More comments on Keith Gessen’s “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio.” – Richard Hofer, James Carden, Nicolai Petrov, Hank Gaffney

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

[DJ: More comments on Keith Gessen’s “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio.” With Richard Hofer, James Carden, Nicolai Petrov, and Hank Gaffney.]

Subject: Re: 2018-#82-Johnson’s Russia List
Date: Tue, 8 May 2018
From: Richard Hofer <>

Richard Hofer

Central Asia Consultancy Ltd

Very thoughtful of course and quite alarming.

One must have a sense of sympathy for those in Russia today who have to struggle to make sense of contemporary Washington. Those of us who have long admired the American establishment and their undoubted historical ability to get matters right, almost in spite of themselves, when absolutely necessary are looking at Washington with quiet despair. However, speaking as a Canadian, we appreciate the concept of multiple power centres, curious electoral cycles and divisions of responsibilities that is both a strength and weakness of the American system .

We can appreciate that this too will pass, ie. the current “stylistic infelicities” of the current President, to quote Canada’s pre-eminent public intellectual, Conrad Black.
But what must those in Moscow be thinking? And will it lead to a serious error in judgement when the next crisis happens?

The West in general should make a quiet, determined effort to look on Russia as having much the same need for a little peace, quiet and security as they grapple with their own demons. A mature, lower key, long-term review on what matters count and what does not, in terms of realpolitic, might be a useful place to start. Why not ask an established organization, say the Davos crowd, to pull together 20 intellectuals from East and West to debate for a month -what does each side now need from the other?

A simple laundry list could evolve; winding down economic sanctions, a United Nations supervised referendum in Crimea to normalize the situation, a face-saving mechanism to bring Ukraine back from the edge, withdrawing NATO troops 100 km or some other metric of calming…..

The USA and Russia have a much greater challenge facing themselves than undoubted nastiness on the periphery; whether those be gas attacks by obscure actors in Syria, more savagery in the Balkans or the forthcoming collapse of Venezuela.

That is China.

The view from here, anyway.

Subject: comment
Date: Tue, 8 May 2018 16:40:34 -0400
From: James Carden <>

James Carden

Executive editor for the American Committee for East-West Accord.

Keith Gessen’s overlong portrait of the divisions among Washington’s “Russia hands” notes that a “small contingent of dissidents” is “keeping a low profile.” One of them tells Gessen “I do feel lonely…But I am not alone. It’s just that we have to speak more quietly.” [Emphasis added]/

Speak more quietly? A surefire recipe that nothing will ever change. In any event, if Gessen had bothered to look, he might have found a rather more outspoken contingent of policy dissidents than that fellow; there happens to be a robust group of dissenters from the establishment consensus – and has been for some years now; a bi-partisan group that includes, but is certainly not limited to: The Nation, The American Committee for East-West Accord, The American Conservative, The National Interest, and others. Given the stakes, timidity is not an option.

Subject: Re: comments?
Date: Tue, 8 May 2018 17:36:37 -0400
From: Nicolai Petro <>

Nicolai N. Petro

University of Rhode Island

I thought it was a very interesting piece. What most caught my eye was how the “Russophiles” and “lovers of Russian culture” typically draw a distinction between Bad Putin and the Good Russian people. To do so, they must [believe] that most Russians have repeatedly chosen the Bad Putin because they simply do not have the capacity to make choices that in their own best interest, in which case they can never be “Good” enough for democracy.

Alternatively, if Putin is truly popular, then his repeated election can hardly be considered contrary to the aspirations and values of the Russian people. In that case, however, his election becomes an affirmation of democracy, and America’s insistence on changing that outcome, is anything but democratic.

Subject: RE: 2018-#82-Johnson’s Russia List
Date: Tue, 8 May 2018 22:38:41 -0400
From: Hank Gaffney <>

[Hank Gaffney]

I think Keith Gessen’s article is not simply the best rendition of supposedly-expert Americans dealing with Russia, but is the best history of how the U.S. Government messed up the otherwise promising relations with the Russians after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I of course had followed the Soviet Union and the Cold War closely while in OSD 1962-1990 and got deeply involved while at the Center for Naval Analyses from 1990 through 2013 (including 15 trips to Russia, 1991-2004). I knew or watched a lot of these people across all the post-Cold War years. Some I trusted, some I didn’t. There were a lot of mess-ups across these post-Cold War years – and I tend to fixate on Victoria Nuland as one of the worst, though Michael McFaul really threw away his opportunity – proving that the old, grizzled State Department people like Sandy Vershbow handled Russia better, in the old Matlock/Jim Collins style.

This is an invaluable history.