Sunday 31 January 2016

Demonizing Vladimr Putin

The Demonization of Vladimir Putin

29 January, 2016
Vladimir Putin is probably the most popular Russian leader there has ever been, polling up around a phenomenal 80% as recently as November 2015 in a study carried out by a team of American researchers. This makes him inarguably the most popular world leader today, though you would think the opposite given the way he’s routinely depicted and demonized in the West.
Paradoxically, the main reason for Putin’s popularity in Russia is the same reason he’s so reviled in the US and Western Europe. It comes down to the simple but salient fact that when it comes to leadership and political nous Vladimir Putin is playing chess while his counterparts in London, Washington, and Paris are playing chequers.
This is not to ascribe to the Russian leader the moral virtues of Nelson Mandela or the humanitarian instincts of Mahatma Gandhi. But neither is he the caricature regularly and vehemently described in the UK and US media. Putin is not a villain straight from a Bond movie, sitting in a spooky castle somewhere in deepest Russia planning and plotting world domination. For that kind of ‘Masters of the Universe’ malarkey you need to take yourself to the White House in Washington, or maybe CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. No, the Russian President is a man who knows his enemy better than they know themselves, and who understands and has imbibed the truth of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s statement that, “If you live among wolves you have to act like a wolf.”
What those Western ideologues and members of the liberal commentariat who’ve been lining up to attack him in their newspaper columns fail to appreciate, not to mention the army of the authors who’ve been churning out books painting Putin as a latter day Genghis Khan, is the deep scars left on the Russian psyche by the country’s exposure to freedom and democracy Western-style upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein lays it out in forensic detail in her peerless work, The Shock Doctrine (Penguin, 2007). The impact of free market shock therapy on Russia under Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, Klein describes thus: “In the absence of major famine, plague or battle, never have so many lost so much in so short a time. By 1998 more than 80 percent of Russian farms had gone bankrupt, and roughly seventy thousand state factories had closed, creating an epidemic of unemployment. In 1989, before shock therapy, 2 million people in the Russian Federation were living in poverty, on less than $4 a day. By the time the shock therapists had administered their ‘bitter medicine’ in the mid-nineties, 74 million Russians were living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.”
Klein also reveals that by 1994 the Russian suicide rate had doubled and violent crime increased fourfold.
Given the devastation wrought on the Russian economy and society by Western free market gurus and their Russian disciples during that awful period, the country’s recovery to the point where it is now able to contest and resist Washington-led unipolarity where before it existed unchecked, has to count as a staggering achievement.
Putin rose to power in Russia on the back of his role in violently suppressing the Chechen uprising, which began amid the chaos of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. It was a brutal and bloody conflict in which atrocities were undoubtedly committed, as they are in every conflict, until the uprising was finally crushed and Moscow’s writ restored. The former KGB officer was thrust into the spotlight as a key member of Boris Yeltsin’s team thereafter, viewed as a safe pair of hands, which propelled him onto the political stage and his first stint as president in 2000, when he elected to office upon Yeltsin’s death.
Since then Putin has worked to restore the Russian economy along with its sense of national pride and prestige on the world stage. The loss of that prestige as a result of the demise of the Soviet era had a cataclysmic effect on social cohesion in a country that had long prided itself on its achievements, especially its role in defeating the Nazis in the Second World War.
The new Russian president is credited with returning the country to its former status as a respected power that can’t and won’t be bullied by the West. The attempt to use Georgia as a cat’s paw in 2008 was swiftly dealt with, and so has the attempt to do likewise with Ukraine in 2014. All this baloney about Putin having expansionist aims is an attempt to throw a smokescreen over the West’s own expansionist agenda in Eastern Europe with the goal of throwing acordon sanitaire around Russia in pursuit of a cold war agenda.
Russia’s current game changing role in the Middle East, along with China’s ferocious economic growth and growing influence, is proof that the days of unipolarity and uncontested Western hegemony are drawing to a close. This more than any other factor lies at the root of the irrational Russophobia being peddled so passionately in the West.
The most populous country in Europe is not and never will be a Western colony or semi colony. For those Western ideologues that cannot conceive of any relationship with Russia other than as a deadly or defeated foe, accepting this reality is a non-negotiable condition of achieving a semblance of stability and peace in the world.
While Vladimir Putin and his government are not beyond criticism – in fact, far from it – their misdeeds pale in comparison to the record of Western governments in destroying one country after the other in the Middle East, presiding over a global economy that has sown nothing but misery and despair for millions at home and abroad, leading in the last analysis to the normalization of crisis and chaos.
Their deeds, as the man said, would shame all the devils in hell.
This article first appeared at American Herald Tribune.

The Game of Demonizing Putin

Official Washington influences the opinions of the American people about world affairs by demonizing certain foreign leaders, making them objects of both revulsion and ridicule, thus justifying “regime change” strategies, a particularly dangerous game when played against nuclear-armed Russia, as John Ivens explains

By John Ivens

24 January, 2015

On the morning of Jan. 16 at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Clinton, Iowa, I met Madeleine Albright. She looked different than I remembered her as the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State during Bill Clinton’s second term. She looked less imposing than before, more like a little barn owl seeking refuge from a bitterly cold Iowa winter.

Secretary Albright was acting as a surrogate for Hillary’s campaign. That Saturday, she was motivating volunteers to canvas and make phone calls for Hillary. I sensed that Secretary Albright came to Clinton, Iowa, to energize older folks on the same weekend Chelsea Clinton was in Davenport appealing to voters of younger generations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
But I thought Secretary Albright might be a good source of insight into Hillary’s perspectives on foreign policy. In Clinton’s 2014 memoir, Hard Choices, Hillary identified Albright as her “longtime friend and partner in promoting rights and opportunities for women.”

