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Bronner writes: "Russia is no longer the country of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost, just as the United States is no longer the country of Obama."

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. (photo: CNN)
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. (photo: CNN)

Trump and the Russians

By Stephen Eric Bronner, Reader Supported News

13 July 17


onald Trump’s presidency and the legitimacy of American elections have both been compromised by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Hacking in 21 states by Russian nationals (using diplomatic cover) and attempted interference by the former Soviet Union in French and German elections facilitate the vision of a broad strategy with the goal of subverting Western democratic processes. Coupled with Russia’s increasing military involvement in Syria and the still potentially explosive conflict in Ukraine, deep-seated fears are reinforcing the emergence of a new cold-war mentality in the United States.

Whether the actual misconduct of Trump’s team has been exaggerated or not, which has been suggested by some legitimate publications, post-communist anti-communism now increasingly serves as a point of reference for foreign policy. That is not only the case for neo-conservative Republicans fearful of an erratic Trump like Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain, who demand a more “muscular” foreign policy. It is also true for liberal hawks like Hillary Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer. The Democratic Party’s preoccupation with leveling tougher sanctions against Russia and taking a hard line on Putin’s policies in Ukraine and the Middle East is intimately connected with exploiting the scandals of the Trump administration, denying the party’s stunning electoral defeat in 2016, and creating the enemy that the national security state needs.

Russia is no longer the country of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost, just as the United States is no longer the country of Obama. Putin is not some innocent enmeshed in the media uproar over hacking and alleged attempts to buy political influence. That response is disingenuous. The idea that Russia would never attempt a cyber-attack on American electoral institutions is as absurd as the idea that the United States would not (or has not) done exactly the same thing in Iran and elsewhere. There is also a way in which the American and Russian presidents are mirror images of one another. The presidents of both states seem intent upon uncovering non-existent conspiracies, attacking “fake news,” aligning with genocidal dictators, and pursuing the dream of making their country “great again.”

Character bleeds into politics. Untrammeled egoism is the tie that binds Trump and Putin, and there is danger in what Freud termed “the narcissism of small differences.” Each believes that he can outwit the other, yet exhibits a peculiar form of comradeship combined with neurotic feelings of inferiority that fuel potentially catastrophic forms of competition between them. Their relationship is strangely reminiscent of that between the two fascist leaders Hynkel and Napoloni in Charlie Chaplin’s unsurpassable The Great Dictator (1940). Indeed, Trump and Putin both identify national interests with their own.

Meaningful foreign policy initiatives call for breaking that supposed connection. Russia is neither a “friend” nor an “enemy.” The choice is not simply between Trump and his critics. There is another alternative. American foreign policy should treat Russia in a professional rather than an ad hoc emotional manner: coldly on some matters (electoral intervention anywhere), warily on others (Ukraine and Crimea), and with the prospect of cooperation on still others (Afghanistan and Syria, Iran, and the fight against ISIS).

The Manichean idea of being “friends” or “enemies” is not only simplistic, and an old song for a new time, but obscures the need for nuance in judging conflicts of interest. Neither the United States nor Russia currently has much to recommend it with regard to respect for human rights or national self-determination. Those are the concerns that should guide progressive judgments, not blind allegiance to one side or the other. Meaningful foreign policy initiatives require nuance and nuance requires distinctions. Not photo-ops but sustained negotiations on developing a differentiated agenda are necessary. Since the election of Donald Trump, however, we have witnessed much of the former and little of the latter. That is what needs to change.

Stephen Eric Bronner is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. His most recent books are The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists and The Bitter Taste of Hope: Ideals, Ideologies, and Interests in the Age of Obama your social media marketing partner


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+13 # dbrize 2017-07-13 16:13
One of the most thoughtful and intellectually honest presentations seen on RSN.

How welcome is rational discourse. More of this would benefit we all.
0 # treerapper 2017-07-15 05:16
+1 # dbrize 2017-07-15 17:02
Quoting treerapper:

I said "rational discourse". Your screaming does not represent a good example.
+24 # elizabethblock 2017-07-13 17:22
"the enemy that the national security state needs" -- Exactly.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-13 19:50
Why is the first paragraph stated as a matter of fact when all of its statement are claims and most of them are very dubious at best?

This is how propaganda works - - you tell lies often and long enough and soon careless people will take them as truth and speak them as truths.

So far there is absolutely no proof for any of the claims Bronner makes. Some of the claims like the ones about Russia meddling in elections in France and Germany have been denied by both countries.

And why call Russia "the former Soviet Union." Is he trying to evoke certain memories? And why say "Russia is no longer the country of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost." Russia was never the country of these public relations terms. Those terms meant more to Americans than they ever did to Russians.

