Russia and the crisis of the Trump administration
US President Donald Trump’s administration is by no means conventional. It is subject to much controversy and criticism from supporters of the Democratic Party and other people who call themselves liberal or progressive, left, anti-imperialist or antifascist. Even as a candidate, Trump was criticized for his sexist and allegedly racist remarks, xenophobia and general lack of political correctness. To the political establishment in the US, he was clearly an outsider and despised for that. This same quality endeared him to millions of voters, which eventually secured his victory in one of the most divisive campaigns in recent American history.
However, even before Trump’s inauguration, the unprecedented efforts to undermine his administration were undertaken by the US mainstream news media, most notably the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN and the “big three” television networks: NBC, CBS and ABC. According to a Harvard University study, the tone of the news coverage of the president’s first 100 days was 80% negative to 20 percent positive.
The dissent has not been limited to the press. By the end of January, hundreds of US diplomats and Department of State officials had signed an internal dissent memo criticizing the president’s executive order banning citizens from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Libya from entering the United States. Then there was a court challenge, and the order was overturned. Its revised version was overturned once more, and a recent decision of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals keeps the travel ban on hold.
The president is losing supporters in his own party: war-mongering neocons like John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham are leading the anti-Trump group in the Senate. The president has also been undermined by his own staffers, who leaked exact details of Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the media. Finally, and most dangerously, Trump seems to have run afoul of the US intelligence community, whose senior officials, according to former congressman Dennis Kucinich, “want to be able to direct the policy of the country.”
Trump’s challengers come from the core of the American establishment. In fact, they are the core, not just the oft-cited “deep state” but the state pure and simple, all branches of which act as one when it comes to its essential interests.
The essential interest of the American state is American imperialism
The essential interest of the American state is American imperialism. Because of that, Russophobia became a common denominator in all attacks on Trump even before the start of the ongoing investigation into his team alleged collusion with Russian officials. As Kucinich said, “Somebody in the intelligence community is trying to up-end this president in order to pursue a policy direction that puts us in conflict with Russia.”
Putin’s Russia, in the neocon imagination of people like Senator McCain, is a contemporary extension of the former Soviet Union, America’s geopolitical competitor, and most hated ideological opponent. Russia, like China, insists on multipolarity as the natural geopolitical configuration of today’s complex world of global regions. Although Russia is much weaker than China economically, it is more assertive politically or, perhaps, its actions that check the US hegemony in various parts of the world are more visible to the public eye than those of China.
Because of that Russia represents a potent symbol of opposition to American unilateralism, globalism and imperialism the world over. Trump’s original agenda of “America first” promised the reversal of the liberal interventionism and globalism of previous administrations. This way, it came closer to the idea of multipolarity than any other foreign policy platform voiced in recent American history. At some point – before the Syria strike – it seemed that the imperialist idea in US foreign policy could have been put on the back burner, at least until the most pressing domestic problems have been dealt with.
There is small wonder that the US military-industrial complex and financial speculators opposed this agenda from the start and looked for any pretext to get rid of the unruly outsider in the White House. They found that pretext in the imagined “Russian interference” in the US electoral process – the hoax that was not dignified with a single shred of evidence. The investigation is going on, now with Trump’s son-in-law being accused of trying to establish a secret communications channel to Moscow.
In the public narrative of the American deep state, Russia has become a boogieman that permits disregarding accepted norms and meanings. Never mind that the idea of multitrack diplomacy has been around for some time, and there is no diplomacy without confidentiality. Ignore the fact that it is an ambassador’s job to talk to as many top politicians in the host country as possible. Deny Russians an opportunity to present their point of view via mass media, and if they do, decry this as manipulation and interference. Russia is a symbol of all things un-American, and “colluding” with Russia must be enough to impeach the president. Even if “colluding” really means communicating.
Such perverse reading of the state actors’ normal behavior prevents Russian-American rapprochement and jeopardizes international security. It deepens the crisis of democracy in America by destroying people’s trust in the ability of the elected government to get things done.