Demonstrating the U.S. intent to continue punitive sanctions against Russia, the lame-duck Barack Obama administration took further measures. Obama declared new sanctions on Dec. 30, including expelling 35 people working with Russia’s diplomatic corps as “spies.”
Obama claimed this anti-Russian assault was in response to Russia’s alleged hacking of U.S.-based computer servers and interference in the U.S. elections.
These attacks on Russia are intermingled with the Democratic Party leadership’s attempt to undermine the incoming administration in all areas, especially attacking its public positions conciliatory to Russia.
By focusing on Trump’s friendlier approach to Russia, the Obama-Hillary Clinton grouping can collaborate with Republican reactionaries like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. It can avoid confronting the racism, sexism and xenophobia of the new President-elect. To attack him on these issues might promote a mass mobilization such as those scheduled for Jan. 20 and 21 to protest the new administration.
Internet security experts like John McAfee have said there is no way to prove Russia has been doing the hacking. Thus assertions by the CIA, the FBI and other U.S. security agencies against Russia are smoke, as recent Workers World articles by Stephen Millies have shown.
But this particular smoke fits the needs of elements in the U.S. state and government apparatus, including many Democratic and Republican Party leaders. It is a problem for the new President-elect, at least for now.
More ‘fake news’ and threats
The U.S. corporate media, which is unanimous in its hostility to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, stepped up its “fake news” production.
The Washington Post reported Dec. 31 that Russian hackers penetrated the U.S. electric grid in Vermont. The article was filled with dire warnings that the Russians might cut off heat and light in the New England winter.
The Post was forced to retract this. An Editor’s Note posted at the beginning of the Dec. 31 article read: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” (tinyurl.com/z52pxot)
Progressive journalist Glenn Greenwald issued a full exposure of the Washington Post’s “fake news.” (tinyurl.com/zb7xhg2)
The corporate media’s anti-Russia attacks gloss over the 1989-91 counterrevolution that dismantled the Soviet Union. This event replaced the anti-capitalist structure of the Soviet republics, including Russia, with a capitalist system.
From 1917 to 1989 the U.S. ruling class hated Russia and the Soviet Union. These rulers considered the Soviet Union their main enemy because it had a diametrically opposed social system that promised to expropriate the capitalists’ property and hand it to the workers.
In the 1990s the U.S. aimed to take over the weak capitalist Russia economically and dominate it politically. Washington professed friendship to the Russian government led by Boris Yeltsin, who was subservient toward U.S. imperialism.
Putin and the now stronger Russian capitalist class he represents play a more independent role. They and the Russian military defend Russian capitalist and nationalist interests, which often collide with U.S. imperialist interests. Syria and Ukraine are two areas where Russian intervention plays a progressive role.
Washington has revved up the threats against Russia, even installing “anti-missile” bases and moving some NATO troops to Russia’s border. But since the Pentagon has failed to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan after 15 years, it’s hard to imagine its generals being too optimistic about making war on a Russia armed with 7,000 nuclear warheads.
Putin’s reaction, and Trump’s
Putin surprised many U.S. observers with his reaction to Obama’s latest provocation. Instead of tit for tat, Putin simply said, “While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy. In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the [Trump] administration.” (New York Times, Dec. 30)
While Obama’s new anti-Russian moves were mainly symbolic, previous sanctions by the U.S. and its NATO partners have damaged the Russian economy. They’ve also hurt individuals who were Putin’s allies in rescuing Crimea from a pro-fascist coup in Ukraine.
The economic sanctions block Russian access to international credit and cut off cooperation in oil field technology. Trump appointee Rex Tillerson of Exxon-Mobil would like to end these sanctions so his corporation can increase its profits.
In response to Putin, Trump in one of his many tweets praised the Russian leader for being “smart” to avoid a confrontation with the U.S. that would complicate U.S.-Russian relations.
For his overall reactionary program of vile xenophobia, racism and sexism, the President-elect deserves to be undermined by the mass movement here. Whether or not he continues to defend a rapprochement with Russia, however, the Obama-Clinton-McCain position on Russia is dangerously reactionary and the anti-war movement should protest it.