The Obsessive Putin-Bashing

Official Washington says it welcomes freedom of thought, but there is a startling absence of diverse opinions especially on key foreign-policy topics, such as Russia’s President Putin. In those cases, shallow “group think” prevails and belligerent “information warfare” rules, as Gilbert Doctorow observes.

By Gilbert Doctorow

The U.S. establishment writers on Russia are one and all “presstitutes” and when you put their writings together, back to back, in 40 pages or so as Johnson’s Russia List has so kindly done in its Christmas Eve issue, the result is an astounding propaganda barrage.

For those of you in the general public who are, likely as not, unfamiliar with this Internet resource, Johnson’s Russia List (www.russialist.org) is an Internet digest published roughly six days a week year round and focused on Russia, now with a separate section on Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin taking the presidential oath at his third inauguration ceremony on May 7, 2012. (Russian government photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin taking the presidential oath at his third inauguration ceremony on May 7, 2012. (Russian government photo)

The JRL is a project domiciled at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University and operated by Richard Johnson who founded it something like 20 years ago. Its banner tells us that it receives partial funding from the George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, partly from the Carnegie Corporation, New York, neither of which may be considered neutral in matters concerning Russia, quite the contrary.

But further funding comes from the voluntary contributions of subscribers, of whom there are perhaps 6,000, mostly American academics and university centers having an interest in Russian affairs. Appearing in JRL is an ambition of a great many wannabe experts and authorities in the field, mostly but not exclusively political scientists and journalists.

As an institution seeking to be fair-handed in purveying news and opinion about Russia, the JRL has been in the cross-hairs of activists on both sides of the highly divisive pro- and anti-Putin camps. About a year ago one of the most outspoken Russia-bashers, liberal economist Anders Aslund, publicly broke with JRL for what he saw as going easy on Putin in its selection of material. Alternative media commentators like Michael Averko have hit out at JRL for the opposite alleged abuse. In Johnson’s defense, one might argue he chooses selon le marché, i.e., from what is being published.

Undeniably, U.S. and U.K. scholars and pundits are lopsided in their bias against Putin and Russia. Nevertheless, even within the scope of this allowance for what there is to choose from and the presumed desire to run his shop straight down the middle, the Dec. 24 issue of the Johnson’s Russia List was a doozy. The count was 14 articles or transcripts of video events slamming Russia and Putin to zero articles holding any other view.

And among the publishers or hosts of the 14 entries being republished in JRL are not just heavy guns in the media wars but also would-be temples of learning: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the European Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Policy magazine, the Center for European Policy Analysis, the American Council on Foreign Relations, The Moscow Times, the Kennan Institute, The National Review, Forbes.com and Home Box Office.

Putin’s personality figures large in nearly all of these essays and discussions as the sole explanation for all the turns in Russian foreign and domestic policy. This is entirely in keeping with the ad hominem argumentation that has become the norm in political discussions generally in the U.S.

Joseph Stalin, with his no man, no issue philosophy of governance must be chuckling, wherever he is, over how this view has caught on in what passes today for polite society.

The phenomenon is something I felt acutely this past spring in its McCarthy-ite form when I appeared as one of three participants in the Euronews hosted talk show The Network. The subject of the day was the assassination of Kremlin critic and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot down within proximity of the Kremlin walls a few days earlier.

We were discussing media coverage of that event and who was to blame for politically motivated crimes in Russia, when a fellow panelist, Elmar Brok, the chairman of the European Parliament’s committee on foreign relations, who was irritated by my insistence that Russian media gave a great many different takes on the news and was anything but monolithic, said in an aside to me that was picked up by the microphones and later went on air: “How much is the Kremlin paying you?”

Not being a hardened politician like Brok, stunned by the way a senior official of the E.U. could stoop to such low-life viciousness, and naively believing that Europe’s most watched news station would not broadcast crude libel, I said nothing in response and the talk moved on.

Having just come back a week ago from Moscow, where my stay was picked up by a Kremlin-funded institution, I now can give a fairly precise answer to MEP Brok’s impertinent and malicious question: for three years of occasional guest appearances as interviewee and panelist on the Cross Talk program of Russia Today, I have been paid three nights in a five-star hotel in downtown Moscow, lavish buffet breakfasts, a tour of the Kremlin and a seat at the banquet dinner celebration of Russia Today’s 10 years on air where Vladimir Putin was the keynote speaker.

For this token of respect by my hosts at RT, I am duly grateful. Yet, I know full well that it is not to be compared with the lavish hospitality bestowed on attendees at the annual Kremlin-organized gatherings of the Valdai Discussion Club to which many senior U.S. academics, Angela Stent, of Georgetown University, to name one, Robert Legvold of Columbia and Tufts, to name another, have been invited regularly notwithstanding the fact that most are hostile, at best agnostic to the “Putin regime” in their public writings and appearances.

Now that I have “come clean” about Kremlin blandishments that have come my way, I turn to my political opponents who have a monopoly on Thursday’s JRL and ask how much they are benefiting in terms of grants, professional promotions and access to the high and mighty in Washington for publicly supporting the propaganda lines of State Department handouts. I wouldn’t dream of accusing them of being on the CIA payroll…

Put another way and avoiding rhetorical questions, I assert plainly that the Establishment writers on Russia are one and all “presstitutes” and when you put their writings together, back to back, in 40 pages or so as JRL has so kindly done in the Christmas Eve issue, the result is an astounding propaganda barrage.

From these collected rants by some very well known “authorities,” I have chosen the one piece which presents itself as sort of scholarly. In this it stands apart from the slapstick humor of Richard Haass and Kimberley Marten in the transcript of an HBO airing and from the rehash of analyses of the fatal weaknesses in the Putin regime that constitute the bulk of the writings of other essayists.

