Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire," released in 2013. firstname.lastname@example.org
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C) reviews an honour guard during an inauguration ceremony of the US anti-missile station Aegis Ashore Romania (in the background) at the military base in Deveselu, Romania on May 12, 2016 © Aniel Mihailescu / AFP
The number of Western fake news stories now targeting Russia are the unavoidable outgrowth of another phenomenon: Whoppers, American-style. In fact, three glaring 'untruths' the US told Moscow have now forced Washington to do the inevitable: Blame Russia.
There is a quaint American legend that tells the story of a young George Washington, who, upon receiving a hatchet as a gift from his father, promptly went out to the yard and chopped down a cherry tree. His father, after discovering the dirty deed, demanded to know the identity of the perpetrator.
Young George, without hesitation, stepped forward and said, "Father, I cannot tell a lie... Russia did it." The US media then lent credence to the tale, of course, quoting various unnamed inside sources, and the rest of the story is, as they say, history.
Judging by the code-red level of anti-Russia insanity that has gripped the American mind, I shudder to think how many people would accept that slightly revised version of US history as iron-clad truth. In any event, Washington, as we have learned from recent developments, has not been nearly as honest and forthright as the original tale would have it. In fact, with regards to Russia, it has behaved as a compulsive liar, and the following three examples prove it.
LIE #1: 'Not another inch Eastward.'
As the Soviet Union was suffering the death throes of an anticlimactic collapse wholly disproportionate to its vast size, power, and influence, Washington uttered its first ugly falsehood. It occurred in February 1990 as Western and Soviet diplomats were hammering out the fine points on German unification and a US official - reportedly to be then-Secretary of State James Baker - offered the verbal assurance that NATO would not expand "one inch eastward.”
Today, NATO franchises are doing a booming business - one inch from the Russian border.
As Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick wrote in their indispensable book, 'The Untold History of the United States,' NATO forces, during the presidency of President George W. Bush, began "encircling Russia with US and NATO military bases, some in former Soviet territories."
The first NATO expansion in 1999, the authors noted, absorbed Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic; the second wave, beginning in late 2002, eventually brought in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Albania and Croatia signed up in 2009, while Montenegro, the 29th, and latest member, joined in June of this year.
Stone and Kuznick noted."Extending NATO to former Warsaw Pact nations... was objectionable enough, but extending NATO to former Soviet republics like Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia was adding insult to injury."
President Putin, speaking at the 2007 Munich Conference on Security Policy, warned the assembled delegates that expanding NATO was a foolish idea: "I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe," the Russian leader said. "And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today?"
As foreign armies continue to smash up against Russia's lengthy border, the only option left to Moscow is to militarize. Yet even this natural act of self-defense is decried as proof perfect of Russia's supposed ill intent. In other words, lies are breeding more lies.
Without any genuine enemy on the horizon, the Western military bloc is presented with a challenging and dangerous dilemma: How to convince countries to join an expensive military club when no legitimate threat exists. Thus, the West has been forced to create a bogeyman that NATO uses as an excuse for its very existence, as well as why these cash-strapped countries must increase military spending. Before long, the Western media was singing endlessly about - guesses, anyone -"aggressive" Russia being intrinsically beset with "imperial ambitions.”
The reality of the situation, however, could not be any clearer: It is US-led NATO, not Russia, that has been steadily and diabolically trampling upon the sovereign rights of nations and peoples since the attacks of 9/11. In some very strange ways, the US is lashing out at innocent countries in a manner not inconsistent with the way it was attacked that Tuesday morning. One need only consider the tragic fate that has befallen the millions of people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria - all illicitly attacked by US-led NATO forces - to understand the identity of the real aggressors on the global stage.
Meanwhile, the broken promise NATO would not advance "one inch" toward Russia's border has left the European continent less safe now than at any period since the end of the Cold War.
