Patrick L. Smith has written a spot-on analysis
of the NYT and Vladimir Putin. The immediate concern is a major speech given by Putin, but this article casts a wider net -- it addresses the weird, misleading views of Russia and Ukraine that are continually drummed into the heads of all Americans.
Give me a sec to count. In my lifetime the Soviet Union and latterly the Russian Federation have had nine leaders. Stalin’s death elevated Malenkov and then Khrushchev, and the banishing of Khrushchev led to Brezhnev. Then came a pair of forgettables, then Gorbachev and on to the ever-inebriated Yeltsin (whom one wants dearly to forget). For 15 years, counting the Dmitry Medvedev interval, Vladimir Putin has held the wheel of the Russian bus.
Of all these figures only Stalin, and only in his post-“Uncle Joe” years, has been vilified to the extent of the current Russian leader. The question is obvious and I hope not too complicated: Why?
Damned good question. I think the answer is that Putin, unlike Yeltsin, has refused to be our creature, and has refused to allow "the West" to rape his country.
Putin's speech castigated Washington's elites as the architects of new era of Total Global Chaos. In the NYT, the sole substantive response was offered by Serge Schmemann
. The headline above Schmemann's text says it all: "Blaming the West for Things Gone Wrong, Mr. Putin Sings an Old Tune."
Here's Smith on Schmemann:
You will see a classic case of Times’-style innuendo and the use of language as instruction in what to think. And you will understand, if you do not already, why I think American responses to Putin can fairly be called childish.
Here is Schmemann on the Ukraine passages of the presentation: “In Mr. Putin’s version of the Ukrainian crisis, the United States was the instigator of the protests in Kiev that led to a ‘coup’ against President Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent fighting. One American participant told Mr. Putin she was hard put to recognize her country as the one he was describing.”
Well, confused American participant, you make an interesting point. Washington has created a version of events in Ukraine that amounts to a parallel reality, and people such as Schmemann are paid to perpetuate it. If it is of any help: There was a coup, there were neo-fascists among its leaders, the State Department backed it, and the evidence of all this is indisputable.
“What is hard to gauge listening to Mr. Putin,” Schmemann writes, “is whether he really means to put the blame for all things wrong on the United States, or whether he is cynically using the old Soviet gimmick of projecting onto America and the West all the faults of which the U.S.S.R. itself was accused.”
Hmmm. The thought never occurred to me. I suppose it is a strange idea to some of us, but I think even Russians can mean what they say, I think Putin did, and we are better off for his having said it.
I'll say it, even if Smith won't: It is becoming increasingly difficult to think of a sin committed by the old USSR that is not also a failing of modern America. Democracy? I suppose we have some
democracy left, although the role of money in elections makes a mockery of true
democracy. Thanks to the internet, we even have some freedom of the press -- as long as you know when to ignore publications like the New York Times