US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in Washington D.C. on Feb. 4, 2014. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady, via US Department of Defense)
DE-CODING FLYNN-GATE: RUSSIA, THE MIDDLE EAST AND U.S. ELECTIONS
Jiri and Leni Friedman Valenta
Published by the BESA Center For Strategic Studies, Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Israel Perspectives Paper No. 418, March 6, 2017
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The FBI has concluded that ousted National Security Advisor (NSA) Mike Flynn’s contact with Russian ambassador Sergei Kisliak was not, in fact, illicit. Prior NSAs, aware that the Kremlin can influence close elections, have courted its “vote” for their candidates. Flynn acted as his predecessors did while protecting his back channel and his loyalty to Trump. The ongoing witch-hunt is emblematic of an unprecedented political power struggle in the US that reflects widely divergent policies toward Russia, the Middle East, and Ukraine.
Why was General Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, fired? Did he do anything out of the ordinary by communicating with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during and shortly after the 2016 elections?
Former Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, as well as former acting KGB resident in America Oleg Kalugin, have both revealed in their memoirs that during close US presidential elections there were debates in the Kremlin about whom to “vote” for. The preferred candidate was whichever of the contenders was the less menacing for Russia and had the greater potential to unleash a new era of partnership. Moreover, aides to US presidential candidates have been known to actively court the Kremlin’s favor on behalf of their candidates. Election tampering goes in both directions.
As Dobrynin describes in In Confidence, in the tight 1968 elections, he viewed Democrat Vice President Hubert Humphrey as far preferable to the Republican candidate Richard Nixon, whom he described as “an anti-Soviet, Cold War warrior.” Based on Dobrynin’s reports, the Kremlin took the “unprecedented” step of “secretly” offering Humphrey financial aid. Dobrynin conceded that this was a “dangerous venture … if discovered it would have certainly backfired.”
Humphrey wisely turned the offer down, satisfying himself with “Moscow’s good wishes,” and never revealed it to anyone. Why did he not inform the FBI of the offer? Because had he done so, Nixon would have labeled him the Manchurian candidate.
But Humphrey was not the Soviets’ only choice. In The First Directorate, Kalugin reveals, “We in the KGB took a different view … We liked Nixon,” who could “take giant steps” towards improving Soviet-US relations. The reason for this, as the former KGB official explains, was that “no one could accuse Nixon of being soft on communism.” Kalugin had his man, Boris Sedov, develop a back channel with Henry Kissinger. Sedov then conveyed to the Kremlin that Nixon should be their man in Washington.
As the election approached, however, Humphrey was still the Kremlin’s choice. And so, as Clark Clifford showed in Counsel to the Presidents, Humphrey’s chief fan in the Kremlin, Premier Alexei Kosygin, helped Lyndon B. Johnson instigate an “October Surprise.” On October 30, 1968, LBJ, acting in concert with the Kremlin, agreed to a ceasefire in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Kosygin prodded Hanoi to open negotiations in Paris with the US and Saigon. Peace now beckoned – and with it, perhaps, a Humphrey victory.
But Nixon correctly interpreted Johnson’s move as a political stunt and torpedoed it. He instructed his emissary to persuade the South Vietnamese government not to participate in the negotiations on the grounds that they would get a better deal if Nixon was elected. Nixon thus squeezed out an election victory. Sedov continued meeting with Nixon’s aide, Richard Allen, for the next two years.
During the 1976 elections, the Kremlin had a slight preference for Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, who was a known quantity. However, on October 30, 1976, Ford’s NSA, General Brent Scowcroft, felt compelled to inform Dobrynin why the president had sent a virtual ultimatum to the Kremlin demanding that it permit Jewish emigration from the USSR. He revealed apologetically that, following Carter’s example, Ford had yielded to the demands of American Jewish leaders and asked Dobrynin for “patience and understanding for another 48 hours, until this madhouse is over.” After November 2, he promised, “everything was going to be back to normal.”
But Carter won, and the “madhouse” continued. Carter’s human rights policy would plague the Kremlin for the next four years.
Fast forward to March 1979. Richard Allen again courted the Kremlin, this time on behalf of Ronald Reagan. So did Scowcroft. Allen, drawing “a parallel between Reagan and Nixon,” indicated that a reset of the superpowers’ relationship was likewise possible under Reagan. Scowcroft advised that if the USSR “gave no trumps to Carter,” Reagan had a good chance of winning.