I asked Secretary Albright how she would advise Hillary Clinton when negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. She replied that we should keep talking to Putin, but we should be wary that he expands Russian influence at every opportunity. Secretary Albright said we should “draw the line” when “little green men” invade other countries (a reference to events in Crimea in 2014, I presume).

Secretary Albright told about when she accompanied Bill Clinton to a summit in June 2000 with Putin. She wore a button showing three monkeys, “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” Putin asked why she was wearing this button: “We always watch what pins Secretary Albright wears. Why are you wearing those monkeys?”

And Albright said, “because of your evil Chechnya policy.” Putin was not amused. He protested, “You shouldn’t be dealing with the Chechens.” President Bill Clinton gave Albright this look like “Are you out of your mind? You have just screwed up the summit.”

In retrospect, the monkey pin incident might be thought of as a humorous aside, but perhaps Secretary Albright besmirched both nonhuman primates and Russians, a dubious example of tact and diplomacy in one of Bill Clinton’s first summits with the new Russian President.

The fighting on both sides of the Chechnyan conflict deserves a great deal of scrutiny by a war crime tribunal; nonetheless, Putin was fighting an insurgency of violent Islamic jihadists in league with Osama bin Laden. This is why Putin was among the first national leaders to express support and sympathy for the United States after 9/11. That is the sad irony of Madeleine Albright’s monkey button.

At a $1,500/plate fundraiser in March 2014 during the early phase of the crisis in Ukraine (after a U.S.-backed putsch had overthrown elected President Viktor Yanukovych and as ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s south and east were under attack from the new regime and seeking protection from Russia), Hillary was quoted in regards to Putin’s response: “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s. … All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

In 2014, Bill Clinton was quoted, “Putin wants to re-establish Russian greatness, not in Cold War terms — in Nineteenth Century -empire terms.”

In Hard Choices, Hillary devotes an entire chapter titled “Russia, Reset and Regression,” dealing with her issues with Putin. She narrates her awkward experiences negotiating with Putin, and she seems frustrated about her working relationship with Putin as a negotiating partner. But oddly enough, she makes no such comparisons of Putin to Hitler anywhere in this chapter. Instead, she recommends a “pause” button instead of a “reset” button, adding:

But we should hit the pause button on new efforts. Don’t appear too eager to work together. Don’t flatter Putin with high level attention. … And make it clear that Russian intransigence wouldn’t stop us from pursuing our interests and policies regarding Europe, Central Asia, Syria and other hotspots. Strength and resolve were the only language that Putin would understand.”
I thought, “Enough Already! Enough dark arts of demonizing leaders of other countries! Enough references to ‘He who’s name must not be spoken, the dark lord Vladimir.’“

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, despite his notoriety, is an accomplished negotiator. He has recently advised that such demonization reveals a failure in foreign policy.

As Americans, we don’t get to vote for a Russian president. That particular right to vote belongs to Russians who live in the largest nation on the planet, spanning ten time zones and possessing an arsenal of nuclear weapons comparable in numbers to ours.

Russian national history begins four centuries before American natives had their first encounter with Columbus. Russians are as well educated and typically speak more languages than Americans. There are three nations that need to join together in agreements to address urgent climate change problems in the Arctic: the United States, Canada and Russia.

What Americans can do, is to vote for a president who can make peace with Russian leaders. More questions about peacemaking and diplomacy need to be asked and answered in the 2016 election cycle.

John Ivens is a retired psychology professor and now peace activist, living in DeWitt, Iowa. As a member of Veterans for Peace, he recently helped to organize a speaking tour, “Barnstorming in Iowa” – Sept. 24-30, 2015, by Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley. During the Vietnam War John was an Air Force pilot, flying C-141 jet transports on global airlift missions.

Lavrov demands explanation for Obama administration's support of Szubin's "Personification of corruption" line

Южный федералниый, January 30, 2016

Translated from Russian by Tom Winter

The Kremlin has replied to Washington's unprecedented attack directed at the president of the Russian Federation, demanding a clarification from Washington. Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the Russian president, called it offensive that White House spokesman Josh Ernest said the Obama administration supports the position of Adam Szubin,* who called Vladimir Putin "the personification of corruption."

According to Peskov, at the Kremlin they consider this "an unprecedented statement" of the White House aimed at the Russian leader, timed for the presidential elections of 2018. Moscow demands that Washington provide an explanation for this accusation against the Russian head of state.

"We insist on further statements (from the US -- edd) because a statement like this is absolutely without precedent," said the press secretary.

In the Foreign Ministry they characterized the allegations against the Russian head of state as "frivolous and shameless." The Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his outrage about it in a phone conversation with his US counterpart John Kerry. According to the TV channel REN TV, the State Department initiated the call. In the Russian Foreign Ministry they laid full blame on Washington for deliberately stirring up tensions between Russia and the US.

*(Szubin is Acting Under Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury)

Translator note:
In the wake of the British probably-probably-probably Putin fingerpointing in the ten-year-old Litvinenko affair January 21, the BBC followed up with a half-hour show January 25 quoting people, principally Adam Szubin, supposing that Putin was secretly fabulously rich, through corruption. Actually the White House spokesman, when he revealed January 28 that Szubin was "reflecting the administration's view," just connects the dots for us.  

Here is the BBC program Panorama, once upon a time known for its objecctivity.

Putin's Secret Riches

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