To help the American people understand the impeachable crimes of President Donald Trump as a seasoned practitioner of quid pro quos with Ukraine, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff offers a quick summary of the essential events that define the context of the crime. In a single sentence, Schiff clarifies the contrasting motives of the West and Russia with regard to Ukraine. Armed with Schiff’s vision of history, anyone interested in US foreign policy will be able to appreciate the nature of Trump’s crime.
In his introduction to the impeachment hearing, Schiff stated, “In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West, and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
In the language of diplomacy, an act of amorous rapprochement whose sincerity, as in the realm of ordinary human amorous relations, ranges between, at one extreme, what amorous couples call “eternal love” and, at the other, paying for the service of a foreign call girl
How sincere was Ukraine’s purported “embrace of the West”? How real was it? The history of the West’s relationship with Ukraine over the past three decades more closely resembles that of a sultan on the lookout for candidates to expand his harem than a lovestruck lad hoping to swing a date with the girl in his class he secretly fancies and wishes to embrace. When they get down to it, does the odalisque embrace the sultan or the sultan the odalisque?
Orientalism won’t provide the key to understanding Schiff’s account of history. He makes it sound like the story of a classic love triangle in the Western tradition. But it’s neither Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary nor “Jules et Jim.” It’s more like a humorless version of Popeye, Olive Oyl (with her baby, Sweetpea) and the brutish Bluto, with the US in the role of the wily Popeye, whose spinach will always allow him to overcome the brawny bully. According to Schiff’s version of the story, as soon as Ukraine showed signs of wishing to “embrace” the virtuous West, Russia “invaded” it to steal away the girl and the girl’s baby (Crimea) in its quest to build an empire.
This is the kind of truncated and deformed history that Schiff knows will appeal to an American public. It recalls another variation on the theme, the iconic ad for body-building, with the bully on the beach and the 98-pound weakling who realizes he must buff up his muscles on his way to humiliating the bully in the presence of his girlfriend. Whether it’s spinach (green, just like dollars) or muscle (military might), the US has a mission to save the threatened young ladies of the world from the tyranny of bullies.
The lesson Adam Schiff has been harping on for the past three years with Russiagate and then Ukrainegate depends on our perception of a bully — Russia — and damsel in distress (in the first instance, Hillary Clinton and, in the second, Ukraine).
Schiff comes back to the Olive Oyl plot of the vulnerable victim requiring American protection a little later on: “The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit that ally’s vulnerability and invite Ukraine’s interference in our elections?” Everyone knows how Trump acts with vulnerable women.
On the side of the good guys (the West), Schiff offers us the innocence of a loving embrace. On the side of the bad guys, we see the brutality of invasion and the ambition of empire. That makes for a very comforting story as well as permitting him to avoid any reference to the one authentic empire in the tale: the US. We await breathlessly the ending when the bully is subdued and the damsel rescued.
Writing for Consortium News, former CIA operative Ray McGovern offers the public a potted history of Ukraine and its relations with the West. In essence, it reads like a chapter of Dee Brown’s catalog of broken promises and betrayed treaties documented in his book, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” Brown cataloged the events that modern Americans remember as the “conquest of the West,” events that Native Americans experienced as a slowly unfolding genocide constructed block by block out of territorial wars, followed by treaties that successive governments and administrations systematically ignored or broke until the conquest was complete.
Not once do today’s mainstream media remind the American public of the series of events that McGovern reports, all of which are essential to understanding the stakes of Ukraine choice of whom to embrace:
“Dec. 2-3, 1989: President George H. W. Bush invites Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to summit talks in Malta; reassures him ‘the U.S. will not take advantage’ of Soviet troubles in Eastern Europe. …
Feb. 7-10, 1990: Secretary of State James Baker negotiates a quid pro quo; Soviet acceptance of the bitter pill of a reunited Germany (inside NATO), in return for an oral U.S. promise not to enlarge NATO ‘one inch more’ to the East. …
The quid pro quo began to unravel in October 1996 during the last weeks of President Bill Clinton’s campaign when he said he would welcome Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO — the earlier promise to Moscow notwithstanding.”
McGovern then describes the events of 2013-14 when the US backed the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, judged to be too friendly with Russia and unwilling to promote Ukraine’s integration into NATO. McGovern cites George Friedman, at the time president “of the widely respected think-tank STRATFOR” who described the coup d’état in Kyiv as “the most blatant coup in history.”
Later in his timeline, McGovern makes an important point highlighting how the media have frozen the history of the region into the triangular drama that Adam Schiff wants people to remember:
“Feb. 23, 2014: The date that NATO, Western diplomats, and the corporate media have chosen – disingenuously – as the beginning of recent European history, with silence about the coup orchestrated in Kyiv the day before.”
McGovern’s succinct timeline lays out the essential facts that have led to what we now call the “New Cold War,” so evident during the entire Russiagate episode that consumed the media’s attention for nearly three years. It has become the guiding theme of the Democratic Party establishment and has excited the strategists within the ever-expanding military-industrial complex inherited from the first Cold War. As Micah Zenko, Whitehead senior fellow at Chatham House, recounted in 2018: “‘Great-power politics is back’ is a mantra civilian and military officials have repeated with increasing frequency over the past half-decade.”
This should be taken as a reminder that both Russiagate and Ukrainegate, with their focus on protecting the West from Putin’s “evil empire,” are phenomena that have little to do to Trump’s presidency and everything to do with the continuity of the US military-industrial complex and the mentality of the intelligence community.
“Great power politics” now includes Russia and China as the competitors of a Western empire that has continued expanding, first through NATO itself after the fall of the Soviet Union and then thanks to a foreign policy that oscillates between invasions and occupations, in some contexts, and sanctions coordinated with covert activities in others.
All recent US presidents have, to different degrees and in different ways, used economic sanctions to cripple economies or threaten to cripple them, leading inevitably to the massive suffering of civilian populations in various regions of the globe. The regime change wars launched by George W. Bush and continued under Barack Obama have become unpopular, but the threat of such wars remains an important tool of US diplomacy, as the cases of Iran and Venezuela demonstrate. But because local wars have all turned out to be unmanageable and unproductive, the military strategists find it attractive to return to the Cold War logic of great power rivalries.
They have good reason to think so. Superpower wars of the future will require continued investment in weaponry and military technology. That’s good for the business side of the war culture. It’s also good for the strategic designs of empire that increasingly expresses its authority less by firepower than by technological innovation, forcing the rest of the world to follow or conform. Perhaps more significantly, the military thinkers see the first Cold War as evidence that rivalry between superpowers produces less likelihood of the messy and unproductive combat experienced in Vietnam and, more recently, in the Middle East.
Adam Schiff’s message is clear: To make America great again — with a nostalgia for the world of the 1950s similar to Trump’s — requires impeaching the president in the name of opposing Russia and confirming the essential truth that the US is all about its commitment to save damsels in distress. That’s why, concerning Ukraine, “his story” is more important than history.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.