A recent interview shows Clinton's determination to push Russia into an increasingly desperate and isolated position, one hesitates to think of the consequences.
A recent interview with high-level Clinton aide Jeremy Bash indicates that as president Hillary Clinton would escalate already strained tensions between Russia and the US. In the interview Bash claims that one of the “first key tasks” of the Clinton administration would be to, “work to get Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, ‘out of there.’" While there’s no doubt that Assad represents a, “murderous regime that violates human rights; that has violated international law,” it cannot be overlooked that Assad is also a key ally of Russia. By making these statements about Assad Clinton is engaging in the latest of a series of serious provocations against Russia that are leading down a path of escalating violence.
What is Syria to Russia?
Syria is a crucial ally of Russia for a few reasons. As Robert Fisk explains, “the Syrian city of Tartous contains the only 24-hour port open to the Russian navy in the Mediterranean. Without Tartous, every Russian naval vessel in the sea would have to return through the Bosphorous to Odessa for every nut, screw and cigarette packet it needs."1 Additionally, the oil and gas pipelines which pass through its territory are Europe’s key sources of supply. By controlling these supply routes Russia can exercise considerable influence over European decision making. 2
The loss of influence in Syria would be just one of a series of devastating blows dealt to Russia since Mikhail Gorbachev took steps towards rapprochement with the US before the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1989, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to allow a reunified Germany to enter the US led NATO alliance. In exchange, the US made repeated verbal assurances to Russia that they would not expand NATO any further to the East. This agreement was a big step towards a peaceful Europe. Russia was allowing the country which had within the past century devastated it twice through invasion to join the most powerful military alliance in the world headed by a country which viewed Russia as its greatest enemy. Unfortunately for world peace, after the breakup of the Soviet Union the US had little motivation to adhere to verbal arrangements made with Gorbachev. The promise to not expand NATO to the east was broken during the administration of Bill Clinton in 1999 with the addition of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Shortly thereafter, the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic, a strong Russian ally, was bombed with the strong backing of Hillary and her friend Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “I urged [Bill] to bomb,” Hillary would later recount in an interview. Hillary has since bragged constantly about her involvement in the decision to bomb Serbia, actions which Russia is unlikely to forget.
Since the Serbian bombings and the addition of the new NATO members, the US has sought to build a ring of missile complexes around Russia’s borders. The complexes have been built ostensibly in order to protect Europe and Israel from an Iranian nuclear attack. In reality the only conceivable purpose they serve is to provide NATO with first strike nuclear capabilities against Russia. Russia has strongly protested the construction of these bases, the latest of which has been built in Romania, and has repeatedly threatened to retaliate. One can only imagine the US response if Russia decided to build nuclear missile bases, in, let’s say, Cuba. None of this seems to bother Hillary who talks on the campaign trail about how as Secretary of State she helped to create missile systems in South Korea and Japan, systems which she intends to expand upon if she becomes president.
Trolling with Pussy Riot
Additional provocations are exhibited by Hillary’s friendly attitude toward the Russian band Pussy Riot. In February of 2012, five young young women wearing balaclavas and revealing clothing entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in central Moscow. The women ran to the altar and began to shout obscenities calling the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church a “bitch” before fleeing the scene. Subsequently, at the urging of the church which had been targeted by this group in previous incidents, three of the women were arrested and charged with “hooliganism”. The women arrested were members of the band Pussy Riot, an offshoot of a collective called Voyna whose past actions have included group sex in Moscow’s Timiryazev Museum, throwing live cats at employees of a McDonald’s, and stealing a chicken from a supermarket by having one of the members hide it up her vagina. The arrest of the women for their latest stunt provoked international outcry and pop stars such as Paul McCartney, Bjork, and Madonna came to the defense of the Pussy Riot musicians. Amnesty International, headed by Hillary’s friend Suzanne Nossel, awarded the women “prisoners of conscience” status and treated their case as a major human rights campaign. For her part, Hillary took the opportunity to further denigrate Russian society. In April 7th, after Putin ordered the early release of the Pussy Riot members, Hillary tweeted a photo taken with the members in New York writing, “Great to meet the strong & brave young women from #PussyRiot, who refuse to let their voices be silenced in #Russia.” When asked by People magazine which women “inspired” her, Hillary listed Pussy Riot.3 The irony of an American politician criticizing another country for jailing people while their own country has by far the most prisoners per capita in the world shouldn’t be lost on anybody. To Russians, Hillary’s support for the women could only be interpreted as yet another slap in the face.
