Top 7 ways America has alienated Vladimir Putin (and vice-versa)
A cursory glance at Putin’s track record should convince even the most jaded Russian observer that he has done everything possible to build solid relations with the United States. Yet not only has the Obama administration refused to meet Putin halfway, it characterizes the Russian leader as the global arch villain bar none.
So here’s a refresher course for anybody who’s ever dragged Putin’s name through the mud, serving up piping hot propa-garbage while helping to exasperate tensions between Russia and the US.
As Vladimir Nabokov once proclaimed before considering an entirely different subject, “Look at this tangle of thorns”.
7. Putin provides ‘extraordinary assistance’ to ‘War on Terror’
It is no secret that following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 against the US, Putin was the first global leader to telephone US President George W. Bush. And he didn't call collect. Moreover, the Russian leader offered more than just words of condolence. He pushed through a raft of legislation to assist the US in the fight against terrorism.
In his 2011 book, “Vladimir Putin and Russian Statecraft,” Allen C. Lynch documented Putin’s contributions to America’s endless ‘War on Terror’.
“In a bold decision… Putin made Russia the most important U.S. ally in the war against the Taliban,” Lynch wrote. “Among other things, he accelerated deliveries of weapons to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan so that when the Alliance marched into Kabul it did so with Russian, not American, weapons and vehicles. He encouraged the governments of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to allow American military bases on their territory.”
And here is my personal favorite: “He opened Russian airspace for American overflights to bases in Central Asia so that the US could conduct search and rescue operations for U.S. airmen (Please imagine the howl of pain that would echo across Washington if any US president allowed Russian military overflights across US territory into South America!).
Despite Putin’s extreme generosity bestowed upon the US military and intelligence apparatus, Washington proved Graham Greene’s adage “there is no such thing as gratitude in politics” by ratcheting up pressure against Russia for no good reason whatsoever.
According to Stephen Cohen, the US repaid Putin for his “extraordinary assistance” by “further expanding NATO to Russia’s borders and by unilaterally withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which Moscow regarded as the linchpin of its nuclear security.”
With friends like this who needs enemies?
6. Putin gives Washington a chance to pass on war (for a change)
After spending prodigious amounts of money, material and manpower fighting fundamentalists in the desert, some might be tempted to think the US would relish any opportunity to avoid another military misadventure. If you believed that, you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been occurring in the Middle East since 2002 with the US invasion of Afghanistan.
Future historians (that is, assuming there is a future where historians may ponder the past) may one day mark August 29, 2013 as the day when the American Empire first started showing signs of wear and tear. That was when UK Prime Minister David Cameron failed to secure approval in the House of Commons to join yet another US-led serial killing, this time in Syria, after President Bashar Assad purportedly crossed Obama’s whimsical “red line” and used chemical weapons against the Syrian opposition (an assertion that was never proven).
This placed the Obama administration in a bind, eventually leading to a ‘slip of the tongue’ by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who remarked that Syria could avoid an American blitzkrieg if it agreed to surrender its chemical weapons “within one week”. Infuriatingly for the US neocons, Putin successfully convinced Damascus to remove its chemical weapons with all due haste.
Predictably, however, US media and thinktankdom portrayed Putin’s eleventh-hour diplomacy, which delayed the obliteration of yet another Middle East state, as some sort of geopolitical ploy.
"It absolutely is a diplomatic win by Putin right now," Fiona Hill, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, told CNN.
I was almost expecting Fiona to employ some sort of judo analogy next. Oh wait, she did.
"If we think about this as judo, which is of course Mr. Putin's favorite sport, this is just one set of moves," she said. "And right now, he's managed to get Obama off the mat, at least, and get the terms set down that play to his advantage."
Think about that. If that was the best press Putin could get when he helped America to avoid yet another military smash-up, chances are negligible that he would ever get positive reviews under normal circumstances. And therein, dear reader, lies the rub: America has come to the psychotic point in its foreign policy when avoiding military conflict is actually viewed as a setback.
