Even the strongest political and moral convictions, it turns out, are negotiable.

Take, for example, the Republican Party’s policy toward Russia.  Starting with WW II negotiations in Potsdam and Yalta, conservatives have been ardently anti-Soviet continuing into and beyond the Gorbachev era.

Democratic leaders were routinely derided as “soft on communism” and insufficiently concerned with the Red Menace.

But, of course, during those same decades Republicans were for a balanced budget, cuts in social safety net programs, smaller government with fewer regulations, and so on.  All this and more has changed with the Trump take-over of the traditional Republican Party.

Now we have heard very little about federal deficits even before the virus-inspired economic disaster and the deficit boom brought on by tax cuts for the rich that were supposed to, but did not, pay for themselves.  Just money taken from future generations for today’s billionaires.

Deregulation is going forward with demented insistence endangering our nation’s natural trust, our environment, and the present and future climate.

But the real head-snapping twists and turns have occurred in the international arena.  Post-Cold War economic, political, and security arrangements have been unilaterally abandoned by Trump and trade and security treaties tossed aside with no coherent explanation.

Given a second term, Trump will withdraw the United States from NATO and weaken our principal security alliance to the consternation, but also silence, of conservative hawks who have successfully prevented him from doing so in this term.

Who benefits from this?  Surely not the United States.  The principal beneficiary is Russia.  NATO and the Atlantic Alliance have, with the exception of Ukraine, kept Russia at bay.

The Trumpian retreat from international leadership, especially in the democratic West, has been a huge gift and invitation to Russia to fill the vacuum left by our retreat.  In my years serving with Barry Goldwater, among a number of Cold War hawks, I never would have thought it.

But Trump has carried this off without a public peep from the Boltons and anti-Russians of the Republican Party.  Remarkable.

Little wonder that suspicions abound about what’s going on between Trump and Putin.  Just the unprecedented one-on-one between the two at Helsinki in July 2018 with no staff and only translators present, no hint of topics covered and agreements made, and confiscation of translator’s notes.

This secret discussion featured at least one stunning development where Trump publicly agreed with Russian intelligence over the entire U.S. intelligence services assessment as to Russia’s manipulation of the 2016 U.S. national election.

Try to imagine the Republican response if that had been done by a Democratic president.

Bets are being offered that the complex mystery involving Trump and Putin/Russia will inevitably come out.  Trump will be in Mar-a-Lago by then, thumbing his nose at one and all.

But some present-day Republican Members of Congress will have much to answer for in keeping their silence and not insisting on protecting our national interests.

First question: Senator, you’ve made a career out of suspicion of Russia’s intention.  What happened and why did you go silent?  Congresswoman: did you agree with Trump’s abandonment of defense of democracy?  Senator: what do you think of the new security alliance between Russia and the Baltic States?  Congressman: are you worried about the new Organization of Nationalist Parties Russia is forming in Eastern Europe?

Political parties, including in the United States, do twist and turn to accommodate new and changing realities.  But historians will search high and low for a precedent such as the Republican Party’s total about face on Russia.

 

13 Responses to “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”

  1. Michael Says:

    It has become painfully clear that the Republican Party exists for one reason and one reason only: to funnel as much wealth upward to their rich donor class as possible. They will do this not only at the expense of our national security, but even when it has led directly to the deaths of 150,000 Americans and counting. Both are appalling beyond comprehension. But they persist in pushing wealth upward even when it threatens their own existence as a political party. Passing pandemic relief should be non-controversial: desperate Americans need the help, and that help is keeping the economy from collapsing. Not passing as sufficiently large package will throw the economy into a deep recession just in time for the election, which would lead to the Republican Party being decimated in an electoral wipeout not seen in decades. Yet they don’t care. Steal as much as you can before the fire brings the roof down. Even if there is nothing left to this country but a smoking ruin, they don’t care. It is behavior that is pathological to its core.