Unlike the others, Kirk Bennett’s article would appear to break new ground. In “Russia and the West. The Myth of Russia’s Containment: Has the West always had it in for Russia? Hardly,” we are treated to an historical analysis intended to debunk what the author identifies as a key Kremlin propaganda line. It tries to refute Vladimir Putin’s assertions in several speeches that the West has always been an opponent of Russia, whether out of envy or fear.

This victimization narrative of the Kremlin, in the view of the author, and of the great majority of U.S. international relations experts, is used to whip up patriotic fervor in the broad Russian population and underpin a regime that is undergoing great strain from economic hardships and stagnation, as well as from the international isolation that followed its annexation of Crimea.

The author starts out in paragraph two citing the Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev to show us he is no carpetbagging political scientist, that Russian studies are in his blood. Indeed, as we see through his text to the end, he has read his Russian and European history.

That is his strong point, compared to many of the other loudmouths in the articles republished by Johnson’s Russia List. It is also his weak point: he has read Russian history but he has not researched or written it. This is not an accusation, but a mere statement of the facts.

Bennett is introduced to us as a “former U.S. Foreign Service officer who spent most of his career working on post-Soviet issues.” For an historical overview like the article in question that goes back almost 300 years, he is clearly something of a lightweight.

Bennett’s article appeared originally in The American Interest, the publication founded and run by the key popularizer of neoconservative philosophy, Francis Fukuyama. Bennett otherwise has recently published in the online platform of The American Center for a European Ukraine, which should explain where he is coming from politically and to whom he is reaching out.

In effect, Bennett is just one more American thinker who presumes that he understands Russian history and Russian national interest vastly better than the Russians themselves do. In this regard, my best advice to him and to his followers is to sit down with a couple of books written by Dominic Lieven, a scion of one of the great families in the Russian Baltics who is presently a visiting professor at Yale University and who spent more than 25 years as professor of Russian history at the London School of Economics.

The two books in question are Russia Against Napoleon (2012) and The End of Tsarist Russia (2015). Both present the history of momentous periods from a novel perspective, Russia’s own, based on extensive work in the Russian historical archives. Together they sweep into the dust bin most of the simplistic remarks of Bennett about the nature of Russian-European relations since the Eighteenth Century up to 1917.

For example, Lieven explains at length the competing imperialisms, European and Russian of the Nineteenth Century, which were underpinned not only by Russia’s Panslavism, but by Pan-Germanism and by myths to justify Anglo-Saxon world hegemony, which put the powers at odds and which spread widely the denigration of Russia that survives to our day in the West.

From Lieven’s archival research and detailed attention to the advice the Russian rulers received from their senior advisers, both in 1812-1815 and in 1906-1917, both from generals and civilians, it is clear that the Putin narrative on Russian history which Bennett tries to shoot down had far wider acceptance among serious, well-educated Russians and far more subtlety to it than Bennett can imagine.

But Bennett’s problem is not just his average-level consumer’s as opposed to scholar’s knowledge of Russian history. It extends to current events. Bennett distorts present realities. Yes, he is right that Vladimir Putin from time to time plays the “victimization” card, just as from time to time, more generally, the Russian President invokes nationalism.

The simple fact is that in Russia, just as in most Western countries including the United States, nationalism has broad resonance and popular understanding, playing as it does to the heartstrings, whereas Realpolitik, which is the dominant approach to policy behind Putin’s thinking, is seen as cold and unfeeling by the public, too cerebral, so is held back from the addresses to the nation that Bennett cites.

It would be more appropriate to describe Vladimir Putin’s characterization of Russia’s talking partners on the international stage as “Frenemies.” Anyone paying close attention to his major speeches knows that he is never excited, least of all does he engage in “tirades” over the conduct of this or that country in its relations to Russia because the underlying expectation of Putin is that all countries are in permanent competition for their own advantage and only alignment of interests can ensure genuine meeting of minds and common action. Personalities as such count for almost nothing.

Contrary to the facile generalization of Bennett, Vladimir Putin has always followed a foreign policy that had a plan A, of joining NATO or otherwise entering into a shared security platform with the West, and a default position plan B of going it alone, as we now see today after the sharp confrontation over Ukraine.

It will be interesting to see in the days ahead if David Johnson has the courage of his convictions and publishes my indictment of his latest harvest of anti-Russian invective.

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of the American Committee for East West Accord. His most recent book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. It is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to eastwestaccord@gmail.com

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2015

46 comments for “The Obsessive Putin-Bashing

  1. ltr
    December 27, 2015 at 21:11

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/25/nato-seeking-russias-destruction-since-1949/

    December 25, 2015

    NATO: Seeking Russia’s Destruction Since 1949
    By GARY LEUPP

    In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. president George H. W. Bush through his secretary of state James Baker promised Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev that in exchange for Soviet cooperation on German reunification, the Cold War era NATO alliance would not expand “one inch” eastwards towards Russia. Baker told Gorbachev: “Look, if you remove your [300,000] troops [from east Germany] and allow unification of Germany in NATO, NATO will not expand one inch to the east.”

    In the following year, the USSR officially dissolved itself. Its own defensive military alliance (commonly known as the Warsaw Pact) had already shut down. The Cold War was over.

    So why hasn’t NATO also dissolved, but instead expanded relentlessly, surrounding European Russia? Why isn’t this a central question for discussion and debate in this country?

    NATO: A Cold War Anti-Russian Alliance ….

  2. Rob Roy
    December 27, 2015 at 14:54

    It’s a pleasure to read Consortium every day, not only for the astute articles, but for the consistently intelligent commentary.