On October 16, 1980, Zbigniew Brzezinski came courting for Carter. He promised Dobrynin that Carter would adopt a soft line toward Moscow’s clients Angola, Vietnam, and Cuba. A US-Sino military alliance was also “absolutely out of the question.’’ The message was clear: Moscow should do nothing to diminish Carter’s election chances “and might even help a bit.”
On October 22, it was Kissinger’s turn. Now a private citizen, but acting with Reagan’s consent, he told Dobrynin that “The Reagan camp was fairly confident of victory absent some last minute surprise.” Moreover, Reagan “was not the mad, anti-Soviet right-winger” they may have thought he was.
In the end, the Kremlin “voted” to “stay on the fence.” Reagan won the elections and eventually embarked on a reset with Mikhail Gorbachev.
In 2012, President Barack Obama did his own marketing, promising outgoing President Dmitri Medvedev that “After my election I [will] have more flexibility.” Meanwhile, Mitt Romney declared that Russia “is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe,” a viewpoint that was openly mocked by Obama. The Kremlin’s “vote” was for Obama, although Putin was already blaming Hillary and her State Department for provoking protests during Russia’s December 2011 parliamentary elections.
In 2016, Hillary’s hacked e-mails revealed her as having been a major proponent of arming the rebels who killed Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. As former defense secretary Robert Gates concluded in Duty, the Russians, who lost Libyan oil contracts, realized they had been tricked. They had not blocked a NATO intervention in Libya because it had been sold to them at the UN as a “humanitarian” effort to rescue civilians during the country’s civil war.
In 2015, having learned that Washington had been arming Syrian rebels against his client, Bashar Assad, Putin intervened militarily in Syria. He had watched Iraq and Libya become failed jihadist states after the deaths of their dictators, and was resolved to save Assad. It was not just oil contracts and future pipelines that were at stake, but also Russia’s heavy investments in upgrading Syria’s Port of Tartus.
The turning point may have come in the summer of 2016, when Hillary associate Mike Morell, her likely CIA Director had she won, advocated “killing Russians” in Syria. In marked contrast, Donald Trump expressed a desire to work jointly with Moscow against the Islamists. Thereafter, the Russians sought to help Trump, their preferred candidate.
The unprecedented witch-hunt of Flynn-gate, now extended to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is symptomatic of the enormous political power struggle in Washington, coupled with the deepening crisis of confidence in national institutions. It is also related to persistent divisions within US government bureaucracies over American relations with Russia, Syria, and Ukraine.
The new NSA, Gen. H.R. McMaster, can be expected to try to bridge these differences within a new unified framework. We recommend that the Trump administration not contemplate the lifting of sanctions without linking them to the conflicts in both Syria and Ukraine, and insisting on Russia’s compliance with the Minsk agreements.
The purge of Flynn is only the hors d’oeuvres. The calls for Sessions’s resignation and for the naming of a special prosecutor indicate that the sharks are hoping for the chef d’oeuvre – Trump – as the Manchurian candidate.
Dr. Jiri Valenta and his wife, Leni, are the principals of The Institute of Post Communist Studies and Terrorism (jvlv.net). They are authors of a forthcoming book on Russia and US interventions in the 21st century. A prominent author and speaker, Jiri served for decade as a professor and coordinator of Soviet and East European Studies at the US Naval Post-Graduate School and former consultant to senior members of Reagan administration.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.
RUSSIA; CONFLICT & COOPERATION
Unafraid, Bi-partisan, Uphold U.S. and Freedom.
America and Russia: Towards a New Partnership?
PUBLISHED BY THE BESA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES
Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv
Dr. Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta
November 28, 2016
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A pragmatist like Reagan, President Trump will face three urgent foreign policy issues: renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal with a US-Israel military option and Russia’s acquiescence; resolving the human catastrophe in Syria in partnership with President Putin; and a Great Bargain with Putin on the Ukraine. At home, Trump’s challenge will be to bridge bitter political and racial divides. Establishing bipartisan commissions on the Middle East and Russia might help. So would the appointment of the non-partisan General David Petraeus as Secretary of State.