  2. Bill Pruden Says:

    Senator,
    I cannot help but think that you find no small irony in the role of Russia in the modern world, not to mention our relations with them, given your vision for a post-Cold War world and the relationship you had developed in the later 1980s with Mikhail Gorbachev.  Oh, how different things might have been, and how strange it is that we are at this place where the Republicans who spent so many years accusing the Democrats of being soft on Communism–while also accusing them of losing China (a charge that had no small impact on our refusal to leave Vietnam) are now so cozy with Putin and company. You do us all a service by reminding us of those times as well as the way the party has not only betrayed its history but has traded the likes of principled conservatives like Senator Goldwater for its current leadership.  As distressing and dispiriting as all this is, I want to use this space to tell you how much I enjoyed the webinar sponsored by the developing Hart Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver, “Renewing America’s Public Service Commitment in the 21st century.”  The presentation featuring you, MSU President Janine Davidson, Senator Michael Bennet, Justice Rebecca Kourlis, and Federico Pena was was an inspiring reminder of what we can do and that there are leaders who are dedicated to making it happen. I believe deeply in the effort and as a long time admirer of you, I was moved to make a small financial gift to the Center following the presentation tonight and while I hope it will not be my last, as a high school teacher I know that, in fact, I can best help through my efforts to get the next generation informed and engaged.  You said tonight–and I must say that I concur–that “We do not live in an age of idealism” but if we are to change our nation’s direction than rekindling the flame of idealism that President Kennedy struck (and which you cited as you own inspiration) must be something to which all of us aspire.  It can be done and I hope that the Hart Center achieves great success in making that happen and I thank you for your continuing efforts to do so. 

  3. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    There was a movie made in 1966 called “The Russians are Coming The Russians are coming starring Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin, Brian Keith, Eva Marie Saint, and Johnathan Winters, among others. It’s one of my favorite movies full of humor, action, and hyperbole. I still have a copy. The underlying theme of this tale is a simple one. At the right time in the right moment there comes a spark of humanity and an act of togetherness that disregards politics or national allegiance in order to do the right thing. In a moment of great tension and fear an act of kindness prevailed. Granted it was a message in a movie but that should not prevent it from being relevant….perhaps the intent was a call for hope!

    Unfortunately, such messages of kindness seem to be a seldom occurrence in this century. Today we have to literally mandate people to wear masks to help protect others from a deadly virus. How have we come to place self so far ahead of the welfare and treatment of others? Certainly the Republicans have.

    Donald Trump has apparently made a different kind of deal with the Russians that requires the utmost of secrecy. One could conjure up all types of conspiracies based on speculation and rumor of a deal but without factual basis. We may never know the real reason Trump entered the Presidential election in 2015, but it wasn’t to make America great again. President Obama absolutely humiliated him at the 2011 White House Correspondence dinner over Trump’s role in the birther campaign against Obama! Trump’s fragile ego was certainly impacted and could have sparked a need for retaliation.

    Trump’s life blood for his business operations was loans for real estate investments. His supply of money was drying up in the United States due to prior failed business ventures and bankruptcies. A bank in Germany named Deutsche Bank came to his rescue. Deutsche Bank was looking to expand its brand Internationally and was attracted by Trump’s celebrity status. Trump found a new source of cash. It was during this time Deutsche Bank came under scrutiny as a source for laundering money for Russian oligarchs who had ties to President Vladimir Putin. It’s an interesting intersection between need and resources.

    You will remember the Donald through the assistance of a Russian Oligarch moved his Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013. He was desperate to get a meeting with President Putin to further his business plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow. Did a meeting ever occur? There is no evidence of one, but one never knows what goes on in Moscow. Secrecy is a way of life in the Putin era. It became clear at this time of Trump’s admiration for Putin. Of course he needed to curry Putin’s favor to build his tower. As we know Trump was in the throes of a negotiation for a Moscow Trump Tower right up to the 2016 Presidential election.

    There are some who argue Trump never expected to win the 2016 election. He saw it as a way to promote his business enterprise. As time has proven that objective hasn’t changed. He continues to promote his business enterprise ahead of governance and to grant a wide range of favor to Putin.

