What Trump Can Expect From Putin

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Above photo: From CNN Politics.

President Trump will have his first meeting with President Putin at a time of dangerous U.S.-Russian tensions, amid demands to “get tough,” but ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a former presidential briefer, urges Trump to see Putin’s side.

In the style of a President’s Daily Brief for President Trump:

When you meet with President Putin next week, you can count on him asking you why the U.S. is encircling Russia with antiballistic missile systems.

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Putin regarded the now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as the key to maintaining the nuclear-weapons balance between the United States and Russia and told filmmaker Oliver Stone that the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty in 2001 and the follow-on U.S. deployment of ABM batteries could “destroy this balance. And that’s a great mistake.”

For decades, the Russians have viewed an invulnerable nuclear-tipped strategic missile force as a deterrent to a U.S. attack though they have never displayed an inclination to commit suicide by actually firing them.

From this perspective, Putin wonders why the U.S. might seek to upset the nuclear balance by deploying ABM systems around Russia’s borders, making Russia’s ICBM force vulnerable.

Putin’s generals, like yours, are required to impute the most provocative intentions to military capabilities; that is what military intelligence is all about. Thus, they cannot avoid seeing the ABM deployments as giving the U.S. the capability for a first strike to decapitate Russia’s ICBM force and, by doing so, protecting the U.S. from Russian nuclear retaliation.

And, as Putin has made clear, the Kremlin sees U.S. claims that the deployments are needed to thwart a strategic strike from Iran as insultingly disingenuous – all the more so in light of the 2015 multilateral agreement handcuffing Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb for the foreseeable future.

Yet, the U.S.-Russia strategic balance becomes more and more precarious with the deployment of each new ABM site or warship, together with rising concerns at the possibility of a U.S. technological breakthrough. With the time window for Russian leaders to evaluate data indicating a possible U.S. nuclear strike closing, launch-on-warning becomes more likely – and so does World War III.

Your visit to Warsaw en route to Hamburg for the G-20 summit will shine the spotlight on the threat Putin sees in the deployment of missile defense systems in Poland – as well as Romania and elsewhere on Russia’s periphery.

It is no secret that Russian leaders feel double-crossed by NATO’s steady creep eastward, but Russia’s strategic planners seemed to believe they could handle that – up to a point. That point was reached with the Feb. 22, 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, which Moscow viewed as one U.S.-backed regime change too many and one that installed a virulently anti-Russian government along a route historically used by foreign invaders.

On April 17, 2014, the day before Crimea was re-incorporated into Russia, Putin spoke of what motivated Russia’s strong reaction. The “more important” reason he gave was the need to thwart plans to incorporate Ukraine and Crimea into the anti-ballistic missile deployment encircling Russia.

Putin explained: “This issue is no less, and probably even more important, than NATO’s eastward expansion. Incidentally, our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this.”

ABM: ‘A Separate Issue’

In his interviews with Oliver Stone (aired on Showtime as “The Putin Interviews”), Putin made the same distinction between the NATO buildup (bad enough) and ABM deployment (more dangerous still), telling Stone the ABM challenge is “a separate issue which no doubt is going to require a response from Russia.”

Oliver Stone interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin in Showtime’s “The Putin Interviews.”

Oliver Stone interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin in Showtime’s “The Putin Interviews.”

Putin blames your predecessors for his mistrust of Washington on this important issue. He has branded a huge mistake President Bush’s 2001 decision to exit the ABM Treaty – an agreement that sharply limited the number of permitted anti-ballistic missile sites – noting that the Treaty had been for three decades the “cornerstone of the system of national security as a whole.”

Putin’s misgivings were hardly allayed by President Obama’s ten-second pas de deux five years ago with Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea. An ABC open mike picked up their private conversation on March 26, 2012, at a summit on nuclear security in Seoul.

Obama is heard assuring then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the missile defense issue “can be solved,” but that it was “important for him (Putin) to give me space.” President Obama asked Medvedev to tell Putin that Obama would have “more flexibility” after being re-elected. More flexibility or no, the missile defense program proceeded unabated, with Washington shunning bilateral talks.

