Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Russia Has Suckered American Conservatives

When I was in college in the late 1970s I studied Russian, along with, coincidentally, my future sister- and brother-in-law, who went to work at the CIA, where they monitored Russian nuclear weapons.

Back then, during the cold war, the Russians projected an image of progressivism. They were the vanguard of social justice. They were for the workers, for women, for minorities.

The Russians claimed to be against sexism -- women could do anything men could. In 1963 they launched Valentina Tereshkova into space, where she logged three days in orbit -- more time than all Americans who had flown up till that point.

The Russians were against racism -- after all, they had a university named after an African, Patrice Lamumba!

The Russian department had a subscription to Pravda, the official news organ of the Communist Party. I remember one cartoon from the front page: a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe was decorated like a Christmas tree, carrying a noose, with the caption "ёлка только для чёрных," (Christmas tree only for blacks).

The United States was portrayed as corrupt, backward, racist, sexist and hypocritical.

It was, of course, all just KGB propaganda to sucker liberals in the West. Workers in communist Russia had no rights -- they did what they were told or they were sent to the gulag. Women didn't have equal rights -- women had no political power, they had to work the same hours as men, but then they had to come home, take care of the kids and do all the housework while their husbands drank vodka. People of other ethnicities had no political power: ethnic Russians ran every Soviet republic and non-Russian citizens endured racist harassment by "real" Russians. Russia helped African and Middle Eastern countries only as tools to attack Western interests.

The communist government is long gone, but the Russians are playing the same tricks today. This time they are suckering American conservatives instead of liberals.

The Russians portray themselves as the defenders of Christianity against Islam, while employing Muslim Chechen hitmen against reporters (Anna Politkovskaya) and opposition politicians (Boris Nemtsov). The Russian government actively harasses gays and lesbians, pretending that they are defending children and traditional values. Women have been put back in their place, and when they speak out, as Pussy Riot did, they are imprisoned.

America is portrayed as corrupt, sickeningly liberal, irreligious, and dominated by homosexuals and feminists.

Now, instead of being the cartoon villain on the front page of Pravda, the Ku Klux Klan is celebrating Trump's electoral victory along with Russia.

Russia's new conservative-friendly propaganda campaign is working. Since the election and the hacking revelations 38% of Democrats view Russia as an adversary and 42% as a serious problem, while only 20% of Republicans view Russia as an adversary and 45% as a serious problem. A third of Republicans don't see Russia as a problem at all.

This is a total flip-flop by Republicans: during the 2012 election Mitt Romney said Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe.

Michael Flynn, Trump's national security advisor, called the Russian ambassador the day sanctions were announced against Russia for the hacking. Since Flynn is still a private citizen, such interference in foreign policy is a violation of the Logan Act. Flynn has been to Russia several times, has been paid by the Russian propaganda network, and has dined with Putin.

Contacts between the Trump campaign surrogate Carter Page and Russia occurred before the election and have continued ever since. What the hell was that guy doing there?

Donald Trump himself has never said a bad word about Vladimir Putin, but constantly trashes American allies. Just yesterday Trump appeared to call for the dissolution of NATO, calling it obsolete and again demanding more money from other NATO members. In the same interview Trump called German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policies catastrophic.

But the reason Germany has a refugee problem is that Russia has been propping up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war. Russia has been bombing Aleppo and other Syrian cities where legitimate opposition to Assad was concentrated, forcing refugees out of Syria, causing the crisis in Europe.

Meanwhile, Putin has mostly ignored ISIS in Syria, allowing them to keep their supply lines open and prolong the agony in Iraq.

Lest you think this is all President Obama's fault, in 2013 Obama asked Congress for authorization to launch attacks against Assad for using poison gas on his own people. Congress declined to do so. Republicans have blamed Obama for not doing more against Assad, but when they had their chance to do something to stem the tide of refugees out of Syria it was the Republicans who blinked.

Now, Serbia -- a Russian client state -- is moving to annex Kosovo, using Russia's annexation of Crimea as a pretext. You may recall that the United States and NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 for their invasion of Kosovo. This was just after the horrible civil war in Bosnia, where Orthodox Bosnian Serbs backed by Russia murdered thousands of Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians. Several Bosnian Serbs were tried for war crimes, including Slobodan Milošević, who died in prison while still on trial.

Donald Trump is still not president, yet he seems to have already destroyed NATO and, by endorsing Russia's invasion of Crimea, planted the seeds for another bloody war in the Balkans. Once inaugurated he is apparently ready to hand over the rest of Ukraine and the Baltic states to Putin so Russia can be restored to its Soviet glory days.

Whether Trump is Putin's chump or actively colluding with the Russian dictator is irrelevant. Trump is sowing chaos and uncertainty. His actions will quickly envelop Europe in war and cause even greater refugee crises.

But chaos and uncertainty are Trump's signature style.

On the bright side, people are already getting tired of his antics. Trump is the least popular president-elect in history. At a mere 37%, his approval rating is almost 20 points less than Obama's.


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