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Before Vilifying Russia, U.S. Policy Apologists Might Try Looking in the Mirror

| July 17, 2018

putin trump

Oh well. (White House)

By Norman Solomon

Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” The Sunday headline was in harmony with the tone of U.S. news coverage overall. As for media commentary, the Washington Post was in the dominant groove as it editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”


Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

A bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread that we might not give it a second thought — and that makes it all the more hazardous. After President George W. Bush declared “You’re either with us or against us,” many Americans gradually realized what was wrong with a Manichean view of the world. Such an outlook is even more dangerous today.

Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro – “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).

Countless stories with selective facts are being told that way. But other selectively fact-based stories could also be told to portray the United States as a sinister victimizer and Russia as an angelic victim. Those governments and their conformist media outlets are relentless in telling it either way. As the great journalist I.F. Stone observed long ago, “All governments lie, and nothing they say should be believed.” In other words: don’t trust, verify.

Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas — in contrast to Russia’s nine.

For human survival on this planet, an overarching truth appears in an open letter published last week by The Nation magazine: “No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false.”

The initial 26 signers of the open letter – “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security” — included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson, political analyst Noam Chomsky, former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame, activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II, filmmaker Michael Moore, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR Jack F. Matlock Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former senator Adlai Stevenson III, and former longtime House Armed Services Committee member Patricia Schroeder. (I was also one of the initial signers.)

Since its release five days ago, the open letter has gained support from a petitionalready signed by 30,000 people. The petition campaign aims to amplify the call for protecting the digital infrastructure of the electoral process that is now “vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere” — and for taking “concrete steps… to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.”

commondreamsWe need a major shift in the U.S. approach toward Russia. Clearly the needed shift won’t be initiated by the Republican or Democratic leaders in Congress; it must come from Americans who make their voices heard. The lives — and even existence — of future generations are at stake in the relationship between Washington and Moscow.

Many of the petition’s grassroots signers have posted comments along with their names. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • From Nevada: “We all share the same planet! We better learn how to do it safely or face the consequences of blowing ourselves up!”
  • From New Mexico: “The earth will not survive a nuclear war. The weapons we have today are able to cause much more destruction than those of previous eras. We must find a way to common ground.”
  • From Massachusetts: “It is imperative that we take steps to protect the sanctity of our elections and to prevent nuclear war anywhere on the earth.”
  • From Kentucky: “Secure elections are a fundamental part of a democratic system. But this could become meaningless in the event of thermonuclear war.”
  • From California: “There is only madness and hubris in talk of belligerence toward others, especially when we have such dangerous weapons and human error has almost led to our annihilation already more than once in the past half-century.”

Yet a wide array of media outlets, notably the “Russiagate”-obsessed network MSNBC, keeps egging on progressives to climb toward peaks of anti-Russian jingoism. The line of march is often in virtual lockstep with GOP hyper-hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The incessant drumbeat is in sync with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”

Meanwhile, as Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.”

norman solomonNorman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State“.

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12 Responses for “Before Vilifying Russia, U.S. Policy Apologists Might Try Looking in the Mirror”

  1. Pogo says:

    @Norman Solomon

    It’s damn shame president Nader and president Stein are already forgotten – they accomplished so much.

  2. Edith Campins says:

    The article totally misses the point. No one is saying we need to be aggressive towards Russia. What we don’t need to do is fawn over a dictator, belive his lies over our own inteligence agencies facts, have secret meetings and lavish praise on a country that has never had our best interest at heart.

  3. Will says:

    If anyone thinks the President is fawning over Russia, they must be in the Trump hating class. The president has been tougher on Russia than any of the last three presidents. Our president is also a business man. He knows that you can’t berate your opponent on the world stage and then expect him to work with you to promote a peaceful world. This article is one of the fairest presentations printed by the media in a long time.

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    BUT. . . Berating the leaders of our long time allies like the UK. . . that is OK? Really?

    Believing a dictator who is a war criminal and who has journalists assassinated, over our own intelligence agencies. . . that is OK? Really?

