Mental escalators of violence in US policy and media makers – Part 4L. Without substance or proof, shallow US journalism condemns Putin’s alleged goals

False Bias #12. Putin Bemoans the Fall of the Soviet Union Because He Is a Creep Who Loves Power, Status, Gulags, and Empires. In her article in The Atlantic, “Who Is Vladimir Putin’s Revisionist History For?” staff writer Yasmeen Serhan borrows from the language of Trump to voice her conviction that Putin has a “quest to make Russia great again.”[1]

I think Putin is trying to make Russia great, but not in the sense Serhan adamantly implies. I think Putin is trying to make Russia great in the sense of enabling it to be treated with respect and enabling it to positively influence the world with helpful, moral, legitimate ideas. Serhan, however, promulgates her unjustified, unsubstantiated conviction that Putin is trying to make Russia great by building an empire, by bringing back to Russia much or all of the territory of the former USSR, and by making Russia the king of the planet.

Putin’s 2007 Munich speech describes how the “nearly uncontainable use of hyper-force” by the US and its “disdain for international law” jeopardize not only Russia, but countries worldwide, including even some US allies.[2] The words in his speeches and July 2021 essay clearly demonstrate that his concern is not for aggrandizing Russian power and territory. His concern is for the world as a whole, for the absence of an egalitarian sense of caring and respect for all, as is the concern of many Americans who despise US foreign policy. Putin even expresses the selfless concern that when the US behaves in this way, it corrodes itself from the inside out, for it itself is not respecting democracy, freedom, and generally accepted norms of morality. I think many, many Americans would agree with this.

Nonetheless, further jumping out onto dead limbs of guesswork, Serhan writes that “by restoring Russia’s control over its former territories, Putin not only corrects what he sees as a historic wrong but also cements his place in Russian history as the leader who restored the country to its rightful status.”

I have seen no evidence whatsoever that Putin is seeking to restore control over its former territories or cement his place in history. Putin is seeking to continue cooperation with former territories. He is opposed to attempts by the West to deliberately turn Ukraine against Russia and to sunder their ties despite their centuries of common historical, cultural, and family backgrounds. He is opposed to actions by the West to opportunistically turn Ukraine into a tool for the US purpose of acquiring the wealth of Ukraine and to antagonize and threaten Russia.[3] But I have not seen any evidence of his seeking to impose his will upon these territories. I have also seen no evidence of an inflated ego in his statements of concerns or any desire to stand out in history.

How dare Serhan make these giant, irresponsible guesses about Russia’s president and his motives! These are guesses that only exacerbate hostility and could even exacerbate a wider war!

Putin has recognized the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk, but this is not the same as seeking control over these territories. The citizens of Crimea, largely Russians, overwhelmingly voted in favor of reuniting with Russia, which they had been a part of until 1954. Putin has also initiated military operations in Ukraine, Donetsk, and Lugansk, but this was largely to put an end to the eight-year civil war in Ukraine, a war fueled and exacerbated by billions of dollars of US and NATO weapon shipments to Ukraine. It was also a response to the alarming and dangerous NATO expansion—an expansion of US empire. US and NATO weapon shipments themselves could also accurately be labeled steps to expand US empire and to continue US control over Ukraine since the US-assisted coup of 2014. Serhan steps well beyond the boundaries of integrity and responsibility when she implies that Putin is seeking conquest and heightened personal status.

Putin is seeking to prevent the West, the American Empire, from destroying more lives and from violating the sovereignty of both Ukraine and Russia. US policy and media makers, whether they’re trying to deceive us or are so naïve themselves as to not understand the history of US overt and covert intervention abroad, consider Putin’s worry about Western encroachment to be paranoid. But anyone with knowledge of the history of US-instigated coups, invasions, and economic and political manipulation of foreign nations can readily see that US policymakers are playing out that same pattern with regard to Ukraine and Russia.

