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From Consortium News
John Bolton - new role in Trump administration
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John Bolton's appointment as national security adviser to President Donald Trump is the latest blow to hopes for a less confrontational U.S.-Russia relationship that would include new talks on arms control. Mutual trust is now hanging by a very thin thread.
One wag suggested to me that the Bolton appointment should not really come as a surprise, since it fits the recent Washington pattern -- if White House chaos can be considered a pattern. For Kremlin leaders, though, White House zig-zags are no laughing matter. Let's try to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine how the unfolding of recent events may have looked to them.
On March 1 in his state-of-the-nation address, President Putin revealed several new strategic weapons systems that Russia developed after the Bush/Cheney/Bolton administration abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had been the cornerstone of strategic stability for the previous 30 years. (John Bolton is included in that august company because, as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, he was Vice President Dick Cheney's enforcer to put the kibosh on the ABM Treaty.)
You would not know it from the "mainstream media," but in that same speech Putin offered to "sit down at the negotiating table" and "work together ... to ensure global security" -- taking into account the strategic parity Moscow claims.
Referring to what he called "our duty to inform our partners" about Russia's claimed ability to render ABM systems "useless," Putin added: "When the time comes, foreign and defense ministry experts will have many opportunities to discuss all these matters with them, if of course our partners so desire."
One "Partner" So Desires
On March 20, two days after Putin was re-elected President of Russia, President Trump decided to congratulate the winner -- as is the custom -- without insulting him. For this he was excoriated by mainstream media for squandering the chance to point his finger, once again, at alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Sitting atop Mark Landler's New York Times article that day was this headline: "Trump Congratulates Putin, but Doesn't Mention Meddling in U.S."
That was not Trump's only offense. He also disregarded instructions to berate Putin with the evidence-and-logic-free accusation that Moscow poisoned, for no apparent reason, a former Russian spy and his daughter living in the UK. Landler lamented, "Instead, Mr. Trump kept the focus of the call on what the White House said were 'shared interests' -- among them, North Korea and Ukraine -- overruling his national security advisers ..."
Parsing the NYT
The Times' initial report included "arms control" in the headline and quoted Trump: "We had a very good call ... We will probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control." It was not long, however, before the NYT pared down that last sentence to "We will probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future."
Landler did include (buried in paragraph 25 of 29) the following: "During their call on Tuesday, a senior official said, Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin he had been concerned by a recent speech in which Mr. Putin talked about Russia developing an 'invincible' intercontinental cruise missile and a nuclear torpedo that could outsmart all American defenses." But Landler (or his editors) took pains to omit any mention of Trump's actual reaction in suggesting an early summit to discuss arms control.
Parsing what is allowed to appear in the NYT (sometimes in altered iterations) is not very different from the "Kremlinology" tools that we analysts used to apply, back in the day, to eke insights out of the turgid prose in Pravda, Izvestiya, and other Soviet media.
More important, how the NYT played Trump's reaction to Putin's re-election -- specifically, his swiftly excised suggestion of an arms control summit, probably did not escape notice among present-day Russian media analysts. It requires little imagination to conclude that for the U.S. Establishment, for which the NYT is mouthpiece, arms control is off the table, despite anything the President may have said.
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