WASHINGTON, April 16, 2014 — As anyone who has followed the ongoing crisis in eastern Europe and Ukraine knows, the establishment news media and neoconservative press have repeatedly made serious charges against Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
These allegations can be summarized in four major points:
- Putin is a KGB thug;
- he wants to reassemble the old Soviet Union, and he believes that the break-up of the USSR was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century;
- Putin is corrupt and has amassed billions of rubles personally skimmed off the top of the weak Russian economy;
- and he is an anti-democratic authoritarian who persecutes homosexuals in particular.
The “KGB thug” and the “break-up” of the USSR charges have been partially addressed in a variety of books and articles. The documentation overwhelmingly contradicts these allegations. Various historians and researchers, including Professor Allen C. Lynch (in his study, “Vladimir Putin and Russian Statecraft”), Reagan ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock, Reagan Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, and Dr. Paul Gottfried have pointed out that these allegations have been ripped out of context and presented as fact by many “talking heads” on Fox and talk radio, as well as by the collaborating establishment media.
READ Dr. Boyd Cathey: Rush Limbaugh is spouting nonsense on Eastern Europe
The charges go from disingenuous to blatantly dishonest.
Professor Lynch reveals in his study that much of the evidence for the “KGB thug” allegation lacks basis. Lynch treats in some detail the question of Putin’s continued subservience to KGB ideology, with particular reference to the events surrounding the abortive Communist coup by the old hands at the KGB in August 1991.
Putin, by that time, had resigned his position in the KGB and was serving as deputy mayor to pro-Western Leningrad mayor, Anatoly Sobchak. As Lynch recounts, it was Putin who organized the local Leningrad militia to oppose the attempted KGB coup and protect Mayor Sobchak and the forces of democratic reform:
“Putin played a key role in saving Leningrad for the Democrats. The coup, which lasted but three days, was carried out on August 19. That same day Mayor Sobchak arrived on a flight from Moscow. The Leningrad KGB, which supported the coup, planned to arrest Sobchak immediately upon landing. Putin got word of the plan and took decisive and preemptive action: He organized a handful of loyal troops and met Sobchake at the airport, driving the car right up to the plane’s exit ramp. The KGB turned back, not wishing to risk an open confrontation with Sobchak’s armed entourage [led by Putin].”
This signal failure in Russia’s second city doomed the attempted KGB coup and assured the final collapse of the Soviet system and eventual transition of Russia away from Communism.
Putin lamented the break-up of the old Soviet Union, not because he regretted the disappearance of the Soviets, but because of the numerous economic, linguistic, social, and cultural overlaps that interrelated most of the fifteen constituent republics of the USSR. Indeed, at almost the same time he made the “break-up” comment, he visited Poland to denounce the Communist crimes in the Katyn Forest at the beginning of World War II, as well as the Soviet gulags.
And he gained firm support and endorsement from that inveterate and intransigent anti-Communist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. So, then, was the great anti-Communist Solzhenitsyn snookered by the KGB thug?
READ Paul Gottfried: George Will is wrong: Putin’s not Hitler | Obama is no statesman
Much like the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I, which left significant ethnic minorities cut off from former homelands — German Sudetens in Czechoslovakia, Hungarian Transylvanians in Romania, etc. — and a number of economically non-viable states in the Balkans, the dissolution of the Soviet Union created the same situation in Eastern Europe. The present crisis in Ukraine is a clear example of what can happen and has happened as a result.
It was this situation that Putin lamented; it was this break-up that he foresaw as a tragedy.
The origin of the corruption charge is more difficult to get at. As Lynch details, some of the hostility towards Putin emerged early when he became interim president of the Russian Federation after Boris Yeltsin stepped down in December, 1999. Putin had established himself as a loyal and forthright political leader since serving as deputy mayor for the pro-democratic Mayor Sobchak. He had also served Yeltsin faithfully.
But Putin was no Yeltsin. While initially following the Yeltsin pro-American and pro-Western lead in foreign policy, Putin was also aware that Russia was undergoing a radical transition from a decrepit and collapsed Communist state to the recovery of some of its older traditions, including a mushrooming, vibrant return to traditional Russian Orthodoxy, a faith which he publicly embraced.
As the largest nation in the world, with historic connections to the rest of Europe, but also to Asia, Putin understood as well that Russia, despite the Communist interlude, was still a major power to be reckoned with. A reawakened Russian nationalism and a return to the traditional Orthodox Christian faith in no way predetermined an eventual clash with the European Union nor with the United States.
Indeed, after the 9/11 attack on the “twin towers” in New York, Putin’s Russia was the first nation to offer its full support to and its cooperation with American intelligence agencies to combat terrorism and bring the culprits to justice. Having combated Chechen terrorism in the Caucasus region, Russia had experience dealing with Islamic extremism.
Nevertheless, Bush administration neoconservatives basically kicked Russia in the mouth, condescendingly refusing Russian collaboration. As leading Neocon publicist and “talking head,” Charles Krauthammer, expressed it, “we now live in a unipolar world in which there is only ONE superpower, and that is the United States.”