  3. Abe
    December 27, 2015 at 14:31

    In his seminal ‘Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization,’ Bryan Ward-Perkins writes, “Romans before the fall were as certain as we are today that their world would continue forever… They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency.”

    The Empire of Chaos, today, is not about complacency. It’s about hubris – and fear. Ever since the start of the Cold War the crucial question has been who would control the great trading networks of Eurasia – or the “heartland”, according to Sir Halford John Mackinder (1861–1947), the father of geopolitics.

    We could say that for the Empire of Chaos, the game really started with the CIA-backed coup in Iran in 1953, when the US finally encountered, face to face, that famed Eurasia crisscrossed for centuries by the Silk Road(s), and set out to conquer them all.

    Only six decades later, it’s clear there won’t be an American Silk Road in the 21st century, but rather, just like its ancient predecessor, a Chinese one. Beijing’s push for what it calls “One Belt, One Road” is inbuilt in the 21st century conflict between the declining empire and Eurasia integration. Key subplots include perennial NATO expansion and the empire’s obsession in creating a war zone out of the South China Sea.

    As the Beijing-Moscow strategic partnership analyses it, the oligarchic elites who really run the Empire of Chaos are bent on the encirclement of Eurasia – considering they may be largely excluded from an integration process based on trade, commerce and advanced communication links.

    Beijing and Moscow clearly identify provocation after provocation, coupled with relentless demonization. But they won’t be trapped, as they’re both playing a very long game.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin diplomatically insists on treating the West as “partners”. But he knows, and those in the know in China also know, these are not really “partners”. Not after NATO’s 78-day bombing of Belgrade in 1999. Not after the purposeful bombing of the Chinese Embassy. Not after non-stop NATO expansionism. Not after a second Kosovo in the form of an illegal coup in Kiev. Not after the crashing of the oil price by Gulf petrodollar US clients. Not after the Wall Street-engineered crashing of the ruble. Not after US and EU sanctions. Not after the smashing of Chinese A shares by US proxies on Wall Street. Not after non-stop saber rattling in the South China Sea. Not after the shooting down of the Su-24 […]

    From Ukraine to Syria, and all across MENA (Middle East and North Africa), the proxy war between Washington and Moscow, with higher and higher stakes, won’t abate. Imperial despair over the irreversible Chinese ascent also won’t abate. As the New Great Game picks up speed, and Russia supplies Eurasian powers Iran, China and India with missile defense systems beyond anything the West has, get used to the new normal; Cold War 2.0 between Washington and Beijing-Moscow.

    I leave you with Joseph Conrad, writing in Heart of Darkness: “There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies….To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe….We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were traveling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories…”

    Empire of Chaos preparing for more fireworks in 2016
    By Pepe Escobar
    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/326965-2016-us-syria-turkey/

    • Oleg
      December 27, 2015 at 15:01

      So it is the containment, or heartland, or Eurasia, etc? May I ask why we all should allow our lives to be decided by some long dead people and even long dead empires? Isn’t it sheer madness? Why can’t you in the US accept a simple fact that there are other people around you which, even if they do not submit themselves to your force, may still harbour no ill will and no desire to hurt the US? You really can accept only vassals around you and cannot have equal relations with anyone? You know, if this is true, you should change, or you will go down as Rome did.

    • MG
      December 27, 2015 at 18:56

      *** go down as Rome did ***

      1,000 years of Roman Empire and if to count Byzantium – 2,000 years.
      Pretty good run! :)

    • Oleg
      December 27, 2015 at 23:13

      Well, most of this time Rome was not like that. Especially Byzantium. Byzantine diplomacy is a famous phrase that was coined for some excellent reasons. I haven’t heard any special praise to the American diplomacy lately .

  4. MG
    December 27, 2015 at 12:21

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_7gByf1KVQ
    BBC: Putin Russia and the West

    It is pretty fair depiction in my view of the events starting 2003 Georgian and 2004 Ukrainian revolutions.
    There is interesting issue representation of “Saakashvili must go” in 2008 (part. 3) to compare to “Assad must go” in ongoing Syrian Civil war.

  5. ltr
    December 27, 2015 at 10:06

    Continuing the theme:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/16/world/middleeast/white-house-split-on-opening-talks-with-putin.html

    September 15 2015

    Obama Weighing Talks With Putin on Syrian Crisis
    By PETER BAKER and ANDREW E. KRAMER

    WASHINGTON — Mr. Obama views Mr. Putin as a thug, according to advisers and analysts.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/opinion/mr-putins-mixed-messages-on-syria.html

    September 20, 2015

    Mr. Putin’s Mixed Messages on Syria

    Mr. Obama considers Mr. Putin a thug, his advisers say….

    • December 28, 2015 at 02:00

      very useful compendium; thanks “ltr” ray mcgovern

    • December 28, 2015 at 02:06

      a handy (and telling) compendium of adolescent epithets re Putin; thanks, “ltr”

      ray

  6. ltr
    December 27, 2015 at 10:04

    The theme:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/opinion/david-brooks-snap-out-of-it.html

    September 22, 2014

    Snap Out of It
    By David Brooks

    President Vladimir Putin of Russia, a lone thug sitting atop a failing regime….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/opinion/thomas-friedman-putin-and-the-pope.html

    October 21, 2014

    Putin and the Pope
    By Thomas L. Friedman

    One keeps surprising us with his capacity for empathy, the other by how much he has become a first-class jerk and thug….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/opinion/sunday/thomas-l-friedman-whos-playing-marbles-now.html

    December 20, 2014

    Who’s Playing Marbles Now?
    By Thomas L. Friedman

    Let us not mince words: Vladimir Putin is a delusional thug….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/22/opinion/paul-krugman-putin-neocons-and-the-great-illusion.html

    December 21, 2014

    Conquest Is for Losers: Putin, Neocons and the Great Illusion
    By Paul Krugman

    Remember, he’s an ex-K.G.B. man — which is to say, he spent his formative years as a professional thug….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/opinion/thomas-friedman-czar-putins-next-moves.html

    January 27, 2015

    Czar Putin’s Next Moves
    By Thomas L. Friedman

    ZURICH — If Putin the Thug gets away with crushing Ukraine’s new democratic experiment and unilaterally redrawing the borders of Europe, every pro-Western country around Russia will be in danger….