In the run-up to the US presidential election, the mainstream media, the democratic campaign, and even some Republicans repeatedly warned of the supposed endangerment of the US national interest by the apparent affinity between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. But how real is this threat? And wouldn’t American-Russian collaboration be conducive, rather than detrimental, to Washington’s international standing?
This is not a wholly far-fetched scenario. In his June 2001 meeting with President George W. Bush, Putin, seeking America’s support for the war in Chechnya, warned of an imminent attack on the US by al-Qaeda, then nesting with the Taliban. While this warning seemed to have been ignored, the two presidents developed a genuine strategic partnership after the 9/11 attacks against the Islamist foe in Afghanistan. Most essential was Russia’s arrangement of over-flight rights and logistical support for American forces through Central Asia. Had Washington finished the war in Afghanistan rather than proceed to Iraq, Putin, who found Bush “a decent man… someone with whom he could do business,” might have even sought NATO membership, as he rhapsodized in a BBC TV interview.
As events transpired, however, with the American intervention in Iraq creating a dangerous power vacuum that was eventually filled by Islamic State (IS), and with NATO embarking on what Putin perceived as a dangerous expansion toward the Russian border, he began to speak about a new “encirclement” of Russia. In August 2008, Putin invaded Georgia, ostensibly to protect two breakaway, Russian-speaking provinces, but also to regain valuable Georgian coastline (Abkhazia) that had been lost with the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Then, despite President Obama’s backing of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “reset” of US-Russian cooperation, relations quickly soured. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who opposed the 2011 intervention, put it, “The Russians firmly believed they were deceived on Libya” by the expansion of the NATO intervention from the protection of civilians to the toppling of the Qaddafi regime, with the attendant loss of many Russian military and economic contracts. “They would subsequently block any future resolutions, including against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”
“If Libya breaks up and al-Qaeda takes root there,” Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev warned, “the extremists will end up in the north Caucasus.” After Qaddafi was killed and Libya disintegrated into an amalgam of rival Islamist militias, with weapons of the fallen regime exported to terror groups abroad and throngs of migrants using the country as a springboard for crossing into Europe, Putin was determined to ensure the survival of the Assad regime. Apart from shoring up Russia’s foremost regional ally vis-à-vis the US, which had made its removal a top priority, Moscow was heavily invested in refurbishing the port of Tartus and planned energy pipelines through Syria.
By the time of the US presidential campaign of 2015-16, Putin had concluded that, given Hillary’s foreign policy record in general and the Libya misadventure in particular, he could not work with her as president. He was likely aware of Trump’s Reagan-like strategy of reestablishing peace through strength by rebuilding the US military while at the same time rejecting large-scale foreign interventions aimed at regime change and nation-building and seeking cooperation and partnership with Russia. Reagan’s actions were rooted in pragmatism, not ideology. Trump seems to display a similar pragmatism, as well as a relatively positive view of Putin.
Rather than fight Russia, Trump must, and likely will, recognize that his most immediate task in the Middle East is to seek great power collaboration in ending the “geopolitical Chernobyl” that is the Syrian civil war (to use General David Petraeus’s words). The war is an Islamist hotbed radiating across the Middle East and attracting young jihadists from around the world. Even before his inauguration, the president-elect should present Putin with proposals for a joint Syrian policy. They should include: a) the immediate cessation of air attacks on the city of Aleppo; b) the creation of enclaves to protect innocent civilians, to be established with UN and international support; c) the removal of all Islamist groups from Syrian territory; d) a declaration of amnesty for anti-Assad resistance groups; e) a declaration of the Syrian regime’s readiness to cooperate with non-jihadist rebels in forming a unified government; and f) a purge of Assad generals found guilty of crimes against civilians.
Eventually, Assad will have to be replaced with another, more acceptable, Alawite figure (the Alawites are essential for the protection of Syrian Christians). The Sisyphean and enormously costly rebuilding of Syrian infrastructure and civil society should become a multinational project with the participation of the UN, the great powers, the anti-Islamist Sunni governments, and perhaps even Israel.
It is essential that Trump recognize the unspoken linkage between the Syrian conflict and the Ukraine – his weakest foreign policy area. These conflicts will have to be approached separately and jointly at the same time, with tough deal-making required on both fronts.
