03 May 2014

The views we choose: The Guardian and Times of Israel on Putin

The patriotic intoxication of the Russian people vs. panic and inability of fledgling Ukraine government to impress its rule over the rebelling eastern regions provides the best possible kindling for conflagration, which may spread into something no one will be able to extinguish. The unrest in Ukraine, that threatens to become a full no holds barred war, finds different interpretations and multiple angles with different observers, as expected. The dithering and wavering of the Western powers meets the icy resolve and total self-assurance of Putin, supported by unquestioning and slavish support of his people.

Some people (I hope I belong to that category too) try to see the whole picture and not to take sides blindly, out of ideology or knee-jerk allegiance to a political wing. And some people... here comes an example of an extreme case of blind, stupid and unquestioning loyalty to dead monuments - Seumas Milne, the Guardians own Stalinist. The man, being somewhat lost and somewhat rudderless after the demise of Soviet Union, has found, apparently, his new beacon in the unruly world - in the body and the image of the Russian dict leader, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (I wonder whether Putin's portrait replaced the much stared at and prayed to portrait of Leonid Ilich Brezhnev in Milne's bedroom).

His latest article on the subject shows his established position straight away in the headline, quite clear even without reading the piece: It's not Russia that's pushed Ukraine to the brink of war.

It is rare nowadays to read (in the Western press, at least) such a glaringly one-sided opus that so deliberately ignores any and all inconvenient facts. Check out this:

The White House is reported to be set on a new cold war policy with the aim of turning Russia into a "pariah state".

That might be more explicable if what is going on in eastern Ukraine now were not the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago. Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the "masked militants" and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government's use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk.
So Putin and his minions just mirror the expansionist actions of the Western countries and, especially US. According to Milne, the one actor in the drama least willing and most dragging its feet so far, namely US of A, is the chief villain and perpetrator of all that mayhem.

This bullshit is being sold to Guardianistas in spite of the fact that so far it was only Russia that expanded as a result, "restoring" Crimea to its list of holdings. And in spite of the fact that, unlike Milne's favorite boogieman - US, Russia did send its soldiers to Crimea to foment unrest and to support and "facilitate" the so called "referendum". Even Milne's new idol fessed up to that. There is little doubt that Russian agent-provocateurs, both in military uniforms (or quasi-military uniforms, in any case without insignia) and in civilian clothes, are busy like little bees, fomenting unrest and mayhem, kidnapping and murdering.

The facts on the ground are an inconvenient factor, even for highbrow ideologists of Milne's ilk, and it so happened that three days after the article, discussed here, was published, the East Ukrainian freedom fighters downed two helicopters of Ukrainian army. Of course, one would expect that the mind manipulator of Milne's status will soon find a plausible enough explanation (a lucky stone throw, probably). Plausible at least for the Guardianistas eating out of his hand.

Meanwhile, in the article, Milne has explained both the reported presence of Russian infiltrators and the Crimea Anschluss very simply. Regarding the first:
For all the talk about the paramilitary "green men" (who turn out to be overwhelmingly Ukrainian)...
What does "overwhelmingly" mean in this context? That only some of the suspects appeared to be what they were supposed to be, e.g. Russian soldiers?

And re the second:
Putin's absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive...
There are at least two words in this quote: "clearly" and "defensive" that call for interpretation. "Clearly" - to whom? After so many years of poisoning minds, St. Seumas should have grokked by now that only a chosen few see as clearly as he does, from the heights of his ivory tower (or is it a huge pile of dried Soviet excrement?).

As for "defensive": yep, indeed, exactly. The only question is who it is exactly what threatened Russia from this direction? Ukraine, with it naval might of a ship and a half? Turkey? Bulgaria, possibly? But the truth is simpler: Mr Milne, pining for Stalin's times, couldn't fail to be excited by the repeat of that truest of all reasons for aggression and land grab:
The Soviet Union sought principally to claim parts of Finnish territory, demanding – amongst other concessions – that Finland cede substantial border territories in exchange for land elsewhere, claiming security reasons, primarily the protection of Leningrad, which was only 40 km from the Finnish border. Finland refused and the Soviet Union invaded Finland.
Now, mind you, the poor Finns didn't even dream about endangering the peaceful life of Leningrad's citizens at the time (or ever). And look where it ended... anyway, doesn't it sound familiar, after reading that St. Seumas' crapola?

Oh well. There is a lot more in that article to fisk, but enough is enough. It is an unusually crude anti-Western propaganda attempt by the man best characterized by the late and great Norm:
If there's an anti-democratic organization or movement anywhere, an individual dictator or a tyrannical regime, then it's a safer than safe bet, because it's a certainty, that somewhere or other a commentator on the Western left (verkrappt section) will be telling you that the said organization or movement, dictator or regime, isn't as bad as all that. And it's a near certainty that one of the somewheres he or she will be telling you this is in the Guardian. You don't need three guesses, you need only one; it's Seumas Milne.
Amen to that.

And now to another angle, from a different side of the political spectrum: Times of Israel, where its founding editor, David Horovitz, whom I normally hold in high esteem, published a very strange article: Back in the USSR?.

And no, the article is not one-sided and doesn't show any willful blindness. It is just that it looks at Putin at an angle that (in spite of the headline) ignores his grand designs for restoration of Soviet empire, solely focusing on his attitude to the Jews.
In 2014, the president doesn’t need to promote the cult of personality in the style of Bashar Assad, Saddam Hussein, or dare one say Joseph Stalin. He’s all over the Internet, the papers, the TV — a 5 foot, 7 inch dynamo running the largest country in the world, apparently single-handedly, taking on a superpower-in-retreat and laughing all the way to a revived Russian empire.
And this is where the critical look at Putin's evolution as a all-powerful tyrant more or less ends (aside of a few hesitant lines at the end of the piece). Most of the rest of the article is painting the history of warm and fuzzy relationships between the said ruler and the Russian Jewish community.

To a discerning eye, even this rather skewed reporting could be read a bit differently: it shows that as long as people provide Putin their support, they can stay unmolested and even enjoy his positive attitude. Which is the key here, because many dissenters - Jewish and non-Jewish - have a completely different story to tell. The ones that are alive, I mean. Putin makes for a formidable and implacable enemy to those who dare to object to his authoritarian ways and his absolute rule. And, to David's credit, he doesn't disregard this side, quoting some unnamed Jewish youngsters who are looking at Putin's times and deeds open-eyed:
“Putin controls the media. Putin’s Russia is so corrupt. Putin is destroying democracy,” says one of the young men. “His only good quality is that he likes Jews.”
And here is the point missed by David: this "good quality" is an entirely personal trait of the current ruler. Even if we assume that Putin will carry this trait to the end of his political career (and it is one big if), the next strongman may have a different outlook on the Jews or, for that matter, on anything else. And being used, as the Russians are, to carry out the wishes of their ruler...

In the article there is practically no analysis of the dark forces that act under the seemingly placid surface of the Russian politics, biding their time. David doesn't mention (or just doesn't know?) that almost every segment of the Russian political spectrum is permeated by antisemitic forces. From the ultra-left National-Bolsheviks to the ultra-right neo-Nazi groups, Jew haters of all kinds are waiting for an opportunity to act out their sick desires.

In the country where law and order is leashed to the ruler's armchair, there is no safe harbor for any minority, and we better don't forget it for a moment.