As Russia’s attack on Ukraine wages on, and Ukrainian civilians die daily, the fog of war has seemingly been clouding more nuanced analysis in the United States, argues “Scheer Intelligence” host Robert Scheer. To get more perspective on the historical context of the current conflict, Scheer invites former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to discuss the role the U.S. and NATO have played in Ukraine. McGovern has long been an outspoken critic of what he’s coined as the American Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank (MICIMATT) for leading the world ever closer to a nuclear war.
McGovern spent 27 years as a CIA analyst, during which time he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared The President’s Daily Brief for three U.S. presidents. Months before the Iraq War, the former intelligence analyst joined a group of his peers to ward against the “insanity” of war, creating the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). Now, as news of the war in Ukraine fills American media, McGovern has attempted to call for sanity once more.
The CIA veteran sees the conflict, which he argues is as a direct result of what he calls a Western-orchestrated coup against Vladimir Putin’s ally, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, as global brinkmanship at its most dangerous given the nuclear arsenal that both Russia and the U.S. possess. Scheer pushes back on McGovern’s use of the term “coup” as well as his assessment of Russian attacks on Ukraine, which the “Scheer Intelligence” host—who covered the Soviet Union and later Russia, as well as Ukraine, as a foreign correspondent—has condemned as a war crime.
The two ultimately consider how NATO’s expansion past eastern Germany may have baited Putin into his current position, indefensible as it may be. The former CIA analyst, who played a critical role in drafting The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) signed by George W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, also warns listeners about the dangers of the U.S. allowing nuclear treaties to expire that, for 30 years, have kept us from annihilation. Listen to the full discussion between McGovern and Scheer as they offer differing but critical perspectives on the Ukraine conflict absent in most Western media.
RS: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, Ray McGovern, who is not only an intelligent fellow, but he’s actually a former CIA—Central Intelligence, the official intelligence agency; he was an officer there from 1963 to 1990. In the 1980s, he was the chair of the National Intelligence Estimates, or in charge of that. And he prepared the daily brief for the president of the United States.
And, you know, Ray has gone on to be a serious critic of some of the directions of American foreign policy. And he’s now in the difficult position of being a rare voice in the country that is challenging the popular narrative of mass media and almost every—everyone in government and everywhere else—that in the extreme presentation, Putin is, Vladimir Putin of Russia is another Hitler. That what we have here is an invasion of the kind, ironically, that Hitler waged against Russia.
And he sent me—I saw something this morning he sent me from a friend, somebody I also know and respect who was also in the CIA with him, who said all of his friends are asking: What’s wrong with Ray? And then when you responded, Ray McGovern responded, by explaining his criticisms of what’s going on now, and of the rhetoric, this guy said: “And you sound like”—and then he used the F-word—”apologist, which you are.”
So we’ve had a breakdown of anybody who attempts to challenge the current narrative. And so why don’t we begin with that? Why you, and what are you doing?
RM: Well, we established a little group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, back two months before the War in Iraq broke out, because we saw that there was very little sanity in Washington at the time, or especially in the press. We did what we could, warning beforehand what would happen, and we take no pleasure in having been right.
But the sanity is really important, because we are on the verge of losing our sanity right now, and it’s largely the work of the media. I coined an expression which has been duly blessed by the likes of Stephen Cohen and Pepe Escobar. It’s the MICIMATT—the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex. Now, why do I say [uses emphasis] “media” as if in all caps? Well, because it’s the linchpin, you know? It’s the cornerstone. Without the full cooperation and cooptation of the media, you can’t make this MIC, this military-industrial complex Eisenhower first explained—you can’t make it work.
And I would just add that Eisenhower said there’s only one antidote for the accretion of power of the military-industrial complex, and that is a well-informed citizenry. And we are far from that now. So that’s why we set ourselves up. We were never very popular, but at least in those initial days we got into the mainstream media.
Now, what I found to my dismay is that many of my old colleagues—really smart guys and women—they drank the Kool-Aid. Especially later on, when Russiagate reared its ugly head. Now, for those of your listeners who don’t know this, Russiagate has been proven with documents to have been completely a contrivance of guess whom? Hillary Clinton. Some of her lawyers now are under indictment, and we have proof from the head of the cyberfirm that looked into the hacking of the DNC emails.
And I would point out that they were very, very explicit in showing how Hillary had stolen the nomination from Bernie Sanders way back in 2016. We know now from the head of that cyberfirm that there is no evidence—no technical evidence at all—that Russia or anyone else hacked those emails that were copied and delivered to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks on a thumb drive.
