Day by day, the chorus of voices falsely warning of Russian “aggression” grows louder and more belligerent: Devious Russia hacked the U.S. presidential elections. Imperialist Russia took over Crimea. Manipulative Russia is behind the fighting in Donbass. Aggressive Russia is threatening Eastern Europe. Terrifying Russia is now “our” biggest foreign enemy.
Even many otherwise clear-headed progressives are affected by the propaganda coming from the Democratic Party and the mass media. Let’s step back a moment from the rhetoric and look at the entire picture to see who the aggressor here really is.
Presidents come and go; the interests of the 1% remain the same
The U.S. ruling class, including the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties, is united in its belief that any country not firmly under U.S. control represents a threat to its economic interests. Whether it’s Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia or any other country that does not bend its knees before the American Empire, all are potential targets for hostility, sanctions, covert interventions, internal disruptions or outright military attack. And maintaining that Empire with an unprecedentedly gigantic military in turn feeds the massive profits of the military-industrial complex, itself a key component of the U.S. ruling class.
The Democratic Party, having lost control of both houses of Congress and now the White House, is desperate to regain credibility before the 2018 mid-term elections. The Democrats see the massive anti-Trump protests – which rose up independently of them – as both a threat and an opportunity. One way to gain control over this emerging mass movement would be to redirect its anger into hostility against Russia, blaming that country for Trump’s victory, instead of the Democrats’ own bankrupt politics. Blaming Russia also serves to further ratchet up the ongoing anti-Russian propaganda promoted by both the Democratic and Republican parties.
WHO REALLY INTERFERED IN THE U.S. ELECTION?
The Democrats and much of the mass media are charging that Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election swung the election to Donald Trump, whom Russia may see as less openly hostile than his predecessors from both major parties.
The specific charge – by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Democratic Party and even some Republicans – is that Russian hackers, acting under the direction of the Russian government, hacked into emails of officials of the Democratic National Committee and passed them along to Wikileaks, which then released them. No real proof of the alleged Kremlin connection was ever made public, but the charge was repeated so often that it’s been generally accepted.
We even have some progressives quoting the CIA as an authoritative source for these unproven charges. The CIA! The same secret organization that gave us weapons of mass destruction, ties to al-Qaeda and plans to build a nuclear bomb as the now-discredited justifications for the 2003 U.S. war on Iraq. The same CIA that tried countless times to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, that did assassinate Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba, that has carried out countless covert actions against foreign governments all over the globe, that has propped up right-wing dictators in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, that tortures Middle Easterners in secret renditions sites all over the globe – this CIA is now considered a source for truthful information!
Significantly, little media attention was given to the massive disenfranchisement of Black people through Republican-instigated voter suppression laws and the wholesale disenfranchisement of voters convicted of felonies. Because of the deliberate targeting of African-Americans by the criminal justice system, hundreds of thousands are deprived of voting rights.
Of course, also not mentioned is the fact that the U.S. routinely spies on other countries’ governments, hacks into their email, intervenes in their elections, carries out coups and assassinations and promotes “pro-democracy” movements to foment “regime change.”
The Democrats also have made a great deal out of the fact that, just 11 days before the election, FBI Director James Comey told Congress he was looking into emails possibly connected to Clinton’s private server, reviving the controversy that had already damaged her campaign, and then announcing he was not, after all, reopening that investigation.
Both the Russian hacking charge and the FBI interference controversy helped the Democratic Party divert the public’s attention away from the real reasons Clinton lost the election: her neo-liberal politics, promotion of job-destroying trade deals, subservience to Wall Street and an arrogant, classist attitude toward working people.
NATO, THE SOVIET UNION & RUSSIAN “AGGRESSION”
To get a better idea of the real relationship between the U.S. and Russia, let’s look at the history of NATO.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949 to counter post-World War II Soviet influence in Europe. Its initial 12 members were the United States, Canada and 10 Western and Northern European countries. In response – six years later – the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies formed the eight-member Warsaw Pact. With the 1991 collapse of the U.S.S.R., the pro-Soviet alliance disbanded. NATO, on the other hand, has greatly expanded – to the East, toward Russia.
At the time of the Soviet collapse, the U.S. promised that NATO would not try to incorporate former Soviet states or their former allies in Eastern Europe. That promise was ignored. Today NATO includes as member states the former Soviet bloc countries of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, bringing NATO membership to a total of 29 countries.
NATO’s military expansion was greatly accelerated at the 2016 NATO Summit held in Warsaw, Poland, where announcements were made about stationing many more thousands of NATO troops in Eastern European countries, much larger NATO military exercises in the region and greater combined military spending. There also was a recommitment to build a European “missile shield defense system.” Originally promoted as a counter to a claimed Iranian missile threat, that excuse evaporated with the P5+1 nuclear accord with Iran, leaving the system’s real purpose exposed: developing a first-strike capability against Russia.
