IT is a strange anomaly. Whenever India or Pakistan, or both, go into the cobra pose, hissing invectives and threatening to decimate each other, including with nuclear weapons, the world cries foul.
When Nawaz Sharif visits Delhi or when Narendra Modi drops in uninvited at a Lahore wedding, Indian and Pakistani peaceniks applaud together with the worried world. Yet, when Donald Trump wants to improve his country’s troubled relations with Vladimir Putin he is pilloried for even making the suggestion.
Granted he is not gender sensitive, that he has wronged and abused women and his mindset is possibly racist, driven by acute Islamophobia. I would liken Russia in this equation to the baby in Trump’s dirty bathtub. The deep state that contrived lies to invade Iraq or exulted in the wrecking of Libya, in cahoots with the media, seems to be facing an existential crisis with Trump’s presidency over his plans to touch base with Putin.
One day Trump excelled himself in his collaring of the deep state, which includes all major parties and the media. He said something to the effect that his country’s image was not exactly squeaky clean when it came to shedding blood around the world. That was his response to a Fox TV question about Putin’s alleged bloodlust as seen in the military operations in Aleppo.
Is the current American president really worse than the marauders of Iraq and Libya?
Trump’s blunt criticism of his country’s savage moments has been at par with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the priest who baptised Barack Obama’s children. When in a fit of rage over an Israeli assault on Palestinian camps he yelled ‘goddamn America’ Obama cut off ties with the African American priest.
Then suddenly it began to rain scams on Trump. So and so met the Russian ambassador. So and so made eye contact with him. Trump’s attorney general is said to have a racist background. That was forgiven or grudgingly gulped down. Instead his alleged dalliances with Russian diplomats and/or businessmen were picked up for censure.
A wider conspiracy was unleashed to torpedo the new president’s still unwavering plans to improve relations with Putin. BBC dug out dirt on the Russians, which they are good at. Russia was a British quarry, which became America’s bête noire.
Cut to the day when Prime Minister Theresa May sauntered into Washington and Ankara recently and the media said she was fixing business deals. They omitted the fact that both her destinations involved allies who seemed to have lost interest in the old British fear-mongering called Russophobia. Trump’s fascination with Putin was by now legendary and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan too had shown signs of becoming disenchanted with the British-assigned role of playing an anti-Moscow Sancho Panza.
If we think freely and without the Cold War blinkers, May couldn’t have signed a groundbreaking with anybody bilaterally until the fate of Brexit was decided, which could be some years away. Trump looks destined not to last that long.
For Erdogan to become a member of the Russian-Iranian backed peace talks on Syria was a huge somersault by a country that was regarded as a lynchpin to Nato’s Middle East policy. Turkey is no longer insisting on the Syrian president’s head as condition to discuss a future setup in Damascus. Erdogan’s unease with the Americans became more pronounced with the botched coup attempt, which he blamed on Turkish dissidents seated in the US.
It is nearly impossible to believe that May did not discuss her worry about Russia and Putin with Trump and Erdogan. Russia has been a British bugbear for centuries even if Napoleon preceded it and other Europeans in turning an obsession with Russia into an exhausting and costly military expedition.
Russophobia as we know it is a British innovation. It was left to Winston Churchill to give the Cold War a newer variant of an old pursuit. The new seeds were planted in Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. Then James Bond took over while Alfred Hitchcock also embraced the diabolical imagery of the Russians. Until then, Hollywood had been in hot pursuit of Germans as America’s horns and canines ogres.
Much earlier, before Western democracies were swamped with the Churchillian exhortations against Russia, British governors general and viceroys in India took it upon themselves to deepen and sustain the fear mongering. Delhi’s imposing colonial monument — India Gate — is a testimony to this perpetually induced fear with the rulers of Moscow. All sides of the landmark sandstone monument are lined with thousands of names of Sikh and Muslim soldiers who were sacrificed in the suicidal Afghan wars. May must have seen how Britain’s self-defeating obsession with Russia had dissipated into the brick-batting in Washington D.C. between the Democrats and the Republicans.
Going by usually trustworthy accounts Donald Trump is an unpredictable person, which makes him a dangerous leader of an already error-prone military power. Nevertheless, Noam Chomsky must have shocked the Democrats by suggesting that in his view John Kennedy was the most dangerous of presidents. Trump is lampooned daily, which is as it should be, as an unqualified gatecrasher in the White House. The suggestion, however, implies that the world was somehow better off under George W. Bush and, more worryingly, under his Dr Strangelove-like colleagues — Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Is Trump really worse than the marauders of Iraq and Libya?
Shorn of any media support in the heart of the land of free speech, Vladimir Putin wrote a piece for the American audiences in The New York Times of Sept 11 2013.
“Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the Cold War. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together.” Trump believes the two countries should jointly fight a new menace, the militant Islamic State group. His detractors within the deep state somehow seem not to like the idea.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.