5 ways Vladimir Putin is driving America crazy
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
US-led NATO forces continue to push inexorably towards the Russian border, while plans are in progress to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, which threatens the strategic balance in the region, thereby paving the way for another arms race.
At the same time, the United States and its allies have launched a number of disastrous and illegitimate wars against sovereign states, while portraying Putin as the greatest threat to global peace. The question that must be asked is: What has the Russian leader done to attract this sort of vilification on the part of the US? The answers reveal much more about the current state of affairs in Washington than anything that could be described as threatening on Putin's part.
5. Putin gave US a 'Get out of War Free' card
One would think that the United States would be grateful to the Russian leader for his last-minute mediating efforts that allowed Washington to avoid what would have been a costly and certainly disastrous military confrontation in Syria. One would have thought wrong.
August 29, 2013 marks the day when the wheels of America's global juggernaut began to go wobbly. It was the moment when UK Prime Minister David Cameron lost a historic vote in the House of Commons to join a US-led attack on Syria following on dubious claims that President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons against a Syrian village.
The British people, tired of being dragged into poorly scripted war sequels, were no longer America's poodle.
Cameron's failed bid placed the Obama administration in a nasty pickle: Risk attacking Syria without the support of its (former) most-reliable ally, or lose face on the international stage by calling off the dogs of war. Russia offered a third way. After US Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that Syria could avoid US cruise-missile diplomacy if it agreed to surrender its chemical weapons "within one week," Moscow jumped at the opportunity to mediate on behalf of peace.
It should be noted that Kerry got dragged over America's sizzling media coals for committing the "blunder" of opening the door to a peaceful settlement to the Syrian crisis. Yet Putin would get most of the blame for keeping America out of war.
US news website Breitbart described Putin's diplomatic overtures in Syria as "an obvious desire to make Kerry pay for his flub and throw a wrench in Obama's determination to go to war with Syria."
Now if Putin failed to get positive press by keeping America out of war, then what are the chances of him getting positive reviews under normal conditions?In any event, Washington is doing precisely what it wanted to do before Putin got involved: Bombing Syria - on the flimsy pretext of Islamic State threatening the country.
4. Putin awards Edward Snowden asylum
On May 20, 2013, an idealistic young man named Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, caught a flight out of Hawaii non-stop to Hong Kong, where he handed over a massive stash of classified documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The leaked information showed explosive details of a previously unknown global surveillance network run by the NSA in cooperation with the so-called Five Eyes, which include the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Although Russia may not have ranked among Snowden's top-10 global getaway destinations, on June 23 the CIA agent-turned-whistleblower got a flight from Hong Kong to Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. On July 12, while still awaiting lengthy processing, Snowden released a statement extending his "gratitude and respect" to Russia, alongside a short list of other countries, for being "the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless."
Suddenly, Russia was propelled from relative obscurity in the world of human rights defenders to the protector of oppressed and weary the world over. To call this situation an embarrassment for the United States would be an understatement. Snowden not only hung out the dirty laundry on America's incredibly intrusive global intel network, but he sought refuge in 'Putin's Russia,' a place that rarely receives a sliver of sunshine from the Western media and military complex.
Meanwhile, Snowden does not seem ready to live the cloistered life of a whistleblower on the run, drinking scotch and watching James Bond reruns in some backwater hotel in his underwear.
Indeed, last January it was announced that the former NSA contractor would partner with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and Greenwald on the executive board of the non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation, which claims to work on behalf of public-interest journalism.
"We began this organization to protect and support those who are being punished for bringing transparency to the world's most powerful factions or otherwise dissent from government policy," Greenwald said, while calling Snowden's actions "heroic."
In April, Snowden made a video-link appearance during Putin's annual Q&A marathon session, questioning the president about Russia's attitude on mass surveillance.
Putin, assuring that Russia did not have any such program comparable to that of the NSA global system, did not miss a chance to take a thinly disguised dig at the US legal system: "Our agents are controlled by the law," he told the audience. "You have to get a court’s permission to put an individual under surveillance. We don't have mass permission, and our law makes it’s impossible for that kind of mass permission to exist."
For all those people who initially supported Snowden's whistleblowing crusade, many of them turned viciously and hypocritically against him when they realized that they would be lectured on their own faults from not only Moscow, Russia, but from Vladimir Putin himself.