    Trump and his campaign team headed by Steve Bannon built a base of disenfranchised and disgruntled voters and mowed down a weak group of 2016 Presidential contenders. After the election was won he and Steve Bannon’s gang gained control of the Republican Party apparatus. All evidence points to a deal between the Republican Party leaders and the Donald. If the elected President would appoint ultra conservative judges to the courts, enact a hefty tax cut for wealthy donors, dismantle Obama Care, and use his executive authority to deregulate the economy; in return the Republican leadership would pledge allegiance to the Donald instead of the flag. Now these Republicans like Moscow Mitch, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, et. al. are caught in a trap and terrified of Trump’s base and exposure! Their very jobs and sources of wealth are at stake. They have been bought for more than 20 pieces of silver! Those who could not stomach the deal have resigned.

    What is to be done? AS CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS WOULD SAY GET OUT THE VOTE IN OVERWHELMING NUMBERS!

  4. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Excellent piece from Senator Heart of every issue!

    Bill. Terrific posting. Was the webinar direct or filmed for viewing now?

    Perhaps Senator Hart could let us know, or you Bill, as am very enthusiastic to get familiar with the efforts of the Hart Center, have followed its journey in development, to where its at, want to do all the more onwards.

  5. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Patrick,

    Excellent commentary. Thank you for sharing.

    Stephen

  6. Bill Pruden Says:

    Lorenzo,
    The Center appears to be a work in progress but hopefully programs like this one, which it sponsored and to which I referred, can help its growth. As I noted, it was inspiring and was an inspiring reminder of what the Senator has done and remains committed to doing. MSU Denver President Davidson was very impressive and seems like a very dynamic individual and I would hope that under her leadership the plans for the Center’s development can move forward in a positive way. At the same time, there can be no denying that these are tough times for higher education and it is incumbent upon us to make something like this a reality in order to further the Senator’s influence and legacy. A healthy, vibrant Hart Center would be a fitting tribute to a man who for so long combined action and ideas for the good of the nation he so nobly served. Here is one the link to the MSU Denver section on the Center, but it is very much a work in progress (perhaps Senator Hart can give us all an update): https://www.msudenver.edu/president/hart-center/

  7. Gary Hart Says:

    Lorenzo and all concerned: the best current website for the Hart Center i:
    https://forum280.org/publicservice. This is being revised and will open soon. GH

  8. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Thank you Bill, and Senator hart, appreciated.

    I would say also, that it is great to see Senator Bennet involved, he was my favourite for President!

  9. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    As a strong supporter of the fast-reviving practically-idealistic wing of the Democratic Party (witness progressives strong showing in primaries Tuesday), on the subject at hand I take the iconoclastic view (by mainstream Democratic Party standards) that respect for ALL the people who made the ultimate sacrifice during what President Kennedy famously called the “long twilight struggle” between the US and USSR during the Cold War compels us to look more impartially and self-critically at our nation’s abysmal relations with post-Cold War Russia than the host has done in his main essay here. One tabulator has estimated the number who died in that cause at between 11 and 25 million people! See https://www.quora.com/How-many-people-died-during-the-Cold-War

    I refer not only to the reverence we owe (for example) to the fleeing West Berliners gunned-down as they attempted escapes through tunnels dug clandestinely under the Berlin Wall.

    I am also thinking of the solitude due (for example) the at-least several hundreds of thousands of members of Indonesia’s distinctly-moderate Communist Party who were slaughtered by fascist military units using CIA intelligence during- and after the overthrow of Indonesia’s neutralist leader Sukarno by rightist General Suharto.

    LA Times journalist turned author Vincent Bevins has written a harrowing book on the subject and similar US-backed fascist mass murder tactics in Latin America titled: The Jakarta Method:
    Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World. An excerpt is found here: https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/05/18/how-jakarta-became-the-codeword-for-us-backed-mass-killing/ and an excellent interview with Mr. Bevins (whose bookstore-appearance publicity tour was cancelled due to Covid) is here: https://scotthorton.org/interviews/6-22-20-vincent-bevins-on-the-mass-murder-program-that-shaped-our-world/

    And Mr. Bevins discusses just a few of the many chapters in post-WW2 history to feature massive bloodlettings as rival (seemingly) incompatible ideological camps vied for the destiny of nation-states and the world. American veterans of the Korean War and Vietnam War and the enemies they fought, among them.

