Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War - The New Yorker (Part 5)
This is the fifth part (of 5 ) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on a recent article posing as journalism in the March 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. I hope to demonstrate that this article is basically a totally mendacious concoction of cold war US propaganda constructed out of unsubstantiated opinions expressed by US government officials and various journalists and others who are hostile to the current Russian government.
I hold that no self respecting journalist would write an article such as this New Yorker piece and palm it off on the public. My commentary is also an object lesson on how to distinguish between reportage that at least attempts to be unbiased and obvious nonobjective propaganda. You will know more about Trump, Putin and the New Cold War from the commentary than you will ever know from the original article.
Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, ... Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, ...
Section Five “Turbulence Theory” This last section contains 16 paragraphs.
1. The Russians were “gleeful” over Clinton’s loss as they saw theTrump victory as upsetting the established political consensus in Washington. [Putin may have felt his ambitions to have normal relations with Washington and the EU and lower the hostile actions of NATO would be possible to achieve. If so, it appears he was mistaken] .
2. The “News of the Week '' anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, revealed how benighted the social consciousness of many in the Russian elite has become since the demise of the Soviet state. Their ambassador to the US has either failed to enlightened them about Trump’s base or he has been ignored, as Kiselyov informed his audience that Trump’s views revealed neither any racism nor sexism, only “a real man” who believed in the family (with three wives to show it), as proved by the fact he doesn’t approve “of protecting the rights of gays and lesbians.” I’m surprised this reactionary commentator even thinks gays and lesbians have rights to protect.
3. The article now does an about face. Having spent four sections insinuating that Putin and the Russians were a major cause of Trump’s victory it declares it’s not so after all. They were factors (even this is unproved) but not “the dominant force.” The most important factor is ‘’resentment.” This sentiment has resulted from “the effects of globalization and deindustrialization.” Resentment has caused the rise of the right in Europe and the US. So, let’s forget about the DNC and the election. The real problem is a paranoid fear that Putin is out to take over the world and Trump lacks the cojones to stop him. We shall see this is not a real fear but is totally concocted as an excuse to try and hold together militarily a teetering world order constructed by the ‘West” after WWII in order to ensure American and European control of the world economy: an order that is unraveling because capitalism cannot regulate itself and is resulting in war, famine, pestilence, and environmental destruction on an apocalyptic scale. The authors assert “many fear that Trump cannot be counted on” to defend the West: he says (or said) nice things about Putin, also about Brexit, and has “doubts” about NATO — oh my, what is the world coming to? If Trump backs away from the usual US stance re NATO and the Russian “Threat” [Russia has been a threat, it seems, since Peter the Great, whatever system it has: feudal, communist, or capitalist] then, we are told by a British ex deputy commander of NATO “it gives Putin all kinds of opportunities.” For example, he might not have to invade the Baltic states to dominate them. [No evidence is presented that Putin has any plans, or even desires, “to invade” the Baltic states but that’s the excuse for NATO’s build up. Would it signal the imminent fall of the West if Trump and Putin agreed to de-escalate the tensions along the Russia border?] The general also says there may be a “re-nationalization “ of Europe if Trump doesn’t stand up for keeping the EU together.
4. An “advisor” to Reagan and Clinton is quoted. The author has a habit of selectively quoting journalists, “advisors,” generals, etc., with whom he happens to agree. He evidently believes it makes his article more credible. He simply ignores equally qualified, or more qualified sources, whose opinions would under cut his viewpoint. He shares this methodology on “fair and balanced” reporting with Fox News. Anyway, the advisor ponders how long Angela Merkel can “hold out against” Trump. She is alone in Europe and Putin will soon be seen as “the preeminent power in Europe.” Germany versus Russia; we’ve been here before. A conservative German news weekly is quoted (“Der Spiegel”) to the effect that Germany must stand up to Trump who is turning into “a danger to the world.” Well that lets Putin off the hook (Russia is a “regional power” remember.)
