By David Haggith, the Great Recession Blog.
The infamous Clinton reset button for US-Russian relations turned out this week to be the other proverbial red button used to launch nuclear missiles. Wikileaks documents reveal a chain of wars that started due to Hillary Clinton’s diplomacy. Hillary’s Wars exploded this week when Russian President Vladimir Putin terminated a nuclear disarmament treaty that existed between Russia and the United States.
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia escalated Monday as the Obama administration suspended talks over Syria’s civil war hours after Moscow announced it was ending cooperation with the U.S. on a 16-year-old program for the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium to curb the production of more nuclear bombs.
The Obama administration stopped pursuing diplomacy with Russia amid renewed attacks by Russian and Syrian forces on the city of Aleppo. Frustrated administration officials acknowledged that Syrian President Bashar Assad is making territorial gains with Moscow’s help after the collapse of a cease-fire negotiated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (The Washington Times)
Putin stated that he is ending the Plutonium-elimination agreement because the United States has failed under Barrack Obama to hold up its end of the agreement.
Mr. Putin’s decree cited Washington’s “unfriendly actions” and the U.S. inability to fulfill its obligations under the 2000 deal as reasons for the move. Under the agreement, which was expanded in 2006 and 2010, Russia and the U.S. each were to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, enough material for about 17,000 nuclear warheads…. Russia said last year it had started up a plant that produces mixed-oxide commercial nuclear reactor fuel known as MOX from weapons-grade plutonium. Meanwhile, the construction of a similar U.S. plant in South Carolina has been years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The Obama administration wants to cancel the Savannah River Site’s MOX project…. Defending Mr. Putin’s move, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. has “done all it could to destroy the atmosphere encouraging cooperation,” citing U.S. sanctions on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis and deploying NATO forces near Russian borders.
The Russians have stated that, in order to resume the treaty, the US will have to pull back its military installments near Russian borders to where they were before the Bush years and that it will have to get used to the idea that “it cannot bring sanctions against us and at the same time continue selective cooperation in areas it sees as advantageous.”
“Russia has been observing the agreement unilaterally for quite a long time, but now it no longer sees such a situation as possible amid the tensions,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Given the timing of the announcement and the statements about tensions, it’s clear Russia’s break from nuclear disarmament was triggered by the concurrent stalemate between the US and Russia over how the war in Syria should be handled but that it stems from a great many other affronts. The Obama administration also announced it is talking about stepped-up military strikes in Syria as a “means of forcing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to pay a cost for his violations of the cease-fire.”
Clinton Reset button was a bad joke from day one
Hillary Clinton’s Reset Button. The Russian word “perezagruzka,” written offensively in Roman alphabet, instead of Cyrillic, was intended to mean “reset” but actually meant “overload.” Turned out to be truer than intended.
Hillary’s crudely made toy reset button for relations with Russia was defective from the day she had it made. It said “reset” in English for Americans who would see photos of it and “peregruzka” for Russians. Undoubtedly, a lot of thought went into putting the Russian word first in order to make the Russian’s feel good, since the button was being presented to Russians, not to Americans. However, not much thought went into how the word was written. Hillary Clinton’s state department missed the little detail that Russians read in Cyrillic alphabet, not in Roman. As a result, Russians had to read their own language in the American way. Rather symbolic, I think, of the ham-fisted way in which America has approached Russia on many issues from George Bush onward. “We’ll work with you … our way.”
Russians also found the Clinton reset button amusing because the Russian word Hillary Clinton and her Department of State chose actually meant “overload.” Oops. A truer word for Clinton’s relations with Russia during her time as US secretary of state and Obama’s relations from that point forward could not have been chosen.
What Hillary apparently didn’t foresee when she presented her toy reset button back in March of 2009 was that she brought the wrong button to her meeting with Russia’s foreign minister. Without realizing it, she was holding out the opportunity for her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to put his finger on the nuclear button. Ironically, it said “reset” in English only because the policies of the Clinton state department and the subsequent Kerry state department would ultimately reset Russian-American relations back to Cold War status.
