Russia Hacks the World

Many Israeli politicians admire Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr Commons)

 (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr Commons)

The email trove that WikiLeaks released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention has all the hallmarks of a dirty tricks campaign.

The messages reveal, among other things, that the Democratic National Committee tried its best to tilt the electoral playing field in favor of Hillary Clinton. For anyone who has had even the slightest interaction with the Democratic Party — or mainstream politics at all in America — such politicking is nauseating but routine.

More unusual about the revelations is who acquired the information. The proximate source for the WikiLeaks dump is a hacker named Guccifer 2 — not to be confused with the original Guccifer, a Romanian hacker who broke into Hillary Clinton’s email account and is now in a U.S. jail. Guccifer 2 also claims to be Romanian, but his command of the language is weak to non-existent.

Despite Guccifer’s professed hatred of Russian foreign policy, all signs so far point to Russian hands behind this latest hacking scandal. Russian intelligence agencies had apparently been vacuuming up material from within the DNC for a year or so and only went public with the info when they were shut out of the system last month. They created the Guccifer persona to cover their tracks and used WikiLeaks as their messenger.

It’s big news for a foreign entity to try to manipulate U.S. elections. Of course, you could argue that turnaround is fair play. The United States has manipulated many a foreign election in the past.

The problem with this argument is three-fold. First, U.S. meddling in overseas politics is inexcusable. But we need a moratorium on such activities, not acceptance of other countries following suit in a veritable arms race of democratic tampering. Second, if it is indeed behind the latest attack — and no definitive proof has yet emerged — Russia is backing not just a particular political candidate but the first authentic fascist to have a fighting chance of getting to the White House (“fascist” is not used here as an epithet but as the only political science term that accurately captures Trump’s combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, racism, and economic populism).

Third, the hacking scandal is only one of many ways that Russia is rewriting the rules of international engagement. As a failed superpower that retains its membership card in the nuclear club, Russia has affected an outlaw style, like Anonymous or Julian Assange. Instead of direct confrontation, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his team have thrown on masks and skulked in the shadows: “little green men” in Ukraine, an army of Internet trolls posting Kremlin disinformation on websites, implausibly deniable assassinations of critics. It all makes The Americans, the current FX series about KGB sleeper cells in the 1980s, seem all too current.

What complicates the story, of course, is the risk of a new cold war — strike that, a new hot war — between the United States and Russia. The fault line running through Central Europe is extraordinarily dangerous, not to mention superpower competition elsewhere in the world like Syria and the face-off between two nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert. The last thing the world needs now, with new terrorist attacks happening every day in a different country, is a cage match between the bear and the bald eagle.

So, here’s the triple challenge: counter Russia’s hactivism, reduce tensions between Washington and Moscow, and prevent the election of America’s homegrown Putin. It’s a tall order. But no one ever said that geopolitics is easy.

The Russian Exception

The Chinese government asserts outrageous claims to the entire South China Sea, cracks down on domestic political dissent, and twists arms in Tibet and Xinjiang. But you won’t find many American commentators — left, right, or center — who try to justify this behavior. Similarly, there are only a few nostalgic revolutionaries who bend over backwards to explain away the defects of Cuban socialism or Venezuelan Chavismo.

But Russia is in a category all its own when it comes to defenders in the United States. Vladimir Putin, a right-wing, homophobic nationalist, has attracted support from the usual like-minded crazies, such as Lyndon LaRouche and Franklin Graham. More unusually, an ideologically diverse and highly credentialed group of Americans has leapt to Putin’s defense, including former DIA head Michael Flynn, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Jim Matlock, and Russia specialist Stephen F. Cohen.

For someone like Matlock to stick up for Putin reflects a thorough disenchantment with Washington’s Russia policy. During the Clinton era, the United States resurrected a containment strategy toward the country when a more cooperative arrangement was both possible and feasible. As one of the first people to document what I called “containment lite,” I am angry as well. But this anger has not blinded me to Putin’s obvious defects.

Other authoritarian symps are more persuaded by the “hegemonic counterforce.” During the Cold War, some anti-imperialists supported the Soviet Union not for ideological reasons but because it was the only geopolitical force strong enough to prevent the United States from running roughshod across the globe. For those today who believe that the United States alone is responsible for all the world’s evils, any country that stands up to the global bully deserves a measure of support.

