Yikes! I wrote this a week or two ago, and it already seems way outdated, so without further ado… I don’t know what will be revealed over time about Russia and US politics, but generally speaking, people don’t bother to lie if they don’t have something to hide, or, if deceit is part of their job description, as we could argue is the case for politicians, things rarely unravel as quickly as the Russian thing seems to be doing.
This current mix of the US, Russia, and jihadists in the confluence of concerns has me remembering something I read a long time ago, back when I was trying to make sense of what was going on with US decisions after 9/11. I read the NY Times bestseller Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid and the following small section of the 300 page book stayed with me over the years.
In 1986, CIA chief William Casey committed CIA support to a long-standing ISI initiative to recruit radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan Mujaheddin. Washington wanted to demonstrate that the entire Muslim world was fighting the Soviet Union alongside the Afghans and their American benefactors. None of the volunteers reckoned on these volunteers having their own agendas, which would eventually turn their hatred against the Soviets on their own regimes and the Americans.
…In camps near Peshwar and in Afghanistan, these radicals met each other for the first time and studied, trained, and fought together. It was the first opportunity for most of them to learn about Islamic movements in other countries and they forged tactical and ideological links that would serve them well in the future. The camps became virtual universities for future Islamic radicalism. None of the intelligence agencies involved wanted to consider the consequences of bringing together thousands of Islamic radicals from all over the world. “What was more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?” said Zbigniew Brezniki, a former US National Security Adviser.
When the full arc of the narrative has been played out, what will the “world view of history” consider important?The Cold War ended, but the US / Russia tussle clearly didn’t end there, though it went underground for a while. The strategy shows how the us/ them mindset keeps perpetuating itself. In the name of destroying one enemy, another enemy is created, hydra-like, and the first enemy is only temporarily vanquished.
This is one of those times I wish we could go back in time and follow an alternate timeline – where would the world be now if we hadn’t followed that strategy in Afghanistan? How culpable is the US in the rise of jihadist terrorism?
We no longer have the polarity of good Christian, Capitalist America vs. the bad athiest, Communist Soviet Union that I grew up with, and likely it was never a clash of ideologies per se, but ideologies window dressing the struggle for domination.
With the end of the Cold War,I’m guessing a lot of Americans, like me, didn’t give a lot of thought to Russia, or what the “fall of the Soviet Empire” would look like in its next incarnation. What kind of rise would we see and what would the motivating forces be? When some Americans famously asked “Why do they hate us?” after 9/11, they betrayed a frightening lack of awareness of relationship. Actions have reactions. Duh.
I never liked the idea of the U.S. as the global cop, knowing that the U.S. had it’s own unsavory agendas in the mix, but I’m sobered by knowing that right now we don’t really have a global cop or a talented man in power in the White House, and it’s said that Vladimir Putin is arguably the most powerful man on the planet.
If you’d like a shorter than a book, longer than a usual newspaper article essay on what’s been going on with Russia in the last year, and some biography on Putin, check this out: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war
The New Yorker also recently published a piece that contained some comments by Fiona Hill, who between 2006 and 2009 served as a Russia analyst on the National Intelligence Council, a kind of intelligence think-tank independent of the C.I.A.
Many Russian and American analysts now refer to the current state of U.S.-Russia relations as a kind of new Cold War; Hill gave the current state of affairs an even more alarming tag. “I think we are in a hot war with Russia, not a cold war,” she said. “But we have to be careful about the analogy. It’s a more complex world. There is no set-piece confrontation. This is no holds barred. The Cold War was a more disciplined competition, aside from the near blowups in Berlin and Cuba, where we walked back from the brink. The Kremlin now is willing to jump over the abyss. They want to play for the asymmetry. They see themselves in a period of hot kinetic war. Also, this is not just two-way superpower. There is China, the rising powers. I almost see it as like the great power competition from the time before the Second World War.”