The World’s Sleaziest Magazine Plumbs New Lows

I really can’t figure what this Economist editorial reeks more of: Hypocrisy, mendacity, or pure delusion?

That is as it should be, for since his decision last autumn to return to the Kremlin, Mr Putin has been stridently negative and anti-Western, most recently over Syria (see article)

Being anti-Western is “negative”, even for daring to oppose Western-backed Islamist crazies who will back-stab their handlers as soon as they’re able to.

But the reset was based in part on two misplaced hopes: that Dmitry Medvedev, who had been lent the presidency for one term by Mr Putin in 2008, would genuinely take charge of the country, and that some in his government had sound liberalising, pro-Western instincts.

Note how “liberalizing” and “pro-Western” are conflated, because one can’t possibly liberalize without kowtowing to Western interests too. Furthermore, bear in mind the unspoken assumption that normal relations (“the reset”) are only to be rewarded for said kowtowing to the West. The concept of equality and reciprocity is alien to the minds of Western chauvinists.

Those hopes were dashed by Mr Putin’s swatting aside of Mr Medvedev last September to allow his own return to the Kremlin, the rigging of elections, his crackdown on Moscow’s protesters and his new Nyet posture.

Elections in which Putin still got a certain majority, however hard The Economist tries to misrepresent otherwise, and “crackdowns” that are literally baby play compared to the violence meted out to Occupy protesters throughout the Western world (something like 50 journalists arrested to date and counting; preemptive arrests of republican demonstrators in the UK), and for adopting fines and regulations on protests that are actually fairly mild compared to most advanced democracies. Then again, in Economist world of pandering to Anglo-Saxon elites, the Occupy protesters are subhuman scum (because they are anti-elite, ergo “anti-Western”) whereas the liberal Russian protesters should be immune to all prosecution even when filmed throwing cobblestones at the police.

Really, “his Nyet posture” is the critical thing here. Like the mafia, the West won’t take no for an answer.

And why not dangle in front of the bauble-loving Mr Putin the prospect of Russian membership of the OECD rich-country club?

Well in principle, entrance to the OECD is supposed to happen based on objective criteria, most or all of which Russia now fulfills I believe now that it has joined the WTO. The Economist is essentially urging these organizations to politicize themselves, which in turn reflects their own delusion. It might have worked a generation ago but today pulling such stunts will only discredit these Western-dominated institutions all the faster given the rising influence of the BRIC’s and other non-crazy countries that aren’t self-entitled to absurdity.

Western ambassadors should not hesitate to talk to opposition protesters in Moscow just because the Kremlin objects.

I don’t think “hesitation” has been exactly a problem with McFaul. If Western countries insist on following The Economist’s advice, the correct response would be symmetrical: Have Russian ambassadors meet up with Occupy leaders, pirate groups, Muslim rights activists, etc and channel a few million dollars their way to “improve” democracy and civil rights in the West. What sauce is good for the goose is good for the gander after all.

In foreign policy, too, the West should stand firm. Russia cannot be allowed to veto America’s missile-defence plans in Europe. Nor should Mr Putin’s continued blocking of UN Security Council resolutions authorising intervention in Syria be treated as an insurmountable bar to action, any more than it was in Kosovo in 1999. G20 leaders should do their utmost to embarrass Mr Putin over his backing for Mr Assad.

Again, more than anything, it’s delusion that shines through here. (Ample hypocrisy too, however, encapsulated in just one word: Bahrain). But really delusion wins out. The Economist just like various Republican nutjobs like Romney genuinely think that the world works to the following schematic:

Step 1: Aggressively confront Russia.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Russia comes to support US interests. Profit!

More than anything this really demonstrates far better than I could ever describe myself how The Economist is most definitely NOT a publication you want to read for facts, insights, etc.; instead, it is a barometer of Western elite opinion, or literary soul food for Western chauvinists.

If Western leaders actually insist on going through with The Economist’s recommendations, as opposed to just dreaming about them, their own global influence will dissipate all the faster.

Mr Putin respects toughness, not weakness.

What exactly is wrong with that? It is quite clear that in the past 500 years, being tough (or standing up for oneself) has worked out far better than being weak (which invites bullying and derision in addition to being inherently pitiable). That is because the West itself only ever respects strength, despite its moralistic platitudes to the contrary; something that naive fools like Gorbachev have always ended up finding to their own cost – well, their country’s cost, anyway.

This matters when it comes to his government’s more egregious behaviour, such as the jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once boss of the Yukos oil company, the killing of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working for William Browder, a foreign investor, or the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former security official.

