The Hunt for Red November
By the simple fact of geography, the United States is the world's most isolated superpower. It is logistically impossible to invade for it is surrounded by oceans and there is nowhere to stage an opposing army. Yet the American people are not consciously aware of their isolated and protected status. They are easily frightened and heavily armed. They reach adulthood with almost no understanding of geopolitics and global economics, or of their unique and privileged place in these systems. These practical matters are not part of their public education.
The United States is not part of the rich and varied interconnected nations and land masses of the historic civilized world, which are concentrated entirely in the Eastern hemisphere. Americans can live a lifetime and never fully understand where they are in the world and what that truly means.
It is thus a simple matter for their government to manipulate Americans with threats and bluster and misinformation. They will gladly surrender their rights for promises of safety, and they are easily worked up into an hysterical frenzy in regard to foreign relations. In their isolation, Americans eye the outside world with suspicion. To say they have little understanding of geopolitical destiny and the craft of diplomacy would be an understatement. As an uninformed democracy with an unaccountable government in a nuclear-armed world, they present a grave danger to themselves and others.
Since 2013, the US has achieved new heights of political disgrace as it attempts to demonize China and Russia with preposterous accusations. Jack Matlock has a few choice words to say about this. Matlock is a career diplomat who served on the front lines of American diplomacy during the Cold War. He was US ambassador to the Soviet Union when the Cold War ended. He shares with us his analysis of what we are seeing in what has become an open letter to the news media:
Our press seems to be in a feeding frenzy regarding contacts that President Trump’s supporters had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and with other Russian diplomats. The assumption seems to be that there was something sinister about these contacts, just because they were with Russian diplomats. As one who spent a 35-year diplomatic career working to open up the Soviet Union and to make communication between our diplomats and ordinary citizens a normal practice, I find the attitude of much of our political establishment and of some of our once respected media outlets quite incomprehensible. What in the world is wrong with consulting a foreign embassy about ways to improve relations? Anyone who aspires to advise an American president should do just that.
Yesterday I received four rather curious questions from Mariana Rambaldi of Univision Digital. I reproduce below the questions and the answers I have given.
Question 1: Seeing the case of Michael Flynn, who had to resign after it emerged that he spoke with the Russian ambassador about sanctions against Russia before Trump took office, and now Jeff Sessions is in a similar situation. Why is so toxic to talk with Sergey Kislyak?
Answer: Ambassador Kislyak is a distinguished and very able diplomat. Anyone interested in improving relations with Russia and avoiding another nuclear arms race—which is a vital interest of the United States—should discuss current issues with him and members of his staff. To consider him “toxic” is ridiculous. I understand that Michael Flynn resigned because he failed to inform the vice president of the full content of his conversation. I have no idea why that happened, but see nothing wrong with his contact with Ambassador Kislyak so long as it was authorized by the president-elect. Certainly, Ambassador Kislyak did nothing wrong.
Question 2: According to your experience, are Russians ambassadors under the oversight by Russian intelligence or do they work together?
Answer: This is a strange question. Intelligence operations are normal at most embassies in the world. In the case of the United States, ambassadors must be informed of intelligence operations within the countries to which they are accredited and can veto operations that they consider unwise or too risky, or contrary to policy. In the Soviet Union, during the Cold War, Soviet ambassadors did not have direct control over intelligence operations. Those operations were controlled directly from Moscow. I do not know what Russian Federation procedures are today. Nevertheless, whether controlled by the ambassador or not, all members of an embassy or consulate work for their host government. During the Cold War, at least, we sometimes used Soviet intelligence officers to get messages direct to the Soviet leadership. For example, during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy used a “channel” through the KGB resident in Washington to work out the understanding under which Soviet nuclear missiles were withdrawn from Cuba.
Question 3. How common (and ethical) is that a person related to a presidential campaign in the US has contact with the Russian embassy?
Answer: Why are you singling out the Russian embassy? If you want to understand the policy of another country, you need to consult that country’s representatives. It is quite common for foreign diplomats to cultivate candidates and their staffs. That is part of their job. If Americans plan to advise the president on policy issues, they would be wise to maintain contact with the foreign embassy in question to understand that country’s attitude toward the issues involved. Certainly, both Democrats and Republicans would contact Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin during the Cold War and discuss the issues with him. As the person in charge of our embassy in Moscow during several political campaigns, I would often set up meetings of candidates and their staffs with Soviet officials. Such contacts are certainly ethical so long as they do not involve disclosure of classified information or attempts to negotiate specific issues. In fact, I would say that any person who presumes to advise an incoming president on vital policy issues needs to understand the approach of the country in question and therefore is remiss if he or she does not consult with the embassy in question.
