The distaste for U.S. President Donald Trump is understandable — his ugly attacks on critics, crude language, grandiose promises, dishonesty in past business deals. But that should not blind us to the content of the policies he promises. He is a creature of instinct, and sometimes instinct can be closer to the truth than the dogmas of our allegedly better educated elites.
Take his protectionist trade policies for example. Free trade only makes sense when the partners enjoy a similar level of prosperity. That is certainly not the case when the United States trades with China or Mexico for example. Ditto for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that imperious successor to a failed APEC.
Trump is criticized for not sharing the current anti-Russia hatred and hysteria. But is it really a sin if his business experience in Moscow taught him that Russians, including President Vladimir Putin, do not have two horns and a tail? Just listen to the lengthy Putin news conferences and you will discover a man of intelligent moderation, ready and able to handle all questions thrown at him, with a preference for Western journalists whose weak and ignorant questions, often delivered in English, he sets out politely to demolish.
Moscow’s alleged hacking of Democratic National Committee materials during the recent presidential campaign was supposed to undermine U.S. democracy. And the content of those materials? They showed the levels to which the Clinton campaign would sink to destroy the candidacy of the one man, Bernie Sanders, who far and away was the moral victor in the Democratic Party primaries. So who has been undermining U.S. democracy?
Does anyone imagine the U.S. with its multi-billion dollar National Security Agency is not doing the same around the world? For more than half a century the U.S. and the other Anglo-Saxon nations have been running an elaborate spy operation, formerly called Echelon and now Five Eyes. Japan was included in Australia’s bailiwick. I know for a fact that in the past a major aim was gathering the data needed to prevent the Japan Socialist Party from gaining power. Beneficiaries from the hacking into Japanese commercial data used to joke how the material “fell of the back of a truck.”
True, the Obama regime did try to endorse pro-Moscow understandings and policies with its 2009 “reset” of relations.
But the critics say Putin has since blotted the reset copybook with Crimea takeover, the hostilities in eastern Ukraine and the vicious bombing attacks on rebels in Syria, Aleppo especially. Moscow must pay for its sins.
And the reality? Crimea was never part of Ukraine, other than for purely administrative purposes back in Soviet days and only after 1954. The population is almost entirely non-Ukrainian. Today with the Ukrainian economy in near collapse no one I spoke to in a 2015 visit would want to be reunited with Ukraine. But in the West our hawks threaten fire and brimstone unless it is returned, forcibly if needed.
Putin has trampled on the golden rule that national sovereignty should not be violated, we are told. In that case how about the use of NATO force to detach Kosovo from Belgrade’s sovereignty? The justification for Kosovo is that it was sui generis — one of a kind or unique. Well, now there are two of a kind, and two equally unique, and in the case of Crimea the justification did not require a vandalistic three-month bombing campaign.
The attempt to label Moscow’s aid to separatists in eastern Ukraine as aggression turns logic on its head. Under the 2015 Minsk agreement both Moscow and the Ukrainian government in Kiev agreed the Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine should have autonomy within the borders of Ukraine. Kiev has since reneged on that agreement and has sent in battalions of Russian-hating, including some pro-Nazi tainted, troops to lay waste to the area. Some 2 million have been forced to flee — ethnic cleansing if ever there was. Moscow’s intervention to prevent this growing tragedy is “aggression,” while the West does all it can to arm and encourage the real aggressor — Ukraine.
Eastern Ukraine with its heavy industry is like Crimea in that it was given to Ukraine by Moscow back the 1920s for arbitrary political purposes, namely to add an industrial proletariat to balance the rural bias elsewhere in Ukraine. I visited the place in 1964 and like Crimea, which I also visited then, it was totally Russian.
Over Syria the anti-Russian hatred comes close to hysteria. Yet but for Moscow’s intervention there, cruel though inevitable as it was, the nation would have suffered the same fate as Libya and Iraq. The original high-minded U.S. support for anti-regime rebels there had morphed into support for Islamist fanatics and, as in Mosul today, the only solution was to attack building by building, even if civilian casualties are inevitable — especially if the rebels stop civilian flight. The squalid Pentagon attempt (since claimed as “accidental”) to kill the September 2016 cease-fire negotiated by the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers by bombing a large and unsuspecting Syrian Army base at Deir ez-Zor with hundreds of dead and wounded, and then leaving the base open to Islamic State occupation, ranks as one of the more evil acts of that war. Yet it finds hardly any mention, let alone criticism, in the U.S. media.
Trump dislikes the U.S. intelligence agencies. I do too. Over the years I have had to deal with many of these people — the Australian variety especially. Their incompetence, vindictiveness and willingness to say anything to ingratiate themselves with higher authority is disgusting. According to former CIA operative John Nixon, the CIA is so eager to please the president in power that “it will almost always give him the answers he wants to hear.” Trump’s dismissal of these people for inventing the weapons of mass destruction pretext to invade Iraq was more than justified.
Then there is NATO. Trump is totally correct in dismissing that piece of Cold War uselessness. With its troops now on Russia’s borders, contrary to past promises, its rules allow any tin-pot dictator within its ambit (and already there are a few) to goad Moscow into trying to defend say a persecuted pro-Russian minority (of which there are many and not just in Ukraine)and NATO can then use this as a pretext for an assault against Russia. It is both ridiculous and dangerous.
NATO fans say it has given Europe 70 years of peacefulness. They forget about the cruel and highly unjustified war NATO waged against Serbia in 1999.
Ultimately the problem owes much to the ignorance of our chattering classes. Ask them to find pro-Russian Transnistria on a map and they would not know where to start. Tell them a pro-Russian grouping has just gained power in nearby Moldova and they will phase out. But they do know Putin is evil.
Gregory Clark is a former Australian diplomat who served two years in the Soviet Union and speaks Russian. This report is based on a recent visit to Russia. A Japanese translation of this article will appear on www.gregoryclark.net .