The Empire files with Abby Martin – Dr. Stephen Cohen on Russophobia
US-Russia Relations in “Most Dangerous Moment”
How Russophobia wrecked normalization between US & Russia
One year after Trump’s inauguration as the 45th US president, several metrics indicate bilateral ties have actually deteriorated, despite Trump’s oft-stated approval for better relations between Washington and Moscow.
Trump has said US cooperation with Russia should be seen as “an asset, not a liability.” Many people around the world, including within the US, would agree with Trump’s view. So, why the inertia in translating this into practical policy?
US-Russia Relations in “Most Dangerous Moment”
Via Media Roots:
While many in power recklessly escalate tensions with Russia, there’s very little discussion of the geopolitical significance of this aggression and the dangerous consequences people could suffer as a result.
The establishment’s anti-Russian sentiment goes beyond allegations of election hacking, with leading US intelligence officials labeling Russia as the number-one existential threat to the United States. One of the foremost experts on US-Russia relations is sounding the alarm, that the potential for nuclear confrontation is greater than ever before, fueled with virtually no debate by the mass media.
Dr. Stephen Cohen is one of the leading scholars on Russia. He is professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton and New York University, and is the author of many books on the subject, including Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: from Stalinism to the New Cold War, and the forthcoming book Why Cold War Again? How America Lost Post-Soviet Russia.
Professor: Media criminalizing better relations with Russia
Scholar argues media malpractice and an obsession alleged Russia collusion scandal has demonized any attempt by the U.S. to work with Russia.
Why the Russophobia?
After the Cold War: Views from Israel; Israelis Worry That U.S. Will Need Them Less in New Global Realignment
By CLYDE HABERMAN, August 3, 1992
Now that they have a new Prime Minister in Yitzhak Rabin, many Israelis want to believe that they have turned a corner in the search for Middle East peace and in relations with the United States that have been muddled for quite a while.
But a development that, unlike the election, is beyond Israelis’ control — the end of the cold war — has left them with nagging worries that somehow they are going to wind up on the short end of the ballyhooed new order, and no amount of hopefulness over a new national leader can ease those concerns.
Some doubts are perhaps inevitable in a vulnerable, endlessly fretting country. Still, Israeli officials and opinion molders say that as they spin the post-cold war globe, they find good reason for uneasiness, even though they are hardly blind to advantages they have already reaped.
For instance, the end to superpower rivalry made it possible to get peace talks going with neighboring Arab countries, something that Israel had said for decades was its greatest wish.
For instance, thanks both to the peace process and to Iraq’s defeat in the Persian Gulf war, military planners agree that external threats to their nation’s survival have never been lower.
For instance, Israel, once a pariah in many corners of the planet, has newly established or restored diplomatic relations with three dozen countries over the last two years, including China, India, a wide swath of Africa and eastern Europe and most of what used to be the Soviet Union.
Even before the final Soviet collapse, the crumbling of Communism made it possible for some 370,000 emigres from Russia and other republics to come here since mid-1989. They provide a new pool of talent, offer hopes for a future cultural flourishing and — no small consideration — shore up the country’s Jewish majority against an Arab minority that has long been growing at a faster rate.
But none of the pluses are undiluted, and Israeli leaders are keenly aware of it. And it does not begin to touch the overriding question that has plagued Israel from the moment the United States emerged as the only superpower: Have relations with Washington changed for good, which is taken axiomatically here as meaning not for better?
Mr. Rabin’s election in late June has removed much of the poison that had filled the Israeli-American diplomatic atmosphere during the final days of the former Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Still, “there are long-term questions about the relationship, no matter who’s there as Prime Minister,” said Dore Gold, a military expert at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies of Tel Aviv University. Ambivalence Toward the U.S.
There has always been a certain ambivalence here toward the American Government and, for that matter, American Jews. Proud and defiant Israelis talk of how they have often had to stand alone and have always fought their own battles. But they know that this is not entirely true.
Israel is tied to the United States by $3 billion in annual military and economic aid, coupled with roughly half a billion dollars a year in contributions from American Jews. There has been a steady stream of high-tech weapons, an exchange of gathered intelligence and, usually, a happy confluence of perceived interests.
On purely strategic grounds, friendship with Israel may not have always made sense from an American viewpoint, considering the Arab countries’ great share of the world’s known oil reserves and their readiness in the past to use that weapon against pro-Israel America. Nonetheless, starting in the 1950’s, the Middle East became one more area where the United States and the Soviet Union fought the cold war through surrogates, and despite inherent risks, the situation generally worked to Israel’s advantage. Because the Soviet Union in the old days was a knee-jerk supporter of Arab causes, the United States had to stand alongside Israel almost by definition.
But with the cold war melted, Arab states have lost their Soviet benefactor, and countries like Syria are almost doing handstands to stay on Washington’s good side. Many Israelis worry that the United States is moving inexorably, perhaps even obligatorily, from their corner to a more neutral spot in the Middle East ring.
This is dangerous for them and for regional stability, they warn, for they are so outnumbered by the Arabs that the Americans, if they wish to avoid yet another Middle East war, must be squarely behind Israel to help it maintain its military edge.
It has hardly reassured Israeli strategic planners that the Bush Administration talks about a new era of collective-security arrangements similar to the alliance stitched together against Iraq last year. Invariably, they say, such coalitions look for the broadest possible consensus. And inevitably, they argue, the United States will concern itself more with the wants of wealthy and influential Arab countries like Saudi Arabia than with Israel’s needs.
“Israel will tend to be excluded,” Mr. Gold said. “The United States-Israel relationship thrives when the United States is chiefly operating through its bilateral relationships.” A Long Catalogue Of Skirmishes
The steady tattoo of disputes between Washington and Jerusalem over the last year went far to reinforce Israelis’ worst fears, which have not been erased by the smiles being flashed now at Mr. Rabin, who will visit President Bush in Kennebunkport, Me., next week.
By now, the catalogue of skirmishes is as familiar as it is long: the withholding of $10 billion in American loan guarantees for Israel; the anti-Semitism charges hurled against President Bush by some right-wing Israeli politicians; the comments by Mr. Bush interpreted by some of his critics as showing insensitivity to Jews; the allegations that Israel handed Patriot missile technology to China; the American rebuke to Israel for sending spy planes over Iraq last fall to hunt for Scud missile launchers; and, more recently, State Department remarks reaffirming support of a 1948 United Nations resolution on the right of refugees displaced by the Israeli-Arab war that year to return to their homes.
There are few issues more sensitive for Israelis than this one on refugees, and many of them asked nervously at the time whether the Administration was supporting the right of an estimated 2.6 million Palestinians to return to Israel. Although the State Department says no and has sought to play down the episode, many Israelis wonder all the same.
And as they do, they also wonder if a sea change has taken place that undermines the vaunted influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Israel’s allies learned through the fight over loan guarantees that no matter how overwhelming the Congressional majority they can muster on a given issue, it does not count for much against an unsympathetic and determined President.
Other countries presumably have figured that out, too, and that does not help Israel.
It is taken for granted here that some countries that recently established relations with Israel had calculated that a shortcut to Washington’s heart and pocketbook is through the Israelis and their American kin. By this cold reasoning, if American Jews turn out to be not that important, after all, then perhaps neither is Israel. ‘Strategic Asset’ Is Still Emphasized
As a result, there has been a good deal of scrambling on both sides in recent months to emphasize that Israel is as important a “strategic asset” to the Americans as ever, that it may not have oil but it has shared democratic values with the United States, that despite the raucousness of its politics it is a bastion of stability in a region top-heavy with radical and unpredictable regimes.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres cites the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and of nonconventional weapons in the region as justifying continued United States-Israeli cooperation, although how Israel can stop an Islamic regime from rising in, say, Algeria is not clear.
“The confrontation now is not nations against nations but rather nations against new situations,” Mr. Peres said last week. “The subjects may have changed but not the cooperation.”
William C. Harrop, the American Ambassador to Israel, said recently, “Reports of the death of the U.S.-Israeli special relationship are greatly exaggerated,” adding that “there is no question” about the American commitment to maintain military aid and Israel’s qualitative edge against its neighbors.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens echoed that point just before leaving office, saying that difficulties are to be expected but that “the foundations are very strong, and I can’t see anything that would put cracks in the relationship.”
Nonetheless, skeptics abound, and many of them are worried less about the United States’ turning outright hostile than about its turning so far inward that it will have little time or patience for dabbling in messy places like the Middle East. A Seminal Incident But Did It Happen?