Clinton Reset button goes nuclear over Syria
I’m just going to call it “Hillary’s War in Syria.” It is yet another vastly expensive American adventure in nation building as the US inserts itself in Syria’s civil war ostensibly to restrain the United States’ sworn enemy ISIS (or “ISIL” as the Obama Admin. prefers). Obama’s politically-directed manner of fighting this war consistently shows a different objection — regime change. Both the US and Russia want to defeat ISIS, but only the US wants to make sure Syria’s President Bashar Assad is overthrown. The United State’s ulterior motive of regime change is reason for the stalemate that exists with Russia. That much, I think, people have generally observed for themselves; but how much of this goes back to Hillary during her time as Secretary of State?
The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 — the middle of Hillary Clinton’s term as US Secretary of State. Unmarked NATO war planes began arriving in Turkey that same year, delivering weapons absconded from Libya where America participated in another war for regime change. The planes also transported volunteer Libyan soldiers. (In my view, a mission clearly outside of NATO’s charter, which was to form an alliance under which all members would fight to protect any individual member if it was attacked, not to transform the world. No one in Syria was attacking any NATO member.) The CIA and US special ops also began providing communication support in December of 2011.
Having advised President Obama to enter the Libyan Civil War, Hillary Clinton assured the press at the start of the Syrian Civil War that the United States would not similarly involve itself in that conflict. However, documents exposed by Wikileaks indicate that Hillary’s advised US involvement in Libya may have had a clear and intentional connection with what happened later in Syria:
In one document labeled “CONFIDENTIAL,” Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and long-time confidante to Hillary Clinton, wrote the following to Hillary:
Assad’ s gestures at reform are delusional attempts to recreate the pattern of his own recent past when he gained a modicum of respect from the West. Likely the most important event that could alter the Syrian equation would be the fall of Qaddafi, providing an example of a successful rebellion. (Wikileaks)
Blumenthal then quotes an article by David W. Lesch, whom he says is “the U.S. expert with the closest relationship with Bashar al- Assad”:
One game-changer [in Syria] could be the fall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya…. If Gadhafi falls within the next few months, there will be another model for regime change: that of limited but targeted military support from the West combined with an identifiable rebellion. Not that this can be easily applied in Syria. It hasn’t even been easily applied in Libya, and Syria would be a much harder nut to crack. Furthermore, the Syrian opposition is far from united or being able to establish a Benghazi-like refuge from which to launch a rebellion and to which aid can be sent. But if there is regime change in Libya … it would give the Syrian regime something to really think about…. The Syrian regime does not want, nor can it probably survive, long-term international pressure or isolation, but it is used to sanctions…. Success for the rebels in Libya might change that.
US involvement in Libya began at Hillary’s urging shortly after Hillary received this advice from her confidante Sidney Blumenthal. That involvement was, of course, coordinated out of Benghazi. Once the fall of Gadhafi was a fait accompli, Hillary’s State Department advocated the overthrow of Bashar Assad as a critical component for calming Israel so that President Barrack Obama could accomplish is legacy nuclear pact with Iran with Israel blowing Iran up before the deal was sealed. The State Department document, obtained by Wikileaks in its acquisition of Clinton’s emails, states…
Negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program will not solve Israel’s security dilemma. Nor will they stop Iran from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program…. Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war may seem unconnected, but they are….. It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security … through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests…. Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that “the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to the radical axis, major blow to Iran….” Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted. Right now, it is the combination of Iran’s strategic alliance with Syria and the steady progress in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program that has led Israeli leaders to contemplate a surprise attack — if necessary over the objections of Washington. With Assad gone, and Iran no longer able to threaten Israel through its, proxies, it is possible that the United States and Israel can agree on red lines for when Iran’s program has crossed an unacceptable threshold. In short, the White House can ease the tension that has developed with Israel over Iran by doing the right thing in Syria…. Only the threat or use of force will change the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s mind…. (Wikileaks)
(The Wikileaks document shows dates that refer to when the document was unclassified, not when written. The date of the State Department’s creation of this document can be determined by its content: “the talks between the world’s major powers and Iran that began in Istanbul this April and will continue in Baghdad in May.” The switch from past tense to future tense dates the document sometime between April, 2012, which is when the talks began in Istanbul, and May, 2012, when they continued in Baghdad.)
