There has been a plethora of stories in the New York Times that cast Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin in a very negative light. So it was with great interest that I saw recently a 1998 article that explained how the US-Russia relationship was headed for serious trouble. It even prophesized the dire straits the two countries find themselves in today.
Who was to blame for the problems? Given today's Times' condemnatory coverage of Putin, it was surprising to see that the newspaper fingered then-president Bill Clinton and his team.
In contrast, the Times' coverage today attributes blame for the outcome to Putin. Hillary Clinton is very outspoken about Putin's culpability, ironically, with no hint of her husband's earlier role.
Hillary has compared Putin to Hitler, accused Russia of being militarily aggressive, and lambasted Donald Trump for even thinking of trying to get along with Putin.
According to the Times, "Hillary Clinton excoriated Mr. Trump for asserting that Mr. Putin is a better leader than President Obama, saying it was 'not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief -- it is scary.'"
The 1998 article focused on an interview with George Kennan. It credited the nonagenarian as having "defined America's cold-war containment policy for 40 years" during his public-service career.
Kennan, a person "who was present at the creation of NATO," was troubled by the US Senate's ratification of NATO expansion.
Kennan told the Times:
"I think it is the beginning of a new cold war ... I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies
"There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way."
Kennan added, "And Russia's democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we've just signed up to defend from Russia."
Continuing, Kennan said, "I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove the Soviet regime."
The Times commented, "One only wonders what future historians will say. If we are lucky they will say that NATO expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic simply didn't matter, because the vacuum it was supposed to fill had already been filled, only the Clinton team couldn't see it."
So it appears that Kennan's prophesy for a new cold war has indeed materialized. The Times' hope that the unjustified NATO expansion simply wouldn't matter lamentably didn't pan out. Instead, a disaster emerged.
Careful study of the circumstances shows that Russia's alleged "aggressions" -- such as in Georgia and Ukraine -- were indeed reactions to the threat of NATO advancement toward Russia's borders.
What neither Kennan nor the Times foresaw, however, is the hyperactive counterfactual campaign to demonize Russia that has unfolded.It's presented endless factless allegations that have shaped American perceptions of Putin and Russia in the minds of many.