July 27, 2018 in Columnists, News by RBN Staff

Harley Schlanger
July 27 — In the aftermath of the successful Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki on July 16, the divergence of opinion on matters of war and peace between President Donald Trump and the American people on one side, and the majority of members of Congress and the mainstream media on the other, has become more striking than ever.  The shrill attacks on President Trump and Russia’s President Putin, which have characterized the outbursts of the War Party since the summer of 2016 during the election campaign, have increased to a roar, despite the progress in improving U.S.-Russian relations at the historic meeting between the two Presidents.  These attacks escalated during a hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 26, when members of both parties confronted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with accusations that Trump is being “submissive” in the face of Russia’s “malign intent” towards the U.S.
The tone for the hearing was set immediately after the press conference of Trump and Putin in Helsinki, when former CIA Director John Brennan — one of the ringleaders among Obama officials in launching Russiagate in early 2016, in collusion with the highest levels of British intelligence — tweeted that Trump’s behavior “was nothing short of treasonous.”  He added, “Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.”  He demanded that “Republican Patriots” confront Trump.  From the hearing on Thursday, it appears that at least some Senate Republicans have joined with War Party Democrats to sabotage the prospects for cooperation between the U.S. and Russia.
The Russo-phobic rhetoric worsened after Trump announced he was inviting Putin to come to Washington this fall for a follow-up meeting.  When this announcement was greeted with vicious scorn from Trump opponents, a decision was made to postpone the visit by Putin.  Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the next meeting “should take place after the Russian witch hunt is over,” a view echoed by Russian foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, who said it might be better for the “dust to settle” before a second summit occurs, given the current “atmosphere” in Washington.
The disconnect between the provocative war-like intensity of anti-Trumpers and the American people was highlighted in several polls released this week.  In spite of the non-stop attacks on the Trump-Putin meeting, a poll by {The Hill} newspaper-Harris X pollsters found that 54% of Americans want a second summit.  Further, 61% believe the U.S. will benefit from improving relations with Russia, with an overwhelming 67% believing that establishing better relations with Russia is a fundamental interest for the U.S.  While a {Washington Post}-ABC News poll reported a 50% disapproval toward the first summit — not surprising, given the blatantly hostile coverage of that paper of Trump and Putin — the same poll also showed that, while 40% think Trump “went too far” in his “support for Putin”, 35% said the support was “about right”, and 15% said Trump “didn’t go far enough”; that is, approval for the President’s actions prevailed by a 50% to 40% margin.
At the same time, Trump’s personal approval rating went up slightly, to 45% in a {Wall Street Journal}-NBC poll, in spite of the daily bashing of him by the media.  In contrast, the latest polls show a 19% approval rating for the U.S. Congress!
The toxic responses against Trump and Putin reflect the extent to which the idea of U.S. unilateralism dominates official circles.  This view was expressed by the founding of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) by leading neoconservatives in 1997, created “to promote America’s interests.”  In its founding documents, neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan called for America to adopt “benevolent global hegemony.”  The Statement of Principles identifies the challenge “to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests,” while challenging “regimes hostile to our interests and values,” to preserve and extend “an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity and our principles.”  Apparently, for the neocons, American interests are best served by endless wars, regime changes, military buildup on the borders of “adversaries”, imposing brutal IMF austerity, etc.
Shortly after its founding, PNAC issued an open letter to President Clinton, calling for the removal of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein.  Many of PNAC’s founding members took positions in George W. Bush’s security team, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, and were instrumental in shaping the environment for the “War on Terror”, which launched destructive wars against sovereign nations, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and regime change operations which followed, in Libya, Ukraine and Syria.  Their influence continued after PNAC closed its doors in 2006, replaced in 2009 by the Foreign Policy Institute, whose initiators were again Kristol and Kagan.  This assured continuing influence in the Obama administration, with Kagan a frequent dinner guest of the President, and his wife Victoria Nuland serving as a leading figure in the regime change coup against Ukrainian President Yanukovych.  Nuland was also involved in promoting the views of British fraudster and former MI6 agent, Christopher Steele, as she not only used Steele’s reports on Ukraine to shape the coup there, but made sure the charges against Russia and Trump in his “dodgy dossier” were circulated throughout the State Department.
The hegemony of the neocons, and the neo-liberals who allied with them, was challenged directly by Donald Trump, in his election campaign.  In the decisive Republican primary in South Carolina in February, 2016, Trump unleashed a devastating attack on the Bush machine.  In a February 13 debate, he accused George W. Bush of lying to get the U.S. to go to war in Iraq, costing thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars.  He said the American people are tired of wars which serve no purpose.  Jeb Bush, despite his familial heritage and more than $100 million for his campaign, saw his candidacy collapse that night, as he was left speechless.  He and the other Bush surrogates running were crushed by Trump in the primary on February 20, which pushed him to the front of the field of 17 candidates.  Trump reiterated this stance in an interview with the {New York Times} in March 2016, saying “we cannot be the policemen of the world.”
