Pindostan’s Russian Problem
Melvin Goodman, Counterpunch, Jan 19 2017
Pindo-Russian relations over the past several years have taken on some of the most familiar aspects of the Cold War. The conventional wisdom is extremely one-side, concluding that Pres Putin is entirely responsible for the setback as a result of his actions in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine and Syria and that the Russian leadership is not trustworthy on any diplomatic or political level. This is a simplistic view. Before there can be any progress in resolving the considerable differences between Moscow and Washington, it is paramount that the Pindosi contribution to the imbroglio is recognized. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union twenty-five years ago, a brace of Pindo presidents, namely Clinton 42, Bush 43 and Obama 44, have taken advantage of Russia’s considerable geopolitical weakness. Clinton 43 was the first to do so with the expansion of NATO, which marked a betrayal of commitments not to do so. In conversations with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, Bush 41 and his Sec State James Baker emphasized that if the Soviets pulled nearly 400,000 military forces out of East Germany, Pindostan would not “leapfrog” over East Germany to assert itself in Eastern Europe. The expansion of NATO was not only strategically flawed, but from the Kremlin’s point of view it was a repudiation of those verbal guarantees.
Clinton expanded NATO by admitting former members of the Warsaw Pact, but Bush 43 went further by bringing in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The Bush 43 administration was even flirting with membership for Georgia and Ukraine, until Merkel convinced Bush that such a move would violate a “red line” that Putin had clearly established. Washington’s manipulation of Georgia had a great deal to do with the short war fought between Russia and Georgia in the summer of 2008. Bush 43’s abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the cornerstone of strategic deterrence and the arms control relationship between Russia and Pindostan, was another example of Pindostan taking unnecessary advantage of Moscow’s geostrategic weakness. The ABM Treaty was abrogated in order to clear the way for a nationwide missile defense in California and Alaska, as well as the deployment of a regional missile defense in Eastern Europe, which the Obama administration unwisely strengthened. The explanation that the Bush 43 and Obama 44 administrations offered, that the regional missile defense was needed against a possible attack from Iran, made especially little sense in the wake of the Iranian nuclear accord that Russia fully supported.
Putin’s claims of Pindo interference in the parliamentary elections in Russia in 2011, as well as in the political upheaval in Ukraine in 2013-2014, are too easy dismissed in Pindostan, particularly in the mainstream media. Putin supported NATO’s actions in Libya in 2011, because he had “guarantees” that military intervention was needed to prevent a humanitarian nightmare and was not intended to promote regime change. Sec State Hillary Clinton’s self-aggrandizing claim, “we came, we saw, he died,” put the lie to Pindo importuning. The Obama administration promised a “reset” in relations with Russia, but there was no effort to institutionalize bilateral relations and in a visit to Poland in 2011, Obama announced the first steps in basing Pindo fighter aircraft in Poland, one more “leapfrog” measure. Obama also unnecessarily personalized the confrontation with Putin, and allowed Sec Def Ashtray Carter to stop high-level discussions between the DoD and the Russian Defense Ministry. Trump now has an opportunity to move Pindo-Russian relations off of dead center. He cannot ignore areas of controversy, including the unconscionable cyber-intrusions into Pindo political websites (sic – RB), as well as Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria. At the same time, there are many issues of mutual interest that require diplomatic and political coordination, including strategic disarmament, nuclear proliferation, and international terrorism. Pindo-Russian cooperation on the Iran nuclear agreement could be replicated elsewhere. Any cooperative arrangement dealing with the North Korea nuclear program would be facilitated by having Faschingstein and Moscow on the same page.