Demonizing Russia


I have been amazed and made unhappy and angry by the extent to which
some of the American media and politicians
have been demonizing the actions of Vladimir Putin.
It is fairly clear that he represents the views, goals, and desires
of a sizable segment of the Russian population.
Indeed, I suspect that he represents the majority view in Russia
(see evidence below for that assertion).
In any case,
his actions seem little different from what "great powers" have traditionally done.
No doubt some are unhappy with those actions,
but I can hardly see why it is in the U.S. national interest
(remember that?)
to start arguments with every regime in the world
(e.g., by slapping sanctions on them)
which doesn't act in accordance with the ideals, say,
of the Washington Post's editorial board.
Look at some of the regimes they have egged the politicians to overthrow:
in Iraq, Saddam Hussein;
in Libya, Gaddafi;
in Syria, Assad.
Sure, each of these dictators ruled by sometimes brutal methods,
often violating the "human rights" of some of their citizens.
But what was the alternative?
Ask the Christians of Iraq if they are happy Saddam is gone.

And the same goes for Russia.
Putin and his regime may have its warts,
but what is the alternative?

It's easy enough to find flaws in Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad, and Putin;
much harder, indeed, in my opinion impossible,
to put in their place
a polity which would make the Post/s editorial board and its ilk

Anyhow, those are just my thoughts,
as I have thought ever since the post 9/11 period.
The main purpose of this document
is to buttress those thoughts
with some other opinion pieces and reports.
Here goes:

The Washington Post's Putinology
by Peter Hart
FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 2014-10-28

[The original document, linked to above, contains many links;
a few are replicated in this copy.]

We're supposed to know by now that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a really bad guy–so bad that anything that he says is further proof of his screeching hostility to the United States.

The Washington Post reported (10/24/14) on a recent Putin speech with this blistering lead sentence:
Making clear that the Kremlin has no intention of backing down from the worst Russia/Western crisis since the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Friday of trying to "reshape the whole world" for its benefit, in a fiery speech that was one of the most anti-American of his 15 years as Russia's paramount leader.

Fiery anti-Americanism!

It's not hard to believe that Putin was highly critical of the US foreign policy, but what precisely did he say? The Post called it "a bitter distillation of Putin's anti-American rhetoric." The Post Karoun Demirjian and Michael Birnbaum reported that the address was an
unsmiling, straightforward worldview that blasted the United States as taking advantage of its powerful post-Cold War position to dictate misguided terms to the rest of the world. Putin faulted the United States for a rise in global terrorism, a resumption of a global arms race and a general worsening of global security.

"It never ceases to amaze me how our partners have been guilty of making the same mistakes time and again," Putin said, accusing the United States of breeding terrorists by upsetting the established order in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.

OK, so fiery anti-Americanism is the belief that the United States desires a unipolar world where it calls the shots. Does anyone doubt US elites think otherwise?

And the US, he thinks, bears some responsibility for fueling the global arms race. The United States is, according to some less than fiery and not particularly anti-American news outlets, the leading supplier of arms in the world ("US Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market," New York Times, 8/26/12; "US Doubles Down on Foreign Military Sales," Defense News, 7/19/14).

On the subject of nuclear arms, a key issue in US/Russia relations, the New York Times (9/21/14) recently reported on the US plan to increase its nuclear arsenal–a "nationwide wave of atomic revitalization" that could cost well over a trillion dollars.

And it's hard to argue with Putin's critique of US foreign policy accomplishments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; those countries have suffered extreme violence and instability due to US military actions. Would there even be an ISIS without the US invasion of Iraq?

None of that should be mistaken as an endorsement of anything Putin or Russia has done. But if the Post means to show us that a foreign leader is a fiery, bitter anti-American, it might want to make a stronger case.

The news article, though, was nothing compared to the Post's editorial (10/27/14). Under the Web headline "Putinoia on Full Display," the paper blasted Putin for his
poisonous mix of lies, conspiracy theories, thinly veiled threats of further aggression and, above all, seething resentment toward the United States.
Again, that's a pretty serious charge. It's not hard to imagine a politician telling lies; which ones did Putin tell?

The Post doesn't seem to want to tell us. It does say Putin claimed that the United States has
promoted a "unipolar world [that] is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries." According to Mr. Putin, Washington has created chaos across the world by conspiring to foment revolutions, including what he views as an armed "coup d'etat" in Ukraine.

Again, the United States does see itself as the world's lone superpower, with a dominant military and an obvious record of attempting to use military force, directly or otherwise, to change the world to its liking (though these efforts are not always successful). In Ukraine, in particular, Washington certainly supported the violent overthrow of an elected government–whether you want to call that a "coup d'etat" or not.