5. Putin offers cooperation on US missile defense system in Eastern Europe
Washington’s determination to build this system, which Moscow naturally views as a major security threat smoking on its doorstep, has completely upset the strategic balance in the region. Russia is now forced to respond to this system with more powerful and elusive ballistic missiles. In other words, our tiny, fragile planet, thanks to the surrogate mother of global upheaval and chaos, Lady Liberty, is experiencing the birth pains of another arms race between the world’s two nuclear superpowers. This did not have to be.
Early in his presidency, Obama announced he would “scrap” the Bush administration's defense system, slated for Poland and the Czech Republic, after it was determined that Iran was not the existential threat to Eastern Europe that his predecessor had touted it as.
This seemed to indicate an open window of opportunity for Russia-US cooperation (in fact, the fate of the New START nuclear disarmament treaty, signed into force between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama on April 8, 2010, hinged on bilateral cooperation). Russia even proposed the two countries share the Qabala Radar in Azerbaijan, which Russia leased at the time, but the US rejected the proposal even though it made more tactical sense.
Eventually, it became maddeningly apparent that the US was bluffing, dangling the carrot of mutual cooperation with Russia at the same time a new missile defense system was moving forward.
In November, Putin rightly accused the US of attempting to “neutralize Russia’s nuclear potential” by camouflaging their real designs behind Iran and North Korea.
“The US is attempting to achieve strategic military superiority, with all the consequences that entails,” he said.
Obama’s failure to cooperate with Putin on this game-changing system has been the real source of bad blood between the two nuclear superpowers.
4. Putin delivers setback to Islamic State in Syria
In September 2015, following an official request by the Syrian government, Russia launched a formidable aerial attack on Islamic State positions in Syria. Russia went on to provide ample video evidence of its success against ISIS, not only hitting its command and control centers, but destroying its makeshift oil exporting business.
Oddly, Moscow’s request for assistance in providing logistics on terrorist positions was rebuked by Western governments. In fact, the only thing Putin got from the United States for his labors in Syria was a lamentable lecture by US Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter: “This will have consequences for Russia itself, which is rightly fearful of attacks,” Carter said before uttering a regrettable prediction. “In coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer from casualties.”
Coincidentally, throughout the course of Russia’s military offensive in Syria, it has only lost a single fighter jet and a number of servicemen. But not to Islamic State or some other nefarious group. The jet was shot down by Turkey, the first time a NATO member engaged a Russian aircraft in over 50 years.
3. Putin bans genetically engineered food
Despite whatever Monsanto lobbyists may tell our representatives in Congress, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed - on moral, ethical and health grounds - to genetically modified foods.
In a survey of US residents representative of the population on gender, age, and income, 64 percent opposed GMO, and 71 percent of GMO opponents said they were “absolutely” opposed—that is, they agreed that GM should be prohibited no matter the risks and benefits. Yet this clear demonstration of public opinion has not translated into any sort of democratic ability to pull GMO ‘Frankenstein foods’ from the shelves.
What is all the more incredible about America’s willingness to begrudgingly accept genetically modified foods is that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) performs no tests on such products. As Jason Dietz, a policy analyst at FDA, explained: “It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to insure that the product is safe.”
However, companies like Monsanto are under no obligation to test their products for safety considerations; the process is completely voluntary.
“Well, the companies are supposed to do a voluntary consultation,” Michael Hansen, a critic of GM foods at the Consumers Union, told Grist. “[B]ut it’s voluntary. Look at what the FDA says when they approve a food: ‘It is our understanding that Monsanto has concluded this is safe.’ They just rubber-stamp it.”
While Americans are being essentially used as laboratory test bunnies, paying good money to consume products that may or may not kill them, Putin refuses to play Russian roulette with his peoples’ health.
