Republican Mitt Romney has taken the neocon line, which spins the image of successive US presidents (Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama) attempting to improve Washington’s relations with Moscow – leaving the suggestion that Russian behavior makes that advocacy difficult. During his 2012 US presidential bid, Romney was ridiculed by the Democratic Party establishment for his belief that Russia posed the number one geopolitical (or existential) threat to the US. At the time, the Democratic connected MSNBC host Chris Matthews, chided Romany for ignoring the positive changes in post-Soviet Russia. Matthews approvingly referenced then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s rebuttal to Romney.
Fast forward to the present and one finds a number of Democrats and not necessarily registered Democrats like CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, change course by saying that they were wrong and Romney was right about Russia. (There’s some debate on where Zakaria’s views can be actually placed. Notwithstanding, he’s arguably best categorized in the neoliberal grouping, which has an influential base in the Democratic Party.)
Contrary to the neocon belief shared by some others, something else has been at play which has continuously warped much of the US mass media and political establishment commentary about Russia. Concisely put, whenever a major Russia related news issue occurs, there’s a noticeable knee jerk reaction to slant towards the anti-Russian perspective. Such examples include the situation in Ukraine (in 2004 and 2014) and Georgia in 2008). More recent instances concern the suspect coverage of doping in Russian sports and the allegation of a Vladimir Putin backed Russian government effort to hack the Democratic party, for the benefit of Donald Trump.
The anti-Russian bias sharply contrasts from the effort to defend and understand the mainstream Israeli perspectives, as evidenced by the criticism accorded to the Obama administration by such Democrats as New York Congressman Charles Schumer and talking head commentator Douglas Schoen. Along with the Israeli government, Schumer, Schoen, et al, were aghast that the US abstained on the December 2016 UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution, which expressed opposition to the further building of Israeli government approved Jewish settlements, on territory internationally seen as occupied and comprising a future Palestinian state.
All of the other UNSC delegates voted for that resolution, including the Western cultured democracies of New Zealand, France, Spain and the UK. Said document references a condemnation of terrorist attacks – something the Obama administration emphasized as a basis for its UNSC non-veto. At the UNSC, the US Ambassador Samantha Power (in explaining the Obama administration’s position), expressed staunch criticism of the Palestinians, while noting that prior US administrations had all opposed the further construction of Jewish settlements beyond Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries.
When it comes to Israel: Schoen, Schumer, Power and a good number of US media and political elites see a hypocritical world that’s disproportionately opposed to the Jewish state. To some degree, it can be reasonably argued that they’ve a point. They also exaggerate things along the lines of Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon’s UNSC whataboutism moment when he (during the UNSC discussion on the December 2016 resolution on Jewish settlements) brought up the carnage in Syria. Contrary to what Danon suggested, the UN has spent a good deal of time discussing Syria and other issues including Srebrenica and the former Ukrainian SSR. These discussions included biases against Russia – the type shared by Schoen, Schumer, Power, et al.
As one of several examples, consider the hoopla they make in condemning Crimea’s reunification with Russia, versus their comments on Turkish action in northern Cyprus (against the desire of that island nation) and the effort to separate Kosovo from Serbia (contradicting UN Security Council resolution 1244 and the preference of Belgrade). With New York Times approval, Power staunchly advocated a most hypocritically flawed effort to have the UNSC formally recognize Srebrenica as a genocide – a matter which Russia correctly vetoed, in a way that isn’t supportive of wartime atrocities.
I’ve a good sense of knowing what Schoen, Schumer, Power and others thinking like them might say in reply. This point concerns the lack of diverse interaction in numerous mass media situations. As is, they apparently don’t see much fault in what they’ve expressed on Russia related issues. (Out of concern for not being repetitive, I won’t get too bogged down on this particular, given my prior commentary at the Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF), rerun at Eurasia Review, with some non-SCF posted material.)
An extreme instance of anti-Russian prejudice was exhibited by Gersh Kuntzman of the New York York Daily News, who equated the murder of Russian Ambassador (to Turkey) Andrei Karlov with the assassination of a Nazi diplomat by a Jew. In place of Karlov, you can be sure that the New York Daily News would fire a journo for making that analogy to the murder of an Israeli diplomat by a Palestinian, or a US official by an Iraqi. Such is the environment that has folks like Keith Olbermann openly rant about “Russian scum“.
All this said, there’s a basis for optimism among those favoring improved US-Russian ties. Taking an anti-Russian platform, Romney, John McCain and (more recently) Hillary Clinton failed to gain the US presidency. This encouraging sign is indicative of an American public that isn’t so threatened by Russia.
In winning the US presidency, Donald Trump has bucked the prevailing biases against Russia. Practically speaking, Russia and the US shouldn’t be so opposed to each other. US mass media has recently had some more eclectic Russia related moments that include Tucker Carlson’s Fox News hosted segments with Glenn Greenwald and Stephen Cohen, as well as a diverse Zakaria moderated CNN discussion with Cohen, Fyodor Lukyanov, Anne Applebaum and Phil Mudd.
These situations are noted with a cautious optimism. Overall, the US mass media and political establishment remain unfairly skewed against Russia.