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Don't Blame Putin; Blame Russia
Townhall.com ^ | March 20, 2014 | David Harsanyi

Posted on 03/20/2014 9:18:08 AM PDT by Kaslin

I'll let the experts churn out opinions on what should be done about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But it does appear that many of them refuse to accept a number of truths about the world. Take these, for instance: 1) Most people do not shares our values. 2) Most people don't even understand our values. 3) Authoritarianism is often more popular than freedom. 4) Democracy and liberalism are not the same. I argue the latter point — not coincidentally! — in detail in my new book, "The People Have Spoken (And They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy."

Russian President Vladimir Putin may face international disapproval from the West over his Crimean actions, and he may even have to deal with some short-term ineffectual sanctions; but at home, he's enjoying his highest approval ratings in years. Yet we act as if Putin is acting alone. Before the invasion, the respected Levada-Center found that 65 percent of respondents approved of Putin's leadership. According to The Guardian, the less respected pollsters at the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center gauged Russian attitudes March 1-2 and found that nearly 68 percent of respondents approved of Putin's job performance. That was right as Russian troops were entering Crimea, so expect that number to go up.

Putin has enjoyed 60 percent approval ratings throughout his career — and often much higher. Despite a stagnating economy, a Pew Research Center poll in 2012 found that 72 percent thought Putin was doing a good job. It's the kind of support that — apart from some fleeting moments of history — is, thankfully, unachievable in a healthy democratic nation. Despite some of the political rhetoric we hear at home, too much unity reflects poorly on a nation's health.

And the more Putin undermines liberal institutions the more popular he becomes. The people who vote for the presidents of Russia and the United States are unrelated, emerging from distinct historical, moral and ideological perspectives. So expecting people — even people given a vote — to act in what we consider a logical manner is a waste of time.

While we, for example, may be confused about the harsh fate of Pussy Riot, only 5 percent of Russians believed that the punk/activist band didn't deserve serious penalties for its actions. Actually, 29 percent believe that the band members should have been sent into forced labor, while 37 percent believe they should be imprisoned.

So the Russian government controls the country's three main television channels, and at the end of 2013, Putin replaced the national news agency with a new and more compliant version. This undermines the free press, of course, but the ugly fact is there doesn't seem to be much anger about it. In recent years, the Kremlin has imposed limits on protests, criminalized libel and censored political material on the Internet. It has banned the work of nongovernmental organizations (typically aimed at fostering more transparency in government), frozen the assets of human rights groups that receive funding from U.S. citizens and jailed the political opposition. Occasionally, a dissident dies of poisoning.

But the reversal of once promising liberal reforms in Russia is not the result of an undermining of democracy. It happened with the full consent of the electorate. In Russia's first presidential election, in 2000, Putin, who had previously been made prime minister, won 53 percent of the vote. In 2004, he won 71 percent of the vote. In 2008, his lackey Dmitry Medvedev also won in a landslide. In 2012, Putin returned to the presidency in a landslide election with a Parliament dominated by members of his party, giving him virtually one-party rule.

Gloomier still, Putin may be a better choice. It's not as if democrats with widespread support are waiting in the wings. Remember that it was the Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov, who came in second place in the most recent election, with 20 percent of the vote. In a 2009 poll, nearly 60 percent of Russians said they "deeply regret" the Soviet Union's demise. So forget the Middle East, where we've thankfully stopped pretending democracy is a panacea, and start accepting the fact that most people don't view the world as we do.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Russia
KEYWORDS: russia; ukraine; viktoryanukovich; yuliatymoshenko

1 posted on 03/20/2014 9:18:09 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Most Russians think that despite all their country’s problems - life is far better for them than in the Soviet time.

And centuries of Russian history reveal Russians need, want and fear strong leaders. They back Putin because he is what a Russian leader should be.

Russians don’t elevate metrosexuals to office. They put in tough men to run their vast country, who without their iron hand on it, would fall apart.


2 posted on 03/20/2014 9:24:12 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: Kaslin

Russians are serfs with no understanding of freedom and responsibility, always have been and probably always will be.


3 posted on 03/20/2014 9:25:29 AM PDT by Red White and Blue patriot (USA all the way. Love it or Leave it. Ted Cruz 2016)
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To: Kaslin

My Russian teacher told us early and often that the Soviet Union (formerly known as Russia) is was and always will be of the mind set that slavery is good. The stronger the government the more comfortable they felt. The idea of starting out on your own to and unidentified end point was anathema to them as people and a culture.


4 posted on 03/20/2014 9:25:50 AM PDT by Nifster
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To: goldstategop

Just as with the Arab world, it’s a fools errand to think we can change a leopard’s, or in this case a Bear’s, spots.

Russians will never go for a US-style government. It’s not in their DNA.


5 posted on 03/20/2014 9:26:15 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Red White and Blue patriot

And is that wrong?


6 posted on 03/20/2014 9:30:14 AM PDT by mulligan (I)
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To: dfwgator

Russians are poor, alcoholic, facing a demographic disaster, but Russia is strong and that’s a point of pride to them, and entire history of the country.


