Conventional wisdom would have us believe that Russia became America’s sworn enemy in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. As is often the case, however, conventional wisdom can be illusory.
In the momentous 2016 showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a faraway dark kingdom known as Russia, the fantastic fable goes, hijacked that part of the American brain responsible for critical thinking and lever pulling with a few thousand dollars’ worth of Facebook and Twitter adverts, bots and whatnot. The result of that gross intrusion into the squeaky clean machinery of the God-blessed US election system is now more or less well-documented history brought to you by the US mainstream media: Donald Trump, with some assistance from the Russians that has never been adequately explained, pulled the presidential contest out from under the wobbly feet of Hillary Clinton.
For those who unwittingly bought that work of fiction, I can only offer my sincere condolences. In fact, Russiagate is just the latest installment of an anti-Russia story that has been ongoing since the presidency of George W. Bush.
Act 1: Smokescreen
Rewind to September 24th, 2001. Having gone on record as the first global leader to telephone George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Putin showed his support went beyond mere words. He announced a five-point plan to support America in the ‘war against terror’ that included the sharing of intelligence, as well as the opening of Russian airspace for US humanitarian flights to Central Asia.
In the words of perennial Kremlin critic, Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, Putin’s “acquiescence to NATO troops in Central Asia signaled a reversal of two hundred years of Russian foreign policy. Under Yeltsin, the communists, and the tsars, Russia had always considered Central Asia as its 'sphere of influence.' Putin broke with that tradition.”
In other words, the new Russian leader was demonstrating his desire for Russia to have, as Henry Kissinger explained it some seven years later, “a reliable strategic partner, with America being the preferred choice.”
This leads us to the question for the ages: If it was obvious that Russia was now fully prepared to enter into a serious partnership with the United States in the ‘war on terror,’ then how do we explain George W. Bush announcing the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty just three months later?
There are some things we may take away from that move, which Putin tersely and rightly described as a “mistake.”
First, Washington must not have considered a security partnership with Moscow very important, since they certainly understood that Russia would respond negatively to the decision to scrap the 30-year-old ABM Treaty.
Second, the US must not considered the ‘war on terror’ very serious either; otherwise it would not have risked losing Russian assistance in hunting down the baddies...