    • Bart
      December 27, 2015 at 12:00

      “Paul Krugman

      Remember, he’s an ex-K.G.B. man — which is to say, he spent his formative years as a professional thug….”

      While our CIA is merely a refuge for aged choirboys.

  7. Carlos Lober
    December 26, 2015 at 22:16

    it is not Putin bashing .. it is simply the undeniable evidence of the Kremlin’s dictatorship .. the “power vertical” .. it has eliminated all political competition in Russia .. there are no politicians in the whole nation to challenge the Kremlin bosses .. what is despicable is that Presidents Obama and Bush did not expose this fact to the world ten years ago ..

    • The Think Tank of One
      December 26, 2015 at 23:16

      there are twice as many political parties in the Russian Federation’s Federal Assembly then there are in u.s. congress.
      there is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which holds 92 of 450 seats. led by Gennady Zyuganov, a harsh critic of President Putin, for not doing more to oppose the u.s. and nato threat.
      there is the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky who has proposed carpet bombing the Baltics. criticizes President Putin for not doing more in Ukraine … his party holds 56 seats.
      there is A Just Russia, led by Sergey Mironov, they hold 64 seats. they are also critical that not enough is being done to avert the threat from nato.
      in the event that the conservative United Russia, which holds 238 seats were to lose it’s popularity, a global conflict could become a reality.
      the Russian citizen experienced living under an openly authoritarian fascist regime, and as a result is more difficult to doop then the u.s. citizen. they are more critical of what is printed on their news papers and what is transmitted to them over their television sets. they know how to read between the lines … westerners are too eager to eat up what ever is said by the talking heads on their television sets.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZVv2AOCnaA

    • Sam Fisher
      December 26, 2015 at 23:38

      You obviously know nothing about the Russian Federation. Just because the opposition in Russia which you favor, the “liberal democrats,” isn’t very popular doesn’t mean that their isn’t a large opposition. It just so happens that in the case of Russia it’s the Communist Party that forms the largest opposition block. You see most Russians have vivid memories of what liberal democracy did to their country during the 1990s and do not want to repeat that mistake. Furthermore, they actually like and support Putin and his policies. Putin acts in the national interests of Russia, a fact that seems to irritate those in the West to no end. This is what you would want ANY elected leader to do which is where he derives his genuine popularity from.

    • IR hobbyist
      December 27, 2015 at 08:44

      But here begs the question. What is it to you that there is a ‘power vertical’ in Russia? And why should Obama/Bush have anything to say about it. Can you imagine a Russian pres. telling a US pres. how to run the country? Absolutely not. So why are so many people thinking that they should tell Russian people what to do, tell the Russian president how to lead his country. You all need to step back and mind your own business.

    • MG
      December 27, 2015 at 18:37

      *** And why should Obama/Bush have anything to say about it.***

      Well, speaking at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University 2014, Biden spoke about Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates involvement in arming jihadists in Syria and … apologized for that. They are allies and US dependent on them to maintain its presence in the Middle East.
      Russia is not and any argument goes. Democracy is one of the arguments, especially if you compare with allied Saudis and UAE .
      But by saying that, existing “power vertical” and dependence on oligarchs in Russia is definitely not attractive…

    • Abbybwood
      December 27, 2015 at 17:16

      Hasn’t the same thing happened in the United States?

      It almost seems as if Hillary and Bill Clinton have their own personal shadow government already at play:

      http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187

      At this point it seems that regardless of who would “run” against the Clintons, they cannot lose. The Republicans put forth a riot of right wing reactionaries who stand zero chance of winning the White House in 2016. Which is why people talk about the “coronation” of Hillary Clinton.

      It does not matter what crimes she may have committed while Secretary of State. It does not matter that her husband is a serial rapist and cavorts around with a convicted pedophile (Read about the Lolita Express, Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Clinton).

      So, make your charges against the political state of Russia if you will. But it sure appears as though the United States is in the same boat. Sure, we all “get to vote”. But the PTB make sure that who ever wins will be “their” guy/gal who is controllable to the max.

      Even Trump.

    • Bob Van Noy
      December 28, 2015 at 10:56

      I find it compelling Abbybwood that Iran Contra would be centered in Bill’s Arkansas and that he and Hillary would know nothing about it. Too, George H W Bush was surly orchestrating things with Oliver North out of President Reagan’s White House. Bill Clinton would then run successfully against President Bush 41. Did that run create a split in the security state? Why did Ross Perrot insert himself in that race? Was that the beginning of a two division “deep state”?

  8. The Think Tank of One
    December 26, 2015 at 21:17

    the first publication I ever took in on the subject of President Putin, was funded by his detractors. one of the first lines of monologue are,
    “we are all responsible for the current situation … our error was not only believing in Putin, but also creating him.”
    this is spoken by Ksenia Ponomareva, President Putin’s campaign chief (read: the person who was paid to lie through her teeth about President Putin’s opponents throughout the election campaign … when her boss Boris Berezovsky still believed President Putin would be another patsy like Yeltsin).
    even though this video was meant to make me hate President Putin, I actually became more interested in who he is.
    here is a link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bDW9to3lO8

  9. MG
    December 26, 2015 at 18:39

    “Joseph Stalin, with his no man, no issue philosophy of governance”

    Stalin never said it

    This comes from the novel Children of the Arbat (1987) by Anatoly Rybakov.
    Rybakov admitted that he had no sources for such a statement and claimed the right to do so as a fictional writer

    • ltr
      December 26, 2015 at 20:03

      Fine scholarship. We should always be careful with quotes.

