UNITED NATIONS — Despite President Donald Trump’s divisive policies and inflammatory rhetoric, many of his opponents have instead concentrated for months on hurling accusations of collusion with Russia against him.
The steady drumbeat of charges, which began soon after the Trump campaign convinced Republican delegates to drop language critical of Russia from their party’s platform, has only escalated since the Nov. 8 election.
Unsubstantiated claims, often leaked by the CIA, have been broadcast uncritically in media, typically led by the Washington Post, then trumpeted by not only Democratic leaders, but also many Republicans.
“The entire campaign to blame Russia for ‘hacking the election’ has been conducted without presenting any evidence to the public,” veteran foreign affairs journalist and United Nations correspondent Joe Lauria told MintPress News.
“Instead, a compliant media has taken the word of unnamed officials of the CIA, an organization for decades devoted to deception, disinformation and meddling in other governments’ elections, not to mention overthrowing many.”
This open maneuvering by intelligence elements has sparked wide discussion of a “deep state”: a network of established figures within the government determined to protect their interests, regardless of changes at the elected level.
When the CIA has failed to offer sufficient material, Trump critics have dug deeper for it, at one point promoting a blacklist from an amateurish website whose anonymous operators made no secret of their sympathy for Ukrainian fascism.
Despite their eagerness to amplify every claim, no matter how unlikely, their dogged pursuit of a conspiracy between Trump and Moscow has produced nothing more scandalous than a discussion between Michael Flynn, then a nominee for national security advisor, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak of U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Meanwhile, known but failed attempts by the Ukrainian government to boost Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign have received little attention, and certainly none comparable to unproven claims of Russian support for Trump.
But with anti-Russian sentiment permeating the news cycle, many observers suspect the truth or untruth of any charge may be beside the point.
Rather, some think, their objective is to freeze the status quo on the frayed ties between the United States and Russia, or even to weaken them further.
‘Not just maintaining the status quo, but escalation’
“Some very powerful interests in the United States want U.S.-Russia relations to get worse, not better,” Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org, told MintPress.
As protests against Trump continue into the second month of the his administration, some of his critics argue that the president’s bellicose threats make him an unusual, if not unprecedented, threat to global peace and stability.
In a seeming paradox, however, many of the same figures have joined the anti-Russia drive, pushing the United States toward continued, and perhaps escalated, conflict with another nuclear-armed power.
Days before the election, Trump said Hillary Clinton’s plans to claim both airspace and territory in Syria, where Russia participates in military operations by the Damascus government, were “going to end up in World War III.”
Military and intelligence veterans shared his assessment, albeit in subdued terms.
Now many supporters of Clinton’s proposals seem determined to force a clash, perhaps with the help of pliant figures within the Trump administration.
“The neocons expected Hillary to be elected and their plan was to ramp up provocative NATO actions against Russia,” Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, told MintPress.
“Trump’s victory put a damper on that plan.”
But political figures hostile to Russia have resisted the possibility of rapprochement on multiple fronts, coupling accusations against Trump with other aggressive maneuvers.
“I think the danger is not just maintaining the status quo, but escalation, bringing Ukraine into NATO and putting U.S. troops on the Russian border,” Bill Dores, a member of the International Action Center, said in reference to former President Barack Obama’s deployment of forces to the Russian border days shortly after he launched a fresh round of sanctions.
Others agree that critics of Trump’s openness to Russia seemed inclined to fray relations rather than simply maintaining existing levels of conflict.
“I think they might even want an escalation of tensions,” Sam Husseini, media and communications director at the Institute for Public Accuracy, told MintPress.
The focus on a foreign power, he suggested, could offer Trump’s political antagonists a chance to divert public attention from their stinging losses.
“Russia affords all these entities an opportunity to grandstand and distract from their own failures to provide meaningful democratic engagement and economic advancement for the bulk of the U.S. population.”
‘No time to waste’
Dores, of the International Action Center, suspects thirsts for both increased political power in Washington and greater profit margins on Wall Street.
“There are many factions in Washington, but none of them were satisfied with the Obama/Kerry strategy of proxy wars and sanctions that yielded neither fat military contracts nor significant geopolitical results,” he said.
“A big player of course is the military-industrial complex, which needs new markets in Eastern Europe and bigger Pentagon budgets,” he added. “Another is the oil industry, still reeling from the collapse of the asset-price bubble that Bush’s massacre in Iraq had created.”
Joe Lauria, the veteran journalist, suggested that U.S. investors hoped to eventually reshape Russia itself into a more receptive market.
“Its ultimate aim is to replace Putin with a Yeltsin-like figure.”
Among other factors, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space’s Gagnon said, “the U.S. fears the combined power of Russia and China (and BRICS) in their quest to create a multipolar world, as opposed to the current model of the U.S. as ‘unipolar’ world ruler.”
“The U.S. knows that there is no time to waste if they wish to knock down this Russian-Chinese unity from flourishing.”
With public opinion on Russia roughly divided along partisan lines, yet mild overall, the long-term effects of attempts to foment animosity against it remain unclear.
But in the short term, manufactured rage seems to have stalled any possibility of improved relations, even if ties have not worsened.
And with few organized efforts opposing a panic encouraged by much of the political establishment, little seems likely to change soon.
“Improvement is possible,” RootsAction’s Solomon said.
But, he added, “it’s going to be a real challenge to push back effectively against the whipped-up hostility toward Russia.”
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