It is now five years later, but there will be a residue of distrust on Putin’s part with respect to ABM deployment. We still expect Putin to show his characteristic reserve, but you will be dealing with someone who feels he’s been diddled on this key issue, and who, on occasion, gets angry when others don’t grasp the gravity of this potentially existential moment.

For example, speaking to journalists on June 17, 2016, Putin criticized the reasons that the U.S. gives for the need to deploy ABM systems, especially the “threat from Iran.” Observing their apathetic reaction, Putin uncharacteristically lost his cool.

Given this history, you will have a suitcase of mistrust to overcome in talks with Putin. It will take more than smooth Obama-style reassurances to allay the Russian President’s misgivings over Washington’s intentions on missile defense.

Given the priority he places on the challenge, however, he may propose that U.S. and Russian negotiators begin to talk seriously about the issue.

Lost Opportunities

It may be helpful to recall that less than four years ago U.S.-Russian relations were in a much more positive place. After a disputed sarin incident outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, Putin helped Obama out of a geopolitical corner by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to surrender Syria’s entire chemical weapons inventory, under close U.N. supervision, for destruction on a U.S. ship.

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, 2013, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, 2013, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

 

A few days later, on Sept. 11, 2013, Putin placed an op-ed in The New York Times, titled “A plea for caution from Russia,” the last part of which he is said to have drafted himself:

“My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism …

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional … There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.  … We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Russia then played a central role in facilitating Iran’s concessions regarding the nuclear accord that President Obama considered perhaps his greatest diplomatic achievement, with the key interim agreement reached on Nov. 24, 2013. But Putin felt betrayed when Obama’s State Department helped organize the coup in Ukraine just three months later.

Since the Ukraine crisis, U.S. media and political circles have subjected Putin to an unrelenting demonization, including comparisons of him to Adolf Hitler and an over-the-top campaign to blame him for Hillary Clinton’s defeat and the Trump presidency.

Yet, while the tone of the Russia-bashing in Washington has reached hysterical levels, the Defense Intelligence Agency has just published a balanced assessment of “Russia’s Threat Perceptions,” which offers a view from Moscow’s vantage point:

“Since returning to power in 2012, Russian President Putin has sought to reassert Russia as a great power on the global stage and to restructure an international order that the Kremlin believes is tilted too heavily in favor of the United States at Russia’s expense.

“Moscow seeks to promote a multipolar world predicated on the principles of respect for state sovereignty and non-interference in other state’s internal affairs, the primacy of the UN, and a careful balance of power preventing one state or group of states from dominating the international order. …

“Moscow has sought to build a robust military able to project power, add credibility to Russian diplomacy, and ensure that Russian interests can no longer be summarily dismissed without consequence.”

A fair assessment, in our view.

Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, during which he served as chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch.  He also prepared the President’s Daily Brief under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, conducting the early morning briefings under Reagan.

 

  • BruceEWoych

    You are quoting an excerpt posted on a blog by a Canadian Professor
    (Paul Robinson https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2017/06/30/threat-perceptions/),that seeks to create an intelligent conversation that
    addresses the misguided International Relations (IR) between Russia and
    the West. [see: Home Page here:https://irrussianality.word….

    Unfortunately
    the document they are excerpting the passage from, is actually
    explaining what Moscow itself stated (about itself) in its own
    assessment in 2012. It is NOT the assessment of “…what the U.S.
    Defense Intelligence Agency thinks of Russia (Putin)” as you presumed.

    The actual Defense Document can be read accurately on page 14-15 of a
    comprehensive review and assessment literally found here in the
    original: (and accessed from a hyperlink on the front page of Paul
    Robinson’s blog (first paragraph: hyperlink merely states “here” {The US
    Defense Intelligence Agency has issued a report entitled Russia.
    Military Power: Building a Military to Support Great Power Aspirations,
    which you can read “here.”}
    http://www.dia.mil/Portals/

    The conflations are curious. The same mistake (?) has been made elsewhere with identical rhetoric(see: TRNN here: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=19447)
    I strongly suggest that you read pages 39 and 40 of the actual document
    that Professor Robinson was so helpful in making available to the
    public.
    Please read pages 39-40 and the original document itself. It may shed some light on the nature of this repetition.
    A fair assessment? Perhaps self service is refutable .

