Why the United States and Russia Can Never Be Friends

Friendship-with-Russia is a popular policy which candidates state boldly. It helps them get elected.

The yearning for a friend in Moscow stretches back decades, whether it be Bernie Sanders taking his honeymoon in the Soviet Union, Nixon bragging about his friendship with Brezhnev, or Franklin D. Roosevelt defending Stalin every chance he got.

Allegedly, the benefits of increased overtures to Moscow are significant, and varied enough to attract a wide spectrum of supporters. It’s not terribly hard to understand the instinct. Russia is one of the few powers on earth that could end civilization. Who in their right mind would want to fight with them? They have a history of brilliant culture, look like Americans, and share a religion with America’s Founders.

The problem, unfortunately, is that America can never be friends with Russia. America is a country based on freedom of speech and a government representing the people. Russia is the opposite. Russians don’t have anything like it. Not now. Not ever. This is a fundamental, irreconcilable difference.

Russian serfs were dominated by Tsars for centuries. Their revolution was owned by the Bolsheviks who killed people with machine guns for thought crimes. Russia was just getting started though, since Lenin was followed by Stalin. Almost a century after the Red Revolution, Russians still only had the choice of voting for a Communist or a former Communist who had been a career KGB man.

In modern Russia, if you say something that the leadership does not like, you may be shot in your house, shot in the back, or if you are lucky, maybe you will just have sh*t thrown on you and flee the country to protect your family.

By way of contrast, in American politics, Donald Trump was widely despised by the established powers, and won the Presidency. No matter what one thinks of Trump, whether he is a great man or a clown, there can be no doubt that he illustrated the power American citizens have to choose their own destiny. Indeed, the worse one thinks Trump is, the more it shows the power of the people to elect whom they please.

Trump could not have run his campaign in Moscow against Putin. Candidates from Vladimir Bukovsky to Boris Nemtsov to Garry Kasparov, have made milder statements against the establishment than Trump has, only to be exiled or killed.

Trump is a minor revolution against the government, something the world will see and learn from. In fact, there is a long history of America inspiring action around the world. Dramatically, it happened when the French decapitated their king. A more recent example would be how the United States stood with the oppressed people of the world throughout the Cold War, eventually enabling the Romanian people to execute their Communist overlords.

There is a lesson here for Putin. America’s very existence undermines him: his power, wealth, family, and life.

Closed societies engage in censorship of free speech to protect the ruling class. A prosperous and free America is “speaking” to ordinary Russians, whispering, hinting, showing a different type of life, one with freedom, one where Russians could freely say No to Putin.

The Ukrainians were also talking to Russians when almost a million patriots took to the streets, risking their lives, to oust the corrupt Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine only makes sense in this context. It was to silence freedom loving Ukranians lest the Russian people get any dangerous ideas.

Of course, Putin won’t stage a ground invasion of America. But in other ways, his tactics to weaken America -- promotion of the secession of Texas, and funding BLM to incite ethnic rivalries -- are remarkably similar to Russian actions in Ukraine

Russia, the country who has never held their Communists accountable for mass death, is planning on opening up a memorial to American Indians who died in America hundreds of years ago. The Kremlin wants to show that America is founded on genocide and thus morally bankrupt. If Putin cannot literally silence America, then undermining America’s credibility is necessary. These are not the actions of a friend.

America, for its part, has a choice. The President can call out Russian actions for what they are, this does not mean taking aggressive military action, but merely speaking the truth. A President tried this a few decades ago when he had the clarity to call the most dangerous power humanity has ever seen the “evil empire.” His foreign policy met with good results.

The other choice is to say what adversarial powers want America to say and hope this level of appeasement will decrease conflict without compromising America too badly.

Actually, this policy has already been tried. Bill Clinton tried to work out a relationship with the Kim regime, George Bush remarkably looked the other way while Iran aided Al-Qaeda, and of course Obama’s conciliatory attitude to any foreign power with a grievance was one of his trademark policies. The result is that today the world hangs on a knife’s edge.

Unfortunately, for all the nice gestures America has made to Russia -- from the $20,000,000 given to feed Russians after the Bolshevik Revolution, to helping the Russian people rid themselves of the Communist regime, or the billions America gave Russia after the collapse of Communism -- the Kremlin’s preferred policy is to demonize America.

Pleasant fantasies and smart policy are not the same thing. Unless anyone expects Putin to voluntarily put himself in danger, there is every reason to think Russia’s leaders will continue with the same necessarily antagonistic policy. Pleading with Russia to improve relations is unproductive and unbecoming to America. 