Trump can begin with Henry Kissinger’s notion of the Ukraine as a bridge between Russia and the West, rather than a western bulwark. But the bridge must be bolstered by a Swiss-Austrian-type armed neutrality and US defensive arms. Trump was poorly advised to remove these arms from the GOP platform. Because Ukraine will never seek NATO membership, the arms will be used for strictly defensive purposes.
Trump has also highlighted his intention to revise, rather than shred, the nuclear deal with Iran. To accomplish this, he will likely reinstate a genuine military option for both the US and Israel, pending Tehran’s failure to live up to its provisions.
The new president will still be dealing with those bound by the traditional Cold War view that Moscow must be kept out of the Middle East and that containment of the Russian bear is preferable to persuasion. Here, too, he may be able to calm the naysayers by following in Reagan’s footsteps. While dealing with the then-controversial Central American issue that divided America in the 1980s, Reagan established a Bipartisan Commission on Central America, chaired by Kissinger, that helped to forge a national consensus. By taking similar action, Trump could benefit from the expertise of foremost authorities. One example would be General David Petraeus, who is not only a tested military commander but also a brilliant strategist. He can preside over US foreign policy-making as did General George Marshall in the late 1940s.
Trump is a new kind of president. He took on the entire establishment and prevailed. With his ascendancy, Americans can liberate themselves from self-imposed Cold War shackles. Partnership with Christian Russia is a necessary prerequisite for the saving of Western civilization, rooted as it is in Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Recall that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill forged a close alliance with Stalin against the Nazi threat. Putin, a Christian autocrat, is no Stalin. Remember Churchill’s famous quip: “If Hitler invaded hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” Americans would do well to remember which devils they can tolerate and which they must destroy.
PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL INTEREST
Great Powers, Rogue States and Terrorism
Jiri Valenta and Leni Friedman Valenta
August 5, 2013
Forget Russia and China. Or at least don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they constitute the principal threats to American security, as so many nostalgic cold warriors in Congress and elsewhere seem tempted to do. Neither country has a real interest in challenging America, at least militarily. Frictions will always exist. But military clashes? No, the real threats to American security come from elsewhere. And Russia and China can play a vital role in helping to combat them.
The chief problems that Washington faces come from rogue states and terrorist groupings—Iran and North Korea together with jihadist groups in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Pakistan and Chechnya. North Korean and Iranian elites have much in common. Both hold to virulent anti-American ideologies; North Korean juche, or “self-reliance,” and Iranian extremist Shia Islam. Both have succeeded, for years, in taking advantage of Russian and Chinese grievances against America.
Both countries have engaged in nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. Besides North Korea’s attempted nuclear blackmail of the United States and South Korea, there is its long history of drug smuggling by land, sea and air, as well as terrorist attacks on South Korean officials. Similarly, Iran in 2011 plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir.
But one place that is not actively threatening America is Russia. On the contrary, the two nations have common security interests, at least when it comes to terrorism. A largely Christian nation, Russia is hobbled with the Achilles heel of Dagestan, Chechnya and the Muslim revival in neighboring south Caucasian republics, as these writers witnessed during their 2009 visit to the region. In 1996, Osama bin Laden proclaimed Chechnya’s integral role in global jihad. Adopting Taliban dress, the Chechen jihadists, like Al Qaeda, embrace martyrdom in the global war against not only Christians and Jews, but also all non-believers.
Russia has fought two bloody wars with Chechnya and is bracing for future trouble. "This may seem surprising, but a war has been virtually declared on us," declared Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov after a 2002 hostage crisis in which one hundred and fifty rebels and hostages died. "It has neither fronts, nor borders, nor a visible enemy. But war it is."
That was before terrorists downed two Russian planes and then murdered six hundred innocents at a Russian school in 2004. "We have to admit,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin, “we did not pay much attention to the complexities and to the dangers of this process of what was going on in our own country and the world as a whole."
Like former czarist prime minister Pyotr Stolypin, Putin deals harshly with dissidents, but is also pursuing, as far as possible, Russian modernization and economic reform. His continuous concern with international terrorism was manifest in Russia’s warning to us about Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. It was not properly heeded. Also noteworthy is that the captured North Korean ship in Panama was not bearing Cuba’s Soviet-made missile parts to post-Communist Russia. Though he may tweak the U.S., Putin is unwilling to fully antagonize us. He has also referred to the interests of his American “partners.”
