Chalmers Johnson: “It’s amazing that we have gone this far pushing the Russians around … They are the only people on earth who could literally destroy us.”
The encirclement of Russia
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to Part 3 of our series of interviews with journalist and author Chalmers Johnson. Chalmers joins us by phone from San Diego. He’s the author of the renowned Blowback trilogy and a former adviser to the Central Intelligence Agency. Welcome back, Chalmers.
CHALMERS JOHNSON, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Thank you very much.
JAY: So in the budget there’s a specific provision for setting up a radar installation in the Czech Republic.
JAY: We know recently there was a deal signed with Poland for a missile defense system. And it’s all part of this shield they’re talking about creating. And many people have said what this is really about is a strategy to encircle Russia. Tell us your opinion on this.
JOHNSON: Well, I think there’s no question about that. It’s simply a travesty that we pretend outrage over Russia’s suppression of the use of military force by Georgia. I’ve been in Tbilisi; I know where Georgia is and what it looks like and what it does. It is absurd when you think of how the United States reacted to missile launching sites set up by the Soviet Union in Cuba in 1962, that it’s just amazing that we’ve gone this far pushing the Russians around, when they’re the only people on earth who could literally destroy us. They have a weapon against which there is no known defense, the Topol M. It’s a ICBM that is so advanced, so modern, so fast, things of this sort, there is no form of defense. You either negotiate about it, or they have it and they run it. The putting of bases in Czechoslovakia and Poland, allegedly to deter a missile threat from Iran, which Iran doesn’t have that kind of missiles, and it probably won’t have a nuclear warhead for at least another two to three years, [inaudible] surely will have one, and we will adjust to it.
JAY: Well, there’s no evidence that they surely will have one. So far, there’s no actual evidence that they’re even trying to have one, is there?
JOHNSON: No, that’s certainly true. And, therefore, this has been misconceived, misdone, and clearly provoked the greatest possible suspicions in a country like Russia, particularly when Condoleezza Rice, when she isn’t looking at herself in the mirror, goes around saying to people that she’s an authority on the former Soviet Union. She doesn’t appear to know much about Russia, Russian history, or the logical consequences of the things we’re doing. It’s hard to believe.
JAY: Now, if you listen to the rhetoric of McCain and the people around McCain, and McCain says, “I look into Putin’s eyes and see the letters KGB.”
JOHNSON: I know. It’s unbelievable.
JAY: So to what extent is this rhetoric for the election? Like, Obama’s got his war, Afghanistan, and Bush has Iraq, so now I need mine—it’s going to be Georgia. Except there’s more going on in that. There is real actions on the ground in terms of encircling Russia. But how much of this is posturing? And how much is there a real growing tension with Russia?
JOHNSON: And right next door, there is a real threat in the case of Ukraine, a much bigger place, the headquarters of the Russian Navy, a place where half the population regards itself as Russians and Russian citizens, and where we entertain their president all the time with a George Bush kind of nutty business about Orange Revolutions and Purple Revolutions and things of this sort, most of which simply mean CIA-manipulated mass movements. And we’ve been asking for it. It’s finally started to happen. We’re going to have to back down. We have no choice, unless you are looking for a confrontation with Russia that I guarantee you we will lose. We don’t have that kind of military power.
JAY: Well, Sarah Palin says that she could do it without blinking.
JOHNSON: Well, I mean, she says that she can get out her binoculars and look across the Bering Sea and look at Vladimir Putin.
JAY: What more does one need?
JOHNSON: Yeah. It’s funny. I mean, I would have thought that McCain lost the election on the day he named Sarah Palin as his running mate.
JAY: Well, we’ll see more about that. So talk a little bit more about—there seems to be a very serious strategy to incorporate places like Georgia into NATO. And do you see any difference in the Eastern European strategy between the Republicans and the Democrats?
JOHNSON: Well, unfortunately, no. That is to say, the Democrats [inaudible] have been so intimidated into believing that this is the third rail for them that Obama makes statements about Afghanistan that seem to be totally without history or knowledge. He doesn’t seem to understand that of course we’re going to lose in Afghanistan; of course we’re going to be forced to withdraw. The Afghan guerrillas, the Afghan insurgents, ever since the days of Alexander the Great, have been fighting against foreign invaders, and they have never, ever been defeated when defending their home turf. That’s the way it is right now. And they talk about how “We can wait them out. We’ve got plenty of time. We’re several orders of magnitude older than they are.” And it’s a place from which we should be withdrawing right now, just as we should get out of Iraq, and it’ll probably improve just as a result of our leaving. The military is not the answer to all of our problems. It has been wildly over- and misused, and we should rebuild it for purposes of national defense.
JAY: In the next segment of our interview, let’s dig into what is the difference between McCain and Obama when it comes to US foreign policy and the military-industrial complex.
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