5. Next up on the New Yorker’s Fantasy Island is the Clinton advisor “Strobe Talbott who really does have an almost apocalyptic vision of what the future portends ( we could have been saved this by HRC!). Talbott thinks that Trump (who had one casual encounter some years ago with Putin) is a “pal” of Putin’s [they have a “perverse pal-ship”] and that Trump has an “almost unfathomable respect” for Putin. Because of this we may have a “second Cold War” [why if they are pals?] and we may lose it! Trump is also putting “the world in danger” because he doesn’t respect [i.e., has called into question NATO and the world wide net of American military bases] the world order established by the “political West “(the US) over the last 70 years. It doesn’t occur to Talbott (or the author) that it is precisely that political world order, sustained by American hegemony, which is beginning to unravel of its own accord by its failure prevent worsening climate change and to provide economic security for hundreds of millions of people because of growing inequality, that is putting “the world in danger.” Trump is a symptom not a cause. Talbott doesn’t see this. He sees that we may lose our position in the world and it will take years, and years to regain it: “we the United States and we the champions of the liberal world order.” We, the liberal order that put Pinochet in power in Chile, killed 5 million Vietnamese peasants in a colonial war, lied and invaded Iraq and virtually destroyed the Middle East in a trumpeted up war, who can’t even properly feed, clothe, house and medically care for our own people properly: we are doomed because Donald Trump suggested he could sit down with Putin and make a “deal.”
6. If Talbott is not enough we are treated to the totally ridiculous musings of one of the corrupt oligarchical Yeltsin regime’s former ministers who has resettled in Washington and who tells us the “same people'' [he means kind of people] are in the Kremlin as in the White House. Trump’s people and Putin’s “like each other and feel that they are alike”. I can just imagine Putin watching Trump and reading his tweets, rubbing his hands together in glee and thinking, “That Trump, he’s just like me!’’ The two groups “ care less for democracy and values, and more for personal success . however that is defined.” That also pretty much describes Yeltsin, Clinton and most politicians; but it’s how “success” is defined that is really important and whether or not your personal success coincides with that of your country and its people or not.
7. The author now decides, towards the end of an article that pounded away on the trope of Russian interference, that maybe it’s not the “master narrative” of Trump’s victory after all. While, he says Russia’s tampering with our election “appears convincing” [to those at any rate who are convinced by hearsay, speculation, bare assertions and the lack of any definite proof] it is nevertheless the case that Trump “is a phenomenon of America’s own making.” In fact, he could have junked all of the previous paragraphs and said all he had to say in these last 10 paragraphs which conclude the article.
8. A long paragraph using McCarthyite guilt by association techniques to suggest that maybe the “phenomenon” is not so American after all. Examples: Putin likes Tillerson types (Trump’s first Secretary of State) as they “don’t talk about human rights.” Trump didn’t make any negative , comments about Russian court cases i.e., Russia’s internal affairs (Putin “controls” the courts) involving charges against an opposition figure charged with fraud (he was convicted after the charge had been overturned by another court — Putin’s “control” of the courts must have slipped up the first time). “The Russians see friendly faces in the Administration.’’ [Why no Gerasamov type frowns? ] Tillerson , when he was CEO of Exxon, had a “close relationship” with the head of the state oil company who is both rich and close to Putin. Michael Flynn was paid a $40,000 fee by “the Russian propaganda station RT” to attend an anniversary celebration dinner (he sat next to Putin). [RT is partially funded by the government as is PBS, is the latter “the American propaganda network”? Is the BBC “the UK propaganda network”? It seems any news outlet subsidized by a “hostile” government is automatically a “propaganda” outlet. Radio Havana: propaganda. Radio Free Cuba: news and entertainment.]
9. Obama, near the very end of his term, expelled 35 Russian officials and closed a couple of Russian diplomatic compounds as a result of the allegations of Russian election hacking. Initially Russia said it would retaliate but later Putin reversed this. During this period Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner had contact with Russia’s ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. Michael Flynn lied to Vice-President Pence about his meeting and had to resign as a result. Obama had placed sanctions against Russia and Flynn is suspected to have had inappropriate conversations with Kisyak. But the reason he was fired was for lying to the Vice-President.
10. Over the years Trump has made contradictory statements regarding Russia and Putin. He has said he has and hasn’t met Putin. Basically it seems this confusion has developed as a result of the 2013 Miss Universe contest which was held in Moscow. Investigations are in progress to sort all this out.
11. By early 2017 US officials had collected multiple examples of contacts between “Russians” and Trump “associates.” What remains to be seen, as a result of the called for investigations, [there is apparently not enough evidence at present to draw any conclusions even though “conclusions” have been drawn all over the place] is if there is any proof “for potential illegal or unethical entanglement with Russian government or business representatives.” [Well, the use of the word “potential” muddies the water as there is always the “potential” for people to collude in improper behavior; the investigations need a stronger resolution such as finding they actually colluded in such behavior. Mixing up governmental activities with private business dealings is also problematic. There is a big difference in working against your own government and engaging in corrupt business practices. Finally, “illegal’’ practices and “unethical” practices should not be lumped together. So far, nothing has been proven!]