So those two things are out there. The only trouble is, those people who depend on the New York Times, the Washington Post, don’t know them. The New York Times has disguised that since it became public, for 22 months so far. So you don’t know that Congressional testimony debunked that there was any Russian hacking of those DNC emails. Now—
RS: Well, actually, also that the campaign, Hillary’s campaign, that part of the Democratic Party, actually paid for some of this so-called independent research, and the Steele memo, and helped to get it organized and everything.
But let me put a finer point on this with the media. The interesting thing is, when Donald Trump was warmongering or being very strenuous with regards to China, and yet cozying up, according to the media, to Putin, the media was quite critical of what he was saying. You know, and I’m not trying to demonize China here, and I want to talk about China’s improved relationship with Russia right now. But the irony is, they were using a lot of Cold War rhetoric, the Trump administration was; it’s a communist government, still run by a communist party.
And now in the case of Putin, you know, he is the anti-communist; he’s the one that was with Yeltsin and with the St. Petersburg group that our government, at the time, favored over Gorbachev. And did their best to first undermine Gorbachev after he made his historic understanding with Ronald Reagan, and the unification of Germany happened, and basically the end of communism. But Putin then was considered as pro-American, and he had the virtue of being a teetotaler, as opposed to Yeltsin who was a hopeless drunk. And actually he got into power largely through the efforts and support of the United States. That is all forgotten now, and Putin is simply seen as this madman.
And so what I found interesting—and I’m going to, I would encourage people to watch the program that you did, for Consortium News, I believe it is—where you laid all this out. But I’d like you to talk about two aspects before we do run out of time. One is the nuclear threat, the concern that Putin has about the bringing of missiles closer to Russia. And the other is the new alliance with China. And in your remarks in that program, that town hall meeting you had, you were very clear on those two things, and they’ve been left out of the whole discussion. And not only China, but also India’s not going along with basically the cheerleading for the U.S. response.
And the third thing, though, I want to be clear on—and it came up in your show with some of the questions—you’re not denying, I don’t think, the right of the Ukrainian people to have agency and to decide which way they want to go with their country, as long as it does not enhance, I gather, the possibility of nuclear war. So take it from there.
RM: So getting on to your questions here—well, the nuclear threat, I was surprised—I’ve watched Russia for six decades now—I was surprised when Putin raised the nuclear issue to remind us all that they have nuclear weapons and that they can use them. That borders on the irresponsible, in my view, but also shows how much he feels he has his back against the wall. He felt that he needed to remind people that they have this ultimate retaliatory capability if worst comes to worst.
One thing that came out at the end of that discussion—and I have to say that it was the committee for the republic that ran this, and we are having another salon, so to speak, on the 17th of March; I couldn’t dissuade them from doing it on St. Patrick’s Day, but they went ahead anyway. And why do I mention that? Ted Postol, a longtime advisor to the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon, and physics professor at MIT, is going to talk about the shortcomings—mind you—the shortcomings of the Russian radar systems for early warning.
They cannot find U.S. submarines at sea, and that is a major, major fault. It exists now for many years. And so they don’t know. They don’t know if some of the false launches [unclear] innocent launch—whether the Triton submarines that carry these extremely powerful nuclear missiles, whether those missiles have already been shot off or not. Now, Ted is going to explain all that on the 17th of March. Tune in.
So that’s important. In other words, our ability to detect and to describe any ballistic missile launch, anywhere on the surface of the globe or in the waters of the globe, is not matched by the Russian capability. They can’t find stuff at sea. That is big. So they have less warning time than anyone would think. Now, India and China—well, India surprised me. I mean, they’re not going to be pushed around. How about Saudi Arabia and the UAE? They’re not going to vote automatically with the U.S. anymore. There’s a report out this morning that Prince Salman will not return Biden’s calls. Wow! What does that mean?
But the big thing is China. Now, I should explain that in 1963, 1964, when I took up my first portfolio as an analyst at the CIA, it was on Sino-Soviet relations; they were terrible at the time; we could prove it. And we were convinced they were never, never—well, put it this way: we were convinced they would always hate each other. And we were dead wrong. More enlightened leadership came in with Zhou Enlai and others on the Russian side.
And now we have a virtual alliance, described by the Chinese and the Russians as exceeding a typical alliance in closeness and in effectiveness. What does this mean? This means it’s two against one now. There still is a triangle, but it’s—well, it’s an isosceles triangle, OK, with the U.S. on the short end.
RS: Well, not on the short end as far as the ability to do even more to end all life on this planet than the Russians possess. But I do want to also mention, in terms of Ted Postol, I actually by coincidence—and I think I might have interviewed you around that time, I’m not certain—but I was in an arms control seminar at Stanford with Condoleezza Rice—this is before she was Secretary of State—and Ted Postol, who you mentioned. And it was Sid Drell and Wolfgang Panofsky at Stanford—two, you know, developers of our nuclear arsenal, and physicists who had worked on all that. And we sat around for—we did it for about a year I think, you know, every couple of weeks, and talked about the prospect of nuclear war.
And one of the great surprises is that Ronald Reagan actually met with Gorbachev, and counter to everything—I had interviewed Reagan about winnable nuclear war, as I did the first President Bush. Amazingly enough, Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev both recognized that we had to get rid of these weapons, that they were going to be used, that there was nothing rational about it. And what’s interesting, when you talk about the mass media—if Trump were in office right now, I daresay the mass media would be questioning Trump’s policy. And this is not to defend what Putin has done, his invasion, his preemptive war. It is a war crime, as far as I’m concerned. So that is not the topic here.
But certainly if Trump had followed more aggressively the policies really laid out by the U.S. for the longest time towards Russia over this tension with the Ukraine, but if they also had reacted in this period with such unwillingness, really, to discuss this concern about the NATO threat, which we should talk about, in Putin’s eyes—I think the media would have been critical. The media is giving Biden a bye here, I think in part because they share the party politics and they share the basic analysis that the Democrats, which amazingly enough have a much more robust history as warmongers than the Republicans, are somehow capable of coming up to the edge but not destroying us all.
RM: Well, Bob, let me quote someone who is very popular. Not my guy, but his name is “pope,” OK, Pope Francis. He comes to U.S. Congress and he says, a couple years ago: The main problem in the world is the blood-drenched arms trade. And the senators and the representatives said oh, oh—[yells indistinguishably]. And then they looked into their pockets to see if the last check from Raytheon, the one from Lockheed, right in here—oh, they’re still there. It was giving hypocrisy a bad name. That’s the name of the game. It’s not that these analysts believe this—well, some of them are stupid enough to believe this stuff. But most of them don’t. Most of them are getting paid up to the gills by the military-industrial complex, by the people that agitate for them and go to Congress every day.
So the Democrats, and the media, and the military-industrial complex, sort of have a kind of a trilateral alliance now. And nothing proves that better than the way the media treated Russiagate for five years—five years!—and now is treating Putin. I had a very respected friend, he was on a really good podcast with Paul Jay. And he says, apropos of not much: I detest Putin! I detest anybody who gives little pellets of poison and kills people!
And I wrote him, I said hey, where’d you get that? –Oh, you don’t want to believe that? You’re an apologist? I said, wait a second! Where’d you get that information that Putin poisons people? Well, he’s talking about the [Litvinenko] situation, and there’s no proof at all that the Russian government did that, much less that Putin was involved. The people who have looked at it very closely say, you know, this looks like a British intelligence operation. So it’s even the best guys who feel they have to say—oh, well, I detest Putin, and I detest him for blah-blah-blah.
RS: Well, but let me interrupt for a minute, because I do not want to use our time—this is the conventional argument we get into, who are the bad guys, who are the good guys. We, under Richard Nixon, managed to make peace with Mao Zedong, who was considered one of the bloodier dictators in the world. We made peace with him, and it has improved the prospect for long-lasting peace in the world enormously. And every American president got into serious arms control negotiation; you mentioned Eisenhower, but others recognizing that these nuclear weapons are different—this is not some kind of game.
And now the issue is not whether Putin is a good guy or bad guy, how evil—one issue is how stable, yes. How stable are we? How stable was Trump? How stable is Biden? But what we are losing in this discussion, if I can take offense here, really, is something you have brought up quite effectively before, which is what these weapons do. What these weapons do—they destroy all presence of humanity on the Earth. I was at Chernobyl a year after the explosion. I went in with a bunch of American and Russian scientists, and by the way we couldn’t tell who was Ukrainian and who was Russian; they all seemed to be the same, the people in the plant and elsewhere. That was a civilian facility in Chernobyl, build to be safe, as they all are. And the fear in our crowd that went in there after we put on our coats and had our levels checked and everything, was palpable; you could hardly continue a conversation. Fear over a civilian plant. And now the world is actually—the media particularly—is toying with the idea that these weapons can be used.
