11 September 2016

Why Putin Favors an Orange Clown

Clinton Ehrlich, the, "Sole Western researcher at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Moscow State Institute of International Relations," observes that the Russian political establishment honestly believes that Hillary Clinton wants to start a war with Russia.

I don't have the direct exposure to the Russian foreign policy establishment, but his assessment of their position rings true to me, not the least because I see Clinton's foreign policy record as showing her to be bellicose in general,  and implacably hostile to Russia specifically:
If Hillary Clinton is elected president, the world will remember Aug. 25 as the day she began the Second Cold War.

In a speech last month nominally about Donald Trump, Clinton called Russian President Vladimir Putin the godfather of right-wing, extreme nationalism. To Kremlin-watchers, those were not random epithets. Two years earlier, in the most famous address of his career, Putin accused the West of backing an armed seizure of power in Ukraine by “extremists, nationalists, and right-wingers.” Clinton had not merely insulted Russia’s president: She had done so in his own words.

Worse, they were words originally directed at neo-Nazis. In Moscow, this was seen as a reprise of Clinton’s comments comparing Putin to Hitler. It injected an element of personal animus into an already strained relationship — but, more importantly, it set up Putin as the representative of an ideology that is fundamentally opposed to the United States.


I have been hard-pressed to offer a more comforting explanation for Clinton’s behavior — a task that has fallen to me as the sole Western researcher at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Better known by its native acronym, MGIMO, the institute is the crown jewel of Russia’s national-security brain trust, which Henry Kissinger dubbed the “Harvard of Russia.”


Let’s not mince words: Moscow perceives the former secretary of state as an existential threat. The Russian foreign-policy experts I consulted did not harbor even grudging respect for Clinton. The most damaging chapter of her tenure was the NATO intervention in Libya, which Russia could have prevented with its veto in the U.N. Security Council. Moscow allowed the mission to go forward only because Clinton had promised that a no-fly zone would not be used as cover for regime change.

Russia’s leaders were understandably furious when, not only was former Libyan President Muammar al-Qaddafi ousted, but a cellphone recording of his last moments showed U.S.-backed rebels sodomizing him with a bayonet. They were even more enraged by Clinton’s videotaped response to the same news: “We came, we saw, he died,” the secretary of state quipped before bursting into laughter, cementing her reputation in Moscow as a duplicitous warmonger.

As a candidate, Clinton has given Moscow déjà vu by once again demanding a humanitarian no-fly zone in the Middle East — this time in Syria. Russian analysts universally believe that this is another pretext for regime change. Putin is determined to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from meeting the same fate as Qaddafi — which is why he has deployed Russia’s air force, navy, and special operations forces to eliminate the anti-Assad insurgents, many of whom have received U.S. training and equipment.


Another factor that disturbs Russian analysts is the fact that, unlike prior hawks such as John McCain, Clinton is a Democrat. This has allowed her to mute the West’s normal anti-interventionist voices, even as Iraq-war architect Robert Kagan boasts that Clinton will pursue a neocon foreign policy by another name. Currently, the only voice for rapprochement with Russia is Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump. If she vanquishes him, she will have a free hand to take the aggressive action against Russia that Republican hawks have traditionally favored.

Moscow prefers Trump not because it sees him as easily manipulated, but because his “America First” agenda coincides with its view of international relations. Russia seeks a return to classical international law, in which states negotiate with one another based on mutually understood self-interests untainted by ideology. To Moscow, only the predictability of realpolitik can provide the coherence and stability necessary for a durable peace.


In Clinton, it sees the polar opposite — a progressive ideologue who will stubbornly adhere to moral postures regardless of their consequences. Clinton also has financial ties to George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations are considered the foremost threat to Russia’s internal stability, based on their alleged involvement in Eastern Europe’s prior “Color Revolutions.”

Russia’s security apparatus is certain that Soros aspires to overthrow Putin’s government using the same methods that felled President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine: covertly orchestrated mass protests concealing armed provocateurs. The Kremlin’s only question is whether Clinton is reckless enough to back those plans.
I have one difference with this analysis:  The evidence shows that the coup in the Ukraine was more directly funded by the CIA (and its front the National Endowment for Democracy) and the State Department, not Soros.


Stephen Montsaroff said...

Here's an alternative take: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-abrams/putins-view-of-trump-a-pu_b_11954946.html

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