Thursday,24 August, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)
Thursday,24 August, 2017
Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

A self-fulfilling prophecy

The clash between the US and Russia is a distraction from the real war that both countries should be fighting, which is the war on terrorism, writes Hany Ghoraba

When Donald Trump was sworn in as 45th president of the United States, the pro-Clinton American media accused him of forging secret ties with the Russian authorities and particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The accusations became the daily topic of pro-Clinton campaign media outlets, and the campaign supporting Democratic Party elections candidate Hillary Clinton aimed initially at using them to cover up huge blunders during the campaign that led to the decisive defeat of Clinton against Trump. However, the campaign did not end there, as sectors of the US security apparatus got involved in the investigation process, seeking to find evidence in support of the allegations.

On 29 July, US lawmakers passed a bill to impose economic sanctions on Russia over its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, and its involvement in the Syrian civil war. This package of sanctions seemed likely to stir up a wave of counter-measures, and fewer than 24 hours later Putin expelled 755 US Embassy staff and reduced US mission staff in Russia to 455 by September.

In response to the expulsion, US Vice President Mike Pence has continued the US rhetoric against Russia, citing Russian involvement in international crises and in undermining democracies around the world, along with an old list of accusations often repeated on similar occasions.

The allegations made by US lawmakers against Russia are unproven, however, and there is a lack of irrefutable evidence that could incriminate Russia of having had a hand in manipulating the US elections in favour of Trump, as many Democrats have claimed. With the matter still under investigation, the allegations certainly did not warrant a new set of sanctions to sour the already strained relations with Russia.

Moreover, accusing Russia of intervening in the Syrian war is laughable because this is what the US has been doing since the early days of that war. That said, the Russians can be credited with turning the tables on the Islamic State (IS) group and helping to contain the terrorist nightmare in Syria.

But with diplomatic ties between Russia and the US at their lowest for many years, the US public has the media and hardline Democratic Party politicians to thank for the self-fulfilling prophecy of worsening relations with Russia.

As investigations into the possible interference of the Russians in the elections continue, it seems unwise to jump to conclusions over allegations of hacking the elections in favour of Trump. At the same time, it seems not to have occurred to the accusers how the centuries-old elections system of the US could be disrupted in a computer hack and the divulgence of some emails from Clinton, if the contents of these e-mails were not already incriminating or damaging to the Democrats.

It seems that Democratic Party leaders and Democrats in general have not been able to grasp that Clinton was not as popular as they had led themselves to believe. The fact that she lost the 2008 party primaries against the young and inexperienced African-American candidate Barack Obama should have served as an early indicator of Clinton’s real election chances.

Despite her illustrious career as a US senator and secretary of state, she was marred by negative baggage collected during her long years of public service. Coupled with her heightened sense of self-entitlement, Clinton, along with her campaign, refused to acknowledge changes at the grassroots level and thus lost the chance to win the presidency.

The US media and Democratic Party have become frenzied by the idea that Russia should be punished because of its alleged role in the defeat of their glorious candidate. This frenzy is not just harmful for the Democratic Party, however, but also for the United States and even for world peace.

 

AVOIDING COLD WAR: The current clash with Russia is what the US media and politicians have produced through campaigns against the country and Trump’s alleged relations with it. It has thus been the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The question now is whether those who pushed the situation onto the present collision course will be willing to take responsibility for its repercussions. 

Confrontational rhetoric and economic sanctions against the Russians have never yielded results before, and they are highly unlikely to do so in the current situation. Similar sanctions following the Ukrainian crisis led to the deeper involvement of Russia in Ukraine and Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war in favour of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, thwarting American plans to depose him.

Moreover, discussions about arming Ukraine will not only harm the Ukrainian people and their government by placing them in the crossfire between two major powers, but they will also likely lead to a similar reaction from the Russians who will likely retaliate by either ramping up their army on the Ukrainian border, breaking the ceasefire in the conflict zones, or even carrying out a highly provocative act like arming North Korea.

The world cannot afford to regress to Cold War policies and the proxy wars that characterised the four decades following World War II, with wars across the globe being fought out by third parties to serve American or Russian ambitions.

The clash between the US and Russia is a distraction from the real battle that both countries, along with other civilised nations, should be fighting, which is the ongoing war on terrorism. IS, Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated jihadists still represent a clear and present danger that threatens global stability, the world economy and the security of nations. These terrorist organisations will flourish if the major powers shift their focus from the war on terrorism, and they will likely rally their strength to attack the civilised nations. 

For many, American-Russian relations in 2017 are reminiscent of an episode of US actor and director Kevin Spacey’s TV show House of Cards, in which international crises may be sparked to serve the personal gains of politicians notwithstanding the dire consequences they may have for others.

It is a time to heal the differences between the nations, especially the major powers, and not to widen rifts or recall old grudges when the war on terrorism is far from over.


The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.

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