More than 300 million Americans couldn’t find the Russian word for “reset” during the Obama administration. They have vowed to bring US-Russia relations out of the Cold war quagmires, and wanted to initiate friendly diplomacy with a symbolic message on a wooden button called, “peregruzka”. In front of the cameras, Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, cunningly descended on Hillary Clinton, the then US Secretary of State, that what is written, doesn’t mean ‘reset’, but rather “overcharge” and that the right word should have been “perezagruzka”. It was an epic symbolic sway from Washington to Moscow. But literally and surprisingly, US-Russia relations would be in overcharged confrontations more than such has ever happened before since the end Cold war.
As President, Putin has had qualms about US diplomacy. Yet his grievances, as plainly as he fumes, have been shattered and suppressed for decades. It is popularly believed that he had destroyed the democratic structures Boris Yeltsin built. And the West has done so well making this impression tensed with unconditional hatred for Putin. But they haven’t made a case for Yeltsin’s Russia either.
Yeltsin use of tanks to destroy Russia’s free elected parliament in October 1993. His stampeding of the entire Russian constitutional order. His two bloody wars against Chechnya. His small group of Russian oligarchs who plundered Russia’s riches asserts, putting two-thirds of Russians into poverty. His rigging of elections in 1996, and the annexation of “super presidential constitution” at the expense of the legislature and the judiciary. It was this kind of Russia that Putin inherited in 2000. “Putin may have furthered the democratization of Yeltsin’s 1990s, but he did not initiate it,” Cohen wrote.
While Washington is trying to finalize its triumphal mission of the Cold War, nations like Russia had been tried and tested with the expansion of NATO, the killing of so-called dictators, and the inculcation of Ukraine into the EU and NATO. Unlike Boris Yeltsin, Putin isn’t a cold fish, who really bow down to flatteries and maneuvers. He still harbors the Cold War resentment, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such qualms never manifested when he ascended to Kremlin. Only that he wanted to send Russia back to where it belonged. Also, wanted to prevent what happened to Germany and Italy, after World War II, when Washington supervised their democratic transformation. A transformation Putin view as the becoming of a NATO watchdog.
Putin promised strength for Russia, not global dominance. He restored the Soviet Anthem and upheld their long turmoil history which he used to lecture heads of State and diplomats when they go to the Kremlin. As a former KGB officer, the Western media has forced us to believe that he doesn’t have a soul. But quite the opposite, Putin knows all the darkest parts of the entire US intelligence agencies, particularly, the CIA. And as a man of steel who believed that he can still work with them, offered his hands to Washington.
He was the first president to reach the oval office after 9/11. The other end was George Bush, as Putin “…. empathize him, not to commiserate him” Julia Ioffe said. And suggested they work together. Putin, from that time, folded his arms in Kremlin to witness what has been unfolding, in the Middle East, first in Afghanistan, later, in Iraq. It continued to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, then Obama came to continue in Syria, the Arab Spring, the invasion of Libya and the toppling of Ghaddafi, the color revolutions, the Maidan protests, and the crisis in Ukraine. Putin was left out, as he saw Washington, creeping into his own backyard. He too understands the language of bombs and guns. As he had constantly been forced to speak as such.
Washington’s invasion of Iraq was one of the greatest catastrophes ever committed in the history of humanity. They are still yet to show the world, Weapons of Mass Destruction they claimed Saddam Hussein was harboring. And they are torturing Julian Assange, hoping to sentence him to 175 years in prison for publishing these and other war crimes. Random killing of civilians, the atrocities in Guantanamo Bay, demonization and prejudices against Muslims, and the arming of guerillas and warlords to spark ISIS.
Let not be swayed by democracy and its preachers, freedom, and the so-called free speech. What the United States uses to demonize its enemies including Russia. Putin is an enemy because he doesn’t bow to them. Israel is a friend because they obey their instructions. And so, the West rarely talk about the woes of Palestine, their ambush, and suffering at the hands of Israel. If Russia is a demon, the US also harbors the head of medusa.
There is no question about Putin’s authoritarian institutions in Russian politics. Russia simply is not a democratic country. They don’t have democracy in their history nor are they ready to build one. Putin rules with ultra-highly centered bureaucracy, and that is a common system in their history, from Lenin’s politburo in 1917 to Stalin’s presidium in 1952. In modern-day western politics, we will reference Aristotle and call them “oligarchs” or “Plutocrats”. But Russian oligarchs are different from Wall Street lobbyists only by nationality. It is a system everywhere, even in developing countries. Putin and Russia have been singled out with pointing fingers because, of the paranoia, if not nonsense that he is a threat to democracy. That their ordeals can destroy world’s peace.
In this century only the United States still brags on these bandwagons of democracy. While harboring systematic prison structures like solitary confinement to animalize thousands of people, tearing their citizens apart with systems that constantly depress them, people continue to commit suicides, homicides, brutal murders, shootings, and killings with other inhuman mechanisms that continue to destroy American society. They still rant about freedom, liberty, free speech and democracy even within their domestic upheavals.
Putin stand at the sloppy part of history because his government has been under constant scrutiny from the lenses of western democracy since 2000. But the last time we heard about Edward Snowden and Julian Assange; the US was driving away from their own values. People rarely question the still existence of NATO and the relevance of its expansion. Far from questioning, they rather explain, vividly, the concept of “aggression” on Putin, trying to put even his humblest plea on foreign policy in caricatures.
US-backed Georgia’s war that saw Mikheil Saakashvili fighting Putin in 2008 and the proxy war in Ukraine in 2014 were all NATO expansion projects. But to the West, that wasn’t aggressive.
Russia’s constant assistance to the US forces fighting in Afghanistan after 9/11 too wasn’t aggressive. And Russia’s backing of the US on the sanctions of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its refusal to sell to Tehran a highly effective air defense system had never been termed aggressive by the West. In 2012, Putin shared intelligence with Washington, which if taken seriously, could have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings. And this is no news.
Over the course of his presidency, Putin has mounted progressive economic policies with all who wanted to do business with him, including the West. Unlike the Western imperial policies abroad, Putin’s policies do not come with collaterals of domestic resources and exploitation like what France and Britain have been doing in Africa. “To attract capital from friendly companies, we need good relations with Europe and with the whole world including the United States,” he said. And indeed, many company owners in Europe and United States have bountifully enriched themselves through Russian business even more than business in their own territories. That is because Putin seeks only Russian interest, caring less about what goes on offshore.
Washington and Kremlin have had frictional confrontations. But clandestine diplomacies sometimes become the loser’s mistake, especially when the audience judges the outcomes for one side. On the Parity principle in détente during the cold war, the Minsk accords where Merkel’s Germany was ready to engage Russia, on the maneuvers of Ukraine, John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov’s corporative approach to the Syrian ceasefire agreement vehemently endorsed by Putin, have all been trashed, messed and stampeded by Washington. Diplomats like Kissinger, Pompeo, Kerry, and a few others, have spoken and written on the necessity of Washington’s corporation with Kremlin. Biden Obama’s administration has had the greatest pessimism toward this notion. Hence someone like Kerry will run bruising odds with Obama.
During the Obama administration, one man in the White House, who used to engineer the demonization of Putin and Russia when he was the assistant security advisor, Tony Blinken, runs the State Department.