In this regard, Putin’s brutality is a plus. He has no qualms about adopting the very worst traits of U.S. foreign policy and adding some nefarious innovations of his own.

Russian Foreign Policy

Russian involvement in the politics of other countries doesn’t stop with its recent efforts to tilt the U.S. election away from the woman Putin thinks tried to dislodge him from power back in 2011. Investigations into Russian interference in France, Bulgaria, and Hungary are ongoing. The Kremlin has specifically supported efforts to undermine the cohesion of the European Union, which puts Putin in the company of various far-right Euroskeptic parties like Golden Dawn in Greece, the National Front in France, and Jobbik in Hungary.

Political hacking is only the tip of the tundra. There’s also:

Targeted assassinations: While the United States conducts drone strikes to take out its foreign opponents, the Putin team employs different methods against its domestic foes. Two former KGB agents slipped polonium into the tea of Alexander Litvinenko, a renegade intelligence officer, leading to his painful death by poisoning. Prison guards beat to death Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who stood up to massive Russian tax fraud.

Other critics who have died under mysterious circumstances include opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov and Sergei Yushenkov and journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Paul Klebnikov. Russian officials have routinely pointed to other culprits, particularly Chechens.

Moreover, it has been devilishly difficult to trace culpability to Putin himself. Suffice it to say that standing up to Putinism is a very dangerous occupation.

Cross-border incursions: Russia has long claimed a kind of Monroe Doctrine approach to its “near abroad” — particularly those areas with large numbers of Russian speakers. The Russian government has supported breakaway attempts by such communities in Moldova and Georgia. The case of Ukraine, however, is much more significant because Russian troops have helped to annex part of Ukrainian territory (Crimea) and worked with separatists in the Donbas region to carve off another hunk of the country.

Even if, as critics argue, the United States helped orchestrate a coup in Kiev to oust Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and fascists then took over the government, Russian actions would be suspect (Ukraine, after all, did not declare war on Russia or attack the country). In fact, however, Yanukovych was dislodged by a popular uprising and not a coup, U.S. involvement in this uprising was minimal, and fascists have had only marginal influence on the Ukrainian government (and even less today).

Sure, the country is corrupt, and Ukrainian oligarchs enjoy a great deal of power. But that’s no justification for invasion, any more than leftist orientation justified the Bay of Pigs operation or U.S. efforts to oust the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Aerial bombing campaigns: The United States has pioneered the post-Cold War use of aerial bombing to achieve military and political goals on the ground. Russia was relatively new to this game when it started its own bombing campaign in Syria to back the Bashar al-Assad regime and weaken its armed opponents.

Not surprisingly, the Russian campaign has led to the same kind of “collateral damage” as U.S. air strikes. In six months of strikes on such targets as schools, hospitals, and markets, Russian bombers killed as many as 2,000 civilians in Syria in the first six months of the campaign. Despite a pledge to draw down its air strikes, Russian bombing continues, most recently leading to dozens of civilian deaths in the campaign to retake Aleppo.

Expanded military capabilities: Russian military spending has jumped considerably since 2011, when Putin introduced a $700 billion modernization program. The Russian military budget remains a far cry from the Pentagon’s annual allocation — roughly a tenth. Moreover, falling oil prices and sanctions over Ukraine have constrained Russian spending, leading to a 5 percent cut in 2016.

Still, Russia has tried to keep up in asymmetric ways — upgrading its nuclear arsenal and investing in cyberwarfare. Meanwhile, Russia is second only to the United States in its arms sales, and the wars in Ukraine and Syria will boost those exports even more.

Colder War

Still, the view from Moscow can’t be very reassuring for the Putin team.

NATO has expanded to the very borders of the country. At the most recent summit in Warsaw in July, NATO members agreed to bulk up on the eastern flank with four multinational battalions. The United States will send 1,000 soldiers to Poland, while the UK, Canada, and Germany will send troops to the Baltic countries. The Anakonda 2016 military exercises — which involved 31,000 troops, half of them Americans — no doubt ruffled feathers in the Kremlin. So too did the activation of an anti-missile system in Romania in May (with something similar to go one line in Poland in 2020).

