By MIKE WHITNEY
The Unz Review
“It is essential to provide conditions for creative labor and economic growth at a pace that would put an end to the division of the world into permanent winners and permanent losers. The rules of the game should give the developing economies at least a chance to catch up with those we know as developed economies. We should work to level out the pace of economic development, and brace up backward countries and regions so as to make the fruit of economic growth and technological progress accessible to all. Particularly, this would help to put an end to poverty, one of the worst contemporary problems.”
— Vladimir Putin, President Russian Federation, Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club
Putin wants to end poverty? Putin wants to stimulate economic growth in developing countries? Putin wants to change the system that divides the world into “permanent winners and losers”? But, how can that be, after all, Putin is bad, Putin is a “KGB thug”, Putin is the “new Hitler”?
American liberals would be surprised to know that Putin actually supports many of the same social issues that they support. For example, the Russian President is not only committed to lifting living standards and ending poverty, he’s also a big believer in universal healthcare which is free under the current Russian Constitution. Naturally, the Russian system has its shortcomings, but there has been significant progress under Putin who has dramatically increased the budget, improved treatment and widened accessibility. Putin believes that healthcare should be a universal human right. Here’s what he said at the annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club:
“Another priority is global healthcare…. All people in the world, not only the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full lives. This is a noble goal. In short, we should build the foundation for the future world today by investing in all priority areas of human development.” (Vladimir Putin, President Russian Federation, Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club)
How many “liberal” politicians in the US would support a recommendation like Putin’s? Not very many. The Democrats are much more partial to market-based reforms like Obamacare that guarantee an ever-increasing slice of the pie goes to the giant HMOs and the voracious pharmaceutical companies. The Dems no longer make any attempt to promote universal healthcare as a basic human right. They’ve simply thrown in the towel and moved on to other issues.
Many Americans would find Putin’s views on climate change equally surprising. Here’s another clip from the Valdai speech:
“Ladies and gentlemen, one more issue that shall affect the future of the entire humankind is climate change. … I suggest that we take a broader look at the issue….What we need is an essentially different approach, one that would involve introducing new, groundbreaking, nature-like technologies that would not damage the environment, but rather work in harmony with it, enabling us to restore the balance between the biosphere and technology upset by human activities.
It is indeed a challenge of global proportions. And I am confident that humanity does have the necessary intellectual capacity to respond to it. We need to join our efforts, primarily engaging countries that possess strong research and development capabilities, and have made significant advances in fundamental research. We propose convening a special forum under the auspices of the UN to comprehensively address issues related to the depletion of natural resources, habitat destruction, and climate change. Russia is willing to co-sponsor such a forum…..” Valdai)
Most people would never suspect that Putin supports a global effort to address climate change. And, how would they know, after all, bits of information like that– that help to soften Putin’s image and make him seem like a rational human being– are scrubbed from the media’s coverage in order to cast him in the worst possible light. The media doesn’t want people to know that Putin is a reflective and modest man who has worked tirelessly to make Russia and the world a better place. No, they want them to believe that he’s is a scheming tyrannical despot who’s obsessive hatred for America poses a very real threat to US national security. But it’s not true.
Putin is not the ghoulish caricature the media makes him out to be nor does he hate America, that’s just more propaganda from the corporate echo-chamber. The truth is Putin has been good for Russia, good for regional stability, and good for global security. He pulled the Russian Federation back from the brink of annihilation in 2000, and has had the country moving in a positive direction ever since. His impact on the Russian economy has been particularly impressive. According to Wikipedia:
“Between 2000 and 2012 Russia’s energy exports fueled a rapid growth in living standards, with real disposable income rising by 160%. In dollar-denominated terms this amounted to a more than sevenfold increase in disposable incomes since 2000. In the same period, unemployment and poverty more than halved and Russians’ self-assessed life satisfaction also rose significantly.”
Inequality is a problem in Russia just like it is in the US, but the vast majority of working people have benefited greatly from Putin’s reforms and a system of distribution that –judging by steady uptick in disposable incomes– is significantly superior to that in the United States where wages have flatlined for over 2 decades and where virtually all of the nation’s wealth trickles upward to the parasitic 1 percent.
