It’s instructive to see how consistent Obama’s “regime change” strategies were with those of his predecessors, and how culpable he was in the destruction of nations. Evidently, the threat of Muslim terrorism was not enough on its own to justify the ongoing state of fear in America. The Deep State needed another external Other and it found it by rekindling the old enmity that had seemingly disappeared when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Now, Russia is as fully capitalist as the U.S., but it represents an economic competitor as well as an opportunity for more military engagement. I do not use the word “opportunity” lightly. As the old Irish joke goes: Is this a private fight or can anyone join in?
Washington planned and funded the classic destabilization and regime change in Ukraine as part of a larger strategy to surround Russia with NATO-allied and nuclear-armed states. Once again, Ukraine is a pawn in big-power games.
Ukraine illegally annexed Crimea in 1991, and repeated attempts by the Crimean people to redress this injustice met with opposition from Kiev. Crimea voted to rejoin Russia in 2008. When the Ukraine government refused to sever ties with Russia in 2014, the U.S. fomented a violent coup, led by Neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. As with Syria and Libya, the covert money expended by U.S. intelligence is staggering, allegedly some $5 billion.
That year, the Crimeans (84% of whom speak Russian as their native language) again overwhelmingly voted to rejoin Russia, which already had military bases there and offered them help. The U.S. denounced these actions as Russian intervention and, as it always does in these situations, quickly recognized and funded the new government.
Clearly, the Russians were neither innocent nor pacifistic, but this U.S.-sponsored coup happened on their doorstep, in a region that had been part of Russia for centuries. Russia was lured into involvement, just as it had been in Afghanistan in 1979. The U.S. generously supplied Ukraine with military aid, and the madness of civil war was on. Over 8,000 have died. In addition, Ukraine’s decision to sever all economic and political ties with Russia caused living standards to fall by more than 50%, and inflation to rise to 43%. The mainstream media, of course, simply blamed the Ukraine crisis on the new bad guy du jour, Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. and the E.U. placed costly sanctions on Russia, and the Cold War rose again from its grave. Soon the media and liberal politicians were commonly referring to Russia as an “adversary” once again and to Putin as a dictator and master manipulator, with reverberations that continued into the 2016 election and beyond. Again, as with Assad and Gaddafi, Putin’s character and motives are utterly irrelevant to this inquiry, unless you still believe that Obama’s intervention was for innocent and humanitarian reasons.
In the spring of 2016, NATO troops began military exercises in Estonia, right on the Russian border, timed to start immediately after the Russian Victory Day commemoration of their victory and massive losses in World War Two. “If this doesn’t qualify as a provocation,” asks John Wight, “what does?”
Why is the West…intent on pursuing a cold war strategy when it comes to Russia? How can it possibly profit Western countries and their citizens to experience a return to the decades of enmity previous generations endured, with all the dangers that such a state of mutual antagonism brings?…Are these people actually mad?
In the fall, Obama announced that 6,000 more U.S. troops would deploy, initially in Germany and Poland, and eventually to Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania and Slovakia, as well as to naval units in the Black Sea. All this, he said, was “to reassure Eastern Europe.” The U.S. planned to deploy its dubious “missile defense” system (actually part of a first-strike strategy) throughout these countries, offering the comic justification that their missiles were intended to defend against attacks from “rogue states like Iran.”
Again the Russians took the bait – who wouldn’t? – and responded by deploying their own missiles around Moscow. All this was happening just before the U.S. election. Was this costly and frightening theater of the absurd more about Russia or more about Trump? In either case, it was cynical in the extreme. Obama, accusing Trump’s candidacy of being a Russian plot, demanded that Russia “act responsibly.”
Of course, we mythic commentators cannot be privy to the complex machinations of great powers. But sometimes things are simpler than they seem. Everything we know about Obama’s attitude towards Russia and much of what we know about the election seem to point towards a major conflict between two forces within the Deep State: those who want to dominate or even make war on Russia, and those who want to attack China. But Obama’s fear-mongering backfired; the second group would win the election.
Iran and Cuba:
Ever since the Russians removed their missiles after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, no honest, intelligent person has ever suggested that either Cuba or Iran was an actual threat to America. Of course the Iran deal was a good thing, but as I wrote earlier, it was “characterized by the stench of mendacious bloviating, grandstanding, preaching to the choir and absurd political theater…”
This included continual statements that the deal would rein in the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions, despite the fact that all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies – as well as the Israeli Mossad – agreed that Iran had given up any intention of building a bomb many years before. Obama had continued Bush’s painful sanctions on Iran in full knowledge of this information. And his rhetoric was horrifying: “Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force, through war.”
Eventually, the temptation of investing in these two new markets, before other countries could monopolize trade with them, exceeded the value of fear-mongering. Obama mollified conservatives by claiming that long-term Cuba strategy remained regime change. But these were business decisions, dictated by Wall Street, which had grown immeasurably richer during the Obama years, and so was his support of the Trans Pacific Partnership. Similarly, in the 1970s, Nixon’s opening to China had been dictated by Wall Street’s desire for new markets. Fifty years before that, Calvin Coolidge had preached: The business of America is business.
From this perspective, America will never stop provoking North Korea until Wall Street desires new consumer markets and the Deep State identifies a different “other”. For some background, consider that In the Korean War the U.S. destroyed all of North Korea’s 78 cities, and thousands of villages, killing three million people, nearly a third of the population. Over sixty years later it still keeps 29,000 troops in the south, along with nuclear weapons, in its bogus campaign to restrain this “rogue state” and charter member of the “Axis of Evil.”
Once again, the character of its “erratic” and “irresponsible” (Obama’s words) leadership is irrelevant. Indeed, they make warlike statements so often and so inappropriately that it almost seems that they’re working for us. But seriously: who could blame them for maintaining a state of militarized readiness and even suppression of civil liberties in the face of what they have long perceived as threats from the American empire?
It’s very complicated. But if you’ve stayed with me this far, please understand that over these years the two Koreas initiated many attempts at peace and reunification, and that every time they did, the U.S. sabotaged their efforts. For his part, Obama did nothing to reduce either the tension or the money drain, but, like his successors, kept the Korean threat alive in the public consciousness. In April 2016, he chastised Kim Jong-un for testing a missile, warning that America’s nuclear arsenal could “destroy” his country.
Russia was not the only power that the Pentagon was encircling. Global competition drove Obama’s battle with China for worldwide economic preeminence. The aim was to contain China’s growing reach. The Economist reported a Department of Defense announcement that by 2020, 60 percent of American warships would be stationed in Asia, along with “a range of other ‘investments’ to ensure that despite China’s fast-growing military might, America would still be able to ‘rapidly project military power if needed to meet our security commitments.'”
More background: the U.S. has over a thousand overseas bases. China has only one, but it does have over a trillion dollars in U.S. treasury bonds, and it has replaced the U.S. as the biggest trading partner of all Asian nations. The Deep State remains conflicted over whom to demonize, Russia or China, and whether pushing either too far risks the two of them becoming allies again. But the short-term interests of the arms merchants, the energy corporations, the generals, the opportunistic politicians and the need to maintain fear of the Others prevailed under Obama and set the stage for Trump.