The editorial began with this observation:
Anyone wondering what Western leaders have been up against when they try to reason with Vladi­mir Putin need only read the transcript of the Russian ruler's three-hour performance at the annual Valdai conference in Sochi on Friday.

The thing is, if you're going to say someone is a poisonous liar who traffics in conspiracy theories, then you should show that. That the Post doesn't seem to feel the need to do so either means the evidence isn't there, or that the burden of proof is very low when it comes to official enemies.

“Nearly all the leaders of the liberal opposition [in Russia]
are either fully Jewish or have Jewish background”

by Kevin MacDonald
Occidental Observer Blog, 2015-03-03

It’s obvious that there is a strong Jewish influence in the West opposed to Russia, particularly noticeable among the Israel Lobby and the neocons — Victoria Nuland‘s family ties and her role in the Ukrainian revolution come to mind.

There are many reasons for this, certainly including Russia’s alliance with Iran and Syria at a time when Israel and the Israel Lobby are doing all they can to promote war with both. Quite simply, Jewish hostility stems from the fact that Russia under Vladimir Putin has proved to be far more nationalistic than is good for the Jews or for Israel.

An article in The Jerusalem Post, excerpted below, notes the very prominent role of Jews within Russia in opposing Putin — Putin refers to the opposition as a “fifth column” in Russia. But, in addition to foreign policy differences, there are also overtones of festering resentment about the role of Jewish oligarchs under Yeltsin in looting the country. Nemtsov, as noted in the article, was second in command to Yeltsin.

The article again raises basic issues about Jewish loyalties in the Diaspora.
As in the period from 1880 to 1917 (here, pp 66-67),
there is a common stance among the organized Jewish community in the Diaspora
against Russia,
now tinged with Jewish loyalties to Israel
at a time when war with Iran has assumed center stage for the Israel Lobby.
As in the 1880-1917 period,
this has resulted in Diaspora Jewish communities favoring foreign policies
that are not necessarily aligned with
the interests of the countries they live in
but are aligned with international Jewish interests.

From The Jerusalem Post
(“Nemtsov murder reminds Russian Jews of lingering anti-Semitism”)

A Jewish scholar of education from St. Petersburg, Zicer, 55, has limited hope for change in a country that is ranked 148th in the Press Freedom Index and where several of Putin’s critics have either died under mysterious circumstances or been jailed for what they and many Western observers say are trumped-up corruption charges.

On Sunday, however, Zicer marched through St. Petersburg with 10,000 people, many of them Jewish, in protest of the murder in central Moscow of Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister. Nemtsov, an opposition leader, was gunned down on Saturday just hours after he urged fellow citizens to attend a rally against Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. …

“This murder and the incitement that preceded it is so shocking that I could no longer remain an observer,” Zicer said.

Whether or not the Kremlin ordered the killing, as some have accused, Zicer holds the Russian president responsible because of the “the wild incitement he allowed on media in recent months against Nemtsov and other opposition figures.”

Kremlin spokesmen have denied any involvement in the slaying.

To many Russian Jews, the murder of Nemtsov — a physicist turned liberal politician, born to a Jewish mother but baptized in the Orthodox Church — is a troubling reminder of vulnerability as members of a relatively affluent minority with a history of being scapegoated, strong ties to the West and a deep attachment to cosmopolitan values and human rights.

As in the U.S. and throughout the West, Jews in Russia adopt views that benefit Jews in the Diaspora, advocating “cosmopolitan values and human rights” while also strongly supporting Israel with its strong ethnonationalist values and systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Jews correctly see the West as representing cosmopolitan values opposed to the identification of nation with the ethnic or nationalist interests of its traditional peoples, and, as noted here repeatedly and as the main message of The Culture of Critique, the creation of the West as cosmopolitan has been a Jewish project throughout the 20th century, coming to fruition in the 1960s and accelerating in the ensuing decades.

[Continuing the excerpt from the Jerusalem Post:]

The murder hit Russia’s sizable Jewish intelligentsia particularly hard because “nearly all the leaders of the liberal opposition are either fully Jewish or have Jewish background,” said Michael Edelstein, a lecturer at Moscow State University and a writer for the Jewish monthly magazine L’chaim. “His murder is the low point in a process that started about two years ago which has left the Jewish intelligentsia and its milieu feeling more uneasy than ever before in post-communist Russia.” …

In an interview conducted with Newsweek hours before his death, Nemtsov said that because of Putin’s policy, Russia’s economy is collapsing.