Serhan inaccurately calls Putin’s military action “his war of choice,” even though Putin has been warning for years that NATO’s expansion—its highly provoking expansion of choice—east into Slavic lands with its membership, its bases-of-choice, and its weapon-shipments-and-deployments-of-choice pose an existential threat to Russia’s very survival.[4] Russia’s request to cease the expansion of NATO, a military organization created specifically to target the USSR/Russia with a system of entangling alliances, was met with that US cold-shoulder-of-choice that certain callous, unfeeling Americans are so good at.

As Putin writes in his February 21, 2022 speech, Ukraine, in violation of its own constitution which prohibits foreign military bases on its soil, “is home to NATO training missions which are, in fact, foreign military bases.” Conceivably, Ukraine could be the next nuclear nation. We have seen that NATO has no qualms about violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and deploying nuclear warheads to NATO nations, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Turkey.

Moreover, Putin writes:

“Ukraine’s airspace is open to flights by US strategic and reconnaissance aircraft and drones that conduct surveillance over Russian territory.

“I will add that the US-built Maritime Operations Center in Ochakov makes it possible to support activity by NATO warships, including the use of precision weapons, against the Russian Black Sea Fleet and our infrastructure on the entire Black Sea Coast.

“At one time, the United States intended to build similar facilities in Crimea as well but the Crimeans and residents in Sevastopol wrecked these plans. We will always remember this.”[5]

Putin also tried for years to resolve the civil war in Ukraine non-violently, while the US has kept pumping it with weapons since 2014.

Serhan fails to see that US and NATO actions and their refusal to understand Russia’s perspective have left Russia with no choice but to take this military action. If US and NATO missiles are that close to Russian soil, Russia is in danger. And I’m sure the US and NATO policymakers know this. After all, the US baited the USSR into invading Afghanistan in 1979 by arming the mujahideen six months prior to the Soviet invasion.[6] I’m sure US policymakers were baiting Russia into Ukraine, as well, just to be able to frame it as an evil nation and give Sweden and Finland, who’ve historically been rivals with Russia for land, an excuse to join NATO, thus giving NATO control over the Baltic Sea and perhaps promises of Russian land and wealth to Sweden and Finland.

Serhan makes no mention of the US-supported 2014 coup, US policymakers’ and corporations’ long-time interests in taking over Europe’s energy market from Russia,[7] ExxonMobil’s avarice for the Black Sea and for Ukrainian and Russian fossil fuel deposits,[8] and the role of neoconservatives and liberal hawks in advancing the American Empire even further. She displays no knowledge that this American Empire with its 800 military bases even exists.[9]

Instead of recognizing as valid a single one of Putin’s remarks regarding NATO, Western weapons, Western security services’ support for Ukrainian aggression and kidnapping of Russian citizens,[10] covert Western aggravation of separatism in former Soviet republics,[11] the horrendous violence in Ukraine’s civil war following the 2014 coup, the eight years of atrocities in Donetsk and Lugansk ignored by US mainstream media, the anti-Russian attitude being deliberately fomented by the post-coup Ukrainian government,[12] and the covert Western takeover of Ukraine to serve Western policymakers and profiteers,[13] Serhan displays not one ounce of comprehension or sympathy but instead chalks Putin’s decision for military action up to a desire to have Russia’s past “greatness. . . its imperial history and its victory during World War II” serve as a “guide” to its present. What she means by this is, as usual, unclear.

As if hoping to falsely support her conviction that Putin wants to make Russia “great again” in the imperial sense of the word “great,” Serhan refers to the fact that Putin “famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” She seems to speak of his evaluation as if it were ludicrous, as if his reasons were malicious, and as if he were a proponent of Stalin’s Gulag and the “Evil Empire” that allegedly wants to take over nation after nation.

