John Colson: I’d rather not be writing about this | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: I’d rather not be writing about this

John Colson
Hit & Run

And the hits just keep on coming.

Over the weekend I read that the administration of President Donald J. Trump, almost immediately after the recent election that put Trump in the White House, secretly moved to pressure the State Department to begin working on lifting all sanctions against Russia.

That’s right, all sanctions, which includes four specifically aimed at punishing Russia over its annexation of Crimea and its unwarranted military attacks against the sovereign nation of Ukraine in 2014.

The effort to lift the sanctions, interestingly enough, was foiled by a determined cadre of State Department employees who contacted members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to lock the sanctions into place and prevent the surreptitious scuttling.

According to online analyses of the Ukraine sanctions, they are almost exclusively aimed at restricting U.S. support for and interaction with the Russian energy sector, which one analyst wrote makes up more than half of the country’s gross domestic product.

That means that no U.S. oil company can do business with Russia, nor can companies sell to Russia any drilling technology that might help the country gain access to problematic oil and gas reserves.

Plus, U.S. banks cannot issue long-term loans to Russian businesses engaged in energy-focused projects.

One result of the sanctions (along with parallel restrictions imposed by the EU and Australia, among other nations) is that Russia has been turning to China for long-term loans and financial support.

But, according to one website, China has been pretty stingy with its lending practices, which implies that the Russian economy is being starved by the sanctions.

OK, Russia is feeling an economic pinch thanks to Obama-era tough actions over Crimea and Ukraine, which is as it should be. Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly wants to re-enact the Soviet-era regional hegemony that was the hallmark of the old U.S.S.R., by invading or otherwise annexing all its nearby neighbors to form a kind of shield wall against possible invasion or attack.

And he just as clearly realizes that by doing so, he is violating any number of international norms and probably a few international rules, at least if we can judge by his contention that he was just helping out some hapless rebels (notwithstanding the numerous reports that the “rebels” actually were bolstered by seasoned Russian troops and equipment).

Oh, and in addition to lifting the sanctions, Trump seems poised to return two of the Russians’ spy compounds in this country, which were closed by Obama following the invasion of Ukraine.

Every time I write about the increasing likelihood that Putin and Russia must have some pretty good blackmail material on Trump, I get blowback from Trump supporters who shower me with variations of “oh, stop whining, so Trump wants to be friends with Russia, what’s the big deal?”

Let’s forget that these same trolls would be shouting from the rooftops, or more likely, loading weapons in the basement, if, say, Obama had ever showed similar friendliness with the Russian dictator and his ways and means.

Or if, heaven forbid, Hillary Clinton had even hinted at cozying up to Putin during the presidential campaign.

But the plain fact is that Trump’s “deplorable” supporters seem to have developed a kind of collective amnesia about the indisputable fact that the Russian government is no friend to the U.S., has not been since 1917, and is not likely ever to become so.

Nope, their entire world view is colored (if you’ll excuse the expression) by their hatred of that black man who occupied the White House for eight years, and their misogynistic contempt for the woman who wanted to succeed Obama in the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton.

And that hatred, as demonstrated so often and so nastily during the 2016 campaign and afterward, is based mostly on the fact that Obama is black, Hillary is female, and that’s about it.

Oh, if you ask (and I have, in a few situations where I was face to face with a Trump fan) for specific reasons to account for all that hate, what you get is stale talking points pounded by Fox News, Breitbart and other right-wing propaganda outlets, into minds that are too easily misled for it to even be much of a challenge.

I should state plainly here that some of these Trumpeteers have been friends of mine, even though our political views are about as diametrically opposed as can be.

I also should point out that while I do not trust Vlad “The Invader” Putin, and have not trusted any Russian leader since Mikhail Gorbachev, I have actually been to the former Soviet Union twice. While there, I have seen first-hand that the Russian and Ukrainian people essentially are no different from the people of the U.S., beyond such little problems as a language that is almost as difficult to learn as our own, and an unfortunate propensity to endure strongman-style government with little opposition.

So my concerns about Russia’s intentions toward our country are not whining, or overblown — in fact, I would much rather be writing about rapprochement between our countries, rather than about continued conflict and distrust.

But that just ain’t the case we have right now.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.


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