‘Realists’ On Russia – Analysis


In the US, the establishment Foreign Policy.com (FP) isn’t as realist geared as its establishment counterpart The National Interest, which is affiliated with the Center For The National Interest (CFTNI).

The Thomas Graham-Matthew Rojansky October 13 FP article “America’s Russia Policy Has Failed“, is a prime example of US foreign policy establishment articulated realism. Ideally, realists don’t engage in hypocritically negative and inaccurate characterizations, that can be easily thrown back at the other party to an issue.

In their FP article, Rojansky and Graham highlight Russia as “undemocratic” and characterize “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine…”, while sidestepping the cavalier Western foreign policy establishment attitude towards the overthrow of the democratically elected Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, followed by a series of anti-Russian acts, that are opposed by a sizeable number on the territory of the former Ukrainian SSR. (On a comparative point, imagine FP accepting an article, that wrote of US aggression against Yugoslavia.)

The US government’s support for regimes less democratic than Russia puts into question the emphasis of portraying Russia as being undemocratic. For the better, (in terms of overall human rights) post-Soviet Russia isn’t the Soviet Union or Saudi Arabia. The democratic USA sees a mass media that regularly gives negatively inaccurate impressions of Russia. Those opposing that reality are subject to being caricatured and kept out of high profile situations.

Rojansky and Graham say that: “As in the Cold War, there is an ideological element to U.S.-Russia competition today. However, rather than advocating Communist class struggle, Moscow is focused on diminishing American credibility.” Never mind that the reverse has been arguably more true. Before the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected president, the Kremlin sought a three way (Russian, Ukrainian and Western) cooperation in developing the troubled Ukrainian economy. On this score, the West pursued a zero sum game. Concerning Syria, the Russian government arguably appears more willing to cooperate with the US than vice versa.

The past month of October saw some featured non-realist thinking by the CFTNI – something that has been previously evident, as noted by yours truly in my April 7, 2016 Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF) article “Poland Saving the World From Russia Is a Historically Flawed Belief” and the updated April 8 Eurasia Review version “Fuzzy History: How Poland Saved the World From Russia“.

In essence, the CFTNI is following a general trend, discussed in my SCF article of this past March 17 “Limited US Foreign Policy Establishment Realism“. Regarding last month, the CFTNI had two instances of non-realist overview, that can be reasonably described as anti-Russian propaganda.

Myhola Murskyj’s October 24 piece “Syria Is Not Ukraine“, is better suited for a Ukrainian nationalist venue, as opposed to one that purports to be relatively objective. Several excerpts from Murskyj underscore this assessment.

According to him: “Russia fueled a conflict in the Donbass and annexed Crimea as a matter of principle: the Kremlin believes that Ukraine rightly belongs within its sphere of influence. Ukraine, on the other hand, sees its European aspirations as part of its slow crawl out from under the yoke of its colonial oppressor. Russia has politically dominated Ukraine since the early 1700s, with only a brief break after World War I. For three hundred years, the two countries cultural and political leaders have operated in both spaces. Leonid Brezhnev was Ukrainian. In today’s Kiev, you’d be hard-pressed to find a TV or radio show on which the speakers don’t frequently switch languages between Ukrainian and Russian, sometimes mid-sentence. So President Vladimir Putin has difficulty imagining that a country so similar to his own might prefer a European future.”

Russo-Ukrainian history is far more nuanced than the simplicity expressed in the above excerpted. Worth noting again: with the encouragement of Western neolibs, neocons and flat out Russia haters, an element of Ukrainian society went along with overthrowing a democratically elected president, followed by a series of increased anti-Russian actions, that’s opposed by many on the territory of the former Ukrainian SSR. Before the overthrow of  Yanukovych, numerous polls indicated a difference of within 10% on whether Ukrainian citizens preferred the EU or the Russian involved customs union. Concerning this issue, Yanukovych sought a practical relationship involving Russia and the West. BTW, Brezhnev’s ethnicity can be reasonably questioned. On at least one Soviet document, he’s listed as an ethnic Ukrainian. In the USSR, it was possible for someone to list an ethnicity other than their actual ethnic background. There’s also the matter of some people having two or more ethnic backgrounds and choosing to identify with one of them over the other or others.

Murskyj states: “Crimea is particularly close to the hearts of many Russians. When it was still part of the Russian SSR, Joseph Stalin deported all 230,000 of the peninsula’s indigenous Sunni Muslims, the Crimean Tatars, in order to make room for Russian settlers. In commemoration of the three hundredth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine, Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean Peninsula from the Russian SSR to the Ukrainian SSR. After independence, many Crimean Tatars returned and were granted the right of self-government by Kiev. All that changed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. After two years of mounting persecution of Crimean Tatars, this past April the Russian authorities declared the Tatar Mejlis, or parliament, an extremist organization. Russians, however, feel that the annexation of Crimea corrects Khrushchev’s mistake, and ‘Crimea is Ours’ has become an important rallying slogan from Novgorod to Vladivostok.”

The aforementioned deportation of the Crimean Tatars was similarly premised to the internment of Japanese North Americans during the same period. (The former being more brutal than the latter, partly because the USSR was in much more dire wartime straits than North America .) The Rus Slav presence in Crimea predates that of the Tatars. The 1654 union between Russia and Cossacks on a portion of the territory of modern day Ukraine, was a mutually agreed occurrence and not an “annexation”, in the form of one side being in clear opposition. Elements in post-Soviet Ukraine have used the Crimean Tatars as propaganda against pro-Russian sentiment. The pro-Kiev regime Crimean Tatar activist Mustafa Dzhemilev, is on record for supporting the ethnic cleansing of Russians from Crimea. In contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has denounced the past internment of the Crimean Tatars, in addition to supporting the official three language policy (Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar) that Crimea has adopted, since its reunification with Russia. Crimea’s reunification with Russia has been virtually bloodless, much unlike what transpired in Kiev regime controlled Ukraine.