  10. Drew Hunkins
    December 26, 2015 at 17:49

    What’s most insidious about the Putin bashing is that it’s emanating from somewhat (somewhat) liberal quarters: NPR, PBS, Wash Post, NY Times, Brookings type institutions, etc.

    With fellow liberal friends and acquaintances I can barely say one positive thing about Russia or Putin without them becoming borderline hysterical and raising their voices like blithering dolts. They read it in the Wash Post so it’s gospel.

    It ain’t just Fox News pumping out the broadsides against the Kremlin, no sirree, it’s the best and brightest (and biggest sellouts) the United States has to offer.

    • ltrl
      December 26, 2015 at 20:06

      Russia and President Putin can scarcely be spoken about in a civil manner among liberals. Just pay attention to the fierce language used by Hillary Clinton.

    • b.grand
      December 26, 2015 at 22:36

      Drew, Dude,
      If you and your friends still think those institutions are “somewhat (somewhat) liberal” you’ve been dozing! Hope you’re not harboring the same illusions about Killery. At this point I’m considering Trump versus “We’ll go after everything from North Africa to South Asia …AND BEYOND!!!”

    • Drew Hunkins
      December 27, 2015 at 18:36

      Hi b. grand,

      You’re correct, those outlets are certainly not liberal when it comes to real issues. However, they’re somewhat liberal when it comes to the non-economic/non-imperialist issues of gay rights, prayer in schools, abortion, affirmative action, etc. When it comes to the lifestyle issues, they’re generally somewhat liberal.

    • December 26, 2015 at 23:59

      Well said. I’d never vote for him, but even Donald Trump is better on how to manage relations with Russia than major media like Wash Post and NYT. The truth is that these entities are really not that liberal, particularly about foreign affairs.

    • Oleg
      December 27, 2015 at 13:39

      Hello Drew,

      You write:

      “I can barely say one positive thing about Russia or Putin without them becoming borderline hysterical and raising their voices like blithering dolts.”

      Could you please explain to me why is this really happening? I am a Russian myself and over the last few years I am truly baffled by the vicious Russia-hatred emanating from many Western media outlets, to the point that I stopped watching Western TV altogether (except NHL, maybe). I generally do not see any of this from general public (I am a dual citizen and live about 60% of my time in Canada, visiting the US and Western Europe from time to time too), although the propaganda war has certainly taken its tall a bit. It all started well before the Ukrainian affair, perhaps, indeed when Putin interfered to avert the sarin-attack US invasion of Syria in 2013? If so, isn’t it just plain ridiculous??? After that, the ceaseless bashing of the Olympics, the gay propaganda law, etc etc etc. And only then came the Ukrainian crisis, which probably would also have never become such an issue if not for all the raised tensions that began well before and created quite poisonous atmosphere and lack of trust between Russia and the West.

      Well, I have lived in various Western countries for 15+ years and of course I know there always has been some latent Russophobia stemming from various historic reasons, lingering Cold War fears, etc., but never ever did it reach such epic proportions! Could somebody here please explain me why?

      I consider myself a reasonably sane person so I really cannot force myself to believe all that is said and written about perpetual containment of Russia, that the rise of any Eurasian continental power would inevitably and mortally threaten the US, as e.g. Stratfor would led me to believe??? Or is it indeed the start of the Eurasian economic integration, as some Russian scholars say, that prompted such an hysterical response from the West? But surely it would be more in the US interests to maintain good relations with such a strong economic power? Doesn’t profitable trade make powers good friends? And – if you really wanted to prevent this, you have shot yourselves in the foot. Russia used to be very suspicious of China, but this is gone, thanks to your policies.

      Again, speaking about this mad continental power thing, isn’t it ridiculous and paranoid to constantly feel threatened by someone 5,000 miles and a couple of oceans away? Should I really believe this nonsense? Or I miss some simpler explanations?

      I would be really grateful if someone here kindly explains this to me.

      Thanks,

      Oleg

    • December 27, 2015 at 15:43

      Oleg,
      this all boils down to defence of the u.s. dollar’s status as “global reserve currency.” any alternatives to the u.s. dollar is a threat.
      a sovereign, and independent Russian Federation is a threat to the u.s. dollar’s dominance because of the vast wealth contained east of the Urals.
      the economic downturn, and corruption of the 1990’s in Russian politics was bound to break up the federation. leaving the Siberian republics prey to the i.m.f.’s “economic hitmen.” Siberian republics would have been granted “development aid loans,” which would have been used to pay multi-national contractors to build the infrastructure used in extracting natural resources. development of domestic industries would have been ignored, and the citizens would be left to pay off the crippling debt from the “development aid loans.” without any industries, the debt would be paid in oil, natural gas, gold, and other mineral wealth. austerity and privatization would be introduced, and the owners of the u.s. dollar would profit.
      President Putin put an end to this plan. he forced those who acquired Russian state owned industrial assets throughout the 1990’s, to run their assets ethically, and pay their taxes, or lose them. President Putin saved the Russian Federation by investing in domestic industries. keeping the Federation united and strong.
      together with china, the Russian Federation offers an alternative to the u.s. dollar … if the u.s. dollar losses it’s influence as “global reserve currency,” it’s owners will experience a horrible economic depression.
      that is the cause for Russia bashing.

