An article written by the former US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland under the vociferous name “Pinning Down Putin“ appeared in the authoritative American magazine Foreign Affairs, which is published by the Council on Foreign Relations.
The author is that American diplomat who in 2014 met the participants of Euromaidan on the main square of Kiev and treated them with cookies, buns, and bread. This event subsequently turned into the meme “State Department cookies”, having become clear proof of the direct interference of the US in the Ukrainian crisis and at the same time — a modern analog of “thirty pieces of silver”.
What is offered today by Victoria Nuland, but this time to Russian citizens? The observer of the Federal News Agency explains.
The downed pilot is still flying
Nuland’s position, as outlined in her article, is formally only the private opinion of a retired diplomat. In 2017 Victoria left the post of the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and now serves as a senior adviser to the private consulting firm Albright Stonebridge Group.
However, you should not relax about this: the head of the firm is Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State under president Bill Clinton. Albright Stonebridge Group is one of the leading American think tanks using retired diplomats for the preparation of analytical materials for the acting officials of the State Department.
It is in this same way that Nuland’s article was written. It gives a detailed assessment of the US’ actions against Russia over the past 20 years, after which it then offers a scenario/recipe for the future. Of course, many of the events of the past are presented by Nuland as biasedly as possible, but it is all the more interesting to look at the logic of Washington’s foreign policy actions outlined by a person who herself had a hand in important events in the post-Soviet space.
In her article, Nuland goes on to say that Russia – not only the state, but also President Vladimir Putin personally – has made a lot of efforts to limit the influence of the United States in Eastern Europe and among the former Soviet republics, believing that the presence of America in this region will threaten the security of the Russian Federation. It is very characteristic that Nuland calls such fears of Moscow “baseless”, but further in the text she herself suggests that Russia should be surrounded by military bases around the perimeter, and first of all — in the belt of Eastern European countries.
Nuland’s double standards are clearly visible in the example of Ukraine, which she set on fire with her “cookies” six years ago. Today, the retired diplomat with innocent eyes claims that Washington is not involved in the Ukrainian conflict at all. And more than that: “…key European leaders have blocked the United States from participating directly in the talks, against Ukraine’s wishes.” This is an alternative reality…
Nuland uses a similar approach when evaluating global deterrence treaties, a system that the United States has methodically torpedoed over the past two decades. At first, she claims that Russia was the initiator of the violation of the treaties, but then she is forced to admit that it was the George W. Bush administration that initiated the rupture of the ABM Treaty, which started the destruction of the security system.
A telling touch: on the issue of missile defence, Nuland tries to whitewash the US, saying that “Russia was simply not consulted” — and hypocritically wonders why Moscow has become “unreasonably suspicious” of Washington’s desire to abandon the built-up system of global restraint…
Moving to the analysis of very probable withdrawal of the US from START-3, Nuland does another “steep dive”, arguing that Russia should be given a meaningless promise to extend the treaty for a year or two. Washington itself, according to the former diplomat, should eliminate the US’ backlog in a number of promising weapons systems during this time. Only then should it return to discussing a new treaty with Moscow to replace START-3, but from a position of strength — and get significant concessions from the Russians.
By the way, Nuland calls for Russia to return to the G7, again expanding this international club to the “8”. However, here she is true to herself: this return is referred to directly in the text of the article as a “carrot”. And extremely ambiguous steps are proposed as a “vegetable for Moscow”: partnership in Russia’s low-profit “clean” energy, business round tables, which will turn into a tool for influencing the Russian elite, as well as internships for young Russians, which clearly means recruiting “leaders” for a Maidan in Russia.
Promising a lot, giving nothing
The rest of Nuland’s article is constructed in the same style of “formally promising a lot, while giving nothing in practice“. The most interesting passages in it are devoted to interference in the internal affairs of Russia, which, although presented in the form of a draft scenario, is clearly being worked out in many significant details.
For example, Nuland suggests to make more efforts “to reach out directly to the Russian people”, and unexpectedly names “younger citizens and those outside the major cities” as the main category of support. She proves the choice by referring to opinion polls: allegedly 53% of Russians aged from 18 to 24 said that they want to emigrate from the country.
Certainly, Nuland indulges in wishful thinking. The fact is that such figures were shown by the compromised “research” of the Levada Center, which asked an extremely indistinct question: “Do you want to leave Russia?”. When a clarifying survey with clear reasoning was conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, the result was very different: less than 5% of youth would like to leave the country forever, and 41% of young people only want to see the world, to go abroad for education, to work — and then to return to Russia.
Anyway, Nuland offers to “crush” this youth’s natural desire. As a “blow to Putin”, she advises the US and other western countries to start a visa-free regime for Russians aged 16 to 22, so they can “form their own opinions before their life paths are set”. Note that the irony of “form their own opinions” does not bother Nuland.
What is specifically proposal? The former diplomat speaks about “doubling the number of government-supported educational programs at the college and graduate levels for Russians to study abroad” and about “granting more flexible work visas to those who graduate”. It is obvious that behind these beautiful words, at best, there is a program to support the “brain drain” from Russia. At the same time Nuland, it seems, consciously ignores the meaning of the proposals, preferring to speak about the “understanding of democratic policies and values” among young Russians.
She allows herself the same negligence in her assessment of the Russian health care system. “It remains to be seen how much of this money Putin is willing to spend to support Russia’s health system and the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus,” admits Nuland. And immediately claims: all state help will be received by oligarchs. Then she finishes the paragraph by saying that “average Ivans” will only receive empty promises and, attention, “crowded hospitals”.
Note that the entire world sees overcrowded hospitals in New York and Chicago, but not in Moscow or Voronezh. Well, for Nuland, this semantic error is excusable: last year, she was denied an entry visa to Russia, after which the retired woman’s idea of our country, apparently, is formed exclusively by the yellow American press.
War on the Internet front
Let’s look now at Nuland’s recipes for cyberwarfare against Russia and the “fight for minds”. She almost openly regretted that “Voice of America” and “Radio Liberty” today are only weak shadows of their predecessors during the Cold war. She sheds crocodile tears about the law on “foreign agents”, which greatly hindered the activities of many subversive “non-profit organisations” funded by the United States in Russia.
Once again, Nuland’s main target for a future strike against Russia is “young Russians”. It is proposed to recruit and process them on social networks: Odnoklassniki, VKontakte, Facebook, Telegram, and YouTube, as well as on “many new Russian-language digital platforms”.
Interestingly, the first two places on the list are taken by purely Russian products. So if Nuland’s proposals are accepted, we may well see an invasion of legions of “American bots” (from Kiev and Tbilisi) on social networks. It is possible that they will even keep the rhetoric of Nuland – with “average Ivans” and “carrots for the Russian donkey”.
As a “response”, Nuland suggests dealing with “Putin trolls” who feel comfortable on Facebook, YouTube, and other US-controlled digital platforms. In fact, the former representative of the State Department confirmed that the information war waged by the United States against Russia is completely lost, at least on the Internet front, and only the total blocking of “Ivans” is able to somehow mask this defeat.
Of course, Victoria Nuland’s article in Foreign Affairs can be perceived solely as her “application” for the position of “full-time cookie-giver” on a hypothetical “Russian Maidan”. It’s like saying, “nothing serious, let’s forget about it”. However, it is worth understanding that her opinion, especially after the successful special operation in Ukraine in the winter of 2014, is being listened to. And the plans that the former diplomat outlined in her text, if implemented, may well negatively affect civil peace in Russia and lead to attempts to destabilise the country.
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