putting Putin in perspective or just poo-pooing Vlad…I don’t know

The news is full of reactions to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s editorial in the New York Times. Not unexpectedly, members of the American ruling elite took offense to his remarks, as did some portion (98.7%) of the American public. We are genetically coded to mistrust Russian leaders, though I note that the actual Russian people are wonderful, as you know if you’ve ever met any of them!

But let’s not let our mutual love for each other get in the way of international politics.

Hey, I’m a child of the “duck-and-cover” era, as is Vladimir. I was a Cub Scout; he was a Young Pioneer. We grew up in mutual fear that the other guy was so evil, he’d drop atomic bombs on children just to see them shrivel up into dust, dust that glowed in the dark.

I lived in the zone where Soviet atomic bomb tests left a trail of Strontium 90 for American milch cows to ingest and pass on through their milk to all us American children that survived the impending nuclear winter. No doubt, Soviet children got a good dose of American radiation, too. We – the Americans and Soviets – were in this madness together, just on opposite sides of the political and geographic map.

But I wander. Putin rose to Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB by the time the Soviet Union had its day of reckoning, but he resigned and threw his hat in with the jolly Boris Yeltsin, first President of the newly-formed Russian Federation. He became a democrat, sort of, Russian style.

When Yeltsin resigned in 1999, Putin, PM of the Russian Federation, became President. Not too sinister, eh? George W. Bush looked into his eyes and saw his soul, famously, and he, like all bald men, looked pretty good in the cowboy hat he acquired in Texas. I don’t remember, but did he get cowboy boots, too? There are some famous bootmakers in Texas. Hats plus the boots help short men look taller.

OK, that was snarky to write, but he also has a comb-over! Hee! Hee! Thought we wouldn’t notice that in all those bare-chested outdoorsy shots of Vlad hunting bear, fishing monster fish, riding charging stallions, etc., etc. I mean, if Mao Tze Tung could swim in the Yellow River to prove he wasn’t dead yet, what harm is there in showing us your manly boobs, Vlad!? You DO look better half-naked than I do, so there’s no point on dwelling on this point much longer! Letting my hypocrisy hang out isn’t good policy, and you know martial arts.

So, when I heard Vladimir Putin had an editorial published in the New York Times, I was curious. What morally insightful guidance could this former KGB Lieutenant Colonel offer the United States and her President on dealing with the Syrian mess?

Quite a lot, actually, if you overlook slight rewritings of history and unintentionally ironic points that we of the “duck-and-cover” generation are primed to notice. Right message, wrong messenger. I’ll even give you a freeby on the “American exceptionalism” comment. I mean, George W. Bush saw your soul and found you were to be trusted. >wink~wink< I’m sure you were sincere in what you wrote. Or your American PR firm was in what they wrote in your behalf. Whomever. Whatever. (There I go being snarky again…!)

I especially felt encouraged, though, by what I saw as a “come to Jesus moment” at the end. Who would have guessed a former KGB Lieutenant Colonel might speak directly of God, that His children are all born equal? Or that Wikipedia’s biography lists Putin as affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church? I’m trying to picture little PR-prepped Vladimir as an altar boy, but the image just doesn’t come together.

Or am I being snarky again? Must be all that Strontium 90 I ingested as a kid speaking.


The text of President Putin’s editorial is available on the Internet. An analysis of the speech by any of several news outlets is available. Any of them has more relevance than my little post, but my post is more snarky. Try this Washington Post analysis, for example:


8 thoughts on “putting Putin in perspective or just poo-pooing Vlad…I don’t know

    • A lot of water under the bridge since then. Putin served a useful purpose. Obama serve a useful purpose. Some good progress was made in the matter of Syria, even though there continues to be the collapse of the state in civil war.

      A Lebanese engineer friend of mine grew up in the Syrian-“encouraged” Lebanese civil war. Every summer, he and his school chums (he still had school to attend most of the year…) rounded up unexploded ordnance and made explosions by any means possible. “Here,” he’d say, “let me show you the scars from the time I spend the rest of summer in the hospital because a shell blew up on us!” Then he’d show me horrific scars on his chest and side. “We nearly died.”

      “You Americans think you are the most free place on earth,” he observed. “You aren’t, though. Lebanon is! If someone wants to go and blow up someone, he can, and there’s no consequences!”

      He had something there. Reminded me of that 1970s anthem “Me and Bobby Magee”. Remember the line? “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

      In a political sense, freedom is the sense that you can get away with whatever you do to the other guy that doesn’t blow back on you. Or so the deluded politicians of this world think. For example, drone attacks. How many terrorists have these random attacks created for all those terrorists – and innocents – killed with drone technology?

      Ironically, in the process of minimizing the “collateral damage” of B-52 carpet bombing, for example (totally impersonal), we wipe out fewer civilians but in a more personal way. No one’s cheering as far as I can tell. One of five Senators hearing the testimony of the family where the grandmother was atomized in front of the grandchildren actually cried….

      • War is an interesting concept to me. But not in a good way.

        Lately (but perhaps historically) it seems like in order to take out the “one guy” we need to kill tens (hundreds) of thousands of innocent people, because it’s not fair to just assassinate other leaders of countries (because they might do it to you). Pick a war, any war, the previous statement is true past and present.

      • War is waste. As a retired quality guy, I am appalled at the totality of human resources destroyed, whether it is people or materiel. I’d rather our leaders stick to insulting each other when upset, and let the people they lead live in peace. I see it pretty much the same way you do.

  1. I’m from that generation of ‘don’t trust a Russian,’ but in Syria’s case I find him right. Us going in is only going to start more violence, we can do without another place to fight and if he wants to handle it – let him, see what he can do.

    • I agree with you.

      I generally have no issues with the President, but I don’t see him as tried and tested enough in military matters to trust him to do a surgical strike in that area and not bring on a slew of really disagreeable unintended consequences.

      That whole mess has so many entanglements that could pull us into a larger conflict that I really hope Putin’s proposal works. Hell, maybe Putin will get a Nobel Peace Prize, making him a Nobel Laureate along with his good-pal-to-be Barack Obama! I have no problem with that, even if I don’t see him as sincere.

      Just eliminating some part of the remaining poison gas in the world is a good start toward that Nobel Peace Prize.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Nobel_Peace_Prize#Nomination_and_announcement

        Actually, I couldn’t remember. I thought it was more of an anti-Bush thing, because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, than for anything President Obama did. The link – in the first paragraph – explained it, but I still don’t recall anything specifically significant about his role in international peace that warranted the prize.

        Saying that, I note I voted for him. I don’t see him as a complete failure like the commentators and members of Congress on the extreme right do, but I don’t think he handled this Syria mess particularly well.

        I do remember that his acceptance speech was a bit bristly for a dove just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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