Dan Kovalik, who teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School Of Law and has just written a new book called: ‘The Plot to Control The World', joins the program.
At the beginning of the program, an attempt is made to establish when US-Russian relations began to sour. Dan says: "Certainly the revolution in 1917 which the US immediately opposed was a starting point in the 20th century. The US supported the Tsar. After the revolution the US and some other capitalist countries invaded Russia on behalf of the white counter-revolutionaries. The US passed the Alien Sedition Act of 1918 to allow them to go after radicals in the US who were seen as being sympathetic to the Russian revolution. While it is true that the Soviet Union and the US had an alliance against the Nazis, in World II I think from the point of view of the US, it was really a marriage of convenience and once the war was over, they reverted back to their previous policy. So I think that since 1917 it has been a relationship fraught with tensions, I think the only period in which there was any real good relations was probably during the Yeltsin years, and that was because Yeltsin's Russia was more or less a vassal of the United States….There were some ups and down, when Putin was first elected, the US said he was a good guy because he was picked by Yeltsin, and so for some time we got along with Putin, and of course George W. Bush said that he looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul, and saw him as a friend, and Putin and Russia helped after 9/11….Putin actually did help in Afghanistan, but then again, relations soured quickly. There's a few reasons for that, I think when Putin did not go along with the US invasion in Iraq in 2003, that was a big turning point. I think as far as Obama was concerned, he also tried to re-set relations, but things really went sour with the US and NATO invasion of Libya… it's been very tense ever since, and that's when Putin decided to get involved in Syria, and then things really take a very bad turn at that point."
Russia seems, host John Harrison asks, to be being used as a football to clout the Republicans? "Yes, and Russia was very useful during the Cold War as well, it is very useful to trigger that animosity towards Russia. It has been used for both political purposes, particularly by the Democrats but also for reasons connected with the military industrial complex. You always need an enemy to justify the scandalous amount of money that we spend on the military. Russia is always a good scapegoat and justification for that."
To the question: "will this go on forever, because Russia does play the part so well in American eyes?", Dan says: ‘I think it is difficult to see an end to it, from Russian's point of view. I sincerely believe they [the Russians] want a thawing of relations; Putin has called the US a partner, despite all of these conflicts. I think that they are very frustrated, at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, they truly believed that they would be accepted into the West. Which is where I think they dream of being. It never happened, and I don't think it will happen. Maybe for the world and for Russians that's not a bad thing. I think that there needs to be a counterweight to US hegemony. Interestingly, the US has kind of forced that role on Russia, whether they wanted it or not."
"…I agree with Stephen F. Cohen who said that essentially the problem that America has with Russia is that the bear has got back on its feet. It does not want any country, and power, to present any ability to rival the United States. That's why it doesn't like China either. That's why it doesn't like Iran. The US believes that it should be the only world power and it resents any country that aspires it have its own role in eth world like that."
There seem to be underlying cultural qualities of Americans which allow certain kind of relations towards other countries. Dan comments:…There are some terms such as ‘manifest destiny' and ‘American exceptionalism.' The current America was founded, the America that was founded by Columbus, obviously there were people there before, but this country was founded on the notion that God ordained us to have a country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and that justified the murdering of and sacking of every people that got in the way. That sort of manifest destiny carried over to when we got to the Pacific, to keep going. To go to Hawaii, to go to Alaska, to go to Porto Rica, to go to The Philippines where we went and slaughtered potentially millions at the beginning of the 20th century, and on and on. If there is anything more common that the resentment towards the Russians, it's this belief that somehow America has a right to rule the world and that is a pretty dangerous philosophy but it's very powerful one." John Harrison suggests a religious basis for this. Dan says: "…I was raised a Christian, and there are a lot of good values there, but somehow Jesus has been taken off the cross and has been made a conqueror. Jesus with a sword. It's heretical, and it is the belief and it is dangerous to the rest of the world…"
Perhaps common ground will be found between America and Russia in that both were imperial powers and are coming to terms with that. Dan comments: "I certainly would hope so, I think it is within the realm of possibility, I think the danger right now is that the US is a wounded animal, it is a fierce strong beast, but its power is waning. The fear I have is that that will only cause it to lash out even further, at least for the foreseeable short term. The US is shooting itself in the foot. Look at all these sanctions the US is imposing throughout the world. What is happening? The countries are running away from the US dollar; they don't want to be subject to possible sanctions. We are sanctioning ourselves out of the world economy. There will be a crash that will hurt a lot of people; I think the way that the US is progressing it is not sustainable."
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