Since Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, a constant drumbeat of Russophobia has resounded throughout the halls of power. Today, the drumbeat has become so deafening that Congress’s already self-imposed inability to legislate has been made even worse, if you can believe it. In turn, this clamorous Russophobia has needlessly blunted the president’s ability to “make America Great again.”
America’s current Russophobia epidemic is not based on anything substantive. Rather, our Ruling Class are still sick about their preferred candidate losing the November election. How pathetic.
For all the talk of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s murderous tyranny (and, yes, he is an autocrat who intimidates, jails, and likely even kills his opponents), our Russophobes usually miss something crucial: Putin’s grip on power is tenuous at best (which is why he is fighting so hard to keep hold onto it) and Russia’s social and economic standing in the world is precarious. In fact, Russia is in outright decline. If the West is not careful, we may end up sending Russia over-the-cliff and into collapse. Be assured, no matter how terrible Putin’s regime may be, what comes afterward can be much, much worse for the United States.
Fact is, like the Ottoman Empire of yesteryear, the Russian Federation is the “sick man” of Eurasia. Rather than formulating doctrines and programs for speeding up the Russian Federation’s demise (as the United States did to the Soviet Union during the Cold War), the American government should be doing what the British and French Empires did to the Ottoman Empire throughout the last part of its existence: figuring out how to guide the flailing empire to a proverbial soft landing.
Remember, the great European empires (other than Czarist Russia) fought hard to ensure the Ottoman Empire did not collapse, lest the “Sick Man of Europe” ultimately spread his contagion. World War I represented the collapse of this policy, as the Ottomans aligned with the Central Powers to fight the Allies, and made British and French attempts at preserving it impossible.
What followed, of course, was the creation of the modern Middle East by the British and French (as well as the Russians and other European colonial powers). And as you know from recent events, the modern Middle East is a disaster zone. What happened in the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire is likely to happen in modern Russia, should the United States keep pushing hard against the enfeebled regime, as we have since 2014. Only imagine the collapse of the Ottoman Empire with scores of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons being loosed from its bases. Does that sound like a good future for the world?
Of course, our elite—the “wise” graybeards of American foreign policy—don’t pay much mind to that scenario. They laugh at such suggestions. But bear in mind that since the United States imposed harsh economic sanctions on Moscow following its unlawful annexation of Crimea, Russia’s economy has collapsed. As a result, the internal security situation in Russia is precarious. In response, the Putin regime has imposed greater restrictions on what little democracy exists in Russia. Meanwhile, our European friends—who are entirely dependent on Russian energy sources and trade—are made weaker, not stronger, by the lack of access to Russian goods. Plus, the sanctions have inspired the kind of political extremism in Europe that our Europhilic elite claim to abhor.
The Russophobia has become so toxic that Russia is looking to China for a new alliance. In other words, our ruling elite’s excessive animus toward Moscow risks harming American grand strategy for at least a generation. After all, it was the great British geostrategist, Sir Halford Mackinder, who warned the West of the grave danger that would exist should a power (or group of powers) come to dominate the immense natural resources of the “world island” that is Eurasia. And as we saw during the early Cold War, a Sino-Russian alliance is terrible for U.S. foreign policy.
Further, Russia’s role in the Middle East is out of strict national interest: it shares a long and notoriously unstable border with the region. Putin has aligned with Iran as a means of, yes, limiting America’s geostrategic capabilities in the Mideast, but also because he’s trying to create some much-needed stability on Russia’s southern periphery. This also explains why Putin is working hard to win friends in Russia’s historical adversary of Turkey. Putin wants to capture the vast energy sources of the region, and he is using both Iran and Turkey as proxies in this game plan. While this is annoying to the United States, this is also predictable geopolitics.
All of these moves are in keeping with historical Russian geopolitical patterns—not just over the last 80 years, but going back to the time of Ivan the Terrible! And Russia is so weak right now that Putin could not possibly achieve what he thinks he can, meaning the threat to America is overhyped by our political elite.
How are American best interests best served by overhyping the threat of Russia? Have we learned nothing from the Iraq War?
Now, the paralyzing Russophobia afflicting America’s government is manifesting itself in a strange way: Congress seeks to limit President Trump’s ability to remove sanctions from Russia—citing Trump’s conflict of interest. What “conflict of interest” is that, exactly? Officially, the president has never been accused of any wrongdoing with Russia. There’s no evidence that he did anything wrong. Even if we are to believe he was “colluding” with Russia during the campaign (he wasn’t), he wouldn’t be guilty of breaking a single law. Besides, even if Trump were completely guilty, the United States Congress does not have the constitutional authority to impose the kind of limitations on the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy the way certain members are proposing.
Putin is looking for a deal. He wants to re-establish a modicum of stability between the West and Russia. He needs help developing his energy sources in the Far East (and he’s not foolish enough to want the Chinese to take the lead—unless he’s left with no choice, as he currently is).
Our bipartisan foreign policy elite needs to end this Russophobia before it destabilizes Eurasia further and leads to an epic—potentially nuclear—confrontation with Russia. Let’s not allow this Russian mania blind us to costs that far outweigh the benefits to America.
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