“The Putin diversion” could be the title for a n episode of the popular show “The Big Bang Theory.” Or, more appropriately, the name of a chess strategy. But I have found this diversion a real problem in discussing important issues.
How can we discuss , for example, the current Russian/Olympic doping scandal if a serious commentor simply responds “Russian authorities ran the doping! Putin is rotten, through and through.”
When I pointed out “Unfortunately, statements like “Putin is rotten” are hardly intelligent and they are certainly not a sensible response to this whole scandal,” and attempted to return to the doping discussion I get a response:
“Putin is a monster in one of the most oppressive countries. he has his critics assassinated in the best traditions of Russia. Your support for him is bizarre.”
So we make no progress discussing the issue of doping.
Similarly, I feel that diverting a discussion about the MH17 tragedy in eastern Ukraine with raves about Putin being a “petty tyrant” or that he has “been accused of assassinating or imprisoning his political rivals” is insulting to the memory of the innocent passengers who died in the crash and to their loved ones.
So, my purpose with this post is to provide a forum for commentors to vent their feelings about Putin and the Russian Federation. Rave on about Crimea, Ukraine or Syria. Let’s discuss here some of the issues being inappropriately raised on comments on other posts.
It would be nice, though, if commentors present a bit more than feelings and prejudices – perhaps back up their claims with some citations or evidence.
To kick off, I do not know a terrific lot about Putin or have particularly strong feelings about the man. But he is certainly an important international figure today and any cultured person should make an effort to learn a bit about him. Two books that have perhaps influenced my thinking are:
Based on interviews of Putin soon after he became president in 2000. I have attempted to read other books about Putin but find so many of them are extremely biased (he is a controversial figure) and so many authors approach him with their own political agendas – often very extreme ones.
Godfather of the Kremlin: The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism
Not about Putin but describes Russia in the 1990s when it had become, as the author put it, a criminal anarchy.
It does go up to the period when Putin moved to Moscow and was given Yeltisn’s blessing as acting president. But it provides a very useful background to what preceded Putin – and provides some idea of what he has been combating during his presidency. Incidentally, it perhaps gives some insight into the current situation in Ukraine where conditions similar to Russia in the 1990s still continues.
Another book I have found useful is The Litvinenko File. Putin is only a peripheral figure in Litvenenko’s story but it provides a similar picture the the Godfather of the Kremlin about the role of the criminal oligarch Berezokovsky in promoting Putin, why he and Litvinenko felt betrayed when he refused to deliver and turned against him.
Seeing I have been accused of being “pro-Moscow” for this level of interest in this particular political figure I should note that while having read one book by President Putin (or at least his interviews) I have also read one book by the US president Obama – Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. So, perhaps I should also be labelled “pro-Washington.” Or, perhaps, we should just keep away from such silly McCarthyist labeling and instead get on with a good-faith discussion.
I look forward to the discussion.