    As it turned out—contrary to the prognostications of virtually all the conservative political scientists who were prominent during my college years in the 1970s (who regarded Soviet Communism as a sustainable and immutable fixture of world history)—the Cold War ultimately ended not with a bang but with a whimper.

    The USSR imploded in December 1991 and its last Communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev was unceremoniously driven from power, essentially never to be heard from again.

    (I had just begun an 8 year enlistment in the US Naval Reserves 3 months earlier, a day before my 37th birthday, which was the age cut-off, and was personally quite relieved because it meant that it was less likely—though of course not impossible—that I would be deployed in harm’s way prior to my anticipated September 1999 discharge—which is how (non)events in fact transpired.)

    America’s Cold War quarrel having been primarily with Communism not with Russia as a great power (and certainly not with its everyday people) I have always felt that our main orders of business with post-Communist Russia ought to sound in areas of mutual self-interest such as nuclear arms control and joint ventures such as space exploration and not in treating post-Communist Russia as some kind of menacing geopolitical rival of the USA.

    As I saw it in the early 1990s (and still see it today): If we could not turn our 75 year 20th Century rivalry with Communist Russia into full-fledged friendship overnight at least we could adopt Lincoln’s attitude toward the South following Appomattox: “With charity to all, with malice towards none…”

    In short however, America’s “powers that be” wouldn’t have it. Instead, we betrayed the Russian people and led (from both in-front and behind for a solid decade) their decline into servitude to soulless, criminal mafia chieftains and oligarchs who looted billions (if not trillions) of dollars worth of that nation’s natural resources and other economic assets in a headlong rush of privatization for a song. During the 1990s Russia’s “misery index” steadily skyrocketed.

    That is the thanks we gave the Russian people for both disproportionately bearing the brunt of conquering Nazi Germany (losing 26 million patriots in that cause) and then (benevolently) dissolving the USSR and abandoning Communism, without a shot being fired in anger between the superpowers.

    (Leonard Cohen’s highly foreboding take on Russia’s voluntary abandonment of Communism here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axDoGt16O2I to the contrary notwithstanding, it was a highly salutary world-historical act, one that Boris Yeltsin made sure was not reversed via his 1993 shelling and dissolution of the Russian parliament in which elected Communists still wielded political power.)

    And then, to add insult-to-injury and foolishly rub salt in the wounds of the Russian Bear: We outright reneged on our promises to Gorbachev and his team not to enlarge NATO “one inch” eastward following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The rest is history.

    https://youtu.be/-wSuoqQl0cE

    This link is to the illuminating February 2018 lecture given by my 1970s UC Berkeley undergraduate political science mentor George Breslauer (which I discovered online last year and may have linked-to in this space once before).

    George’s lecture reassured me that the likes of Adam Schiff (alas my own Congressional district Representative) along with the leaders of the mainstream Democratic Party (eg. 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and most of the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential candidates including presumptive nominee Joe Biden) and their hyper-partisan centrist corporate media blowhards who echo them, are all profoundly obtuse and socially irresponsible to have transmuted President Reagan’s Soviet-Union-as-“evil-empire” rhetoric to post-Communist Russia, and that folks such as Stephen F. Cohen and his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel (who advised the host during one or both of his 1980s presidential campaigns), and I are correct in our contrarian views.

    Here I will double-down and add that Mr. Schiff’s constant contemptible Russia-bashing is redolent to me of a certain radio personality of my youth. In Bob Dylan’s mocking lyrical description of the Tijuana-radio-station based DJ Wolfman Jack in his brilliant song Murder Most Foul: “He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs…” Just so.

