Putin at Bay
The U.S. government crossed the Twitter Rubicon on April 29, 2014, where the Russian incursion in Ukraine is concerned. It’s a telling indicator of how deranged and malignant Vladimir Putin really is that he has been able to motivate the milquetoast Obama administration to heights of virtual confrontation worthy of Ronald Reagan.
In an April 29 tweet, the U.S. Treasury Department openly mocked the Putin regime. It published a devastating graphic comparing Russian economic performance to that of its emerging market peers using measures of equities, currency, and bonds, and showing Russia dead last by a wide margin in every one of them. For the staid folks at Treasury to fully engage the Putin dictatorship so directly and in such a popular forum clearly shows how angry the Obama administration is at what it perceives to be Putin’s betrayal of the Obama “reset” policy.
And the tweet was not propaganda, but simply factual reporting. Simultaneously, Standard & Poor’s dropped an economic thermonuclear device on Putin, deluging him with a tsunami of credit downgrades applying to the entire spectrum of Russian economic activity. It hit every major Russian business enterprise and it slammed the state as well; as a result, Russia has totally lost the ability to borrow money in the West and gone begging to Asia. And the International Monetary Fund swooped in with even worse news, that Russia has already entered recession and would see more than $100 billion in capital flight this year.
Secretary of State John Kerry leapt across the Twitter Rubicon as well, tweeting that the Kremlin’s Russia Today TV network was engaging in a campaign of “disinformation” about Ukraine (that is, lying about it).
Then the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine chimed in. In a press release, it stated that it was “disgusted” by the “savage senseless violence” of pro-Russia forces in Ukraine which was being directed against “woman and children.” Then it bluntly declared: “This is terrorism, pure and simple.” Meanwhile, Kerry was proclaiming that he had proof that the Kremlin was directing the actions of the pro-Russia forces.
It works the other way, too. Not only are establishment figures turning to Twitter to vent their hostility to Russia, but Twitter renegades are going mainstream. For example, the anonymous tweeter known as “KermlinRussia,” who amassed over 800,000 followers by openly mocking the Kremlin’s Twitter feed, landed a gig writing columns for New Republic magazine.
That Putin is able to provoke such undiplomatic language from diplomats, language usually reserved only for rogue states like Iraq and Iran, and such notoriety for the most extreme of his critics, is the ultimate testament to his unhinged neo-Soviet aggression. Putin is losing, and he’s losing badly and quickly. In the process, he’s rapidly (and seemingly proudly) turning into an international pariah.
Take for instance a recent article by a leading Russian academic praising Josef Stalin’s barbaric and murderous “anti-cosmopolitan” campaign and calling for it to be reinstituted in Putin’s Russia. The article contends that Western influence is a toxin slowing poisoning the Russian body and that Russia must be purified of this toxin by aggressive means, the same means employed by Stalin. This is what now passes for mainstream political thought in Russia.
The fish rots from the head: In a recent speech, Putin declared with complete seriousness that the Internet itself was a CIA plot against Russia, and responded by announcing a new round of crackdowns on the web, focusing on the country’s major bloggers. As Russian pundit Andrei Soldatov stated: “Putin remains the same mid-level KGB officer that he was in the late 1980s.”
Given that reality, it’s hardly surprising to see the Russian economy teetering at the precipice of neo-Soviet doom. Putin simply does not have the mindset, much less the credentials, to make Russia a successful player in the global economic competition. Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council asks: “Marx noted that when history repeats itself the first time it is tragedy, and the second time it is farce. But what happens when the same historical sequence reappears a third or fourth time?” What happens, of course, is national collapse, the same thing that brought down the Russian monarchy and the Communist dictatorship that followed.
Yet even now, when the facts and international consensus on Russia are perfectly clear, there remain among us certain Putin collaborators who still strive to undermine our resolve. Polish political leader Slawomir Sierakowski recently exposed one of them in the pages of the New York Times, namely professor Stephen F. Cohen, who ritualistically propagandizes for Putin in the pages of the extreme left wing screed known as The Nation magazine.
Calling Cohen one of Putin’s “useful idiots” Sierakowski notes that his “defense of Russia’s sphere of influence overlooks the question of whether the countries that fall within it are there by choice or coercion.” In other words, Cohen is suggesting, as once did Neville Chamberlain, that we should simply throw as many helpless small nations under the bus as necessary to satiate Putin’s bloodlust and keep him from turning his malevolent eye towards us.
If there’s one man on the planet who can make the freakish Cohen look reasonable, it’s former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose willingness to sell out to Putin knows no bounds of decency whatsoever, and which has brought about the unprecedented result of having the current German government begin to distance itself from its own former leader. The government said Shroeder was engaging in “provocation” by allowing Putin to host a lavish birthday party for him in Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg. For years now, various journalists and academics have been engaging in similar “shoulder rubbing” with Putin at an annual gold-plated fete known as the “Valdai Discussion Club.” But for a head of state, much less a German head of state, to coddle such a malignant dictator is truly appalling.
Fortunately, Russian evil deeds are far outstripping the ability of the likes of Cohen and Schroeder to keep pace. Putin has been ejected from the G-8 and the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe and decisively censured on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly. And when you have such staid entities as the U.S. departments of Treasury and State openly dousing you with hot rhetoric, you know you’ve strayed far into the most barbaric of outlaw lands.
So by continuing to stand by their man, Putin’s useful idiots are assuring that their credibility will be permanently destroyed along with his.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussopohobe.