By Jim Miles
Sunday, Apr 9, 2017
|Vladimir Putin is the devil incarnate of the present media frenzy supporting all things USA! USA! USA! Having just read a trio of books concerning Putin it is obvious that the lenses through which Putin is viewed has blinders on the side and rose colored tints as a lens coating. The blinders are those things the authors just do not want to see; the rosy tints are a combination of all things from the U.S. coming up roses, and all things Russian still being post-Soviet red.
All three books have the same common elements, not so much as to what is said, but as to what is not said. What is not said comprises three major topics: economics, militarization, and democracy. And all of what is not said concerns the U.S. and not Russia. The what-is-not-said relies on the mainstream /political media assumptions about the general goodness and lack of evil intentions of the U.S. Russia cannot be discussed without reference to and comparisons to U.S. intentions and actions vis à vis Russia, but also vis à vis the world at large.
Russia's economy, as seen by all three, is weak and relies solely on petrochemicals for its sustenance. There is little accounting of its lack of national debt, about its increasing purchases of gold (see also China), and the positive actions that the sanctions have had forcing Russia to repatriate and upgrade both its manufacturing and agricultural production. There is - perhaps due to the currency of the events - no mention of Nord Stream 1 and the now in process Nord Stream 2 that circumvents EU Regulations (and the Ukraine) and that the EU has now indicated is not within its jurisdiction.
Relationships with China are generally presented as a problem, while China continues to buy huge amounts of gold, and has agreed to use the Yuan as common exchange currency with hints of a soon to be gold-backed exchange. All the books were written recently enough to account for the sale of Russian gas and oil to China, but none of them mention the current Chinese developments for creating the "One Belt, One Road" system throughout Eurasia, of which Russia plays a significant role as part of the corridor, and as a supplier of materials, technology, and military assistance.
The largest contradiction is the descriptions used of the Ruble being dependent on oil and gas, a "Petro-Ruble" without any comparison to the U.S. Petro-Dollar. Along with this goes bragging rights about how strong the U.S. economy is.
But understand this: the U.S. economy is strong only because of its petrodollar which has the two advantages of being the global reserve currency and, due to this, being able to be printed without end. Behind the petrodollar is the military, which is used along with sanctions to eliminate any potential attempts to circumvent the use of the US$. Just ask Iraq, Libya, and Iran about that aspect - and now the "pivot to Asia" and the aggressive actions against Russia demonstrate where the big interest lies - US$ hegemony globally.
For if the US$ loses its petrodollar/reserve status (as supported by Saudi Arabia) its economy collapses. It produces very little, buys a whole lot, and is in debt over its eyeballs. All its actions, however much couched in terms of freedom and democracy, are targeted towards the maintenance of the current US$ status.
So what is it? Is Russia threatening NATO? Are they being the aggressors? The broken promises of the Gorbachev/Yeltsin era included the encroachment of NATO towards Russian borders and more recently the installation of missile defenses, supposedly against Iran (yeah sure, Iran is going to attack Poland?). After WW II the U.S. occupied - and for all intents and purposes still does - Germany and Japan, creating an axis of containment against both Russia and China - Eurasia - the world island - in general. This is now supported with hundreds of military bases of various components spread through the Greater Middle East and the Asian periphery.
All three authors indicate that NATO's moves are at worst a benign factor, to help the adjoining states with their security and not intended to threaten Russia at all. Only one of the works recognizes the threat NATO poses to Russia, but then awkwardly relates it to the Russian misperception of U.S. intentions. George Kennan is cited twice, first in 1948 on the creation of NATO:
"Why did they [the proponents of a military alliance] wish to divert attention from a thoroughly justified and promising program of economic recovery by emphasizing a danger which did not actually exist but which might indeed be brought into existence by too much discussion of the military balance and by the ostentatious stimulation of a military rivalry?"And later on in 1997 on the expansion of NATO:
"Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold war era". To impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking." Both comments are applicable to today's current affairs. The answer is simple. The U.S. wants domination of the Eurasian continent for its global hegemony and is increasingly desperate to attain this as both Russia and China signal clearly their intentions of creating a multipolar world order.