Since Putin took office in 2000, workers have seen across-the-board increase in wages, benefits, healthcare and pensions. Poverty and unemployment have been reduced by more than half while foreign investment has experienced steady growth. Onerous IMF loans have been repaid in full, capital flight has all-but ceased, hundreds in billions in reserves have been accumulated, personal and corporate taxes have been slashed, and technology has experienced an unprecedented renaissance. The notorious Russian oligarchs still have a stranglehold on many privately-owned industries, but their grip has begun to loosen and the “kleptocracy has begun to fade.”
Things are far from perfect, but the Russian economy has flourished under Putin and, generally speaking, the people are appreciative. This helps to explain why Putin’s public approval ratings are typically in the stratosphere. (70 to 80 percent) Simply put: Putin the most popular Russian president of all time. And his popularity is not limited to Russia either, in fact, he typically ranks at the top of most global leadership polls such as the recent Gallup International End of Year Survey (EoY) where Putin came in third (43 percent positive rating) behind Germany’s Angela Merkel (49 percent) and French President Emmanuel Macron. (45 percent) According to Gallup: “Putin has gone from one in three (33 percent) viewing him favourably to 43 percent, a significant increase over two years.”
The only place where people have a negative view of Putin is in the United States (14 percent) and EU (28 percent), the two locations where he is relentlessly savaged by the media and excoriated by the political class. This should come as no surprise to Americans who know that the chances of stumbling across an article that treats Putin with even minimal objectivity is about as likely as finding a copper coin at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The consensus view of the western media is that Putin is a maniacal autocrat who kills journalists and political opponents (no proof), who meddles in US elections to “sow discord” and destroy our precious democracy (no proof), and who is conducting a secret and sinister cyberwar against the United States. (no proof). It’s a pathetic litany of libels and fabrications, but its impact on the brainwashed American people has been quite impressive as Gallup’s results indicate. Bottom line: Propaganda works.
The attacks on Putin began sometime in 2006 during Putin’s second term when it became apparent that Russia was going to resist the looting and exploitation the US requires of its vassal states. This is when the powerful Council on Foreign Relations funded a report titled “Russia’s Wrong Direction” that suggested that Russia’s increasingly independent foreign policy and insistence that it control its own vast oil and natural gas resources meant that “the very idea of a ‘strategic partnership’ no longer seems realistic.” That’s right, Russia was thrown under the bus because they wanted to control their own oil and their own destiny.
John Edwards and Jack Kemp were appointed to lead a CFR task force which concocted the absurd pretext that that Putin was “rolling back democracy” in Russia. They claimed that the government had become increasingly authoritarian and that the society was growing less “open and pluralistic”. Kemp and Edwards provided the ideological foundation upon which the entire public relations campaign against Putin has been built. Twelve years later, the same charges are still being leveled at Putin along with the additional allegations that he meddled in the 2016 presidential elections.
Needless to say, none of the nation’s newspapers, magazines or broadcast media ever publish anything that deviates even slightly from the prevailing, propagandistic narrative about Putin. One can only assume that the MSM’s views on Putin are either universally accepted by all 325 million Americans or that the so-called “free press” is a wretched farce that conceals an authoritarian corporate machine that censors all opinions that don’t promote their own malign political agenda.
What Washington really despises about Putin is that he has refused to comply with their diktats and has openly rejected their model of a “unipolar” world order. As he said at the annual Security Conference at Munich in 2007:
“The unipolar world refers to a world in which there is one master, one sovereign; one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making. At the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”
Despite Russia’s efforts to assist the US in its War On Terror, Washington has continued to regard Putin as an emerging rival that would eventually have to be confronted. The conflict in Ukraine added more gas to the fire by pitting the two superpowers against each other in a hot war that remains unresolved to this day.
But Syria was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Russia’s intervention in the Syrian War in September 2015 proved to be the turning point in the 7 year-long conflagration. By rolling back the CIA-trained militants, Putin bloodied Washington’s nose and forced the Pentagon to adopt a backup plan that relied heavily on Kurdish proxies east of the Euphrates. At present, US Special Forces and their allies are clinging to a strip of arid wasteland in the Syrian outback hoping that the Pentagon brass can settle on a forward-operating strategy that reverses their fortunes or brings the war to a swift end.
