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.
Sit down and shut up while Putin takes eastern Europe and south America?
You really think that is going to benefit the US?
Lots of examples of Putin honoring the Christian faith. Not one, that I've seen, of him bowing to a muslim leader.
Buchanan is not a conservative.
You do not have to agree with an adversary to respect them.
Do you think Grant was a cheerleader for Lee? Did Montgomery cheer lead for Rommel?
Both Grant and Montgomery respected their foe, but still opposed them. I think most of us here oppose but still respect Putin. That said, I cannot help but wonder if Putin respects Obama. I also wonder if Obama "rspects" or fears Putin
No lots of cheerleaders. Posting dubious Pravda like propaganda, twisting into pretzels to deny the fact that Russia violated its word and invaded a sovereign neighbor. Making scurrilous moral equivalents between the US and Russian history. I have no problem with people recognizing Vlad is an effective tough cookie. I can’t stand the ass kissing. And there’s plenty of it.
I couldn't agree with you more.
Truthfully, it is not “apologetic” to look at Putin objectively, for what he is and what he wants to do. But you must observe the ground rules.
1) Putin is a Russian. Russia is his country. He is not an American, does not have American values, and sees America as a competitor, not an ally.
2) As leader of Russia, he puts Russia first, and tries to do things that make it stronger, if he feels he can get away with it.
3) Since the time when the Czars wrested Crimea away from the Ottoman Empire, Crimea was part of Russia. They saw it as strategically vital, because it gave Russia a warm-water port. Though Stalin enigmatically gave it to Ukraine, when the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine had to offer that port to Russia on a very long-term lease, or, even in its weakened state, Russia would have tried to take it.
Okay, so add this together, and it should be no surprise that when the pro-Russian government of Ukraine fell, the Russians took the opportunity to snatch Crimea back.
But this being said, there is still great risk here. To start with, eastern Ukraine is heavily Russian, and a tempting target for Putin to snatch as well.
Likewise the Baltic states, importantly, *not* just Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, but also Finland, only gained independence from Russia after WWI, and only Finland kept theirs after WWII. They know all too well that Russia may try to eat them again.
Look into Radosh’s background, he is an “ex” communist neocon. Look into what causes he spends most of his time advocating. A google search on Radosh will quickly turn up where he is coming from — it ain’t about American patriotism.
Hatred for Russia's stance on gays doesn't just come from the left either, considering the author of this article is citing homosexual neoconservative activist James Kirchick as a rebuttal witness to Pat Buchanan.
Competitor does not necessarily mean "enemy."
It is a good question as to whether or not Putin sees the US as an enemy. It is a question of degrees. He might see the US as an obstacle, a variable, or all sorts of other things, but “enemy” is too cut and dried.
The reason most nations have foreign services is because only rarely are other nations totally friendly or totally enemy. But once the label is applied, it creates obligations.
As a competitor, Putin can haggle with the US, cooperate in some things and oppose in others. It is a more flexible position.
Nations don’t have friends, they have interests.
Just think of Churchill and Roosevelt had been friends!
And we have plenty of cheerleaders for the EU/banker oligarchs too. Neither are worth getting one American soldier killed over OR further bankrupting the US. Or perhaps economic collapse is a good thing only if its done thru militarism?
H.W. Bush, I suspect when he was in charge of the CIA, got his hands on some software of a known class, but far more complex and unique.
Police departments use similar software that is so effective, that some police brought it to Iraq during the occupation and used it to great effect against the insurgents.
What it does is collate and data mine information, and thus establish connections between suspects, events, and criminal acts. The more data you feed in, the better it gets, until you start seeing “linkages” that even brilliant analysts miss.
H.W. Bush publicly referred to “linkages” in foreign affairs, but only a few people realized what he really meant. Basically that nations have tens of thousands, often millions of connections between them; and that by manipulating some of them, you can affect seemingly unrelated connections.
Importantly, this goes way over the head of strategic analysts, like playing 3D chess when they are playing checkers. It was how he was so quickly to mobilize a coalition against Iraq in the first Gulf War.
However, he seems to have taken this software with him when he left CIA, and now it is wholly owned by the Bush family.
W. Bush used it to sweep away primary competition before he ran for office, by locking up all the big party donors. He was so confident that he ordered construction of his ranch a year out.
Sadly, it is likely that Jeb Bush has it, too, which is going to mean an incredible fight for the Tea Party to prevent him from being the nominee.
The man has done nothing but sow chaos at home and abroad that has only harmed us. I dont believe it was done out of stupidity.
Obama is loving this Ukrainian "crisis". He's just itching to go all in with his pen and phone.
Excellent observance there. When dealing with the left, never ignore the least common denominator.
ex communist neocon
Not a far step. Neocons are leftists who can count.
Troops for the transnationals: our final export.
Oh Please... I didn’t say anything about South America, and as far as Eastern Europe and the Baltics are concerned, they ARE in NATO, so if there are any red lines, that’s it. The Ukraine is not a NATO member, nor is Crimea. We have no stake, we do not have the lift, our forces are overextended, worn out, and troop morale is in the pits.
We do not have any way of stopping Putin from taking Ukraine if he decides to, and he just might, but we should not make idiots of ourselves by issuing warnings with nothing to back them up.
Putin can play around in South America a bit, but he really has few military options the same way we have few military options in the Black Sea. He doesn’t have the lift or the forces to project in that area of the world.
We need to be thinking clearly about what we can do, what we should do, and what we must do. And right now Ukraine is not on those lists.