That same document provides more evidence of a connection between Hillary’s War in Libya with the war that is now happening in Syria: (Note how it states that Libya was an easier case, following the wording in the advice Hillary had been given about overthrowing Gaddafi as a way to make regime change in Syria more accomplishable.)
The Obama administration has been understandably wary of engaging in an air operation in Syria like the one conducted in Libya. Libya was an easier case…. Other than the laudable purpose of saving Libyan civilians from likely attacks by Qaddafi’s regime, the Libyan operation had no long-lasting consequences for the region. Syria is harder. But success in Syria would be a transformative event for the Middle East…. using territory in Turkey and possibly Jordan, U.S. diplomats and Pentagon officials can start strengthening the opposition. It will take time…. The second step is to develop international support for a coalition air operation. Russia will never support such a mission, so there is no point operating through the UN Security Council. Some argue that U.S. involvement risks a wider war with Russia. But the Kosovo example shows otherwise. In that case, Russia had genuine ethnic and political ties to the Serbs, which don’t exist between Russia and Syria, and even then Russia did little more than complain.
Oops! I guess Russia thought differently and realized that it needs to do more than complain. Rather than just complain, redirected the war militarily and now cancelled its nuclear treaty with the US, taking both nations deeper into Cold War status. So the cost of getting a tenuous nuclear “deal” with Iran was the loss of an established nuclear treaty with Russia. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s a winning outcome.
According to this massively revealing document pillaged from Hillary’s archives, Obama needed to bring down Assad’s regime if he was going to calm Israel into accepting the eventual nuclear agreement he was working out with Iran. So, the war is even less about Assad than it is about Iran and Israel.
Connect the dots: First, establish regime change in Libya, the easiest target for such change. Then with that success weighing on Assad’s fears empower those seeking regime change in Syria. His newfound fears from the regime change in Libya coupled with US empowered opposition in his own country, may get him to step down. Finally, the establishment of a new regime in Syria will weaken Iran, calm Israel and transform the entire Middle East.
If you read the full document, you may be struck as I was by how there is no mention at all of concerns about ISIS/ISIL as a reason to engage in regime change in Syria. That leads me to believe concerns about ISIS were secondary at best in the State Departments advice for US engagement in Syria — perhaps not much more than the necessary cover story for such engagement because many US citizens were already tired of hearing about “regime change.” Regime change was supposed to be the stuff of George Bush, not the center drive of Hillary’s reset.
Oh, but apparently not. The email from Hillary’s archives closes with…
Victory may not come quickly or easily, but it will come. And the payoff will be substantial. Iran would be strategically isolated, unable to exert its influence in the Middle East. The resulting regime in Syria will see the United States as a friend, not an enemy. Washington would gain substantial recognition as fighting for the people in the Arab world, not the corrupt regimes. For Israel, the rationale for a bolt from the blue attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be eased. And a new Syrian regime might well be open to early action on the frozen peace talks with Israel…. America can and should help them.
Wow! How much does that sound like the optimistic statements of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld that the US would be greeted as liberators in Iraq once the war was over, other than the allowance that success in Syria will take a good deal of time and not end in a hundred days?
Whether or not Hillary’s War in Libya is scaring Bashar Assad or inspiring his opponents, it did nicely provide arms for the follow-on war in Syria. Unfortunately, there were unintended negative consequences as usually happens with US-backed regime changes. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2013 assessed that Turkey had effectively transformed the secret US arms program that was shipping through Turkey, which was supposed to support “moderate rebels” (whatever a “moderate rebel” is), into support for all elements of the Syrian opposition, including al-Nusra and ISIS.
As a result, The United States began direct involvement in the Syrian Civil War in September, 2014, by sending jets and Tomahawk missiles under its own command (as opposed to NATO’s) to destroy ISIS targets. The need to actually take US planes in to fight ISIS in the Syrian Civil War became a great concern as soon as it appeared US support of Assad’s opposition actually empowered ISIS. The Obama administration has claimed that Bush’s War turned Iraq into an incubator for ISIS, so it could hardly let Obama’s covert war in Syria wind up empowering ISIS with US arms via Turkey.
