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US think tank goes big-game hunting for Russia. Guess who gets shot in the foot?

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge
is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, 'Midnight in the American Empire,' released in 2013.
US think tank goes big-game hunting for Russia. Guess who gets shot in the foot?
In a report that views Russia through the same cracked lens as Washington’s old ideological foe, the Soviet Union, the RAND Corporation reveals that its worst enemy for gaining global dominance is not Russia but the US.

Featured in the 1964 dark comedy ‘Dr. Strangelove’, where it starred as the “BLAND Corporation” – the think tank behind the ‘Doomsday Machine’ that would destroy the planet in the event of a nuclear attack – the notoriety of the RAND Corporation continues today with an ill-founded hit piece against Russia.

If anything positive could be said about the latest RAND briefing, entitled ‘Overextending and Unbalancing Russia’, it would have to be its shameless transparency. There are no fig leaves here. The 12 pages of mischief outline in cold and calculating creepiness how the United States may lay waste to Russia. There’s just one problem with the RAND grand plan. The scheming proposals are offset at every turn by the flat-footedness of US actions on the global stage.

Immediately out of the gates, for example, the report gloats over oil and gas prices “well below peak” while cheering at the same time the imposition of economic sanctions that have further precipitated Russia’s much-hyped “decline.” Yet no sooner had the ink dried on those devious designs they were already obsolete.

Any hopes that RAND had for driving a stake into the heart of Russia through stagnating oil and gas prices – an idea, by the way, that has been long discredited – were deterred by aggressive US behavior against both Venezuela and Iran, two countries that are sitting on a veritable ocean of oil reserves.

Oil prices surged to their highest level in six months in April, leveling off in May, after the US said it would take a harsher stance against countries that breach its oil embargo on Iran. That news was exacerbated by the arrival of US naval ships in the Persian Gulf amid hostile rhetoric from the White House, which Tehran naturally returned in kind.

At the same time, the Trump administration – openly pushing for regime change in Venezuela against the legitimate government of President Nicolas Maduro – has thrown its support behind puppet leader Juan Guaido whose recent plans for a putsch failed to win over the military.

Venezuela’s oil exports have declined by some 40 percent since January. The ultimate irony here is that Washington’s crackdown on Caracas has forced US oil refineries to triple the amount of Russian crude it is importing to make up for the deficit.

Meanwhile, RAND promotes economic sanctions against Moscow in an effort to “degrade the Russian economy,” while failing to measure whether its allies even support such an aggressive approach. Many clearly do not, and that should come as no surprise considering that Russia is the EU’s fourth-largest trading partner.

Just last week, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini  slammed EU sanctions targeting Russia, arguing they don’t work and “all decent people” favor removing them.

Germany is no less perplexed with Washington as it prepares to impose sanctions on companies associated with the construction of Nord Stream 2, a German-Russia venture to carry Russian gas directly to Germany via a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. To better understand the real source of hostility to the project just follow the money: Donald Trump the itinerant businessman has made no secret of the fact that he wants the EU to start purchasing costlier US liquefied natural gas (LNG). And just for the record, it was Ukraine not Russia that was guilty of using Russian gas supplies as a ‘political weapon’ as Kiev turned off the supplies in the winter of 2009.

Another part of the briefing that strikes a jarring chord encourages the emigration from Russia of skilled labor and well-educated youth in order to “hurt Russia.” The reality of such policies is that they have the potential to ‘hurt Russians’ as Maria Butina found out the hard way. Born in Siberia, Butina traveled to the US in 2016 on a student visa. Eventually she became active in pro-gun organizations, like the National Rifle Association. At the height of the Russiagate hysteria, Butina was arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian state “without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Reading of such unfounded attacks against their fellow citizens, how many talented young Russians are going to rethink any plans they may have had for living, working and studying in the United States? That is a question RAND never considers.

Here is where the hypocrisy and cynicism of the report becomes simply unbearable. At the same time the report advocates a brain-drain on Russia, luring the nation's most talented, it calls for Western states to prohibit Russia “from non-UN international forums, and boycotting such events as the World Cup,” steps that RAND believes will “damage Russian prestige.”

Clearly, the authors of this diabolical paper were unsettled by the success of the Russia World Cup 2018, which the head of FIFA called the greatest games ever held. For one month, over 3 million football fans from around the world arrived in Russia to witness dozens of games in 11 different Russian cities. These international guests had the rare opportunity of seeing firsthand what Russia is truly like, instead of being informed by the mainstream media of what to believe.

In terms of public relations it was pure gold as those millions of fans returned home with glowing stories of Russia's beauty, hospitality and friendliness – not adjectives usually associated with America's former Cold War nemesis. It seems that the global community, now better informed about Russia, will be more prepared to scrutinize future attempts by the US to boycott these Russian-hosted events. At the same time, the cynicism and ulterior motives of think-tanks like RAND has been exposed like never before.

Finally, what would a report by the “BLAND Corporation” be without a section devoted heavily to military matters? Here is where the reader really enters the world of Dr. Strangelove. The RAND report assumes a priori that Russia is an enemy, despite the fact that Moscow is not waging wars of aggression and regime change operations like their NATO counterparts. Thus it permits itself to promote utterly disastrous proposals, like deploying additional tactical nuclear weapons to locations in Europe and Asia; repositioning ballistic missile defense systems closer to Russia; and goad Russia into a costly arms race by trashing the nuclear arms control regime.

Such are the ravings of madmen, single-mindedly focused on global domination to the point where they are willing to drag the planet and its inhabitants to the precipice of nuclear annihilation to achieve their demented goals. Much like the film ‘Dr. Strangelove’, it would be best to shelve this misguided report alongside the world’s fiction, like Orwell’s 1984, while reminding ourselves that such literary works were never intended to serve as guides, but rather warnings. The folks at RAND seem to have forgotten that maxim at unspeakable risk to global security.

@Robert_Bridge

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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