Who benefits from a new Cold War with Russia?
Monica Hill and Andrea Bauer
volume:  
volume 38
issue 5
October 2017
imagestuff

From Clinton to Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with every U.S. president over the past twenty-plus years. Shown here, a photo op for Trump and Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Not a day goes by that U.S. politicians, media pundits and career spies don’t warn of chilling dangers from Russia. Why did Russia again become so despised?

Political obfuscation and distraction at home are motivators. So are geopolitical jockeying for power and the economic need to keep the military-industrial complex fully charged up. Democrats, a raft of CEOs, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the whole imperialist-minded establishment all get something out of this ratcheting up of tensions.

Who doesn’t gain? That would be working and oppressed people, whether they are in the U.S., Russia, Syria, North Korea, or any of the countries around the world affected by what may become the beginning of a new Cold War.

Domestic fans of Russian conspiracy. After Trump was elected and entered into his bromance with Putin, it looked like warmer relations between Russia and Uncle Sam might follow. What heated up instead was the scandal centered on the idea that Russia stole the 2016 election.

Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party operatives want to blame their defeat on a Trump-Russian connection. They point to hacked Democratic National Committee computers, tampering with voting machines, distribution of fake news, and secret meetings between Trump aides and people acting for Russia. Recently, Facebook has gotten into the act, reporting that undercover Russians paid for ad space to mess with voters’ minds.

How much of this is true and how much is false doesn’t really matter to Democratic politicians who just can’t acknowledge that their own failure to deliver for workers cost them the election (with the help of the undemocratic Electoral College). This is politics at its most partisan and shallow.

Imperial considerations. On another level is geopolitics. In an unstable world, the U.S. and Russia are both looking to increase their power on the field of international capitalist competition.

In August, Trump signed off on bipartisan legislation imposing a new round of sanctions against Russia for its interference in the election. Interestingly, the penalties include blocking the development of Nord Stream 2, a new Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline that could cut into U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe.

The Middle East is an obvious arena of U.S.-Russia rivalry for political allies, control of resources, and arms sales. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s once-strong influence in the region plunged, allowing the U.S. free rein to quench its addiction to oil through war and occupation. That has meant tragedy for the area’s people, but the U.S. is still scrambling to achieve any clear-cut victories. And now it must contend with Russia’s reawakened ambitions.

The value of an enemy. Never discount the economics of warfare, warns Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com. “A war with Russia would require land forces in huge numbers, more tanks, more artillery, and much more money for the Army. It would also require complementary upgrades for the militaries of all the NATO nations — a gold mine for the U.S. weapons industry.”

Hot war, with its massive destruction and the opening it gives capitalism to rebuild from the ashes and restock its armaments, can be insanely profitable. However, just the threat of war also sets up a bonanza for the merchants of death.

But not everyone in the military today is looking for more conflict. A U.S. Special Forces Commander testified in May 2017 that soldiers are suffering from over 15 years of war and that “the current pace of operations is unsustainable.”

Groups such as Veterans for Peace are making their more principled opposition clear as well. They demand decent care for the 22 million struggling veterans in this country, and peace and justice for all global victims of war.

Dan Korvalik, author of the book The Plot to Scapegoat Russia, sees little military threat from Russia. He points out that the United States has over 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. (Outside of the former USSR, Russia has just one, in Syria.) NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization dominated by the U.S., has troops up to the Russian border, and the U.S. has just sold extended-range missiles to Poland that Korvalik says “will surely be pointed at Russia.” In other words, he concludes, “It is Russia which should be afraid of us, and not the other way around.”

The U.S. launched the Cold War against the Soviet Union after the end of World War II and pursued it until the fall of the “evil empire” in 1991. It served both political and economic functions for the U.S. Military spending artificially boosted the domestic and world economy, eventually becoming a necessary prop for capitalist survival. And, until the recession troubles of the 1970s, it contributed to increased prosperity for some U.S. workers, reflected in the relative labor peace of the 1950s and 1960s.

But capitalism today is in an extreme state of decay and cannot be saved by warfare. It is desperately trying to survive by imposing austerity and intensifying abuse of the working classes. As the afflicted roar louder, rulers veer toward far-right solutions to suppress revolt.

And they look for scapegoats and distractions. For Trump, they include the specter of “radical Islam,” immigrants, the made-up “alt-left,” North Korea and (depending on the day of the week) China. For many of his co-capitalists, Russia is now back among the usual suspects.

Asserting the interests of working people. Despite a post-World War II period of better economic times for some workers, the U.S.-initiated Cold War proved to be a terrible curse for both the Soviet and American people.

It gave the Stalinist bureaucracy and the U.S. establishments a reason for permanent militarization, using public money that could have been spent on things that workers need, and for ghastly repression — think gulags and the McCarthy era. And the fight against communism served as the rationale for a series of U.S. wars and campaigns of military aggression, starting with Korea.

A new Cold War will no more benefit workers and poor people than did the old one. And social-justice, labor, and left activists who are defying the distraction to concentrate on the real problems — the problems caused by capitalism — clearly know that.

Send feedback to Monica Hill at FSnews@mindspring.com.