An analysis of an article blithely demonizing Putin while pretending to care about Russia’s future removed from a man who 86% of Russians support.
March 17, 2015
Alerted that Dr. Samuel Greene’s article in the Telegraph ‘How the West should look beyond Vladimir Putin in its handling of Russia‘ may be a sensible, insightful read admidst the anti-Putin hysterical tabloid style sensationalism regarding his recent absence from public sightings (that I wrote about seems to pass for “journalism” in the Western press), I read the piece.
It’s about 656 words and 32 sentences. So an easy read then.
First, the required Putin Demonization
Opening:Straight off the bat Greene implies that Putin does NOT want “progress and prosperity”. Not so promising start to an allegedly nuanced piece, but perhaps he will clarify later.
His opening para:After thus quickly rehashing all the tabloid style theories that the Western media indulged in for the reader not already dulled by anti-Putin jack hammering, Greene puts an out of context and incorrect quote (without any reference). Here’s the context and quote (from the Kremlin English transcript and a video also available) So straight away Greene is giving the misimpression of a Putin swaggering around and (not really) saying isn’t all this fun, rather than quip wryly in reply to his guest’s comment.
Greene goes on.So let’s get this straight: the Western media drives itself into hysterics about Putin’s supposed “disappearing trick” concocting all manners of theories that the National Enquirer would reject as being too ill researched, and then when he “reappears”, blame him for the hysterics.
This sounds more like a male stalker blaming the object of his utter fascination (who could care less about him) for going about her business “disappearing” and “appearing”: how dare she treat him like that? Who does she think she is?
At this point Greene really starts getting into it:Firstly, Nemtsov was not an opposition “leader” as much as a prominent opposition politician whose fame was due to his past stints in government and his flamboyant personal style.
Secondly, and much more pertinently, influential U.S. Geostrategic policy wonks like Zbignew Brezenski and more recently Paul Wolfowitz have fairly openly declared over decades (for slightly different reasons) that containing or outright dismembering Russia should be a prime goal of US Strategic Foreign Policy both as a means of defanging the “threat” for good and concentrate on the ultimate confrontation with China.
And that this strategic goal can be achieved in part by fomenting internal dissent funded directly or indirectly by the United States government is just going by unclassified historical fact.
If UKIP or Scottish leaders met with Russian and Chinese politicians, defense and intelligence agents on a regular basis (as many prominent Russian “liberals” harking for a coup to overthrow a man with 86% approval ratings to usher in “Freedom and Democracy” do), you can imagine there would be an outcry in London with their patriotism being questioned and even perhaps even calls to be charged with treason.
Greene should really see this 12 minute condensed question-and-answer session with the CEO of Stratfor, George Friedman, who – in a February 2015 Chicago Council of Global Affairs conference to other wonks – dryly and matter-of-factly lays out what the US Government is trying to achieve In Europe: a cordon sanitaire around Russia, with the Russians fully aware of this (so far successful) strategy and seeing NATO at their borders as an existential threat, taking countermeasures.
This NATO expansion incidentally was presciently and bitterly condemned in 1998 by a 94 year-old George Kennan, the original architect of Soviet “containment”, as provoking the Russians and inevitably triggering a new Cold War. The article in which Kennan’s interview (with Tom Friedman of all people) was published, poignantly ends thus:
George Friedman in his Q&A is not defending either state, but is simply talking geopolitics: how the world actually is and strategic imperatives are, and not what it should or could be in some moral sense.
Stratfor of course has deep ties with US Intelligence agencies and policy circles and is seen as presenting and analyzing views held by these policy makers, without all the mush about Freedom and Democracy that politicians go around bleating as justification for their actions to an increasingly disbelieving public.
So at this point in the article, not only is Greene’s reliability to accurately report facts, but his ability to give more than cartoon book sketch of geopolitical motives is severely under doubt.
But let’s carry on.
Next, The Hope for Russia
Writing glowingly about visiting one of the many technology companies in Moscow, Greene says this is the vision for Russia’s future.
He then goes back to some Putin-bashingThis is of course the standard tabloid narrative doled out to the masses in the West through selective (and even untrue) quotes, reporting and specious “analysis”.
The reality is that Putin, far from being xenophobic, has reached out not only to the West (especially prior to February 2014 where he all but pleaded for tripartite talks with the EU and Ukraine to see how to reconcile EU vs Eurasian memberships, only to be rebuffed) but to the governments of the rest of the planet where the majority of the peoples (all mostly non-white) reside, China, India, Africa, South America, and made several bi-lateral multi-year deals with these states. And it is not his government that is embroiled in multiple wars around the globe, with multiple forces overtly and covertly deployed across the planet, funding all kinds of extremist entities throughout the world far from its borders.
But this is not even the main point: Putin has in numerous times extolled the vision of Russia having the future that Greene – in his very compassionate white-man’s-burden’s way – imagines for Russians.
Putin has also taken to task the Government (who is ultimately responsible for implementation) for not doing enough to diversify away from Oil & Gas and in another session with Business leaders in December 2014 also remarked.There are numerous other such remarks about his policy goals. Why doesn’t the western media cover all this? Or indeed the many sessions he has (all easily accessible) regarding various Russian domestic issues from the economy to crime and corruption?
No, Putin in the West is a one-dimensional Bond Villain obsessed with Ukraine (as actually the Western media in a classic case of transference is). His freely available (fairly voluble) speeches, exhortations and ultimately success in leading an improvement to the quality of life for a majority of Russians from the depth of Western induced “shock therapy” is clear to everyone but the dullest and brainwashed individuals.
The above is just one factor in why the Russians overwhelmingly support him and did not have a high opinion of the “liberals” prior to his arrival (this even according to Ian Bremmer).
One would think from Sam Greene’s credentials that he can provide a more multi-dimensional depth to the situation and Putin himself. No doubt Putin, as any politician anywhere, has his vanities, ego and has by his own admission made mistakes, and there are elements of his policies that can (and should) rightly be debated.
However to fall into the trap of demonizing Putin (like Fox does Obama) as some sort of Evil incarnate, while not affecting Putin who could care less what any of us think of him – he has a vast country to run – instead cheapens and degrades the various Western institutions – the media, the “think tanks” – who are supposed to rise above shrill gossip and hysteria to provide meaningful news and analysis.