In his February 23 Register-Star opinion, Michael Saltz examines the current US/Russia/China situation, particularly as it manifests itself in the Ukrainian crisis.
The grounds for my disagreement with his thesis are based on the principle that a well-reasoned argument should be relatively free of subjective bias, which I will define in this case as reasoning not by using a double standard, but by remaining on a single standard. . . This is necessary to give an argument the greatest logical appeal.
Going through a number of points in Mr. Saltz’s essay, each of them uses a double standard. It’s like saying if you do it, it’s bad, but if we do it, it’s ok.
Saltz says: “It has long been known that Putin wanted to rebuild the Soviet empire”. There is no empire like the empire the United States built. Never in the history of the world. Everyone outside the country seems to know this, but hardly anyone inside the country finds it a concern.
He says, speaking of Putin, “…there are many ways to exercise authoritarianism.” One is ignored, the authoritarian character of our own capitalist dictatorship, currently euphemistically, democracy.
Putin’s model of authoritarianism “…is more like ‘The Godfather’ and the Mafia…”. Here, Saltz borrows a characterization from the left (perhaps the right uses it too) of US foreign policy, making double use of the double standard.
Saltz then brings together a few elements on Putin’s authoritarianism: Control of the press. He is right. We have much less control here. But try to find anything in the New York Times or the Washington Post that challenges US imperialism.
Putin directly or indirectly controls the economy. We don’t need a single authoritarian figure for this. We have Wall Street.
Putin eliminates deviant ideas and political opponents. Of course he does, and so do we, like Eugene Debs, like the Black Panthers, like Martin Luther King, Jr. (when he was a problem), like Malcolm X, like the anti-war movement, like Occupy Wall Street, like Edward Snowden, like Chelsea Manning, like Julian Assange, and like all the government whistleblowers Obama has promised to protect.
And now his point on expanding borders directly or indirectly. That of Russia. Not ours, of course. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a deal was struck between the United States and what would become Russia. If Russia agreed to unify Germany, we promised not to extend NATO “an inch to the east”. This is how the agreement – not a formal treaty – was popularly repeated by the left. This was a clear signal that NATO had no intention of profiting from the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe.
NATO is currently made up of 30 countries, 14 of which have joined since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev has since said that the ‘one-inch’ agreement between him and US Secretary of State James Baker was taken out of context and the fact was that NATO’s military structures would not advance on the territory of what was then the German Democratic Republic.
Gorbachev went on to say, without elaborating, that all the many countries that have joined NATO since 1990 were “a violation of the spirit of the declarations and assurances given to us in 1990”. He may have envisioned the coming era as one of East-West security cooperation. The West had other ideas about the Communists.
If Russia has no right to control its border countries, we have even less right to control its border countries. The border countries are important for the security of Russia, not for our security. Cuba could be considered an important country for the security of the United States. Washington’s reaction has been hysterical to the prospect of Russian missiles being moved into Cuba, and rightly so. This is only a reversal of the European situation.
Russia cannot accept the presence of other border countries joining NATO. It is, after all, a military alliance. No surprise then when hysteria sets in, as was the case in Georgia and Ukraine.
Why can’t Moscow just abandon Ukraine, a former Soviet bloc country? No one is asking Washington to let go of the southwestern part of the United States and let it go back to Mexico. And Mexico is not a threat to the security of the United States! Russia and China are declared enemies of Washington.
Now, does Russia have legitimate security concerns, as Putin claims, and is NATO expansion a provocation?
George Kennan, as director of the U.S. State Department’s policy planning team and architect of our Russian “containment” policy, offered this candid assessment in a top secret memo written in 1948. It is included here because it reveals the true nature of America’s worldview:
“Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population… In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relations that will allow us to maintain this position of disparity without positively harming our national security… To do this, we will have to give up all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention should everywhere be focused on our immediate national objectives… We should give up the aspiration to “be loved” or to be regarded as the repository of high international altruism… We should stop talking about vague… unreal objectives such as human rights, higher living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we will have to deal with pure and simple concepts of power. The less then we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
And it’s a moderate conversation. Long, long after, in 1997, he wrote an op-ed, “A Fatal Error,” in The New York Times. It deals with NATO’s new position to expand to Russia’s borders. His view, based on his vast experience and that of others on Russian issues, is that “NATO expansion would be the most fatal mistake of American policy in the entire post-era era. -cold War”. This “…would restore the Cold War atmosphere to East-West relations and push Russian foreign policy in directions we decidedly do not like.”
Like it or not, the United States does not have the moral authority to instruct other countries. We lost that when we cleansed the native population and enslaved our imported black population. We lost it in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But even though our empire is in a state of rapid decline, we still have enough power to take advantage of other countries. And that’s what we did after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Our open hostility to Russia and China has brought them closer together, for together they sense an opportunity to profit from our decline. On February 4, the two leaders issued a long joint statement around the idea that “a trend has emerged towards the redistribution of power in the world”.
They didn’t start the trend. We were doing. We have chosen conflict over cooperation. Co-op might sound pretty good soon.
James Rothenberg of North Chatham writes about US social and foreign policy.