Joffe wrote was carefully calibrated to appeal to those
who hold or have influence over those who hold
the purse strings at the foundations and the think-tanks.
Nowhere is this meticulous attention to the sensibilities
of people with power more evident than in his
recent article in the New York Times.
On the face of it, Joffe was saying something eminently
sensible. If the United States wants to maintain its global
primacy, it should try to do so by leading rather than bullying.
Yet, in his desperate attempt not to give offense to his
patrons, Joffe produced a staggeringly dishonest piece of
writing. He begins with last week’s meeting in Berlin of
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder and their commitment to forge a "strategic
partnership." It was indeed an event of some magnitude
the first step in the possible emergence of a gigantic
European power from the "Atlantic to the Urals,"
in de Gaulle’s famous phrase (one much favored by the Russians).
This is not simply old-fashioned "balance of power"
politics, Joffe correctly warns, whereby "[n]os. 2,
3 and 4…seek to balance against Mr. Big." There is
real resentment at work here. And what is this resentment
all about? The global tyranny of the United States perhaps?
No, apparently, it is directed exclusively at our proposed
Missile Defense System. "Both Europe and Russia intensely
dislike the American missile defense project, and for good
reasons. If it works (which it won’t for many years, if
ever), the ‘Son of Star Wars’ will further magnify American
dominance by devaluing the nuclear arsenals of Russia, China
and Europe. No wonder Mr. Putin and Mr. Schroeder together
trained their guns on the anti-missile bubble in the sky."
is being very calculating here. He knows that the "left-liberal"
foreign policy types he aims to curry favor with do not
think much of the Missile Defense System. The trouble is,
both Bill Clinton and Al Gore also support Missile Defenses.
So Joffe pulls off a piece of legerdemain. He blames everything
on Congress. "Congress has come down a long way from
the days of Senators Arthur Vandenberg and J. William Fulbright.
Now, it is obliviousness with a dollop of yahooism. Why
else would Congress have foisted Star Wars, the Sequel on
President Clinton without looking at the feasibility
(low), the costs (very high) and the toll on American leadership
(soaring)." Europe’s elites as ignorant and
parochial as their American counterparts invariably
blame anything they do not like about the United States
either on "Congress" or on a "know-nothing"
American public. On this issue at least, the elites of the
two Continents are of one mind. Needless to say, neither
Congress nor public opinion has ever had the slightest influence
on US foreign policymaking. Clinton’s apparent blamelessness
for Missile Defenses is analogous to the way he has succeeded
escaping censure for supporting the death penalty. He only
does it for opportunistic reasons. So that’s all right then.
as it happens, is right about the Missile Defense System.
While the project may have made sense during the Cold War,
going ahead with it now would waste resources and antagonize
just about every country under the sun. But German and Russian
resentment at the United States is about a lot more than
the return of SDI. Joffe does not dare to go into this lest
he upset his US patrons. Let’s start with Kosovo. The Germans
were unhappy about being bullied into taking part in last
year’s bombing of Yugoslavia. They were annoyed at the way
their various attempts to negotiate a "ceasefire"
were brusquely dismissed by Washington. The Germans are
unhappy about US plans to build its Embassy right in the
center of Berlin, thereby preventing the public from having
proper access to the Brandenburg Gate. The Germans were
unhappy at the high-handed way in which the Clinton Administration
rejected their choice of IMF head to succeed Michel Camdessus.
The list goes on and on.
grievances go back even further. The Russians were unhappy
about the privatization program, sponsored by Washington,
which led to the widespread looting of the country’s resources.
The Russians were unhappy about the expansion of NATO, pushed
through by the Americans, in flagrant violation of commitments
made at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Russians
are unhappy about NATO’s continuing aggression against their
longtime allies, the Serbs. The Russians were unhappy about
NATO’s use of their former satellites last year to prevent
them from reinforcing their troops in Pristina. They are
unhappy about NATO’s violation of its promise to give them
a zone of occupation in Kosovo. The Russians are unhappy
about the endless criticisms of their actions in Chechnya
even though as they see it they are behaving no differently
from, say, the British in Northern Ireland.
there is the case of media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, arrested
recently for alleged "embezzlement." The Russians,
perfectly understandably, feel insulted when other countries,
following the lead of the United States, assume they have
the right to intrude into the workings of their legal system.
The tirelessly yapping William Safire cries: "Trumped
up charges!" But he has no idea that this is so. When
it comes to Russia, however, for Safire and many others
insult and invective is de rigeur. Clearly there
is a case against Gusinsky. As President Putin pointed out,
Gusinsky "is not accused as a representative of the
press. He is not a journalist but a businessman. He takes
loans all the time from different banks and rarely pays
them back…According to the press, he has already borrowed
a billion dollars. Last week Gusinsky was due to repay 200
million dollars. He didn’t do so. The money was guaranteed
by Gazprom. Yet another time, Gazprom repaid the money for
him in return for shares. Every time Gazprom repays hundreds
of millions for him, he gives shares." These are facts,
which even his supporters do not deny. Whether he did anything
criminal is a matter to be resolved in the Courts, not on
the floor of the US Senate or in the gaseous ravings of
our ignorant hacks.
Russians do not complain about Waco, or the murder of Turks
in Germany, or the record number of prisoners filling up
America’s prison cells. So why do they have to put up with
these self-righteous lectures? Is it any wonder that the
Russians have turned to a nationalist leader who promises
to restore dignity to the nation and to stand up to American
bullying. Needless to say, there is nothing about any of
this in Joffe’s piece. It is much safer to waffle on about
the Missile Defense System. Joffe does not discuss the most
recent example of American high-handedness, as reported
in the New York Times: the proposal to allow Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic to leave office with guarantees
for his safety and savings. It is entirely typical of our
media forever yearning to be a pillar of the State
that their discussion of the removal from power of
an elected leader of a sovereign country should be exclusively
preoccupied with how NATO’s creature, the International
Criminal Tribunal in the Hague would feel about this. The
wishes of the people of Yugoslavia are neither here nor