Rather than confront Russia and China, it is essential to establish a joint effort to combat terrorism. Certainly China can do more to interdict North Korean flights and shipments of military equipment and components to its network of unsavory clients. And despite Putin's decision to give a year of asylum to Edward Snowden in Russia, we should forcefully continue our dialogue with him in the future; particularly on our mutual concerns over terrorism.
Perhaps there are other possible areas of cooperation as well. Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan has suggested we take into account Russia’s interests in Syria to create real negotiations. So far, Russia has evaded the inconvenient truth that by shipping arms to Syria, it is also aiding Iran. An Assad victory would embolden Iran’s terrorist proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, and might result in serious repercussions for neighboring Turkey, Iran, Jordan and Israel.
Above all, we must work towards some sort of partnership with Russia and China focusing on our prime great-power responsibility to maintain a stable world order, protect vital interests and avoid nuclear Armageddon. While it was wise not to get involved directly into the Libyan conflict and to shoot from the hip in the Syrian conflict, the zigzags of U.S. foreign policy, much reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s policies towards the USSR in the 1970s, together with still-unresolved Benghazi-gate, have clearly undercut the effectiveness of the Obama administration. The perception of America’s rival great powers is surely affected by America’s present domestic and economic problems, continuous scandals, and Washington gridlock for which both parties are responsible. The task facing American policymakers, while working towards partnership with Russia and China to cope with international terrorism, is to change the belief of our partners and foes that they are dealing with a weak and hapless Washington.
Jiri Valenta is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He and his wife, Leni, are the principals of jvlv.net, The Institute of Post-Communist Studies.
Tags: Mike Morell George W. Bush Hillary Clinton Colin Powell Donald Trump
WHO IS MIKE MORELL?
Published by The National Interest
Jiri and Leni Friedman Valenta
January 15 2017
Dr. Jiri Valenta
TRUMP’S WAR WITH THE CIA OVER RUSSIA
Jiri and Leni Friedman Valenta
January 20, 2017
Unafraid, Bi-partisan, Uphold U.S. and Freedom
Today is Donald’s inauguration. Sadly, some in the CIA are conflating Trump’s dispute with them over whether Russia hacked the DNC with a charge that Trump is, in the words of former acting Director of the CIA Mike Morell, “an unwitting stooge of Russia.”
The CIA is likely right about the Russian hacking. With his landslide, electoral college victory, Trump should accept it and move on. But the fact that Trump has had business connections with Russia in the past does not equate to proof of Donald’s being in Putin’s pocket, and the words “unwitting stooge” imply speculation rather than fact.
Most importantly, when some like Morell speak out on behalf of the whole CIA or the “intelligence community,” they are misleading the American people. There are plenty of CIA officials as well as military brass who support Trump and unlike the outgoing appeaser-in-chief, want him to build up our depleted military and not let the worst terrorists out of Git-mo so that they can go back to killing us.
Our National Interest article, “Who is Mike Morell,” was also posted on Linkedin. Reading it, our possibly assigned critic, Giles de Mourot, (usually the first reader of any article we write) concluded “Morell is the pretext: the target is the US intelligence community as we know it.”
As who knows it? Under no circumstances will we let the Hillary-ites define us as attacking the CIA. We have the greatest respect for the CIA or intelligence community. But we don’t respect those misguided, disgruntled officials who are leading a CIA campaign against our new president.
It goes further. After we were critical of Morell for wanting to “keep us safe” with a plan to “kill Russians” in Syria, we received some interesting comments posted at Linkedin. It seems that, to some of what could well be CIA, if you defend Trump as the better choice over Hillary, you too can be investigated as an agent of Russia.
Let them investigate me. For a decade, I taught Soviet and East European Studies to military intelligence officers of three armed services at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, and I am very proud of it! Deputy DCI Ray Cline came to visit my course on CIA 101.
Then the late DNI, Lt. General USA, William Odom, who used to send his officers to my courses, wrote, “President Reagan's strategy of military competition, economic denial, regional competition, and ideological struggle…did not enjoy popularity among many Sovietologists, though, to be sure, there were notable exceptions (p. 9), such as Richard Pipes, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Hammond, and Jiri Valenta… Yet the results of the Reagan approach have been precisely the opposite of what the majority of Sovietologists expected.”
