“We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.” Bonnie Tyler sang those words in the 1980s. She wasn’t talking politics. But her statement seems like an apt description for the tense framework of today’s US-Russia relationship.
It goes from one flashpoint to another. At one time it was Russiagate. Another time it was election interference, not to mention Ukraine, Georgia, and others. Today it’s Belarus.
Item: “Protests Erupt In Belarus Over The Results Of Presidential Election.” –NPR [SPARK]
Item: “Europe must not abandon the new Belarus to Putin.” –Atlantic Council [SPARK SPARK]
Item: “Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka says that Russia has agreed to offer security assistance in the case of external military threats.” –BBC [SPARK SPARK SPARK]
Kaboom: Belarus could be the triggering spark. Potentially it could set off an explosive reaction between Russia and the US. That could be a doomsday scenario. Both countries uniquely possess the nuclear power to devastate the planet.
Over 100 key American foreign policy experts just shouted out this danger in plain language:
“US-Russia relations are at a dangerous dead end that threatens the US national interest. The risk of a military confrontation that could go nuclear is real again.”
Those experts have pressed the alarm button, but the siren is being drowned out by news of petty bickering between US political factions over relatively less consequential matters regarding Russia. Some of the political concerns certainly have merit. But important as they are, they pale in comparison with the potential obliteration of the planet.
Nuclear devastation likely sounds like a remote abstraction to many if not most Americans. Popular attention is focused on more immediate domestic concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic, stubbornly persistent racial bigotry, and widespread outbreaks of mass lawlessness. These are real issues we learn about in everyday news.
But putting our heads in the sand over an equally real nuclear threat will offer no protection from its ultimate danger.
“The nuclear threat outweighs every other concern. If we don’t handle this one adroitly, we won’t be alive to deal with the rest of our challenges” proclaims Sharon Tennison, president of the Center for Citizen Initiatives. She believes that citizen action is imperative.
American University in Moscow president Edward Lozansky is singing the same tune. “Do not wait for the government; use public diplomacy, identify Russian experts who are willing to talk, break into interest groups and start building a positive agenda for US- Russia relations. Please do it soon — before Doomsday arrives.” he implored recently in the Washington Times.”
Tennison adds that “we need to have a sense of whether this [nuclear] reality is penetrating the consciousness of our American people.
Judging from the daily news stream, however, the answer is already at hand. Americans are being bombarded with counterfactual media reports that promote active hostility toward Russia.
Here are just a few examples:
Argument: Russia is attacking our democracy. This allegation focuses on the alleged hacking of DNC servers and stealing data. But retired National Security Agency technical director William Binney has disproved it using publically available data. Binney working with a group of other former intelligence officials offered evidence that the alleged Russian hack was technically impossible. Instead the data breach seems to have been committed by an insider that downloaded the data onto a thumb drive.
Argument: Russia has interfered with our elections. What’s in contention is Russia’s purported use of social media to disseminate disinformation. In the past this practice has been called simply propaganda. The new terminology seems like just an attempt to be inflammatory. Certainly the United States and other world powers engage in propaganda to advance their interests too.
Argument: Russia is corrupting our voting process. No real evidence of that has ever been presented. At the same time there is public evidence that Americans may have worked to corrupt the 1996 presidential election in Russia. In an American movie titled Spinning Boris, three Americans confess to direct intervention into the election campaign. They claim to have brought about the reelection of the vastly unpopular president Yeltsin “the American way.” The trio said they taught Russians how to “play dirty, whether they wanted to or not.”
Argument: Russia invaded Georgia. In fact an EU fact-finding commission found it was Georgia that shot first.
Argument: Russia is killing journalists who are critical of Putin. The fact is that there was a precipitous drop in journalist murders when Putin took over from Yeltsin. Statistics gathered by the Committee to Project Journalist attest to that. Not all journalist murders were political assassinations. One that was, however, is that of American journalist Paul Klebnikov. He had written favorably of Putin.
There are lots more faulty arguments. Those shown above are admittedly abbreviated versions of complex situations. In some cases it is true that there is some blame on both sides. My books, The Phony Litvinenko Murder, Litvinenko Murder Case Solved, and Ukraine in the Crosshairs go into depth on those issues.
Please keep the fallacious arguments listed above in mind, however. Be aware that anyone who espouses them unequivocally is probably trying to pull the wool over your eyes.