Predictably, the standard party line is repeated verbatim, as per the best traditions of Pravda, conveniently leaving out the facts that the ECHR itself disagrees that Khodorkovsky is a political prisoner or the mounting pile of evidence that Lugovoi or the FSB had nothing to do with the Litvinenko hit. Or that there are about 500 Magnitsky-like deaths in custody in the US and likewise in Russia every year, the major difference here being that he is a high-profile case who has been propagandized by William Browder, an oligarch money highly hostile to Putin.

In cases like these it is right to try to identify the individuals involved so as to deny them visas and freeze their assets, as a congressional legislative amendment related to the Magnitsky case proposes.

Their country and their right, but then it is incumbent on Russia as a self-respecting country to reciprocate in kind: Identify Western human rights abusers (e.g. those who run Guantanamo), and deny them entry to Russia and attempt to extend the sanctions abroad. As indeed has happened.

Mr Putin cultivates the image of a popular and admired strongman, but the wave of protests since he announced his return to the Kremlin has exposed his weakness and loss of support. His power base is beginning to erode.

More delusion.

Economic engagement with the West, combined with firm criticism of his democratic and human-rights abuses at home and abroad, are the best response.

Not to mention an inescapable sense of schizophrenia.

Comments

  1. Good article Anatoly.

    Yesterday, there was a Reuters article which stated that a Pew poll found that Putin currently has a 72% approval rating among Russians…SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT — Something that Barack Obama or any western leader would gladly die for, but nonetheless, in this exact same article, Reuters then preceded to promote the tripe about Putin’s “eroding base” and waning popularity due to street protests. I mean, do they have editors & proof-readers in the western press?

    BTW, I saw a new book on Putin in Barnes & Noble yesterday by a Mesha Gessen (spelling?). It was from a major New York publisher and was given significant display space. I thumbed through it and it didn’t seem too scholarly to me despite all of the critical raves on the flaps/cover. It seemed to repeat every lie that you & other contributors at Russophile have been debunking for years like Putin’s immense wealth (which Forbes seemingly has been unable to locate – probably because it doesn’t exist), his “ordered” assassination of journalists, etc;. I think I’ll wait for you or Stephen Cohen (who tends to be middle of the road on Putin) or someone who doesn’t have an ax to grind to write a well-researched SCHOLARLY book on Mr Putin’s place in Russian history, but I’ve got a feeling that such a book wouldn’t be much welcomed by the “faith-based” western elite and would likely be met with scorn.

    • The Man without a Face. Yes, I haven’t even bothered searching that book out. I will only get depressed. The New Cold War by Lucas is the last raving Russophobe book I intend to read…

      As regards a history of Putin, that would indeed be a good idea. But there are several conditions that first have to be met IMO:

      (1) It’s too early. I don’t buy Zhou Enlai’s theory that it was “too early” to assess the impact of the French Revolution, nonetheless, I still think that Putin has to retreat from direct politics into history before a proper book like this can be written. In the interim, the best one could do would be simply to refute myths, the best Anglo effort on which is Treisman’s The Return (which has been 10x less successful than crap like Lucas’, Gessen’s or Harding’s Mafia State despite being 10x more footnoted and scholarly).

      (2) Such a Putin biography is one of my life ambitions, however realistically speaking to be able to work on it well I will need either (a) an academic position – something I’m not interested, given my expanding loathing for academe; or (b) a lot of independent wealth, on which I’m working.

      • Scowspi says:

        Didn’t you promise us a review of that Treisman book? I saw it in the bookstore today and was intrigued by it.

      • By academic position or independent wealth, you mean as in having the wherewithal to fund the book and devote all your time on it?
        Because as with your example of Treisman vs Harding/Gessen, I’m a bit pessimistic whether quality itself ultimately leads to success or even public recognition. You need a prior reputation and to get that having a Phd and a position in some prestigious university, being a journo in some leading newspaper or holding a job in an influential institute or think tank, etc…seem to be the only way. Oh and appearing on leading TV channels can help, too.
        Otherwise even if you write the best biography ever, I’m afraid it may pass unnoticed except in small circles.

  2. I guess the “war on terror” has fizzled out and it’s time to restart the cold war on Russia. The west needs a pretext to meddle across the globe “in the name of democracy and human rights” like in the 1950s in Central America and Iran. Resources must be cheap for the system to function, a dirty little open secret that gets no attention. This time around countries will be coerced into an anti-Russia coalition. So I suspect that Nicaragua will soon have a regime change because Ortega is still around and daring to resist is northern overlords. It dared to support Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence. Can’t have any country supporting Russian in any way whatsoever.