It’s extremely important to understand the reasons why Putin likely made his comment rather than jump to false conclusions based upon simplistic American thinking and decades of ignorance-promoting US mainstream news. In the first place, keep in mind that when the USSR dissolved in 1991, it was cannibalized by foreign investors and rich Russian oligarchs. Because of the imposition of an extremely selfish, unbridled, US-advised form of capitalism, a vast proportion—one-third—of the Russian people sunk into poverty,[14] and Russians fell victim to the decline in law and order and the rise of violence and organized crime.[15]

I don’t care if a government was democratic, plutocratic, or autocratic, if the dissolution of that government causes one-third of the population to sink into poverty with an accompanying rise in violence and crime, that is a disaster. So if Putin or anyone else calls the dissolution of the USSR a disaster, they should not be condemned for having made some sort of immoral statement in favor of all the bad parts of the government. It obviously was a disaster.

Meanwhile, under the US-supported Yeltsin administration, self-centered oligarchs became millionaires and billionaires, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who acquired 78 percent of Russia’s Yukos oil company for one-sixteenth of its value during the highly corrupt times of Yeltsin’s rule and then almost sold off about 40 percent of it to ExxonMobil for $25 billion.[16] The US-supported Yeltsin undoubtedly would have supported the sale—that’s why US policymakers liked him, but Putin was in power and he had Khodorkovsky arrested and sent to Siberia.[17]

Can you imagine how ExxonMobil would have exploited the Russian people, raked in the profits at Russia’s expense, and severely yanked the strings of the Russian government had it been allowed to make the purchase? But this is the supposedly beautiful “free market,” where the Wild West rules and government can’t stop Russian and American oligarchs who are “free” to trample over everyone else’s needs and interests. One-third of Russians had sunk into poverty, while one Russian almost walked off with $25 billion and almost gave away a significant chunk of Russian resources to ExxonMobil. There is no denying that the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 and subsequent rule under US-supported Yeltsin was a colossal disaster.

In addition to the immoral economic inequality and violence that resulted from the 1991 dissolution, there was a second severe consequence on the international scene. As Putin describes in his February 24, 2022 essay, once the USSR dissolved, US policymakers lost all respect for it and refused to listen to Russia’s ideas and perspective. This loss of respect towards Russia and Russian interests and ideas is nothing to trivialize. According to Putin’s speeches, it has resulted in the failure of US policymakers to give Russia the time of day, to show any caring or concern about Russia’s legitimate concerns, including NATO’s heartless, monstrous expansion. US policymakers, once Russia was no longer to be feared, turned cold as icicles towards Russia, and hot as burning rubber with regard to the pursuit of their own avaricious goals of wealth and power.

Since the US “experts” are representing Putin falsely, I will quote from him at length. Putin writes in his February 24, 2022 speech of the eastward expansion of NATO:

“It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe. In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border.

“Why is this happening? Where did this insolent manner of talking down from the height of their exceptionalism, infallibility and all-permissiveness come from? What is the explanation for this contemptuous and disdainful attitude to our interests and absolutely legitimate demands?

“The answer is simple. Everything is clear and obvious. In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union grew weaker and subsequently broke apart. That experience should serve as a good lesson for us, because it has shown us that the paralysis of power and will is the first step towards complete degradation and oblivion. We lost confidence for only one moment, but it was enough to disrupt the balance of forces in the world.

“As a result, the old treaties and agreements are no longer effective. Entreaties and requests do not help. Anything that does not suit the dominant state, the powers that be, is denounced as archaic, obsolete and useless. At the same time, everything it regards as useful is presented as the ultimate truth and forced on others regardless of the cost, abusively and by any means available. Those who refuse to comply are subjected to strong-arm tactics.

“What I am saying now does not concern only Russia, and Russia is not the only country that is worried about this. This has to do with the entire system of international relations, and sometimes even US allies. . . .

“. . . . we saw a state of euphoria created by the feeling of absolute superiority, a kind of modern absolutism, coupled with the low cultural standards and arrogance of those who formulated and pushed through decisions that suited only themselves.”[18]

US “experts” claim that Putin wants to restore Russia’s status as a superpower. In my judgment, this is not Putin’s goal in an arrogant or aggressive sense. However, he is dismayed that Russia’s loss of power has since translated into US policymakers’ loss of respect or even caring for Russia or any other nation. As Putin writes, Russia is repeatedly met by US policymakers who lie and turn the cold shoulder. US policymakers have taught Russians and the world a lesson: don’t lose any power or military might that you may have in relation to the US, or US policymakers will treat you with even less respect and run you over.

