Since one tribe of cavemen began to observe another, it’s been the norm for one tribe or nation to covertly gather information on another. We live in the age of spy satellites and the interception of telephone, email and social media conversations. But these are (unless Hillary Clinton has access to them) kept secret both from our adversaries and the public.
It’s very rare for a new window on our adversaries to open to the public. For years, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has been giving us a view into the otherwise unavailable, untranslated media of the Arab world and Iran. Its translations of newspaper articles, speeches by nations’ leaders — and in the case of many Islamic nations, their terrorist proxies — has been an enormous gift to journalists who take the trouble to avail themselves of them.
Thanks to MEMRI, we have been able to read and research materials that told us, for example, that while Yassir Arafat was preaching peace to the United Nations, he was also, at home, shouting in Arabic that Arabs would go to Jerusalem as “martyrs by the millions.” We knew that Iran’s ayatollahs demanding that crowds chant “death to America” wasn’t like Americans singing “take me out to the ballgame,” it was a religious statement demanded of their people. The vast majority of the source material of my book In the Words of Our Enemiescame from MEMRI.
Now, our friends at MEMRI have opened another window, this time on Vladimir Putin’s Russia through MEMRI’s “Russian Media Studies Project.” Like MEMRI’s studies of Middle Eastern media, MEMRI-Russia provides a lot more than propaganda published at home to the Russian people. It gives considerable insight into what Russian leaders are arguing to each other and to the Russian oligarchy.
Last week Alexander Grushko, Russia’s emissary to NATO, accused us of trying to intimidate Russia. (For those who forget quickly, Russian fighters recklessly flew over the USS Donald Cook on two successive days two weeks ago and one did a barrel roll around a U.S. RC-135 spy aircraft that same week. All of those maneuvers were threatening U.S. forces on and over international waters.)
Grushko said, “This is about attempts to exercise military pressure on Russia. We will take all necessary measures, precautions, to compensate for these attempts to use military force.”
Grushko’s remarks are made at a time that Russian aircraft are flying close off our west coast; British fighters are being scrambled frequently to intercept Russian combat aircraft closing on the UK; Russian forces remain in Syria, defending the Assad regime, and in Ukraine attempting to slowly conquer that nation. As I wrote last week, Russian forces there have deployed signal jammers to prevent communication between free Ukraine forces.
Which brings us to a report by MEMRI-Russia entitled “Understanding Russian Political Ideology and Vision.” It is based on a long article by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Russia in Global Affairs journal.
As he must, Lavrov writes from Putin’s perspective which was summarized neatly by the Russian president in 2005 when he deplored the collapse of the Soviet Union, saying it was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.
Lavrov writes with an intensity of Russian thought that reminds us of the thinking of Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany during the years preceding World War 1. Then, the Kaiser believed Germany was being “encircled” by Britain and its allies, denying his nation its proper place in the world. Wilhelm believed, as Lavrov (and Putin) evidently do now, that their nation is of primary importance to Europe.
Lavrov’s perspective is much the same. He writes that since the Napoleonic Wars, European powers — especially France — have been “obsessed” with their desire to “marginalize Russia in European affairs.” He says that obsession is now translated to NATO, condemning NATO’s expansion to nations such as Estonia, which not only borders the Baltic Sea but Russia as well.
Lavrov writes of “Eurasia,” stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan, in which Russia is literally and geopolitically, central. Evoking the coming hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 2017, Lavrov writes:
It seems that, in the context of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it is important for us to understand the continuity of Russian history. This should include all of its eras without exception, and [stress] the importance of synthesis of all Russia’s positive traditions and historical experience, and should serve as a basis for dynamic advances and for upholding our country’s rightful role as a leading center of the modern world, and as a provider of the values of sustainable development, security and stability.
That could have been written by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1913. If anyone doubts we are in Cold War 2, that one paragraph should wipe away his disbelief. If Russia were to be the center of the modern world, mandating the values Lavrov cites — as he and Putin believe — we’d again have Russian satellites enduring what Eastern Europe did under Soviet rule.
Cold War 2 is being fought in many ways in which President Obama is complicit. Lavrov gushes praise for Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, the “elimination of Syrian chemical weapons” (a fiction created by Russia and Syria), and the “development of basic parameters of the climate change agreement,” which will burden our economy enormously and needlessly and which Russia (a signatory) will of course ignore.
All of the events praised by Lavrov will either threaten our security or burden our economy needlessly. All are praised by Obama as well as Lavrov.
Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin could easily lead us to another “reset” with Russia, like the one Hillary Clinton announced in 2009. As Lavrov said last year, it was an invention of Clinton and the Obama administration, meaning it had no substance. A Trump version would fail even more spectacularly than Hillary’s, but he would take years to face that fact.
Clinton admitted in her tiresome memoir-travelogue Hard Choices that she wished the reset had not failed, but she’s certain to try another under her expert diplomatic guidance. It’s worth remembering that, as her memoir recounts, in her meeting with Vladimir Putin he only paid attention to her when she praised his efforts to preserve the Siberian tiger from extinction.
Both Clinton and Trump will attempt, unsuccessfully, to deal with Putin’s Russia for many reasons, not the least of which is that they lack ideological commitment to our system of values and government. Neither Putin nor Lavrov lacks that sort of ideological foundation. We are fortunate that Bernie Sanders — who honeymooned in the Soviet Union — will never be president.
Both Ted Cruz, for all his faults, and John Kasich, whose many faults are different from Cruz’s, would be more trustworthy because they might — just might — be more susceptible of conservative advice about how to fight Cold War 2.
Next year, we will have to wait and see how Russia celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution that created the Soviet Union. The only restraint on Russia is supposed to be its weak fossil-fuel based economy. If the price of oil goes up, that restraint will be removed. As interesting and important as 2016 is to us, next year will be to Putin’s Russia.
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