Delusions die hard. The obsession of American foreign policy after the fall of communism was pro-Western democracy in Russia, and the foreign policy establishment has never forgiven Vladimir Putin for returning Russia to the sort of authoritarian governance it has endured for all but a few brief years of its history.
The obsession is back with Joe Biden – and, with it, the neoconservatives who dominated the failed administration of George W Bush.
For several reasons, President Biden’s March 16 denunciation of Putin as a “killer” without a soul ranks among the dumbest utterances ever by an American leader – and that’s a crowded field. To begin with, heads of state do not insult each other this way, except in wartime.
Secondly, the Biden administration proclaims its concern about competition from China, but American pressure has pushed Russia into a reluctant but resilient alliance with the Middle Kingdom.
Third, Washington will need Moscow’s tacit cooperation to revive the Iran nuclear deal, a key Biden foreign policy objective, and calling Putin out hardly furthers this objective.
Fourth – and most important – Western Europe is determined to improve its relations with Russia. Biden’s outburst will persuade Paris and Berlin that this administration is as loopy as the last one.
The “Russia question” appears to have surfaced in response to a March 16 US intelligence community assessment that “Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy, and the Democratic Party.”
The 15-page public document is fluff. We heard it all before in December 2020, when fifty former intelligence officials denounced news reports of Hunter Biden’s corrupt ties to Ukrainian oligarchs as Russian disinformation.
The New York Post claimed to have gotten hold of a laptop with smoking-gun emails to and from Biden’s son. The voters never were allowed to consider the evidence, because the rest of the media suppressed the report and Twitter blocked reposting of the Post expose. In a December 4 column, I called this the “Treason of the spooks.”
By way of tying up loose ends, the intelligence community has now delivered an “assessment” claiming that “a key element of Moscow’s strategy was its use of people linked to Russian intelligence to launder influence narratives—including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden—through US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump and his administration.”
Those are weasel words. The Post published the text of Hunter Biden emails that, strictly speaking, were “unsubstantiated” to the extent that the geek squad had not proven their provenance and the younger Biden hadn’t owned up to their authenticity. But that does not prove they were false, much less justify employing extraordinary means to suppress the reports.
Apart from Biden’s ABC interview, the nomination of Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs has sent an unmistakable signal to Moscow and, more importantly, to America’s European allies.
In early 2014 Nuland was taped on a cell phone call with America’s ambassador to the Ukraine ordering the composition of the next Ukrainian government after the Maidan coup, in the tone of a colonial viceroy.
Told that there might be some difficulties, Nuland explained that the UN was being enlisted in support and said, “That would be great, I think, and help glue this thing.” She added, “And, you know, fuck the EU.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the time denounced the remark as “unacceptable.” That sort of faux pas normally would rate being assigned a diplomatic mission to the South Pole, but such is Washington’s ideological fervor that Nuland survived and resurfaced.
Nuland is a neoconservative, a former deputy national security adviser to then-vice president Dick Cheney, as well as the spouse of Robert Kagan, one of the most persistent advocates of global transformation via the projection of American power.
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