Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki, July 2018. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki, July 2018. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The establishment’s response to Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki sounds panic-stricken but is in fact fake and dangerous, argues Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

When American President Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin, few could have been surprised that the two men got along.

This goes back to the American presidential election in 2016. The Democratic Party and wider American establishment have still not forgiven Trump for defeating Hilary Clinton, their preferred candidate.


So they instantly blamed Russian meddling for the spectacular defeat. How else to explain the fact that Clinton outspent Trump by a mile but still lost. She raised $1.4 billion against Trump’s $957.6 million, according to the Washington Post.

It had to be that evil genius in the Kremlin. Did you know he was an ex-KGB officer, by the way? True story. Anyway, there was no way that Clinton had failed to enthuse the rustbelt states because she stands for Wall Street, so it had to be an alien force that swayed the minds of millions of Americans.

And this power has also been shown to now sway the American president as we saw in Helsinki. Trump unexpectedly accepted Putin’s assurances that Moscow had in fact not helped him win. This proved too much for the liberal media.


So they were quick to come out with a chorus about ‘treason’. This word, incidentally, has a history. And it’s not a pretty history. It goes back to the days of the Cold War. In the early Cold War, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover oversaw a ‘red scare’, suppressing dissent and accusing anyone who disagreed of being a Communist – an agent of a foreign power, Moscow.

By the 1960s, when the US and the USSR were trying to find ways to calm international tensions in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis – the closest we ever came to nuclear war – the American right demanded the opposite policy. The Republican Party nominated Barry M. Goldwater, a right wing Arizona senator, as its presidential candidate in 1964.

In the same year, a certain John A. Stormer authored a book called None Dare Call It Treason, arguing America was losing the Cold War because of the infiltration of domestic politics by Communist agents. It became a major part of the 1964 election, which Goldwater lost.

First time as tragedy, second time as farce

But fast forward to 2018. Just a day after the Helsinki meeting between Trump and Putin, Stormer died. His legacy, however, lived on – this time taken up by liberal commentators, Democratic Party politicians and other representatives of the ‘extreme centre’ worldwide calling Trump a traitor for his acceptance of Putin’s denials about the American elections.

History does indeed repeat itself. First time as tragedy, second time as farce, as someone once said. Only now, it is the liberals who are the ones outflanking the American right in Russia-baiting. This is indeed curious. What does it mean? Why is it happening? We get very little reflection on that.

Partly we get little discussion of it because the notion that Russia is a threat to the United States is so patently absurd. One example suffices to demonstrate this claim. Russia is only the world’s twelfth largest economy. Just behind South Korea. And way, way behind first-placed America. Think about that for just a second.

Then let’s continue. Who is the good guy in the liberal story? The same FBI and CIA that have stifled freedom of speech in the US and intervened in elections all over the world for decades! It is to these forces the so-called free world should turn to fight illiberal Russia as its tentacles spread across the world – at their height, to control the very brain of the president in the White House.

In need of an enemy: US military spending is going up

It would be laughable if behind it was not a war machine which is being funded at unprecedented levels. The US passed its largest military budget in history with $700 billion going to defence spending.

Just days before his treasonous act in Helsinki, Trump had harangued NATO countries – designed to keep Moscow at bay in the Cold War, allegedly – to pay up an extra $33 billion on top of an already stratospheric level of arms spending.

Is all this to keep Russia in check? It cannot be. Like in the Cold War, Moscow is now a necessary enemy, a small rival power presented as a major threat to keep the American and NATO war machine well oiled. This is necessary because American economic dominance of the world is ebbing away and it can only use its military clout to try reverse this process and keep its imperial dominions.

Will it be Russia that will suddenly overtake the US? Oh, no, don’t be silly. It’s set to be China. So why go after Russia? Er. Because it supplies arms to China? Partly. But here is the thing. Trump appears to want a more direct showdown with China and is trying to prise Russia away from China. He favours protectionism and a trade war with China and the EU, while easing military tensions with Russia.

The extreme centre is tied to the old glories of American-dominated globalisation and hate Trump’s strategy. They call him names and accuse him of treason for trying to dominate the world in a slightly different way to them. But they don’t call him a traitor to human rights when he separates children refugees from their parents. They don’t call him a traitor when he tramples on environmental rights, civil rights, women’s rights or workers’ rights.

Are we on a path to war?

Simply put, Trump is really part of the American establishment. His attempts to put America first are ruffling feathers and challenging certain privileged notions and interests as Trump tries to shift and shape America in a new direction. Even as he does so, though, he must realise change comes at a cost. 

He will therefore have to try to win the establishment round to his way of doing things. He needs a foreign policy victory to show them it is worth it.

A short, sharp war might do the trick? Maybe in the Middle East? Or the Far East? And let’s not kid ourselves. Why all that military spending if the stuff never gets used? Or, as a famous playwright once said, ‘If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.’ Who was it that said that again? Anton Chekhov. That’s right. He was a Russian.

And by the way, the mid-terms are coming up in the United States. Trump is looking a bit shaky. Expect more developments soon. For Trump doesn’t want to be a one-term president. And he certainly doesn’t want to be impeached or criminally charged. But don’t let’s expect the establishment to oppose him. That job will fall to the anti-war movement in the United States, here and everywhere.

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica is a member of Marks21 in Serbia and a supporter of Counterfire. He is on the editorial board of LeftEast and teaches at the University of Glasgow.

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