…by Jonas E. Alexis and Edward Lozansky
Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow and Professor of National Research Nuclear University. He has written numerous articles in newspapers and journals such as The Nations, The Washington Times, etc. He is the author of Building U.S.-Russia Bridges.
I have said in the past that the New World Order’s enduring legacy is contempt for morality and what Immanuel Kant calls practical reason in the comprehensible universe, which was created by what Aristotle calls the Unmoved Mover. We are still working with the same definition in this article here.
JEA: What’s your take on Vladimir Putin, and do you think politicians in the West, particularly politicians in the United States, misrepresent him?
EL: When Vladimir Putin became president in 2001 he repeated his predecessor’s earlier proposals for Russia’s integration with the West and even a U.S.-Russia alliance, and proved it not just with words, but with deeds, by offering more help to the U.S. operation in Afghanistan than all the NATO allies combined. I recall that at that time during our annual US-Russia Forums on Capitol Hill one Member of Congress after another exclaimed that finally we have our man in the Kremlin.
As a sign of “gratitude” George W. Bush repaid Putin with the unilateral abrogation of the ABM treaty, the Iraq invasion, the promotion of color revolutions in post-Soviet areas, and continuing NATO expansion, including Georgia and Ukraine on his wish list.
This was a red line that Putin could not allow to be crossed, as he indicated in his February 10, 2007 Munich speech, when he accused America of hegemonic behavior and bitterly stated that it needs only vassals, not allies.
This speech became the watershed line for many in Washington who denounced Putin as the top U.S. enemy. Some like Hillary Clinton, historian Paul Johnson and obviously mainstream media even compared him with Adolf Hitler without realizing that this rhetoric may lead us to the most dangerous military confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers.
JEA: Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a great admirer of Vladimir Putin, and the West has universally admired Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn made it very clear that Russia is in a better shape with Putin as the leader. The West never challenged Solzhenitsyn on his view on Putin. Isn’t there an implicit contradiction here?
EL: Solzhenitsyn is a Giant that even the most anti-Putin and Russophobic politicians and journalists do not dare to criticize so they just ignore his statements. Unfortunately the double standards have already become a routine feature in our daily life.
JEA: Do you think Russia did make the right move in Syria?
It was obviously a tactical and strategic success that allowed the establishment of the military base in the Mediterranean and contributed to the defeat of ISIS (Trump keeps saying that he did this all by himself) but in the Middle East it is hard to predict the long term results.
Whatever we might think of the current Syrian regime it is still recognized by the UN and Russia went to Syria on its invitation which means it was done legally and in accordance with international law. At the same time one cannot say the same about US involvement which many agree that it was a direct violation of such law in line with the similar previous violations in Iraq and Libya.
JEA: John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago wrote an article in 2014 arguing that “the Ukraine crisis is the West’s fault.” Were you aware of Mearsheimer’s arguments? And Did you agree with his premise?
EL: Here I want to quote my article on this subject printed about the same time in the Washington Times.
Here are some of the insights from the article:
1991 – 2014 — As a result of Soviet Union’s collapse, its 15 former republics became the newly independent states, Ukraine among them. Free from the communist yoke, having strong industrial and agricultural sectors, a favorable climate and fertile land, Ukraine had great potential to become one of the most prosperous European countries. That is, if its leadership had chosen a political course that took into account the country’s centuries-old economic, family, cultural and religious ties with Russia.
Effective anti-corruption reforms, a certain level of autonomy for the regions with large Russian ethnic population, two state languages and neutral status with no membership in any military blocs would have made Ukraine if not a new Switzerland then definitely a happy and prosperous state. There would be no civil war and Donbass and Crimea would still be a part of Ukraine.
However, some inside and outside forces had a different agenda which resulted in the current tragedy, loss of life and territory, radical nationalism on the rise, economic devastation, millions of skilled workers forced to leave the country in search of manual jobs in foreign lands to survive and support their families.
There were some hopes that the new Ukrainian president Zelensky might find the road to peace by honoring and implementing the so-called Minsk accord that was approved by the UN Security Council but as it turned out he is too weak to resist inside and outside forces who are not interested in this process.
The list of those responsible for this tragedy is long but I’d limit it to outside players who believed that they knew better what Ukrainians need. The foreign ministers of Sweden and Poland, Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski, came up with the European Economic Association scheme which promised huge benefits to Ukraine on condition that it broke its economic ties with Russia. It is obvious that this scheme had nothing to do with bringing prosperity to the Ukrainian people.
The logical way for that would have been a trilateral agreement between the EU, Russia and Ukraine whereby the latter could enjoy the benefits from dealing and friendship with all sides.
However, the interests of the Ukrainian people were the last thing on the minds of Bildt and Sikorski but nevertheless their ideas inspired many other anti-Russia forces in the West who pushed the corrupt but democratically elected Ukrainian president Yanukovich to sign the EU Association agreement and then supported the coup against him when he delayed doing it without revisions to ease negative impacts on Ukraine.
Many American and European politicians and public figures took active parts both with words and deeds on behalf of coup plotters. Some like Vice President Joe Biden and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland went as far as appointing the candidates of their choice for the key positions in the new government in Kiev.
The way Washington and Brussels presented the story is that they have been trying to promote freedom, democracy and other precious Western values in Ukraine while the evil Putin used all possible covert and overt actions to prevent Ukraine’s integration with Europe.
Moscow’s version is understandably quite different. The most important Western objective was and still is to weaken Russia geopolitically and economically, to encroach upon Russia’s territorial boundaries through NATO expansion and to undermine its influence in the post-Soviet space.
Unfortunately, at this time there are no signs that the end of the Ukrainian tragedy is close but I wish my former compatriots well and hope that they will find the way out of this crisis by taking the responsibility for their fate and the fate of their country into their own hands.
