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Col. Lawrence Wilkerson says the section of the elite that includes Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and John McCain are willing to use military means to implement democracy wherever they see fit

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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Relations between Russia and the U.S. have been rather unusual recently. On the one hand, members of the Trump administration are facing a wide variety of questions and accusations of having undisclosed ties to Russian oligarchs and the President of Russia, President Putin. These accusations even include our President Trump. On the other hand, Trump has to demonstrate toughness towards Russia to counter the accusations of colluding with the Russians in the runup to the 2016 Presidential elections. How do you see this relationship playing out during the next few years? Particularly given there is a presidential election coming up in Russia and President Putin is expected to stand for election for another six-year term. Well, we’re going to find out, Larry Wilkerson’s views on all of these matters. Colonel Wilkerson is the former chief of staff for the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William and Mary and a regular contributor here at The Real News Network. Thanks for joining us today, Larry. LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Sharmini. SHARMINI PERIES: So, Larry, in light of the recent protests and the State Department has come out to condemn the arrest of the opposition leader in Russia as well as the arrests of what some are saying are almost 1,000 demonstrators who were demonstrating against President Putin in Russia. Some are stressing that this could also be the U.S. intervening in Russian politics. What’s your take on that? And what is the nature of what we are to expect in terms of Russia-U.S. relations coming up in the next few years? LARRY WILKERSON:I think what you commented on as you opened up is very accurate. I’d like to say that first of all, I think this is one of the most bizarre situations that in my 50 years of being associated with the government in one way or another I’ve ever seen. We have our own intelligence community roiled. I mean, majorly roiled over the issues of who was spying on whom and when? And did it include the Trump or the Obama administration or whatever with regard to connections. It’s just bizarre. And what it’s doing to our intelligence community alone is probably dangerous. But to your question, I think we’ve seen Putin in power for too long a time with regard to Russia itself and I think there’s a reaction to that now. These protests as I understand it are mostly billed as protests against corruption. I also understand that they were as far afield as in Vladivostok and also, as you said, in Moscow. I think what we’re seeing, is Russian individuals, particularly in Moscow, finally getting to the point where they’ve had enough of the corruption and such associated with Putin. Whether or not it’s being orchestrated at all by us — good question — since we were involved in Caracas with Hugo Chavez. We were involved in Kiev with demonstrations there. I suspect that in some way we probably are involved. That’s not to say there’s major involvement yet but I assume there would be were it to take off and become a real protest. If someone like Alexei Navalny, for example, looked like he might have a chance of unseating Putin. Of course, if you’re in Russia and you’re someone like Alexei, you’ve got to worry about Putin bumping you off too. I’m as concerned in all of this that we’ve just discussed briefly about the people in this country wanting to build the framework for a new Cold War with Russia. The one thing that Trump has talked about of security interest to me that I found positive, beside the few comments about NATO allies baring more of the burden of defense and so forth, is his approach to Russia. It seemed to be common, sensible. It seemed to recognize the fact that the United States and Russia have common interests in places like Syria, Iran, Ukraine, even. And that we ought to work on them and it seemed to recognize that the issues we have between us should be dealt with with diplomacy and so forth and not with hard power. I’m really worried about where this might be going. We’ve just got too many enemies that we’re throwing rocks at right now from North Korea, Iran, China to Russia. That’s not a very good security or foreign policy to gather more enemies than you can handle. SHARMINI PERIES: What is your take on the people that you were saying are interested in starting another Cold War with Russia? Where’s this coming from? Given that President Trump himself has said that a better relationship with Russia is actually a good thing. It’s a positive thing. LARRY WILKERSON: Well, it’s coming from a number of sectors, Sharmini. It’s coming from what I call the Samantha Power-Susan Rice-John McCain sector with all the emotion that they put behind it. I watched McCain on the floor of the Senate in a video today and I thought, “My God, he should have left! He should have left!” This man is all emotion and passion now. So, it’s all about pushing democracy. Pushing freedom. How dare anyone stand up to the United States’ right — sacred right! – to say that democracy… and you want to throw in there Christianity too because that’s how missionary this is. After all, we were the people who spread Christian missionaries all over the world; everywhere we can get it. And one of the places we want it the most is right up to the very border of Russia. We, McCain et al, want all of those former satellites, all of those former countries in the Warsaw Pact and maybe big portions of Russia too to be free and democratic tomorrow morning. And we want that to happen now and if you’re John McCain, you’re willing to use the U.S. Armed Forces and the whole might of this country to do that regardless of the fact that on the other side they have nuclear weapons too. That seems to be what we’re looking at. I don’t understand it. SHARMINI PERIES: Larry, what does this tell us about the Democratic Party and their approach to Russia? As you know, in the Obama administration there was an attempt to reset relations with Russia but that didn’t quite work out. Are there more moderate forces in terms of a more rational approach to relations with Russia and the Democratic Party? LARRY WILKERSON: Well, I think the Democratic Party has its zealots too. It’s people who maybe aren’t quite as passionate and emotional about their expression as John McCain but they feel the same way. I don’t see a lot of sober heads standing up anywhere and saying, “We do not need a new Cold War.” They still have a lot of nuclear weapons. They’re modernizing their nuclear weapons as we very stupidly are doing too. We’re going to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years, three hundred billion dollars in the first tranche for things that we do not need and at a time when we’re confronted with things that we do need. And I’m not just talking about the infrastructure and all the other things we could put this money into. I’m also talking about the Armed Forces. They do not need another $1 trillion worth of nuclear weapons. So, that’s the second part of this, which is fueling and funding the military-industrial complex that has now become so potent and so powerful that virtually when you get a Boeing or a Lockheed Martin or Raytheon or whomever who stands up and says, “This line can’t go cold. This has to be bought. This has to be bought and at this price.” The Congress pretty much genuflects and says, “Give me more!” SHARMINI PERIES: And now we know that there’s been a history of United States meddling in the economic affairs of other countries and there are many reasons to believe that the price of oil is being manipulated in various ways in order to affect Russia’s economy. What are your thoughts on that, Larry? LARRY WILKERSON: I know that we have increased the glut in the world right now, which is forcing prices down. At least that’s part of the reason. I just read an analysis that said we aren’t going to see higher oil prices. We’re probably going to see more lower prices for Brit and West Texas Intermediate. We probably are hurting Russia in doing that so I have no doubt that it could be orchestrated. We are probably helping that. It is mainly the U.S. shale production that has been beefed up that’s making this glut sustainable and what’s happened in the interim between getting virtually killed by the low prices to now is that shale oil and the producers thereof have learned how to economize, how to get a lot more for a lot less. They’ve cut their labor costs and everything else. So, they’re producing it still at a profit even though it’s sitting around $50, $51, $52 right now and may go down to as low as $40. Russia being a petro-state, this is a way to bring Putin to his knees, so to speak, is to continue to take money away and thus make the economy worse and worse and thus fuel the protests and fuel those who want to replace him. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Larry, we’re going to come back to you on this because I think this is a continued analysis that people could benefit from. So, I thank you so much for joining us today but would love to continue this discussion with you in the weeks to come. LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks, Sharmini. Take care. SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network. ————————- END

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Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy

Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.