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NYT tries to paint Sanders as Russian dupe over 1980s Soviet trip...but makes him look like a committed diplomat instead

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan

is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

NYT tries to paint Sanders as Russian dupe over 1980s Soviet trip...but makes him look like a committed diplomat instead
The word ‘propaganda’ appears 10 times in the New York Times’ red scare story on Bernie Sanders’ 1980s Soviet outreach efforts. Regrettably, the newspaper has turned an interesting story itself into an abysmal piece of propaganda.

The opening lines set the tone for a sinister tale to come: A Vermont mayor who wished for the US to “live together as friends” with the Soviet Union unknowingly used by the demonic Russians in the Kremlin for “propaganda purposes.”

The Times readily admits in the third paragraph that the details of Sanders 1980s trip to the Russian city of Yaroslavl have all been “told before” — but with mainstream journalists trying to spin a new yarn that Moscow is interfering in the 2020 presidential election on the socialist senator’s behalf, why not tell it again?

Also on rt.com It’s older than you think: ‘Russian collusion’ has been a political weapon since the Cold War

This time, with some extra juicy detail.

The paper of record examined 89 pages of “letters, telegrams and internal Soviet government documents” revealing the extent of Sanders “personal efforts to establish ties” with a country “many Americans then still considered an enemy.”

Sanders sought to improve relations on a personal level by making Burlington and Yaroslavl sister cities. The sister-city program was already up and running between other paired US and Russian cities, and was even praised by President Ronald Reagan himself as an important effort to broaden communications between Americans and Soviets.

Not quite the treacherous behavior the Times would no doubt have us believe, then. 

Make no mistake: The clear implication in the NYT story — as in some recent evidence-free media reporting — is that Bernie is Moscow’s guy. It’s the same, boring record that’s been on repeat since Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign brought McCarthyism back with a bang. 

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The allegations of pro-Sanders Russian “interference” (found on the pages of the Times, the Washington Post and others) are based on nothing more than the say-so of anonymous intelligence officials — and as we all know, US intelligence agencies would never lead us astray.

But back to 1980s Yaroslavl.

The Soviets, we’re told, wanted to “exploit” Sanders’ “anti-war agenda” — and trust the Times to make “anti-war agenda” sound like something mischievous and perverse. Worse still, the Russians audaciously dared to use the sister-city program to improve “American public opinion” about the Soviet Union. Surely, if this is such a sin, we can assume the American government had no interest whatsoever in portraying itself in a certain light to visiting Soviets?

Sanders’ visit itself happened to serve a dual purpose as a honeymoon for the newlywed senator and his wife (along with a 12-person US delegation) and was planned “minute-by-minute, with tours of schools and theaters” as well “visits to Yaroslavl churches and a boat trip on the Volga” river.

Also on rt.com MSM’s insatiable anti-Sanders venom forces them to dig through archives & smear veteran American reporter (because Russia!)

What came next was truly beyond the pale. Upon his return to the United States, Sanders dared to praise his Soviet hosts instead of publicly trashing them. The Times disapprovingly notes that he offered “glowing reviews” of the city (that is, the city he sought to establish friendly ties with) and said the people he encountered seemed “reasonably happy.” Shocking stuff, indeed.

In a letter to the Soviet Embassy two days after his return, Sanders wrote that there was “going to have to be a significant increase in citizen-to-citizen contact” if Washington and Moscow were going to be able to prioritize human development over spending billions on weapons of mass destruction. 

Readers, if you’re struggling to find something nefarious in all of this, you could hardly be blamed. The story emblazoned across the Times’ front-page on Friday is merely a rehash of events which were public knowledge when they happened over 30 years ago — and have been written about in detail on many occasions since. One is left to assume the sole purpose of this report, then, is to push the narrative that Russia is “looking favorably” on Sanders 2020 candidacy.

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The trope of Americans either knowingly or unknowingly allowing themselves to be used as ‘assets’ or ‘useful idiots’ for the Kremlin is very much alive and well today. Tulsi Gabbard has faced the same smears of being ‘backed by the Russians’ at the hands of NBC ‘journalists’ and others for her anti-war stances.

Many on the left who rightly called the 2016 iteration of Russiagate out for the politically-motivated conspiracy that it turned out to be, warned that this exact same tactic would be used against Bernie Sanders when the time came — and here we are.

Yet, rather than some kind of terrible indictment of Sanders, as the Times seems to have been aiming for, the story of his trip to Yaroslavl should serve to illustrate an authentic commitment to the kind of diplomacy still desperately needed today — but which has apparently become an unforgivable sin in establishment circles.

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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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