And you’re right, for Putin to bring it up, OK—it shows how, what, desperate or whatever he is. But, you know, we did arms control with the old Soviet leaders; we did it with the communist leaders of China, for God’s sake, you know. I want to bring the conversation back to that. It’s not a question of how much one likes or detests some other leader. The question is, where are we going with this? We now have an effective alliance between something that did not happen during the Cold War; the Sino-Soviet dispute was the clarifying demarcation of the Cold War. We’ve now brought China and Russia back together again, not through communism, because one is anti-communist, but we brought them back together. And we are talking about a new kind of global realignment in which the U.S. claims virtue is totally on our side, and these other people are the enemy. We’re back in the darkest days of the Cold War, where you can’t even talk to the other side.
RM: Well, that’s true, you know. And for Biden to get up and say, you know, most of the world is united behind us, and to cite a UN General Assembly vote, is a little disingenuous. Because if you count up the people in the world, there are 1.4 billion—“billion” with a “b”—Chinese; there are a billion Indians; there are lots of others in Pakistan and other countries that did not vote with us. And so you have most of the people who are against what we’re trying to do, and appreciate what Putin is going through, and most of those people don’t look like you, Bob, and they don’t look like me. And you don’t have to go as far back as James Baldwin, but he famously said: If they don’t look like us, they’re much easier for white people to bomb and to, you know, take advantage of. So—
RS: OK, but you’re the guy who gave the presidential briefing, OK? You walked in there every day, and I guess it was the first President Bush, you gave the briefing. You know that reality of nuclear war planning, and you’ve just brought up a startling example of the submarine-based nuclear power. And if the Russians don’t have a means—as you said, Ted Postol, who’s probably the most authoritative guy on this sort of stuff—if the Russians don’t have a way of knowing when these things are even fired, then we don’t even have the old preventive war, you know, second strike blah-blah-blah. They’re operating in ignorance.
And I just don’t want to end this interview without talking about the real dangers of nuclear war. I mean, I wrote a book about it; I think it’s the first time I ever interviewed you, was about that. And I want to stress that. And also, I want to stress the significance of a time when we were talking about a peace dividend; we now have a new emerging alliance—we don’t know how deep it is—between China and Russia against something called “the West.” We have NATO, and we haven’t talked about NATO expansion, but basically the main thing that came out of the end of the Cold War was a NATO alliance that goes right up to the border of Russia. Where did that alliance come from, and why is that the linchpin for freedom and democracy? A military alliance?
RM: Well, I mentioned the MICIMATT, right? The military-industrial complex, extended. That’s where NATO—the fact that NATO continued to exist after the main enemy had imploded, OK. The Soviet Union fell apart and NATO continued to exist. Not only that, but started to incorporate countries to the east of Germany, which we solemnly promised the Russians we would not do, and so did the Germans and everybody else. And as a result of that, 14—count them, 14 new nations were added to NATO, all of them to the east of the East German border.
So that’s where it begins. Now, after that, or actually when George W. Bush came in—one of the first things he did was abolish, or leave, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Now, I feel close to that treaty, because my branch and I, supervising it, had three people devoted to those negotiations, and I was privileged to be in Moscow in May 1972 when it was signed. Suffice it to say it was the pillar of strategic stability for three decades until Bush W., Bush the younger, got out of it.
Now, what’s his name, Trump got out of the INF treaty. That treaty destroyed a whole class of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, because wise people on both sides said, look, we need 30 minutes to decide whether to destroy the world; we don’t want to have just 10 minutes because these missiles are ready to go in Europe, OK? That was exited by Trump.
So the Russians look at this; they say, what are these guys—what are these guys trying to do? Why do they do that? And then they look at Poland and they look at Romania, and they look at sites that are described as ABM, anti-ballistic missile sites, to protect against—guess who?—Iran. Or maybe North Korea. And they see that that’s a farce, and they see that they have exactly the right diameter to host what Putin calls “To-ma-hawk,” Tomahawk missiles. Much greater threat to the Soviet, to the Russian ICBM force, and other advanced weaponry.
So this is the rub. This is the rub on the ground. The U.S. and NATO are moving not only nations closer to Russia, but the ability to have a first strike against Russia, and with the deficiencies in their early-warning radar systems, this is a real, real threat we should all be afraid of.
RS: We’ve lost sight of the nuclear threat. And something you and I—you when you were on the CIA side and I when I was a critic of the arms development, and then after, we ended up on the same side, of concern—that’s left the dialogue. It’s left our consciousness. What nuclear weapons do. And as I say, having visited Chernobyl a year after the disaster, and the fear of what would happen—and once again a fear revived by similar plants in the rest of Ukraine, and half of which the Russians have now captured. They’re talked about [as] meaningless toys.
