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Weissman writes: "Welcome to the new Cold War. Both sides talk past one another. Neither hears what the other says. And their dialogue of the deaf could easily lead to nuclear annihilation. So, let’s try to understand."

Vladimir Putin. (photo: Ria Novosti/Reuters)
Vladimir Putin. (photo: Ria Novosti/Reuters)

Putin Spells Out His Politics

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

08 December 14


he support for separatism in Russia from across the pond, including information, political and financial support and support provided by the special services,” said Vladimir Putin, “left no doubt that they would gladly let Russia follow the Yugoslav scenario of disintegration and dismemberment.”

With these wooden words in his annual State of the Nation address last week, Putin stepped up his accusations against Washington and its NATO allies, and not without reason. He spoke of the West’s “coup in Ukraine,” “the historical reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia,” and the “so-called sanctions and foreign restrictions.” He also referred to covert support for Chechnya’s Islamic separatists, who only hours before had killed several police officers in a bloody terrorist attack in Grozny, the regional capital.

“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday,” said Putin. “It has been carried out against our country for many years, always, for decades, if not centuries. In short, whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put to use.”

At a US State Department press briefing in Washington, a reporter named Said asked if Putin was wrong in saying “that the West has always sort of plotted and planned … to destabilize Russia?”

“Well, I would clearly not agree with that statement,” replied Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. “This isn’t about the West. This is about the people of Ukraine, including Crimea, getting to pick their future, not having Russia pick it for them.”

Welcome to the new Cold War. Both sides talk past one another. Neither hears what the other says. And their dialogue of the deaf could easily lead to nuclear annihilation. So, let’s try to understand.

Putin is expressing here Russia’s deeply felt sense of grievance. He honestly sees himself responding to decades of American and European provocation, and the evidence shows why. Here is a small taste:

  • From the end of World War II, US and British intelligence used Ukrainian neo-Nazis against the Soviet Union.

  • Toward the end of the Cold War, President George H.W. Bush and German chancellor Helmut Kohl hoodwinked a severely weakened Mikhail Gorbachev and set out to expand NATO to the Russian borders.

  • In the former Yugoslavia, Washington and its allies destabilized Serbia, historically Russia’s “little brother,” and then organized color revolutions to destabilize Ukraine, Georgia, and other countries newly independent from the former Soviet Union.

  • In a second “Orange Revolution,” Washington and its NATO allies put together the coup that overthrew Ukraine’s corrupt, but legally elected government (Part I and Part II)

  • In making their coup, American strategists consciously saw Ukraine as a stepping stone to control the Eurasian heartland with its rich store of oil and gas.

This cursory list, culled from my previous columns, supports many of the charges Putin is making. But Western provocations form only part of the picture. In his speech, Putin’s sense of grievance goes far beyond the evidence to reveal the new nationalist ideology he has developed in recent years. He presents Russia as a victim nation going back centuries and cloaks his response in evidence of a very different kind.

“Crimea is where our people live, and the peninsula is of strategic importance for Russia as the spiritual source of the development of a multifaceted but solid Russian nation and a centralized Russian state,” he explains. “It was in Crimea, in the ancient city of Chersonesus or Korsun, as ancient Russian chroniclers called it, that Grand Prince Vladimir was baptized before bringing Christianity to Rus.”

“Christianity was a powerful spiritual unifying force that helped involve various tribes and tribal unions of the vast Eastern Slavic World in the creation of a Russian nation and Russian state,” he goes on.” “It was thanks to this spiritual unity that our forefathers for the first time and forevermore saw themselves as a united nation.”

Which is why, he says, Crimea and Sevastopol “have invaluable civilizational and even sacral importance for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for the followers of Islam and Judaism.”

Dismiss this, if you will, as Godly cover for old-fashioned power politics. But, whatever his personal convictions, Putin is appealing to his fellow Russians with an overtly religious nationalism, and they seem to buy it in large numbers. They could well lose their faith as Western sanctions and plummeting oil prices erode the value of the ruble, the living standards of average citizens, and the wealth of oligarchic supporters. Or they could become even more irrational, as is happening on the Temple Mount and among Christian Nationalists in the United States.

In his speech, Putin couples a celebration of Russia’s religious past with a call to “the traditional values which we inherited from our forefathers,” which he uses as a catchall to justify his opposition to abortion, gay rights, and homosexual marriage. He also defends private property, freedom of enterprise, national pride, patriotism, and sovereignty, all of which he proclaims as “fundamental conservative values.”

Add to this Putin’s willingness to openly mass his troops and covertly use his little green men to defend fellow countrymen who happen to live across international borders in Ukraine and other “brotherly Republics of the former Soviet Union.” Add as well his recently revealed bankrolling of the Moslem-bashing Marine Le Pen and her Front National in France.

How should we understand all this? Like most American progressives, the former KGB colonel and the daughter of the old-school Fascist jointly oppose Washington’s foreign policy, at least as it applies to Europe. But, despite their drastically different histories, they also join together to promote ultra-nationalist politics and extremely right-wing Christian values, as expressed by Putin in this and other speeches, by Le Pen over the last three or four years, and perhaps most cogently by her pro-Putin foreign policy advisor, the extremely scary Aymeric Chauprade.

The apparent contradictions that emerge are hardly new, as any student of Twentieth Century European history will quickly grasp. Yet many who see themselves on the left seem intent on taking sides between an imperial Washington and this dangerously retrogressive force that proposes to remake Europe in such nasty ways. Why the rush? Why the knee-jerk? Why be useful idiots for one side or the other? Clearly, decent people should fight against both, and now is the time to begin.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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