3. The (wildly successful) Sochi Games
Despite the gigantic ‘shitstorm’ American weathermen had predicted for the 2014 Sochi Games, the event turned out to be much more of a success than most people could have predicted. Not only did the dire, apocalyptic predictions of total failure not materialize, Russian athletes did not have far to go to haul home their 13 gold medals - the highest count of the Games.
However, many would-be visitors to Sochi shied away from the event thanks to the incessant doom-mongering of the Western media, which focused its pre-Game attention on ridiculous subjects, like the occasional stray dog, a couple of strange-looking toilets, and who could ever forget terrorism. But most damaging of all, perhaps was the uninformed discussion of Putin's so-called 'anti-gay' ban, which the Western media has yet to properly explain.
In an interview with world media, Putin explained that in Russia "all people are absolutely equal regardless of their religion, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Everybody is equal. We have recently only passed a law prohibiting propaganda, and not of homosexuality only, but of homosexuality and child abuse, child sexual abuse. But this has nothing in common with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation. And there is a world of difference between these things."
This easy to understand law did not stop dozens of media commentators unleashing a torrent of absolute lies regarding the subject.
Harvey Fierstein wrote in the New York Times that "Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals... allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days." Fierstein, an actor and playwright, not a lawyer, went on to explain in perfect nonsense that "the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail."
How did Fierstein come up with this delusional idea? Well, instead of quoting a Russian source that might just have some clue as to what the law really was about, Fierstein quotes another equally clueless US publication, Huffington Post, who got their bogus information from a Canadian travel site (!) Well, so much for investigative journalism.
Now, with everybody believing that homosexuals were being rounded up by anti-gay goon squads and shipped off to a colorless Siberian archipelago, a number of celebrities, including Madonna and Lady Gaga, jumped on the propaganda express by shouting some mindless statements during their concerts that were totally detached from the reality.
Finally, there were even calls on part of the gay (and straight) community for the United States to declare a boycott of the Sochi Games, a move that was more about attempting to ruin Russia's international event than any real and legitimate concerns about a non-existent 'anti-gay' law. Although the US did not go to the extreme of boycotting Sochi, Barack Obama did not attend.
That is a shame, because he missed one of the best Winter Games the world has seen in a long time. Incidentally, IOC President Thomas Bach said Russia would set up public protest zones in Sochi for "people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something." They ended up being the emptiest sections in Sochi.
2. Putin is not fomenting global wars
Despite the West's relentless efforts to portray Putin as some sort of warmonger in the style of, well, contemporary Western warmongers, Putin's track record for keeping Russia out of foreign military entanglements has been impeccable. This indisputable fact continues to be a source of great irritation, I believe, for Western governments.
Consider the situation in Ukraine, where Putin has displayed a remarkable level of wise statesmanship to the point where the Western media must actually fabricate grand works of fiction in order to support the West's increasingly delusional rhetoric against him. The most ludicrous work of fiction to date is entitled something like, "Putin's Invisible Invasion of Ukraine."
Here is how Business Insider lauded Putin for his contribution in brokering a ceasefire in Ukraine: "As Vladimir Putin engaged in marathon peace negotiations with Germany, France, and Ukraine in the capital of Belarus, Russian tanks were allegedly rolling into Ukraine."
There's just one huge problem with that little line: It's utterly false. Any guesses as to where Business Insider's Michael B. Kelley got his military intelligence? Of course, from a Ukrainian military spokesman. Yes, an entire column of Russian tanks were said to have rolled into Ukraine at the very moment Putin was in Minsk hammering out the details of a peace deal. Did the Ukrainian side offer satellite evidence to support their very serious claims? No, they did not. Did the Western side request evidence to support the claims? Well, we don't know, but one thing is for sure there are no such photos because there have been no such invasions.
But we should not expect a mere thing like facts to spoil the West's anti-Putin party, which has been going full-throttle for years.
Meanwhile, no less a respectable periodical than The Economist penned a vacuous Valentine Day's allegation that simply don't hold water under scrutiny: "The EU and NATO are... Putin’s ultimate targets. To him, Western institutions and values are more threatening than armies. He wants to halt their spread, corrode them from within and, at least on the West’s fragile periphery, supplant them with his own model of governance."
So how does the West 'prove' Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, which has never been captured either by mobile phone, photojournalist or the constellation of surveillance satellites circling the planet? Putin's invisible war in Ukraine is described as "hybrid warfare."
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's former secretary-general, irresponsibly and at great risk to the global peace, warned that Putin's invisible armies now rolling over Ukraine would eventually take their magic traveling show to other Eastern European countries.