Murskyj claims: “Without Russia’s military and logistical support for the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, the war in Ukraine would have ended in August 2014, and then again in February 2015. Likewise, had Russia not begun an intensive air campaign in September 2015, President Assad may have been deposed by now.”

Is that a fact? It seems quite apparent that a clear majority of the Donbass situated rebels are from the former Ukrainian SSR, where there’s plenty of arms to be acquired. The actual degree of support from Russia to the Donbass rebels remains (to a good extent) debatable. Without any aid from Russia, there’s a basis to question whether the Kiev regime would’ve successfully eliminated all of the armed opposition in the area currently under the rebels’ control.

A pro-Kiev regime victory in Donbass might’ve created a more massive refugee situation. On this matter, some pro-Kiev regime advocates have made reference to the 1995 Croat ethnic cleansing of Serbs in Krajina.

Murskyj gave one-sided inaccuracy on why Russia is involved in Syria. The non-Russian foreign interventions in Iraq and Libya haven’t brought greater stability. The Islamic terrorist element in Syria includes those favoring violence against Russia.

The CSPAN televised October 27 CFTNI panel on Russian media was a partisan affair. Maria Snegovaya exhibited an unhesitatingly brash demeanor in her faulty assertions. The other featured panelist, Anna Redkina, was a limited differential to Snegovaya. The Q & A segment consisted of individuals who (by their comments and questions) appeared to be agreeable with the prevailing slant of the panel.

Snegovaya rather incredulously characterized herself as a source seeking to present different sides to a given story. She coauthored with Vera Mironova, the June 19, 2014 New Republic article “Putin Is Behaving in Ukraine Like Milosevic Did in Serbia“, which parrots the flawed anti-Russian/anti-Serb slants, getting the nod at the leading Western media venues – that significantly mute counter-impressions like my July 14, 2014 Global Research rebuttal “Twisted History Against Russia and Serbia” – which among other things, provide details on the increased anti-Russian activity (after Yanukovych’s ouster) in Kiev regime controlled Ukraine.

During the CFTNI panel, Snegovaya absurdly equated Anton Nossik’s statement about completely eliminating Syria, with being on par with Putin’s stand on that country. There was no opposing follow-up, noting the difference between seeking to obliterate a nation, versus going after a terrorist element, way short of looking to destroy the country.

The CFTNI panel simultaneously downplayed the lack of Anglo-American mass media diversity on Russian related issues and the numerous examples of media diversity in Russia. Some of the latter immediately come to mind. The May 5 Saker article “Counter Propaganda, Russian Style“, provides detailed examples. Touching on the same topic, the RIA Novosti affiliated InoSMI, regularly posts accurately translated (mostly English to Russian) Western mass media articles that are negative towards Russia.

In line with her limited commentary on censorship, Snegovaya lauded the differences between Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. On Russian related issues, these three networks have been biased against Russia. A few years ago on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly went at it with Stephen Cohen, with the latter doing quite well. To my knowledge, Cohen hasn’t been back at that station. Cohen (and like minded others) appearances on CNN and MSNBC are considerably less than those with negatively inaccurate biases against Russia. In the relatively few situations when someone thinking like Cohen appears on CNN and MSNBC, he/she is more likely to be rudely interrupted and attacked, when compared to those slanting to the preferred anti-Russian views.

For sure, Russian mass media can be improved upon. The CFNTI panel wasn’t devoid of valid criticisms. It’s nevertheless somewhat dishonest to accentuate Russian mass media faults (real and exaggerated) without doing high profile features on the Western mass media shortcomings. With that in mind, I’ll approve of a CSPAN televised, hard hitting CFTNI panel on US mass media flaws in covering Russia; which offers something substantively the opposite of Snegovaya. Likewise, FP will be more well rounded by providing (for lack of a better term) politically incorrect realist articles, from a constructively critical pro-Russian perspective. In following thru with these suggestions, the CFTNI and FP will look more objective when featuring negative commentary about Russia.

This of course applies to a number of other Western mass media venues as well. It’s a bit ironic that the authoritarian depicted Putin is among the most available of world leaders, when it comes to receiving and giving frank opinions in live media situations.

Michael Averko

Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. He has appeared as a guest commentator on the BBC, RT and WABC talk radio, in addition to having been a panelist at the World Russia Forum, Russia Forum New York and US-Russia.org Experts' Panel. Besides Averko's Eurasia Review column - Academia.edu, Counterpunch, Foreign Policy Journal, Global Research, History News Network, InoSMI.Ru, Johnson's Russia List, Journal of Turkish Weekly, Kyiv Post, Oriental Review, Penza News, Pravda.Ru, Pravoslavie.Ru, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russia Insider, Sputnik News, Strategic Culture Foundation, The Duran, The Huffington Post, Valdai Discussion Club, Yonkers Tribune and WikiLeaks, are among the numerous venues where his articles have either appeared or been referenced. The American Institute in Ukraine and the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, have referenced some of Averko's articles, along with academic white papers prepared for NATO Watch, Ohio State University, Problems of Post-Communism and the Royal College of Defence Studies. He has been referenced in the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense One and The New York Times. Averko is source referenced in Richard Sakwa's book "Frontline Ukraine". His Eurasia Review article on Pavlo Skoropadsky, provides the first full online English language transcript of Skoropadsky's edict calling for an "All-Russian Federation", inclusive of Russia and Ukraine. Among other issues, that article explains the relationships among the major combatants in the Russian Civil War. He can be reached via [email protected]

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