Question 4: In a few words, What’s your point of view about Sessions-Kislyak case? Is possible that Sessions will finally resign?
Answer: I don’t know whether Attorney General Sessions will resign or not. It would seem that his recusal from any investigation on the subject would be adequate. He would not have been my candidate for attorney general and if I had been in the Senate I most likely would not have voted in favor of his confirmation. Nevertheless, I have no problem with the fact that he occasionally exchanged words with Ambassador Kislyak.
I believe it is wrong to assume that these conversations are somehow suspect. When I was ambassador to the USSR and Gorbachev finally allowed competitive elections, we in the U.S. embassy talked to everyone. I made a special point to maintain personal relations with Boris Yeltsin when he in effect led the opposition. That was not to help get him elected (we favored Gorbachev), but to understand his tactics and policies and to make sure he understood ours.
The whole brou-ha-ha over contacts with Russian diplomats has taken on all the earmarks of a witch hunt. President Trump is right to make that charge. If there was any violation of U.S. law by any of his supporters — for example disclosure of classified information to unauthorized persons — then the Department of Justice should seek an indictment and if they obtain one, prosecute the case. Until then, there should be no public accusations. Also, I have been taught that in a democracy with the rule of law, the accused are entitled to a presumption of innocence until convicted. But we have leaks that imply that any conversation with a Russian embassy official is suspect. That is the attitude of a police state, and leaking such allegations violates every normal rule regarding FBI investigations. President Trump is right to be upset, though it is not helpful for him to lash out at the media in general.
Finding a way to improve relations with Russia is in the vital interest of the United States. Nuclear weapons constitute an existential threat to our nation, and indeed to humanity. We are on the brink of another nuclear arms race which would be not only dangerous in itself, but would make cooperation with Russia on many other important issues virtually impossible. Those who are trying to find a way to improve relations with Russia should be praised, not scapegoated.
The Hunt for Red November
Jack Matlock's open letter addresses issues of common diplomacy as practiced throughout the world — while deploring the constant demonizing of Russia at every turn. Another facet of this shameful spectacle was televised today as we watched Congressional Terriers frantically sniff out the rat of "Russian interference" in the US election, which somehow stuck us with President Donald Trump.
It is vitally important to remember what is happening here because it describes the shape of the propaganda battlefield that Empire must create in order to feed their armies from the household earnings of the American people. You will be called on to fight on this battlefield again and again in the very near future. In a followup essay, I'll outline an action-plan to follow in response, one that could actually take you to Russia.
In the meantime, there were two related news items from two US vassal states, which are not sitting in stark isolation and cannot maintain the lies. They foretell the ultimate failure of this latest paroxysm of paranoid propaganda that the Democratic Establishment is conspiring to foist upon the world. How embarrassing it would be to be a member of that Party.
Germany’s intelligence agencies have found no evidence that Russia is meddling in the country’s politics following a government-commissioned investigation.
Claims of Vladimir Putin-backed interference in the U.S. presidential election and a high-profile “fake news” case in Germany prompted Angela Merkel to ask the agencies to investigate. But while Russian influence cannot be ruled out, investigators found no “smoking gun,” Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.
Fears of foreign or far-right influence in politics are high among Germany’s mainstream politicians ahead of a September election likely to be dominated by issues of security and migration.
Facebook announced in January that Germany would be the second country after the U.S. to test its new anti-"fake news” fact-checking features.
LONDON — The government has dismissed the possibility of Russian state-sponsored interference in the rigging of votes in British elections, a move that has surprised some intelligence officials.
In a letter seen by Business Insider, the cabinet office minister tasked with protecting future UK elections from external interference, said there was only a "negligible" chance of direct Russian interference.
"I am confident that there is a negligible risk of a foreign government or agency being able to influence the operational delivery of electoral events in the UK," Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer wrote in a letter to Labour MP Ben Bradshaw.
Bradshaw believes the government is not being transparent enough about attempted Russian interference in British democracy — particularly given there is acceptance in the US and other European nations that Vladimir Putin's regime have attempted to subvert foreign elections.
Gummer reassured Bradshaw there is "no evidence or reasonable grounds for suspicion" that there has been an attempt to interfere in the Brexit vote or previous general elections. This echos Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who told ITV politics show "Peston on Sunday" this weekend: "We have no evidence that the Russians are actually involved in trying to undermine our democratic process at the moment."
I know. Right?