The White House
FROM: W. George Krasnow
DATE: November 7, 2016
RE: Your letter of October 21, 2016
Thanks for responding to the concerns with the growing tensions in US-Russia relations that I expressed in a short email letter allowed to US citizens by the White House. Both my letter and your response are in English and Russian on the site of Russia & America Goodwill Association of which I am the founder and president.
Frankly, I am very disappointed by your response. I gave you a chance to defend your Nobel Peace Prize as justly deserved. I also gave you the opportunity to lay the foundation for peace policy for your successor. Instead, you chose to attack Russia and her president Vladimir Putin as if I were their apologist.
You are my president, and you owe me an explanation. The intent of my letter was not to argue about Russia, Putin or Bashar Assad. I am sure they can defend themselves. My hope was that you would engage them diplomatically, via a peaceful dialog, to avoid any chance that the current shooting hostilities, be it in Syria, Iraq or Ukraine, do not degenerate into an armed confrontation with Russia and thus put the world at risk of nuclear conflagration.
Your letter lacks the introspection, self-analysis and humility that are necessary for a sound foreign policy. After all, we live in a world in which the United Nations and its Security Council still have a role to play, a role that you and your Republican predecessor try to usurp on behalf of the USA.
Let me remind you that The Charter of the United Nations proclaims that in pursuit of peace THIS Organization is “based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” In my letter, I reminded you about Edmund Burke’s profound philosophical underpinnings for the concept of sovereignty of different forms of government, including those we may disapprove of on ethical grounds. I hoped you would return to the time-honored concept of Westphalian sovereignty that ended the bloody period of religious wars in Europe in 1648. Instead, you assert the policy of world domination in which the United States decides which government is allowed to exist and which is not. Thus, the US finds itself in a wasp nest from which we are unable to extricate ourselves.
I believe you are fundamentally a decent man who wanted to steer the US on the road to peace and justice, domestically and overseas. Not only did I vote for you, but I also published an article, “Obama’s Perestroika Challenge: US & Russia”, to encourage you to do what you promised. Even though “The New York Times” described your election in 2008 as “a catharsis and return to the American dream that was destroyed--politically, economically and socially--under Bush,” I pointed out that at the very start you made the wrong appointments that “bear little signs of new thinking. They… lack a vision of the evolving global community and the role the United States and the West should play in it.”
The bad omen was the scandal with Hillary Clinton, your Secretary of State, when she presented her Russian counterpart with a gift-wrapped red button, which said "Reset" in English and "Peregruzka" in Russian. Alas, the latter means overcharge, or overload. The incorrect translation implied hostility, not peacemaking. While Clinton’s Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov kept his diplomatic cool, she quipped: "We won't let you do that to us, I promise." She kept her promise, and US policy toward Russia has been indeed overcharged.
As a former USDS contract interpreter, I am pained to know that US top leaders do not take relations with Russia seriously, even on a linguistic level. Since the early 1990s we have ignored the voices of such wise, experienced and diverse politicians such as George Kennan, who devised the successful containment strategy but berated the expansion of NATO; Jack Matlock, former ambassador to Moscow, who warned against US meddling in Ukraine, Chas Freeman who likes Putin’s approach to the Middle East , Steve Cohen, a long-time champion of better relations with Russia, and Henry Kissinger of the realist school of diplomacy.
I suspect that as soon as you entered the White House, you were surrounded by a group of ideologues espousing the so-called neo-conservative ideology with which they had already infiltrated US intellectual establishment, academia, the Big Media, all branches of government, both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, they are neither “conservative”, nor “neo”, for their main inspiration is Leon Trotsky, the proponent of permanent revolution. Jonas Alexis of the dissident Veterans Today sees the Neo-Cons (that should be the proper name) as “the reincarnation to some extent of both Leninism and Bolshevism”. Mr. Alexis does not spell out to what extent. However, Francis Fukuyama, a former Neo-Con, remembers that the leading Neo-Con Irving Kristol boasted he was “a member in good standing of the [Trotskyist] Young People’s Socialist League (Fourth International).”
Be that as it may, the Neo-Cons are not a mere replay of history. They do not proclaim, “Proletarians of the World unite!” On the contrary, they favor the neoliberal economics and globalization under the hegemony of the United States. The slogan that suits them best is “Oligarchs of the World unite!” Truly, the USA has replaced the USSR as the chief protagonist of a global ideology, albeit it is no longer class struggle and proletarian revolution for global socialism but rather a series of color revolutions aimed at establishing world capitalism. That is why the reset policy you promised failed to take off. That is why you became the champion of the endless wars.
