Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.
Gilbert Doctorow is a Research Fellow of the American University in Moscow.
Proposal for a collective and authoritative platform to respond to the massive anti-Russian propaganda of the foreign policy establishments in the USA and in Europe. Read on…
Over the past several weeks, it has now been widely acknowledged in the media that we have well and truly entered a new and perilous age in international relations, a New Cold War. In many ways, this is something those of us who believed in the Golden Age ushered in by the fall of Communism have feared for the last ten years or more as the paths of Russia and the West diverged with greater insistence and acrimony.
And yet, now that it has occurred, the onset of the New Cold War also has given evidence of some healthy signs that hold promise of a brighter future once we get our minds around the facts and seek a way forward.
For one thing, the air has been cleared of hypocrisy and false illusions. Each side, the US-EU and Russia, has finally expressed in unvarnished terms what it really thinks of the other. Whether the terms are ‘the free world’ versus ‘authoritarian autocracy,’ as seen from one side, or ‘degenerate values and empire of lies,’ as seen from the other side, the phony notion of ‘our friends’ and ‘our partners’ has been thrown out, as it truly should have been years ago.
I include myself among those who have shed harmful illusions.Those of us who once spoke hopefully of Russia in NATO have been compelled by events of the past few weeks to appreciate that the very concept of NATO is an unreformable anachronism which is incompatible with the new world order of rising military and economic powers that it cannot and will not accommodate peacefully since it is predicated on AmericanDiktat.
‘We bark, you jump!’ the American guiding principle so vividly formulated by Michael Moore, is one that Western Europe may reluctantly buy into while it chooses to rely on soft power, but it is not a principle that can be imposed on Russia, on China or on any other self-respecting nation-state among the emerging economies, where hard power is still appreciated properly.
America refused to humor Boris Yeltsin’s claim to equal treatment in an enlarged NATO in 1993-94 when Russia was genuinely weak. It is all the more understandable that America under Bush and Obama has been still more unwilling to accord equal status to the resurgent Russia of Vladimir Putin in a revised European, not to mention global security order .
Worst of all, these direct contradictions were hidden from view so as to avoid spoiling the gloss of the several ‘resets’ that were launched by Washington since 1992. Now that the decorative distractions have fallen away, now that Russia has been booted out of the G-8 and the NATO-Russian relationship has been exposed as truly adversarial rather than cooperative, minds can focus on the structural issues underlying the East-West confrontation and the need for mutual respect.
It has been commented upon from time to time that in America, paradoxically, there was much more respect for Russia and much more even-handed public debate over how to deal with Russia in the midst of the Cold War than at any time since. Triumphalism in the United States and even in Western Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union has led to the death of pluralism in democracies where precisely pluralism was traditionally understood to be one of the highest benefits of a free society.
During my year as a Visiting Scholar to Columbia University’s Harriman Institute (formerly the Russian Institute) in 2010-2011, I made the sad discovery that conformism had swept aside anything approaching free academic enquiry wherever modern Russia was concerned. Anyone daring to draw attention to official positions of the RF government is condemned as an apologist of Putin, if not accused of being in the pay of the KGB altogether.This kind of closed mind among our scholars and experts on Russia is solely responsible for the current belief that Russia is a conundrum, that Putin’s next steps are unforeseeable and other balderdash that our media serve up daily.
Our problem is not a dearth of experts, but the quality of the experts we have. And while, for its part, the CIA is busily dispatching and controlling drones in its new paramilitary activities, its intelligence service appears to be unable to fathom anything the Kremlin is up to without having a double agent in the Russian cabinet or a bug under Vladimir Putin’s pillow. So much for the tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money our intelligence consumes every year. No one can be bothered to read a Putin speech or watch Russian state television, where the whole future course of Russian policy and actions is set out for all to see in no uncertain terms.
That was the prologue. What I now propose is an action program built upon the notion that men and women of understanding and of good will need a platform to raise a collective and authoritative voice in response to the massive anti-Russian propaganda of the foreign policy establishments in the USA and in Europe, which are serving their own interests at the expense of national interest. Whereas we now see occasional op-eds or vignette appearances on talk shows by what must be called ‘dissident Russia experts,’ they are lost in the background noise and exert no influence on our policy-makers in the Oval Office and in the chanceries of Europe.
What is needed, I argue, is the recreation of a public sounding board of common sense in relations with Russia similar to one that functioned at the highest levels in the 1970s, during the midst of the Cold War: the American Committee on East-West Accord.The outstanding features of that lobbying body were the weighty participation on the board level of the presidents and CEOs of top-drawer American industrial companies like Control Data and Pepsico, as well as by senior statesmen, like George Kennan, the author of the Containment Policy under whose banner the Cold War was initiated and pursued for decades.
If one were to recreate such an entity today, it would be imperative to do so on two continents, with both American and European chapters.That is so because the creation of the European Union and the evolution of its foreign policy mandate have made it a key player in the present confrontation with Russia at the political level, even if Europe’s economic interests are far more intertwined with Russia’s than are American economic interests.
The presence of business leaders on the board of such a Committee would also ensure the funding required for effective promotional campaigns and a permanent forum for seekers of solutions to the dilemmas of the day, such as the present impasse over Ukraine.Indeed, given that European trade and investment with Russia is ten times or more the level of the US, it would be reasonable to find the most enthusiastic business backers of such a project in the Old Continent.The assorted chambers of commerce for Russia would be the most promising rosters for prospecting.As for honored government leaders, one could think of few candidates better qualified than Germany’s Helmut Kohl or Gerhard Schroeder.
In the United States, an obvious candidate for the Board could be Jack Matlock, ambassador to Moscow under Ronald Reagan and an outspoken warrior for common sense in present day relations with Russia who enjoys respect on both sides of the political spectrum. Businesses may be shy, but with billions already invested in plant in Russia, it is inconceivable that companies like McDonalds, Ford and General Motors will passively watch the work of decades go down the drain with the same resignation as Cargill once submitted to the trade embargo cavalierly put in place by President Jimmy Carter on the advice of his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
The undertaking outlined above, if realized, will not by itself correct the disastrous policy decisions of the past 20 years that brought us to the New Cold War, but it can be a significant stimulus to righting course.