  • DHFabian

    Thank you for pointing out the fact of US troops being stationed along the Russian border — something the international community can see as a profoundly dangerous provocation by the US. Consider the US reaction if Russia began stationing troops in Canada and Mexico, along the US border. Please address this point further after the July 4 holiday.

  • BruceEWoych

    DHFabian: While current practices of military containment are a critical issue, history does have a say in these stationed troops in Europe. Russian border history is brutal with Polish and Hungarian atrocities to name just two locations that have such histories. Your analogy is fragile when it comes to other border defenses. WWII was fought in Europe and Americans died in liberating it from fascism and tyranny.
    NATO is there for a reason, and issues concerning its abuse are another question. The international community is well aware of both sides of that boundary defense.

  • kevinzeese

    NATO was created to respond to the Soviet Union and its satellite nations. That threat no longer exists yet NATO expands and adds troops, bases and military personnel along the Russian border. NATO seems outdated as a defense treaty and is evolving to an offensive threat against Russia.

  • kevinzeese

    The DIA report was curious, a little bizarre, and showed how US wants to dominate. On page 13 they write “Moscow seeks to promote a
    multi-polar world predicated on the principles of respect for state sovereignty and non-interference in other states’ internal affairs, the
    primacy of the United Nations, and a careful balance of power preventing one state or group of states from dominating the international
    order.” This is seen as a threat to the United States? Why because the US wants to dominate the world, seeks hegemony and does not Russia and China balancing the US and creating a multi-polar world.

    I also found curious the DIA’s description of Russian propaganda on page 40 in a highlighted box they write:

    “Major themes of Russian propaganda include:

    - The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.

    - The West demonizes Russia, which is only trying to defend its interests and sovereignty and act as an indispensable nation in world affairs.

    - The United States is determined to interfere with and overthrow sovereign governments around the world.”

    Are these propaganda or facts? The US certainly interfere’s and overthrow’s sovereign government. This is not new but has been US policy for a very long time. We can see it in Ukraine, Venezuela and other Latin American countries as well as Africa and Asia. Can this be disputed if one looks at the facts.

    The West demonizes Russia — that is an understatement. There has been a massive propaganda campaign against Putin and Russia for most of this century. They have been made into demons in the media and accused of many crimes without proof, including their role in the 2016 election.

    And, their first point on Western liberal order, well, if you look at the US economy it has been floundering since the 2008 economic collapse. The so-called liberal order has become neoliberalism — heightening corporate power around the world through privatization, trade agreements written by transnational corporations to protect their profits, demands of austerity by the IMF and shrinking of the social safety net throughout the world. The reaction has been mass protest in the US and around the world. As to Russia pushing neo-conservative values, isn’t that really the US? Neocons have great influence over US foreign policy resulting in more intervention, more militarism and more wars using extreme tactics like torture. The DIA basically shows a biased perspective of reality and blames Russia for seeing the truth.

  • BruceEWoych

    kevinzeese: At least you did look at the original document by the DIA. However, in the first few pages they explain quite clearly that this is a preparation study for diplomatic understanding and the early pages are specifically stated as being what Moscow and the Kremlin set out as their truth statement and ideal profile. The DIA clearly does not believe the profile presented on page 13, but expects that our political diplomats are fully educated as to the official position of Moscow. To state it as the position of our US Government is simply out of context.

    It is unclear why comments continue to use the term “Demonize” for the US position on Putin, the Kremlin, Moscow and Mother Russia itself, since these are all distinct entities onto themselves, and that word is right out of the Russian playbook. So much repetition appears in comment streams that bash all America for etreme views that I have to wonder if these are actually Americans or bots or trolls (also page 39-40) which you seem to ignore. I am totally against imperialism under capitalistic expansion, but if you have a serious critique of that current affairs issue, you should substantiate it with real facts of first hand witnessing. In any case, the foreign transgressions of privatization and global exploit by international finance and trans-corporate collusion is not an excuse to neutralize the real subversive and covert sabotage that Putin has already used to undermine democracy in several nations, and his emphasis upon placing authoritarian rulers in place over democratic rule is a serious threat to international rule by law and is seeking separtist movements within and between nations to essentially divide and conquer.

