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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Embarrassing belligerence in U.S. foreign relations

No position to lecture any nation or its leaders
Re-reporting by Carolyn Bennett

“Reset” incident

Hillary Clinton meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Careless ignorance dangerous and shameful

Flag of Syria
Russian reporters in 2009 looked on in laughter as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a mock ‘reset’ button to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, symbolizing, she said, U.S. hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow.

Press stories quoted Clinton boasting how hard her staff had “worked to ensure” the accuracy of what was an apparent blunder.

“Was it right?” she asked the Russian foreign minister.

No, he said, “You got it wrong.”

What careless Americans translating Russian called “reset” was a Russian word, “peregruzka,” meaning “overloaded” or “overcharged.” The Daily newspaper Kommersant had a front-page laugh: “Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton push the wrong button.”

This was prelude to four years of gaffes and a deepening of boorish, belligerent, coarse outbursts from the U.S. Secretary of State, her staff, and her administration.   

Recklessly breaching character of diplomacy

In a joint press conference with India’s prime minister last month, the U.S. Secretary declared that the United States was not sending “military support” to the “opposition” in Syria.

She said, “All of our support has been medical and humanitarian.” She demanded that the Russian government “cut all military ties” with and “suspend all further support and deliveries” to Syria.

Her belligerence seems to know no bounds. Quoted by Democracy Now and other sources today, Mrs. Clinton boorishly labeled the Russians liars. “We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued arms shipments to Syria,” she said.

The Russians have said “… everything they’re shipping is unrelated to their (Syria’s) actions internally [but] that’s patently untrue; and we are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria….”

Russia’s defense minister responds

The same Russian foreign minister with whom Hillary Clinton had embarrassed herself and the United States in 2009 responded to the statements about Russian military supplies to Syria.

Sergei Lavrov said the Russian Federation supplies only what “Syria would need in the event of an armed attack on it from without. … We do not supply Syria or anyone else with things that are used to fight against peaceful demonstrators—unlike the United States, which regularly supplies that region with such special equipment.”

The Russian defense minister pointed out that Clinton’s comments were at direct variance with U.S. Defense Department (Pentagon) reports that had denied having information showing Russian weapons exports to Syria as charged by Secretary Clinton. The United States on the other hand has recently made such a shipment “to one of the Gulf countries, [a move] which the Americans consider…to be acceptable.”

Russian analyst Konstantin Makiyenko added to Lavrov’s statement.

The United States has no moral right to lecture Russia on weapons supply to Syria, he said. “Even if we assume that combat helicopters are indeed being passed to Syria, this action would not at all contradict current norms of international law dealing with weapons trade.”

Moreover, the deputy director of the Center for Strategies and Technologies Analysis said, the United States “sells huge amounts of weapons to the repressive Saudi regime, which took part in the tough suppression of peaceful Shiite protests against the despotic regime in Bahrain”; and in Saudi Arabia, there is “Systematic suppression of the opposition.”

As a major provider of military weapons to many global hotspots, the United States, Makiyenko said, “has no moral right to lecture Russia on who should get weapons and who should not.”

Makiyenko concluded that “the U.S. state secretary’s invectives are part of a broad media war being waged in the West against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

Failed U.S. relations in pre- and post-Cold War Middle East

At the end of May, a news article posted at the Russia Television website commented rather cynically but painfully on point. “With the arrival of Barack Obama at the White House four years ago, many in Moscow [and elsewhere] genuinely believed there would be a normalization of relations [remember the “reset” incident] between the two former Cold War opponents.”

“There is no crime in dreaming,” the writers said.

However, in relations with the Middle East, “America’s behavior seems inconsistent with that of an impartial, objective observer.”  The United States behaves “like a third party to the turmoil with a lot to gain should the Syrian government fall.

“Instead of waiting for an official investigation to determine the identity of the culprits in the latest massacre, the Houla massacre,” the United States “is instigating the situation by tossing rhetorical grenades, needlessly provoking the situation.

“After all, there are many actors in the region who stand to gain in the event that Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad is removed from power.” The strong U.S. ally in the region, seemingly “on a collision course with Iran …, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would benefit from the overthrow of Assad.”

A further truth is, the United States has not been an honest broker in the Middle East for the past thirty years; in more distant times, not since 1945 or 1946.

The Cold War is recorded historically as having reached its peak in 1948–53. In this period the Soviet Union “unsuccessfully blockaded the Western-held sectors of West Berlin (1948–49). The United States and its European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a unified military command to resist the Soviet presence in Europe (1949).” The Soviet Union exploded its first atomic warhead (1949), thus ending the U.S. monopoly on the atomic bomb. The Chinese communists came to power in mainland China (1949) and the Soviet-supported communist government of North Korea invaded U.S.-supported South Korea (1950), “setting off an indecisive Korean War that lasted until 1953.”

The United States internally experienced an extended “Red Scare,” McCarthyism in which citizens were haunted, hunted down, hauled before rabid Congressmen, their professional lives destroyed or subjected to constant threat. The causes of human rights stymied.

Years passed in which sleepwalking Americans believed they were in the “good times”: “Ossie meets Harriet,” “Daddy knows best.” Today some on the Left and Right nostalgically pine for those times.

In late 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and 15 newly independent nations were born and Russians held a “democratic” election. The Cold War was over. But in the years since the end of the Cold War—from another Bush and another Clinton through several governments seated in Washington—there has been a shameful waste of foreign relations opportunity.

The United States of America in the twenty-first century is burdened with a kind of leadership that is defined by belligerence, boorishness, superficiality, willful ignorance and incompetence. It is not only void of moral sensibility but is woefully lacking in requisite imagination.

Sources and notes

“Button gaffe embarrasses Clinton,” BBC, March 7, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7930047.stm

“‘Russia does not sell combat helicopters to Syria’ – Lavrov” (Robert Bridge, RT),
June 13, 2012, http://rt.com/politics/us-russia-syria-weapons-lavrov-689/

“Al-Qaeda behind terror attacks in Syria, Russia warns” (Robert Bridge, RT), May 14, 2012,

“Is U.S. preparing for broad Middle East conflict?” May 31, 2012,  

Historical note revised from Britannica

WW3 Trigger: U.S. Implement Syria Aerial Blockade,Despite repeated warnings from Russian and China to respect the sovereignty of Syria’s airspace, the US plans on implement an aerial blockade without UN backing


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