Russia hasn’t simply watched these developments. It has moved troops into its western regions and is preparing to put nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad by 2019. The nuclear weapons of both countries, meanwhile, remain on hair-trigger alert. Neither side has made any commitments to future arms control measures, including de-alerting of nukes.

This buildup of forces and tension in Central Europe is somewhat mitigated by U.S.-Russian cooperation elsewhere in the world. Both countries were involved in negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. Both countries have negotiated an albeit fragile and frequently violated ceasefire in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled a recent plan to increase the coordination of intelligence and air strikes in Syria, which hasn’t been particularly popular among European allies. This nascent coordination in fighting terrorism has prompted some Russian experts to speculate about expanding cooperation to other issues.

The speculation isn’t just taking place in Moscow. In his last months in office, President Obama might try a “reset lite” with Russia. As reported in The Washington Post, the administration is considering a number of landmark moves before it leaves office, including a pledge of “no first use” of nuclear weapons, supporting a UN Security Council resolution on a comprehensive nuclear test ban, a scaling back of the nearly trillion-dollar nuclear modernization plan, and an offer to Moscow to extend New START limits for another five years.

The next U.S. president must go beyond arms control and negotiate a new Central European initiative with the countries of the region, Russia, and the European Union. The initiative would combine energy security with demilitarization and provide stability funds so that countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia can substitute economic growth for civil conflict.

So, there is potential to deescalate the emerging cold war. The trick of it is to persuade European allies to go along. And the wild card is the U.S. presidential elections.

American Oligarch

Donald Trump is well on his way to securing the endorsements of right-wing populists the world over. Noted Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders and Brexit engineer Nigel Farage both showed up at the Republican national convention. Hungary’s Viktor Orban has endorsed the Donald, confident that he “is the best for Europe and for Hungary.”

And then there’s Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump is “a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt,” Putin told the press. “It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race.”

For his part, Trump has shown Putin some love as well. He has promised to sit down and negotiate a deal with the Russian leader. He has been lukewarm on the NATO commitment to defend members that have been attacked. And the American oligarch has considerable ties to his Russian counterparts. According to The Washington Post:

Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

For those who see Trump as a vehicle for an even greater rapprochement with Russia if he gets elected, I caution skepticism. Trump negotiates hard bargains with potential business partners, forcing them to accept weak terms or face expensive lawsuits. Vladimir Putin is not a construction company, a real estate agent, or a would-be entrepreneur. He will not likely accede to Trump’s uninformed bullying.

If Putin stands up to the American behemoth as he has done in the past, but this time one presided over by Donald Trump, the new president will not likely take the slight in stride. “When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it,” he wrote in The Art of the Deal. “I love getting even.”

This time around, Trump won’t just have lawsuits to throw at the recalcitrant. He’ll have nuclear weapons at his disposal.

So, to return to the triple challenge, deescalating U.S.-Russian tensions is not enough. Nor is simply countering Russia’s hacking of geopolitics to gain asymmetric advantages. Even defeating Trump is not sufficient. When it comes to the United States and Russia, it will require a package deal.

In 1975, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the countries of Europe negotiated a grand compromise on sovereignty, human rights, arms control, and educational exchanges. The Helsinki Accords proved that compromise was possible even during the Cold War.

We desperately need a Helsinki Accords of the 21st century.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus.

  • Mixa Klimment

    Read history: Crimea was, is and forever will be Russian. And the people cheered when it happened..

    • John Feffer

      As I said, Russia employs an army of Internet trolls to sing the praises of Putin and his “glorious” acts. I would have been disappointed if they hadn’t bothered to show up to “refute” my article.

      • Mixa Klimment

        You obviously have nothing intelligent to say since you automatically call people “troll” when you don’t like what they write.

        • John Feffer

          I didn’t automatically call you a “troll.” I looked up your name on the Internet, followed your links, glanced at your YouTube postings. And then I concluded that you were a troll.

          As for your comment, there wasn’t much to like or dislike. You wrote “read history” and then provided a YouTube video that promotes a narrow version of Russian nationalism. Crimea certainly was part of Russia at one point. Then it was part of Ukraine. As for its future, that’s hard to say. Some people cheered the result of the referendum. Others boycotted it. Still others left Crimea.