And I want you to talk a little bit about Victoria Nuland. I want you to talk about what you call the coup. Because everybody is asking now, well, what prompted Putin? How dare he? What prompted Putin? And it is indefensible, I think, to invade another country, and there were many alternatives, so I’m not offering this as an explanation.
But on the other hand, we do forget what happened ever since 2014, the Minsk agreement and so forth, and actually shortly before that. And you posted on your site the exchange between our ambassador at the time, right, and Victoria Nuland, who is now—you know, don’t forget Biden picked this woman, who was recorded on tape as really arranging a coup with Payet, the ambassador, and talking about who should be in the room to plan a coup.
And yet we act now as if, you know, we are not participants. Now, you’ve gone very far and said the U.S. brought this on. But the media is covering it as if the U.S. has clean hands. Clean hands. So talk a little bit about the Victoria Nuland tape, because it is devastating as a piece of evidence.
RM: Well, it’s firsthand; it’s an intercepted conversation, you know not encrypted, and it was posted on YouTube on the fourth of February, 2014. Now, it shows these people planning a coup, and at the end it says, oh, Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs—oh, and by the way, I talked with Jake Sullivan, and he says Biden’s good, he’s good to come in and to glue this thing together. Biden. Sullivan worked for Biden at that time. So Biden knew about this. Do the Russians know that Biden knew about all this and was ready to come in and give his prestige, his gravitas to this? Of course they do. I just wonder if Putin hasn’t braced our president with the fact that he was in on this coup. Now, it’s—I don’t call it a coup; everyone who understands English and listens to this conversation knows that—
RS: This is just for people who are too young to remember. Biden was vice president, right—
RM: –yeah, and Nuland, you know, has validated the fact that this is a bona fide intercept, because she said “eff the EU,” and the next day she said oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say “eff the EU.” See, there were some people in the EU that didn’t think it was a very good idea to overthrow a legally, generally elected government. So anyhow—
RS: –a government they faulted for getting along with Putin and with Russia. I mean, that was the issue, yeah.
RM: Nuland herself said in December of the previous year, 2013, that the United States had invested $5 billion—“billion” with a “b”—in satisfying and advancing Ukraine’s aspirations to join the West. Now, there were conditions placed on that. When Yanukovych read the fine print, he said this is not a good deal, and decided to go with a deal under which the Russians offered him $15 billion to bail him out of a really bad economic situation.
So that started the whole thing. And we know chapter and verse, we see Nuland passing out cookies on the Maidan, where finally the coup took place, and we know that the Germans and the French were there to guarantee that Yanukovych could leave, you know, a couple months later, and then the coup happened the next day, and the Germans and the French never did diddly, because we didn’t want them to, to act as guarantors of the deal that had been reached the day before.
Where was Putin? He was in Sochi. Why was he in Sochi? Because like me, on the 22nd of February, 18 days after the coup plans had been blown on YouTube, he had thought well, too bad about the coup plans; they’ll never go through now, they’ve been exposed. Well, he was wrong. And for Western statesmen, the rest of the European history begins not on the 22nd, but on the 23rd, when Putin got his people around and decided to take back Crimea. Well, if we were in the same situation, we would have done exactly the same thing, Crimea being Russia’s most important naval base, the only ice-free one that they possess. So it’s very complicated; the problem is, American people don’t know diddly about how this thing really went down.
RS: Well, one reason they don’t know diddly—and I remember, the first time when I talked to you for this show, you told me that people in the CIA knew that there was a Sino-Soviet dispute; they knew that the Soviet Union was crumbling in many ways. And they sometimes didn’t even share it with the president, because they didn’t think they would get it. And you have a situation now where this whole history of NATO enlargement up to the border, and the negotiations and the Nuland tape—none of that is—I don’t ever see it mentioned in the New York Times and Washington Post. I mean, I’m sure somebody could find some obscure mention.
But talk about rewriting history. You would think this all happened two weeks ago, because Putin suddenly felt lonely in the Kremlin or someplace and wanted a war. And the whole history, going up to what you’ve called the coup, has been ignored and obliterated. This is really Orwellian. We have found the enemy, we looked for—Orwell’s idea was you had to have an enemy, that’s how you justify NATO, it’s how you justify an arms thing, it’s how you ignore your domestic problems. And you know, we now have the enemy; it’s against democracy, he’s Hitler, and we have to rally everything, even risk nuclear war.
