Wednesday, October 12, 2016

1.Relationship between  Russia and the US  [excerpts  Clinton/Trump];2.Question: Does Putin favor Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the forthcoming election?

1.Relationship between  Russia and the US  [excerpts  Clinton/Trump]

Currently, the relationship between  Russia and the US is in tatters. No matter who  wins the U.S. presidential election  [Clinton or Trump ] the next US  president will have a very difficult  relationship with Russia.

Clinton views Putin as”a cold-blooded, self-enriching KGB agent and a bully. Clinton's positions on Russia are based on simplistic ideological lines. In a campaign speech in late August, she branded Putin ‘ the grand godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism — the brand espoused by anti-immigrant political parties in Europe. 

Putin’s domestic ideology is based on Orthodox Christianity and imperial patriotism. [ It is skin-deep and inconsistent. Only 4 percent of Russians regularly attend church, even though 72 percent consider themselves Orthodox Christians. It's difficult to impose fundamentalist values on a society that is used to the Soviet Union's hostility to religion, has three times the abortion rate of the U.S. and contains large and autonomous Muslim and Buddhist populations.]

 Putin's government has been harsh  on ethnic nationalism [eg.suppressing neo-Nazi groups]. Putin's own ideology is  the usual post-Soviet mix of economic neoliberalism, Communist internationalism and the veneration of a Russian history much rewritten by the Soviets. 

That it has acquired a veneer of right-wing nationalism is in large part the fault of Western leaders who, like Clinton, needed to place Putin on their mental maps and couldn't quite do it. He was a post-Soviet chameleon, picking the colors that suited him at any given moment. That's what happened with "conservatism": He put on the colors of the camp that would accept him and not try to tell him what to do.

The mismatch between an ideological Clinton and an opportunist Putin is fraught with danger. Clinton has spoken many times about the need to undermine and contain dictators. In an interview with The Atlantic in 2014, she described her experience with the Arab Spring revolutions. ‘So you can go back and argue, should we have helped the people of Libya try to overthrow a dictator who, remember, killed Americans and did a lot of other bad stuff, or we should have been on the sidelines," she said. It's clear which option she favored then, boasting, famously, after Moammar Al Qaddafi's death: "We came, we saw, he died." 

It's easy to agree with this "democracy good, dictatorship bad" approach, but harder to imagine what it will mean in practice. In Ukraine, for example, trying to thwart Putin could mean buying the line President Petro Poroshenko is trying to sell to the West -- that his opportunistic, thoroughly post-Soviet government is a beacon of freedom and a shield against the Russian plague. Poroshenko's fondest wish is to get lethal weapons from the U.S. Granting it would probably lead to an even more destructive and deadly phase of the now-frozen conflict. What will the U.S. do if Ukraine is overrun by Russian troops as a result? Neither Clinton nor anyone else in Washington has even discussed this possibility in public.

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad is obviously a dictator, and he's tight with Putin to boot. Clinton had urged President Barack Obama to be more resolute in removing him by aiding the Syrian opposition. What if President Clinton uses force more directly against Assad? Will Putin shrink from some kind of military confrontation with the U.S.? I fear not: Russian generals have been itching for such a test for the last few years, since Russia has rearmed and reformed its military. And if the confrontation occurs, consequences will be even more unpredictable than from arming Ukraine.

The Obama administration has pulled back from actual conflict with Putin's Russia.  Putin has seen the US  pattern and resolved to remain the first mover, not expecting much American pushback except in words. The next administration will have to act, and there are three distinct courses of action open.

One is to  allow Russia to hold on to Crimea and Assad to remain in power in Syria, and try to make pragmatic deals with Putin -- for example, siding with him against the Islamic State. An second  is to act as forcefully as possible in both Ukraine and Syria, risking a military confrontation with Russia but hoping Putin will be intimidated and desist. A third option is to step up economic sanctions against Russia and wait for the Putin regime to collapse for economic reasons while avoiding a direct show of force. 

If Clinton  chooses one of the latter two options or a combination of them ,that will enable Putin to step up the anti-Western hysteria in Russia -- and almost force him to pick up the gauntlet as soon as possible, before Russia collapses economically. He has proven many times that he doesn't have a reverse gear. His recent ultimatum to the U.S. is proof that he's willing to play the escalation game. A military escalation between Russia and the U.S. could have dramatic consequences  both for Russia  -- and  for the U.S. 

2.Question: Does Putin favor Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the forthcoming election?

Answer:Definitely Hillary Clinton.

From actual Clinton actions including :the acceptance (by Obama and Clinton) of Putin’s aggressive intervention  in Ukraine; the Iranian deal which permits Russia to sell advanced weaponry to Iran and receive hard currency (furnished by the United States); the strategy of co-opting with Russia and bringing Russia into the Middle East as a major player (as discussed in Obama’s Syria Policy Striptease Tony Badran The Tablet September 21, 2016 ) it is clear that Putin has had sufficient first-hand experience with Hillary Clinton to believe that the parameters and trendiness established by Barack Obama will continue under a Clinton administration. . On the other hand ,Donald Trump is an unknown quantity who might actually follow the advice provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.