          But Crimea was hardly the topic of my essay. I mentioned it once, parenthetically. To single out Crimea and sing the praises of Russian annexation — that was also very troll-like behavior.

          • Mixa Klimment

            Where do you get your news? CNN?
            Crimea had always be Russian until it was given to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev when he had the power to do so.
            The modern Ukrainian state, a Soviet construct, has played out its existence and expired. Ukraine was part of Russia for longer than the US has existed. The Russians have every reason to defend themselves. Just look at how many countries NATO has attacked in the last 20 years.

          • John Feffer

            What a nice imperialist notion — not only is Crimea part of Russia, but all of Ukraine is part of Russia. And then to flip around a military aggression and claim it to be self-defense? As for your last line, well, that was a major argument of the article, which you probably didn’t read.

          • elwood612

            This entire comments thread should be titled “How To Deal With Trolls: 101”. Keep up the good work John. 😉

            Very interesting article as well. I would argue that the illegal invasion of Ukraine and the EU’s lack of a coherent response has made a Russia “reset” very unlikely… but I won’t argue with its desirability.

      • elmysterio

        Well I’m not a troll on the payroll of Putin and I call BS on your assertions. I am an awake Canadian who sees through the BS… and you sir, are a purveyor of much BS.

      • aprescoup

        Kissinger, Mearsheimer, Matlock and Stephen Cohen, among many others, would rightly view your sweatings as little more than propaganda of a fluffer for a rogue nation; feared most of all by a preponderance of the worlds’s inhabitants.

  • Aer O’Head

    Whatever else, there is no definitive proof yet regarding who was behind the hack attack. All we have is speculation by our government and mainstream media, who only ever just spout off their own party line. Even if the hack was done by green Martians, it’s to be expected that people would point a finger at Putin and Russia. Therefore, I am not convinced. Not to mention, let’s all remember what Hillary herself said at the Benghazi hearings, “WHAT DIFFERENCE, AT THIS, POINT, DOES IT MAKE?” The only things that really matter is if the emails are real, and what they say. Pointing the finger at ANYONE but HRC, DWS and the DNC only serves to divert attention from the REAL villains and the REAL issues.

    • John Feffer

      As I wrote in the article, there is no definitive proof. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t considerable evidence that the Russians are behind the hack.

      As for what Clinton said, I suggest that you look at the full quote: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.” In other words, we need to figure out how the hack happened, who was responsible, and prevent it from happening again. Or, like Trump, would you like to encourage foreign governments to meddle in U.S. elections?

      As for the content of the emails — really, are you surprised that the Democratic Party threw its weight behind its favored candidate? I suggest that you follow the link to Jill Lepore’s article in The New Yorker. Political parties have always rigged the process. In the 19th century, they called it “ruckery.” Long ago, I worked for two insurgent Democrats not particularly well-liked by the party apparatus and I experienced first hand what the party does when it prefers other candidates. And Bernie, I’d like to remind you, only recently became a Democrat to run. So, no surprise that he faced an uphill struggle — and indeed waged a remarkable campaign.

      • Jose

        To summarize: indeed, the emails reveal that the Democratic primaries were rigged in favor of the preferred candidate of the current administration and the mainstream corporate liberal media, but this this is not the big deal. The Russians, yes, are the real problem! It was they who meddle in US elections. And, although we can not say that for sure, there are strong evidences of that. We know that because the current administration and the mainstream corporate liberal media say so. And why should we doubt it for a moment? Let`s take it almost for granted and write a great article, not about the e-mails, but about the russians taking over the world.

        • John Feffer

          Yes, a foreign government meddling in U.S. politics is more significant than a U.S. political party trying to tilt the election in favor of its preferred candidate. And no, the article was not about the Russians taking over the world. But I’m glad you think it’s a great article!