A seminal incident for many Israelis may not have even occurred, but that does not diminish its impact here. This was a remark attributed to Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d, who in a burst of irritation with American Jewish groups supposedly said something to the effect of “the heck with them — they don’t vote for us anyway.”
Mr. Baker’s spokeswoman, Margaret D. Tutwiler, has dismissed the story as “garbage.” But Israelis are convinced not only that it happened but also that it reveals a gut American weariness with the whole business — Jews, Arabs and endless Middle East crises.
And the worst thing you can say to them, Israelis agree, is that they and their cousins in America do not count. If that were so, then Israel would be just another country of five million people.
“Israelis want to make sure that their case is at the top of the American agenda, and they feel that if they are ignored then it means they are being rejected,” said Meron Benvenisti, a writer and expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We rely so much on America and we rely on a level of tension, positive or negative. Indifference is the worst. People would prefer a confrontation to indifference.”
The recent drip of mutual acrimony has prodded some Israelis, both in and out of Government, to start thinking about how to wean their country away from its longstanding reliance on $1.8 billion a year in American military assistance and $1.2 billion in economic aid. It has reached the point, they complain, that Israelis look upon this money as almost their birthright, and they call the dependence unhealthy.
This view is conspicuous among politicians and writers on the political right who sense that the Americans are bound to step up their pressure on Israel to give up the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and to freeze Jewish settlements there. As long as Israel keeps going to Washington with hat in hand, they argue, it will always be vulnerable.
“Economic independence means political independence,” said Yisrael Harel, head of a West Bank settlers’ group called the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Mr. Harel cites the success of East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, all of which he says were in the United States orbit but now have the financial muscle “to stand up to American dictates.” Overdependence Worries Some
Some on the left are also uncomfortable with their standing as a United States client. A liberal economist in Jerusalem, reacting recently to the State Department’s “right of return” comments, muttered irritatedly to an American friend, “That’s what happens when you depend on someone else the way we do.”
Increasingly, politicians and academicians say Israel should turn more toward Europe. But few believe that the reliance on Washington is likely to change soon.
Meanwhile, other post-cold-war phenomena are making themselves felt, with even the benefits tempered by disadvantages.
Yes, the Middle East peace process is a good thing, say the Israelis, who today accepted the United States’ invitation to resume the talks in Washington on Aug. 24. But their enthusiasm is controlled, for no one knows where it will end with the United States apparently intent on putting its land-for-peace principle into action.
If Palestinians become frustrated by a continued lack of clear progress in the negotiations, they might step up their anti-Israel uprising, some warn. And even Israeli doves who would give up the territories tomorrow worry about unavoidable national traumas if the country shrank back to the narrow strip of land it occupied before the 1967 Middle East war.
Yes, the Jews from Russia and elsewhere are welcome, and there is hopeful talk about how another million or more may eventually make their way here. This country exists, after all, for the in-gathering of all Jews. Economic Ills Produce Friction
But that does not mean there are no frictions. Too many of the new arrivals have not found work in their professions, and that has scared off many of their brethren back home who are waiting for conditions to improve. In the meantime, unemployment here has hit 11.6 percent, an all-time high. So Israel finds itself with dissatisfied Russians, because they have no jobs, and dissatisfied longer-term residents, because the newcomers in their view get all the breaks, such as free housing and monthly stipends.
And yes, the immediate threat from neighboring Arab countries has diminished, but that is a far cry from its having disappeared, Israeli military planners say.
Mr. Arens warns that “the perceived threat” is still high. He argues that Iraq broke a psychological barrier when it fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the gulf war. It makes it easier for someone to try again the next time, he says.
Perhaps just as important, many Israelis now question the wisdom of their restraint in not retaliating against Iraq last year. It sent out the wrong message, they say — that Israel is ready to absorb Arab punches and do nothing about it.
That perception alone could threaten future security, they say, and some quickly add that they sat on their hands at the request of the United States, all in the name of preserving a coalition that was the first major diplomatic achievement of the post-cold-war age.
Photo: The end of superpower rivalry has given Israelis concern for their place in the new world order. Among the pluses is the new pool of talent emerging from the emigres from Russia and other republics, which is shoring up the country’s Jewish majority against the faster growing Arab minority. Russian immigrants sat down to eat in a soup kitchen in Carmiel, Israel, earlier this year … The New York Times