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The New York Times’ editorial board, fresh from peddling anti-Russia conspiracies for two years, has made a remarkable about-turn. Now the paper wants closer relations with the Kremlin, all to thwart China’s ambitions.
‘Russiagate’ has maintained an iron grip on American political discourse for two years now, even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report cleared President Donald Trump of conspiring with the Kremlin to steal the 2016 US election. In the media, the public has been treated to nightly conspiracy theories and bizarre connect-the-dots articles claiming to prove collusion; and lawmakers have crafted ever more draconian sanctions bills against Russia and have slotted opposition to Russia into their campaign messages.
Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing have looked to each other, holding joint military exercises and upping their trade volume to more than $100 billion in 2018. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently announced plans to build a new, 2,000km-long highway linking Europe and China, while President Vladimir Putin has been mulling connecting Russia’s Northern Sea Route with China’s Maritime Silk Road, an ambitious global trade route linking China with ports in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
The idea of closer Moscow/Beijing cooperation clearly worries the New York Times’ editorial board. In an op-ed published on Sunday, the board wrote that “President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China” – itself a remarkable compliment from a paper that ran op-eds titled “Donald Trump Hates America,” and “Trump is Racist to the Bone” in the last five days.
The board then suggested that the US could strengthen its cooperation with Russia in space exploration and Arctic cleanup – areas untainted by ‘Russiagate’. In addition, new arms control treaties could be a step towards geopolitical cooperation between the two rival superpowers.
All valid and worthy points, but from the New York Times? Yes, we’re talking about the same newspaper that last year called Trump a “treasonous traitor” ahead of his meeting with Putin in Helsinki. Instead of seeking rapprochement then, the paper argued that Trump should “be directing all resources at his disposal to punish Russia.”
We’re talking about the same New York Times that dubbed Trump “Putin’s Lackey” and released a mocking video detailing a ‘love story’ between Trump and Putin, laden with homoerotic overtones and culminating in a tongue-locking kiss between the two leaders. It’s funny because they’re gay, see?
The piece surprised many, like pundit George Szamuely, who wrote that Washington has “demonized Russia and blamed it for every problem besetting [the] US,” while the Times “has for years berated Trump for advocating this perfectly sensible policy, at times suggesting that he was doing so only because he was Putin’s agent and a traitor to the United States.”
Bear in mind that the Times’ editorial board does not hold the same opinions as its revolving cast of op-ed writers. Still, for a newspaper whose writers almost unanimously despise the US president, Sunday’s op-ed represents a shocking repudiation of two years of anti-Russia, anti-Trump static.
Perhaps the outlet that often voiced the ideas of the American establishment has finally realized that the ‘Russiagate’ horse is too long dead for another flogging? Or maybe the Times saw it’s time for a new kind of politics: the politics of Detente. Either way, the change is a surprising one.