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Vlad the Progressive

Would Putin Make a Better President Than Obama?

by MIKE WHITNEY

“Every rouble spent in the social sphere should ‘generate justice.’ An equitable social and economic system is the main requirement for ensuring our sustained development during these years.”

– Russian President Vladimir Putin

Is Vladimir Putin really the “KGB thug” the US media makes him out to be?

Take a look at this except from a book review in the New York Times and see what you think.

“A decade ago it was possible to imagine two inner Putins wrestling for his soul: the K.G.B. thug versus the modernizer. Sadly, events since then suggest that the inflexible misanthrope we see is the only Putin we get…

Even the most casual Putin-watcher has marveled at his narcissism, manifested in his odd habit of inviting cameras to record him bare-chested on horseback, swimming the butterfly stroke in a Siberian river, scuba diving and collecting skin samples from whales, among other stunts. Gessen traces his self-absorption back to his youth.

Putin’s childhood ambition was to be a spy in the K.G.B., but Gessen reveals that his actual experience was more Walter Mitty than James Bond. He was basically a paper-pusher, collecting press clippings in Dresden while the East German Stasi did the real dirty work of recruiting informers and policing dissent….Putin soon hitched himself to the first of a series of flawed, small-d democrats, who would propel him to power.” (“Reclaiming the Kremlin”, Bill Keller, New York Times)

Read enough?

Okay, so according to the Times, Putin is an ass-kissing, paper-pushing, self-adsorbed, autocratic thug who has dreams of greatness. Did we miss something? Oh yeah, he’s also a misanthropic slacker who let’s everyone else do the heavy lifting.

Is that what they call objective journalism at the NYT? Its worth noting that this laughable bit of propaganda was written by the Times editor himself, Bill Keller! Can you believe it? I mean, wouldn’t you think that the editor of the nation’s number 1 newspaper would make some effort to hide his bias?

But, no, when it comes to serving the folks in power, Keller is just as willing to run his credibility through the mud as the next guy. And, so he has, but what does that tell us about Putin?

It tells us that Putin is despised by powerful members of the US policy establishment. That’s what it tells us. After all, it’s their views that are reflected in the mainstream media via propagandists like Keller.

But, why? Putin is not a fiery leftist like Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro. He’s a right-of-center nationalist who’s not particularly ideological, confrontational, or unreasonable. so, what’s the problem? Besides,  Putin has bent over backwards to accommodate the US on everything from nuclear disarmament to the War on Terror. So why the hostility?

It’s because Putin wants to be a partner on global issues, particularly security issues. But the US doesn’t want partners; it wants lackeys and puppets who will follow orders. And that’s why the NY Times and the others in the moron media are ganging up on him, because–in Washington’s eyes–if your not a lackey, your the enemy. It’s that simple.

If you want to know why Russian-US relations have steadily deteriorated, you might want to read this excerpt from an article by Pat Buchanan who asks “Doesn’t Putin Have a Point?”

“Though the Red Army had picked up and gone home from Eastern Europe voluntarily, and Moscow felt it had an understanding we would not move NATO eastward, we exploited our moment. Not only did we bring Poland into NATO, we brought in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and virtually the whole Warsaw Pact, planting NATO right on Mother Russia’s front porch. Now, there is a scheme afoot to bring in Ukraine and Georgia in the Caucasus, the birthplace of Stalin.

Second, America backed a pipeline to deliver Caspian Sea oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, to bypass Russia.

Third, though Putin gave us a green light to use bases in the old Soviet republics for the liberation of Afghanistan, we now seem hell-bent on making those bases in Central Asia permanent.

Fourth, though Bush sold missile defense as directed at rogue states like North Korea, we now learn we are going to put anti-missile systems into Eastern Europe. And against whom are they directed?

Fifth, through the National Endowment for Democracy, its GOP and Democratic auxiliaries, and tax-exempt think tanks, foundations, and “human rights” institutes such as Freedom House, headed by ex-CIA director James Woolsey, we have been fomenting regime change in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics, and Russia herself.

U.S.-backed revolutions have succeeded in Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia, but failed in Belarus. Moscow has now legislated restrictions on the foreign agencies that it sees, not without justification, as subversive of pro-Moscow regimes.

Sixth, America conducted 78 days of bombing of Serbia for the crime of fighting to hold on to her rebellious province, Kosovo, and for refusing to grant NATO marching rights through her territory to take over that province. Mother Russia has always had a maternal interest in the Orthodox states of the Balkans.

These are Putin’s grievances. Does he not have a small point?”