Russia’s support for separatists in Ukraine was “wading into a costly, fratricidal war in Ukraine and into pointless confrontation with the West,” Nemtsov told the magazine.

“We all feel the effects of this insane policy,” Nemtsov said, adding that Putin’s use of media reminded him of the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

Putin responded to such criticisms by referring to opponents of Russia’s actions in Ukraine — and especially the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula — as a fifth column. And though Putin did not name Nemtsov, the president was widely thought to be referring to him, the liberal camp’s most senior politician. Russian media considered to have close Kremlin ties published Nemtsov’s name on lists of suspected traitors that started circulating shortly after those included on the lists expressed their opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.


Russia’s anti-American fever goes beyond the Soviet era’s
By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post, 2015-03-08


Thought the Soviet Union was anti-American?
Try today’s Russia.

After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves,
anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it.
From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin,
a wave of anti-U.S. bile has swept the country,
surpassing any time since the Stalin era,

observers say.


The anger is a challenge for U.S. policymakers seeking to reach out to
a shrinking pool of friendly faces in Russia.
And it is a marker of the limits of their ability
to influence Russian decision-making
after a year of sanctions.
More than 80 percent of Russians
now hold negative views of the United States,
according to the independent Levada Center,
a number that has more than doubled over the past year
and that is by far the highest negative rating
since the center started tracking those views in 1988.


The anti-Western anger stands to grow even stronger
if President Obama decides to send lethal weaponry to the Ukrainian military,
as he has been considering.
The aim would be to “raise the cost” of any Russian intervention
by making the Ukrainian response more lethal.
But even some of Putin’s toughest critics
say they cannot support that proposal,
since the cost is the lives of their nation’s soldiers.

“The United States is experimenting geopolitically,
using people like guinea pigs,”
said Sergey Mikheev,
director of the Kremlin-allied Center for Current Politics,
on a popular talk show on the state-run First Channel last year.
His accusations, drawn out by a host who said
it was important to “know the enemy,”
were typical of the rhetoric that fills Russian airwaves.

“They treat us all in the same way,
threatening not only world stability
but the existence of every human being on the planet,”
Mikheev said.


But the list of perceived slights from the United States has long been building,
particularly after the United States and NATO bombed Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999.
Then came the war in Iraq, NATO expansion and the Russia-Georgia conflict.
Each time, there were smaller spikes of anti-American sentiment
that receded as quickly as they emerged.

Putin cranked up the volume after protest movements in late 2011 and 2012,
which he blamed on the State Department.
It wasn’t until last year, when the crisis started in Ukraine,
that anti-Americanism spread even among those
who once eagerly hopped on planes to Miami and Los Angeles.

Fed by the powerful antagonism on Russian federal television channels,
the main source of news for more than 90 percent of Russians,
ordinary people started to feel more and more disillusioned.
The anger seems different from the fast-receding jolts of the past,
observers say, having spread faster and wider.

The years of perceived humiliations have “led to
anti-Americanism at the grass-roots level, which did not exist before,”
said Vladimir Pozner, a journalist who for decades
was a prominent voice of the Soviet Union in the United States.
More recently, he has to explain the United States inside Russia.
“We don’t like the Americans, and it’s because
they’re pushy,
they think they’re unique and
they have had no regard for anyone else.”


Many Russians tapped into a deep-rooted resentment that
after modeling themselves on the West following the breakup of the Soviet Union,
they had experienced only hardship and humiliation in return.

“Starting from about 1989, we completely reoriented toward the West.
We looked at them as a future paradise.
We expected that once we had done all that they demanded,
we’d dance for them and they would finally hug and kiss us
and we would merge in ecstasy,”
said Evgeny Tarlo, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament,
on a Russian talk show last year.
Instead, he said, the West has been trying to destroy Russia.


Funny How Russian Propaganda, US Free Press Produce Exact Same Mood Swings
By Jim Naureckas
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 2015-03-09


The "anti-Western anger" has been "fed by the powerful antagonism on Russian federal television channels" since "Putin cranked up the volume after protest movements in late 2011 and 2012, which he blamed on the State Department." A political analyst is quoted:
What the government knew was that
it was very easy to cultivate anti-Western sentiments,
and it was easy to consolidate Russian society
around this propaganda.
Wow, must be tough living in a totalitarian society like that,
where people respond like puppets to government manipulation of the media, huh?