7 posted on 03/20/2014 9:34:05 AM PDT by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious! We reserve the right to serve refuse to anyone!)
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To: Kaslin

While in the US, the media doesn’t even have to be forced to kiss Obama’s azz, they line up to do it voluntarily, and cover for him, and propagandise for him. While in the US, we have widespread election fraud whch no governmental agency is investigating. While in the US, the President uses the power of the IRS to subvert and intimidate his political opponents.

I’d say it’s even worse when it’s done voluntarily, they don’t even have the excuse of being threatened.

That’s how Nazi Germany came into being, by its people voluntarily and enthusiastically supporting Hitler and all his means, and those who didn’t either didn’t take him seriously or knew enough to keep their mouths shut.


8 posted on 03/20/2014 9:37:01 AM PDT by mrsmel (One Who Can See)
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To: Kaslin

Shared responsibility = No responsibility


9 posted on 03/20/2014 9:39:46 AM PDT by Cyber Liberty (H.L. Mencken: "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.")
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To: mulligan

It can complicate things when they decide other people are the same way.


10 posted on 03/20/2014 9:43:56 AM PDT by Cyber Liberty (H.L. Mencken: "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.")
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To: dfwgator

And a Russian style government was one of the kind our Founders wanted to avoid being established. That bring said I also claim taking the USA to other nations for democracy is only for the fortunes of others. Except for WWII and possibly Korea our latest wars have been of questionable benefit to the people in the USA


11 posted on 03/20/2014 9:47:58 AM PDT by noinfringers2
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To: dfwgator

And a Russian style government was one of the kind our Founders wanted to avoid being established. That bring said I also claim taking the USA to other nations for democracy is only for the fortunes of others. Except for WWII and possibly Korea our latest wars have been of questionable benefit to the people in the USA


12 posted on 03/20/2014 9:47:58 AM PDT by noinfringers2
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To: noinfringers2

All wars are economic in nature, whether the societies participating in them are worthy or not.


13 posted on 03/20/2014 9:54:02 AM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: Kaslin

Yeah, Russians are different from Western Democrats, they’re bad corrupt rather than good corrupt.


14 posted on 03/20/2014 9:57:29 AM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: Kaslin
...Russia's invasion of Ukraine...

The Russian's haven’t invaded Ukraine...Yet.

15 posted on 03/20/2014 9:58:07 AM PDT by McGruff (They say the first casualty of war is truth)
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To: dfwgator; goldstategop
A lot of people assumed in the late 80's and early 90's that the Russians who opposed Communism and celebrated its downfall did so because they were craving western-style democracy and capitalism, complete with a US-style constitution and bill of rights.

In fact, they (apart from a minority of westernized intellectuals) didn't support Communism's downfall because they wanted freedom of speech or freedom of the press. They opposed Communism because its stagnant economy didn't provide them with an acceptable standard of living. An authoritarian or even totalitarian government would have been just fine if only it delivered the economic goods.

You see a similarly naive attitude towards the "Arab spring," where people naively think that those who want to overthrow a Mubarak or an Assad are doing so because they want American-style republican government and capitalism in their countries.

Usually, it's the Left that has silly universalist illusions about the whole world adopting the same form of government and economy. Unfortunately, there are some similarly messianic "conservatives" who think that US political and economic institutions can be exported as easily as Big Macs.

Russia will always have authoritarian governments, just as true western-style secularism won't be sustainable in the Middle East. The only question is what kind of authoritarianism you're going to have.

16 posted on 03/20/2014 10:06:40 AM PDT by ek_hornbeck
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To: Navy Patriot

Exactly. An overtly controlled press is a bad, bad thing. Hypocrisy ads luster to our system of oppression.


17 posted on 03/20/2014 10:07:15 AM PDT by Psalm 144 (My citizenship is not here.)
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To: Navy Patriot

I agree but I would also say that territory is also cause because it is of itself or for economic benefits/wealth.


18 posted on 03/20/2014 10:15:16 AM PDT by noinfringers2
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To: noinfringers2

You are correct, territory, natural resources and potential use, are wealth.


19 posted on 03/20/2014 10:21:20 AM PDT by Navy Patriot (Join the Democrats, it's not Fascism when WE do it, and the Constitution and law mean what WE say.)
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To: Cyber Liberty

Shared responsibility = No responsibility

<><><><

I grew up with that very thought ringing in my ear.

If everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.


20 posted on 03/20/2014 10:23:18 AM PDT by dmz
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To: McGruff

The Russians haven’t invaded Ukraine...Yet.

21 posted on 03/20/2014 10:58:09 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Kaslin
Excellent article.

Though I don't understand why any conservative would defend "Pussy Riot," especially considering what they did. If someone over here had done that in a Protestant or Catholic church American conservatives would be screaming for their heads.

22 posted on 03/20/2014 11:02:08 AM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (The Left: speaking power to truth since Shevirat HaKelim.)
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To: mulligan

You are on a site called Free Republic and you have to ask that?


23 posted on 03/20/2014 12:24:22 PM PDT by Red White and Blue patriot (USA all the way. Love it or Leave it. Ted Cruz 2016)
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To: mulligan

You are on a site called Free Republic and you have to ask that?