And you’re telling me here a history that has been basically whitewashed totally. And we always pride ourselves on not being a totalitarian country, but if you can whitewash history, aren’t you just a more effective form of totalitarianism, because it’s so believable? You know? I mean, this is really what you’re laying out, and what you laid out in your remarks in that forum, that salon, was that this was all calculated to corner Putin. And the response is one that could have been predicted, and was in fact predicted.
RM: It was predicted, yeah. The key word here that’s used in the rhetoric is, quote, “unprovoked.” End quote. Now, the last letter I got in to the Washington Post was when John McCain said that Putin’s seizure of Crimea was totally unprovoked. That was a lie. And luckily, the gurus at the Washington Post must have been out in the Hamptons sipping martinis, because it got through, and I was able to show that there’s not a scintilla of evidence that it ever entered into Putin’s mind to seize Crimea until the coup on the 22nd of February, 2014. Now—
RS: By the coup you mean the replacement of a supposedly democratically elected—I don’t know how democratic any elections are where cartels in any country, and the top money, controls things. But such as it was, there was a leader in the Ukraine, sensibly democratically elected, who was interested in negotiating with Putin and with Russia on accommodations for getting along and not going into NATO and so forth. And he gets engineered out in what you’ve called a coup, where the U.S. is all over the thing. And that leads, inevitably, to where we are now, by your analysis.
And it’s not mentioned in the media; I have to keep stressing this, because it’s just not. We have rewritten history. And in fact what used to be called news reports now have editorial in them, so if they mention something some critic says, they give the counterargument. Never the counterargument for what President Biden says, but always the counterargument against somebody like you, Ray McGovern, who might oddly enough be quoted, you’ll be challenged, let alone Putin, yes.
RM: Yeah. You know, Bob, it’s worth mentioning that when the coup took place, and everyone who was knowledgeable was aware of the posting on YouTube 18 days before the coup, showing our statesmen plotting it—
RS: You’ve got to give the date. I’m telling you, listeners will not know what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a coup, right, that was done eight years before the current events that we’re now focused on. Yeah.
RM: That’s correct, yeah, 2014, OK. February 4 was the YouTube revelation, blowing the coup; February 22nd was when the coup took place anyway. Now immediately, people, real established people like George Friedman, who ran at the time Stratfor—most people think it was a think tank for the CIA. What he said was, this is the most blatant coup in history. That’s a quote, OK? Now, guess what. Two years—
RS: The most what? What was the word you used?
RM: The most blatant coup.
RS: Oh, blatant, yeah.
RM: In history. Now, just two years ago, guess what George Friedman said: Oh, I was misunderstood; I never said that. Well, he did say it. We have the recording. We have the paper on which it was written. What’s he doing? Well, he needs new contracts for the CIA, and he’s going to tell all kinds of stuff that he thinks the CIA wants to hear, including that Russia’s got a real problem with China. Drivel. Crazy stuff.
So what I’m saying here is that even people like George Friedman recognized it at the time. When I was on Amy Goodman, and I was debating this fellow, his name is Snyder, he’s a Yale professor, OK—so we’re talking about Ukraine. And I said well you know, that coup there on the Maidan, on the 22nd of February 2014—and he says: What coup? And I said: Well, the coup that was spoken about in that antiseptic conversation. George Friedman called it the most blatant coup in history. And you know what Snyder says to me? He says: Is that all you got?
RS: Yeah, but you know, this is again—I want to take it away from being a verbal jousting and a game, and who got it right and wrong. We’re talking about, yes, global warming—which by the way is being derailed, the whole climate concern, because you have to have the cooperation of these different countries to do something. So that’s all been forgotten, at least for the time. But yet we’re actually talking about the possibility of ending life on the planet by unnatural circumstance, OK? By war.
And I want to end this, really, because we’re going to run out of time, dealing with what is going on here in terms of a new world order. And one had hoped that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the big peace dividend would be we would have a world that would be more sensitive to the survival of humanity on this world, of the planet, and also recognize that we have real issues that could be addressed, and that one way that you could get the money to address it, and poverty and what have you, is by cutting down the armament and cutting down war.
And I want to talk about the Russian-Chinese relationship. Because in your remarks at that salon, you stressed that, and I think it’s been largely ignored. And the irony is that when Russia was communist and China still is, they couldn’t get along. The Sino-Soviet dispute actually goes back to the 1920s, before Mao was even in power in 1949. And the dispute between these countries that share a thousand-mile border and so forth, continued right through the Cold War; I know, I visited China and Russia at the height of that. And they could hardly talk to each other; crossing the border was a nightmare.
