Washington’s Ever-Evolving Viewpoint on Russia

With the mainstream media positively apoplectic over Vladimir Putin and Russia in general since the Putin – Trump meeting in Helsinki, I wanted to take a look at what the other side of the political spectrum had to say about Mr. Putin before she ran for the Oval Office as well as a look back in time to see what another Republican president had to say about Russia’s president.  I have posted on this subject in the past, however, given the current force-feeding of the anti-Russia narrative, it begs to be reposted. 

Fortunately for all of us, the very data breach that is the subject of the current Russian election meddling narrative provides us with a look at Hillary Clinton’s approach to Russia and Vladimir Putin.  This information is sourced from a document that was released from captivity by unknown players from John Podesta’s computer, and outlines some excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s speeches that she was quite reluctant to share with the voting public, largely because she was playing to the extremely wealthy American demographic in those speeches (keep in mind that the content of these speeches was never denied by the Clinton camp or by Ms. Clinton herself):

1.) Remarks at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Convention on April 10, 2014 regarding the selling of Boeing 737s to Russia:

In 2010, President Obama set a target of doubling America’s exports over five years, and at the State Department I made export promotions a personal mission. So as I traveled the world on behalf of our country, I did everything I could to go to bat for American companies trying to break into new markets and compete on a level playing field. It took me to some really interesting places, particularly now with all the problems we’re seeing with Russia and President Putin. Back in 2009, when Dmitri Medvedev was actually president, I visited the Boeing Design Center in Moscow, because Boeing had been trying to secure a contract for new planes with the Russians. And I made the case that Boeing’s jet set the global gold standard. And after I left, our embassy kept at it, and in 2010 Russians agreed to buy 50 737s for almost $4 billion, which translates into thousands of American jobs.

2.) Remarks at Mediacorp on November 13, 2013 regarding Edward Snowden:

Now, what did we learn from that? Well, we learned, as we learned again with Snowden, that we have so much information on the internet, even if you encrypt it, even if you think it’s the most secure site in the world that the Chinese will not be able to get into it, even the Russians who are constantly knocking on the door can’t get into it, somebody in your own operation can get into it. And in order to guard against that, you would have to have so many more layers of bureaucracy and encryption that was available through jumping through hoops and the like that you don’t really know how to protect against the very people that you have vetted, supposedly, and employed.”

This comment from Ms. Clinton simply reeks with irony given the events that led to the release of her own personal emails and those of her campaign manager, John Podesta.

3.) Remarks at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago Vanguard Luncheon on October 28, 2013 regarding Mr. Putin’s human side:

One time, I was visiting with him in his dacha outside of Moscow, and he was going on and on, you know, just listing all of the problems that he thinks are caused by the United States. And I said, ‘Well, you know, Mr.’—at that time, he was still prime minister. I said, ‘You know, Mr. Prime Minister, we actually have some things in common. We both want to protect wildlife, and I know how committed you are to protecting the tiger.’ I mean, all of a sudden, he sat up straight and his eyes got big and he goes, ‘You care about the tiger? I said, ‘I care about the tiger, I care about the elephant, I care about the rhinoceros, I care about the whale. I mean, yeah, I think we have a duty. You know, it’s an obligation that we as human beings have to protect God’s creation.’ He goes, ‘Come with me.’ So we go down the stairs, we go down this long hall, we go into this private inner sanctum. All of his, you know, very beefy security guys are there, they all jump up at attention, you know, they punch a code, he goes through a heavily-armed door. And then we’re in an inner, inner sanctum with, you know, just this long, wooden table, and then further back, there’s a desk and the biggest map of Russia I ever saw. And he starts talking to me about, you know, the habitat of the tigers and the habitat of the seals and the whales. And it was quite something.” 

4.) Remarks at Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013 regarding a positive relationship with Russia:

And finally on Afghanistan and Russia. Look, I would love it if we could continue to build a more positive relationship with Russia. I worked very hard on that when I was Secretary, and we made some progress with Medvedev, who was president in name but was obviously beholden to Putin, but Putin kind of let him go and we helped them get into the WTO for several years, and they were helpful to us in shipping equipment, even lethal equipment, in and out of out of Afghanistan.

