The metamorphosis of Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Andrew Levine
Suddenly last summer, Vladimir Putin, formerly once a decent enough Russian leader (with a few unsettling quirks), turned into a malevolent, almost demonic, force.Congratulations to the American propaganda system and, particular, Barack Obama, for putting over this remarkable metamorphosis.

Even with the entire gaggle of first generation neo-cons behind them, Bush and Cheney never dared to provoke Russia to such an extent that war with the West — not a covert war, not a proxy war — but a world devastating hot war, would become a live possibility. Maybe they were too busy destroying Afghanistan and Iraq. Or maybe they had too much common sense.

No one can accuse the cold warriors and humanitarian interveners Obama listens to of common sense. If they had any at all, they would have long ago ended, not expanded, Bush’s “war on terror.” And they would certainly not have initiated the troubles in Ukraine.

Bush and the people around him wrecked a large chunk of the world and set a perpetual war regime directed at Muslim countries in motion. Obama is playing with greater fire still. He could destroy the world itself.

His innate hesitancy may come to the rescue yet. And we can count on saner heads in Moscow doing their best to defuse the situations his “liberal” and “humanitarian” advisors concoct. The chances therefore are that the world will dodge the bullet this time. But low chances are not good enough. The first priority of any president worthy of the office should be to bring the chances of war with Russia down to zero.

How pathetic is it that we have no worthy leaders in Washington these days! What we have instead is Barack Obama — and worse.

Republicans are worse; this goes without saying. But so are Democrats who support Hillary Clinton. Dumb, reckless, warlike shenanigans are her stock in trade.

Obama is not nearly as dangerous as she is, though some of the people around him surely are. With his backing, they are presently laying the groundwork for war.

And yet, to hear our media tell it, Putin is the bad guy!

It is important to the War Party that he be thought of this way. If he were not, they could hardly concoct the cold war — or worse — that they long for. To this end, they have been well served.

The demonisation of Russia’s leader is now so deeply entrenched in the media narratives that assail us that hardly anyone objects; hardly anyone even notices.

But it is far from clear what Putin — or Russia — did to merit the sudden and overwhelming condemnation they are now receiving.

It is disturbingly similar to what happened with Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi.

They too were de facto American allies; they too had recently been more than a little helpful to the United States in its never-ending “war on terror.” Then, suddenly and abruptly, the United States turned against them both.

The demonisation of Putin, and of Russia and Russians (in Ukraine) more generally, only makes sense if we drop the pretence of beneficence, and admit outright that the American aim is to enfeeble Russia — for geopolitical and economic reasons that have nothing to do with making Russians or Ukrainians better off.

Even then, however, there is not even a remote semblance of proportionality. What, after all, could American and other Western capitalists hope to gain? It is not as if Putin champions qualitatively different ways of organising the economy and society than those that benefit them. Those days are long gone, and if any semblance of them ever returns, it will not be Putin’s doing.

Putin’s government is authoritarian and corrupt, but then Western governments are too. More on point: political influence has always been for sale in Washington, DC, and in state capitals as well. And throughout the world, but especially in the Middle East, the United States actively supports regimes that are more authoritarian and corrupt by any measure than Putin’s.

And yet they demonise Putin. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

But, of course, Putin is not and never has been the issue.

American power is; that, and the unreconstructed Cold War mentality of the West’s foreign policy elites.

Since the Bill Clinton days, the United States has been intent on expanding NATO to Russia’s borders — in plain violation of promises Ronald Reagan made to Mikhail Gorbachev. The first President Bush honoured those promises. Why wouldn’t he? They make eminently good sense — just not, it seems, to Clinton Democrats.

In the race to the bottom that our politics has become, Republicans, these days, are even worse; it is not just war-mongers like John McCain and Lindsey Graham anymore.

NATO expansion is in plain violation of Russia’s security interests, a point that one would expect the leaders of a country that nearly brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation over the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba to understand.

Of course, it is not hard to see why the empire’s leaders would want NATO, essentially an instrument of American military power, ensconced as close to Russia as circumstances allow. In conjunction with China and other “Eurasian” partners, a strong and independent Russia could become a powerful counter to American capitalism’s global reach.

Inasmuch as the European Union has chosen to be more of a sidekick than a rival to the United States, EU expansion is supported by the United States too — for much the same reason that NATO expansion is. —  Counterpunch