We now face some of the greatest crises that humanity and the earth have ever seen—global warming, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, mass poverty and constant wars. To ally with a country like Russia to confront such challenges makes all the sense in the world.
Obama himself once talked about “our Sputnik” moment—a reference, of course, to the US’s great strides with our space program, motivated largely by Russia’s own strides before us. Not only did a once-strong Russia propel us to great advances in space travel, and consequently in science, but it is well-known that it also helped shame us into advances in civil rights as well as the creation of the very first human rights institution, the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1918. And, of course, it was a brave and reliable ally in both WWI and WWII.
To shun the Russians now simply makes no sense, and the fact that it is Trump who is pushing a sensible policy towards Russia does not make this policy any less sane. Indeed, I agree wholeheartedly with Russian expert Robert David English, who recently wrote in Foreign Affairs:
Trump has enunciated a clear three-part position on Russia, which contrasts strongly with that of most of the US political elite. First, Trump seeks Moscow’s cooperation on global issues; second, he believes that Washington shares the blame for soured relations; and third, he acknowledges “the right of all nations to put their own interests first,” adding that the United States does “not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.”
The last of these is an essentially realist position, and if coherently implemented could prove a tonic. For 25 years, Republicans and Democrats have acted in ways that look much the same to Moscow. Washington has pursued policies that have ignored Russian interests (and sometimes international law as well) in order to encircle Moscow with military alliances and trade blocs conducive to US interests. It is no wonder that Russia pushes back. The wonder is that the US policy elite doesn’t get this, even as foreign-affairs neophyte Trump apparently does.
In short, Trump’s at-least-stated goal of finding ways to cooperate with Russia (though it is never clear exactly what Trump may truly be thinking or intending) is reasonable on its face and should be welcomed.
Conversely, courting a confrontation with Russia, as I believe large segments of the US government are willing if not eager to do, and as Trump may himself decide to do if he is goaded enough by the media and liberal establishment, who accuse him of being “too soft” on Russia—just as Johnson was goaded into invading Vietnam because he feared being accused of being “too soft” on Communism—is the height of folly. This not only risks a nuclear conflagration, but it will certainly serve as justification for the US’s continued military expenditures and expansion, both of which are undermining the real security of the United States as well as the lives of thousands of innocents abroad.
As I tried to detail above, though not exhaustively, we have been lied and misled into nearly every war we have been involved in—by both the government and by the press which seems to be captured by it—and the results of these wars, if not the aims, have been the opposite of what we were told they were.
The war in Vietnam, for example, was not about defending democracy, but about destroying it. The War on Terror quickly morphed into something else which actually spread the very terror, and from the very sources (e.g., Saudi Arabia), which we claimed to be fighting. The War on Drugs has done as much to spread drugs as to combat them. And our “humanitarian interventions” have only undermined the human rights and well-being of the peoples for whom we claimed to be fighting.
Meanwhile, the US, in the name of freedom and democracy, has fought against nearly every war of liberation waged by the peoples of the Third World, and has many times partnered with right-wing fascist forces, including in Ukraine at the present. And up until 1991, the US has justified such reactionary wars based on claims (usually exaggerated if not absolutely false) that the USSR was somehow behind these indigenous struggles for self-determination.
The current demonization of Russia will be used, and is indeed currently being used in such theaters as Ukraine and Syria, for similar purposes—to justify unjust wars that destroy the lives of poor people abroad; to sacrifice the lives of our poor, who are largely recruited into the armed forces for economic reasons; to deplete this country’s rich resources on the continued build-up of our over-bloated military to the detriment of much-needed infrastructure and social spending; and to greatly increase our carbon footprint.
While the Democrats see the Russia-bating as a way to get rid of Trump, either through impeachment, or in the next election, they must realize that this is a short-sighted gamble that is both unlikely to succeed, and that will do much harm to international relations even if it does. They would be better to focus on principled fights over health care, infrastructure improvement, jobs, a living wage, and ratcheting down our reliance on the military, rather than pursuing this short-end game.
Even as I write this, President Trump is proposing a massive increase in the military budget, while also proposing to slash federal jobs and social benefits. He is also doubling down on the US’s involvement in the slaughter in Yemen and upping the US’s aggressive posture towards Iran and North Korea. This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing, and this must be resisted.
Sadly, those who used to resist such things (liberals, for lack of a better term), have become so inured to ridiculous military spending and adventures when “their guy” is in power that they won’t even resist such things when a Republican is in power. There is nearly no debate in this society about war and peace—one of the most profound and pressing issues a society must grapple with—and that is one of the greatest tragedies that I can see. The liberal Russia bashing only further precludes such discussion.
In the end, it is important for American citizens, both liberal and conservative, to stand against such madness, and to stand for a foreign policy based upon reason and facts. Confrontation with Russia is justified by neither of these.