    Pertaining to this cold war theme we have inane garbage like Freedom House and its “freedom index”. So Indonesia is considered free and Russia is non-free. But in Indonesia you have cases like this: http://asiancorrespondent.com/84425/atheist-beaten-by-mob-jailed-in-indonesia/

    I dare anyone to find a single case that resembles this in Russia. For example some liberast oppositionist expressing an opinion against Putin’s regime being sent to jail. Gangster oligarchs with a trail of bodies behind them like Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky clearly don’t count.

  3. I realized that Western MSM’s descriptions of Russian politics were propaganda, disinformation immediately after I came in touch with them. I knew a lot more about Russia than about America back then (this was 20 years ago), and it was clear as day to me that what they were writing about Russia wasn’t true. As I learned more and more about American reality over the years, I realized that US media’s descriptions of America itself, of its politics, were just as dishonest.

    A large percentage of Americans know that their media lies to them about America, but they still overwhelmingly assume that it’s telling them the truth about other countries. It’s a passive, default assumption. Humans are gullible by nature.

    To me at this point these publications are guilty until proven innocent on all topics that have any bearing on money or power anywhere. For example, I don’t know anything about Burma, but if the NYT praises Aung San Suu Kyi, then I suspect her of things. If the NYT disapproves of the Burmese government, that alone is a positive recommendation to me.

    First-hand knowledge is always preferable, but you can’t know everything. Generalizations, rules of thumb have their use. At some point I’ve made the generalization that the NYT, the Economist, etc. are for thievery, disorder, debauchery, ugliness (abstract “art” vs. real art), etc. everywhere they see them. I don’t have as many eyes as they do, so if they praise something I’m clueless about, I take note.

  4. “I don’t think “hesitation” has been exactly a problem with McFaul. If Western countries insist on following The Economist’s advice, the correct response would be symmetrical: Have Russian ambassadors meet up with Occupy leaders, pirate groups, Muslim rights activists, etc and channel a few million dollars their way to “improve” democracy and civil rights in the West. What sauce is good for the goose is good for the gander after all.”
    Nicely put.

    “More than anything this really demonstrates far better than I could ever describe myself how The Economist is most definitely NOT a publication you want to read for facts, insights, etc.; instead, it is a barometer of Western elite opinion, or literary soul food for Western chauvinists.”
    Even better.

  5. A very fine article indeed Anatoly. There are just two points about the language the editorial uses that I would like to draw attention to:

    1. When discussing Medvedev’s anticipated “pro western” and “liberalising” policies it precedes these words by way of describing them with the word “sound”. The use of this word in this context is very difficult to define and explain to someone who is not a native English speaker. However in upper class British English it conveys a strong sense of moral propriety. In other words by implication “pro western” and “liberalising” policies are moral and policies that are not pro westernising and not liberalising such as Putin’s are immoral.

    2. When citing the killings of Litvinenko and Magnitsky as examples of the “government’s egregious behaviour” the editorial is saying that the government killed Litvinenko and Magnitsky and has therefore committed murder.

    On the subject of the Magnitsky List, any country has the right to refuse admittance to any person from a foreign country either by denying them visas or by declaring them persona non grata. That is a simple exercise of state sovereignty. It is completely different from a situation where the parliament of one country passes a law that effectively declares the citizens of another country guilty of mistreatment and murder in their own country. A parliament that acts in this way has usurped the functions of the court of the other country where it has no jurisdiction. That is a gross infringement on the state sovereignty of the other country and amounts to open interference in its system of justice and in its internal affairs. I am not an international lawyer but on the face of it, it looks to me to be contrary to international law. It is also of course a gross violation of the human rights of the people named in the list, who have been effectively declared guilty of serious crimes without trial.

  6. kievite says:

    I think the meaning of the article is simple — return to cold war means also return to cold war stereretypes. See
    http://www.thenation.com/article/168460/us-returning-cold-war-russia

    Obama’s reset was all but doomed from inception because it was based on the same bipartisan, winner-take-all triumphalism that had guided US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since the 1990s. As before, Obama’s “new” policy meant “selective cooperation”—that is, concessions from Moscow without US reciprocity.

    Until the US-Russian conflict over Syria erupted this year, the Obama White House wanted three major concessions from the Kremlin as part of the reset:

    — support in the US confrontation with Iran (new negotiations are under way in Moscow this week);

    — assistance in supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan;

    — and then withholding Russia’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution for a “no-fly zone” over Libya.