Friendship-with-Russia is a popular policy which candidates state boldly. It helps them get elected.

The yearning for a friend in Moscow stretches back decades, whether it be Bernie Sanders taking his honeymoon in the Soviet Union, Nixon bragging about his friendship with Brezhnev, or Franklin D. Roosevelt defending Stalin every chance he got.

Allegedly, the benefits of increased overtures to Moscow are significant, and varied enough to attract a wide spectrum of supporters. It’s not terribly hard to understand the instinct. Russia is one of the few powers on earth that could end civilization. Who in their right mind would want to fight with them? They have a history of brilliant culture, look like Americans, and share a religion with America’s Founders.

The problem, unfortunately, is that America can never be friends with Russia. America is a country based on freedom of speech and a government representing the people. Russia is the opposite. Russians don’t have anything like it. Not now. Not ever. This is a fundamental, irreconcilable difference.

Russian serfs were dominated by Tsars for centuries. Their revolution was owned by the Bolsheviks who killed people with machine guns for thought crimes. Russia was just getting started though, since Lenin was followed by Stalin. Almost a century after the Red Revolution, Russians still only had the choice of voting for a Communist or a former Communist who had been a career KGB man.

In modern Russia, if you say something that the leadership does not like, you may be shot in your house, shot in the back, or if you are lucky, maybe you will just have sh*t thrown on you and flee the country to protect your family.

By way of contrast, in American politics, Donald Trump was widely despised by the established powers, and won the Presidency. No matter what one thinks of Trump, whether he is a great man or a clown, there can be no doubt that he illustrated the power American citizens have to choose their own destiny. Indeed, the worse one thinks Trump is, the more it shows the power of the people to elect whom they please.

Trump could not have run his campaign in Moscow against Putin. Candidates from Vladimir Bukovsky to Boris Nemtsov to Garry Kasparov, have made milder statements against the establishment than Trump has, only to be exiled or killed.

Trump is a minor revolution against the government, something the world will see and learn from. In fact, there is a long history of America inspiring action around the world. Dramatically, it happened when the French decapitated their king. A more recent example would be how the United States stood with the oppressed people of the world throughout the Cold War, eventually enabling the Romanian people to execute their Communist overlords.

There is a lesson here for Putin. America’s very existence undermines him: his power, wealth, family, and life.

Closed societies engage in censorship of free speech to protect the ruling class. A prosperous and free America is “speaking” to ordinary Russians, whispering, hinting, showing a different type of life, one with freedom, one where Russians could freely say No to Putin.

The Ukrainians were also talking to Russians when almost a million patriots took to the streets, risking their lives, to oust the corrupt Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine only makes sense in this context. It was to silence freedom loving Ukranians lest the Russian people get any dangerous ideas.

Of course, Putin won’t stage a ground invasion of America. But in other ways, his tactics to weaken America -- promotion of the secession of Texas, and funding BLM to incite ethnic rivalries -- are remarkably similar to Russian actions in Ukraine

Russia, the country who has never held their Communists accountable for mass death, is planning on opening up a memorial to American Indians who died in America hundreds of years ago. The Kremlin wants to show that America is founded on genocide and thus morally bankrupt. If Putin cannot literally silence America, then undermining America’s credibility is necessary. These are not the actions of a friend.

America, for its part, has a choice. The President can call out Russian actions for what they are, this does not mean taking aggressive military action, but merely speaking the truth. A President tried this a few decades ago when he had the clarity to call the most dangerous power humanity has ever seen the “evil empire.” His foreign policy met with good results.

The other choice is to say what adversarial powers want America to say and hope this level of appeasement will decrease conflict without compromising America too badly.

Actually, this policy has already been tried. Bill Clinton tried to work out a relationship with the Kim regime, George Bush remarkably looked the other way while Iran aided Al-Qaeda, and of course Obama’s conciliatory attitude to any foreign power with a grievance was one of his trademark policies. The result is that today the world hangs on a knife’s edge.

Unfortunately, for all the nice gestures America has made to Russia -- from the $20,000,000 given to feed Russians after the Bolshevik Revolution, to helping the Russian people rid themselves of the Communist regime, or the billions America gave Russia after the collapse of Communism -- the Kremlin’s preferred policy is to demonize America.

Pleasant fantasies and smart policy are not the same thing. Unless anyone expects Putin to voluntarily put himself in danger, there is every reason to think Russia’s leaders will continue with the same necessarily antagonistic policy. Pleading with Russia to improve relations is unproductive and unbecoming to America. 

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