    What frightens me in this [particular] article is that
    Ray McGovern has placed his name on what appears to be Russian slanted propaganda that favors a blind eye to Putin’s viral authoritarian output, and seeks to demonize all of America and the United States as a whole. The comment streams are full of the same empty phrases, all seemingly MADE IN RUSSIA for mass consumption and angry ranting.
    Deception is in the air, and I no longer trust Ray McGovern’s

    honesty after seeing his use of the same itemized Russian playbook embedded in this article. The fact is that he was trained CIA (supposedly a retired critic from that agency if you can ever believe anyone that worked there 100%), and being a trained covert activist he clearly knows what he is doing. Even if we don’t.
    You can bash and trash American foreign policy if you want, this is a free country, with free speech. Keep in mind that Putin has murdered reporters in his own country and violently suppressed dissent. So don’t think that bashing America exonerates the violent historic past of Russia or the KGB involvement of Putin in seeking his own personal; revenge and empire.

  • BruceEWoych

    Do you mean the Borders of other countries that are members of NATO and have actually had their people murdered on those Borders by an expansive Russia?
    It seems that NATO is a North Atlantic Treaty, not a Russian invasion force. How can you state that NATO is no longer vital to the security of Europe? That is a Russian line of argument.

  • kevinzeese

    You and I see the United States, Russia and Putin very differently. I disagree with your views as Russia/Putin as the aggressor and see them playing defense against US aggression. Similarly, your claim of Russia undermining democracy in other countries is just not substantiated. In fact, in both France and Germany when US made allegations their intelligence said the US was wrong. Ray McGovern seems to be exactly on target. It just seems like we see the world differently and you agree with what I would call US corporate-government propaganda. (I did read pages 39-40 and did not find much there.)

  • BruceEWoych

    Why does this sound like Trump’s press conferences? No evidence? Can you document the French and German people that stated those allegations as being wrong? Deniability without substantiation is deception. My recollection was that the new President of France accused Putin right to his face. Poland has a hard right “law and Justice” party that is now dismantling their Supreme Court under its authoritarian power grab, and the original ruling party were perhaps the first to accuse Putin of being covertly involved in sabotage and subversion in that silent coup d’etat, and there were Russian agencies involved in the Philippines as well.
    I am an American. My view is American and democratic. I don’t know here or what your foreign views are or represent, but if you know something about authentic American propaganda you should spell it out instead of using cliche terms. I am an academic and a researcher. I have no use for corporate slants or slogans or government policy stances. I tell it like it is. Putin is a global criminal.
    If you select to defend him and call it anti-corporate that is your business. But perhaps you might want to check Putin’s personal wealth before you call him a man of the people.

  • kevinzeese

    Document your claims. You accuse those that point out the lack of evidence of RussiaGate — so document your claims of expansive Russia violating borders.

  • kevinzeese

    I am a US citizen as well (by American, I assume you mean US, not Brazil, Canada or Mexico– those countries are also in the Americas. Language is also part of US domination.) and I believe a patriotic one. But, patriotism should not be blind. US intelligence agencies have lied to the people before, wars have been started on false intelligence throughout our history. So, just because intelligence officials say ‘Russia did it’ they need to provide proof. A document mostly focused on RT will not suffice.

    As to my point about other intelligence agencies making different findings than US claims that ‘Russia did it’, here is an example of French officials denying the US claim, https://www.apnews.com/fc570e4b400f4c7db3b0d739e9dc5d4d. I’m sorry if this is inconsistent with your belief in US propaganda.

    Re US propaganda we cover these issues regularly on Popular Resistance, search the issue cloud at the right of the front page on Ukraine, propaganda and similar issues.

