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A Refreshing Alternative to Imperialism-as-Usual

Going Off-Script in St. Petersburg

by JASON HIRTHLER

Last month’s St. Petersburg International Economics Forum (SPIEF) served as a showcase to the world that Russia is anything but isolated by American belligerence. Filled with thousands of businessmen cutting deals with the Russian state, it provided a platform for Russia to reshape the dominant western narrative that Russia is an international pariah. In an effort to recast the pariah storyline, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a short post-Soviet history lesson to his esteemed interlocutor Charlie Rose. Among his numerous points—let’s call them claims to humor those who still believe in objective journalism—were the following:

* After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the “bipolar system went into oblivion,” the U.S. was in a state of “euphoria” in which it explored new “geopolitical spaces.” It perceived a “vacuum that needed to be filled” in Eastern Europe, and soon expanded NATO eastward to the front porch of the Russian Federation, recolonizing the nations that had just escaped the Warsaw Pact.

* Conversely, in the Middle East, the U.S. perceived an jihadist pestilence where there was a vacuum, and promptly destroyed Iraq, like a hegemonic Quixote battling windmills. Imperial Vlad drily noted that Iraq was empty of Al-Qaeda terrorists before the United States invaded and created a real stability vacuum—one soon filled by ISIS.

* Another “geopolitical space” America explored to the great detriment of almost all involved was the Ukraine, where it fomented a neo-fascist coup that deposed a corrupt but democratically chosen leader. Putin repudiated the idea of trying to split Ukraine from Russia, given the nations’ common ethnic heritage, and common energy, transportation and legal infrastructures.

* Finally, the Russian president distilled his comments to a singular objection: to the West’s destabilizing and illegal invasion of sovereign nations. Citing Syria, he insisted that only the Syrian people can rightly overthrow their president, Bashar al Assad, not foreign powers.

Following this brief seminar on sovereignty and the causes of chaos in the Middle East, the venerable Rose—as if he had heard nothing Putin said—immediately inquired whether Putin would urge Assad to step down, reflecting the chief imperial aim of the West. Putin again clarified his point, saying that the U.S. was trying to dictate terms to Russia about Russia’s interests, and that Russia ought to be able to determine what was in its own interests. Seemingly confused, Rose asked for clarification. Putin finally added that Russia “will not be talked into ultimatums.”

The Debrief

Following the panel sessions, Rose himself was interviewed by Judy Woodruff on PBS. As always in the Mainstream Media (MSM), the fundamental point of a debrief is to recast a topic for American audiences. In this instance, the goal was to paint Putin as a delusional and irresponsible leader, blaming...

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