I was involved regularly with academics, but also State Department, U.S. military and CIA experts at scholarly conferences and seminars under Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush ‘41 administrations.
I grew up in communist Czechoslovakia, was a member of the class of ‘68, and watched some of my friends get killed during the Soviet invasion. It shaped my life. Much later, I engaged in disciplinary studies and reports for the U.S. government, analyzing the Russian brutal war in Afghanistan (1979-89) and Russian, Cuban and Vietnamese support for Leninist regimes in Grenada, Nicaragua, Angola, Ethiopia and Cambodia. Mr. Mourot from Switzerland doesn’t need to teach me about the Russian threat
In the past, I consulted with four former DCI’s and had a close working relationship with leading academics who worked in CIA research divisions. Incidentally, this is where one of the best CIA Directors ever, Robert Gates, began his career.
Thankfully, the intelligence community has not only skillful, ambitious bureaucrats like Morell, but outspoken and daring officials like counter-terrorism expert Cofer Black. Cofer surely risked his career on July 10th, 2001, exhorting Condi Rice to put the country “on a war footing” against an al Qaida attack. Sadly, she didn’t so risk hers. He was also a powerful voice in the 2001, CIA -run war against al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan --. fought with the help of interesting bedfellows -- Putin’s Russians.
I say “CIA- run” since DCI George Tenet, with Cofer’s help, did an outstanding job of overseeing the operation with some special forces.
The problem is the unfortunate politicization of the CIA and the resulting, new and unusual obsession of some with Trump and the Russian threat. Why be upset that Trump and Putin are making noises about possible limited partnership against Islamists terrorists? It surely beats wanting to keep us safe” by “killing Russians” in Syria as proposed by Morell and endorsed by Hillary.
True, we don’t know exactly what Trump is liable to do. Likely he doesn’t either since he’s still learning on the job. He must surely dump part of the GOP platform and insist on providing defensive weapons to a neutral and free Ukraine. Time will show if he will or if his deal-making wins Putin’s agreement.
But Trump is a true patriot, is tough, has good instincts, and is moving in the right direction. What Morell proposed was foolhardy and extremely dangerous -- particularly facing our crushing national debt and continued involvement in two other wars.
The relationship between Trump and the intelligence community will surely improve under formidable new director, Mike Pompeo if, as he has testified, he pursues independent thinking rather than toadying to presidential politics.
As Trump takes his oath today not to aid and abet domestic and foreign enemies, our outgoing president has pardoned Chelsea Manning and unrepentant terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera -- but forgot to give one to deposed CIA Director General David Petraeus, our national hero.
Dr. Andrey Kortunov
PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL INTEREST
Can Russia and America Work Together to
Crush the Islamic State?
Jiri Valenta and Leni Friedman Valenta
August 22, 2014
While Moscow and Washington face off over Ukraine, a much bigger and longer-term challenge presents a possible opportunity for collaboration.
For many, the collapse of Russo-U.S. relations over Moscow’s (bloodless) invasion of Crimea and proxy war in eastern Ukraine points to the beginnings of a new Cold War. However, Russia has not irrevocably transformed itself from limited partner into implacable foe. Washington and Moscow still have many points of shared mutual interest that should not be easily thrown aside in the heat of the moment. Indeed, it’s often forgotten that post–Communist Russia has been engaged with America battling the forces of global terrorism along with efforts to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to rogue states. Recent happenings elsewhere may create the basis for such a collaboration to be renewed.
For More: htttp://nationalinterest.org/feature/can-russia-america-work-together-crush-the-islamic-state-11117
Andrey Kortunov: These days many American foreign policy pundits consider a potential US – Russian rapprochement under President Trump to be a challenge rather than an opportunity for the United States. The predominant assumption seems to be that Trump might be willing to get back to business as usual with the Kremlin to the detriment of US partners and allies all over the world and, in the end of the day – to the detriment of fundamental US interests. Do you share these concerns?
Jiri Valenta: Indeed, in the run-up to the US presidential election, the mainstream media, the democratic campaign, and even some Republicans repeatedly warned of the supposed endangerment of the US national interest by the apparent affinity between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. However, how real is this threat? And wouldn’t the US-Russia collaboration be conducive, rather than detrimental, to Washington’s international standing?
