The official story has it that we don’t like Putin because he’s a “dictator.” Yet we’re great friends with ruthless authoritarians in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, and other corners of the world. And we’ve sanctioned Russia for its “aggression” in annexing Crimea – although ethnic Russians comprise the majority there and it has been part of Russia since 1783, during the reign of Catherine the Great, and remained so throughout the life of the Soviet Union. But we hold Israel in our warm embrace, even though it has virtually – and illegally – annexed the entire West Bank by occupying it and is doing the same with Palestinian sections of Jerusalem, neither of which are ethnically Jewish. With the “official story” so exposed for its hypocrisy, let’s probe for the real reasons for our belligerence toward Russia. And oddly enough, Donald Trump, despite his compulsive deceitfulness, may offer the key to the truth.
Let’s recap a little recent history. All publicly-owned Russian wealth – natural resources, productive facilities, etc. – was taken over as private property by a handful of apparatchiks after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In an apparent determination to keep its new-found wealth all to itself, this new national oligarchy invites international hostility by resisting investment from outside. This, in turn, asserts a nationalism at odds with the unstoppable forces of global capital, which are determined to entrench themselves everywhere and erode the nation-state. Because of its outmoded nationalism, Russia supports – and is supported by – right-wing European nationalists, like Marine Le Pen and her National Front in France.
Enter Donald Trump, who is going to “make America great again” by miraculously turning history on its head through reversing the globalizing forces and reverting to an already antiquated nationalism. He’s not only going to build cement walls to keep non-citizens out of the U.S., he’s going to build protectionist walls to keep out products other than those “Made in America.” Never mind that none of this is remotely possible – just believe him! And understand that however outdated his nationalism is, he is naturally supportive of any person, group, or nation that espouses it – which includes Russia.
But ironically, while his nationalism is reactionary, his lack of hostility toward Russia is sensible and progressive – though he may not intend it so. Trump refuses to support NATO, a stance that tends to weaken the weaponry the alliance has dangerously amassed against a Russia that – even in its maddest moments – would not remotely consider a suicidal invasion of the West. Nor does it need to, since in the age of global capital the key to wealth has passed from the acquisition of territory to corporations that transcend all national boundaries. Even nationalist Russia, however resistant to the new order, knows this. Quieting hostilities rather than provoking them is economically beneficial – and that’s what Trump seems to be trying to do, probably with a vision of breaking Russia’s resistance to doing business with “outsiders.” He could be thinking of a St. Petersburg/St. Trump Tower, complete with an adjoining Putin/Trump Golf Resort! While I can’t support Trump for all of the copiously documented reasons that make him unfit for the presidency, his policy of détente with Russia should be adopted by his opponents. His stumbling into a sensible policy shows that even fools can sometimes inadvertently display wisdom.
Regarding Russian nationalism, not to worry: it will ultimately submit to the demands of global capital, Trump or no Trump – since there is no decent survival for any country outside the world economic system. Look at North Korea!