Nobody in America seems to have much of anything nice to say about Vladimir Putin or Russia, itself. I wonder if we're seeing the beginning of a new Cold War.
Most of us on Daily Kos disapprove of Putin, at least, for his support and sponsorship of draconian laws against our LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia. Good reason, that. But before Russia's "gay propaganda" laws recently became a cause célèbre, American media and mainstream thought had seemingly turned against Russia in general and Putin in particular, on both the Right and the Left. Also, homophobia is deeply ingrained in Russian Culture, supported in an unbroken chain of overwhelming social forces of, first the Tsars and the Russian Orthodox Church, then the Communist Party, and now the unfocused alliance of oligarchs, nationalists and, once again, the Russian Orthodox Church.
But it seems to me that this kind of backlash would happen under any Russian leader of any stripe, if in power at this time, when modern Western influences are fostering the spread of sexual liberality in Russia and LGBT Russians begin to increasingly come out. Given Russian history and the national character, a backlash was probably inevitable, no matter the government in power, even if Russia were fully and openly democratic, which it has never yet been.
In any event, the reactionary backlash unleashed by Russia's "gay propaganda" law goes nowhere near fully explaining why almost all of America hates Vladimir Putin and, inferentially, the Russians. For further exploration and discussion of these ideas, follow me out into the tall grass.
How the Right views Putin and Putin's Russia is represented by a few quotes from this essay in the New Republic.
For the other, the entirety of Russian history is a bloody swamp, from which Russia must be pulled into a liberal European system. What was happening in Pushkin’s Russia, in sum, is extraordinarily reminiscent of what is happening in Putin’s Russia.I get it, they don't like the SOB even if a majority of his people like how he governs them.
. . .
It is impossible to imagine Putin, the gray little KGB colonel, with a book in his hands.
. . .
the corrupt system that Putin had built
. . .
the constricting and humiliating space that is Putin’s empire
. . .
The number of people whose brains have been cleansed by Putin TV may be a majority
So, the Left must be the other way, right? Well, of course not. First, there is the aforesaid LGBT problem. But before that became a focal point, most of the Left and the main stream media had been relentlessly and adamantly opposed to Putin and, more or less, Russia, since the demise of the supposedly more democratic Boris Yeltsin. The Nation put it this way:
But wanton Putin-bashing is also the dominant narrative in centrist, liberal and progressive media, from the Post, Times and The New Republic to CNN, MSNBC and HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, where Howard Dean, not previously known for his Russia expertise, recently declared, to the panel’s approval, “Vladimir Putin is a thug.”Once upon a time, of course, President George W. Bush caught a glimpse of Vladimi Putin's soul and came away reassured about the Russian, but that fleeting moment of potential good will quickly faded away, judging by something Mr. Bush said five years later:
Putin was on his mind because Russia was about to host the annual summit of the G-8 powers for the first time and Bush feared that the session would be dominated by questions about why an undemocratic nation was hosting a gathering of democratic nations. Bush had been trying to get Putin to relax his authoritarian rule to no avail. "I think Putin is not a democrat anymore," Bush lamented a few weeks later to another visitor, the prime minister of Slovenia. "He's a tsar. I think we've lost him."It is interesting that back when Russia was still the USSR, there was no outcry to speak of that I recall in America about LGBT repression in Russia. Perhaps that is because the US was hardly better at that time. Yet the prudishness of Russian Communism on all things sexual was very totalitarian:
Information about sexuality in Soviet schools was limited to “family issues and marriage,” according to Lyubov Erofeeva, the director general of the Russian Association for Population and Development.Paging Ozzie and Harriet. The Communist Party and its prudish influence are diminished but hardly gone from Russia. Even today, more than 80 Lenin statues grace Moscow streets and parks and Lenin himself, still today, lies preserved in his Red Square mausoleum, thus:
“In the Soviet era, it was all motivated by building a strong family and loving each other forever,” she told me. “It was about fairy tales that young people were fed by the adults. There was a specialized subject in the school curriculum devoted to family issues and marriage, but nothing about contraception. It was more about the young members of the Communist society and their role in building families.”
“In general,” one Russian TV personality told The New York Times, “it was not acceptable to speak about sex.”
There are plenty of other things to dislike about Putin, of course. He has been autocratic, cruel, antidemocratic, an oligarch and has acted in may ways with little regard for U.S. or other Western sentiment. In other words, he has acted like Russian leaders always act. But, as noted by The Nation in a rare breath fresh air on U.S. Russia relations:
Russia today has serious problems and many repugnant Kremlin policies. But anyone relying on mainstream American media will not find there any of their origins or influences in Yeltsin’s Russia or in provocative US policies since the 1990s—only in the “autocrat” Putin who, however authoritarian, in reality lacks such power. Nor is he credited with stabilizing a disintegrating nuclear-armed country, assisting US security pursuits from Afghanistan and Syria to Iran or even with granting amnesty, in December, to more than 1,000 jailed prisoners, including mothers of young children.The facts on the ground don't support the kind of enmity toward Putin and Russia that has become a groundswell in broadening ripples through all political spectra and the media. So, what is driving the bad feelings? An hypothesis for an answer might be found by asking cui bono, who will benefit from what we observe happening? The answer the pops into my mind is the MIC, the military-industrial complex.
The war on terror, especially in the old Neocon dreams of the Global War on Terror and the Long War, seems to be becoming more difficult for the MIC to sustain with changes including President Obama's reforms of our military commitments and force structures. Pivoting back to a belligerent stance against Russia could help supply the MIC the continued funding on which the parasitic monster feeds. If enthusiasm fades for engaging in asymmetrical combat worldwide, a strategic nuclear opponent is a good substitute for purposes serving the interests of the MIC.
It seems that enmity toward Russia is always easy to inflame in America. Even the brief WWII alliance between the USSR and USA was rocky, perilous and essentially unfriendly.
Several issues arose during the war that threatened the alliance. These included the Soviet refusal to aide the Polish Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944, and the decision of British and U.S. officials to exclude the Soviets from secret negotiations with German officers in March of 1945 in an effort to secure the surrender of German troops in Italy. The most important disagreement, however, was over the opening of a second front in the West. Stalin’s troops struggled to hold the Eastern front against the Nazi forces, and the Soviets began pleading for a British invasion of France immediately after the Nazi invasion in 1941. In 1942, Roosevelt unwisely promised the Soviets that the Allies would open the second front that autumn. Although Stalin only grumbled when the invasion was postponed until 1943, he exploded the following year when the invasion was postponed again until May of 1944. In retaliation, Stalin recalled his ambassadors from London and Washington and fears soon arose that the Soviets might seek a separate peace with Germany.
Then came the tension, for generations, of the Cold War, with constant fear of nuclear annihilation and nearly unbroken international and military tension and Ronald Reagan's ranting about evil empires. There was a brief but wary thaw from late Gorbachev through Yeltsin, but now the old feelings are boiling up.
I like Russians. I visited Russia during the Cold War. I served militarily during the Cold War. My internist is Russian. My pain doctor is Russian. I live where a lot of Russian emigres live. Russia is a huge nation rich in resources and people, tradition, culture and the arts. Russia, is among the handful of other huge, rich nations, such as the USA, European Union, China and Brazil. Such nations must get along or mankind might not survive. Hating on each other about everything might not be the best way to do that.