Slanting Against Russia: A US Establishment Pastime – Analysis


Columbia University’s Timothy Frye recently wrote a defense of the status of Russian studies programs in the US – particularly in the area of political science. Frye was responding to a contrary claim that has been stated in the years since the Soviet Union’s demise. (Leonid Bershidsky isn’t the only one who has expressed that view.)

Concerning the Cold War era, it wouldn’t be so surprising to (upon further review) find support for the opinion that the traditionally top American schools in Russian political science programs haven’t lost much, if anything. Regardless of how this matter is viewed, there’s considerable room for improvement. During the Cold War period, schools not noted for Russian studies were (short of a conclusive study) probably more prone to offer a greater number of these courses than what’s generally evident today.

In the US, there perhaps might be an increase (if not already) in Russian studies political science courses, motivated by the kind of fear and hate mongering on Russia, that has involved American mass media, body politic and some elements in academia. At present, note the prevailing slant of those Russian studies instructors and graduated students, typically getting appearance time and jobs in government, as well as at the leading media and think tank organs.

This very point relates to my response to a National Interest symposium on US-Russian relations. Among the participants, the Harvard connected Graham Allison, can be considered as an American based mainstream academic moderate on Russia. Mind you, that over the course of time, he has written such prose as “punishing Russia for its unacceptable aggression against Ukraine.”

At a good number of the higher profile US academic and media venues, it’s apparently asking too much to have a source advocating the opposite from Allison – inclusive of how the US can be hypothetically punished for bad behavior. Such people running counter to Allison periodically crop up as panelists at high level US gatherings. That scenario is clearly more of an exception than rule.

Take Frye’s Columbia University as an example. He lauds the presence of native Russian speakers, involved in US political science programs, dealing with Russia. One such person is the Columbia connected Maria Snegovaya. As specified, by yours truly, her anti-Russian leaning slants are pretty clear cut. A noticeably contrasting view from Columbia hasn’t been as readily available on a mass scale, whether at The National Interest, and elsewhere. Generally speaking, the US establishment favors the likes of Snegovaya, which (among others) include Maxim Trudolyubov and Masha Gessen.

On the aforementioned bias at Columbia, Gilbert Doctorow (an alumni of that school) authored a detailed accounting. The well spoken Doctorow has been a periodic guest on RT. Others thinking along his lines get little, if any airtime on the leading 24/7 US TV news stations. Instead, there’s more of a reliance on people like Michael Weiss, whose knowledge of Russia is considerably less than Doctorow’s.

Unofficially, there’s an understanding of what can and can’t be said about Russia, if the goal is to better advance oneself in the US market. Via Reuters, Josh Cohen’s “realistic” set of ideas for settling the differences in the former Ukrainian SSR come to mind. He offers the idea of a shared Kiev regime-Russia sovereignty over Crimea, but not the rebel held Donbass region. (For that matter, why not foster a joint Serb-Albanian control over Kosovo?) Cohen’s zero sum game pronouncement that Ukraine’s future is with the West and not Russia, is impractical when considering Ukraine’s ongoing socioeconomic misery (inclusive of an overly corrupt kleptocracy), in conjunction with the West’s frustration over that situation and the realistic basis for that former Soviet republic to have a substantive trade relationship with its historically close Russian neighbor.

There’s a good deal of something for everyone to find in Russia. The anti-Russian influenced person going to that country can have his/her bias fulfilled with examples of misery. The often maligned (in US establishment circles) Russophile grouping doesn’t (by and large) deny these conditions. Rather, they expand, by noting the positives with some whataboutism (if you may), on how misery can be found among the more economically advanced nations.

Denying a heavy bias against Russia/Russians is a severe diversion from reality. Philip Giraldi got dumped by The American Conservative, for describing (at another venue) a heavily negative Jewish influence in the American body politic. How is that take more egregious than James Clapper’s overtly bigoted comment comment about Russians?

In the US, some influential elements monitor anti-Jewish comments. Much of the American public is sensitized to understanding and opposing anti-Jewish statements. Sometimes, the anti-Jewish designation can get out of hand. Giraldi could’ve chosen his words differently. Jews are by no means monolithic, as I’m sure Giraldi will concur, upon a direct follow-up with him on that specific point. (Given the tragic past of the Jews, I can see the concern over emphasizing Jewish money and influence, fostering government to do wrongheaded things. At the same time, there’s a legitimate basis to criticize some core foreign policy advocacies in the pro-Israeli neocon grouping – noting that not all of Israel’s supporters are neocons.)

At play, is a selective sensitivity factor that reeks of big time hypocrisy. The belief that Giraldi deserved to be axed unlike the CNN hired Clapper, is a bigoted thought, that essentially okays the belief of a negative trait among Russians (along genetic lines at that) – which would definitely not be tolerated, were it directed against some other groups.

Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. This article was initially placed at the Strategic Culture Foundation’s website on October 11.

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 Experts' Panel. Besides Averko's Eurasia Review column -, 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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