CAVAN HOGUE. Putin, Trump. Morals and Australia

Trump has shown little political savvy and even less powers of analysis. However, it is hard to see the USA as having the moral high ground to justify the hysterical moral outrage generated by Trump’s incompetence when it has done exactly the same thing many times in many places. Syria is a case of double standards. Great powers always promote their own interests irrespective of their domestic arrangements. Americans don’t care about MH17 because lots of Americans were not involved so Trump was not going to raise that with Putin – if he was even aware of it. Australia would be well advised to keep out of this but we won’t because MH17 is important to us.  

The Trump/Putin meeting sheds some light on a number of things that have not received much attention in our media. There has been no shortage of analysis by others. So I will only focus on a few points.

Trump began with some sensible remarks about getting along with a powerful country that has nukes but then drifted into another dimension. In a nutshell, he screwed up on a grand scale.

  1. Putin is just as consummate a liar as Trump and has a very Russian ability to deny things that everyone knows to be the case. There can be little doubt that Russia tried to influence the American elections to get a candidate more sympathetic to Russian interests. It is however a bit hard to stomach the hysterical outpourings of moral outrage from the United States which has a long history of doing exactly the same thing to other countries which threatened US interests. Similarly, while the Russian annexation of Crimea was illegal and its support of one side in the Ukrainian civil war can be criticised the USA is hardly in a position to cast the first stone when it comes to overthrowing democracies that did not suit its commercial or strategic interests. The invasion of Iraq for example was equally illegal and has had far more disastrous consequences for the world. Also, while the US intelligence agencies did not cover themselves in glory over Iraq, Trump’s public attack over Russian hacking on the basis that his friend told him they didn’t do it hardly shows profound powers of analysis.
  2. Australians have criticised Trump for not raising MH17 which could be seen as rather naive of us except that our political and media comments are deigned for domestic consumption. Australians, Dutch and Malaysians care about MH17 because our people were killed but Americans are not interested because few Americans were involved. This is perhaps another lesson for us that the US will not become involved in things we may want but which don’t matter to them. It is not just Trump but long standing policy, e.g. Kennedy refusing to support us over Dutch new Guinea.
  3. Syria is another case of double standards. Russia is supporting Assad in a civil war because it is in its strategic and to a lesser extent economic interests to do so. The claim that the Assad government is the legitimate one because it is recognised as such by the United Nations is probably legally correct but is a debating point only for Russia. The Americans are supporting the rebels (who look like being the losers) because they say Assad is a brutal dictator – which he is. When asked why the US supported the equally brutal Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, President Franklin D Roosevelt said that “I know he’s a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch”. The real reason the US opposes Assad is because he is Russia’s son of a bitch and not theirs. Australia follows the US line because of the Alliance.
  4. Trump has lost a lot of credibility – if he ever had any – by backtracking yet again and trying to wriggle out of what he said. He might have got something useful if he had kept his big mouth shut and looked for a few real achievements. Even Australia was mildly critical! Turnbull had two bob each way by saying Trump was a patriot but genuflecting in the direction of the American cold war warriors. He needs to keep Trump on side without getting others in the USA offside – not an easy task when you are dealing with people who see things in terms of good and evil so long as they are accepted as the good guys.

So Trump’s attempt to improve relations with Russia has probably had the opposite effect. There are perceptive and honest Americans who have no illusions abut their country’s history but most don’t wish to know about that when focussing on the sins of others. Australia would be well advised to keep out of what is none of our business but we won’t probably because of the domestic aspects of MH17.

Cavan Hogue is a former Australian Ambassador in Moscow and other places.


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3 Responses to CAVAN HOGUE. Putin, Trump. Morals and Australia

  1. michael lacey says:

    All depends on what you read! Crimea had a referendum and 90% of the population wanted to go back to Russia not remain with a fascist installed government coup instigated by the west to geopolitical destabilize the region on the Russian border.
    The hacking was a leak as stated by William Binny Ray McGovern and Wikileaks and the DNC server was not investigated directly by the FBI but rather through a private agency who filtered evidence. Why did the FBI take the server in hand themselves.

    There are still many questions to be answered on MH17 May 27 release of an investigative report in Holland alleging to have “definite” proof that the MH-17 airliner was shot down by a Russian BUK missile. That May, 2018 report presents no definitive new forensic evidence. Rather it relies on assertions and speculations by sources, including the UK-based Bellingcat, an intelligence operation receiving funds from among others, the NATO-linked Atlantic Council, where he is listed as “Nonresident Senior Fellow.”

    In 2014 Bellingcat first engaged in assertions of Russian shooting of the MH-17 that were fraudulent and today would accurately be called fake news. Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins posted a photo on July 14, 2014 under the headline, “Found: The Buk Missile Launcher That Downed Flight MH17.” Higgins wrote that the photo had been taken in the town of Snizhne. It was actually proven to have been taken in the town of Torez and under weather conditions
    significantly different to those on the day of the MH-17 crash. Higgins claimed it was unimportant when the
    photograph was taken.

    Further, in the initial attempt to blame Moscow, on July 19 2014, Kiev’s Security Service (SBU) published photos online that it claimed showed ‘Russia’ secretly withdrawing a BUK-M surface-to-air missile system from the Ukraine civil war zone. At the time SBU Chief Vitaly Naida declared to press “The SBU … is getting clear evidence of Russian citizens’ involvement in the terrorist attack (on the Malaysian Airlines Boeing)”. However, bloggers immediately spotted the photos were of a Kiev air-defense system no. 312, previously pictured in March that year. With this background in mind, the latest attempt to reuse the badly discredited Bellingcat blog as investigative source for the latest attempt to again cast blame on Moscow, is highly revealing. With this in mind, I thought it worthwhile to reprint for you my initial investigation of the MH-17 affair written in July, 2014.

    Syria There are three groups there legally Russia is one invited by a sovereign government with a seat at the UN. Pity the western press have deliberately stopped investigating journalist like Seymour Hersch, Eva Bartlett and others from giving a clearer picture than the distorted one given by arm chair journalists pushing the neoconservative mantra.

  2. R. N. England says:

    Mr. Hogue, please don’t mix up the greatest of them all, FDR, with Nixon, once the worst but now about 4th worst.

    Assad is probably the most humane person who has ever run Syria, which has always been a place that is tough, bigoted, and violent beyond our imagination. Assad had to toughen up after starting out in ophthalmology, a calling which he shared with Fred Hollows. Better one of those than a lawyer any day.

  3. Kim Wingerei says:

    A good analysis, thank you. But isn’t it time that somebody – anybody – stands up to the ‘man’? Let’s not forget what happened in the lead-up to the second world war – it was a a very different time, of course, and Hitler was both intelligent and eloquent and also better organised – Trump is neither eloquent, nor organised – but they share street-smarts. And more weapons than anyone else…

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