And now we somehow brought them together, and here you have an anti-communist, Putin, who can get along with the Chinese. And what everybody’s ignoring, although maybe it’s not being ignored in Washington, these are two countries you can’t sanction into obedience, because they have just what the other needs. Russia is underpopulated and resource-rich, and China is in the main entities resource-poor, and obviously overpopulated, but nonetheless has the second-biggest economy in the world and produces all these consumer goods that everyone wants. So let’s end this by talking about what really is the specter that haunts, I think, Washington. And that they’re doing everything to make it worse, which is forging an alliance between China and Russia. Or they would argue they didn’t forget it, but it certainly seems to be in the dynamic here.
RM: Well, they certainly did forge it; whether unknowingly or what, it’s there. It’s two against one now, and that is big. That’s what the Soviets used to call an alteration in the correlation of forces, which speaks for itself.
I’d like to just finish on the same note that you started on just now, and that is, are we going to kill each other by nuclear warfare, or are we going to just die slowly by climate change? Yesterday the head of national intelligence gave an annual threat briefing, and she didn’t say this year what she said last year. I’m going to quote just a couple sentences from last year. Quote: “Climate change cannot be addressed by any one nation on its own. A whole government effort on our side is needed, not only to protect the national security of America, but to protect human security around the world. We must work together on the challenge before us.” End quote.
Well, you know, I was surprised to see that, because everything else dwarfs—dwarfs—in significance in front of the climate change challenge. And what we’ve done—and here is a little fact from the ground: the Chinese are short of electricity and are going to have to burn some more coal now. More coal than they used to burn. This is—at a time when people need to band together, we’re distracted by the movement of NATO eastward, which we promised not to do, and Putin’s reaction to it. I don’t think anyone should be able to unilaterally condemn Putin for doing what he did when they don’t tell the rest of the story. I condemn invading other countries, but I look for the rest of the story, and when it’s mostly our fault, that needs to be said.
RS: That’s a hell of a statement from a guy who spent most of his life in the CIA as the Soviet expert. And maybe that’s the point to end. I do want to disagree with that last point, having written a book when the Reagan administration was flirting with the idea of survivable nuclear war, and I know there are plenty of hawks, and I interviewed them in the old Soviet Union as well. Plenty of hawks who believed in the survivability of nuclear war. And I think even more dangerous—and this will be heresy—than the climate change issue, profound as it is, is the prospect of nuclear war. Taking out cities. And if you think of the drama of a plane going into the World Trade Center and killing 3,000 people, think of the smallest nuke going off in Manhattan.
And I want to end on one point that has been obscured totally. And that is this idea, the comparison of Putin to Hitler because he’s bringing up the possibility of nuclear war—but they’re also saying he’s attacking civilians, which is awful. It’s a crime against nature, against people, against God, whatever you want—awful, awful, awful, using civilians as collateral damage. I’ve seen it. I was in North Vietnam after the bombing; I was in Cambodia before and after what we did to Cambodia; I was in the Middle East covering war. So I understand that the idea of killing civilians and having war, which inevitably kills civilians, is horrible. It’s, you know, war crime does not adequately define it.
However—however, this argument that somehow this has not happened before—what do they think happened? How do they think between, what, five and seven million—McNamara used to say three and a half million—in Vietnam died? I saw what the effect of the carpet-bombing did. And I just would point out for people listening to this, and get your final comment on it, because you’re an older guy who evaluated war fighting—that movie “Fog of War,” which won the Academy Award, where you had McNamara, who went on to preside over the whole Vietnam bombing, telling about what was done in Japan, because he worked on the targeting formula. And we systematically took out city after city after city, none of which had any significant military component, or few of which did, and then culminating in destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were only civilian targets, had no significant military—and when the war was already over.
So I would just like to ask, as a person who’s been on the military side of this, what happened? Where do we have this idea that this is the first time civilians have been at risk, when the whole policy from the beginning has been threatening the world, both by the Soviet Union and the United States, with the destruction of civilians?
RM: Well, Bob, as you know as well as I, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were racist war crimes. Done by a racist president named Truman, and a racist secretary of state from South Carolina. All the top military were against it. It was completely unnecessary. Truman did it anyway, and there’s a lesson in that, OK? Now, with respect to McNamara, that famous conversation he has with LBJ—LBJ says, now, Mac, why aren’t you going to say something about Vietnam? And McNamara says, well, what do you want me to say? In other words, it was a feckless exercise, evident to them at the time. And Johnson says—get this, quote—we’re training ‘em up, we’re training ‘em up real well, and we’re going to win, that’s what you say, Mac! End quote. OK?