  • Chris Herz

    I could care less about Russia and have no illusions as to the virtues of President Putin. But I also have little sympathy for the ambitions of our own neo-con leadership, which will shortly with the ascension of HRC be vastly augmented. And it is that US hegemonism which is a problem for the world just now. Russian ambitions might be a problem in years to come, but it is the USA that is the contemporary threat to peace.
    And on the EU, you are dead wrong. The rise of the Euro from .88 to over 1.33 badly frightened US misrulers and the whole contrived Ukraine crisis might be seen as a crafted device to fissure nascent European-Russian cooperation and to weaken the Union itself. A more reckless adventure has not been seen in the world since 1914. I can only hope it does not produce similar results.

    • John Feffer

      Our current leadership is not neo-con, unless you are simply using that term as an epithet. Obama is generally a realist. I disagree with many of his policies, but they are not neo-con policies. Clinton is more hawkish, to be sure, and she has picked up some neo-con endorsements for her stance on Israel. But she too falls into the realist camp. U.S. hegemonism is a problem for the world — but it’s not the only problem and not the only threat to world peace.

      Your reading of Europe and Ukraine is peculiar, to say the least. The Ukraine issue was not a contrived crisis. And it was the swings in European-Ukrainian cooperation that created the Euromaidan protests and both U.S. and Russian involvement in the crisis. The last thing the U.S. wants to see right now is a weakened EU.

      • NEWS2VIEW

        There has been a certain level of continuity in foreign policy among Republican and Democratic leadership since 9/11. The Hawks promoted the case for preemptive war to the Republican fold on the basis of security. The Doves promoted the case for humanitarianism and democratization to the Democratic fold. When all was said and done, they climbed on the much the same foreign policy bandwagon — albeit for differing reasons. Nonetheless, the results of this coalition have been fairly consistent: Destabilization.

        The result has been four distinct layers worth of “intractable” for our trouble:

        • The Perceived Problem: Dictatorship, terrorism, encroachment into nearby territory, uprising, coup.
        • The Perceived Solution: fund insurgents, promote dissent, attack head-on via military intervention.
        • The Latent Conflict: Resurgence of sectarian violence (e.g. Shia vs. Sunni), ethnic violence (Bosnia after the fall of the Iron Curtain), and tribal warfare. The resurfacing of very ancient conflicts, in turn, may be even more intractable than the secular/modern problem our foreign policy seeks to influence.
        • The Unintended Consequence: e.g. Syrian refugee crisis, power vacuum exploited by ISIS and the deficit-spiraling amount of money we’re spending tending to other people’s affairs for the sake of our own interests.

        Doing the “right” thing for the wrong reasons or “wrong” thing for the right reasons is a complicating factor — one that even the best of foreign policy architects have a tough time sorting out.


    It’s ironic that while Trump is being slammed for his reckless rhetoric toward just about anything and everyone, he is perceived to be too chummy toward Putin. In contrast, early on in the GOP process many candidates were a lot more measured in their speech with respect to a number of foreign policy issues BUT for Russia. During the GOP debates, many of the candidates took on very Trump-esque tough talk with respect to Russia. So in this one respect we saw the tables flip: Almost all the GOP contenders espoused some version of Rubio’s comment about carpet bombing Putin and making Russia “glow in the dark”. Trump, despite his bridge-burning reputation, wasn’t one of them.


    Although both candidates have a troubled foreign policy track record, it’s become almost a Republican right-of-passage to talk tough on foreign policy in recent years. In spite of this, we *may* be less likely — perhaps a lot less — to engage in another Cold, let alone a hot war, with Russia in the event of a Trump win.

    A key observation that has escaped much of the punditry in this election is the way in which Sec. Clinton and Trump are taking heat for much the same concern — it’s largely a question of what side of the “coin” faces up. For example, Trump has been portrayed — and a lot of this damage is his own — as being “temperamentally unfit” to be in the White House. On the other hand, Sec. Clinton has been criticized — based on some all-too-real fiascos — for lacking the proper judgment to be commander in chief. (Zero Hedge has a good piece on her foreign policy record as Sec. of State — and it doesn’t just harp on the well-worn topics of Benghazi or the email server fiasco. There’s also a good summation of the foreign policy fiascos of Sec. Clinton titled “Adding Up the Costs of Hillary Clinton’s Wars” right here on FPIF.)

