Edward Snowden Highlights the Peculiar Republican Obsession with Russia

Glenn Beck WWIIIRemember when Mitt Romney told Wolf Blitzer on CNN in March of 2012 that Russia is “without question our number one geopolitical foe”? Thanks in part to traitor Edward Snowden coming to rest in the former Soviet Union, Republicans love to think now that Romney might have been right. They’ve been right about so little, after all.

It was news to Russians at the time that they were America’s number one enemy, and it is certainly news now to both Russia and the United States when Glenn Beck says the two countries are on the verge of World War III.

Speaking Monday on his radio program, the paranoid and delusional, not to say a bit histrionic Beck said,

It’s the United States versus Russia. This is what all of us who are my age grew up worried about. This is it. It’s been a cold war. It’s been a proxy war. It’s been one where nobody really understands it yet. But I think you’re about to. I think this whole thing in the Middle East is the beginning of the end of the proxy war and the covert war. You’re now going to see an openly hot war, I fear, and the beginning of World War III.

Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

Oh dear. Poor Glenn. Yes, the United States and Russia have differences, but Beck’s theory is not rooted in an examination of these but in cycles of history.

His logic is that if something happened before it’s going to happen again, but of course, the United States and Russia have never engaged in a war against each other. In fact, in World War II the two nations were allies, and even in all the years since 1945, when things were at their most tense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, nobody pulled the trigger.

Of course, Republicans are unhappy with Russia giving Edward Snowden sanctuary and Russians are not particularly happy about the U.S..

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty reported in June that, “According to a poll conducted by Russia’s independent Levada Center, the United States is now the country considered by the greatest number of Russians to be an enemy of their country.”

What is interesting about these numbers, however, is who else ranked:

38 percent included the United States on the list, followed by Georgia at 33 percent, and the three Baltic states — Latvia at 21 percent, Lithuania at 17 percent, and Estonia at 16 percent. Last year, Georgia led 41 to 35 percent.

Strange company for the United States to be in. And hardly an excuse for a world war. Compare Russians missiles in Cuba or Reagan’s evil empire rhetoric or his Star Wars initiative to the causes of friction in our own times:

The Magnitsky Act,[1] designed to punish Russia for the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and signed into law on December 14, 2012, and the retaliatory Russian ban on U.S. citizens from adoptions are hardly the stuff of war, and Putin’s cageyness over Edward Snowden’s pending asylum is at best is a nuisance.

It is not only Mitt Romney. Remember when Sarah Palin thought Russia was important enough to mention that she could see it from Alaska? Republicans have an especially difficult time with fitting Russia into their rhetoric – almost as much trouble as they have understanding Russia – as evidenced by a Washington Post editorial in June which chided another Republican, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, for wanting to be friends with Russia, rather than, like Romney, enemies:

Mr. Rohrabacher declared that in fighting terrorism, “we have to make friends with the Russians and recognize that there’s a mutual threat now to both of us.” It’s all well and good to say the Cold War is over, but which “friends” does the congressman want to embrace? President Vladi¬mir Putin’s lackeys, who have been singling out Russian opposition leaders for investigation and prosecution on trumped-up charges? Mr. Putin’s prosecutors, who are going door-to-door investigating nongovernmental organizations in a systematic effort to snuff out civil society? They are not “friends” to human rights or democracy.

In what is surely no surprise to anyone, actor Steven Segal, who accompanied Rep. Rohrabacher, defended Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s Chechen strongman, who, says the Post, “with Mr. Putin’s backing, has brutally suppressed a separatist movement in Chechnya. Human rights groups report that Mr. Kadyrov’s forces have engaged in torture, kidnappings, murder and rape.” Segal opined, “All these accusations are thrown around. Is there any evidence? Has he been indicted?”

Which only goes to show: it doesn’t matter the country, Republicans will always champion rapists.

To be honest, neither are the Republicans friends to human rights or democracy. Rohrabacher was pushing the threat of global terrorism at the time and forgot that Russia is still the evil empire to his party. Conflicting story lines, you know…

The situation is always more complex than Republicans are willing to admit, and there is a lot of tit-for-tat going on, and the on-again/off-again John McCain complained about the latest “tat,” Snowden’s asylum:

Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to stand without serious repercussions.

This is McCain speaking. Of course, nothing of the sort is necessary. Snowden’s revelations have done their damage already. He is a spent arrow. And it is unlikely that under similar circumstances McCain would be not leading the way to demand granting asylum to the Russian defector. It is not as if both countries have not done so in the past, during the long Cold War.

And this is not a story of Kennedy vs. Khrushchev or Reagan vs. Gorbachev. Mutual grumpiness is not to be equated with saber rattling.

Vladimir Putin is on record as saying President Obama “is a very honest man.”

As President Obama said in September last year at the Democratic National Convention,

“You don’t call Russia our No. 1 enemy — not al Qaeda, Russia — unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”

And of course, conservatives are caught in just this sort of mind warp. If it is not Russia it is somebody else they want to invade. endless war, after all, is good money, and it is not like any living hawk is ever going to have to travel overseas and put THEIR life on the line. Our young men and women who have no stake in such a war will do the dying, along with the civilian populations in case of a nuclear exchange.

What the United States needs, and what it has for now, is a leader who is more concerned with the facts on the ground that blind dedication to ideology or biblical prophecy, which all too often drives Republican thinking about the Middle East, which, no surprise, was Glenn Beck’s trigger point.

The Middle East figured prominently in McCain’s outrage as well:

Look, we’ve got to start dealing with Vladimir Putin in a realistic fashion for what he is. He’s an old KGB colonel apparatchik that dreams of the days of the Russian empire, and he continues to stick his thumb in our eye in a broad variety of ways, most importantly to me, of course, and should be to the world is their continued support of Bashar al Assad and the massacre taking place in Syria, not to mention a number of other areas that Russia is basically showing us a total lack of respect. By the way, this sends a message to the Iranians that they have to be wondering whether we are very serious about saying that they can’t achieve nuclear weapons status. . .

Russia is not the democracy we would all like it to be, that we all had hoped it would be when the Soviet Union collapsed. But neither is the United States, and that is in large measure due to the Republican Party which crows about the loss of rights in other countries even as it enthusiastically strips them away from its fellow citizens here at home.

This is a time for sober reflection, and sober reflection is the strong suit of neither the Republican Party in general nor of pundits like Glenn Beck in particular.


[1] The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 4405) sponsored by Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD).

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