  • BruceEWoych

    Well I respect your citizenship, but the countries you mention (Brazil, Canada, Mexico) I can tell you first hand never call themselves “American” and resent when that implication is held over them for reasons of autonomy (and politics as well). Identity and quibbling over semantics aside, the link you provided is valuable, but your claim that it exonerates Russian sources is premature. What they state is that they could not trace it to well known Russian Hackers specifically, and in the article even Putin continues to tease the evidence as perhaps being just Russian patriots acting on their own. Governments do lie, but it is a fallacy to presume that this substantiates an exoneration of a neutral Russia, which has no free press to test their own State delivery of lies and deception. According to your logic, Russia lies so why should we believe that they didn’t do it on the word of Putin or Trump for that matter. So we are left at an empiricist’s dilemma. What you are stating to me is that since you are acting under a title of popular resistance I should expect your position to be pure. Yet you claim that my position is tainted under your own interpretation of blind patriotism. My reply to you is that if you intend to stand as a “popular” resistance, than you should back up your identity or stop ranting like a separatist movement than simply pushes blind anarchism without an agenda that serves the people. The Daily News is a “popular” resistance…but that does not make them intelligent representatives of the people. You may be activists, but that does not make Russia a safe haven for Putin’s ideas of freedom, liberty or justice. If you think so,…document your reasons and your reasoning.

  • kevinzeese

    Exonerate is not a word I used. My view is we should investigate before we accuse. That includes investigating information that shows alternatives to Russiagate — and there are some. Did you know the FBI has not even checked the DNC computers? They relied on a corporation the DNC hired which has a pretty lousy record. So, accusations of ‘Russia did it’ are what are premature.

    Check out the Moscow Times – a US biased news outlet in Russia, then change your claim that there are not critical press in Russia (is that a claim or are you a propagandist bot?). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moscow_Times

    That being said, Russia definitely needs a much freer press. More criticism of policy in the media would be a positive for the country. I would rank Russia low when it comes to freedom of the press.

    But, let’s not point too aggressively as US media is concentrated in a handful of major corporations and presents a biased, pro-corporate, pro-security state perspective. The NY Times, the paper of record, is especially untrustworthy when it comes to security state issues, Israel, war and militarism. They published Cheney press releases as if they were fact before the Iraq War. And, they finally admitted that the claim that 17 US intelligence agencies agreed ‘Russia did it’ was false. The Washington Post is not much better on these issues.

    Recent presidents have aggressively prosecuted or threatened to prosecute whistle blowers who have leaked documents on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, torture, US intelligence and other security state issues. We should fix our own problems before accusing others.

    On your first point, yes other people of the Americas have pointed out our misuse of the term Americans. That is where I learned about it.

  • kevinzeese

    This just came across my computer screen. We will be publishing it on Popular Resistance tomorrow. It is documentation of US claims of Russian hacking and their being debunked.

    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/07/the-undeniable-pattern-of-russian-hacking.html

  • Jon

    I concur with this–it is Cuban missile crisis in reverse.

  • Jon

    Have you not seen the maps, Bruce, showing the dozens of US military bases that encircle Russia and China? Have you any knowledge of Russian military bases in Mexico or Canada? Get serious, man!

  • Jon

    Bruce, are you unaware of the statement made by Julian Assange that “no state party” provided the documents to him. Very likely it was Seth Rich’s disgust over the treatment of Bernie Sanders by the DNC that led to a LEAK, not a hack, of documents.

  • BruceEWoych

    It is very easy to claim that there is no evidence when you keep censoring my posts. On RT recently the Russian translator made an interesting slip in the ticker-tape newsline. It stated: United States and Russia on a Collusion line (rather than a collision line as was intended). This blog is questionable, and can’t handle the truth.

  • kevinzeese

    This article is pretty biased e.g. describing overwhelming proof of Russian hacking, when there is no proof — just opinions.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    After just having come across this Ray McGovern presentation and briefly scanning the back-and-forth comments that frankly tired me quickly, my bottom line is that I tend to give Ray’s analyses full/immense credence. This masterpiece absolutely reinforces my admiration of him and his seasoned worldview.

  • kevinzeese

    Thank you and I agree. Ray McGovern — 25+ years in the CIA, head of the Soviet division and briefing four president daily on intelligence — has a lot of credibility. I’ve worked with him on campaigns, interviewed him on our radio show and find him to be an excellent analyst who sees through the BS of the current Pentagon/intelligence security state. I certainly find him much more credible than BruceEWoych who is a cancer of mis-information and anti-Russia propaganda in this discussion. Good to make this point so when this thread is read people know what they are reading.