There it is in a nutshell. The world’s biggest troublemaker (guess who?) has broken its promises, surrounded Russia with military bases, put NGOs on the ground to incite revolution in all the former Soviet states (and Russia), and now wants to situate nuclear missile sites a few hundred miles from Moscow. This is how Washington strengthens ties with its former adversaries, by poking a thumb in their eye at every opportunity.

The Obama administration has assured Putin that its anti-ballistic missile defense system, which will be deployed in former Warsaw pact countries in E Europe, is strictly defensive and will only be aimed at Iran. But it isn’t true. In fact, the system will be aimed at Russia and poses a direct threat to Russian national security. Everyone knows this, even though the media continues to soft-peddle the dangers of the proposed system. The Washington Post even characterized it as “a small missile defense system” which has set off “waves of paranoia about domestic and foreign opponents”.

Sure, what’s a few nuclear weapons among friends?

Naturally, Putin has seen through this ruse and protested. Here’s what he at a press conference 6 years ago:

“Once the missile defense system is put in place it will work automatically with the entire nuclear capability of the United States. It will be an integral part of the US nuclear capability.

“For the first time in history there will be elements of the US nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international security…..Of course, we have to respond to that.”

Putin is right. The “so-called” defense system is actually an expansion (and integration) of America’s existing nuclear weapons system which will now function as one unit. The dangers of this are obvious.

The US (under Bush and Obama) wants to achieve what Nuclear weapons specialist, Francis A. Boyle, calls the “longstanding US policy of nuclear first-strike against Russia”. That’s what missile defense is all about.

In Boyle’s article “US Missiles in Europe: Beyond Deterrence to First Strike Threat” he states:

“By means of a US first strike about 99%+ of Russian nuclear forces would be taken out. Namely, the United States Government believes that with the deployment of a facially successful first strike capability, they can move beyond deterrence and into “compellence.”

By “compellence” Boyle means that first strike capability will allow the US to force Moscow to meet its demands or face certain annihilation.

So what should Putin do? Should he sit back on his haunches and wait for the US to come to its senses or threaten to remove the new installations by force? The issue remains unresolved.

As for the US NGOs, it’s long been known that they’re up to no good, and that they function as the civilian component of a larger military strategy to rule the world. There was an interesting piece by Paul Craig Roberts in CounterPunch on Thursday which fleshes out the activities of these groups and their real purpose. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“The Russian government has finally caught on that its political opposition is being financed by the US taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other CIA/State Department fronts in an attempt to subvert the Russian government and install an American puppet state in the geographically largest country on earth, the one country with a nuclear arsenal sufficient to deter Washington’s aggression…..

Much of the Russian political opposition consists of foreign-paid agents….. The Itar-Tass News Agency reported on July 3 that there are about 1,000 organizations in Russia that are funded from abroad and engaged in political activity….

The Washington-funded Russian political opposition masquerades behind “human rights” and says it works to “open Russia.” What the disloyal and treasonous Washington-funded Russian “political opposition” means by “open Russia” is to open Russia for brainwashing by Western propaganda, to open Russia to economic plunder by the West, and to open Russia to having its domestic and foreign policies determined by Washington.”

That sums it up pretty well, doesn’t it? Of course, any action taken by Putin to impede the the activities of foreign spies (and agents for global capital) is denounced in the media as an attack on civil liberties and democracy.

Talk about hypocrisy? Do we really need to hear the world’s biggest civil rights abuser scold Russia for defending itself from foreign invasion? When was the last time Putin bombed a wedding party in Pakistan or blew up one of its own citizens in a drone attack or incarcerated and tortured mere “suspects” without charging them with a crime? Isn’t this the pot calling the kettle black?

Did you know that the Bush administration thought they could co-opt Putin and bring him into the imperial fold like America’s other puppets around the world?

It’s true. Bush actually liked Putin and tried to get him to fall in line. But then something happened at a Conference on Security Policy in Munich in February 2007, where all the top brass in the administration and the far-right think tanks realized that Putin couldn’t be co-opted; that he was ferociously nationalistic and would not do their bidding. So the entire strategy was scrapped and the demonisation began. Here’s a clip from the speech that Putin gave in Munich that turned things around. It’s a rather long because I wanted you to get a sense of the man, his sincerity, his earnestness, and his genuine desire for fundamental change in US-Russian relations:

“Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.

This global stand-off pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the international community’s and the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I am referring to ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.

The unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place.

The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.

It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.

I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.

Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.

And what have the results been?

Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. … And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?

In international relations we increasingly see the desire to resolve a given question according to so-called issues of political expediency, based on the current political climate.

And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasise this — no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.

The force’s dominance inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, significantly new threats – though they were also well-known before – have appeared, and today threats such as terrorism have taken on a global character.