Also prominent on the Summit agenda was Ukraine, with President Barack Obama meeting with that country’s president. Ukraine, which holds “partner” status with NATO, has a 1,282-mile-long land and sea border with Russia and so has special strategic importance for any conflict between Russia and the U.S./NATO alliance.
“We’re moving forward with the most significant reinforcement of our common defense at any time since the Cold War,” U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters.
WHO IS THE REAL AGGRESSOR?
Of course, all this is explained as defensive moves to counter a perceived threat by Russia, a country with a population less than half that of the United States and a military budget less than a tenth of that of the combined NATO block. (The U.S. military budget is greater than the budgets of the world’s next eight biggest military spenders combined, including both Russia and China.)
Besides the hacking issue, the main U.S./NATO charges against Russia are that it has annexed Crimea, formerly part of Ukraine; is allegedly supporting a separatist movement in Ukraine’s Donbass region; and has been conducting aggressive military exercises on its Western border.
What is seldom mentioned is that (1) Crimea was part of Russia for hundreds of years until 1954, when it was administratively transferred from Soviet Russia to Soviet Ukraine; (2) the annexation of Crimea and the fighting in Donbass both took place after the U.S. engineered a violent coup in Ukraine that installed a right-wing, anti-Russian government now headed by President Petro Porochenko, in collaboration with a rising fascist movement; (3) following that coup, Crimea held a referendum and overwhelmingly voted to reunite with Russia; (4) although it is unclear whether the fighting in Donbass is about more local autonomy or complete separation, people there are justifiably nervous about being ruled by a reactionary central government hostile to ethnic Russians, who make up a large part of the population; and (5) the Russian military exercises are taking place on Russian soil, while U.S. and NATO troops are now conducting exercises increasingly close to Russia.
And while the big business media feed us endless stories about Russian “aggression,” little is heard about the government repression and neo-Nazi attacks against democratic forces in Ukraine, including the May 2, 2014, massacre of 46 progressives in the Black Sea city of Odessa or the continuing attacks against the Russian minority in that city. (For information about UNAC’s support for the anti-fascist struggle in Odessa, see www.odessasolidaritycampaign.org.)
NEITHER NATIONALIST-POPULISM NOR NEO-LIBERALISM
None of this is to suggest that the extreme racist nationalist-populism represented by Donald Trump offers any hope for the people of Russia or anywhere else. Trump is a wild card in U.S. politics because he’s a multibillionaire who, unlike most presidents, doesn’t depend on any particular section of the U.S. ruling class for his political survival. In addition to his deep-seated white- and male-supremacist views, his politics are largely driven by personal self-interest. If that self-interest coincides with that of the 1 percent as a whole – such as promoting the fabulously profitable production and sale of fossil fuels, then the ruling class will support his program. Where he seems to create social chaos, as in ordering bans on Muslims and mass deportations of immigrants, the 1 percent may itself be divided.
But when it comes to the U.S. ruling class’ long-term goal of overcoming all real or potential competitors in the world economy, it will be intransigent. The U.S. economic system absolutely requires the endless conquest of new sources of raw materials, cheap labor and captive markets. If it takes war to achieve this, a new enemy will be created to justify the aggression, either specific countries like Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, China and Venezuela, or amorphous concepts like “Islamic extremism.” In addition, engaging in ongoing military action is essential to an economy that heavily depends on massive military spending and huge arms deals.
This is why Trump can say all he wants about preferring better relations with Russia and not supporting NATO (while threatening China, North Korea and Iran), but when his Secretary of Defense (retired) Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis recently traveled to Europe, it was to repeat, not Trumps’ views, but the longstanding principles of U.S. foreign policy of hostility toward Russia and unwavering support for NATO.
WE NEED AN INDEPENDENT PATH!
The U.S. is now actively engaged in wars in at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. As the U.S. and NATO greatly increase their military presence and activity ever closer to Russia, the danger of a new war, by design or miscalculation, is growing. And the danger is greatly multiplied because both sides possess nuclear arsenals.
There is no way out of this situation as long as we stay boxed in between two equally dead-end electoral choices. The only solution is to forge an independent path beyond the racist nationalist-populism of Trump and the pro-war, pro-globalization, neo-liberal policies of the Democratic Party. Now is the time for the people to rise up in our own name, in a mass way, with our own demands, independent of both parties of the bankers and corporate billionaires.
Forging that path is the goal of the national UNAC conference that will be held June 16-18 in Richmond, Virginia: “Stop the Wars at Home & Abroad: Building a Movement Against War, Injustice & Repression!!