This is not a wholly far-fetched scenario. In this June 2001 meeting with President George W. Bush, Putin, seeking America’s support for the war in Chechnya, warned of an imminent attack on the US by Al-Qaeda, then nesting with the Taliban. While this warning seemed to have been ignored, the two presidents developed a genuine strategic partnership after the 9/11 attacks against the Islamist foe in Afghanistan. Most essential was Russia’s arrangement of over-flight rights and logistical support for American forces through Central Asia. Had Washington finished the war in Afghanistan rather than proceed to Iraq, Putin, who found Bush “a decent man… someone with whom he could do business,” might have even sought NATO membership, as he rhapsodized in a BBC TV interview.
Andrey Kortunov: Yes, for some time in early 2000s it seemed that we were entering an entirely new era in the US – Russia relations. Nevertheless, the euphoria did not last for too long. What went wrong, in your
Jiri Valenta: As events transpired, the American intervention in Iraq created a dangerous power vacuum that was eventually filled by Islamic State (IS). This and the crisis in the South Caucasus were serious tests for the US – Russia relations. NATO also embarked on what Putin perceived as a dangerous expansion toward the Russian border, and he began to speak about a new “encirclement” of Russia. In August 2008, Putin invaded Georgia, ostensibly to protecttwo breakaway, Russian-speaking provinces, but also to regain valuable Georgian coastline (Abkhazia) that had been lost with the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Andrey Kortunov: So these tests apparently outweighed good personal relations between George Bush and Vladimir Putin. In fall of 2008, many of us believed that we were doomed to a long period of the US-Russia
Jiri Valenta: True, but despite President Obama’s backing of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “reset” of US-Russia cooperation, relations quickly soured. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who opposed the 2011 intervention, put it, “The Russians firmly believed they were deceived on Libya” by the expansion of the NATO intervention from the protection of civilians to the toppling of the Qaddafi regime, with the attendant loss of many Russian military and economic contracts. “They would subsequently block any future resolutions, including against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”
“If Libya breaks up and al-Qaeda takes root there,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned, “the extremists will end up in the North Caucasus.” After Qaddafi was killed and Libya disintegrated into an amalgam of rival Islamist militias, with weapons of the fallen regime exported to terror groups abroad and throngs of migrants using the country as a springboard for crossing into Europe, Putin was determined to ensure the survival of the Assad regime. Apart from shoring up Russia’s foremost regional ally vis-à-vis the US, which had made its removal a top priority, Moscow was heavily invested in refurbishing the port of Tartus and planned energy pipelines through Syria.
Andrey Kortunov: There are reasons to believe that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was more hawkish on many foreign policy matters than President Obama. She supported the US intervention in Iraq, lobbied for an active US engagement in Libya and later on entertained the idea of a no-fly zone in Syria. Do you think that with President Clinton in charge, Russia would find it very difficult, if possible at all, to cooperate with US on security matters? For moreCLICK HERE.
JIRI VALENTA: DEAL-MAKER TRUMP WILL LIKELY USE PERSUASION
An Interview of Dr. Jiri Valenta by Dr. Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the prestigious Russian International Affairs (RIAC), the think tank of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, 12/1/2016.
In the time of international challenges, the collaboration between Russia and US become even more important. Many experts express concerns over Trump policies and his possibility to address key international agenda issues such as protracted conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. In an interview with RIAC Director General Dr. Andrey Kortunov, Dr. Jiri Valenta, CFR member, reflects on what made the victory of Donald Trump possible and shares his perspective on US – Russian rapprochement under President Trump, cooperation on security matters as well as relations between the leaders of Russia and the US.
Far from protecting American security, Morell (left) has repeatedly undermined it
“No doubt Putin is playing Trump!” Yes, former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell is indeed at it again. During the presidential campaign he repeatedly attacked Donald Trump as an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” In the same vein, anonymous CIA officials have supposedly provided evidence of our new president’s nefarious dealings with the Kremlin and its agents.
Didn’t Trump’s own lawyer, Michael Cohen, meet in Prague with a Kremlin agent in August 2016? And isn’t this final proof of the ongoing secret liaisons between the tycoon and the tyrant? ‘Fraid not. But it is déjà vu. Fifteen years ago, Morell vetted and took to the White House, a preliminary report that 9/11 hijacker, Mohamed Atta, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer, Ahmad Samir, Al-Ani at the Iraqi embassy in Prague on April 9, 2001. Both reports have turned out to be bogus.
