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Though Impeachment Hearings are About US & Ukraine, It's Russia Who's the "Villain" Again - Prof

© Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich / Go to the mediabank One of the Kremlin towers in Moscow
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Besides blaming President Trump of "quid-pro-quo" and "bribery" the House impeachment hearings have again resurrected the "Russian threat" bugaboo which appears set to become the Dems' battle cry for their 2020 presidential campaign, says Professor Vladimir Golstein, stressing that the last time it did not help them win.

The first week of the first ever public impeachment hearings that kicked off 13 November have so far revealed that there had been zero ties between aid to Ukraine and political investigations, say the Republicans; in contrast, the House Democrats continue to double down on vilifying Donald Trump insisting that his actions amount to "bribery".

​House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the so-called "impeachment inquiry" on 24 September 2019 following a whistleblower's complaint to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IC IG) alleging a quid-pro-quo deal between Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

​However, the transcripts of the April and July phone calls between the heads of the states could hardly prove the case beyond considerable doubt. The Republicans argue that $391 million in the military aid to Ukraine had been released without any specific commitment to investigations of Trump's presidential rival, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter by Kiev.

​Furthermore, depositions of first three witnesses – US diplomats George Kent, Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch – indicated that neither of them possesses firsthand knowledge of the matter. In response the Democrats complain that Trump blocks officials with firsthand information from testifying and pin their hopes on their other witnesses, for instance, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who allegedly has direct knowledge of the matter.

The impeachment drama threatens to deepen divisions within the American society, argues Vladimir Golstein, associate professor of Slavic Studies at Rhode Island-based Brown University, adding that despite the case revolving around US-Ukraine relations, the "Russian threat" has yet again become the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's narrative.

Sputnik: What's your take on the fuss around the first televised impeachment hearings propelled by the US MSM? What does CNN actually mean by saying that "the Trump impeachment will echo through ages", "imprint [itself] on history and reverberate far from Washington"? What benefits are the US MSM and House Dems planning to reap from this "show"?

Vladimir Golstein: I agree with the Republican, Devin Nunes, who addressed the Democrats with this opening statement: "It seems you agreed witting or unwittingly to participate in a drama, but the main performance, the Russia hoax, has ended and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel." 

​Indeed, it would take an effort for an external observer even to register that we are witnessing the impeachment hearing concerning Trump’s action vis-a-vis his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky. You might think that the hearings are still about Russia, since the people who testified – former Ambassadors to Ukraine, Bill Taylor or Marie Yovanovitch, have continued with the Cold War narrative that Russia is a dangerous adversary that tries to prevent an important American ally, Ukraine, from embarking on democracy.

In other words, during the Russia-gate, Russians were accused of interfering in Washington with American Democracy, now they are interfering in Kiev with Ukrainian Democracy. The villain of the story continues to be Russia. Not the corruption of Joe Biden and his partners in Ukraine, not the myopic State Department policy that drags the United States into European conflicts, not even the real or alleged actions of Trump. It is, “Russia, Russia, Russia.” Sadly, it is this narrative that the Democrats have decided to resurrect as their battle cry for their 2020 campaign.

If these Hearings were destined to reverberate through the ages, it is only as the example of a strange persistence of Democrats to keep repeating the same mistake in hope of getting a different result. Russophobia did not help Hillary, and it would not help the current crop of Democratic leaders.

Sputnik: As the Los Angeles Times reports, two major American broadcaster networks are presenting two opposite narratives of the impeachment process, with MSNBC showing Trump as an "out-of-control menace who threatens American freedoms" and Fox News portraying the case as a "deep state coup" against the president. What do you think about the growing division within American society with regard to Trump? What's the root of the split? What impact could it have on Americans and the idea of statehood?

Vladimir Golstein: I agree with you that we are dealing with two narratives. Even though I’ve never been a fan of Fox News, I am sure that in this case, their narrative is much closer to reality that that of CNN or MSNBC. IF the Impeachment testimonies have revealed anything, it is that desperate attempts on the part of State Department and other members of the Political Establishment to reiterate their cold war narrative of the Russian Threat, and consequently to associate anyone who questions it, including President Trump, with corruption and treason. I also find the current actors assigned to spearhead this anti-Trump campaign, highly unconvincing.

How can anyone familiar with the history and current political and economic crisis in Ukraine, or with the US destructive record in the Middle East, Latin America, or even Europe (expansion of NATO or dismantling of Yugoslavia and bombing of Serbia for example) take seriously the following assertion of Bill Taylor: “that rule of law, that order that kept the peace in Europe, and allowed for prosperity as well as peace in Europe was violated by Russians and if we don’t push back on that, on those violations, then that would continue. And that, Mr. Chairman, affects us; it affects the world we live in… that affects the kind of world we want to see abroad. So that affects our national interests very directly. Ukraine is on the front line of that conflict“?

I blame Democrats for the growing division in the country.  Starting with Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of half of the United States as “deplorables,” Democrats are doing the best they can in ostracizing people both within and outside the United States. Instead of being the party that attracts educated, progressive, and caring people, the Democrats have turned into self-righteous clique of war-mongers and establishment supporters. Republicans respond with aggression and anger in their own turn. I am sure that regular Americans are very tired of this myopic bickering.

The future belongs to a politician who would show his fellow Americans that he not a centrist in terms of political views, but a centrist in terms of focusing his attention on middle class, on people, and not on the establishment, be it the establishment of the wealthy or the establishment of the well-connected. Until that happened, America would be plagued by partisanship, hatred, growing economic inequality and the disappearing middle class, that class that has provided stability to this country that has been the engine of progress and innovation for so many years.

Sputnik: What's your prognosis on the development of the Dems' impeachment "show"? Will Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff shatter Trump's base, in your opinion? Will they manage to impeach him? Could they remove him from the 2020 race, in your view?

Vladimir Golstein: I am sure that this attempt to rally the troups with the battle cry of “Russia did it” would get Democrats nowhere. They will surely galvanize their base, but this base does not really need Impeachment Hearings, as it is already irrational in its rejection of Trump.

I also think that independent voters would see through this charade. Independent voters need confidence in the process; they need to trust Democrats again. But this shameless show that is whitewashing what Joe Biden and his relatives have done in Ukraine, what the recent policy of condoning all the destructive and self-destructive Ukrainian policies, and focuses on Russia and Trump as the sole villains behind the catastrophic foreign policy decisions of the recent years, including the slow burning civil war in Ukraine, would get Democrats nowhere.

​Furthermore, due to these rather biased Hearings, that brought the highly biased group of individuals with an obvious anti-Russian, anti-Trump ax to grind in front of the American Public, these proceedings would surely galvanize Trump’s base. It is so easy to point to the holes and prejudices in the testimony of Yovanovitch, Taylor, or Kent that Fox News and other commentators would have a field day with it. Pat Buchanan has already written a brilliant analysis of this strange fixation of the newly minted US ally, Ukraine, which was revealed during the recent testimonies. 

Consequently, these proceedings would have very little effect on the Senate that would not support Impeachment on the basis of the “Russia-is-the-enemy” narrative. If anything, Democrats are doing all they can to fully undermine their chances of winning in 2020. They are making their candidates repeat the tiresome charges cooked up by Hillary strategists in 2016, thus forcing them to take the positions that have been rejected both by the 2016 elections and by the Mueller hearings.
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