Skip to comments.The New Apologists for Vladimir Putin — on the Right and the Left
Posted on 03/22/2014 2:58:38 AM PDT by No One Special
We live in strange times. The Cold War is over, yet when it comes to Russia seeking to maintain its control of Ukraine, a new group of apologists for Vladimir Putin has emerged. Once again, the group in the West supporting the hegemonic attempts of control of Ukraine by the authoritarian Putin regime is made up of stalwarts on both the Right and the Left.
Support for Putin on the Right comes from the paleoconservatives led by Pat Buchanan, the editors of The American Conservative, and the writers for the website Anti-war.com. The entire group comes from the precincts of what historians call the Old Right, a phenomenon that harks back to the old isolationism of pre World War II conservatives and the large group they organized, the America First Committee. Their motivations have been succinctly summarized by James Kirchick.
A new concern has been added to the traditional non-interventionist trope. They are favorable to much of Putin's growing domestic positions on issues such as the growing repression of gays in Russia, actions which they also look kindly upon and wish were social policy in the United States. Opposition to gay rights is combined with support for Putin's attempt to build what he calls a Christian Russia, and concern for what Buchanan sees as something greatly lacking in the secular United States. In his book Suicide of a Superpower, Buchanan titled two chapters "The End of White America" and "The Death of Christian America." He seems to be saying, "If only we had a leader in the United States with the vision of Vladimir Putin." Indeed, he asked in one column, "Is Putin One of Us?" His answer, as you have undoubtedly guessed, is yes:
Nor is [Putin] without an argument when we reflect on America's embrace of abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values.
Our grandparents would not recognize the America in which we live.
Moreover, Putin asserts, the new immorality has been imposed undemocratically.
The "destruction of traditional values" in these countries, he said, comes "from the top" and is "inherently undemocratic because it is based on abstract ideas and runs counter to the will of the majority of people."
Does he not have a point?
As he bluntly says, America is not the nation "we grew up in," and Putin sees Americans as "pagan and wildly progressive," a statement with which Buchanan obviously agrees.
On the Left, leading the charge that the neo-cons are again trying to push us into war — a charge they assert whenever anyone makes an analysis with which they do not agree — is The Nation magazine and its writers and editors. And the number-one supporter and apologist for Putin is the historian of modern Russia, Stephen Cohen of Princeton and New York University. In the past two weeks, he has been on Fareed Zakaria's TV program, on CNN, and on whatever other media outlets call upon him.
In Cohen's cover story in a recent issue of The Nation, of which his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel is both publisher and editor-in-chief, he claimed that American media coverage of Putin and Russia is "less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War." According to Cohen, Putin has worked to support American interests in stabilizing his nuclear-armed country, assisted U.S. security interests in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, and has magnanimously freed over 1000 political prisoners.
Evidently, Professor Cohen does not acknowledge that in Syria, for example, Putin has managed to box the U.S. into working with and bolstering the Assad regime, to which Russia constantly gives new battle-ready helicopters, and which to this day has brutally seen to the horrendous deaths of hundreds of thousands of its citizens, all brought down with Russian assistance. We are somehow supposed to believe that this is in our security interests.
Along with Putin, Cohen depicts the demonstrators in Ukraine as hardly "right-minded oppositionists," but in reality as a group whose politics are never examined and which, he implies, is most likely made up of far-Right extremists and includes fascists and anti-Semites. He believes that "a new Cold War divide between West and East may now be unfolding, not in Berlin but in the heart of Russia's historical civilization." The now ousted president of Ukraine is depicted by Cohen as presiding over a real democracy, and not anything like what he believes are the false portrayals by the historian Timothy Snyder, whose articles in The New York Review of Books paint a not-so-rosy view of the old Yanukovych regime.
To Cohen, the crisis arose only because NATO expansion in Eastern Europe forced Putin and Yanukovych to rightfully protect Russia's national interests. Moreover, U.S.-funded groups in Ukraine were interfering with domestic politics by bringing NGOs to fund democracy promotion, while trying to put provocative missile-defense installations in countries like Poland, meant to "subordinate Ukraine to NATO."
He is angry that at the Sochi Olympics, the U.S. sent a low-level delegation, which infuriated Putin because it included "retired gay athletes." How dare the United States do such a thing, knowing that Putin believes gay people should have no rights? What Obama should have done was go to Sochi himself, "either out of gratitude to Putin, or to stand with Russia's leader against international terrorists who have struck both of our countries."
Professor Cohen, we all remember, was sad at the demise of the Soviet Union. He hoped it would not collapse and that it would remain in existence under the leadership of his beloved Mikhail Gorbachev. The last Soviet leader, Cohen believed, would have created a democratic communist state built in the tradition of the purged and executed Bolshevik leader Nikolai Bukharin, of whom Cohen wrote an admiring biography.
The liberal columnist Jonathan Chait gets it correctly. Writing about those he terms Putin's "pathetic dupes," he singles out Stephen Cohen and accurately calls him "a septuagenarian, old-school leftist who has carried on the mental habits of decades of anti-anti-communism seamlessly into a new career of anti-anti-Putinism. The Cohen method is to pick away at every indictment of the Russian regime without directly associating himself with its various atrocities." It is not surprising that Cohen is frequently a guest on the Kremlin's TV propaganda outlet, Russia Today, just as he would have been welcome on Soviet stations in the Gorbachev era. In a recent radio interview, Cohen writes:
I can’t remember any Soviet communist leader being so personally villainized, that is we wrote bad things about Khrushchev, about Brezhnev, about Andropov, but we disliked them because they represented an evil system. We didn’t say them themselves were thugs, murderers, assassins, which are words that we attach to Putin.
I think Professor Cohen should look a little more, because I recall plenty of people referring to the Soviet leaders as "thugs" and worse.
The truth is that Cohen analyzes Putin just as he analyzed the Soviet Union, for which he always apologized. In an interview in the new print Newsweek (not online), Cohen said:
We hit Russia's borders under Bush because NATO was in the Baltics. Then we had this episode in Georgia in 2008 because we crossed Russia's red line in Georgia. We've crossed it in Ukraine. I don't understand why people don't see this. That if you send, over a 20-year period, a military alliance which has it's political components – includes missile defense, includes NGOs that get money from governments but are deeply involved in politics in those countries, includes the idea of revolutions on their borders — then eventually you're going to come up against a red line that, like Obama, they're going to act on.
It's the old apology for the Soviet Union by the Communists and fellow-travelers brought up to date to explain away Putin. Stalin and his minions in the West used to explain every Soviet action as a fault of "capitalist encirclement," to which the poor USSR had to act to defend itself. So Cohen believes now we "went a bridge to far" in Ukraine. Putin had to act to defend the just national interests of Russia.
As for the suppression of gays in Russia, Cohen points out they were suppressed in America when he grew up. Moreover, he says that 85 percent of Russians believe homosexuality is a disease or a choice. And there is no popular support in the country for gay rights. In other words, we may not like it, but one has to respect the feelings of the Russian public, and not inflict our values and decisions on them. He goes on to say "it's not our concern," and sarcastically remarks: "Are we supposed to form a brigade and go there and liberate Russian gays?" That is, my friend the historian of Russia Louis Menashe puts it, "reminiscent of turning back criticisms of the USSR with: “What about the Negroes lynched in the South!”
Once again, leftists like Stephen Cohen join with paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan in opposing a stand for democracy, and in charging critics of Putin with unfairly and aggressively opposing Putin's supposed just and necessary policies. When will we learn the lessons we should have learned from the past?
I don’t necessarily agree with Buchanan or Cohen, but I do not think we have a stake in the Ukraine, nor do I think we have any realistic cards we can play to change things.
It might have been different eight years ago, if we had moved closer to an actual military alliance back then, but even that is not very realistic.
At this point we just need to sit down and shut up because the only thin we are doing is making ourselves look even weaker by squawking about things we have no way to change.
Honestly don’t know what to think of Crimea / Ukraine thing.
What I do know is I respect Putin. I do NOT respect our POSOTUS. And neither does much of the world. He is a chamberlain (perhaps chamber-pot) amongst Churchills.
Putin filed it away that Obama was a worthless liar.
Apologists? We have a bunch of cheerleaders for Putin right here on good old FR.
Look at the problems of the world. Look at Kerry, Obama, Biden and the rest of the crew who represent US foreign policy. Other than promoting gay rights, sexual perversion and irresponsibility, what are they good for? What are they doing when faced with Putin and an aggressive Russia? ...Obama is an effeminate fairy whose thoughts on foreign policy and world peace were formulated while chooming with his faggoty, druggie friends. Biden and Kerry don’t know what their foreign policy visions are, or whether or not they have any, at least any that represent the best interests of the US. Forgive our obvious lack of confidence in the will and force of the US to prevail in a showdown over Crimea. Maybe if Crimea could become a gay thing....
I don’t necessarily thing most are “cheerleaders” per say for the man and his politics but rather the is someone in this world with a bully pulpit of his own who knows how to use it and the prevailing social and geopolitical issues to make the Post Turtle visible as to what he is.
Our media won’t do their constitutional responsibility in exchange for their freedoms. Putin is smart enough to play the game with the tact of what the press should be doing and the “most” are cheering that. “Somebody has to do it” and Putin is using it totally to his benefit to minimize Obama, granted it is not tough to do if people are honest.
This is also a war between the sexes. A feminized US culture vs. a masculine Russia. Rush’s parody “Come Back Barry When You Grow Some” sums it up perfectly.
Did the author say when he was planning to volunteer for the Ukrainian army?
With Obama, a weakened wimp, known the world over, Putin is fully aware that he has a three year window to expand the Russian empire. He’s started with Crimea, then Ukraine. He has eyes on Estonia, Latvia, and many of the countries that were formerly in the Soviet Union before being brought down by Reagan. The line will have to drawn at some point. Reducing our nuclear capabilities and armed forces to 1940 levels is insanity.
Does he not have a point?
Not on this, because Americans voted for this, twice.
Then, there is the Fred Phelps wing that thinks its the governments job to harass gays. And since Putin's good at that they admire him. Now, most conservatives are way past disgusted with the US governments pro-gay policy, so it's easy to see why Putin not being PC on gays appeals to the Fred Phelps types.
Then, there are the old school "blame America Firsters' of the Left. Their arguments have bled over to some on the right. It used to be the old right thought American was too good to involve itself with the wretched old world. Now, even on the right there are those who say America simply isn't good enough to criticize Putin or his bullying. Unless we're perfect with no abortions and no gays, we' should never criticize Putin.
Some, too, believe that Putin is leading the world towards a conservative utopia. But this is like believing if you give an autocrat enough unlimited power he'll create perfect equality. You cannot get equality with unlimited power and you won't get a conservative utopia either.
It's too much power that is the problem with Putin. It's that he doesn't follow the rule of law that makes him a threat to his own people and now to that of his neighbors.
There are those who think as long as we have Bozo as president it's okay for Putin to send troops to Crimea in their unmarked uniforms. Apparently, these people are so mad at America that they believe the world must be punished too for the USA having a weakling in the oval office.
And? The author attacks Buchanan but offers no explanation or argument to refute Buchanan's statements.
Once again, leftists like Stephen Cohen join with paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan in opposing a stand for democracy, and in charging critics of Putin with unfairly and aggressively opposing Putin's supposed just and necessary policies.
Who is standing for democracy? Certainly not Obama. Or, actually Obama and his ilk want a true democracy. That's their plan to create a progressive utopia.
Crimea had a vote. Russia won. Regardless of what we think of the vote and the result the people of Crimea want to be under Russia's aegis. Is that not democracy?
Finally, is this author willing to send his sons to stop Putin? I am not. Putin is handling the muslim thing in his sphere of influence while we allow muslims to wreak havoc on Western Civilization. For that alone I respect Putin.
Those on the board who think we should attack Russia, or in some other way stop her, please tell us how you would? Does anyone here see any way to change the course Putin's taking? I don't.
We need to use the energy weapon against Russia and thereby undercutting the profits Russia makes and uses to support it’s aggression. Doing so creates jobs here. Honoring the request from Ukraine for small arms, rifles, to equip the men newly inducted into the army would go a long way to shoring up Ukraine. They will defend themselves. They aren’t asking for our boots on the ground in their country.
I don’t want Obama to do a damn thing because I have zero confidence that he has America’s best interests in mind.
The man has done nothing but sow chaos at home and abroad that has only harmed us. I don’t believe it was done out of stupidity.
If Putin’s goal was to control all of the Ukraine, he would not want Crimea to secede, just like a Republican wouldn’t want Texas to secede if he wanted to win a presidential election in the U.S.
Crimea was always Russia. They seceded separately from the Ukraine, and joined the Ukraine on the agreement that they could be autonomous and pursue their own relationships. The Ukraine unilaterally rescinded that autonomy, something they had no right to do.
You’d better believe a LOT of the left’s hatred for Putin *is* a gay thing.
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