Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Facts About Russia

The dominant media narrative keeps telling us that Vladimir Putin installed his puppet Donald Trump in the White House. Now, it continues, Trump is just doing the bidding of the Kremlin. He's a marionette whose strings are being pulled by Putin.

The rhetorical hyperbole is deafeningly stupid. Katrina vanden Heuvel, who owns the left leaning The Nation, calls the media out in the Washington Post this morning.

Robert S. Mueller III’s indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian organizations for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election set off a classic Beltway frenzy. Democrats, on the hunt against President Trump, led the way, echoed by neoconservatives, always eager to pump up the next crisis. This was an “act of war,” the “equivalent” of Pearl Harbor, liberal Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) charged.

A “9/11 scale event, a “Pearl Harbor scale event” intoned New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “similar in terms of impact.” If Russia’s efforts were as successful as the indictment says, wrote the normally sensible Robert Kuttner, “it means Trump literally became president in a Russia-sponsored coup d’├ętat.”

Knowing the Democrats are not going to retake power by trafficking in such absurdities, vanden Heuvel continues:

Please. Bots are not bombs. Facebook ads are not the equivalent of planes flying into the World Trade Center. The casualties of Russian interference in our election are a far remove from the thousands lost during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, or at Pearl Harbor. The efforts detailed in the indictment — $100,000 in Facebook ads, more than one-half of which was spent after the election plus some scantly attended rallies — do not constitute a coup d’├ętat. With Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania vital to Trump’s electoral college victory, a Senate hearing reported the total amount spent on Facebook targeting Wisconsin was “a mere $1,979; all but $54 was spent prior to the completion of the primary. ... The spending in Michigan and Pennsylvania was even smaller.” According to the indictment, the supposedly sophisticated operation only learned in June 2016 that it should focus its activities “on purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.”

She continues to regale us with other political exaggeration, and adds that she is most concerned that ginning up conflict between Trump and Putin makes it impossible for them to engage in diplomatic cooperation.

In the meantime, Trump and his supporters have declared themselves to have been tougher on Russia than the Obama administration. Victor Davis Hanson set down the facts, and they read like an indictment of Obama administration ineptitude. Could it be that the attacks on Trump are merely a way to distract us from the Obama record on Russia?

Hanson begins by giving us his conclusions:

From 2009 to 2015, in one of the most remarkable and Machiavellian efforts in recent strategic history, Putin almost single-handedly parlayed a deserved losing hand into a winning one. He pulled this off by flattering, manipulating, threatening, and outsmarting an inept and politically obsessed Obama administration.

Under the Obama presidency and the tenures of Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Russia made astounding strategic gains — given its intrinsic economic, social, and military weaknesses. The Obama reaction was usually incoherent (Putin was caricatured as a “bored kid in the back of the classroom” or as captive of a macho shtick). After each aggressive Russian act, the administration lectured that “it is not in Russia’s interest to . . . ” — as if Obama knew better than a thuggish Putin what was best for autocratic Russia.

The Obama administration reset involved relieving Russia from Bush administration sanctions:

Under the Obama-Clinton reset protocols, Russia was freed from even the mild sanctions installed by the Bush administration, imposed for its 2008 Ossetian aggressions. As thanks, in early 2014, Russia outright annexed Crimea. It used its newfound American partnership as an excuse to bully Europe on matters of energy and policy, confident that under American reset, it would face little NATO pushback.

As for Eastern Europe, from Crimea to Poland and the Czech Republic, Obama did what Putin wanted him to do:

Russia assumed de facto control over large sections of eastern Ukraine. Its aggression sent nations of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States into a panic and raised fears of another Ukrainian-like intervention — thereby wresting pro-Russians concessions on the premise that it was nearby and unpredictably dangerous while the U.S. was distant and predictably inert. Russia succeeded in helping to dismantle previously negotiated U.S. missile-defense arrangements with the Czech Republic and Poland.

And, of course, Obama walked away from the Middle East, leaving it to the tender mercies of ISIS and Vladimir Putin:

After a near 40-year hiatus, Russia was invited into the Middle East by the Obama administration. It soon became the power broker in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq and to some extent offered passive-aggressive support for Israel and Turkey — a position of influence that it retains to this day and that would now be hard to undo. It posed as a “helper” to the Obama administration with Iran and helped broker the disastrous Iran deal — and then used U.S. acquiescence to Iran to fuel the ascendance of the Iran-Hezbollah-Assad crescent.

As a gesture to his friend Vlad, Obama also cut back on our nuclear weapons:

Despite America’s nuclear responsibilities, Russia convinced the Obama administration to cut back radically on our stockpile of deployable nuclear weapons. Such promised reductions in deliverable weapons came at a time of massive U.S. defense cuts and cancellations, and delays in missile defense.

