The desire for Russia to become a “collaborative partner” in any kind of situation resembling international parity was just not acceptable. Whereas Yeltsin had been welcomed in Washington as “America’s poodle,” willing to do America’s bidding, Putin believed that the largest nation in the world, which had thrown off the Communist yoke, merited a larger role. His desire was for a real partnership.
Interestingly, Yeltsin’s tenure as president seemed not only to echo a second-rate “America’s poodle” status, his handling of the Russian economy proved disastrous for the average Russian, but lucrative for a handful of Russian oligarchs, who in turn were connected to American business interests. Wikipedia sums up his actions in this way:
In 1995, as Yeltsin struggled to finance Russia’s growing foreign debt and gain support from the Russian business elite for his bid in the early-1996 presidential elections, the Russian president prepared for a new wave of privatization offering stock shares in some of Russia’s most valuable state enterprises in exchange for bank loans. The program was promoted as a way of simultaneously speeding up privatization and ensuring the government a much-needed infusion of cash for its operating needs.
However, the deals were effectively giveaways of valuable state assets to a small group of tycoons in finance, industry, energy, telecommunications, and the media who came to be known as “oligarchs” in the mid-1990s. This was due to the fact that ordinary people sold their vouchers for cash. The vouchers were bought out by a small group of investors. By mid-1996, substantial ownership shares over major firms were acquired at very low prices by a handful of people. Boris Berezovsky, who controlled major stakes in several banks and the national media, emerged as one of Yeltsin’s most prominent backers. Along with Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Potanin, Vladimir Bogdanov, Rem Viakhirev, Vagit Alekperov, Alexander Smolensky, Victor Vekselberg, Mikhail Fridman and a few years later Roman Abramovich, were habitually mentioned in the media as Russia’s oligarchs.
On his assumption of the presidency and his election to a full first term, Putin resolved to end this economic domination by “the oligarchs,” but in so doing, he antagonized their capitalist partners in the West.
During his first term, Putin proved himself to be a clever and resourceful politician. He organized a powerful political base, his United Russia political party, and, like most successful political leaders, was able to parlay his economic successes and a favorable conclusion to the Tchechen civil war into a strong base of support across the Russian Federation. Criticized by some domestic opponents for not following punctiliously all the hallmark benchmarks of Western-style “democracy,” Putin insisted that the difficult path to Russian democracy was different than that so often pushed (and imposed) by the United States around the world. Nevertheless, the average Russian citizen experienced more real liberties and more economic freedom than at any time in Russia’s long history, and the credit for that must be Putin’s.
The Neocon condescension towards and opposition to Russia, first after 9/11, then with the threatened placement of missiles in Poland (aimed at Russia), pushing NATO to the very borders of Russia, and finally following the bungled American diplomatic escapade in Georgia in 2008, cemented a conviction among Russians and by Vladimir Putin that the desired partnership with America was unrealizable, at least for the time being.
For American Neoconservatives and their European collaborators, the emergence of a nationalist Russia, a Russia that had turned to its “reactionary” religious and pre-Soviet traditions for inspiration, demanding any form of equality with the world’s “only remaining superpower,” was simply a modern heresy. And, just as the Murdoch media and Neocon press had lauded Yeltsin, they quickly turned on the nationalist Putin, who quickly became in the Western press a “KGB thug,” “corrupt,” and desirous of “restoring the old Soviet Union.”
One of the major, if indirect, Russian domestic sources for the corruption charges comes via a prolific Russian politician, Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov, identified as a “new liberal” or a “new leftist,” is a longtime opponent of Vladimir Putin and a favorite of John McCain [cf. “Russians React Badly to U.S. Criticism on Protests,” The New York Times, January 6, 2011]. Over the years he has penned a number of election broadsides and pamphlets, charging Putin with everything from feathering his own “nest” with “billions of rubles,” to election fraud [cf. Putin: What 10 Years of Putin Have Brought, 2010]. In each case, his allegations lack the kind of sources to make them reputable. It is as if Al Gore were to have written a pamphlet about George W. Bush in the 2000 election: it and its content would immediately be highly suspect.
Although the Nemtsov origin for the constant media barrage is important, in recent months the nature of the Western opposition to Putin and Russia has been radically transformed. Although Nemtsov’s canards certainly have found their way into the Western press, since Russia’s legal prohibitions (in early 2013) against homosexual propaganda (especially directed towards underage children) and its forthright defense of the Christian institution of marriage, the vigorous opposition to Putin has assumed a “moral” dimension, symbolized best, perhaps, by Obama’s appointment of several over-the-hill, openly homosexual athletes to head the United States delegation to the Sochi Olympics in early 2014.
Such an action demonstrated both the fundamental rejection by America (and Western Europe) of Russia’s affirmation of traditional marriage and traditional Christianity, while illustrating the formal apostasy by the West from its own traditional Christian moorings.
Enter Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen. I began to see references to Gessen last year, and soon I noticed that she appeared on several of the Sunday morning news programs and as a guest on the establishment’s special programs dealing with Russia and Ukraine. Repeatedly, she is identified as “the noted expert and author on Russia and Vladimir Putin.” Her 2012 volume, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, is cited on such programs as “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” as critical to understanding Russia and its president.
But just who is Masha Gessen? She is identified by the Wikipedia (not known for its right wing bias) as a Jewish lesbian activist, with dual Russian AND American citizenship (how did she manage that?), who is “married” to another lesbian, with a “family,” but who advocates the abolition of the “institution of marriage,” itself.
She has identified herself as a violent opponent of Putin and of traditional Christianity. Yet, her book, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, is held up as the volume on Russia and its president, while even her defenders (writing reviews on Amazon.com, for instance, and elsewhere) admit that her study reads like “one, long, impassioned editorial.”
Let me add that Gessen is an unrelenting champion of the Russian lesbian punk rock band, “Pussy Riot,” who profaned the high altar of one of the most sacred churches in Russia, the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Her volume, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot (2014), is an passionate apologia for that pornographic lesbian band and a vitriolic attack on both Putin and traditional Orthodox Christianity, especially the institution of marriage.
Gessen, then, has now become a major source for both the Neocon/establishment attacks as well as the “analysis” spewed out by the major networks. As one can see, the real key here increasingly is the issue of homosexuality and the fact that Putin’s Russia defends traditional Christian marriage and has clamped down on gay propaganda. Gessen finds this intolerable….thus, even though her journalistic writing purports to take a researched and scholarly view of Russian affairs, her attacks, the charges of corruption and anti-democratic tendencies, are all subsumed into something much more important to this vocal activist: an all-encompassing passion to advance homosexuality worldwide and an unremitting opposition to traditional Christianity.
It is, then, the Western rebellion against God-created human nature and against natural law, itself, that is bitterly opposed to Russia’s affirmation of traditional religious belief. It is this divide now that forms the deepest basis of the profound conflict between East and West.