Cold War I
Since the days of Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, George Marshall, and their Post World II crusade against global communisms, the Washington narrative has not changed. It states; the United States is the last superpower, the leader of the free world, the indispensable nation, the architect of the rules-based international order with a mission to save mankind.
Seventy-five years ago, the United States declared the Soviet Union our enemy in the Cold War. Between 1989 and 1991, the Soviet Union imploded from a bloated economy overextended across the world. During these years, the Berlin Wall came down, the Red Army left eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union split apart into 15 separate nations.
Why Can’t We Be Friends?
In the aftermath, Russia became a nation reaching out in friendship to the United States. In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin became the first elected Russian president. Once in power, Yeltsin introduced economic reforms. By January 1992, prices stabilized, queues in stores disappeared, and goods reappeared on Russian shelves.
Yeltsin began a mass privatization program, transferred shares from the government to private investors. By mid-1994, almost 70 percent of the Russian economy was in private hands. In 1995, with the help of the International Monetary Fund, Russia stabilized the ruble.
However, the Russian parliament remained mostly unreformed, a well-organized Communist Party entrenched in its industrial interests. They resisted most of the Yeltsin reforms. In 1995, the Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov, challenged Yeltsin.
Friend Of The Devil(s)
With the 1996 presidential election pending, a desperate Yeltsin agreed to a loans-for-shares program, providing loans for valuable Russian resources. This program consolidated a few well-connected men, the oligarchs. The oligarchs had a political and economic influence across Russia.
It was the oligarchs and the inner machinations of the Clinton Administration that helped Yeltsin get re-elected. With Hollywood scripted coverage on the television networks and New York Times style journalism in the newspapers, owned by the oligarchs, Yeltsin won the 1996 election. However, the Yeltsin victory did not come cheap. Yeltsin became beholden to a few new masters.
During this period, he reduced defense procurement by an estimated 90 percent, pursued drastic nuclear arms reduction in co-operation with the United States, accepted the expansion of NATO. Most of the Russian resources became under the control of a few.
By the late 1990s, Yeltsin lacked political and popular support. Political gridlock made it hard for the government to function. As oil prices collapsed in 1997–1998, so did the federal budget, and the financial turmoil spread throughout Russia. The crisis led to a Russian debt default and a sharp depreciation of the ruble.
Putin – The Russian Friend
Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin. He was appointed Prime Minister by Yeltsin in 1999. On January 1, 2000, Yeltsin resigned, making Putin the acting president, subsequently winning the presidential election in March of that year.
Over the following four years, the Russian economy rapidly grew. In 2003 the Russian government was able to borrow money, in world markets, at a long-term interest rate of around 7 percent. Investors had confidence in the Putin leadership, and the Russian economic growth forecast had turned highly optimistic.
Putin saved Russia from becoming another US vassal. He targeted the corrupt oligarchs. Putin immediately becomes an enemy of Washington. However, under Putin, Russia would remain a sovereign state.
Cold War II
Having won the Cold War and unable to find a new mission, Washington started Cold War II. This war moved our front lines from the River Elbe to the borders of Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia. We doubled the number of nations in NATO, obligated to defend 30 countries, moved the alliance deep into Eastern Europe, and adopted a policy of containment of a shrunken Russia.
Today, Washington continues to target Russia with a sanction initiative best described by The Washington Institute:
“Sanctions may be imposed on a state to express disapproval (retribution) and/or to change the behavior of the target state (rehabilitation). Retributive sanctions serve the interests of a domestic constituency. The government imposes them as a form of punishment, irrespective of whether they can change the policies of the target states. When imposing retributive sanctions, the “feel good” benefit should be weighed against the possible political and strategic consequences of the measure.”
With friends like Washington, who needs enemies?