"This is not about Ukraine," Rasmussen - changing the subject to fit his theme - told The Telegraph in an interview. “Putin knows that if he crosses the red line and attacks a NATO ally, he will be defeated. Let us be quite clear about that. But he is a specialist in (wait for it) hybrid warfare."
It should be mentioned that Rasmussen himself was in charge of the 18-nation Western military alliance when Russia's efforts to join the US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe were shot down, thus confirming Moscow's valid suspicions that Russia - and despite an appeal to a 'reset' by Washington - was the actual target of this system.
Personally, I believe that the West and NATO were gambling that Putin would blink first and rush into an all-out military invasion of Ukraine. There are many reasons why the West would be desirous of such an outcome. The most obvious is that it would forever ruin Russia's influence among European countries, and that would only serve the interests of NATO and Washington, not to mention the West's military industrial complex. So when Putin did not jump at the tempting Ukrainian bait, the West was forced to begin circulating scare tactics that said Russia is planning for more 'hybrid warfare' schemes elsewhere.
Fortunately, even Washington's most trusted allies have exposed the warnings as sensationalism and propaganda.
Der Spiegel wrote that "battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn't holding perfectly, but it was holding."
It went on to note, however, that despite the relative success of the Minsk Agreement, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, told the media in Washington that Putin had "upped the ante" in eastern Ukraine - with "well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery" having been sent to the Donbass.
"What is clear," Breedlove said, "is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day."
According to Der Spiegel, German leaders "were stunned" by the comments, this flew in the face of the realities on the ground.
"They didn't understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn't the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR)."
For anybody who understands the increasingly pugilistic mentality of the US, where opportunities for militaristic expansion are deemed too valuable to waste, Putin's “failure” to attack Ukraine is nothing less than a strategic setback for the West.
1. Defending traditional values against 'new world order'
Although talk of a 'new world order' is largely confined to the more conspiratorial corners of respectable society, it would be difficult to deny that a frontal assault against traditional values and modes of (moral) behavior has been increasing of late. If I am reading the situation correctly, Russia - a traditional, conservative country that is being slowly rebuilt on the foundation of Orthodox Christianity - wants none of it.
One does not need to talk about the crude escapades and eventual arrest of Pussy Riot, for example, to understand that Russia is not willing to bargain when it comes to maintaining some level of decency and morals in society.
Russia's already-mentioned law regarding the dissemination of "gay propaganda" is a perfect example. On the one hand, while the law does not infringe upon any person's freedom to engage in whatever sort of sexual arrangements they prefer, it also ensures the freedom of children not to be forced to consider such issues. This sounds like nothing more than the soundest common sense. However, the West, which is becoming increasingly godless in terms of its hyper-liberal prerogatives, wants to unleash any and all subject of carnal interest into the public square.
I know I may be stepping into a cultural mine field here, but the latest attempt, I think, to impose a warped vision of humanity - the celebration of transgender - arrived courtesy of the 2014 Eurovision first-place winner, drag queen Conchita Wurst (who I can't help thinking also bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus Christ - coincidence?).While some may say this latest persona to enter the global consciousness is a harmless artist cashing in on his/her 'uniqueness,' others would disagree.
Considering that millions of people - many of them impressionable children and adolescents - watch this annual program, should we be so quick to dismiss what kind of psychological impact a bearded transgender woman might leave on this group? Are these the "heroes" that our children should be emulating?
Shortly after the Eurovision show, Putin, who described himself as "very liberal," gave his view on the winner: "For us it is important to reaffirm traditional values...People have the right to live their lives the way they want. But they should not be aggressive, or put it up for show."
Many Russians sided with their leader on the matter as thousands signed a petition demanding that Eurovision be removed from the TV lineup, accusing "godless" European liberals of exposing children to a “hotbed of sodomy”. Indeed, it can hardly be denied that, over the long-term, such outrageous displays of 'culture' must eventually take its toll on any society, and not least of all in the area of simple demographics.
Because Vladimir Putin is fighting against the steady encroachment of increasingly aggressive and irresponsible behavior flooding the world from the West, the Russian leader has attracted the scorn of sell-out Western politicians the world over. Yet he has also won over a huge number, the hearts and minds of millions of individuals - Americans included - who understand that Putin is fighting for traditional conservative values in a world gone mad.
For that he deserves to be not simply applauded, but followed.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.