In June, Putin approved a bill that bans all genetically engineered foods from entering Russia. The legislation includes stiff fines for producing GMO products in Russia or importing them from abroad, with the exception of genetically altered organisms and materials used for expertise and research.
Meanwhile, Americans will be happy to know that Russia is offering a healthy alternative to what the global food corporations are delivering.
In his state of the nation speech on December 3 in the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin said, “We can not only feed ourselves, Russia can become an important global supplier of healthy, organic and high-quality food, especially since the global demand for such products is showing a steady growth.”
2. Putin protects children from overt sexual messages
Since many Westerners will never have an opportunity to visit Russia, their perceptions of this relatively distant country are largely shaped for them by journalists, the majority of whom are predisposed to a form of self-imposed censorship that is constantly whispering in their ear that Russia must never appear attractive to their readers, lest they want to lose their jobs.
Thus, whenever news travels from Russia across the ocean to Western audiences, it is inevitably tainted by misconceptions, misinformation and outright lies. A classic example of this is the Western media outcry following Putin’s so-called ‘anti-gay’ legislation, which is in fact ‘pro-children’ legislation.
Putin patiently explained the legislation in an interview with World Media: "[…] 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."
Personally - and I’ve spoken with many people on this issue who feel the same way - this passage sounds like the Mount Everest of common sense. Why on earth should children be exposed to issues – whether they are of a homosexual, heterosexual, metrosexual or what-have-you-sexual content – at such an early age? There is an appropriate time for such considerations later in life and probably better after puberty.
Well, good luck trying to convince the Western media of that.
Harvey Fierstein, just prior to the Sochi Olympics, wrote in the New York Times that "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, continued peddling absurdities 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."
To be honest, this ranks as some of the smelliest anti-Russia rubbish I have ever read (If I may, I would just like to assure readers, and especially the homosexuals, there are no anti-gay goon squads on patrol in Russia, so feel free to pack your rainbow-colored T-shirt).
Instead of quoting a Russian source (this may come as a surprise, but Russia does have lawyers) that might just have some insight as to what the law really says, Fierstein quoted the Huffington Post, who got their blotched information from an obscure Canadian travel site. So much for investigative journalism.
In any case, Putin’s actions on behalf of protecting children (not arresting homosexuals) offer a nice counterbalance to America’s disturbing desire to expose children to overt sexual messages at very young ages. And not just your traditional fireside chats with Dad about the birds and the bees. No, that would be too damm sensible.
Today, many American schoolchildren, before they are old enough to lace up their shoes, are being psychologically strip searched, with demands being made upon them to come to terms with their sexuality, with forays into the tall weeds of transgender.
Personally, I am grateful for Putin to present an alternative method for addressing such extremely sensitive issues to our children.
1. Putin keeps America in the space race
Although the US continues to enforce a sanctions regime against Russia, which seems, incidentally, to be damaging Western interests far more than Russia’s, Putin continues to let America use Russian rockets to travel to outer space, keeping the US from being a landlocked superpower.
Needless to say, this is a rather embarrassing situation for NASA, which must rely on the Atlas V rocket, powered by a Russian rocket engine, to transport its satellite technology into the cosmos.
Senator John McCain, a perennial anti-Russia bugbear, recently stormed: “Today, Russia holds many of our most precious national security satellites at risk before they ever get off the ground."
Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin put the problem squarely on Washington’s shoulders, complaining that “Americans spend more annually on pizza ($27 billion USD) than on space.”
“Due to such changes NASA’s mission today is much weaker than several decades ago,”wrote Nenad Drca in Modern Diplomacy. “The United States, first to send men to the moon in 1969, now struggles in the 21st century to reach beyond low-earth orbit without expensive Russian assistance. How the mighty have fallen…”
All things considered, the United States – and the world - has far more to gain with better relations, not just with Vladimir Putin, but with Russia. If you don't believe it, put down that Western newspaper and come see the reality for yourself.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.