Sometimes, one remembers the Old Cold War with nostalgia, for there was then more professionalism among US diplomats. I was fortunate to review a remarkable book “Stepping out of Line: Collected (Nonconformist) Essays on Russian-American Relations, 2008-2012”. It is by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow, my colleague and RAGA author who helped resuscitate the American Committee for East-West Accord. If then, says Doctorow, the West was guided by George Kennan’s containment strategy, now “the legacy of Realpolitik has been… marginalized by the resurgent forces of Neoconservatism in Washington”. As a former Soviet dissident, I admit it was heart-warming to read a book devoted to the American dissidents now dissenting from the Washington Pravda line.
If you go online, you will find a multitude of American dissidents opposed to the monopoly of Big Media, and the number is growing. Do I have to explain to you, Mr. President, who the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) are? This is what they wrote to you on October 2, 2016:
We write to alert you, as we did President George W. Bush, six weeks before the attack on Iraq that the consequences of limiting your circle of advisers to a small, relatively inexperienced coterie with a dubious record for wisdom can prove disastrous. Our concern this time regards Syria...The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.
One of the fifteen signees of the memorandum is Ray McGovern, a former CIA career officer who used to brief President Reagan on Soviet affairs. I first learned about him when he was severely beaten by the security detail for wearing on his back a protest sign during Hillary Clinton’s speech at the GWU. Veterans for Peace, an organization to which I belong, demanded an apology. Doubting that the media would report the brutal manhandling, I posted the news on Veterans Today.
Another signee was Col. (Ret.) Ann Wright, one of RAGA’s authors, whom I heard speaking at a peace rally in Washington. I was proud to place the VIPS memorandum next to my email letter to you inside RAGA Newsletter Antidote 30.
I have been issuing these ANTIDOTES since your government opted for reckless meddling in the internal conflict in Ukraine in February 2014. If the old Realpolitik school diplomats never called for a war against the USSR nor tried to provoke it by stepping into Soviet sphere of influence, Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State made herself famous when she dismissed the EU role in Ukraine, kicked Yats (Yatsenyuk) upstairs, and put Klitch (Klitchko) in his place, all in unprintable language. While accusing Russia of meddling she boasted that the US spent $5 billion to foment anti-Russian hatred in Ukraine.
I believe your world vision lacks introspection and is devoid of curiosity about how the USA might be seen from outside. After the end of the Cold War against the Soviet bloc in late 1990s, millions of people around the world were hoping for the “peace dividend” that would benefit economic development and social services of all countries concerned. Instead, the US retained NATO and embarked on its expansion. As I already addressed this issue, please read my article The Folly of the New Cold War.
On October 25, 2016, I received a letter from a fellow graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. I have not seen him since 1973 when I defended my PhD dissertation there. “I think you have hit a great many nails squarely on the head”, he writes about my article. “It's so very, very hard to find writing these days that makes any attempt to look at Russian policies from other than a crudely Russophobic point of view, depicting the country as some sort of beast or sinister eminence afoot in the world”. A specialist on ancient China, my friend was ready to swallow all that tripe. “These last several months I've found myself writing frequently to the editors of the Guardian Weekly (which I subscribe to) scolding them for a steady raft of editorials and commentaries that seem to me very much in this vein. No attempt to present a multi-sided analysis of circumstances involving Russia”.
Another RAGA reader’s comment was brief but to the point: “America's biggest threat is neither China nor Russia, but rather an ignorant, gullible populace. There is a remedy to this: learn to think independently regardless of the cost”.
I am sure, Mr. President, you too have to deal with the avalanche of information, which needs to be checked for veracity. Alas, you get only the opinions tainted by Neo-Con ideologues. This applies to all information you receive on Russia, Syria, and Ukraine. As Ambassador Jack Matlock wrote about Ukraine, the first and most important spin put on the situation was to portray it “as a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, not among culturally, ethnically, linguistically and religiously diverse people in Ukraine”. He is convinced that “Ukraine cannot normally exist in isolation from Russia" and that sending western weapons there "would be madness" that "would hurt primarily Ukrainians."
You are surely familiar with Ambassador Chas Freeman’s outstanding career and varied expertise. It was your Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Admiral Dennis C. Blair, who named Freeman as chair of the National Intelligence Council, which compiles intelligence from sixteen U.S. agencies into National Intelligence Estimates. It was very unfortunate that the pro-Israeli lobby blocked Freeman’s appointment. As you may have noticed, any person critical of Zionism and Israel is automatically smeared “anti-Semitic.” This practice not only puts in jeopardy academic freedom but it also obscures our vision of the Middle East and the world at large. It may have started with the campaign of vilification against Professors John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt, the authors of “The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” but such accusations are even more ominous when made against Freeman who is a Jew.