He elaborated on his critique of American unilateralism in a September campaign event in Philadelphia, in which he said, “I am proposing a new foreign policy focused on advancing America’s core national interests, promoting regional stability, and producing an easing of tensions in the world.”  He repeatedly stressed that a central feature of “America’s core national interests” is a collaborative relationship with Russia, based on friendly relations with Putin — this would be “good for America, and the world,” he repeated at many campaign events.  Achieving this campaign promise, to improve relations, was undermined from Day One of his Presidency, by the still-unsubstantiated charges that Russia “meddled” in the U.S. election, and that Trump “colluded” with the Russians.
Yet Trump ultimately stuck to his pledge, having several meaningful encounters with Putin on the sidelines of international conferences, before his one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki.  In the post-summit press conference, he said that disagreements between the U.S. and Russia “are well known and President Putin and I discussed them at length today.  But if we are going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we’re going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests.”
The sentiment behind this is a revolutionary overthrow of U.S. unilateralism, which is why such toxic, anti-Trump/anti-Putin rhetoric has been spewed by those committed to protecting the old, geopolitical framework.  This has led to a worsening of relations between the two superpowers, in spite of Trump’s efforts.  The new, tough sanctions adopted nearly unanimously by both houses of Congress a year ago (CAATSA) are set to be expanded, with a number of bills being introduced  which threaten Russia.  The language in the confrontations with Secretary of State Pompeo makes clear that the War Party in both parties is fighting to defend the old order.  Republican Senator Corker from Tennessee, for example, stated that Senators have “serious doubts” about administration foreign policy, believing that the White House “is making it up as they go.”  He accused Trump of appearing “submissive and deferential” to Putin, adding that he is “antagonizing our friends and placating those who clearly wish us ill.”
Corker and others excoriated the administration for its efforts to renew arms control negotiations, questioning why Russian officials have spoken of “agreements reached” on proposals for renewing START and INF talks, while the Congress has not yet been briefed on these agreements.  The statement to the Valdai Club of Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, that U.S. and Russian negotiators have begun closed door discussions about START and INF triggered a bellicose response, rather than inspiring hope.  When Corker belligerently insisted that Pompeo report details of the Trump-Putin talks, Pompeo pushed back, responding that “Presidents are entitled to have private meetings.”  The stated wish of Trump and Putin to avoid a new arms race, and insure that nuclear weapons are never used, means nothing to Republican war hawks, like Corker, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Marco Rubio, who are acting to sabotage a shift out of relations defined by the post-Cold War order.
Others challenged Trump’s Singapore agreements with Kim Jong-un.  Senator Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he fears the “Trump administration is being taken for a ride” by the North Koreans.  Senator Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, charged that the administration “is increasingly not transparent”, fuming that with North Korea, “we have no agreements on anything.”
The same network of pro-war Senators is also targeting China, accusing the Chinese of aggressive “spying” on the U.S.  Joining them is FBI Director Christopher Wray, who told a gathering of war mongers at the Aspen Institute summer security conference last week that while Russia “continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day,” it is the Chinese that worry him more.  “China represents the broadest, most challenging counterintelligence threat we face at this time.”  Wray’s words about Russia were reinforced by another neocon in the Trump administration, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who said in a July 23 interview, “We don’t trust Putin, we never will, they’re never gonna be our friend, that’s just a fact.”  Perhaps Haley missed Trump’s repeated statements that he wants friendly relations with Putin.
Despite some back-tracking on some of his statements from the post-summit press conference, Trump continues to push for diplomatic solutions, outside the American unilateralism of the neocons.  His talk of “America First” means that the U.S. must prioritize pursuit of its own national interests, but not impose its policies on others.  He has stated that Russia, China and others — including the nations of Europe, which he has criticized sharply for blindly following Brussels instead of the interests of their people — should act instead for their national interests.  Then, there should be dialogues to find common interests, and to overcome outstanding problems.  In this vein, Trump took to twitter on July 20 to blast his opponents, who accuse him of submission to Putin.  They attack me, he tweeted, for being “too nice…In the Old Days, they would call it diplomacy.”
In commenting on the dangers flowing from the effort to cling to unilateralism, which leads to geopolitical confrontation, Helga Zepp LaRouche, the Chairman of the Schiller Institute, said in her July 26 weekly webcast,  “So we have to put behind us the outdated, war-like Cold War mentality, the idea that the world is always a zero-sum, where one is winning and the other one is losing.  And that we can move to a new era of civilization of a win-win cooperation and have a new set of international relations, where people relate to the best tradition of the other one, the best culture; that we have a dialogue of the beautiful periods in the history of each nation, and make it known universally:   This is what I call, for the human species to become adult….
 “And I think that that will be the future of civilization,” she continued, “if we overcome this present, outdated thinking of just making money for money’s sake, or accumulating riches to have a fancy life for a few and misery for the many.  And I think that we really should use the potential which is in the fact that Trump is trying to get a better relationship with Russia and that he should go back to his initial positive relationship with China, his friendship with Xi Jinping; and that all the people who were involved in Russiagate, Muellergate, that they should basically face their appropriate punishment because they committed the collusion with foreign governments, and not Trump.”
She called on citizens of all countries to mobilize to achieve this, reminding her viewers that, after all, Trump did win the U.S. election based in large part on his campaign against the neocon war policies of the Bush-Obama-Clinton camp, and there is an insurgency worldwide against the attempt to maintain the old geopolitical order.  It is now time to end the era of imperial geopolitics, once and for all, she added.