Russia, Realism, and the WikiLeaks Factor

The WikiLeaks cables continue to bear fruit, and what a golden harvest it is: the US spying on the world’s diplomats (and even collecting their bank card numbers!); the US hiding behind the rather thin skirts of the Yemeni "air force" as we bomb and strafe their citizens; the US letting the Israeli Mafia into the country without so much as a by-your-leave; the US standing passively by as their Iraqi sock puppets torture and murder detainees. And now this

"An observer for the International Bar Association stated his belief that the trial is being conducted fairly…. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us December 23 that he believes the trial is being conducted fairly and that Judge Danilkin has been doing everything in his power to make sure that the defense gets a fair opportunity to present arguments and challenge the prosecution’s evidence." 

Written a year ago today by Deputy Chief of Mission Eric Rubin, the cable doesn’t exactly comport with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s outburst of moral indignation at the news of Khodorkovsky’s conviction.According to her, the verdict raises "serious questions about selective prosecution – and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations."  

Unfortunately, Google Translate has yet to develop a Bizarro World option, and so in translating Hillary-speak into plain English, just remember the Bizarro principle of inversion: whatever comes out of her mouth is the exact opposite of the truth. Keeping this in mind, Clinton’s pronouncement should be read as follows: the United States government is allowing political considerations to overshadow the facts (as reported in the Rubin cable).  

The White House, not about to be outdone in the Russia-bashing department, mounted an even higher horse: 

"We are troubled by the allegations of serious due process violations, and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends. The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia’s reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law." 

Selective perception of the facts is a cognitive disability seemingly rife within the ranks of this administration. Their people on the ground feed them the facts, but they just fart out the same old flatulent cold war rhetoric, just as if it were 1962 all over again. 

Not that this administration is any different from its immediate predecessors. When the facts on the ground meet a self-serving ideological narrative it’s the former that  invariably gives way. The Bush crowd was open about it, but it takes WikiLeaks to really get a fully rounded picture of the same principle operating in Obama-land.  

Which raises a more general point: If you’re an empire, with its vaunted self-assurance and air of invulnerability, any sort of sustained "realist" foreign policy is fundamentally impossible because appearances must be kept up, no matter what the facts might be. Retreat is not an option: the frontiers of empire must be pushed ever-forward, never back.  

The idea that the Russians are falling back into a form of neo-communism, or neo-Stalinism, with Putin in the role of Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, is utter nonsense, and yet it serves the purposes of the War Party, which can never run out of enemies. Ever since the rise of Vladimir Putin, the US government and its ideological enablers the world over have been spinning this storyline of a "resurgent Russia" out to take back its empire and reestablish the Warsaw Pact. Yet the reality is quite different: Russia is a ramshackle nation with a rapidly diminishing population and a faltering economy. It is, in short, neither a military nor an ideological threat to the West. The Ossetians and Abkhazians voted in a referendum to secede from the central Georgian government and are now allied with Russia: who is the US to intervene? What standing do we have in the region, aside from lavishing millions of our tax dollars on a tinpot dictator like Saakashvili?  

The myth of Russia’s re-Stalinization is equally tenuous. If we look back at the dark abyss the Russians have climbed out of — the Soviet Mordor, with its gulags and orc-like nomenklatura – the Russia of today seems a positive paradise. The Western media’s attempt to create some pseudo-historical costume drama, based on cold war stereotypes, has so far proved to be a box office flop. Russian has free and relatively fair elections: Putin’s party keeps getting reelected because Putin is very popular, not because Russian voters are presented with no alternatives. And surely the quality of Russian "dissidents" has gone waaaay down: in the old days, we had Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Cardinal Mindszenty, today we have embezzler-billionaire oligarchs and National Bolsheviks.  

The Russian system is no more undemocratic than, say, that of Georgia, our "democratic" ally, whose provocations aimed at Moscow nearly dragged us into a military conflict-by-proxy with Moscow. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that, prior to the outbreak of hostilities, our embassy in Tbilisi stupidly accepted Saakashvili’s version of events at face value – that the Russians had attacked first, and Putin’s army was about to march on Tbilisi. When the Russians stopped fifty miles away, and it turned out that it was the Georgians who initially launched an all-out assault on Tskinvali, the Ossetian capital, the US was left holding the bag — while our Georgian "allies" blamed the Americans for their defeat.  

Here, also, the two-facedness of American foreign policy is underscored with a vengeance: US rhetoric, aimed at the Kremlin, was belligerent, and support for Saakashvili – in words – seemingly unconditional. No wonder the Georgians assumed we’d back them if they carried out a revanchist military campaign against their breakaway provinces. Saakashvili made the mistake of conflating the official reality with the real reality, an error thousands of Georgian soldiers paid for with their lives.  

This, it seems to me, is the chief benefit of the WikiLeaks phenomenon: we get a chance to look at the real reality, or at least catch vivid glimpses of it – and to anyone who wants to understand American foreign policy and where it is going wrong, that is an invaluable tool indeed.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].