Freeman’s recent talk “U.S. Policy and the Geopolitical Dynamics of the Middle East” contains a number of suggestions, which cannot be ignored in any formulation of a sound US policy in the Middle East.
Freeman explains the key reason for the failure of US policy in the Middle East: “Wars don’t end until the militarily humiliated accept the political consequences of their defeat. Saddam gave lip service to UNSCR 687 but took it no more seriously than Netanyahu and his predecessors have taken the various Security Council resolutions that direct Israel to permit Palestinians to return to the homes from which it drove them or to withdraw from the Palestinian lands it has seized and settled. Like Israel’s wars with the Arabs, America’s war with Iraq went into remission but never ended. In due course, it resumed”. Freeman’s advice is just as sound: “The United States needs to get into the habit of developing and implementing war termination strategies.”
The most scathing criticism Freeman aimed at the Israeli policy which the US is not only unwilling to challenge but tries to placate and emulate. “Israel’s lack of concern about the consequences of its occupation and settlement of the West Bank and its siege of Gaza has facilitated its progressive abandonment of the universalist Jewish values that inspired Zionism and its consequent separation from the Jewish communities outside its elastic borders. U.S. subsidies underwrite blatant tyranny by Jewish settlers over the Muslim and Christian Arabs they have dispossessed. This is a formula for the moral and political self-delegitimization of the State of Israel, not its long-term survival. It is also a recipe for the ultimate loss by Israel of irreplaceable American political, military, and other support”.
Concludes Freeman: “The United States needs to wean Israel off its welfare dependency and end the unconditional commitments that enable self-destructive behavior on the part of the Jewish state”.
And yet, Mr. President, you found it expedient to reward Israel with the gift of $38 billion dollars’ worth of military equipment for the duration of the ten long years of one, two, perhaps, three presidents whom you deprived of diplomatic freedom.
You seems to be oblivious that it was not Netanyahu, but Putin who got you off the hook when US hawks were about to push you into a bombing attack on Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons. As to your principal peace-making achievement, the Iranian nuclear non-proliferation deal, it was again done with Russia’s assistance while your friend Netanyahu did everything to abort the agreement even by meddling in US domestic affairs.
Remarkably, the man who should have been compiling national intelligence estimates, Ambassador Freeman, finds Russia’s policy in the Middle East sounder than either American or Israeli. According to him, “Moscow sought to reduce the complexities of Syria to a binary choice between life under the secular dictatorship of the Assad regime and rule by Islamist fanatics…Russia succeeded in forcing the United States into a diplomatically credible peace process in which regime removal is no longer a given and Russia and Iran are recognized as essential participants…The campaign reduced and partially contained the growing Islamist threat to Russian domestic tranquility, while affirming Russia’s importance as a partner in combating terrorism”.
Your failure to live up to the promises you’ve made is highlighted by May 15, 2016, report: “Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln”, or any or any other American president.
It is not a good record, for any president, much less, for the one awarded the Nobel Peace Prize largely on credit, not for actual accomplishments. Forget about score keeping among presidents. We are talking about thousands of American soldiers killed, tens of thousands maimed, wounded, disabled, committing suicides, their families shattered. The count of “enemy” combatants and collateral civilian deaths is even more devastating for the people of the Middle East. The Europeans are forced into accepting millions of displaced persons, including terrorists. Because of US meddling, the Middle East is being de-Christianized, de-secularized, and split into multitude of fanatical sects in search of a foothold while infrastructure for development has crumbled.
US meddling in Ukraine has been no more successful, bringing no benefits for the Ukrainians, nor improving US strategic posture in Europe.
It all started with US meddling in Russia in the early 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin. Until then the USA and Americans were very popular in post-Soviet Russia. I know this because I was visiting then Russia numerous times. However, the heavy-handed US meddling on the side of “pro-Western” neoliberal Russian reformers left a very bitter taste in the mouth of millions of Russians. When the US government tried to blackmail Russia by pressing the IMF to deny her loans, I protested. In March 1999, in the name of RAGA, I mailed an Open Letter on the Russian Crisis to President Bill Clinton demanding to stop meddling in Russian affairs. More than a hundred American experts on Russia signed the letter.
In a cover letter to President Bill Clinton I wrote that “The very survival of Russia as a distinct civilization and a major contributor to the cultural ‘biodiversity’ of the planet is at stake. Anyone who has studied Russian history knows that Russians will survive. And they will remember how they were treated by the West”. Clinton replied in a diplomatically evasive way, but asked me to stay engaged. I have.