Unfortunately, as many Americans know, some Americans are of the type who are only nice to others for selfish, opportunistic reasons—if they can get something out of it, whether a reward or an escape from punishment. It’s not surprising since many American children are raised this way at home and in school, through the rewards and punishments advocated by George Lakoff’s Strict Model, which we discussed in a previous essay, Part 4B. According to this model, the primary way to develop children’s behavior and to get people to behave the way you want is through rewards and punishments. It is quite the opposite of what Lakoff describes as the Nurturant Model.[19]

The US foreign policymaker establishment breed, forever brewing its manipulative stew of bribes and threats, is decidedly from the Strict Model group. Related to the Strict Model, and also mentioned in Part 4B, are Eduard Spranger’s “political lenses.” Those who see the world through these lenses, as opposed to the other five types that Spranger defines, will see relationships only in terms of superiority, inferiority, domination, and control.[20] They don’t think about caring, love, joy, understanding, and justice.

So, when US policymakers had something to get out of being respectful to Russia, namely, not being nuked to death, they treated Russia respectfully and gave it rewards of treaties and disarmament and respect. But once Russia was no longer a superpower, once the US was clearly superior and in control, US policymakers wouldn’t give it the time of day. They had all the power they needed and therefore had no need or wish to satisfy Russian needs. US policymakers don’t think in terms of caring and justice.

If Putin wants any status back for Russia, it is not with a wish to become an empire or world conqueror, it is only for purposes of wishing to be treated with respect, as any nation deserves to be treated with respect, not only those who are wealthy or intimidating.

Perhaps Putin can take cold comfort in the fact that this despicable attitude of friendship and respect is a characteristic of some parts of American culture from which other nations and cultures have also suffered. The US government’s relationships with Native Americans is replete with example after example of a type of friendship based upon the US concept: “You exist to serve me. If you cannot serve me, your usefulness to me and our friendship is over. Now get lost before I kill you.” No wonder the US government violated every single treaty of the more than 370 treaties it made with the Native Americans (1777–1868). The Native Americans violated one.[21]

As just one example, Vine Deloria, author of Custer Died for Your Sins, describes how the United States often made treaties with the Native Americans during the 1700s in order to gain their loyalty in alliances against England and France. In these treaties, Native Americans pledged they wouldn’t make treaties with another foreign power, such as England or France. But once the threat from European intruders was over, the Native Americans were not useful to the US government, only their land was. Promises of equality and statehood had been offered to the Indian tribes, such as the Delaware, in order to get support. “But when the shooting was all over the Delawares were forgotten in the rush to steal their land.”[22]

The place to discuss this distorted form of friendship and its existence within American culture amongst Americans is in a later category of this analysis, the section on Love, Friendship, and Worth. But another aspect of this lack of respect in the post-1991 world has been US policymakers’ rush to fill in the vacuum left by a retreat of Russian power. It’s quite ironic given the fact that members of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) insist that it’s the other nations who’ll seek to fill in a vacuum of power if the US doesn’t take over wherever it can. As PNAC’s Executive Director Gary Schmitt stated, “in the absence of a strong American military presence, its competitors and adversaries will fill the vacuum.”[23]

Yet NATO has been filling in the vacuum of power left by the dissolution of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, and it has filled in this vacuum of power with the most ruthless disregard for Russia’s pleas against such expansion and Russia’s reminders that this is contrary to US and NATO verbal agreements with Russia. The result of this vacuum of power has been this very unipolar power that Putin condemns in his 2007 Munich speech, a unipolar power—the US government—that leaves no one feeling safe because of its disdain for international law.

