track and field’s governing body, said that more than ten Russians might be eligible to participate in that Olympiad’s rescheduled program. He stated this without acknowledging any wrongness on the initially stated quota of ten.
BTW, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), (which has generally exhibited a bias against Russia), that country in 2016 ranks sixth (behind among others) the U.S., France, Australia and Italy in drug related infractions. There doesn’t appear to be any indication that Russia’s sports doping situation has gotten worse since 2016.
The aforementioned BBC piece omits that Russia has appealed the faulty WADA recommendation (to formally ban Russia from the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo) to the CAS (Committee of Arbitration for Sport). This legal body doesn’t have a track record of always agreeing with a prior decision. Hence, it’s not etched in stone that Russia will be officially banned from the next Summer Olympics.
Prior to the worldwide effort to combat the coronavirus endemic, Russia has been formally represented at major sporting events – track and field (AKA athletics) being an exception. If the CAS rules in favor of Russia, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should make sure that competing Russian track and field competitors are officially represented as Russians at the next Summer Olympics.