In 2012, I voted not so much FOR you as AGAINST Mitt Romney, because he participated in the plunder of Russia and undermining the health of young Russians. Do you not believe me? Then read what two American journalists wrote about Romney’s, and other Americans’ role in Russian reforms: “It was part of a free-for-all that involved wholesale looting of major industries, as Western technocrats helped facilitate the transfer of Russia's wealth into the hands of a few oligarchs. That set in motion a populist backlash that helped sweep Vladimir Putin into power, giving the Kremlin dominance over a country Romney has lately called our ‘number one geopolitical enemy.’"
There were early alarm signals from US diplomats as well. Writes E. Wayne Merry, Chief Political Analyst at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1990-1994: “we created a virtual open shop for thievery at a national level and for capital flight in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars, and the raping of natural resources and industries on a scale which I doubt has ever taken place in human history.”
As to the claim that the U.S. has the mission to promote democracy throughout the world, Merry tells otherwise: “I think the election of December 1993 was a clear and legitimate expression of Russian popular will and a rejection of the economic policies that Washington and the Treasury Department and the IMF had pushed on Russia. And when faced with popular rejection, the choice was to ignore popular will and to press on with the policy, and I think there was a huge cost on the long-term development of rule of law and constitutional government in Russia for making that choice.”
I also recommend Janine Wedel’s excellent book Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe. An anthropologist, Wedel argues that the collision between two groups of people, Russian reformers and their American advisers, whose cultural patterns and mentality were too different, was inevitable. Instead of meaningful open cooperation, the collision degenerated into collusion between the least conscientious on both sides. Contrary to US rules that require competitive bidding, says Wedel, the now defunct Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) got the exclusive contract for reforms in Russia because the rules were suspended “for foreign policy considerations”. By the way, Ukraine too suffered from US meddling then. Janine’s book won the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
Dealing with Russia, one must always keep in mind that in the 20th century it endured 73 years of totalitarian rule, including the suppression and humiliation of all religions, especially Christianity. Many Americans know about that through the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn whose refuge in Vermont proved to be a blessing not only for Russia but also for the United States. The corporate media likes to portray Putin as former KGB officer in East Germany who regards the collapse of the USSR as a tragedy and feels a nostalgia for Soviet times. What they leave out is that Putin was a witness to the tragedy of the Russian people in the 1990s, the scope of which can hardly be understood by Americans unless they have lived through the Great Depression. It is not for nothing that Putin has befriended Solzhenitsyn and his widow Natalya and regularly shows up at a Russian church. Most importantly, upon assuming the presidency, Putin’s first item on the agenda was to restore Russia’s SOVEREIGNTY. That is why his popular support is so strong.
As it happens, this year I celebrate two anniversaries. One is the 40 years since I became US citizen in Dallas, Texas, in October of 1976. The other is the 50th anniversary since I set foot on American soil in 1966 when I was invited as a fellow of Slavic Area Studies at the University of Chicago. Coming to America ended my career in Sweden to which I defected in October 1962. I am and always will be grateful to the United States for giving me - along with hundreds of other Soviet dissidents and defectors - a refuge, hospitality, security, opportunity for education, and freedom for research, teaching and writing.
Alas, the changes in this country during in the post-Cold war years were not always for the better. Tom Pauken, a Dallas lawyer and friend of mine, who later became a member of President Reagan’s administration, secured my US citizenship in 1976. In his 2010 book, Bringing America Home, Tom bemoans, “What became of an American culture that once was guided by the principles of Christianity?” “Bringing America Home not only explains how we lost our way,” says its jacket, “but shows how our founding principles can help us find our way back”. I agree that America desperately needs to find her way.
I also agree with the thrust of Ambassador Jack Matlock’s book “Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray--And How to Return to Reality.” Matlock is right that “during the Clinton and particularly the Bush-Cheney administrations, the belief that the United States had defeated the Soviet Union led to a conviction that it did not need allies, international organizations, or diplomacy, but could dominate and change the world by using its military power unilaterally”. Both Pauken’s and Matlock’s books were published under your watch, Mr. President. You should have taken a cue, but you did not. Such inattention doomed you to follow in Bush’s and Clinton’s footstep.
A former student of mine at the Monterey Institute of International Studies just sent me a link to Margaret Kimberley’s November 6, 2016, article titled “Russophobia: War Party Propaganda”. It is right on target: “The corporate media, led by newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post, are front and center in pushing tales of Russian villainy. Human Rights Watch and other organizations who care nothing about abuses committed by the United States and its allies are also playing their usual role of choosing the next regime change victim.”