The U.S. response is primarily military backing its tattered and torn but not yet negated economic flag. None of the authors address the prime underlying motive at all, but it is necessary when discussing why Russia is the way it is today.
Putin is presented, within his evil role, as being an absolute authority, not allowing democracy to emerge, with indications that is also the general nature of the Russian people. All three books rely on the assumption that the U.S. is the paragon of democracy, that democracy is its greatest virtue.
However right from the start with the declarations within the Federalist Papers that democracy and the "factions" that were to be avoided, democracy was not the prime concern of the founding fathers. That is evident throughout U.S. history from it wars against the indigenous people, the wars against Mexico and Spain, followed by its many incursions into Latin America, and spreading out through Southeast and South Asia, into today's military attempts at dominance in the Middle East (with its Israeli ally) and Africa.
In current events, the ridiculousness of the U.S. Electoral College system, the influence of the decidedly undemocratic corporations, NGOs, and financial wheelers and dealers are erupting in the now rancorous and acrimonious presentations between the various levels of government. To call Russia undemocratic is to not be able to look at one's own lack of democracy.
The Three Russketeers
I have already mentioned Legvold's Return to Cold War. It tries to argue - and fails - that both sides are at fault, the U.S. essentially for not understanding how someone could react negatively to their security and democratic assistance to others, while Russia suffers from its misperceptions of U.S. intentions as well as its generalized authoritarian character.
Legvold uses arguments that are somewhat contradictory, uses assumptions that are not statistically true (especially vis a vis economics), and uses ad hominem verbiage that tarnishes an issue without presenting a counter argument. From the latter Legvold uses descriptors such as venomous, poisonous, unrealistic, malevolent, heavy handed, troublemaker - all of which create a negative impression without actually presenting an argument against the described actions.
The second bad book of the trio I had higher expectations for. Walter Laqueur has published numerous historical works, most relating to Germany, Russia, and Israel. His book Putinism  is the most recent but suffers from poor organization, much too much discussion of philosophical elements, and some essentially poorly argued positions. As much as it is titled Putinism, it hardly gives a good account of who Putin is or what the invented term Putinism really is.
The book I had the least expectations for turned out to be the best, one that drew me into its clear, linear, well researched and referenced history. Steven Lee Myers The New Tsar  presents back cover descriptors that have an obvious bias, using phrases referencing Putin's history such as "brutal repression of dissent", "new authoritarianism", "destabilizing world leader", and "merciless." It fits well into my initial view about rose colored glasses and blinders in relation how the U.S. fits into the presentation. However, from decades of reading on the U.S. Empire, from information gleaned through various non mainstream media sources, I was well buttressed to wade through the book.
Apart from the obvious bias, I was pleasantly surprised by the thoroughness of the history and its references and the quality of the writing style (much better than the above two). I also had an interesting emotional reaction: from what Myers is saying, combined with what I already know of current events and U.S political and economic/military history, Putin - rather than being evil incarnate - became the quintessential right man in the right place at the right time in order to preserve and save Russia as a sovereign state against U.S. intentions at control.
Yes, if you are a U.S. patriot, without much sense of global history, or your own history as a militarized empire, or willfully ignore those aspects of international relations, then yes, Putin is certainly a "destabilizing leader". Against the U.S. New World Order as per Wolfowitz, Brzezinski, McCain, Bolton, Kaplan, Kagan et al, that is good news.
 Kennan, cited in Legvold, Robert. Return to Cold War. Polity Press, Cambridge (UK)/Malden (Maine). 2016.
 Laqueur, Walter. Putinism. Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, NY. 2015.
 Myers, Steven Lee. The New Tsar - The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin. Vintage Books (Penguin Random House), NY. 2016.
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