    You don’t have to look far to find long lists of Putin’s crimes. . . that is if actual “FACTS” mean anything at all to trump supporters:

    https://www.politico.eu/article/vladimir-putin-war-criminal-inhumanity-syria/
    http://uk.businessinsider.com/list-of-people-putin-is-suspected-of-assassinating-2016-3?international=true&r=UK&IR=T
    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/23/how-organised-crime-took-over-russia-vory-super-mafia

  5. Anonymous says:

    How soon we forget. Both World War 1 & 2 were started by our “current NATO ally Germany”, who caused 10’s of millions of people’s deaths worldwide and was our sworn enemy for most of the first half of the 20th century. In the Second World War, if it were not for our {then} ally Russia helping to defeat the axis powers, the whole world would be speaking German. If you think Trump or Putin are pushy, you better study up on the German Nazi fascist a little bit. Russia was a communist country at the time; just like now. Communism/Socialism and Capitalism are direct opposites and therefore will always be at odds about that, but today the consequences of a clash of these two philosophies with each nation’s mighty military Nuclear powers could be world ending. We can live in peace with the Russians if we understand they want their Sovereignty just like most Americans do. I feel the reason Russia was trying to fix our elections by spying on the Democrats and Hillary Clinton, was because she and her last several Presidential predecessors were for “Globalization” otherwise known as “The New World Order”. Trump does not seem to be in favor of Globalization. Russia will never tolerate being a part in globalization and felt like they would be forced into a one world government. I believe they were trying to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president and to keep her from pushing the United States further into Globalization and isolating Russia further to form a One World Order; the stated goal of which is no borders and one government that encompasses the Whole Globe-“Every Nation”.
    Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am no fan of Russia or its brand of communism/socialism. The stated goal of communism/Socialism is to convert the world to live under their communist/Socialistic philosophy, just as it is the goal of many religions to spread their beliefs to every person on Earth. The Globalists are far more imperialistic and more dominating than any religion or philosophy that I’m aware of other than the German’s Nazis 3rd Reich that rose to power and started World War 2. The German NAZIS did their best to take over the world with sheer force and blood thirsty brutality. The Russians however are also applying pressure to the European countries in the European Union by basically herding the Syrians fleeing the civil war in Syria, into Western European countries, and this is putting a tremendous strain on these governments’ economies to provide food, clothing, medical care, and housing for these displaced people. That of course reduces the amount of money these countries can spend on their NATO defense which was a point of contention at the last NATO meeting. These same countries have agreed to implementing Globalization principles. Whether this is by design by Putin and the Russian government, it is definitely in Russia’s favor if war were to break out with NATO forces weakened because the NATO countries would not or could not pay their allotment of 2% of GDP {I believe} to the NATO defense.

  6. Edith Campins says:

    @Will, really? Did he impose sacnctions? Did he criticize him for hacking our country?
    As far as I can tell he has denied the findings of 11 of our natonal security agencies, one congressional investigation, the Speaker of the House, many from his own political party and the opinion of the majority of Americans. Oh, and the indictment of 12 Russians just announced by his appointed, Republican, Deputy Attorney General.
    Do you think, even for a second, that Putin would not do anything in his power to have control over our country?

  7. Pogo says:

    @Norman Solomon

    Congratulations on winning the hearts and minds of the Republican Sons of the Confederacy, KKK, John Birch Society, and Christian Taliban. They get what you said, or so they think. You’re not going to correct their mangled and truncated recall of history and/or misunderstanding of your words. That’s too bad

    The disaster of trump came to pass because of seventy thousand votes spread over three states, and before that – the catastrophe of bush was caused by an even smaller number. Twenty years of unending war for oil, war on the working poor, war on consumers, war on the free press, scapegoating of refugees and immigrants, etc, because of people who pissed away their vote on a protest. They made all the difference and accept none of the blame.

    To you and yours, thanks for nothing.

  8. Agkistrodon says:

    If my memory suits me correctly Obama and his Admin was meddling pretty heavily in an election in Israel, among other countries……….Am I wrong?

  9. will says:

    Edith,
    The President did impose sanctions, and criticized the Russians for hacking. His objective in that meeting was to develop dialog with his advisory to try to ease world tensions, not to start world war III.

  10. Trailer Bob says:

    Nukes are not weapons of war…they are intended for total elimination of mankind.
    As for Russia, they are no different than most countries, including the US. Time for world leaders to grow up and learn how to play. If it were up to the people all countries would get along.

  11. Sherry says:

    It would be interesting to know Mr. Solomon’s opinion on the strident way Israel is behaving towards its neighbors.

    Our next war will likely be a “Cyber” cold war, or a “hot” war in the form of something like an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse). Unfortunately, we are not currently in a good position to defend or recover from either one.

    To alienate our allies and pretend that being a complete sycophant to strong men like Putin and Kim Jung-un is going to create a secure nation for us is nothing short of complete “LUNACY”! Those kinds of thugs and killers NEVER have enough power.

  12. Sherry says:

    Here is how Russia is reporting on trump’s meeting with Putin:

    According to reporter and Russian media analyst Julia Davis, Russia’s state television accused the President of the United States of “licking Putin’s boots” during Monday’s press conference:

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