24 posted on 03/20/2014 1:03:38 PM PDT by Red White and Blue patriot (USA all the way. Love it or Leave it. Ted Cruz 2016)
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To: Red White and Blue patriot

Yet Western World thinks that freedom is when one is free to take penis in his rectum.


25 posted on 03/20/2014 5:01:04 PM PDT by kronos77 (Kosovo is Serbian Jerusalem. No Serbia without Kosovo.)
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To: goldstategop

I’m a strong believer in that an economy and a ways certain societies generally engage in to make for a living are the most important in their choice of form of government as well as overall attitude towards freedoms.
It is not in DNA or something.


26 posted on 03/20/2014 9:32:28 PM PDT by wetphoenix
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To: ek_hornbeck

~Russia will always have authoritarian governments, just as true western-style secularism won’t be sustainable in the Middle East. The only question is what kind of authoritarianism you’re going to have.~

This opinion is an opposite extreme to a neocon ‘nation-building’ blunder. And probably as wrong as an idea that you can bring a democracy via military operation.


27 posted on 03/20/2014 9:32:28 PM PDT by wetphoenix
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To: wetphoenix
This opinion is an opposite extreme to a neocon ‘nation-building’ blunder. And probably as wrong as an idea that you can bring a democracy via military operation.

For better or for worse, this opposite extreme is supported by history and by facts. When Muslim countries experiment with secularism, what you get is a small, secular ruling class that rules over the pious masses by force. Remove that force with "democracy" and their societies revert back to form. Turkey had the longest run with their experiment with western-style secular government, now they're turning back.

Russia's experiment with western-style economic and political liberties barely lasted a decade. I wouldn't say that authoritarianism in "in their genes" (since there isn't that much genetic difference between someone from Russia or some other eastern European country), but it's certainly in their culture.

I'll also add that I don't think that authoritarian governments are necessarily a bad thing in other cultures, as the only thing that can maintain order. What's good for Americans (economic and political liberty) is not necessarily best, or even workable, for other societies, or vice-versa. The US Constitution isn't made for export any more than the writings of Confucius.

28 posted on 03/21/2014 7:57:54 AM PDT by ek_hornbeck
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To: ek_hornbeck

You are so right on many points and there are numerous reasons why different societies were leaning to one form or government or another throughout history but here and now in 21th century with all sorts of ideas circling the globe freely it is all about money.
A society of individuals capable to make average $20,000 annual income are generally interested in freedoms.
Those are too lazy and stupid to be there, aren’t. I came to such a conclusion observing situation in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Do some research and you would agree.
For that very reason it is useless to force democracy on 3rd world savages and Ukraine is doomed to circle a bowl between anarchy and tyranny for decades to come.


29 posted on 03/22/2014 5:15:40 AM PDT by wetphoenix
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To: wetphoenix
A society of individuals capable to make average $20,000 annual income are generally interested in freedoms

In a more general, broad sense, I'd agree with the thought you are expressing. I would amend it to say "A society of individuals capable and willing to make a living wage are generally interested in freedoms.

And with that thought in mind, I would submit that the failure to stop the invasion of the US and benefits that enable idleness are rapidly turning the US into a country generally not interested in freedoms

30 posted on 03/22/2014 5:34:13 AM PDT by grania
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To: grania

~In a more general, broad sense, I’d agree with the thought you are expressing. I would amend it to say “A society of individuals capable and willing to make a living wage are generally interested in freedoms.~

Thank you for your corrections.
It was exactly what I have tried to say.

~And with that thought in mind, I would submit that the failure to stop the invasion of the US and benefits that enable idleness are rapidly turning the US into a country generally not interested in freedoms~

Bingo. And here are both a problem and solution. At least we are now agree on how to reverse this rot.


31 posted on 03/22/2014 6:16:02 AM PDT by wetphoenix
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To: wetphoenix

Perhaps I should have qualified statements like “Russia will always be authoritarian” or “Muslim societies will always have theocratic tendencies” to “will always be ... within our lifetimes.” But I think we’re on the same page on the general point.


32 posted on 03/24/2014 10:45:43 AM PDT by ek_hornbeck
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To: ek_hornbeck

BTW, for that very reason economic sanctions and visa restrictions make exactly opposite to declared effect. It keeps people of targeted nations united behind their tyrants, isolated and for that reason vulnerable for their government propaganda, also poor and more interested in handouts than freedoms.


33 posted on 03/24/2014 8:12:54 PM PDT by wetphoenix
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To: wetphoenix
BTW, for that very reason economic sanctions and visa restrictions make exactly opposite to declared effect. It keeps people of targeted nations united behind their tyrants, isolated and for that reason vulnerable for their government propaganda, also poor and more interested in handouts than freedoms.

Anyone who thinks sanctions are an effective strategy for deposing tyrants should only look to Castro's Cuba. Half a century's worth of US sanctions sure got rid of Castro and Communism there!

Thanks to US sanctions, Castro could always claim that his people didn't have food and other basic goods and services because of the sanctions rather than on account of his regime's incompetence and corruption.

34 posted on 03/25/2014 7:36:41 AM PDT by ek_hornbeck
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