The State Department document recommended an air operation in Syria was to overthrow Assad, but it turned out that the US also needed to terminate what was happening with ISIS. Fighting ISIS without mentioning that we had supplied them with weapons was a much easier sell than laughing air strikes to create regime change.
Have no fear, though, Hillary already has it figured out, as the State Department document assures, that a regime friendly toward the US will fill the vacuum in Syria, not one constructed from ISIS. We can only hope that prediction turns out better than Clinton’s prediction that Russia would never get directly involved in the Syrian conflict just because the US was supplying Assad’s opponents.
Hillary’s War in Syria is a Proxy war with Russia
The proximity of war with Russia in Syria intensified Friday. Russia has placed anti-aircraft artillery in and around areas where Assad’s forces are located with the following warning:
An extraordinary warning tonight from Russia to the US against conducting military strikes in Syria. In a strongly worded statement, a spokesperson for the Russian defense minister said any strikes against President Bashar Assad’s regime … could result in American aircraft being shot down. (ABC)
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter responded Friday that Russia will face the consequences for its growing involvement in Syria. The Pentagon this week has been presenting the Obama administration with options for potential strikes on Assad’s air force bases to punish the regime for its failure to abide by the recent ceasefire agreement. State Department officials, however, have said that Obama is unlikely to approve the strikes, though the Joint Chiefs of Staff are in favor of them.
To this, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defense ministry spokesman, responded,
I would recommend our colleagues in Washington to thoroughly consider the possible consequences of the realization of such plans.
This is about as close as you get to a hot war with Russia without actually being in one. It’s not just saber rattling. Russia is saying those missiles will be in the air, and Russia won’t have time to coordinate missile flight plans with the US. So, if the US happens to be in the air in the same place and same time, its planes could get shot down. There is even more to this warning than being accidentally caught in the fire:
Konashenkov, however, suggested Russia would target any unidentified aircraft attacking Syrian government targets and warned “American strategists” not to assume a covert intervention would go unanswered…. Konashenkov also warned that Russian troops were now widely deployed across Syria, implying any strikes could hit them, pulling the U.S. into conflict with Russia. Konashenkov referred again to a strike on Sept. 17, when U.S. military aircraft killed dozens of Syrian government troops accidentally. The Pentagon has said the strike was a mistake, but Konashenkov said Russia was prepared to prevent “any similar ‘mistakes’” against Russian troops.
In other words, all stealth aircraft (by nature “unidentified”) will be targeted and shot down, even though they most likely belong to the US if they are not planes Russia can identify as its own.
Russian bombardment of the besieged city of Aleppo has been described as the most intense in this war to date. At the same time, the fact that the talk of targeting by the US has been directed at Assad’s air bases says that clearly regime change is the only order of the day for the US. ISIS seems to have become a sideshow compared to US rage against Assad.
The State Department document above reveals, that regime change was always the primary objective anyway, just as it was the stated objective in Iraq. US efforts against ISIS have seemed ineffective because the US has a greater ulterior motive that is at odds with destroying ISIS because ISIS also wants to destroy Bashar Assad. The US appears to be running a strategy that wants to see ISIS successful in deposing Assad but not strengthened to where it become the eventual new regime — a dangerous strategy of letting the enemy of our enemy fight the war, which has often backfired on the US in the past.
We may, in other words, appear somewhat unsuccessful with ISIS because of the greater conflicting interest that says, “Let ISIS go ahead and fire those US missiles at Assad so they can do our dirty work for us, only don’t let them get the upper hand in their battle against the other Assad opponents.”
That conflict of interests explains why Russia has repeatedly stated that the US is unable to separate the “moderate rebels” it seeks to back (in their attack against Assad) from terrorist groups (like ISIS and al Qaeda) that are also attacking Assad. Operating with mixed motives makes Obama appear ineffective compared to Putin, whose two motives of protecting Assad and killing ISIS are not in conflict with each other.
