Sunbeams From Cucumbers
Posted by Tomski on April 11, 2021, 3:51 pm
“Putin’s disinformation campaigns” are so clever that they use real information, Patrick Armstrong writes.
We now have the complete set, so to speak. The Khans of the Khanate of Kaganstan have both spoken. The husband in A Superpower, Like It or Not and the wife in Pinning Down Putin: How a Confident America Should Deal With Russia; he, so to speak, is the theorist and she the practitioner. She, Victoria Nuland, is back in power as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. She is, of course, infamous for the leaked phonecall during the Maidan putsch. He, Robert Kagan, is one of the founders of the – what now has to be seen as ill-named – Project for the New American Century.
I mentioned Kagan’s piece in an earlier essay and found it remarkable for two things – the flat learning curve it displays and its atmosphere of desperation. PNAC was started in a time of optimism about American power: it was the hyperpower and nothing was impossible for it. Its role in the world should be, Kagan confidently wrote in 1996, “Benevolent global hegemony”. Washington should be the world HQ:
superpower, love it!
A quarter century later his message is:
superpower, endure it.
Quite a difference. Today “there is no escape from global responsibility… the task of maintaining a world order is unending and fraught with costs but preferable to the alternative”.
Kagan is at a loss to explain his difference in tone, or, more likely, he’s unaware of it. The reason, however, is quite easy to understand – failure. Washington followed the neocons’ advice into disaster: it’s been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for two decades and it’s losing. The forever wars have come home: its economy is fading, its politics are shattered, its debt load is stunning, its social harmony is eroding. It’s not at the top of the hill any more. Brzezinski warned that a Russia-China alliance would be the greatest threat to U.S. predominance but thought it could be averted by skilful diplomacy. Well, as it turned out, U.S. actions (the word “diplomacy” is hardly applicable) drove Moscow and Beijing together and the strong domestic base that they all took for granted is crumbling. And, to a large extent, it has been the neocons, the wars they encouraged, the exceptionalism they displayed, the arrogance they embodied, that has created this state of affairs. Kagan should look in the mirror if he wants to know why Americans’ perception of superpower status changed from exultant opportunity to dreary duty.
With this background, we turn our attention to Nuland’s views about what should be done about Russia (“Putin’s Russia” of course – these people personalise everything). Her piece entertainingly marries stunning ignorance about Russia to stunning naïvety about prescriptions. There is no point in boring the reader by trudging through her nonsense, so I will just pick a few things.
She believes that Russia’s infrastructure is crumbling away, the money squandered in corruption and weapons. Well, here are Russia’s new airports, new highways, new hospitals built just for COVID-19, new bridges. Here’s some YouTube links for more. Speaking of decaying infrastructure, she might better look to home: Decaying D.C. bridge reflects state of thousands of bridges nationwide. (Parenthetically – almost everything neocons say that isn’t outright fantasy, is projection).
“This year, the coronavirus pandemic and the free fall in oil prices could result in a significant economic contraction”. Wrong again: Russia’s economy has done better (less badly) than the G7 average and the oil price war has hurt the U.S. more.
“Russia currently has $150 billion in its National Wealth Fund and more than $550 billion overall in gold and foreign reserves.” And just how did this collapsing, kleptocratic, mismanaged and rusting-out economy manage to pile up so much moolah? She isn’t even aware that there’s a question here for her to answer.
Those three are enough – Victoria Nuland, for all that she pretends to superior knowledge, is absurdly unaware of the real situation in Russia. And it’s not as if it’s all that hidden, either: all the sources I mention above are in English and easy to find. In her world, Russia is guilty of everything Rachel Maddow says it is, including using cyberweapons against electrical grids.
What are her prescriptions? And, again, for someone who poses as an expert on Russia, they’re laughable. Her general theme is that Washington and its allies have let Putin get away with too much for too long and it’s time to take back control: