pühapäev, detsember 03, 2006

West Grows Wary of 'Poisonous' Putin

I never thought I'd see the day where the murder of a Russian dissident topped a local shooting or a celebrity divorce on the cover of the New York Post. But, dear friends, that day has come to pass.

Today, every man, woman, and child that walked into a grocery store or deli in New York had two words staring back at them - Putin and poison. In some ways this phenomenon - of the West viewing Russian President Vladimir Putin as basically a low-life scumbag - to put it bluntly, is the result of the Anglo-American alliance failing to find new enemies in the War on Terror. Osama bin Laden hasn't released a video in awhile, Zarqawi is dead, Ahmadinejad just isn't that funny anymore, and well, Putin is just so easy to despise because he's your stereotypical short guy (5'7" / 170 cm) that enjoys imagining himself as powerful.

With Saddam sentenced to death, we need someone to fear and dislike, and Russia is certain to be as appetizing the second time around as it was 20 years ago. What is interesting though is that this is all happening because of the murder of Aleksander Litvinenko - a former FSB agent who said publicly that he was ordered to kill Boris Berezovsky. Hardly the kind of guy you'd cry for when compared to Anna Politkovskaja, whose books can be found in any quality public library across the US. Yet it is Litvinenko's death that just won't die, not Politkovskaja's. It perhaps is because he died on British soil, or because the polonium fall out from his death has been traced back to Russia, or perhaps because another 150 dead in Baghdad warrants a shrug of the shoulders in America these days.

Whatever the reason, the total lack of transparency of the Russian Federation leads Western media to speculate that a malevolent Putin ordered the hit with a Judo chop of his hand. While that explanation may have merit, it is also the easiest. Less attractive is the "rogue elements" hypothesis. That murky ex-FSB officers did it - and even if they are caught, it will be so much LESS fun than the "Putin did it" hypothesis. And so we continue to indulge in adding mystique to our newly discovered opponent, Vladimir Putin.

What does this mean for the world's only post-communist nordic country? According to Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, Estonians are "immoral" and "blasphemous" for equating Nazis and Communists. Most of the Russian media will have you believe that Andrus Ansip gives himself the old fascist salute in the mirror every morning. And, more realstically, relations are still shaky, as The Economist pointed out this week. Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians are secretly afraid that .. um, Putinists will come again and ruin everything ... again.

While that option is still relegated to "What if?" Internet discussion, I think a genuine foreign policy question for those who live in what Russia considers Pribaltika should consider is, "What can be done to ensure Russia doesn't see US as the enemy next time around?" As they stated through the SVR disclosure two weeks ago, they occupied the Baltics because they were "pro-German." If the Anglo and Russian relations continue to deteriorate, will Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians once again find themselves stuck between the devil and the Baltic Sea, with grinning Finns saying "tsk! tsk! you should have made Russian a second-official language, we told you so!"?

Anyway, things are not swell right now. The American government is weak, we are not accomplishing what we have set out to accomplish, and Putin has an 87 percent approval rating. Let's hope things stay balanced, if uneasy, through 2008 when we'll have a much better look at the lay of the land.

27 kommentaari:

Phil ütles ...

Giustino, hi! This is Phil from Finland for Thought. Sorry to leave you comment here, but I couldn't find your e-mail address.

When you get a chance, could you send me an e-mail? I have a question to ask of you.

Thanks so much! And my apologies to everyone having to read this stupid comment! :-)

phil at finlandforthought dot net

La Russophobe ütles ...

You've overloooked the fact that when the apartment buildings blew up in Moscow in 1999 Putin said there WERE NO "rogue elements" in the FSB that could have done it. So now he's hoist with his own petard, as the Times of London reports it was an FSB job from the start that killed Litvinenko.

And it's perfectly natural that Litvinenko's killing would be more disturbing to the West since there was actual, literal fallout in the West.

Meanwhile, what have you done on your blog to keep the killing of Politkvoskaya alive? Aren't you part of the problem rather than the solution?

La Russophobe ütles ...

Let me ask a question:

Do you believe in rehabilitation?

If not, Putin himself is a KGB spy with a secret resume who could be as dirty as, or more dirty than, Litvinenko. He must be written off the same way.

If so, you must allow for the possiblity that Litvinenko was rehabilitated, but you don't.

Giustino ütles ...

Meanwhile, what have you done on your blog to keep the killing of Politkvoskaya alive? Aren't you part of the problem rather than the solution?

My blog is about Estonia, not about Russia, as yours is. My duty is to write about Estonian issues, and occasionally neighborhood issues as well. While Russian issues are important in Estonia, this is not a blog about Russian society or politics. It's about Estonia. I am no expert on Russia nor claim to be. That is why "keeping the spirit" of Politkovskaya is very much a job for the Russian blogs (like yours) rather than mine.

La Russophobe ütles ...

GIUSTINO: I can't agree with you, since Politkovskaya was a key source of information for Estonians about potential acts of aggression towards them by Russia. By your logic, your post shouldn't even have mentioned her, but you did. If Estonians (like you) don't take resolute action to protect those in Russia who struggle against the rise of the neo-Soviet Union, then soon you may find you yourselves must struggle with it.

Giustino ütles ...

If Estonians (like you) don't take resolute action to protect those in Russia who struggle against the rise of the neo-Soviet Union, then soon you may find you yourselves must struggle with it.

I am not Estonian. I am an American. My blog exists to inform the outside world of happenings in Estonia. Quite often I discuss the Estonian-Russian relationship.

HOWEVER, I feel that there are plenty of more knowledgeable bloggers out there covering Russia specifically. It is not in my area of expertise nor is it of great interest to me to scrap my Estonia blog to write about Russia every day.

As I see it, we talk about Russia here too much already.

That being said, I AGREE with you that we must be vigilant in our coverage of Russia. And I have been vigilant. I just personally feel that being an alarmist helps no one, and that the best way to deal with problems is to approach them logically.

Therefore, I am not going to take the murders of Litvinenko and Politkovskaja and interpret them for weeks. There are so many blogs that already do that. Instead I will continue to be vigilant in my coverage of Estonia.

60+ years ago Estonia was betrayed by "the West", who saw it as too small or too far away to care about. Now that Estonia is part of "the West" I feel my duty is to keep readers up to date on what is going on there.

I think your work is important, but that doesn't make it my work. I am not trying to be blind to what is going on in Russia, I am just stating the obvious:

I don't speak Russian, I have never studied Russian history, I don't follow Russian internal politics (what exists of them) on a great scale. In short, unless it has to do with Russia AND Estonia, I am not someone who should be mouthing off on the Internet.

I am sure that there are readers who think I don't know enough about Estonia, let alone Russia.

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