A failure to properly grasp US interests in Ukraine has made Obama susceptible to hawks seeking confrontation with Russia despite the greater geopolitical goals that Moscow and Washington share, former CIA and State Dept. employee Larry Johnson told RT.
Johnson belongs to a group of former US intelligence agents who are attempting to get Obama to change course and defuse the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. He argues that Obama has been misled by Secretary of State John Kerry and others on Capitol Hill who have painted a one-sided picture of recent events in the former-Soviet state that are often filtered through a prism of Cold War rhetoric.
Via their petition, the former spooks hope to not only de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, but set the United States on a foreign policy course that will serve to protect common security interests served by the US, Russia, and the whole global community. Due to the current political climate in Washington, however, he believes their appeal will likely fall on deaf ears.
RT: Have you had any response from the US president's office yet?
Larry Johnson: Nothing, and I think they’re going to ignore us because this has a momentum of its own in the United States as far as the policy that the Obama administration is trying to pursue. I guess I’ll call it the agitators for conflict that are rife right now within the United States, unfortunately.
RT: You say Obama should listen to people other than the likes of John Kerry. Why is this so important?
LJ: I’m a veteran of the Cold War; I was there throughout at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) working in Central America back when we saw the Soviet Union at the time as trying to subvert democracy and insert its influence there. As we recall, the United States fought back very significantly there in trying to prevent that, so I don’t come at this as someone who’s naïve or uninformed.
But what I see now is, we really have entered a different period of history, and instead of accepting what’s new in the world, we’ve got a lot of folks in the United States, both Republicans and Democrats, who are trying to resurrect the language and the images of the Cold War and portray Russia today as the Soviet Union bound on world domination and that’s just nonsense. So what we’re trying to see is if we can help shift the debate and get a rational discussion about it.
The fact of the matter is that in the United States, the average American doesn’t appreciate the fact that by us trying to expand NATO in Western Europe and beyond to the borders of Russia, that that would create some concern. I’ve always tried to explain to people, how would we react in the United States if Russia in turn was fostering a very close relationship with Mexico, and the Mexican government decided it wanted to have a closer relationship with Russia than Washington, and in turn was going to start putting troops in Mexico? Well, you could imagine the outrage and the furore that would erupt in the United States.
We tend to try to portray these things in a way that doesn’t really take into account all the dynamics that are involved. And I think it’s really dangerous, because the kind of language and rhetoric that’s being used, and some of the recommendations afoot in Washington are proposing arming Ukrainian dissidents. And we really have no idea even who some of those people are.
RT: How likely is it that Obama will follow your advice to disavow any wish to make Ukraine a member of NATO?
LJ: Candidly I think it’s unlikely.
Unfortunately, President Barack Obama is such a weak person right now and he’s not thinking strategically; he really doesn’t have a clear understanding of what the interests of the United States are. So he’s trying to fend off political critics.
Now there is a very strong element in the United States which is pushing for really almost a confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and they haven’t really thought through it. When they talk about arming the dissidents or arming folks opposing Russia in the Ukraine, they don’t appreciate the possibility of the escalation that that can create.
So I think what you have is a situation in which President Obama is being hit from the right and he’s sort of stumbling on the left. It’s unfortunate.
One other thing we didn’t put in the letter but I probably would have added is that both Russia and the United States share a very common in trying to contain the spread of radial Sunni Islam in the world. In fact, I think Russia’s played an important role in that regard in Syria, but the United States seems to be having almost a split personality on the issue.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.