Lie #2: 'Let's cooperate on US Missile Defense'
When Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President in 2009, it was hard not to get infected by the "Hope & Change"hysteria that was sweeping a shell-shocked planet. Even before he got elected, Obama was greeted by thousands of Germans who gathered in the center of Berlin to hear the Democrat cast aspersions on his predecessor, the self-declared 'war president' George W. Bush, whose presidency, we desperately wanted to believe, was some sort of weird anomaly. Americans, we told ourselves, would never lie to invade sovereign states for global advantage, not to mention torture prisoners of war. Why, we even awarded Obama the Nobel Peace Prize while the US was still at war on two fronts. That, dear reader, underscores the power of the media.
It is my personal opinion this Obama charm offensive was a carefully orchestrated charade to cause Moscow to drop its guard. It is important to keep in mind what the Russians were most concerned about - as Obama was being feted as something akin to the second coming of Christ himself - and that was the missile defense shield that Bush had planned for Eastern Europe.
After pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in December 2001 - a move that Putin rightly called a "mistake" - Bush announced plans for a US missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to protect against "rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction." That "rogue state" was interpreted to mean Iran, although it was well known the country lacked such capacities, much less intent.
In the beginning, it looked like Obama was the real deal when he announced he would "shelve" the Bush missile plan, opting for a less ambitious alternative. ABC News heralded the move as a "starkly different tone than George W. Bush's, emphasizing engagement and cooperation rather than go-it-alone confrontation." In fact, nothing was further from the truth. It was a scam.
Robert Gates, then-Secretary of Defense, wrote a glowing account in the New York Times of Obama's new missile defense system, that would "include scores of SM-3 missiles, as opposed to the old plan of just ten ground-based interceptors." Gates went on to admit what his boss could not: "We are strengthening — not scrapping — missile defense in Europe."
Meanwhile, the Obama charm offensive never took a pause. On one particularly memorable event, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva with lofty pretensions of a US-Russia 'reset.' She even brought along a reset gizmo, a little red button, for theatrical effect, I guess. But thanks to a spelling mistake by the State Department, Sergey Lavrov had to explain the word "reset” on the button was mistranslated into a Russian word meaning "overcharged.” In hindsight, the 'mistake' seems oddly prescient, all things considered.
So as the US was growing its shield, it apparently believed Russia would be willing to shrink its sword. That became apparent during the so-called New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) that entered into force on 5 February 2011. The treaty called for both sides to limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, a drop of nearly two-thirds the original amount. Interesting, isn't it? At the very same time, the US was bolting down a missile defense system on Russia's border, it was enthusiastic about having Russia sign a deal to scale back its nuclear arsenal.
Moscow, meanwhile, waited patiently after Washington had said it would be willing to cooperate on the missile defense system, which, after all, was purportedly designed to deflect some "rogue" attack on the continent. Wouldn't Russian expertise only add to the effectiveness of the system? Moreover, shouldn't Russia be entitled to enjoy some of that umbrella in the event of incoming projectiles? Apparently, the US had other ideas. Russia, sick of sitting through negotiations that went nowhere, decided the best course of action was to design missiles capable of overcoming any defense system.
The US promise of cooperation on missile defense, much like the promise of not expanding NATO, turned out to be yet another lie.
LIE #3: 'Allies against Terrorism'
Following the September 11 attacks, Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to phone George Bush and offer his condolences for the death of some 3,000 people on American soil. Russian support, however, did not stop at cheap words. On Sept. 24, Stone and Kuznick explained, Putin "announced a five-point plan to support the US war on terrorism. Not only would he share intelligence and open Russian airspace to the United States, but he would... even facilitate the stationing of US troops in the Middle East..."
Somehow, it is very difficult for me to imagine such a level of generosity coming from Washington in the event an attack of equal magnitude happened against Russia. As a thought experiment, try visualizing Russian transport planes using US airspace to deliver supplies to Russian soldiers in South America, for example. Somehow I just don't see that happening.
In any event, since the 9/11 attacks, Russia, and much of the world, was forced to remain silent spectators to an American nightmare entitled, 'The War on Terrorism' (For those who believe George W. Bush was the primary bad guy, Barack Obama - who dropped over 26,000 bombs in 2016 alone - left behind an equally disturbing legacy).
Although much noise was made about the anti-terror partnership between the US and Russia, Washington seemed to think Moscow's support should remain more moral and muted as opposed to physical and proactive. Meanwhile, nations across the Middle East and North Africa were falling like dominoes as America pursued a disastrous and very undemocratic regime change program, which is now smoldering on Syria's front door. This is where Russia decided to take those American claims about "partners against terrorism" to heart.
In September 2015, following an official request by the Syrian government for military assistance against Islamic State fighters on its territory, Russia entered the fray. Before Russia's grand entrance, ISIS had managed to not only put up stiff resistance against US-led forces; they also managed to operate a lucrative oil exporting business. Russia wasted no time putting this operation out of business, while helping Syria liberate major ISIS strongholds, including Palmyra and Aleppo.
Despite Russian military successes in Syria with regards to eliminating ISIS, the US has stubbornly refused to help Russia in its efforts.
This became apparent last summer when Moscow urged Washington to provide it with the location and coordinates of fighting forces to avoid incidents and prevent any accidental strikes on those groups fighting ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra.
The US inexplicably refused to share those coordinates.
"As a result, terrorists in Syria are actively regrouping, and tensions are soaring again. It cannot continue this way indefinitely," the head of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said, adding that the Russian Defense Ministry had supplied the US with a list of its terrorist targets.
Gerasimov then pointed the finger at the US for double standards concerning what constitutes ceasefire violations.
"In their opinion, missile bombardments of Syrian government troops and communities by militants should be considered by all as ‘insignificant violations’ of the ceasefire. But any proportionate response to the militants by the Syrian military is at once declared as disproportionate strikes on the opposition," Gerasimov said.
In April, the Trump administration launched a military strike - the first US attack on Syrian military assets - on the Syrian government's Al-Shayrat air base in response to unsubstantiated claims the Syrian government used chemical weapons that killed civilians in Idlib Province.
The tragedy of the Syrian six year civil war is that so much violence and bloodshed could have been avoided had the United States welcomed Russia's willingness to join the fight against terrorism in the country.
Instead, Washington has chosen a path that attempts to punish Russia, I believe, for interfering in yet another US attempt at regime change in yet another sovereign state. That is the real source of US contempt for Russia at this particular juncture in bilateral relations between the nuclear powers. Not some imaginary "hacking of the US elections," or "Russian aggression."That's just media camouflage.
In hindsight, we can see the lying thread that connects the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now it appears Donald Trump as well. Bush got the ball rolling with his 'War on Terror' that not only included wars against totally innocent countries, like Iraq, but walked away from the ABM Treaty, which helped maintain the peace between the nuclear powers for 30 years. Bush then opened the door to a US missile defense shield in Europe, which just went live in Romania, which has absolutely no ability to stop terrorists, who, in all likelihood, will resort to 'dirty bombs' as opposed to ballistic missiles.
The outright lies did not stop under Barack Obama, who spoke so glowingly about freeing the world from weapons of mass destruction, while, at the same time, he was quietly installing an anti-missile system that could turn offensive at a moment's notice.
Putin said last year at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), adding that "strategic ballistic missile defense is part of an offensive strategic capability, [and] functions in conjunction with an aggressive missile strike system.”
The "great danger” is that the same launchers that are used for defense missiles can be used to fire Tomahawks, which can be installed "in a matter of hours,” Putin noted, adding that the governments of the countries on whose territories these NATO complexes are based would have no way of knowing if this had happened.
Washington engaged in deception when it claimed it was moving its ballistic missile defense east to counter "Iran’s nuclear threat,” Putin said, noting that Tehran’s alleged offensive nuclear capability now doesn’t exist – largely thanks to Obama’s involvement.
"So why have they now built a missile defense system in Romania?” he asked.
The answer strongly suggests that no matter who is sitting in the White House, some power behind the scenes - the 'Deep State,' The Swamp, or what-have-you - is clearly against any sort of cooperation between the United States and Russia. If not remedied, however, this wave of Russophobia that has rolled across the United States could, eventually, result in one of the greatest tragedies of our times. Much more than truth could be lost.