    Prof. Breslauer technically side-steps the 2016 Trump-Russia collusion trope (which has now fallen apart at the seams) but it’s obvious where the good professor stands.

    Prof. Breslauer does not aspire to the high-profile public intellectual role Prof. Cohen has undertaken. (Google Cohen’s 3 books, beginning in 2000 and continuing to the present year, on our tragically misguided post-Cold War US-Russia relations.) But George still “lets it rip” relative to the crucial topic he frames: “How Did US-Russian Relations Get So Bad and How Might They Be Improved?”

    It is well worth an hour-plus listen, starting at the 3 min. 45 sec mark. Essentially every word of my old mentor’s analysis is true (including “and” and “the”). I agree with all of it and not least with his sage (sensibly moderate) “how to fix it” policy prescriptions, and fail to see how any reasonable person can fail to do likewise, although some—possibly including the host and certainly including senior Democratic Party power-brokers—undoubtedly will. Indeed it is rumored that former vice-president Biden is about to commit the folly of selecting a vice-presidential candidate who specializes in speciously Russia-baiting our con-artist president.

    Presumably due to the prevailing climate of Russophobia, to my knowledge (alas) no one from the networks or MSDNC (sic) or CNN has ever interviewed Prof. Breslauer (who rose to a vice-dean position in the UC Berkeley administration prior to his semi-retirement a few years ago).

    This is unfortunate, to put it far too mildly: Because it can so easily lead to an accidental or God-forbid deliberately-initiated civilization-ending nuclear war, Russophobia is by far a more worrisome part of our “new abnormal” than the Covid pandemic. (As to both I pray: “This too shall pass.”)

    That same corporate media has also entirely disregarded another possibly important item from a recent news cycle. I have not seen ANY coverage at all of Putin’s article 2 months ago in The National Interest. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/vladimir-putin-real-lessons-75th-anniversary-world-war-ii-162982 .

    In it (in sum) Putin says he wants to resume the promise of world civilizational progress wrought by World War 2 and the peaceable end of the Cold War between the US & USSR.

    Per President Kennedy’s famous inaugural address injunction: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. ¶Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. …”

    PS. One of Dylan’s priceless lyrical images in MMF (that only a genius can come up with) refers to the late great escape artist Houdini “spinning around in his grave.” JFK is too.

  10. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Eric,

    Just saw this now but have no time to respond … later!

  11. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    PS. The New Yorker Magazine (my subscription to which I cancelled in 2003 when they editorially supported our country’s criminally-insane UN-Charter-violative Iraq War) had (and perhaps still has) a euphemism for Corrections dubbed Amplifications.

    Whatever it should be called I wish to fix my erroneous (too)-passing reference to Prof. Breslauer’s employment in the University of California, Berkeley campus Administration in my Comment above.

    Professor Breslauer, after rising through the ranks to full-professor of Political Science following his arrival at UC Berkeley from the University of Michigan in 1971 as a newly-minted Ph.D, rose not to “a vice-dean position” but to the position of Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science AND was then further elevated to the position of Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost of UC Berkeley.

    My one-sentence paragraph above, then, should be corrected (or “amplified”) to read:
    ——————————
    Presumably due to the prevailing climate of Russophobia, to my knowledge (alas) no one from the networks or MSDNC (sic) or CNN has ever interviewed Prof. Breslauer (who rose to the Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost position in the UC Berkeley administration prior to his semi-retirement a few years ago).
    ——————————

  12. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Okay, I still want to respond to all of it but, it’s been a bit crazy at work and home of late … comments sections don’t close around here, so, later …

  13. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Eric,

    While it is certainly true that there have been many US geopolitical missteps in its relations with Russia, post-WWII and post-Cold War, including how NATO expansion has proceeded, we shouldn’t be engaging in a white-washing of how Russia has behaved during this period and especially with respect to Putin and his playing of the emergence of Trump and the special nature of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

    If we are to see improving relations between the US and Russia and the kind of cooperation that will be required to move beyond the geopolitics of a global pandemic and nuclear apocalypse avoidance, then we need to get real about what all of that will take from both sides.

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