    If you look at the criticisms side-by-side, much of the rap Trump takes thanks to his brash, “tough man” talk — and the flack Sec. Clinton has caught with respect to various scandals, goes back to much the same thing: concerns for their respective judgment. In Trump we have the “fear of what will be” — after all, he hasn’t served in office yet. In Sec. Clinton we have the “fear of what has been” — returning to haunt us in the form of more “miscalculations”. The case can be made, in fact, that we’re looking at potential worst-case scenarios where foreign policy matters are concerned on BOTH sides of the ticket. It’s more than a little ironic to observe that Clinton and Trump are effectively equally-matched opposites. And so this election year, it may come down yet again to the old “lesser of two evils” vote.

    Sec. Clinton was hardly alone in the bipartisan support that existed within the Obama administration for funneling money into Ukraine to support the Maidan uprising there. That uprising could have served, in turn, to entangle the West in yet another conflict zone at a time when we already have our hands full on many fronts, thanks to ISIS. Neocons in the wake of 9/11 saw fit to promote the case for “preemptive strike” early on, whereas democratic leadership saw fit to join in under the banner of liberating people in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere from their repressive dictatorships. For differing reasons, they all saw fit to climb on board the same foreign policy bandwagon — which is to say a more “proactive” (meddlesome) role in the Mideast and, more recently, toying with much the same approach in Ukraine. We’ve been on dangerous footing since 9/11 not just because terrorism threatens us but because our response to that threat has tended to abridge our Fourth Amendment protections while advocating for regime change for the sake of “democracy” (Dems) and “security” (Repubs).

    With the rise of ISIS, we are assembling the elements for a Perfect Storm. Although Putin hasn’t made media headlines here for saying as much, he has warned at international conferences that we may be on a collision course with WWIII. I think we dismiss such warnings as “Russian propaganda” at our collective peril. The risk of a hot war, let alone re-ignition of a Cold War, has never been greater in our lifetimes.

    The early years of the previous Century were similarly characterized by a great deal of lot of conflict. So it looks like our 21st Century “evolved” leadership — those who promote regime change, trade liberalization and EU centralization/integration — for the ostensible purpose of avoiding another World War is, instead, laying much the same groundwork for further proliferation of conflict around the world. It bears remembering: It doesn’t merely require hubris to be on the “wrong” side of conflict. It also requires hubris in being so utterly convinced of being “right” as to promote the “solution” at any price.

    Perhaps it’s time our leaders on both sides of the isle step back and rethink the price of being “right”. Is it appropriate that citizens in much of the Mideast subsist under iron-fist dictatorships? No. But when those secular dictatorships have been lifted, tribal and religious warfare — ancient conflicts between Sunni and Shia —are resurgent. The truth isn’t pretty but we have to accept reality on its own terms: We can’t “nation build” our way toward security OR Utopia. If the resolution of one set of problems opens the door to equal and opposite forms of “unintended consequences” — conflict and destabilization — this condition, too, robs the people in those nations of life and liberty (and worse, the human tragedy that is refugee crisis). There is little doubt now that ISIS is exploiting a power vacuum in the Mideast. Unfortunately, a certain level of naivety on the part of Western leadership appears to have played a direct role in that.

    If Trump’s ONLY saving grace is that he won’t continue to jab the Russian bear in the eye with sticks, perhaps he will — contrary to his reckless rhetoric on so many other issues — be a force for stability in that part of the world. Lord knows, we don’t need another battlefront, especially when one considers that provocation of Russia could also draw in China and a number of Mideast allies. Such a conflict could go from “cold” to “hot” in a nanosecond — much the same way the Great War arose from “nowhere” in the early 20th Century. If this sounds apocalyptic, it’s because it most definitely IS apocalyptic. ISIS members are trying to advance their version of an end-times war by which to bring about Islam’s prophetic “New Caliphate”. Do we really need to elect a leader who sees fit to support the funding of instability in Ukraine and elsewhere — even if it is sold by our media as the “righteous” thing to do — or, at this fragile juncture, do we need someone who will appreciate the need to keep a lid on the conflict that has erupted on so many fronts since 9/11? To
    hear the GOP candidates talk, early on, you would think the Reagan-Gorbachev legacy was long dead. But we all lose if it is — whether it dies at the hands of a Republican or a Democrat.