    • Oleg
      December 27, 2015 at 17:54

      Thanks. That’s what I read repeatedly in Russian and other media. However, I do not believe that any such plan could be really pursued by serious people in their right mind, and I have no reason to think that Americans are fools. I do agree that the central role of the dollar as a reserve currency is essential to maintaining the US status as the world’s core economy (in the sense e.g. of Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis) with all he enormous benefits that accompany such status. Your words also reminds me of the famous Thomas Dunning quote that there is “not a crime at which it (the capitalism) will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged” when there is “an adequate profit”. However, this was said almost 200 years ago. I cannot believe that the world in the 21st century should live according to some ancient 200 years old ideas. One thing that is repeatedly raised in various discussions is that Anglo-Saxon (British and American) political culture is inherently incapable of cooperation and always push for domination, as opposed to the Asian and sometimes European views that harmonious relations are the supreme goal (the Europeans learned it in a hard way of total devastation in two world wars). I am not sure this is the case, but if so, this is really sad. The contemporary world is really complex and multipolar. We as humanity would have been much stronger if we stopped those petty brawls and start pursuing common goals. The real problem the world faces now is the lack of adequate development. Jobless poor people become extremists and terrorists instead of living in peace, raising their families and peacefully contributing their skills and talent to sustainable development. And one of the reasons things are this way is the poor leadership of the US in the past 20+ years. You wanted this job, the new American century and all that. That’s what you have achieved.

    • December 27, 2015 at 20:55

      Oleg,
      your reply especially the beginning where you write that you “read repeatedly in Russian” what I wrote above, tells me that people across the globe are aware of what is happening.
      I fear that the shareholders of the u.s. dollar will stubbornly continue to attempt undermining every nation’s sovereignty regardless of the risks. the Russian citizen is now aware of washington’s little plan of global dominance. any alternative to President Putin and United Russia would be more bellicose, and could possibly oblige neocon wishes of a “first strike” by the Russian Federation. such an event would give political traction for a “hot war.”
      as for a Nuclear Armageddon … neocons believe in the “Protracted Nuclear War.” an idea where the nuclear capabilities of an adversary are mitigated by an overwhelming countermeasure. the plan calls for counter-missile shield around the Russian Federation, to mitigate Russia’s ability to launch nukes at North American targets. while at the same time, NATO forces surrounding the Russian Federation destroy it’s capacity to resist invasion.
      … if every nation’s sovereignty cannot be undermined through cunning, then it will be taken by force. the alternative for the shareholders of the u.s. dollar is going broke, as the u.s. dollar loses it’s value.
      Thomas Dunning’s quote fits this scenario well, because I do not believe a nuclear war can be protracted, or it’s effects limited to one corner of the globe.

    • David Smith
      December 27, 2015 at 16:02

      Oleg, it is called mind control, that is automatic emotional reactions to certain words, phrases, and images. Rage is the easiest emotion to implant. Autosuggestion is the technique, the media is the means. I can’t tell you how it is done, but the effect is absurdly obvious.

    • Oleg
      December 27, 2015 at 17:59

      Hello David,

      Thanks for your reply. I agree; but there is always somebody running the show. You talk about techniques; but I wonder more about goals, why is it being done? For what reasons?

    • Brad Owen
      December 28, 2015 at 08:02

      The goals were defined by the Synarchist Movement Empire from early 1920’s. It’s birth was in late 19th century from some of Napoleon’s Officers and extremely reactionary elements of Catholic Church. Britain’s ruling class, the Cecil Rhodes people, threw in with it. It was a Modern “facelift” for old European Empires. It gave birth to the 20th century Fascist movements (NAZIism was just a particular manifestation of Fascism). The very wealthy and powerful ruling classes were the “secret partners” in all of these Fascist movements but they couldn’t steer their “Frankenstein Monster” exactly the way they wanted to, so they threw in with the Allied Powers to crush the Axis Powers…pull the plug. They chose the stealthy covert route instead. Now the World is experiencing their “Deep State Putsch”. Same conspirators, same goal…Global, neo-feudal Empire based on the Empires of Rome and Napoleon, fueled by Hitler’s ideas: a small wealthy ruling caste, a warrior caste, a small, proficient technologists caste, and a herd of peasant/serfs living an austere harsh life, basically a gene pool for recruitment as needed…and GREATLY REDUCED population (the sinister part of the Green/eco Movement and Austerity policies). This nightmare is THEIR Dream for our World. Carroll Quigley talked about them. That’s what I’ve been able to dig up. Mostly from Executive Intelligence Review (EIR), alot from Tarpley.net too. Nobody believes it. That’s why it’s succeeding.

    • David Smith
      December 28, 2015 at 14:03

      The American Propertied Class(who allegedly don’t exist) are running the show. The goal is Control of their slaves emotional reactions, achieve that and all other goals, wealth, political power, follow easily. Do not underestimate how deeply the American cattle are mind controlled.

    • MG
      December 27, 2015 at 18:00

      To me all of it is old XIX century world powers’ sphere of influence games and preventing others to acquire or maintaining one. NATO expansion and Russia trying to push back – the same old “good” pattern.

      Remember all this talk about XXI century values and outdating XIX century behavior? Somehow everybody stopped talking about that.

      In Ukraine and Syria Russia is trying to show that as a world power Russia is entitled to its own sphere of influence, notably Ukraine and Georgia. In Syria in addition to officially declared goals it shows its military capabilities in case of more serious turn of events in Ukraine.

      If it is going to succeed remains to be seen. Everything else is propaganda screen.
      As in Iraq or Libya, you do it if you can. There is no morals there.

