Starting in July and running to the present day, there have been repeated calls from mainstream media, from leading statesmen and from diplomats, in the United States and in Europe, for some kind of rapprochement with Russia to be put in place. This is remarkable given the continually escalating informational, economic, military confrontation between Russia and the US-led West over the past five years. That confrontation has emerged in two waves of anti-Russian hysteria: the first, after the daring (or brazen) Russian reunification with (or annexation of) Crimea in March 2014, and the second, with still greater momentum towards war, following the November 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency, which was accompanied by allegations of Russian collusion with candidate Trump and other meddling in the U.S. election processes.
Since the United States initiated the New Cold War, it is only fitting that the first steps towards its resolution are coming from there. And it is not in the least surprising that these steps were taken in the aftermath of the April 2019 release of the Mueller Report, which showed that the allegations of Russiagate were without merit or not actionable. Trump’s political enemies were compelled to move on to other issues of contention that would serve better in the next presidential campaign, which is quickly approaching.
That is the context in which I place the fairly amazing editorial of The New York Times dated 21 July 2019 entitled “What’s America’s Winning Hand if Russia Plays the China Card?” The NYT, which along with The Washington Post, had been among the most fervent disseminators of Russiagate theories and of poisonous characterizations of the “Putin regime” now was calling for…re-establishing civilized relations with Russia in order to draw the country back from its growing alliance with China.
Russia’s nationwide elections at the level of local government which took place on September 8 attracted extraordinary attention in Western media, given that, at best, they could be viewed as a very preliminary indication of popular sentiment towards the “Putin regime” midway between the presidential election of 2018 and the next Duma (parliamentary) elections of 2021.
In fact, nearly all Western journalistic attention was focused on the race for the Moscow city legislative council because that is where the so-called “non-systemic opposition” led by anti-corruption activist and one-day presidential hopeful Alexei Navalny had chosen to make a stand against the Kremlin by all means fair and foul.
Navalny and others in the various anti-Putin movements denounced the disqualification of candidacies to the Moscow city council from their own midst by the electoral officials on technical grounds of insufficient numbers of signatures of supporters to qualify or of falsified signatures. Whether or not such disqualification of candidates whose normal level of voter support among the general population of Moscow would have been on the order of one or two percent was justified or arbitrary, the confrontation it sparked between the non-systemic opposition and the government escalated from war of words to successive, unauthorized street demonstrations. Tens of thousands came out to protest in Moscow. Moreover, what began as peaceful demonstrations ended on several days in violent clashes with police that assumed significant political dimensions because of the numbers of participants involved and the allegations of excessive use of force by the authorities.
It has been a long time since Elizabeth McAlister and six other Catholic activists were arrested on April 4, 2018 while engaging in a disarmament action aimed at educating the populace that we are on the eve of nuclear destruction. So it was wonderful to read about her in her hometown newspaper (“Activist with Baltimore roots languishes in Georgia jail,” Sept. 6).
As the author Patrick O’Neill, one of the Kings Bay Plowshares, suggested, many of the younger readers will not be aware of the remarkable work of Ms. McAlister and her husband Philip Berrigan. And that is all the more reason to publish this commentary. Despite the circumstances, being incarcerated in “a miserable Southern jail” since the arrest, Elizabeth, I’m sure, is mentoring the other prisoners.
Moreover, like so many jails across this country, the Glynn County Jail is largely populated by “poor people, the mentally ill and those with addictions.” And rehabilitation is a foreign word.
Tom Wright makes the case that Trump is about to make a “foreign policy pivot”:
Trump wants to write a new chapter, closing the one marked “Militarism and Maximum Pressure” and opening one called “Dealmaking and the Pursuit of the Nobel Peace Prize.” He wants a summit with Iran’s leaders and deals with the Taliban, Kim Jong Un, and Vladimir Putin on arms control. He does not care about most of the details, as long as he gets the credit.
Few of his officials are particularly enthusiastic about this pivot, but led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, they accept it and will seek to shape it.
The pivot metaphor has been used many times during Trump’s presidency to describe an impending change in direction, but the pivots never seem to take place. Like the expectation that Trump will eventually grow and learn while in office, the expectation that the president will become more responsible in his policies is always disappointed. It would make sense for Trump to de-escalate tensions with Iran after creating the current crisis, but I see no evidence that he really intends to do this. Trump absolutely should extend New START, and without Bolton acting as an anti-arms control gremlin he could do this, but there has been no sign of interest in keeping the treaty alive. Trump should conclude negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan, but he just blew up the negotiations earlier this week. Negotiating with Iran requires ending “maximum pressure,” but so far the post-Bolton line from the administration is that “maximum pressure” isn’t going anywhere:
The United State is still pursuing a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday, days after US President Donald Trump’s hard-line national security adviser left the White House.
The last straw that broke Trump’s back with Bolton appears to be the latter’s vehement opposition to any kind of opening toward Iran. Suddenly a French proposal for a way out of the stand-off is being talked about by Trump and Pompeo. Will Trump find a way to ease tensions and open a new chapter with Iran, or will the whole thing fizzle in bluster? On today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:
In a major victory for Antiwar.com, free speech and journalism, a federal appeals court has ruled that the FBI must expunge surveillance memos that agents had drafted about the website’s co-founders Eric Garris and Justin Raimondo in the early years following the 9/11 attacks.
“It’s been a long fight and I’m glad we had an outcome that could might affect future FBI behavior,” said Garris, who runs Antiwar.com, based in the San Francisco Bay area. “I just wish Justin was still here to know that this has happened.”