The current tensions with Russia are so severe as to threaten the survival of Planet Earth. Therefore, I take it as my civic duty to give you my recommendations as to how you could salvage the hope that made the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to you possible. You might use the remaining days in the office by setting up a peace-loving agenda that your successor could not refuse:
1. First, no POTUS can act wisely unless there is access to reliable information. You have denied yourself such access when you, for instance, failed to fight for Chas Freeman as chair of the National Intelligence Council. Make sure that the next administration is not spoon-fed by the Neo-Cons and their allies in the academic establishment and the corporate media. It is them whom my friend Israel Shamir calls the Masters of Discource.
2. Start the legislative process for breaking up the corporate media conglomerates and, at least, make the current anti-monopoly laws stick in pursuit of the violators. Brother Nathanael Kapner, a New York Jew who converted to Russian Christianity, goes as far as to propose nationalization of the media. In the very least, a national debate on media abuses is in order.
3. As the most powerful nation in the world, the USA should work jointly with other powerful nations such as Russia, China, India, and the EU—always under the auspices of the UN—as honest brokers aiming for a compromise between the warring parties.
4. This especially applies to the conflict in Ukraine. The US should encourage the Ukrainian government to try to resolve its inter-ethnic conflict between Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians in the same civilized and patient Western way as is done between Flemish and Wallons in Belgium, Catalans and Basques in Spain, Scots, Welsh and Irish in the UK, Quebec in Canada, etc.. Let Switzerland serve as a model to emulate. After all, the Ukrainians and Russians are considerably closer to each other linguistically and culturally than the conflicting groups in any of the above countries. Ukraine’s prospective integration with the EU should not lead to severing economic, cultural, and political ties with Russia.
5. The Middle East cannot be healed until a peace agreement is reached between Israel and Palestine (both on the West Bank and in Gaza). Both the the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations) and the Arab Peace Initiative should be revived ASAP and put to work. You said it yourself on June 9, 2009: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. It is time for these settlements to stop.” Before your term expires, make sure that your successor immediately carries out what you were prevented from doing.
6. We should admit to ourselves that ISIL (Daesh) would not have emerged without Iraq’s destruction by US bombardment, invasion and occupation. Likewise, the Western attack of Muammar Gadhafi’s Libya created a lot more problems than it solved. Therefore, tell your successor that the regime change strategy belongs to the past.
7. The US should undertake the initiative of either eliminating or limiting and regulating the use of drones for killing suspected terrorist not only for human rights considerations but also because “collateral” damage from such attacks produces an endless string of suicide avengers. Calling for an international forum, under the aegis of the United Nations, is the first order of things.
8. Stop supplying weapons to regions and countries where there is civil strife threatening to escalate to civil and international war;
9. I just met a fellow Veteran for Peace member, Captain (Ret.) Ron Fisher. Learning that I have been in correspondence with you, he asked me to send you his greetings, as well as a series of proposals to secure a peaceful, prosperous, and just life on Planet Earth. You can find it at http://www.wethepeoplenow.org/plan_sdg.htm. Ron is a Naval Academy graduate who served on four nuclear submarines including as Executive Officer of both a nuclear attack and a ballistic missile submarine. He also was trained in the use of both tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. He made nine ballistic missile submarine patrols and six special operations on nuclear attack submarines. His awards include the Legion of Merit, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.
10. Last, but not the least, I would like to ask you, Mr. President, for something that you can do single-handedly. Please use, before the end of your term, your presidential prerogatives and pardon Edward Snowden. Let him return to the United States, a country that he loves and that has already benefitted from his perhaps illegal deed, committed, I believe, in quest for higher conscience for humankind. I had to wait almost twenty-nine years before the Soviet authorities decided to “rehabilitate” me, for lack of corpus delict, in not returning from Sweden. Every government that fails to integrate dissent as an essential ingredient of public welfare runs the risk of defections and death by brain drain.
As I conclude this letter, I cannot help looking for wise men to guide both of us as they indeed have guided my RAGA project.
“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” — George Washington
“True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation.” — George Washington
“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” —Abraham Lincoln
“Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together”. — Edmund Burke
So help us God!
W George Krasnow, Ph.D. (aka Vladislav Krasnov)
P. S. On February 11, 2012, I mailed you a letter I had written on behalf of some people of my native town of Perm. In spite of the unfortunate incident at the airport, I know many Permians were delighted by your visit there as part of your job as Senator. A photograph was enclosed. I never got an acknowledgement, but I want you to know that my invitation to you and Michelle to visit Perm at my expense still stands.