Whatever happened to glasnost and perestroika?
And while we’re at it, when did the once-defrosted Cold War get thrust into a state of red-hot, nuclear-ready hostilities?
Somewhere between bilateral political détente and Super-Power diplomatic rapprochement, someone managed to turn up the burner on U.S.-Russian relations, making it practically a crime for Americans to even associate with Ruskies (and I am not just talking about recently disgraced former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Y. Flynn).
Yes, there have been allegations — as yet not verified by anyone except a team of ultra-secretive intelligence operatives (even the anti-Trump Washington Post concluded that the report released by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence on purported Russian tampering in the November presidential elections “contained no information about how the agencies had collected their data or had come to their conclusions,” and dismissed its deductions as “unsubstantiated”) — but foreign meddling into the internal political affairs of other countries is nothing new.
And, by the way, the practice of trying to influence foreign politics is not the exclusive domain of the Kremlin.
The United States has historically muddied the waters of other countries’ elections by interfering in their democratic process, notably by CIA funding and propaganda churning in support of pro-Western parties against their leftist opponents in both France and Italy during the 1950s and 1960s.
During that same period, the United States also played a big role as instigator in overthrowing democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala and helping to install autocratic regimes in their stead.
And let’s not forget about Washington’s unabashed interference in Nicaragua and its backing of the Contras in the 1980s against the leftist Sandinistas; or its intervention in the Philippines in 1986, leading to the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos; or its involvement in the 2009 coup d’état against elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
More recently, Uncle Sam was also instrumental in the ousters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi that same year (although no one is claiming that Gaddafi was duly elected).
U.S.-funded NGOs like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, meanwhile, are afoot around the globe overtly helping to “educate” fledgling democracies in the art of republicanism while they covertly fund candidates they feel are pro-American.
Still not convinced?
How about the $5 billion-plus the Barack Obama administration channeled to pro-democracy forces in Kiev during his eight years in office?
Or Republican Senator John McCain showing up in Ukraine in 2016 to coax demonstrators to demand the expulsion of Kiev’s elected government?
A little Russian cyber meddling into the U.S. electoral process (if it is true, and odds are it is) pales in comparison.
But let’s put the issue of whether or not Moscow tried to influence the U.S. presidential elections (and assuming they did, tsk-tsk, Russia) to the side for now.
After all, it is the implicit obligation of governments to try to ensure that their neighbors have political leaders who are sympathetic to their own national interests, and it is the conspicuous duty of their respective intelligence organizations to work toward achieving those objectives.
The fact of the matter is that Washington needs Moscow, not only as an ally in its fights against global terrorism, but also in order to achieve nuclear disarmament, guarantee European political stability, curb global warming, rein in China and North Korea and accomplish a Chinese laundry list of other pressing issues.
When U.S. President Donald J. Trump says that having good relations with Russia would be a good thing, he is right.
Good diplomatic rapport between the Washington and Moscow is crucial to U.S. national security and interests.
And the ratcheting down of the growing hostile rhetoric between the two countries is vital to global stability.
Whoever has been feeding the fire of anti-Russian propaganda in the United States and trying to depict Vladimir Putin as the new Great Satan has been watching too many “The Americans” episodes on FX.
What they need to remember is that that series takes place in the 1980s, and we are living in 2017.
It’s time to let the Cold War defrost permanently.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]