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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/8/19

Challenging Times for Citizen to Citizen Diplomacy in Russia

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Missing sanctions on Venezuela
Missing sanctions on Venezuela
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Whenever you go to one of the countries the U.S. considers its "enemy," you can be sure to get a lot of flak. This year I have been to Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia, four of the many countries upon which the U.S. has put strong sanctions for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with the countries refusing to allow the U.S. to dictate political, economic and security issues. (For the record, I was in North Korea in 2015; I haven't been to Venezuela yet, but intend to go soon.)

Many, especially family, have asked, "why do you go to these countries?" including the FBI officials who met me and CODEPINK: Women for Peace co-founder Medea Benjamin at Dulles Airport upon our return from Iran in February 2019.

The two young FBI officers asked if I knew there were U.S. sanctions on Iran for support for terrorist groups. I responded "Yes, I know there are sanctions, but do you think other countries should put sanctions on a country for the invasion and occupation of other countries, the deaths of hundreds of thousands (including Americans), for the destruction of irreplaceable cultural heritage and billions in dollars of homes, schools, hospitals, roads, etc., and for withdrawing from nuclear agreements? The FBI agents frowned and answered, "That's not our concern."

Currently I'm in Russia, another one of America's "enemies" for this decade which is under U.S. sanctions from the Obama administration and more from the Trump administration. After 20 years of friendly relations after the cold war ended with the break-up of the Soviet Union and with the U.S. attempting to remake Russia into a U.S. model with privatization of the massive Soviet industrial base which created the rich and powerful oligarch class in Russia (same as in the U.S.) and flooding Russia with western businesses, Russia has become an enemy once more by its annexation of Crimea, its military cooperation with the Assad government in the brutal war against terrorist groups in Syria and for massive civilian casualties (for which there is no excuse whether it be Russian, Syrian or U.S. actions) and its interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, of which I have doubt about one part of the allegations -- the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails -- but have no reason to doubt that social media influence took place.

Of course, in the U.S. we are seldom reminded that the annexation of Crimea occurred due to the fear of ethnic Russians in Crimea of the Ukrainian nationalists who were given a green light for violence in U.S. orchestrated neo-Nazi overthrow of the elected President of Ukraine and the Russian government's need to protect its Black Sea access military facilities that have been located in Crimea for over 100 years.

We are not reminded that Russia has had a long-standing military agreement with the government of Syria for the protection of its two military bases in Syria, the only Russian military bases outside of Russia that provide naval access to the Mediterranean. We are seldom reminded of the over 800 military bases the U.S. has outside our country, many of which encircle Russia.

We are also seldom reminded the stated goal of the U.S. government in Syria is "regime change" and that the conditions in Syria that caused the Russian military to assist the Assad government came from the U.S. war on Iraq that created the conditions for ISIS to violently erupt in both Iraq and Syria.

I do not condone interference in U.S. elections, but it is not surprising that other countries may attempt to influence U.S. elections to reciprocate what the U.S. has done to many countries including in Russia in 1991 with the very public U.S. support of Yeltsin. Russia certainly is not the only country that may have attempted to influence U.S. elections. Israel is the country that has the most public influence on U.S. Presidential and Congressional elections through lobbying efforts of its main organization in the U.S., the American Israeli Public Affairs Council (AIPAC).

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