  • elmysterio

    Wow. What a wrong-headed propaganda piece. And here I thought this place would be insightful and realistic because Conn Hallinan writes here… I quite like his writing… Instead, we have John Feffer parroting western media bull and apparently shilling for the Democratic Party. Shameful.

    • John Feffer

      well, el mysterio, if you have any specifics you’d like to challenge, please go ahead. Do you object, for instance, to the idea of deescalating the Cold War with Russia? Or did you get that far in the article?

      “Western media bull” is quite a large category. Did you have any non-Western media in mind as your preferred source? Were you perhaps thinking of RT?

      As for FPIF, I’m the director and it’s published here in Washington, DC. Finally, I’m sure the Democratic Party would be charmed to hear that I’m their shill, given the criticisms I’ve leveled against the party for the past 30 years.

      • elmysterio

        Ok John. Challenge accepted. This will take some time though and today i am busy. Tomorrow morning i will have the time to write a thoughtful response.

        In the meantime, a couple questions…

        1. Do you actually believe what you wrote or are you acting as a disinfo agent like so many other “washington thinktanks’?

        2. Where does FPIP get its funding from?

        • John Feffer

          FPIF gets funding from private individuals and some foundation support. The Institute for Policy Studies, where FPIF is housed, is unlike many thinktanks in that we receive no government money — from any government. We have been independent since our founding in 1963.

          As for your first question, which I’ll try not to interpret as insulting, yes, I believe what I wrote. I’ve been writing on Russian issues for more than 30 years. I studied Russian in Moscow in 1985. I majored in Russian in university. My first book in 1990 was about Soviet foreign policy. I’ve been as severe a critic of Putin as I was of Yeltsin. I have a great love for Russia, Russian people, Russian culture — and that’s in part why I find Putin so loathsome.

          Now, I await your specific critique….

  • Luis

    The last I heard Russia was a democracy looking out for it’s own interest like most countries. Ukraine had a democratically elected government and then the coup, so some regions in Ukraine rebel because they didn’t support the coup. I wonder how many States would rebel if there was a coup in the good old USA. It could happen.

    • John Feffer

      Russia is less of a democracy, thanks to Putin. And Ukraine didn’t experience a coup, though obviously if Russia repeats that false narrative enough, many people will believe it despite the lack of evidence.

      If a coup were to happen here, a subject I addressed in my column last week, I suspect that there wouldn’t be any regional rebellion, given the rather even distribution of popular support for the military throughout the United States. There might, of course, be resistance, but not a state basis — and there would not likely be any military intervention by an outside force, as there was when Russian military personnel intervened in Ukraine.

      • Luis

        Who knows what would Happens.

  • davidmcsf

    First off – Trump is NOT a fascist and no matter how many times the ignorant and false narrative is stated it is NOT going to make it true… He might speak a bit off the cuff sometimes but more often those statements are taken out of context and the incompetent media begins their spin.

    The global agenda that has become the policy of the US is something that must be stopped. That dystopian future of the elites and their desire to subjugate us while practicing lawlessness, cronyism, propaganda, lies, murder and greed must be stopped in its tracks.

    Whether you like it or not the last twenty some odd years have seen a government transform us into a police state and wreaked havoc on our middle class, education, infrastructure and social decay. This is a self perpetuating phenomena that the left has delivered as a means to keep us distracted – obfuscating their actual real fascist agenda. Obama’s TTP and TTIP, a part of his presidential legacy is a blatant betrayal of Americans and his oath to protect our nation. It is de facto treason.

    The political correctness of the left is and all those forcing such idiocy as microagressions (creation of free speech squares on Universities so no one gets offended), racism (using racism to fight racism, all whites are racist), insane “no gun” rhetoric (children expelled from school for playing cowboys and indians or eating their bread into the shape of a gun), immigration (legalizing immigrants whence their first act on US soil is breaking the law), muslims being moderate (an oxymoron if their ever was one-the Koran does indeed speak of death to infidels (all non believers and that gays should be tossed from hight places to their deaths-i am gay and dated a muslim who fled moderate middle east for his life-literally), et al.