I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.” (Russian President Vladimir Putin, Conference on Security Policy in Munich in February 2007)

Can you see why Washington gave up on Putin? The speech identifies the United States reckless behavior as the single greatest threat to global security today. Putin says that the unipolar world-model which operates from “one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making” is unacceptable, has no “moral foundation”, and “plunges the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.” The speech is a straightforward repudiation of Washington’s lunatic ambition to rule the world, which is why Putin is presently on America’s list of enemies.

Putin’s domestic vision also conflicts with US policy, which is dominated by neoliberal, trickle-down, austerity-crazed, deficit hawkery that transfers the nations wealth to the 1 percent plutocrats at the top of the economic foodchain. The Russian president has made great strides in reducing poverty, eliminating illiteracy, improving healthcare, and raising the standard of living for millions of working people. Here’s an excerpt from a speech by Putin that outlines his domestic priorities:

“Russia is a social welfare state….Social policy has many objectives and many dimensions. It entails providing support for the poor and those who are unable to earn a living for valid reasons. It means implementing social mobility and providing a level playing field for every person on the basis of his or her capabilities and talents. The effectiveness of social policy is measured by whether popular opinion believes the society we live in is a just one or not.

The glaring income disparity is unacceptably high. Every eighth Russian citizen still lives below the official poverty line….

People, primarily the “middle class,” well-educated and well-paid individuals, are dissatisfied with the level of social services on the whole. The quality of education and healthcare is still quite low, despite higher budgetary allocations. Services that you have to pay for in these areas are still rife. The goal of creating a comfortable living environment is still a long way off…

The decline in the national workforce and an increasingly ageing population means the efficiency of social spending has to be increased. We simply have no choice, if we want to preserve and improve the situation….

Every country looks upon its teachers, doctors, scientists and cultural workers as the backbone of the “creative class”, as the people who contribute to the sustained development of society and serve as the pillar of public morality….

I believe that healthcare and education reforms are only possible when they guarantee decent pay for public sector professionals. A doctor, teacher or professor should be able to earn enough on their basic jobs not to have to seek outside earnings. If we fail to fulfill this condition our efforts to change the organisation of the economic mechanisms and renew the material base of these sectors will come to nothing….

Starting on September 1, we will raise the pay of lecturers in state educational establishments – up to the average salary for the region. In the course of 2013-2018, the average salary of professors and lecturers will be gradually increased twofold to double the average in the economy….In the case of doctors and researchers, the target for 2018 is the same as for higher school lecturers – 200% of the average pay across the region…..

Together with the trade unions we have to consider legislation to broaden the participation of workers in the management of enterprises. This kind of participation is practiced, for example, in Germany in the form of what are known as works councils….

In the next few years, we must create a system to help every disabled person who is able and willing to learn and work find their educational and professional niche in life: from specialised educational programmes to jobs adapted to an individual’s specific requirements….

While incomes are growing, the gap between the richest and the poorest population groups is decreasing too slowly. Income disparity in Russia is comparable to that in the Untied States but is considerably higher than in Western Europe. A certain degree of income differentiation is logical for a mature market economy, but too large a gap can be seen as inequality and can fuel social tensions. Hence our priority is to reduce material inequality by making social policy more targeted and effective, but above all by giving people an opportunity to earn enough to ensure a desirable level of income…..This will allow us to perceive Russia as a more equitable country where everyone earns his or her income with their own labour and talent….

And the government will provide targeted assistance to those who cannot earn an income or are too young to work….

The government is taking measures to support families’ desire to have two or more children….

It is absolutely unacceptable for the birth of a child to bring a family to the edge of poverty. A national goal for the next three or four years is to make this totally impossible. Today the regional governments approve the size of most child benefits, and it should be said that they are scandalously small in many regions….However, such assistance should not be provided to families with high incomes…(Read the whole speech here: http://premier.gov.ru/eng/events/news/18071/

Sure, it’s a political speech, but when was the last time you heard Obama talk about “social mobility” or ”support for the poor” or “glaring income disparity” or “healthcare and education reforms” (that didn’t involve privatization) or “decent pay for public sector professionals” or strengthening unions or doubling the “salary of professors and lecturers” or increasing “child benefits and education” or “creating a system to help every disabled person” or “providing targeted assistance to those who cannot earn an income or are too young to work” etc etc etc. On every issue, Putin’s platform is more progressive than Obama’s, and yet, idiot Americans still think President Hopium is working for them. Right.

Putin’s motto is: “Each rouble spent in the social sphere must ‘produce justice.’” That alone proves that he’d make a better president than Obama.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com