As for the global energy market, there too Obama did what was necessary to empower Russian interests:

Russia was relieved by Obama’s efforts to stall fracking and make huge swathes of American territory off-limits for U.S. oil and gas exploration — as this would tighten global oil markets and enhance Russian petroleum export profits. The Obama administration inexplicably approved sale of a sizable portion of scarce U.S. uranium holdings to a Russian company, despite the fact that it was known that investors connected with the Kremlin and uranium interests had paid Bill Clinton $500,000 to give a speech in Moscow. In additions, the chairman of the so-called Uranium One consortium gave $2.5 million to the Clinton Foundation, a fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not disclose, even though she had promised (during her confirmation process) to reveal all such possible conflicts of interest.

And then there was the picture of the American president telling the then-Russian president, Medvedev that he would be more conciliatory towards Russia after the 2012 election. Why didn't anyone consider that to be an impeachable offense?

Barack Obama revealed himself with an open-mic promise to outgoing Russian puppet president Dmitri Medvedev, which, by any reasonable logic, could only be explained as a promise by Obama to retard U.S. missile-defense efforts in Europe in exchange for good Russian behavior during Obama’s reelection bid. (“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space. . . . This is my last election. . . . After my election, I have more flexibility.”) Had Donald Trump been caught in such a private conversation offering a Russian president a quid pro quo — massaging future U.S. national defense policy in a pro-Russia direction in exchange for Russian behavior that would help Trump’s electoral chances — he would probably be facing impeachment on grounds of real Russian collusion.

Contrast this, Hanson says, with the Trump record:

In just its first year, the Trump administration has armed Ukrainians, reentered the Middle East to bomb ISIS, squared off against Russia, and decimated Russian mercenaries in Syria. Trump also has ensured that the U.S. is well placed to usurp Russia as the world’s largest oil producer within about twelve months. He upped the defense budget, ordered the updating of the nuclear arsenal, bantered NATO members to increase their defense contributions, and traveled to Eastern Europe to bolster Western solidarity,

Facts speak louder than narratives. If your task in life is to defend the Obama administration policy toward Russia you too would want the nation to be talking about Trump’s Russia collusion.


Anonymous said...

A great account to follow on Twitter is that of Simon Kuestenmacher. His tweets are all about maps, maps and maps. Here's a map that fits 'the entire Russian economy (as measured in GDP) into Western Europe':

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: The dominant media narrative keeps telling us that Vladimir Putin installed his puppet Donald Trump in the White House.

Agreed there is over the top rhetoric out there, although Trump did seem to be naive when he publicly takes Putin at his word in denial of Russian hacking and social media fake news propaganda. Of course what else can you say when a foreign rival claims innocence and your own country's intelligence says otherwise? I'd be a skeptic too, until I had clear evidence to challenge a liar. But how to you treat a rival when you learn he's willing to lie to your face?

The consensus I'd support is that Clinton would have been tougher on Russia than Obama was, and the Russian efforts used propaganda to weaken Clinton, presuming she was going to be elected. And now that Trump is elected the Russians are gleeful for our internal chaos, and glad to promote conspiracy thoughts from the Left.

And now Facebook's efforts hasn't clearly decreased the fake news sharing, but they do prevent someone from sharing links that point out the fake news, even links correcting fake news about Facebook itself can be marked as spam now. 2018 midterms may not be as horrible as the 2016 elections, but it looks pretty grim unless we can find common ground.

Jack Fisher said...

AO, read the damn article before you cut and paste your libtarded sprew. Anyone claiming that the Russians "influenced" the election based on less than $50,000 in Facebook ads is insane or a tool.

Sam L. said...

We all know the American Left looooooooooves Russia, and has since the Communists took over.

Christopher B said...

Clinton would have been tougher on Russia than Obama was

Say what? The author of the Russian 'Overload', I mean 'Reset', in 2009 and one of the prime beneficiaries of the grease payments for authorizing the Uranium One sale?

Still, it's possible given the low bar you're setting.

Ares Olympus said...

Jack Fisher, I see we're living in worlds of parallel alternative facts. What can be done?

My only direct experience was joining two Facebook groups called "Trump's deplorables", and I didn't last very long trying to fact check the shares before being banned from both. I'm not sure why I was shocked that nearly 100% of the articles there were shared from fake news sites. I'm perfectly willing to believe only 10% of the posters were Russians, another 10% other various owners of clickbait sites looking to gain traffic for their google ad revenue. and the other 80% were just ordinary Americans looking for political hateporn to feel better about themselves.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Yeah, Ares, you’re a terrific fact-checker.

You just keep believing that and maybe someday it’ll come true.

Fake news is it’s own fraud. Lefties have a whiny excuse for everything.

And comparing this imaginary narrative to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor is disgusting. The only carnage was Hillary, and there was no one more deserving.

I hear she’s contemplating another presidential run. Nothing would make me happier.