During the 20th century Cold War with the Soviet Union, there were US Soviet experts who were concerned that the Cold War was partly contrived and, therefore, needlessly dangerous. Stephen Cohn at Princeton University, for example, believed that exaggerating the threat was as dangerous as underestimating it. On the other hand, Richard Pipes at Harvard believed that the CIA dangerously underestimated Soviet military power and failed to grasp Soviet strategic intentions.
In 1976 President Gerald Ford and CIA Director George H.W. Bush commissioned an outside panel of experts to evaluate the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimates. This group was known as Team B. Under Pipes’ leadership Team B created the perception that the US faced a dangerous “window of vulnerability.”
In conventional wisdom, in order to close this window of vulnerability President Reagan began an American arms buildup. On this point conventional wisdom is wrong. The Reagan military buildup was as much hype as reality. Its purpose was to bring the Soviets to the negotiating table and end the Cold War in order to remove the threat of nuclear war. Reagan’s supply-side policy had fixed the problem of worsening trade-offs between employment and inflation, thus making an arms buildup possible. In contrast, Reagan regarded the Soviet economy as broken and unfixable. He reasoned that a new arms race was more than the Soviets could afford, and that the threat of one would bring the Soviets to the table to negotiate the end of the Cold War.
The Soviet Union collapsed when hardline communists, convinced that Gorbachev was endangering the Soviet Union by giving up too much too quickly before American intentions were known, placed President Gorbachev under house arrest. The Yeltsin years (1991-1999) brought the dismemberment of the Soviet Empire and was a decade of Russian subservience to the United States.
Putin came to power as the American neoconservatives were girding up to establish US and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. As General Wesley Clark told us, seven countries were to be overthrown in 5 years. The American preoccupation with the Middle East permitted Putin to throw off American overlordship and reestablish Russian sovereignty. Once Washington realized this, the American establishment turned on Putin with a vengence.
Stephen Cohen, Jack Matlock (Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union), myself and a few others warned that Washington’s refusal to accept Russian independence would reignite the Cold War, thus erasing the accomplishment of ending it and resurrecting the specter of nuclear war. But Washington didn’t listen. Instead, Cohen and I were put on a list of “Russian agents/dupes,” and the process of trying to destabalize Putin began. In other words, once an American colony always an American colony, and Putin became the most demonized person on earth.
Today (March 17) we had the extraordinary spectacle of President Biden saying on ABC News that President Putin is a killer, and “he will pay a price.” This is a new low point in diplomacy. It does not serve American interests or peace.
Yesterday a CIA-Homeland Security report was declassified. The “report” is blatant propaganda. It alleges that Russia interfered in the 2020 election with the purposes of “denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.” “Russiagate” is still with us despite the failure of the three-year Mueller investigation to find a scrap of evidence.
We desperately need a new Team B like the one the CIA commissioned in 1976 to check on itself. But in those days discussion and debate was possible. Today they are not. We live in a world in which only propaganda is permitted. There is an agenda. The agenda is regime change in Russia. No facts are relevant. There will be no Team B to evaluate whether the Putin threat is exaggerated.
The anti-Russian craze that has been orchestrated in the US and throughout the Western world leaves the US in an extremely dangerous situation. Americans and Europeans perceive reality only through the light of American propaganda. American diplomacy, military policy, news reporting, and public undersranding are the fantasy creations of propaganda.
The Kremlin has shown amazing forbearance of Washington’s inanities and insults. It was the Democrat Hillary Clinton who called President Putin the “new Hitler,” and now Democrat Biden calls Putin “a killer.” American presidents and presidential candidates did not speak of Soviet leaders in these terms. They would have been regarded by the American population as far too deranged to have access to the nuclear button.
Sooner or later the Kremlin will understand that it is pointless to respond to demonization with denials. Yes, the Russians are correct. The accusations are groundless, and no facts or evidence is ever provided in support of the accusations. Sooner or later the Kremlin will realize that the purpose of demonizing a country is to prepare one’s people and allies for war against it.
Washington pays no attention to Maria Zakharova and Dmitry Peskov’s objections to unsubstaniated accusations.
When “sooner or later” is, I do not know, but the Russians haven’t reached that point. The Kremlin reads the latest allegations as an excuse for more sanctions against Russian companies and individuals. This reading is mistaken. Washington’s purpose is to demonize Russia and its leadership in order to set Russia up for regime change and, failing that, for military attack.
In the United States Russian Studies has degenerated into propaganda. Recently, two members of the Atlantic Council think tank, Emma Ashford and Matthew Burrows, suggested that American foreign policy could benefit from a less hostile approach to Russia. Instantly, 22 members of the think tank denounced the article by Ashford and Burrows.
This response is far outside the boundaries of the 20th century Cold War. It precludes any rational or intelligent approach to American foreign policy. Sooner or later the Kremlin will comprehend that it is confronted by a gangster outfit of the criminally insane. Then what happens?