Oh well.
+7 # 2017-07-14 08:41
Rodion, I agree with you. Why the negative marks? As an American I refuse to be identified/tarr ed by the actions and ideologies of our leaders any more than as a Hungarian I would want to be tarred by the antics of Viktor Orbán. My Russian friends have the same right of refusal.
That said, I agree with the rest of article's thoughtful analysis.
Oh well, indeed.
+9 # Texas Aggie 2017-07-13 19:52
A very good analysis, one that is sadly lacking since drumpf got in. It seems that the conservatives don't understand the concept of nuance.
+7 # sbessho 2017-07-13 20:00
Hear, hear! The is, no doubt, a way to truly work together toward more humanitarian goals than destroying this or containing that. But working together necessitates seeing each other clearly, not through the filter of intrigue and dissemblance that currently clouds our views of each other.
+19 # ericlipps 2017-07-13 20:05
It's quite true that Russia is neither a "friend" nor an "enemy" of the United sates at this point in history. And this has important implications.

First, to those who accuse Donald Trump of treason for colluding with Moscow to tamper with last year's presidential election: even if such collusion occurred, a treason charge won't stick unless it is established that Russia is definitely an enemy power. (Read the constitutional definition of treason.)

Second, to those who think Russia is America's friend and it's only those evil Clinton-loving warhawks who didn't line up with Bernie Sanders who say otherwise, wake up and smell the vodka. The Putin government is perfectly willing to use Mr. Ego (that is, Trump) as a tool to get what Moscow wants, while Mr. Trump is willing to treat Russia as either friend or enemy depending on which choice better serves his personal interests at any given time. (America's interests come second.) Whatever that is, it isn't friendship.
+5 # futhark 2017-07-14 04:34
Great analysis ericlipps. Putin is very much a pragmatist and his goal is to achieve a Russia with a robust economy and is a nation respected in international affairs. Trump must be a dodo not to have any apparent clue as to how he is being manipulated by Putin. Russia is not America's enemy or friend but rather a determined and capable competitor for wealth and influence. American foreign policy should be designed to account for this.
+1 # moonrigger 2017-07-14 10:23
Putin's goal is achieving a robust economy? What have you been smoking, anyway? Putin and his fellow oligarchs have ransacked Russia's treasure for decades, and have been parking and laundering their filthy lucre in offshore accounts, and real estate deals with Trump and his ilk. They benefit both ways, and the kicker is that they've got Trump and Co. by the short and curlies, willing to sell us out as long as he doesn't have to work too hard at it.
+8 # tedrey 2017-07-13 20:11
But who profits from the raising of cold war antipathies in this post cold-war world. Surely not Russia! And not the majority of struggling nations either, nor the lower and middle-class citizens of the leading ones. It is the steady push for dominance by the owners of the US that is the major source of danger at present, the more so in that they begin to sense that they are likely to lose their eminence.
+14 # LandLady 2017-07-14 08:14
I heartily agree with Rodon R. above,and would add that the U.S. started the problems in Ukraine by fomenting a coup there - in 2013 I think - and that led to Russia taking defensive action in Crimea, where it has long had a large naval base. Read consortiumnews. com on these if you prefer facts to propaganda.
+10 # Dale 2017-07-14 10:00
The source of the problem is the Democratic insistence that Russia interfered in the American elections in favor of Trump. This stance conveniently ignored that the United States had for decades, not just interfered with elections in other countries, but actively engaged in regime change and war to force a country into submission to the imperial vision. But both intransigent Republicans and corporate Democrats see no contradiction in this stance. They accept that the NSA monitors communications of friend and foe alike, and the CIA acts on that intelligence. Without any serious examination of why they lost the election, the Democrats screamed our enemies the Reds are sabotaging our honest and fair elections. Despite his intransigent character Trump caved and acted to end establishing better relations with the Russians. Aligned with Clinton, the elites of the Democratic Party needed to change the subject. Clear assessments of the national ticket’s failures were hazardous to the status quo within the party. So were the groundswells of opposition to unfair economic privilege. So were the grass-roots pressures for the party to become a genuine force for challenging big banks, Wall Street and overall corporate power.

In short, the Democratic Party’s anti-Bernie establishment needed to reframe the discourse in a hurry. And—in tandem with mass media—it did. BLAME RUSSIA.
0 # tedrey 2017-07-16 05:17
This is very clearly laid out, and i believe represents an honest assessment of the actual situation.
0 # MikeAF48 2017-07-15 20:51
Documentary Watch: Dutch Film "The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump": connecting the dots on Trumps ties with the Russian mob. on godot.

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