FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond the Red Clouds

by

The cease-fire in southwest Syria glimmers like a ray of hope from behind the dark clouds of a Cold War. The conflict already has three fronts billowing with peril, namely in Syria, the Baltics, and Ukraine(1). The charged atmosphere could have produced lightning in the encounter where a NATO piloted F-16 encroached upon the jet carrying the Defense Minister of Russia only to be warded off by an SU-27(2). Despite these ominous signs, I hark back to a time of better relations between the US and Russia, ironically at the time of America’s greatest tragedy.

September 11, 2001 remains seared in memory. I was in Ulan Ude, deep in Siberia, with a the US delegation from the Commerce Department. I represented the forestry sector in the Russian American Foundation for Economic Cooperation which emerged from the Gore-Chernomyrdin Accords, and continued under the Bush administration, to foster cultural, political and economic cooperation.

The American delegation returned from a long day of discussions about how to remove obstacles in trade agreements, opportunities for cooperation in finance, energy, agriculture and humanitarian aid. In the forestry sector we discussed issues such as metric vs. American standard measurements for wood-products, equipment standards for imports and exports, international financing, and other issues. After the conference, the American delegation returned to the hotel and gathered a bit later in the bar.

As I witnessed the planes crash into the twin towers, my first thought was that we were watching a commercial promoting the latest blockbuster action movie. Then my eye caught the unmistakable CNN logo at the bottom of the screen. One woman shrieked, “That’s New York! That’s New York! I’m from New York.”

Within hours Spetsnaz soldiers arrived to guard the hotel. The next day Spetsnaz protected a convoy of delegates to reconvene at a distant resort on beautiful Lake Baikal where Spetsnaz secured the premises. They acted with courtesy and rigorous professionalism. The unquestioned good faith shown by Russia in response to this tragedy rejuvenated my hope that one day Russia and the United States could be good neighbors.

I also hark back to that same era after my return when I was working with the Eugene-Irkutsk Sister City Committee. A fantastic array of dedicated volunteers created a number of exchanges including school art contests, a youth basketball tournament with players from a Russian high school, exhibitions, and musical performances. We translated for officials from government agencies, and business people. We also translated at hospitals and clinics for visiting medical professionals, where I learned that the basis for Lasik eye surgery was invented by a Russian doctor.(3) These exchanges promoted a willingness to make friendships, exchange ideas, and build the bridges between peoples that foster prosperity.

Those were balmy days indeed, but the xenophobic storm raging against all things Russian makes difficult the belief that a new détente is possible.  President Trump’s disdain for the press, however, has given him latitude to negotiate with Russia and Jordan to create a cease-fire in southern Syria.  Despite the thunder for confrontation, if that cease-fire holds, it could prove the first step toward a renewed engagement with Russia, and toward dispelling the clouds of enmity.

Notes.

(1)https://www.cfr.org/event/

(2)https://www.youtube.com/

(3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svyatoslav_Fyodorov

Mark B. Baldwin, has a Masters degree in Russian Language and Literature.  He worked for thirteen years trading goods between the US and Russia.  He now works as a programmer.  His views are his own.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alumentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporations
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail