We interviewed Diana Johnstone, journalist and political writer, whose articles on politics and analysis on the contemporary global “hot” issues have already been published on Saker Italia. Thanks to her experience and activism (“the political is personal”), Diana offers an always lucid and uncompromising look at current issues. In fact, you may well remember the controversy and the censorship suffered for her position on Srebrenica (“Well, I am very much a genocide denier, and I’m proud of it and I can say why”), and the support Noam Chomsky also gave her on that.
With this interview to Diana, we want to face what we now consider most urgent issues: the gap between the Eastern (Russia, China, Iran) and the Atlantic bloc, USA’s global role and its deep “identity crisis”, and the current social and political movements fleeing the European model. Trying to take a look at our geopolitical future.
S.I. One of the hot and “macro” topics is the so-called “new world order”, in particular the evolution of the model of power balance from bipolar to multipolar. The historic opposition between the USA and Russia has been enriched with new players (China and Iran), and of course the American role is changing, a role that also influences the European balance and dynamics. What is the “picture” you can take of this moment? What evolution? Which new players do you think will appear? What is the Israel’s role and/or the Israeli lobby’s influence in this context?
Is there really “historic opposition” between the USA and Russia? Russia supported the North in the U.S. Civil War while Britain and France were on the side of the South, and Russia and the USA were on the same side in two world wars. The historic opposition to Russia was more British, recalling the “Great Game” of 19th century rivalry in Central Asia.
Russia was seen as a U.S. adversary on grounds of communism. The communist scare emerged as the perfect ideological pretext for the United States to maintain the dominance it gained from World War. Western Europe had to be defended from communism. Third World countries had to be prevented from going communist.
Russians themselves evidently believed that U.S. animosity was purely ideological, based on communism. I think they really believed that the fall of Soviet communism would make the two nations into friendly partners.
All that happened is that the opposition was exposed as purely a matter of power relations. It becomes clearer that this is not an ideological battle between “liberal democracy” and “communist dictatorship” but between the United States and whoever resists U.S. world hegemony.
After two major twentieth century wars that ruined all the major powers, the United States moved in and occupied the power vacuum. Educated to consider America morally superior to the “old world”, U.S. leaders easily considered their new supremacy to be natural, inevitable and eternal. They are psychologically ill-equipped to think in Putin’s terms of “a world of equals”.
This attitude has been very successfully exploited by Israel’s champions, whether the neoconservative policy elite, Hollywood or AIPAC. They have managed to identify Israel as a little America, land of those who escaped wicked European persecution to create a free nation in the wilderness and who must forever fend off the enemies of democracy. The Israeli influence has had a very negative effect on both the American ideology and American methods, from targeted assassinations of political enemies to methods of crowd control.
I would not call Iran a “new player”. The United States holds an old grudge against the Islamic Republic dating back to the 1979 embassy hostage crisis. Saudi Arabia and especially Israel exploit this to portray their own most powerful regional adversary as a threat to the United States, when in reality Iran only seeks peaceful relations with the West.
The “new players” that could make a difference would be Western European countries whose leaders would manage to free themselves from the military and ideological occupation by the United States that has lasted over seventy years. But so far, Europe’s irresponsible obedience provides the decisive support to U.S. worldwide pretensions.
S.I. Focusing on Europe, the EU is increasingly perceived by its citizens as a bureaucratic rather than a political or cultural entity. Also considering the foreign policy of Macron and Merkel, what’s your view on the current EU’s state of health?
The EU is indeed a bureaucratic rather than a political or cultural entity. Still worse, its treaties lock its member States into neoliberal economic policies and bind its defense to NATO. In short, the EU is the most advanced experiment in U.S.-dominated globalization.
In this context, neither the EU itself nor its member states can pursue their own foreign policy. That is why they are flailing about helplessly as they recognize that following the United States is leading them off the cliff.
French President has been widely quoted for remarking that NATO is “brain dead”. I just read an interview with Alain de Benoist who rightly observed that it is the European Union which is brain dead, whereas NATO is flourishing. That is all too true. NATO is actually making Europe’s foreign policy through its military buildup against Russia, and they all go along, although only Poland and the little Baltic States really approve.
The EU’s domestic policies are widely unpopular, and the foreign policy is dictated by NATO. Yet the EU persists because populations have been indoctrinated for generations that only these particular supranational structures preserve Europe from war – even as Europe has been being dragged into wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria… and what comes next?
S.I. The resolution of the European Parliament, which historically equated Nazism with communism, has recently aroused much controversy. Recalling also that the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism will be celebrated this year in May – a victory obtained mainly thanks to the Soviet government – what is your opinion on this ideological operation, easy to become a decisive political-cultural watershed for the identity of the European Union itself?
The European Parliament has no authority to do much of anything, least of all to define historic truth. This shameful resolution illustrates the intellectual vacuity of the current European political class as a whole.
The equation of Nazism with Soviet communism is based on the propagandistic practice of throwing both of them into a bag labeled “totalitarianism”, a questionable abstract concept which refers to techniques of ideological control, ignoring the sharp differences of intention and practice. The point is to discredit extreme left and extreme right and preserve the “liberal center” as the only innocent place to be. By installing an official version of history and an official liberal ideology, the European Parliament seems to be leaning toward a bit of totalitarianism itself. Since there is no such thing as a common European sensibility, the EU tries to identify itself with abstract ideas and historic myths, much like its sponsor, the United States.
S.I. Still talking about Europe, we see the movement of the yellow vests and the recent victory of Sinn Fein in the Irish elections. We see all these movements and expressions that are strongly in contrast not only with the concept of the EU but are also openly anti-establishment. What kind of future do you see for these movements? Which others are possibly ready to explode?
The European Construction was designed (notably along the lines laid out by Jean Monnet) to put an end to nation states and even to politics, replaced by capitalism and technocratic governance. But politics is reasserting itself in various ways. The lid is shaking and may come off. In France, the problem with the EU is that the neoliberal straitjacket blocks the sort of mixed economy, with a strong State role, an industrial policy, public services and social benefits. For Hungary, EU immigration policy threatens the identity of a small nation with a difficult language. These movements call attention to the growing differences between historic nations that according to the concept of the EU were supposed to grow into one European people. But right in the very center of the EU, Belgium is coming apart because prosperous right-leaning Dutch-speaking Flanders doesn’t want to share social costs with French-speaking, left-leaning Wallonia. This illustrates a North-South split that haunts the EU. If little Belgium can’t hold together after two hundred years, a King and a good soccer team, how will Finland and Portugal, Malta and Denmark, Germany and Greece merge into a nation?
S.I. In what is geographically Europe, we are witnessing the terrible conflict in Ukraine. Can you give us your opinion on the role of Europe? Do you think that the end of the conflict is likely to happen, and if so, how?
The role of Europe is simply deplorable. Seen from Washington, Ukraine is a big wedge to drive into Russia. Using Ukraine against Russia has been U.S. policy since the end of World War II. The usual U.S. tactic is exploitation of minority discontent to promote regime change, and the massive immigration of anti-Soviet, anti-Russian Ukrainians to North America has provided plenty of encouragement.
European policy makers should have had a more profound understanding of how dangerous it would be to exploit internal Ukrainian differences, stemming from a violent and complicated history marked by conflicting interpretations of history.
In the contrary, the whole current mess began with demands that Ukraine make a sharp choice in favor of economic accords with the EU, cutting ties with Russia, its main trading partner with strong historic links. This was bound to revive and exacerbate divisions between the two halves of the country – Western Ukraine which looks West and Eastern Ukraine which looks East. Germany had its own pawns in Ukraine, and was pushing the EU takeover, but lost to the Americans. The United States exploited the uproar to back a coup giving control of the Kiev government to forces favorable to NATO membership. This amounted to a clear threat to bring Russia’s principal naval base in Crimea under US control. Russia was able to fend off this unacceptable threat peacefully, thanks to the well-established fact that most Crimeans wanted their territory to return to Russia. This was overwhelmingly demonstrated by referendum.
Now, any seriously educated person in Europe can understand that this was not a “Russian invasion” of Ukraine but a deft move to head off a potential military confrontation. Contrary to the NATO bombing that detached Kosovo from Serbia, it was both peaceful and democratic.
Meanwhile, the people of the Russian-speaking Donbass region revolted against the coup that overthrew the President they had voted for in favor of a hostile regime including neo-Nazi elements. Russia very easily could have invaded Eastern Ukraine in support of Donbass rebels but did not do so. Yet Atlantic solidarity obliged everyone to proclaim that Russia “invaded Ukraine” and thus “threatens to invade its neighbors”.
So Ukraine is mired in a frozen conflict. Yet the way out was clear enough almost from the beginning, when leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in 2014 during commemorations of the D-Day Normandy landings in an attempt to work towards a solution. The outlines of a solution have been obvious from the beginning: a decentralized Ukraine, perhaps a federation on the German model, which would enable the regions to enjoy self-government. Only the Americans have an interest in the ongoing Ukrainian civil war, as a thorn in the side of Russia. The United States made it clear during the Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s that it could not stand back and allow Europeans to solve their own problems. Ukraine is a critical test of that control.
S.I. Looking at the world map, what are your thoughts and predictions on the near geopolitical future?
Today, Syria is still the central point of confrontation between great powers. I try to understand the past and the present, and never venture to predict the future. But I can worry. I worry about insane NATO military exercises on Russia’s borders. I worry today about the reckless and totally illegal Turkish intervention in Syria, which is bringing a NATO member into direct conflict with Russia. The very existence of NATO is a threat to the world, and if European leaders weren’t “brain dead”, they would demand its dissolution. Meanwhile, I read that there is strong opposition to Erdogan’s adventurism from the Turkish people. Instead of artificial “regime change” engineered by U.S. agencies, we need more genuine critical movements of European peoples demanding that governments meet domestic needs and end military confrontation.
Diana Johnstone is an American political writer, focusing primarily on European politics and Western foreign policy. She received a BA in Russian Area studies and a PhD in French literature at the University of Minnesota. Active in the movement against the Vietnam War, she organized the first international contacts between American citizens and Vietnamese representatives.
Diana worked for Agence France Presse, for In These Times as European Correspondent, and she was press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament from 1990 to 1996. Most of Johnstone’s adult life has been spent in France, Germany, and Italy, and from 1990 she has lived in Paris. Her writings have been published in New Left Review, Counterpunch, and Covert Action Quarterly.
She is author of the books “The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe’s Role in America’s World” (1984), “The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe’s Role in America’s World (1985), Fools’ Crusade , Nato, and Western Delusions” (2003), Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015 – Disponibile in italiano col titolo “Hillary Clinton. Regina del caos”). In 2020 she published “Circle in the Darkness: Memoir of a World Watcher”, a book recounting Diana’s lifelong effort to understand what is going on in the world, seeking the truth about our troubled times beyond the veils of government propaganda and media deception.