    • Drew Hunkins
      December 27, 2015 at 18:48

      The threat of an independent Russia scares the socks off the Western capitalist powers. A Russia that runs its nation for its own people and not Western investors is anathema to Wall Street, corporate America, the London Market, etc. An independent Russia that has the temerity to criticize Zionist aggression is also a threat to the powerful institutions in Washington and New York.

      The mainstream media across virtually the entire spectrum in the United States are owned and controlled (not totally but to a very large degree) by these rich, powerful entities, hence they pump out a view of the world that’s hostile to independent Russia and Putin. The vast majority of the American public buys right into all the nonsense fear mongering.

      There are plenty of top notch intellectuals to read in order to get a much better grasp of what I’m conveying (read the actual paper books, don’t simply rely on websites) such as: Dr. James Petras, Dr. Michael Parenti, Chris Hedges, Consortium’s own Robert Parry, Noam Chomsky (though he downplays the strength of the Zionist Power Configuration, he’s excellent otherwise) John Pilger, Tariq Ali, Diana Johnstone, and Andre Vltchek.

    • December 28, 2015 at 01:44

      Oleg — FIRST thanks for starting this conversation and asking the real questions! Wanted to ask for your comment on what you wrote (see quote below), which I had sensed but not really looked into deeply; i. e., that the real denigration of Putin went into high gear right after he angered the neoconservatives by pulling Putin’s chestnuts out of the fire and brokering the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. In other words, right after the neoconservatives were cheated out of their war on Syria, having come within inches of tying that unwise “red line” around Obama’s neck like an albatross and mousetrapping him him into doing “shock and awe” on Syria.

      If memory serves, this period coincided with the accession to power of “Tori” (as SecState Kerry called her amid effusive….fulsome praise at her confirmation ceremony) Nuland as Assistant Secretary for European Affairs. Can you mark the start of the public diatribe vs Putin more precisely in time? Would be particularly interested in any identifiable connection in timing with the immediate aftermath of the sarin attack at Ghouta and the cause celebre made out if by John Kerry blaming the Syrian government; as well as the promotion of “Tori” to here new, very influential, post as assistant secretary.

      There is always, I suppose, the risk of indulging post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc fallacious reasoning, but I would like to be clearer on the temporal connections. Thanks.

      You wrote:

      “… the propaganda war has certainly taken its tall a bit. It all started well before the Ukrainian affair, perhaps, indeed when Putin interfered to avert the sarin-attack US invasion of Syria in 2013? If so, isn’t it just plain ridiculous??? After that, the ceaseless bashing of the Olympics, the gay propaganda law, etc etc etc. And only then came the Ukrainian crisis, which probably would also have never become such an issue if not for all the raised tensions that began well before and created quite poisonous atmosphere and lack of trust between Russia and the West.”

      With respect,

      Ray McGovern

    • Drew Hunkins
      December 28, 2015 at 12:05

      Hello Mr. McGovern; I really respect all the fantastic work you do!

      You make a great point about the moment in time when the Russia/Putin bashing really, really took off: right when Putin brokered a certain amount of peace (late summer 2013) in that he was able to talk Obama down from bombing Assad in Damascus when the Washington-Zionist-Saudi Terror Network was dead set on turning Syria into another Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. This is no doubt when the propaganda war really took off full force against Putin/Russia.

      Moreover, the American public also deserves some credit in turning Obama away from following the dictates of the Washington-Zionist-Saudi Terror Network’s plan to destroy Assad and Syria. The U.S. public was about 70% against a new war in Syria and Obama thankfully heeded this opinion. Of course no one in the establishment media (and somewhat curiously even in many left periodicals) gave the general American public much credit for getting this one right in 2013.

    • Abe
      December 28, 2015 at 13:25

      Ray McGovern,

      with all due respect to you, your fellow intelligence professionals, and fellow commenters here on Consortium News,

      Putin bashing took off when Putin obstructed Israel’s plans for Syria and Iran.

      Plug this reality into the analyses and no post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc fallacious reasoning is necessary. The temporal connections are clear.

      This avoidance of direct analyses of Israel’s geo-strategic interests and historical animosities , its powerful lobby in the United States, and its direct role in global terror is tantamount to a conspiracy of silence.

      Abe

    • December 28, 2015 at 23:54

      Abe,

      I do think we agree. And I reckon you would concede that it not possible to include all important points…. especially in a comment. I have repeatedly addressed Israeli’s key role in the Syria mess; last April, for example, I used an unusual (perhaps unique) slip by the NYT editors in letting its Jerusalem Bureau chief relay very candid remarks by senior Israelis onto NYT pages:

      Neocon ‘Chaos Promotion’ in the Mideast
      April 13, 2015
      https://consortiumnews.com/2015/04/13/neocon-chaos-promotion-in-the-mideast/

      excerpt

      “The neocons also can take some solace from their “success” at enflaming the Middle East with Shia and Sunni now at each other’s throats — a bad thing for many people of the world and certainly for the many innocent victims in the region, but not so bad for the neocons. After all, it is the view of Israeli leaders and their neocon bedfellows (and women) that the internecine wars among Muslims provide at least some short-term advantages for Israel as it consolidates control over the Palestinian West Bank.

      “In a Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity memorandum for President Obama on Sept. 6, 2013, we called attention to an uncommonly candid report about Israeli/neocon motivation, written by none other than the Israel-friendly New York Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem Jodi Rudoren on Sept. 2, 2013, just two days after Obama took advantage of Putin’s success in persuading the Syrians to allow their chemical weapons to be destroyed and called off the planned attack on Syria, causing consternation among neocons in Washington.

      “… Israel’s priorities became crystal clear in what Rudoren wrote.