Funny thing, though–the anti-American sentiment in Russia is pretty much a mirror image of anti-Russian sentiment in the United States,
which has likewise risen to record heights since polling began roughly 25 years ago.
Here's the polling of Russians about the US:
[line graph in original]
And here's the polling of Americans about Russia, from Gallup (2/16/15):
[line graph in original]
Note that the spikes in hostility occur precisely together. The Post describes these as a "list of perceived slights from the United States":
The United States and NATO bombed Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999. Then came the war in Iraq, NATO expansion and the Russia-Georgia conflict. Each time, there were smaller spikes of anti-American sentiment that receded as quickly as they emerged.
But they could just as easily be described as a list of perceived slights by Russia toward the United States. On both sides, the population seems to object about equally to the rival nation using violence against a smaller country and the rival nation failing to endorse one's own nation's use of violence.

Despite the obvious symmetry in US/Russian public opinion, don't expect the Washington Post to run any articles about how a wave of anti-Russian bile following a wave of furious rhetoric being pumped across US airwaves. That would raise an uncomfortable questions about how easy it for a US president to crank up the volume of anti-whomever sentiment–and the role of media outlets like the Post in facilitating such cranking up.


Trump’s Russia Motives
by David Leonhardt
New York Times Op-Ed, 2017-02-21

The mystery at the core of the Trump-Russia story is motive.

President Trump certainly seems to have a strange case of Russophilia.
He has surrounded himself with aides who have Russian ties.
Those aides were talking to Russian agents during the campaign,
and some are now pushing a dubious peace deal in Ukraine.
Trump recently went so far as to equate the United States and Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime.

But why?

It’s not a simple question.
In their Russia-related inquiries,
the F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee
will need to focus first on what happened —
whether Trump’s team broke any laws and whether the president has lied about it.
Yet the investigators,
as well as the journalists doing such good work reporting this story,
should also keep in mind the why of the matter.
It will help explain the rest of the story.

The United States has never had a situation quite like this.
Other countries have tried to intervene in our affairs before,
sometimes with modest success.
Britain and Nazi Germany, for example,
tried to influence the 1940 presidential election,
financing bogus polls and efforts to sway the nominating conventions.
But never has a president had such murky ties to a foreign government
as hostile as Putin’s.

I count five possible explanations for Trump’s Russophilia,
and they’re not mutually exclusive.


The final possible motive — an ideological alliance —
is in some ways the most alarming.
Putin isn’t only a leader with “very strong control over his country,”
as Trump has enthused;
Putin also traffics in a white, Christian-infused nationalism
that casts Islam and “global elites” as the enemies.

He does not go as far pursuing these themes
as hard-core Russian nationalists,
much as Trump merely flirts with the alt-right.
Either way, the themes are undeniable.
As Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, says,
“The inauguration speech sounded like
things I’ve heard from Russian nationalists many times.”

Stephen Bannon, who has emerged as the White House’s most influential adviser,
clearly believes in ideological alliances, and Trump seems open to them.
After winning the election,
he met with Britain’s leading nationalist, Nigel Farage,
before Britain’s prime minister.

In recent days, Trump has tempered his pro-Russia comments
and even criticized its actions in Ukraine.
So it would be a mistake to imagine that we know the full story of Trump and Russia.
But based on what we do know,
it represents a shocking risk to American interests.

The Republicans who run the Senate and the F.B.I. need to pursue their investigations
without the friendly deference they have generally shown to Trump so far.
If they don’t, it will be left for patriotic leakers, and journalists,
to make sure the truth comes out.

Will Trump appease Putin?
By Brent Budowsky
The Hill, 2017-07-06

The world will be watching closely when the Group of 20 meetings begin this week.
President Trump, who is not regarded as the leader of the free world by most free nations,
will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, the authoritarian dictator who is waging an aggressive cyberwar, infowar and war of espionage against American and Western democracy.

Will Trump make it clear to Putin that improved relations with Russia are desirable,
but possible only if Putin backs off Russia’s attacks against democracy and aggression against Ukraine?
Or will Trump continue to praise and appease Putin in the style of Neville Chamberlain in the 1930s,
which would alienate most democratic leaders
and be noted with interest
by those investigating the Trump presidency for its ties to Russia?

Negotiate in good faith with Putin to pursue common interests?
Appease Putin by denying or excusing Russian attacks against democratic nations?
Absolutely not.

Count me as a super-hawk on the great question of whether a Russian dictator should be allowed to get away with trying to destroy one American presidential candidate and elect his favored candidate instead, while employing similar tactics in attempts to discredit democracy and elect Russia’s preferred leaders in France, Germany and other democracies.


I am not comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler,
but Trump must stop acting like Neville Chamberlain
by failing to confront this threat to democracy today,
as Chamberlain failed in his day.

[Excuse me.
In comparing Trump to Neville Chamberlain and making "Appease Putin" a central issue,
you are certainly comparing Putin to Hitler.]

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