Predictably, the US defends itself from accusations that it is at fault for the breakdown in relationships with Russia by trying to pit the blame on Putin:
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters Monday. The U.S. “seeks a constructive dialogue with Russia on strategic issues, but it is Russia instead who continues to engage in destabilizing activities. (Bloomberg)
But is it really Russia that is initiating destabilizing activities? We now know that the US Department of State saw the Syrian Civil War as an opportunity to work covertly for regime change in order to help Israel and in belief that it will transform the Middle East into a more friendly place for the US. It’s not a war the US needed to be involved in for its own protection. It’s become a hardened training ground for ISIS, just as Iraq became an incubator for ISIS. Putin has maintained for years that the US is moving imperially to reshape the Middle East in a manner best suited to US interests. So, who is the destabilizing force?
Was the US also the destabilizing force in the Ukrainian coup d’etat?
The Obama administration worked through the UN in 2014 to censor Russia with sanctions for involving itself in Ukrain’s civil war by annexing Crimea, even though there is reason to believe the US sponsored the coup d’etat that started the civil war by throwing over Ukraine’s democratically elected government.
Putin’s suspicion of US support for the coup is certainly warranted, given that the Obama administration’s full approval and support of the new government that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected government was almost instantaneous.
So much for supporting democracy … if it winds up electing a government that is much more aligned with Russia than with the US. How could the US assess and support a surprise uprising overnight if the Obama administration didn’t know a lot about the group behind the coup to begin with? In the very least, from Putin’s standpoint, the US is fully supporting a government that took over Ukraine by insurrection, directly in conflict with Russian interests.
During that time, Hillary Clinton (no longer secretary of state) had to defend her reset button against criticisms that Russia’s annexation of Crimea proved the reset had obviously failed. In defending the Clinton reset button, Hillary pointed out how Russia had subsequently agreed to sanctions against Iran and to allowing US planes to fly over Russia in order to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan.
True it had, but the beginning of a serious tear that happened over Ukraine does not have to mean that all attempts by Russia toward good relations were immediately terminated. This past week, however, put the US and Russia much further down that road.
In 2014, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that a “reset of relations” between Russia and the US was impossible due to the United States’ “destructive” and “stupid” sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea. Russia, of course, says that it annexed the predominantly Russian-speaking Crimea to keep it out of the hands of an illegitimate coup government.
That same year, the man who ended the first cold war, Mikhail Gorbachev, warned that the United State’s conflict with Russia over Ukraine was likely to reset relations back to a cold war status. After that, some politicians and pundits argued that calling Russian-American relations a return to cold-war status was unwarranted because things had not deteriorated that far. Gorbachev, however, was not saying relations had returned to a cold war status, but that Hillary Clinton’s reset strategies were marching everyone down that path.
Now that Russia has stepped away from this nuclear disarmament treaty, a lot of weight has been added to the argument that we are moving back into a cold war position.
How much does the following article this week sound like the days of “duck and cover” during the Cold War?
Amid growing international tensions, particulary over Russia’s conduct in Syria, the Defence Ministry-run Zvezda TV network announced last week: “Schizophrenics from America are sharpening nuclear weapons for Moscow.” (The Independent)
That comment was prelude to other announcements that Russia’s Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) will be running a three-day emergency drill with 40 million civilians and 200,000 emergency responders to assure the nation is prepared for nuclear, chemical or biological attacks from the West.
Russia also stated plans this week to build underground nuclear shelters in Moscow sufficient to house the city’s entire population, and it has begun building a new generation of nuclear bombers and ICBM’s, missile launchers and nuclear-armed subs. The Kremlin is reportedly seeking nuclear fire power superior to that of the US. That doesn’t sound like the Cold War?
In Syria, these tensions advanced this week very close to becoming a hot war — about as hot as the Cuban Missile Crisis. As soon as US Secretary of State John Kerry terminated diplomatic relations with Russia in the Syrian war this past week, the Syrian war began to look and sound all the more like the “very, very familiar proxy war cycle from the bad old days of the Cold War” (Vox) that some said it was.
The Clinton reset button looks more and more like the proverbial nuclear button that launched a purposeful chain of regime-change wars.
October 8, 2016 @ 5:15 pm
HILLARY’S WARS: Clinton Reset Button with Russia Goes Nuclear, Syria about Iran & Israel was originally published on Washington's Blog