      “In her article, entitled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” Rudoren noted that the Israelis were arguing, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s (then) 2 ½-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, was no outcome:

      “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

      “‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”

      “Clear enough? If this is the way Israel’s leaders continue to regard the situation in Syria, then they look on deeper U.S. involvement – overt or covert – as likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict there. The longer Sunni and Shia are killing each other, not only in Syria but also across the region as a whole, the safer Tel Aviv’s leaders calculate Israel is.”

      Abe, I appreciate reading your comments; pleading innocent on this one.

      Ray

    • Abe
      December 29, 2015 at 13:56

      Ray, I do sincerely respect your work. Voices for sanity are urgently needed now.

      And I appreciate the occasions when you have directly about Israel’s intimate involvement in the terror assault on Syria.

      As I pointed out in comments on the December 22, 2015 VIPS Memorandum to Kerry and Lavrov, Israel was the first government to claim “proof” that Syria of responsibility for the 21 August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack.

      On 22 August 2013, Yuval Steinitz, the Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy (שר המופקד על שירותי המודיעין והוועדה לאנרגיה אטומית‎), the political head of the Israeli Intelligence community, said that Israel’s intelligence assessment was that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the Damascus area.

      Steinitz told Israel Radio that its intelligence assessments indicated that “chemical weapons were used, and they were not used for the first time.” He accused the international community of “paying lip service” when it comes to Syria. “Nothing practical, significant, has been done in the last two years in order to stop the continuing massacre of civilians carried out by the Assad regime,” Steinitz said. “I think that the investigation of the United Nations is a joke.”

      On August 24, 2013 in the German weekly, Focus, an unnamed former Mossad official said that Unit 8200 of the Israeli Defense Forces intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.

      On August 26 2013, Fox News reported that IDF Unit 8200 provided intelligence to the United States, Israel’s closest international ally, implicating the Syrian government in the attacks.

      The US “Government Assessment” appears to have been based entirely on an Israeli “Intelligence Assessment”.

      Perhaps you and the VIPS Steering Group could write a follow-up Memorandum highlighting this fact.

      Turkish MP’s have alleged that Al-Nusra operatives had attempted purchase of chemicals for production of sarin. Israel has generously supported for al-Nusra forces in the Golan.

      Your April 13, 2015 article highlighted an important aspect of Israeli “strategic thinking” — more accurately, Israeli and Western propaganda — about the armed conflict raging in Syria.

      The notion of a grand battle involving “both teams” (Sunni versus Shia) in Syria, Iraq and the broader Middle East is a blatant propaganda meme that originates from Israel.

      This and other Israeli propaganda memes have contaminated US strategic thinking for decades, thanks to the neocons and their liberal interventionist pro-Israel confederates.

      The reality is that the armed combatants are primarily mercenary forces used to eviscerate state authority in Syria, as was done previously in Libya and Iraq.

      After Syria, Iran is next on the Israeli agenda.

      So-called “counter-insurgency” genius, former CIA Director and friend of Israel, David Petraeus knows quite a bit about this strategy for violently deconstructing modern states systems and replacing them with relentless reigns of terror.

      Once the pernicious Israeli propaganda memes are stripped from the analyses, the true agents of conflict and their real motives may be clearly identified.

      You have made headway on this account, Ray. You and investigative journalist Robert Parry has been tremendous voices for sanity. We all owe you gentlemen a tremendous debt of gratitude.

      Agreed, it not possible to include all important points in a comment.

      But it is possible to agree on a few key points.

      One key point is that Israel’s crystal clear priorities have been driving US policy in the Middle East.

      The devil is in the details.

      Yes, we can talk about the confluence of US and Israeli geo-strategic interests in the post-Cold War era. But the details have been significant shaped by Israel’s agenda.

      Putin bashing is in high gear because, for Israel, Vlad has thrown a spanner in the works in Syria and Iran.

  11. ltr
    December 26, 2015 at 17:23

    Terrific essay. Russia bashing and especially bashing of Russia through bashing President Putin is an astonishingly uniform refrain in the United States.

    • Alex
      December 27, 2015 at 11:43

      article :”Elmar Brok, the chairman of the European Parliament’s committee on foreign relations, who was irritated by my insistence that Russian media gave a great many different takes on the news and was anything but monolithic, said in an aside to me that was picked up by the microphones and later went on air: “How much is the Kremlin paying you?”

      ====

      it is amazing that the chairman of the European parlament committee on foreign affairs exposed himself as having the same manners as teenager troll in Internet !

    • GrandmaR
      December 28, 2015 at 20:13

      Hardly more amazing than Victoria Nudelander, an Asst, Secretary of State, saying “[Eff] the EU,” and not being immediately relieved of her position and put on the very first plane out of Kiev. And given that it was all over the world media, how come an embarrassed U.S. public didn’t demand it? And how did Gen. Breedlove get away with stating on television that “It’s time to start killing Russians. A lot of them.”?

      Putin and Lavrov, and their spokespersons, are never “rude.” I can’t imagine why the MSM presstitutes think that Donald Trump is too rude and crude — if you ask me, he fits right in. If I were younger, I’d be looking to go live somewhere where there is still a culture with some propriety and good manners. Maybe Russia or China?

      When they called the Russian soldiers in Crimea (during those few days that they were preventing murder and mayhem by Ukranian Nazi militias) “polite men in green,” they were not making it up — they were welcomed and they were polite. Even to Ukranian military forces stationed in Crimea, they were polite.

      Thanks to Mr. Doctorov and to Consortium News. It is way past time for polite and clear-thinking Americans to start fighting back. VV Putin is the grownup in the room. He should get credit for that — especially from Americans and Europeans who are being embarrassed to death, literally, by our own asinine selections of so-called “leaders.” ‘

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