The Russians are coming, again


Alan Arkin in the Norman Jewison film, “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming”

The 1966 Academy Award-winning film The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, directed by Norman Jewison, parodies the Cold War paranoia then pervading the United States, depicting the chaos that seizes a small coastal New England town after a Soviet submarine runs aground. Half a century later, Americans are again being warned daily of the Russian menace, with persistent accusations of Russian aggression, lies, violations of international law, and cyberattacks on U.S. elections, as reported in leading liberal outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The charges are many and relentless: the Russians invaded Georgia; the Russians tried to subvert and overthrow the Ukrainian government; the Russians shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine, or supported rebels that did so; the Russians annexed Crimea in 2014 in an aggressive move reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s postwar actions in Eastern Europe; the Russians have threatened smaller NATO nations in the region; and most recently, the Russians engaged in cyberwarfare by blatantly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and then tried to manipulate the president through connections to key figures in his inner circle.

A prime example of the new Russia hysteria comes from a 2016 report in the New York Times by national security correspondents David Sanger, Eric Schmitt, and Michael R. Gordon:

For his part, Mr. Putin is counting the days until Mr. Trump is in the Oval Office. Despite a failing economy, the Russian president has been pursuing for the past four years what most Western analysts see as a plan to reassert Russian power throughout the region. First came the annexation of Crimea and the shadow war in eastern Ukraine. Then came the deployment of nuclear-capable forces to the border of NATO countries, as Moscow, working to fracture the power structures in Germany and France and promote right-wing parties, sent a reinvigorated military force on patrol off the coasts of the Baltics and Western European nations.1

Based on unproven assertions masquerading as fact (such as that Putin was working to fracture power structures and promote right-wing parties in France and Germany), the article fails to acknowledge that a verbal agreement was made in late 1990 between Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. According to the Russians—whose version is corroborated by hundreds of memos and transcripts at the George H. W. Bush presidential library—Baker pledged to Gorbachev that NATO would not expand east toward their border, in return for Russian support for German reunification.2 Since then, of course, the United States has armed and funded NATO’s eastward advance to include states that share borders with Russia. The United States also provocatively increased its naval presence in the Black Sea, and in 2014, the State Department fanned protests that led to the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s autocratic but elected pro-Russian government, prompting the Russian annexation of Crimea, and then supplied more than a billion dollars in security assistance to a new, Western-friendly right-wing regime.3

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