There are likely other reasons, as well, but certainly the plunge into poverty by enormous numbers of Russians, the plundering of Russia’s wealth by Russian oligarchs and Western investors, the lack of respect and caring for Russia’s legitimate concerns and needs, and the rise to power of a US government that considers itself to be above international and national law, are all valid reasons for Putin to lament the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The alleged desire to resurrect a Russian Empire simply is not part of this equation that I can see.

In speaking of Putin’s accurate remarks at the 2007 Munich conference that a unipolar rule obedient to US policymakers is dangerous, Serhan states, “Putin bemoaned the aftermath of the Soviet era and the pernicious, unipolar world—one led not by Moscow, but by Washington—that it had created.” Serhan’s ridicule demonstrates her utter failure to comprehend that Putin is not seeking a world led by Russia, but a world that is multipolar, a world that is not led by the US. She fails to understand the negative consequences that arose from the fall of the USSR and the rise of the US government as the sole superpower.

Now that the US faces no rival, it’s been free to embark upon the expansion of the American Empire as described so hideously by PNAC. Already in the Mid-East, the US has directly killed more than 800,000 Middle Easterners.[24] That is the kind of world that exists when the US is the unipolar power. This is the so-called “Pax Americana.” The neoconservative and liberal hawk madmen, who have deprived their fellow Americans of power for decades, relentlessly keeping third-party candidates out of power, now seek to deprive even more people of power. But Serhan reflects upon none of this. She fails to see that Putin’s goal is not for Moscow to lead the world. He would like a multipolar world, a world where nations equally adhere to international law. He is repulsed by the “absolutism” of US policymakers’ worldwide power, which is selfishly imposed upon others without caring or justice.

Disappointment hardly expresses the feelings of rage to read yet again another example of how American journalism can be so shallow, so lacking in research and evidence, so lacking in thoughtful reflection, and so blithely unaware of the consequences of the falsehood that it spreads. Journalism seems to be nothing more than playing with words, stringing them together to sound clever and smart in only the most superficial way, but without real substance, without any concern about getting a 360-degree perspective on events, and with only a flip attitude towards the people and events of which one is writing.

And this—the United States—is the nation that thinks it has the intelligence to lead the world?

Kristin Christman has been independently researching US foreign policy and peace since 9/11. Her channel focuses on US-Russian relations at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuNEw9-10lk-CwU-5vAElcg. Kristin graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with a BA in Russian, and she holds Master’s degrees in Slavic languages from Brown University and public administration from SUNY Albany. She has been a guest with former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter and UNAC coordinator Joe Lombardo on Cynthia Pooler’s program, Issues that Matter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDlaLNJih7U. Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice recently published her article on suicide, culture, and peace in their special edition on suicide, Vol. 33 No. 4.  kristinchristman956@gmail.com

Notes

[1] Yasmeen Serhan, “Who Is Vladimir Putin’s Revisionist History For?” Atlantic, Feb. 27, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com.

[2] Vladimir Putin, 43rd Munich Conference on Security and Policy, Feb. 11, 2007, https://russialist.org.

[3] Vladimir Putin, “Article by Vladimir Putin: ‘On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” July 12, 2021, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, https://russiaun.ru.

[4] Putin, 43rd Munich Conference, Feb. 11, 2007.

[5] Vladimir Putin, “Address to the People of Russia on the Donbas Problem and the Situation in Ukraine,” American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank, Feb. 21, 2022, https://www.americanrhetoric.com.

[6] Bill Van Auken, “Zbigniew Brzezinski, Architect of the Catastrophe in Afghanistan, Dead at 89,” World Socialist Web Site, May 29, 2017, https://www.wsws.org.

Nick Turse, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (New York: Verso, 2010), Chalmers Johnson, “Abolish the CIA!” 31-32.

David N. Gibbs, “The Brzezinski Interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (1998),” Translated by William Blum and David N. Gibbs, https://dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu.

[7] Simon Shuster and Ilya Marritz, “Rick Perry’s Ukrainian Dream,” Pro Publica, Sept. 10, 2020, https://www.propublica.com.