    The Obama administration got all three concessions. In return, Moscow wanted a compromise on the administration’s plan to place missile defense installations near Russia’s borders; an end to NATO expansion in the direction of Ukraine and Georgia; and a curtailment of US interference, known as “democracy promotion,” in Russia’s internal politics. The Kremlin got none of these.

    In short, another chance for expansive cooperation in US-Russian relations, even the partnership possible after the Soviet Union ended in 1991, has again been squandered in Washington, not in Moscow.

    That the historical and political analyses set out in my 2011 article, as well as the concerns expressed there, have been amply justified by events gives me no satisfaction. Nor to add that a year later, things have only gotten worse. The three US policies to which Moscow reasonably objected before the reset have become more aggressive, and indeed, in the Kremlin’s view, have been supplemented by Washington’s policy of selective military “regime change” in the Middle East.

    In response, as I also warned, anti-American forces in Russian politics have continued to grow, along with the possibility of “another escalation of the arms race,” about which both Putin and former Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, on whom Obama unwisely based the reset, warned.

    • Dear Kievite,

      I agree with you. As to Stephen Cohen he is beyond question the best US commentator on US Russian relations with access to the mainstream US press though I also am developing a high regard for Mark Adomanis.

      As for Stephen Cohen’s article, his point again reminds me of a comment once made by the great British historian AJP Taylor, that the west always wants to use Russia like a tap, which it can turn on and off whenever it likes.

  7. I don’t think “hesitation” has been exactly a problem with McFaul. If Western countries insist on following The Economist’s advice, the correct response would be symmetrical: Have Russian ambassadors meet up with Occupy leaders, pirate groups, Muslim rights activists, etc and channel a few million dollars their way to “improve” democracy and civil rights in the West. What sauce is good for the goose is good for the gander after all.”
    Nicely put.

    Indeed @CraigWillyJames, there are almost entire Twitter feeds obsessed with the notion that the Kremlin is massively interfering in Western and U.S. politics through “agitprop”, an army of RT as it were. See @ReginaldQuill. Reggie even goes so far as to complain that Ron Paul supporters have been enlisted in the vast dark conspiracy to overthrow the existing Western order and reinstitute the Confederacy. Which in a bizarre way, is a more Igor Panarin view of the U.S.’s alleged imminent USSR-style collapse than Panarin himself. Reggie himself seems to be a one man agitprop machine as he churns out turgid tweet after tweet alleging a vast conspiracy every bit as elaborate if not even less logical than that posited by Brother Alex Jones (another Russian ‘dupe’ or ‘agent’ in Reggie’s mind simply for his frequent guest appearances on RT). When Reggie and his tweep cohorts went over the line and started calling for violence against the Russian port of Tartus or violent piracy on the high seas against Russian ships, I reported the punk to Twitter to see if he likes his account getting suspended.

    As for the other liberast tweeters, it appears @LibertyLynx’s nearly 60,000 tweets have overwhelmed Twitter, like a backed up toilet.

  8. I agree Alexander. and unlike certain other fellows, Cohen and Adomanis don’t waste time whining about how much more attention others get at certain venues or taking shots at each other with bald photos. As I have told the complainers, if they’d put 10% of the effort spent commenting/emailing into a serious YouTube channel with a HD web cam and lotsa appearances all over web talk radio, they’d be bigger than all of the commenters/Russia Watchers mentioned above. There’s so much alarmist nonsense combined with curiosity about Russia out there (think TruNews.com or Steve Quayle’s predictions of some massive Red Dawn type deployment of Russian troops on U.S. soil) that a dose of sanity or even Orthodox Christianity could be welcomed.

    AK: Re-“I agree Alexander…” Mr. X, could you please consult Rule #3 of the Comments Policy. Thanks.

  9. But not to pick on one fellow too much. The idea lingers that ‘the big time’ is in D.C. or New York and if you’re outside the big polished buildings down the street from the TBTF banks (or in the D.C. case, their lobbyists) you’re nobody. But as hyperfractured and fragmented as the real, alternate online media landscape is that’s no longer the case. Alex Jones probably has ten times the daily audience as Chris Matthews, putting it conservatively. And I mean daily audience who actually either listens to his show online or on YouTube, not audience as measured by people who’ve clicked on at least one YouTube video (I think by that score RT is headed for the billion clicks mark or has already surpassed it since 2005).

  10. Not just the Economist. Felgenhaur has also lost the plot:

    Internal crisis shapes Putin’s Syrian stand

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/NF23Ag01.html

    He was always a ropey russian military analyst at best, but he has impressed with the depths he plumbs!