So we were making progress, and I think Putin has a different view. Certainly he’s asserted himself in a way now that is going to take some management on our side, but obviously we would very much like to have a positive relationship with Russia and we would like to see Putin be less defensive toward a relationship with the United States so that we could work together on some issues.

5.) Remarks at Sanford Bernstein, an integrated wealth management firm, on May 29, 2013 regarding Mr. Putin’s personality:

I last saw [Putin] in Vladivostok where I represented President Obama in September for the Asia Pacific economic community. I sat next to him. He’s an engaging and, you know, very interesting conversationalist. We talked about a lot of issues that were not the hot-button issues between us, you know, his view on missile defense, which we think is misplaced because, you know, we don’t believe that there will be a threat from Russia, but we think that both Russia and the United States are going to face threats from their perimeter, either from rogue states like Iran or from terrorist groups, that’s not the way he sees it.

I found Ms. Clinton’s comments about having a “positive relationship” with Russia quite illuminating and her assertion that the United States would like to see Mr. Putin be less defensive towards his relationship with the United States could not be more ironic.

Now, let’s switch gears and look at comments from a former United States president about Vladimir Putin.  Here are key parts of the transcript of a news conference held on Jun 16, 2001 following a meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin held in Slovenia starting with this comment from the U.S. President:

This was a very good meeting, and I look forward to my next meeting with President Putin in July. I very much enjoyed our time together. He’s an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I view him as a remarkable leader. I believe his leadership will serve Russia well. Russia and America have the opportunity to accomplish much together. We should seize it, and today we have begun.

When Putin rhetorically asked whether Russia could be trusted, he said that he would not answer that question and that he could ask the very same question of the United States.  Here is Bush’s response to the question of trust:

I will answer the question. I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.

We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue. There was no kind of diplomatic chit chat, trying to throw each other off balance.

There was a straightforward dialogue, and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.

In typical fashion, the former President has now retracted his positive comments on Mr. Putin’s soul as shown in this quote from an interview with Fox Business Anchor Maria Bartiromo in April 2018 (12 minute mark):

Here’s the transcript of George W. Bush’s comments on Mr. Putin:

When I looked into his eyes and saw his soul, Russia was broke. I mean, short-term broke. And ah, the price of oil goes up and Putin changed.  Look, he’s a very smart tactician. The problem is, his whole attitude on most issues is ‘I’m going to win and U.S. is going to lose so I’m not very surprised.  He is a very aggressive person who wants to reinstate Soviet influence even though the Soviet no longer exists and therefore, I always felt it was always very important for the United States to be very forceful in dealing with Putin. Not belligerent, but forceful and, ah, you know, he’s good.

So are we to believe that as long as Russia’s economy nearly bankrupt, the nation’s leader was acceptable but when Russia made economic gains, many of which benefitted U.S.-based companies, Mr. Putin became evil?  By that same logic, the United States must be a terribly evil nation.  While the “broke” logic behind George W. Bush’s change of heart toward Mr. Putin strikes me as rather weak, his change of heart is not a whole lot dissimilar to Donald Trump’s recent backpedaling over his remarks made after the Helsinki meeting.

In both of these cases, Russia was used as a pawn in America’s geopolitical maneuvering.  As long as things between Russia and the United States worked in America’s favour, all was “beer and skittles”.  When Washington sensed that it was on the losing end of any backroom deals with Russia, those who we elected to lead us drag out the tired old anti-Russia narrative to convince us that the former communist nation is nothing short of evil and that it is doing what it can to both take over the world and destroy the American way of life.  At the very least, Washington is doing whatever it can to manipulate what they see as a gullible American voting public into swallowing the latest flavour of geopolitical Kool-Aid.  In any case, what we can learn from the most recent behaviour by Donald Trump is that his appraisal of Vladimir Putin is hardly unique among the most high-ranking of U.S. politicians.

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