The Syria humiliation precipitated the Russia-gate Information Operation (IO) which is the propaganda component of the current war on Russia. The scandal has been an effective way to poison public perceptions and to make it look like the perpetrator of aggression is really the victim. More important, failure in Syria has led to a reevaluation of how Washington conducts its wars abroad. The War on Terror pretext has been jettisoned for a more direct approach laid out in the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy. The focus going forward will be on “Great Power Competition”, that is, the US is subordinating its covert proxy operations to more flagrant displays of military force particularly in regards to the “growing threat from revisionist powers”, Russia and China. In short, the gloves are coming off and Washington is ramping up for a land war.
Putin has become an obstacle to Washington’s imperial ambitions which is why he’s has been elevated to Public Enemy Number 1. It has nothing to do with the fictitious meddling in the 2016 elections or the nonsensical “rolling back democracy” in Russia. It’s all about power. In the United States the group with the tightest grip on power is the foreign policy establishment. These are the towering mandarins who dictate the policy, tailor the politics to fit their strategic vision, and dispatch their lackeys in the media to shape the narrative. These are the people who decided that Putin must be demonized to pave the way for more foreign interventions, more regime change wars, more bloody aggression against sovereign states.
Putin has repeatedly warned Washington that Russia would not stand by while the US destroyed one country after the other in its lust for global domination. He reiterated his claim that Washington’s “uncontained hyper-use of force” was creating “new centers of tension”, exacerbating regional conflicts, undermining international relations, and “plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.” He has pointed out how the US routinely displayed its contempt for international law and “overstepped its national borders in every way.” As a result of Washington’s aggressive behavior, public confidence in international law and global security has steadily eroded and “No one feels safe. I want to emphasize this,” Putin thundered in Munich. “No one feels safe.”
On September 28, 2015 Putin finally threw down the gauntlet in a speech he delivered at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. After reiterating his commitment to international law, the UN, and state sovereignty, he provided a brief but disturbing account of recent events in the Middle East, all of which have gotten significantly worse due to Washington’s use of force. Here’s Putin:
“Just look at the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa… Instead of bringing about reforms, aggressive intervention destroyed government institutions and the local way of life. Instead of democracy and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life…
The power vacuum in some countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa obviously resulted in the emergence of areas of anarchy, which were quickly filled with extremists and terrorists. The so-called Islamic State has tens of thousands of militants fighting for it, including former Iraqi soldiers who were left on the street after the 2003 invasion. Many recruits come from Libya whose statehood was destroyed as a result of a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973….”
US interventions have decimated Iraq, Libya, Syria and beyond. Over a million people have been killed while tens of millions have been forced to flee their homes and their countries. The refugee spillover has added to social tensions across the EU where anti-immigrant sentiment has precipitated the explosive growth in right wing groups and political organizations. From Northern Africa, across the Middle East, and into Central Asia, global security has steadily deteriorated under Washington’s ruthless stewardship. Here’s more from Putin:
“The Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere. It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes. Having established control over parts of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State now aggressively expands into other regions….It is irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them….”
Putin clearly blames the United States for the rise of ISIS and the surge in global terrorism. He also condemns Washington’s strategy to use terrorist organizations to achieve its own narrow strategic objectives. (regime change) More important, he uses his platform at the United Nations to explain why he has deployed the Russian Air-force to bases in Syria where it will it will be used to conduct a war against Washington’s jihadist proxies on the ground.
Putin: “We can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world.”
Less than 48 hours after these words were uttered, Russian warplanes began pounding militant targets in Syria.
Putin again: “Dear colleagues,….relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism….Russia is confident of the United Nations’ enormous potential, which should help us avoid a new confrontation and embrace a strategy of cooperation. Hand in hand with other nations, we will consistently work to strengthen the UN’s central, coordinating role. I am convinced that by working together, we will make the world stable and safe, and provide an enabling environment for the development of all nations and peoples.”
So, here’s the question: Is Putin “evil” for opposing Washington’s regime change wars, for stopping the spread of terrorism, and for rejecting the idea that one unipolar world power should rule the world? Is that why he’s evil, because he won’t click his heels and do as he’s told by the global hegemon?
We should all be so evil.