On August 6, 2001, Morell served as the CIA debriefer for President Bush’s most critical ever Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB); the one that read, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” It was essential that he impress upon Bush the importance of the memo. But he didn’t. Morell recollected in his memoir that NSC staffer Steve Biegun, who accompanied Morell to the Crawford Ranch where Bush was vacationing, apparently relayed to others that he, Morell, had indicated to the president, “there was no need to worry about an Al Qaida attack on the homeland...” Morrell himself directly observed that in retrospect, “I did not treat it as a ‘hair on fire’ or action-forcing piece and the president did not read it that way either.”
Surely Bush was not given the assessment that Morell’s colleague, counter-terrorism expert, Cofer Black, gave to Condoleezza Rice weeks earlier: “An attack is impending” and “this country needs to go on a war footing now.” On 9/11, close to 3,000 people perished in attacks on both New York and Washington.
The 2003 Iraq War provided an opportunity for Morell to advance his career. Leading a group of CIA analysts, he was assigned to help prepare Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 U.N. Security Council speech.
Justifying the forthcoming invasion of Iraq, a passage in the speech affirmed that Iraq possessed "biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.” False! We still don’t know who was directly responsible for leaving this passage in Powell’s speech. However, Morell was in charge of the CIA analysts who were vetting it. In 2015, Morell apologized to Powell.
The most egregious part of Morell's toadying, however, was the terrorist attack that took place on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi on another September 11—this in 2012.
Morell, then CIA Deputy Director, quickly learned it was a well-planned terrorist attack. However he also discovered the President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with the 2012 November election in mind, were pushing a different interpretation—a “spontaneous demonstration” over an anti-Muslim video. Given his status as a high-ranking official, it would be surprising if he did not receive, or was unaware of, an email from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes: “The goal: To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of [our] policy.”
Then Morell was asked to review an important document—the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was to disseminate to the media explaining the attack. Morell complied. He altered the talking points. The doctored, scrubbed and bogus video story was presented by Rice to the U.S. public on TV stations, helping to save Obama's presidency. Yet, even after the elections, Morell, accompanied by Susan Rice, continued to defend his altered product with three GOP heavyweights, John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-NC).
Graham later reported Morell “did not accept responsibility for changing the talking points. He told me the FBI had done this. I called the FBI—They went ballistic. . . . Within 24 hours, this statement was changed where he [Morell] admitted the CIA had done it.”
Morell’s new excuses were his concern about compromising the FBI investigation and being “unprofessional” by exposing the State Department (understand Hillary). He also said he removed the word “Islamic” to describe the “extremists,” because he didn’t want to upset the Islamic world. Handsomely rewarded for his loyalty by Obama, he was asked to serve on the NSA Review Panel, the president’s advisory review board. He also became a television commentator and received a book deal, not to mention a cushy job at Beacon Global Strategies. Nor is this all. In August 2016, Morell proposed “killing Russians and Iranians” in Syria--a recommendation that might well have led to war with Russia. In a separate op-ed August 5 in the New York Times, he had declared that he believed Hillary “will deliver on the most important duty of a president: keeping our nation safe.” Hillary cheered his words in an August 7, 2017 tweet. Likely, he would have been a victorious Clinton’s CIA Director.
Now President-elect Trump is once again under attack by a loyal supporter of the former Clinton team. But as Morell’s record amply confirms, it is he who has, again and again, constituted the actual threat to our national security.
Jiri Valenta is President of the Institute of Post-Communist Studies and Terrorism. He is the recipient of numerous fellowship, including from Brookings, CFR, Woodrow Wilson Rockefeller, Peace Institute, and Fulbright. He is also the author of Soviet Intervention in Czechoslovakia, 1968, Anatomy of a Decision and other books.
Leni Friedman Valenta is the CEO of the Institute of POst-Communist Studies and Terrorism. She is co-writer and editor-in-chief of its Web site, jvlv.net. She has contributed to scholarly publications such as The National Interest, the Aspen Review, the Miami Herald, Kyiv Post, Georgian Messenger (Tbilisi) and The Tico Times, San Jose, Costa Rica.