Now, moving closer to today, you’ve been in a lot of places, Bob. You’ve been right a lot more times than I have; I had to be educated initially on Vietnam. But you know, you haven’t been in Ukraine in the last two weeks, have you? No, you haven’t, OK. So you’re getting all this information just like my best friends are, from CNN and from the other establishment media. You’ve got to be really careful about charging the Russians with deliberately attacking civilians, because I don’t see the evidence of that. I see them surrounding these cities; I see them acting with a measure of restraint. Call me an apologist for Putin. The facts are what they are. We have to be really careful that we don’t regurgitate what CNN is saying.
RS: No, I’m very careful, and what I am saying is whatever you claim you’re doing, and whatever you think you’re doing—whatever you plan to do in war, the civilians are going to take it in the neck. They don’t have the armor, they don’t have the protection, and ultimately they’re expendable because they can’t kill you the way the other troops can. And you end up being more considerate of the other troops than you do of the civilians. That’s what I mean. They become the cannon fodder. And I don’t care who’s doing it and who’s calling the signals—I’ve seen it. It’s the people in the small towns, the villages, the farmers, the workers—they get it in the neck, no matter where. No matter what you think you’re doing.
And by the way, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was planned at the University of California at Berkeley, which was in charge of Los Alamos at that time, and all of those—they claimed they were not going after civilians, and yet they used daylight, they did it at a time when most schoolchildren were going to school, and it ended up maximizing the amount of casualties. So all I’m saying is, you know, war is a crime, and it’s garbage to say one side is sensitive to civilians and when they wage war on the other it is not. It’s just not the case. That’s all I’m saying. It’s the logic of war, is to destroy civilians.
RM: Yeah, all I’m saying, Bob, is that—you’ve seen civilian casualties like not too many of the rest of us—all I’m saying is we ought to wait till the jury is out here, or jury is back in, to figure out whether there’s been a measure of restraint against killing civilians, exercised by this devil Putin—the kind of restraint that the U.S. did not, of course, exercise going into Iraq and Afghanistan.
RS: Well, that’s a good point of caution. I’m glad to be taken to school by you on this. And I hope you’re right, by the way. But again, we both agree there’s no good way to wage war. And the question is, is the war necessary? How did it happen, and what can you do about it now? Those are the important questions, you know; they asked it in World War II, is this trip necessary? I remember signs in the subway of our common home, the Bronx—want to throw that in there, it’s nice to be able to interview another Bronx guy. But I remember growing up during that time, and “Is this trip necessary”—they were talking about do you need to waste fuel. But the fact of the matter is, the objectification of the enemy—in that case, you know, that they’re so evil and we’re humane when we’re on the other side—that doesn’t hold up.
You know, I want to say, you’re in a tough bind now; a lot of people are criticizing you. But I’m going to say it takes a lot of guts, a lot of guts to raise the questions that you raised about the CIA after being there for, what was it, 30 years? How long were you in the CIA?
RS: Twenty-seven, that’s almost as long as I was at the L.A. Times. [Laughter] A different kind of institution that also supported war during most of its history. But the fact of the matter is, it’s easy to criticize a Ray McGovern. Your voice is a lonely one now. People are attacking you in the most vicious way. And I suspect you’re going to turn out to be, unfortunately, right. Unfortunately in that if you’d been listened to earlier, we could have avoided this carnage, you know. But we’ll see.
But I do want to thank you for doing this. And you know, for people who say, what, you know, what’s happened to Ray McGovern, the question we started with—I’ll say Ray McGovern is doing what he did when he left the CIA and denounced its policies. And he’s being consistent, and he’s speaking truth to power, and that’s going to not make you a lot of friends, and it’s a hard place to be in. But that’s why we need whistleblowers, and certainly Ray McGovern has been one, over the decades, one of our most prominent and useful whistleblowers.
So on that note, let me end this session of Scheer Intelligence, again, where the intelligence comes from my guests. And I want to thank Christopher Ho at KCRW, for posting these things on their great FM station. I want to thank Joshua Scheer for being our producer and putting this all together. Natasha Hakimi Zapata for doing the intros. Lucy Berbeo for doing the transcription. And the JWK Foundation in memory of Jean Stein, a very independent journalist, for helping support these shows. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.