JEA: Stephen F. Cohen has just passed away, and he was indeed one of the most important scholars on the relation between Russia and much of the West. Do you see other scholars taking Cohen’s mantle and challenge the mass social media and its covert activity and unfair bias on Russia?
EL: Stephen F. Cohen was another Giant who I compared with Andrei Sakharov – a well known Soviet nuclear scientist, turned dissident and Nobel Peace Laureate.
I had the honor to be Steve’s friend and partner for our cause to promote US-Russia rapprochement that would benefit both our nations and mankind. At this point I do not see anyone capable and ready to take his mantle but we desperately need such person or even a movement to prevent what some distinguished people like Secretary of State George Shultz, Secretary of Defense William Perry, Senator Sam Nunn and over 100 prominent American experts in their Open letter in Politico – sleepwalking into nuclear catastrophe.
Here is the link to this letter and my reply in the Washington Times.
Here’s Professor Lozansky’s response:
Within the context of a speedily devolving geopolitical roller coaster ride shaped by renewed Cold War era hostilities, an Aug. 5 Politico open letter authored by 103 American foreign policy experts calling for a reset to U.S.-Russia relations appeared to be just what the doctors of reason prescribed.
Admittedly, the spirit of the letter, “It’s Time to Rethink our Russia Policy,” appeared to start off on the right step. The authors began with an acknowledgement that “U.S.-Russia relations are at a dead end” and that “the risk of a military confrontation that could go nuclear is real again” and “we believe that a careful dispassionate analysis and change of our current course are imperative.”
All points were very apt and true. At the same time, the letter as a whole was surely lacking in any principled understanding of causality or functional solution that’s so desperately needed. This failure in thinking was made quickly visible when the authors asserted that all the blame for the sad state of affairs can be pointed toward Russia, which, the letter claims, “challenges our role as a global leader and the world order we helped build” and “interferes in our domestic policies to exacerbate divisions and tarnish our democratic reputation.”
These days, this kind of introduction might be a must to avoid appearing on Vladimir Putin’s stooges list for having the temerity to call a “serious and sustained strategic dialogue with Moscow.” Still, it’s not the best invitation to a serious conversation.
An additional problem for me is that some of the signers are my friends and colleagues, and I hope they will not take my criticism personally.
First and foremost, before any trust-based dialogue can truly begin, it must be admitted that, while Russia is definitely no angel, America should share the blame for the new Cold War that Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev brought to the end.
To begin with, take a look at the hot wars in the Middle East and North African nations that are smoldering under the rubble of “democracy-building” operations and military-led regime changes. Is that what the authors meant by “our role as a global leader and the world order we helped build”?
Compared with the devastating results of such global leadership meticulously presented in the “Cost of War” report by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs of Brown University all Russia’s misdeeds do not look so frightening.
The authors of the letter repeat the standard list of these misdeeds that Washington used to impose an avalanche of U.S. sanctions, but ignore the opinions of well-known Western experts who disprove many of these accusations.
Take, for example, Russia’s hacking of the DNC servers. Former NSA Director Bill Binney has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the data from these servers were downloaded onto a thumb drive internally but not hacked from the outside. Besides, since no one disputes the authenticity of the content of the stolen materials published on Wikileaks, it is most likely that the culprit was a whistleblower who wanted to disclose mega-corruption practices taking place at the DNC.
As for the Skripals’ poisoning, there is a long list of experts, like a former British Ambassador Craig Murray who spent a lot of time researching this case and pointed to possible other non-Russian perpetrators of this crime. A recent Austrian government investigation came to the same conclusion.
It is now well known that Christopher Steele’s discredited Russia dossier was actually a product of a Clinton Campaign/DNC/British Intelligence/Brookings institution collusion. But people close to the Kremlin have continued to be blamed anyway.
Unfortunately, all these facts have been largely ignored by the authors but, nonetheless, they should be commended for at least recognizing the present danger and calling for some specific actions like signing a new START treaty, starting a new phase of arms-control discussions and preserving the Open Skies treaty.
They could have gone further in that regard, though by including New Silk Road infrastructure projects across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, where the Arab and African worlds are crying out for reconstruction, long-term planning, stability and hope. Space exploration and lunar/Mars resource mining also provide a fruitful field of creative discovery and are embodied brilliantly in NASA’s Artemis Accords, which call for international partnerships while keeping space free of military affairs.
The Arctic remains a final frontier on Earth which both Russians and Chinese are intent on developing via Mr. Putin’s Eastern Development Strategy and the Polar Silk Road. Other policies of COVID-19 response coordination under a “Health Silk Road,” new energy breakthroughs, climate change mitigation such as massive scale tree-planting already pledged by President Trump and more await America’s participation alongside Russia and China, which have restated their view that the multipolar system is open to all participants.
The quality of thinking needed to attain these goals requires a courageous embrace of uncomfortable truths that acknowledge both America’s errors and misdeeds in recent years. It also means abandoning grandiose unipolar ambitions in favor of genuine American national interests. A constructive mode of thinking must be based less on Cold War “deterrence” or “balance of power diplomacy” and more on points of mutual interest and win-win cooperation.
Finally, in the absence of U.S.-Russia government dialogue it is important at least to have such dialogue between foreign policy experts and scholars from both sides. As ironic as it may sound, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted important online discussions that do not require travel, visas and, no less important, money. The only things we need are people’s dedication to the cause and their time.
My message to all 103 American signers of the letter: 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 U.S.- Russia relations. Please do it soon — before Doomsday arrives.
For further studies, see Stephen F. Cohen, War with Russia?: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate (New York: Hot Books, 2019).