"We came we saw he died"
On the issue of Syria, one really has to stand back and admire how Hillary has seamlessly moved on from her disastrous actions in Libya without having learned a single lesson. Libya, a once stable and peaceful country has been turned into an uncontrollable disaster and a safe haven for ISIS and people smugglers. After psychopathically bragging about her role in the murder of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Clinton has since backed away from association with the unfolding catastrophe, simply moving on to the next country to bomb without blinking. For Russia, the bombing of Libya was yet another slap in the face. Russia was on good terms with Gaddafi and their navy enjoyed regular access to Tripoli’s refueling stations. Additionally, Gaddafi was a shrewd businessman in many ways and he kept the NATO countries from having too much access to Libya’s highly valuable oil and gas resources. The intervention was undoubtedly carried out in large part for this reason. In this way they could get oil and gas without having to deal with Russia.
In order to avoid a Libyan situation in Syria, Russia (and China) have vetoed UN Security Council resolutions threatening Assad. Additionally, Russia has provided strong military support in the form of weapons, tanks, and air strikes. Thanks to these efforts, Assad has never held any less than 13 of the 14 Syrian provincial capitals. Despite this, Hillary has never once backed down from the ludicrous ultimatum that Assad must step down, something which simply will not happen given the current and past balance of forces. So the war drags on, with the US (in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE) funding (directly or indirectly) jihadist groups, and Russia funding Assad, with civilians trapped in the middle. Rather than seriously pursuing peace by backing down from her impossible ultimatum, Clinton has urged member countries of the Friends of Syria organization to isolate Russia, “I do not believe that Russia and China are paying any price at all—nothing at all—for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime. The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price."4
Hillary’s interview in the Telegraph and her actions on the campaign trail show a complete unwillingness to compromise, and indicate that the worst of the Syrian conflict may be yet to come. It is viewed as highly likely that as president Hillary would nominate Center for New American Security co-founder Michele Flournoy for the Secretary of Defense. On the subject of Syria, Flournoy has criticized the Obama administration for refusing to send troops to combat both ISIS and the Assad regime. In the words of Flournoy, “The United States should also be willing to increase its use of military coercion…and be willing to threaten and execute limited military strikes against the Assad regime in order to protect [friendly rebel groups] while signaling to all of the key external actors in Syria, including both its Middle Eastern partners as well as Russia and Iran, that it is willing to get more engaged."
And while the US refuses to allow Russia to hold on to its influence in Syria, the Ukraine crisis has driven Russia further to the brink. The right wing forces which have seized power in the Ukraine are fiercely anti-Russian, and with much of the Russian fleet based in Sebastopol, Putin decided that he had no choice but to annex the pro-Russian Crimean peninsula. Despite widespread popular support for annexation from the people of Crimea, Russia has been internationally shamed for this incident and is currently subjected to sanctions specifically designed to punish and provoke Putin. All of this while the US continues to practice naval exercises in the Black Sea (one can imagine what would happen if Putin sent the Russian navy into the Gulf of Mexico to conduct military exercises). Russia has responded to this by beginning to place anti-ship ballistic missile batteries in the Crimea.
From what can be discerned, Hillary would undoubtedly be a very dangerous president. Her statements on Syria not only confirm what we already knew-Hillary likes military intervention-but they also show that her presidency will likely bring the US and Russia to the brink of war. A Hillary Clinton presidency would mean more attacks on an already weakened and humiliated Russian government, one that is surrounded on all sides by first strike nuclear missile bases, with the US navy patrolling the Black Sea, losing its grip on the flow of oil and gas and its naval capabilities. Russia is being forced into an increasingly desperate position, one hesitates to think of what might come next.