An obstacle is something to be removed and this is what Putin wants to do to America. We are the main target of an entity that sees only vassals and enemies. Putin’s grandfather was Stalin’s cook and Putin is trying to rehabilitate Stalin. What do you think the world would look like if there was no America at the end of WWII to counter Soviet expansionism? Do you not think it’s possible Putin likes Stalin’s vision? They lost Cold War I. Maybe they will turn Cold War II hot. Do you not think it’s possible they have first strike plans that only take Putin’s say so to implement? Putin is a psychopath who does not deserve respect, admiration or understanding of any kind. If our political class will not oppose him, the American people along with the rest of the world’s people should.
The late communist regime is just familiar. The Czars before it were just as menacing, and justifiably so. Putin has tried to embrace all of it, Czarism as well as their Soviet past.
That is, were Putin a Czar, he would likely be behaving in exactly the same way. The German expression holds true: “Russia remains Russia.”
Exactly. A lot of people say that Putin was KGB, therefore he was a Communist.
The fact is, Putin is about power, it’s not about ideology, he would have served the Czar as faithfully as he did the Soviets had they still been in power.
Some profound words there.
Putin is a Russian. Russians are either at your feet, at your throat, or intensely studying you to determine which way to move. There’s really no other way to deal with them.
Obama and his “reset” was as ill-advised and unrealistic as Carter and his support of Khomeini. There was never any realistic chance that either of them would be interested in any kissy-faced makeup because Khomeini had cultivated his resentments and hatreds for decades, while Putin had watched what he considered the mightiest and most far-reaching extension of Russian hegemony collapse into disarray and decay.
Both blamed the US then. Both had (have) firm and consistent reasons to dislike the US now, and both have separately come to the sober conclusion that the US is more useful (for any number of reasons) as an enemy than it would be as a friend.
The last is a point that Carter, Clinton, and Carter never managed to accept no matter how hard they tried. Carter thought that the downtrodden of the world would love him if he knifed the Shah. Clinton spent years and mega capital tongue kissing Arafat to get the Pallies to accept peace with Israel, and Obama? Yeesh... that putrid pussy-whipped POS has shown more flexibility than can be found in an unexpurgated and fully illustrated Kama Sutra. Is there a single US ally he has not shafted or a despot he has not bowed to?
All that brings me back to Putin, who is remarkably easy to understand if you just think like a Russian. What do Russians prize most? Respect. What do Russians desire most? Order. Is Putin raising Russia’s standing in the world and imposing order at home? Yes. Therefore, Russians not only accept and praise him, he is practically worshipped. If he crowned himself the Tzar, they would be in ecstasy.
No, America does not need a Putin, but we do need a leader. Unfortunately for us and the free world, what we have is Obama.
Funny how ‘truisms’ are recycled. I used to fish air out of Montauk Point NY. If the weather was bad the captain would say. ‘ This is Montauk, if the the weather is bad, wait half an hour’.
An Efriend in Oklahoma told me. ‘This is Oklahoma, if the the weather is bad, wait half an hour’.
Back in college, 45 years ago, during political discussions the ‘truism’ was. ‘GERMANS are either at your feet, at your throat, and if they're at your feet, they're looking at your throat ‘
Of course at that time WW2 was only 20+ years ago and WW1 was only 20+ years before that.
And a good chunk of the world considers the US the great satan. As far as the future if Russia in the world, we can stop there aggression a just by having a strong US. zer0 as Chamberlain needs to be replaced with a Churchill.
I don't like Buchanan, but he's 100% correct when he says that our grandparents wouldn't recognize the country we're now living in. I can't believe this is the same country I was born in.
HOWEVER--Buchanan's problem is that he subordinates religion to ethnic identity. To him "chrstian" means "white" (specifically northwestern European). Chrstianity is the white Judaism, whites are the chosen people, Europe (and its daughter societies) are the "holy land," and J*sus is the "kinsman redeemer" of "western [white] civilization." I honestly wonder sometimes if Buchanan is opposed to abortion or birth control among non-whites.
Buchanan seems to scorn co-religionists of different racial/"civilizational" backgrounds. This implies that his "gxd" is a national/racial/civilizational "gxd," not the Objective One True G-d. This seems not only henotheistic, but vulgarly utilitarian as well.
Now dont' get me wrong; no one on this form has been harsher on Black and Hispanic "chrstianity" than yours truly. But the point is that "palaeos," Blacks, and Hispanics are all guilty of the same thing--a national/racial "gxd" as opposed to an Objective and Universal G-d. Blacks and Hispanics have a "kinsman redeemer" who is essentially no different from Huey Newton or Che Guevara. "Palaeos" have a J*sus whose only value is as a prop for European ethnoculture.
I wish more people understood this. Some people think the only objection to "palaeoconservatism" is the Communist/hippie charges of "racism" and "bigotry." It goes much, much deeper than that. Buchanan and his Black and Hispanic opponents (the latter of whom are supposed to be his co-religionists, though neither one acts like it) share what is essentially a worship of blood and genes and chromosomes. J*sus is just a useful totem.
Imagine a scenario where Mexico invades southern California, the La Raza chairwoman Janet Margula declares herself the interim president of Alta California, and declares that she will hold a referendum on whether Alta California will leave the United States.
Every loyal American rejects the authority of La Raza to even hold such a referendum and refuses lend legitimacy to the invaders by participating in an illegal referendum.
La Raza wins with 97% of the "vote."
That's what happened in Crimea. Loyal Ukrainians were steamrolled by invaders and fifth columnists.