- - Wednesday, August 22, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Upcoming discussion of crushing new anti-Russia legislation that Sen. Lindsey Graham calls “the sanctions bill from hell” will show if there are any sober-minded members of Congress still left on Capitol Hill.

Unfortunately, expectations are not too optimistic, as during the last decade the reputation of Congress has been in continuous decline.

Its public approval ratings oscillate around 15 percent while disapproval averages 75 percent. This means that only 1 in 5 Americans trust the legislative branch of our government.

I’d leave it to the Vatican to figure out if someone can send a message from hell without having personally been on location. But there is no doubt that if the deterioration in relations between the two major nuclear powers continues with the same intensity then hell indeed may break loose on this planet in the not-too-distant future.

There is also not much hope that Congress will change its attitude after the November midterm elections because we do not hear any statements to this effect from the candidates.

Actually, one wonders if in this unprecedented atmosphere of anti-Russia hatred and media hysteria even the few present sensible members of Congress will be re-elected.

From now on, anyone losing an election can conveniently blame Russian hackers, not an uninspiring message or poorly run campaign. Russia can also be blamed for practically all our domestic problems, including racial division, neo-Nazi marches, corruption in high places and whatever else you may wish to add.
So, what does this leave us with?

First of all, let us admit that “hellish” and “everything but the kitchen sink” sanctions have little or nothing to do with Russia’s deeds. The most frequent bad behavior list to justify the sanctions includes Syria, Ukraine, the Skripal poisonings and election meddling.

Most of these accusations can be disproved easily, as many American and European experts have already done. In Syria, it is Russia in the air and Iran on the ground that made a decisive contribution in defeating ISIS and al Qaeda. The unrest in Ukraine was provoked by the EU with U.S. backing for a coup against a corrupt but a democratically elected leader. The current Ukrainian leader was hailed with numerous standing ovations by a joint session of Congress, despite common knowledge that he is even more corrupt than the old one.

As for the Skripal case, even the British media are saturated with stories that it is falling apart, with no direct evidence of Russia’s involvement and only the now infamous “highly likely” dodge by embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May to hang her hat on.

Finally, there is the charge of election meddling. Here I agree that some Russians did try something, and this is not good.

However, pathetic declarations that a couple of dozen Russian hackers and GRU officers plus around $100,000 spent on social network ads can sway the election results are insulting and humiliating to American voters.

Moreover, both Russia or the USSR on one side and the United States on the other have been meddling in each other’s affairs for more than 100 years, and I can testify as a witness to the massive U.S. intervention on behalf of Boris Yeltsin’s re-election campaign in 1996.

Of course, Washington still believes that “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi,” or “What is permissible for Jove is not permissible for a bull,” but those nasty Russians disagree.

The logical thing to stop the meddling would be a treaty prohibiting such actions by both sides. Moscow reportedly has suggested just that.

However, Washington refuses because it would also mean termination of supposed “democracy promotion.” Didn’t Mr. Trump pledge to lead by example rather than coercion?

Judging by this and other examples, we see that Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, especially when it comes to Russia, is sabotaged by Congress and by his own appointees. Mr. Trump believes that good U.S.-Russian relations are also good for America, while for his detractors Russia is more useful as an enemy.

As a result, Russia and many other countries under U.S. sanctions have no choice but to search for new economic and security alliances. One can see this process is already at full speed — notably growing abandonment of the U.S. dollar in international exchange and dumping Treasurys — which in the long run will definitely not benefit the United States.

Some rare good news came last week when it was announced that Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, will meet with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva to discuss arms control treaties and Iran’s role in Syria. But there is no guarantee that if Mr. Bolton makes any progress he, like Sen. Rand Paul, won’t be labeled by the fake news media as Mr. Putin’s stooge.

In the meantime, all of us who have been inspired by Mr. Trump’s statements that he expressed during his campaign and inauguration speech should try to build and expand people-to-people contacts between Americans and Russians to generate new ideas about how to avoid a looming Armageddon. Otherwise, there may be hell to pay.

⦁ Edward Lozansky is the founder and president of the American University in Moscow.


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