Russell Gold, “How Texas Is Rescuing Europe from the Russians: An Energy Crisis on the Continent Has It Desperate for Help from the Permian Natural Gas It Had Earlier Spurned,” Texas Monthly, Feb. 14, 2022, https://www.texasmonthly.com;

Russia Today, “Why American LNG Is No Substitute for Russian Gas in Europe,” Apr. 23, 2018, https://www.rt.com;

Charles Riley, “US Becomes World’s Top Exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas,” CNN, Jan. 5, 2022, https://www.cnn.com;

Marcy De Luna and Nina Chestney, “Gas Gap in Europe Drives US LNG Exports to Record High,” Reuters, Jan. 6, 2022;

Marcy De Luna, “Europe Remains Top Destination for US LNG for the Third Month, Reuters, Feb. 15, 2022, https://www.reuters.com;

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, “American Gas to Europe’s Rescue,” Wall Street Journal, Feb. 13, 2022, https://www.wsj.com.

[8] Aura Sabadus, “Why the Black Sea Could Emerge as the World’s Next Great Energy Battleground,” Mar. 30, 2021, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org;

Lindsay Dodgson, “In the Depths: Drilling for Oil in the Black Sea,” Feb. 3, 2016, https://www.offshore-technology.com.

Andrew Jack and Carola Hoyos, “Exxon May Offer $25 Billion for 40% of Yukos,” New York Times, Oct. 2, 2003, https://www.nytimes.com.

[9] David Vine, “Where in the World Is the US Military?” Politico, July/Aug. 2015, https://www.politico.com.

[10] Putin, “Address to the People of Russia,” Feb. 21, 2022.

[11] Vladimir Putin, “Transcript: Vladimir Putin’s Televised Address on Ukraine,” Feb. 24, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com.

[12] Putin, “On the Historical Unity,” July 2021.

[13] Putin, “On the Historical Unity,” July 2021.

Putin, “Address to the People of Russia,” Feb. 21, 2022.

[14] Benjamin Norton, “German EU Official Uses Racist Rhetoric Claiming Russians Don’t Value Life,” Apr. 15, 2022, https://multipolarista.com.

[15] Sarah Chayes, Corruption in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2020), 269-74.

[16] Greg Rosalsky, “How ‘Shock Therapy’ Created Russian Oligarchs and Paved the Path for Putin,” Mar. 22, 2022, https://www.npr.org.

Jack and Hoyos, “Exxon May Offer $25 Billion for 40% of Yukos.”

[17] Seth Mandel, “ExxonMobil’s Role in Oil Tycoon’s Arrest,” May 1, 2012, https://www.commentary.org.

[18] Putin, “Vladimir Putin’s Televised Address,” Feb. 24, 2022.

[19] George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (Chicago, Illinois:  The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 33-34, 67-69, 72.

 

[20] Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1979), 439-40.

[21] Hansi Lo Wang, “Broken Promises on Display at Native American Treaties Exhibit,” NPR, Jan. 18, 2015, https://www.npr.org.

Kevin Gover, “Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations,” American Indian Magazine 15, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2014), https://www.americanindianmagazine.org.

[22] Vine Deloria Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (New York: Avon Books, 1969), 40-41.

[23] Militarist-Monitor, “Gary Schmitt,” https://militarist-monitor.org

[24] Neta Crawford and Catherine Lutz, “Human Cost of Post-9/11 Wars: Direct War Deaths in Major United States War Zones,” Nukewatch Quarterly, Winter 2019-2020. Originally published in “Costs of War,” Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown Univ., posted Nov. 13, 2019, https://watson.brown.edu.

 


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2 Comments

  1. Excellent summary of the truth of western world “New World Order” and its consequences. Putin may be corrupt, revengeful, and autocratic, (Has those appearances, but I don’t have all reliable information) but he understands the world, what shapes it and what needed to be done to assure peace and stability. Unfortunately, not listening to him, pushed Russia into a war nobody wants and has future risks for the entire world.

    • Kristin Y. Christman says:

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment and thank you also for reading this essay!