12. A question is posed by one of Obama’s top advisors: Celeste Wallander. The question assumes that there will be some proof of Putin’s election hacking. Putin recently stated there can be no proof since he ordered no hacking. The question: “Will Putin expose the failings of American democracy or will he inadvertently expose the strength of American democracy?” [It would have to be inadvertent since it’s difficult to see the strength of a “democracy” in which the person with the lesser number of votes wins and the one with the most votes loses.]
13. It seems the Russians were “stunned” by Trump’s victory. [Who wasn’t?] The authors tell us the “working theory” of the agents involved in the Russian election interference case is that it wasn’t a well thought out plan but it was improvised. [ When all is said and done, I think we will find out it was the US government’s charges of Russian hacking and election tampering that were improvised and not well thought out.]
14. Mr. Trump (and Mr. Putin) learns a lesson. Being a candidate and being a President are qualitatively different. Candidate Trump made comments making it seem as if he really wanted to reset the US relations with Russia and move from an offensive hostile approach towards lessening tensions and more respect and cooperation. In other words he would not act as if the US was the world’s policeman and other countries could like it or lump it. But this would violate the 70 year old “world order” set up by a bipartisan Republican/Democratic foreign policy elite and constructed by the US based on its becoming the only world superpower and whose interests were paramount. The Russians, thinking this was his intention, initially praised his victory over HRC. But the US intelligence community and national security apparatus went to work blowing up a Trump/Russian electoral conspiracy theory that makes it impossible for Trump to fundamentally change the direction of US foreign policy with regard to Russia. The Russians have realized this and “the Kremlin ordered television outlets to be more reserved in their coverage of the new President.”
15. Next we get some totally unreliable hearsay via Konstantin von Eggert who hosts a television show in Russia. He says a friend told him that he saw an “edict” sent to state owned media. The friend told him the edict amounted to “no more Trump.” Von Eggert then explains what the “implicit” meaning of the edict (which he never saw) means; in fact he tells us what “the Kremlin has apparently decided.” [It’s fairly obvious that the author is not too scrupulous with regard to the sources of credible “evidence” of what the “Kremlin” is thinking. So, let’s forget von Eggert’s speculations and simply report that Russian state media has toned down its uncritical coverage of Trump.]
16. The last paragraph ends the article, not with a bang but a whimper. The editor of the anti-Putin “Echo of Moscow”, Alexey Vendiktov, with “deep contacts” in the elite, makes some “suggestions” which the author evidently thinks we should take seriously. Vendiktov suggests that Putin supported Trump because he upset the traditional [cold war] elite in the US with his unconventional foreign policy views. It’s also unclear how important a world power Russia really is — “So, well then we have to create turbulence inside America itself .” [So it all boils down to Putin’s inferiority complex.] The final suggestion is once America “is beset by turbulence” it will close “up on itself — and Russia’s hands are freed.” Freed for what? Our whole problem with Russia is that the US wanted a free hand in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine (it already has one in the Baltic states and East Europe) and our “free hand” resulted in negative discriminatory behavior against the Russian speaking minorities in Georgia and Ukraine who fought back and elicited counter meddling by Russia to our meddling and the same in Syria where Russia intervened to help an ally and to protect its naval base on the Syrian coast. The US wants a free hand to continue its encirclement of Russia with military bases (we are already moving into former Soviet republics in Central Asia) and the sponsorship of anti-Russian governments along Russia’s borders. The New Yorker may support these foreign policy objectives of the US and the New Cold War we are launching but they are naive in the extreme to think publishing disinformation articles such as this will dissuade the Russians from defending their legitimate state interests from the machinations of US superpower hegemony.
This is the end of part five and the last part of this article. From reading part five of The New Yorker Article you will not have learned anything at all about whether or not the Russian government or Putin had anything to do with the "hacking" of the DNC or if they interfered with our elections. In fact, there is nothing in the whole article regarding Putin and the alleged hacking of our election process except innuendo and unproven assertions. And this is The New Yorker! Once upon a time, not that long ago, it was a better and more reliable source of information. Seymour Hersh, where are you?
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.