    As you can see the political agenda of the Democrats has gone batsh!t crazy. I mean racism has exploded under a black president and the media lies along with the government who apparently don’t even read their own reports but rather go with what “feels” good. Whites are more often killed by police than blacks and the mainstream support BLM which is a terrorist organization.

    The US supports neo-Nazis in the Ukraine after the US backed coup (media sells it all as a democratic uprising and claims in the aftermath of Russian Aggression of which there is none.

    MH-17 – a plane that fell after Ukranian forces backed by the US shot it down (mistaken for Putins rerouted plane or provocation for more false blowback against Putin?).

    Assad and his murdering of his own people which he didn’t do but our moderates were founded to be the guilty party though no one reported this and it is still used as a soundbite to overthrow another ruler who is very popular in his nation regardless of what the US wants. There is also no civil war in Syria it is rather an invasion of proxy terrorist forces backed by DC that eat the hearts of christian children and behead. There are no moderate muslims fighting to turn a sectarian nation in two a bunch of murdering savages. Period.

    Libya – another nation that had lies bestowed upon their leader-his guilt of viagara pumped mass raping of women another great US lie. Libya really was an very special place and one of the most well taken care of by people by a leader that was nothing even close to what we’ve been told. His crime? A desire to transform Africa by adopting a gold back currency and no interest loans for its members to bring prosperity to to Africa. DC must protect it bankers and democracy and any action without the US knife at the throat is unacceptable.

    Honduras, Benghazi, mass European immigration (by DC design), supporting terrorism as Gladio 2.0 to force European obedience, Crimea (there was NO invasion and Crimeans were quite happy with their voting to rejoin Russia – even the Tartars wanted nothing to do with the Nazis!), Israel (if a politician so desires to put Israel before America let them run for an israeli office-because as far as my nation goes it should be treason to allow lobbying /bribing/ by a foreign nation.)

    I could go on and on and these are all incidences that took place under the current president and his exSecretary of State now seeking political office. Of which she won by a conspiracy to disenfranchise voters as reported in every state with various tactics and still she came close to losing. In reality she DID lose. Now the appointment of the party is so week she is virtually tied with Trump. Bernie would have been a landslide against Trump but the elites have already fixed this election that is for sure. No reason to explain their coronation of Killery.

    I expect no one will vote for her – i have yet to actually find someone who will in San Francisco of all places. Yet she will most likely win the election. Her quickness to blame putin on DNC emails that were protected by state firewalls and security and her blatant disregard for the law and the no indictment is going to be the undoing of the US – the last straw. WWIII has already begun but under a Killery presidency it will go HOT – nuclear hot and it WILL be coming home. She and her neocon neoliberal criminal class in DC think they can survive MAD (mutually assured destruction). Russia never loses when attacked at home. As for the American population Killery and her ilk care nothing about US security and we are nothing but fuel for fodder – Russia actually build shelters that can accommodate all the citizens of Russia. Where are our shelters as they put the world at risk? We can’t even fix our bridges but sure can build them in Afghanistan.

    We need today more than ever some nationalism and a little pride for our nation is very much needed as the evil clowns from left and right are not doing a job in our interest. It may be too late. And voting Hillary is the END…

  • Glenna 7

    I fear Hillary Clinton much more than Trump – why nothing about her?. She is the true establishment war monger/wall street corporate promoter within the U.S. political establishment. And it is interesting as well that some of the counter arguments to the article are based on the straw dog about internet trolls.

    “Even if, as critics argue, the United States helped orchestrate a coup in Kiev to oust Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and fascists then took over the government” is a really big “if” in that there is much evidence to indicate that is exactly what happened and yes, Arseniy Yatsenyuk was their man.

    As for hacking – may be, but these days everybody hacks everybody, it is about as close to openness and transparency in government the public can get these days.

    Put simply I am essentially anti U.S. imperialism, anti-corporate dominance of government (vis a vis all the so called “free trade” agreements) and against the militarized global power (“full spectrum dominance” as promoted by the PNAC group especially John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz) that the U.S. attempts in order to protect its petrodollar as the global fiat currency and thus its attempted global hegemony. The neocons – and Hillary – do not want anything resembling the Helsinki accords, they much prefer their puppet states in NATO.

    You can check out my various commentaries on this and other related issues at

    or as directed at the Canadian government at