Monday, February 12, 2018

Rethinking Valodya...,


thesaker |  I have recently had the pleasure of watching a short presentation by Professor Stephen F. Cohen entitled “Rethinking Putin” which he delivered on the annual Nation cruise on December 2, 2017 (see here for the original Nation Article and original YouTube video). In his short presentation, Professor Cohen does a superb job explaining what Putin is *not* and that includes: (but, please do watch the original video before proceeding).
  1. He is not the man who de-democratized Russia (Elstin and the White House did)
  2. He is not the leader who created corruption and kleptocracy in Russia (Elstin and the White House did)
  3. He is not a criminal leader who ordered the murder of opponents or journalists (no evidence)
  4. He did not order the hacking of the DNC servers (no evidence)
  5. He was not anti-US or anti-West from the get-go (Putin changed over time)
  6. He is not a neo-Soviet leader (he is very critical of Lenin and Stalin)
  7. He is not an aggressive foreign policy leader (he has been a reactive leader)
  8. He is not somehow defined by his years at the KGB.
Professor Cohen ended his talk by suggesting a few things which might form a part of a future honest biography:
  1. As a young and inexperienced leader placed at the helm of a collapsing state:
  2. He rebuilt, stabilized and modernized Russia in a way to prevent future collapses
  3. He had to restore the “vertical” of power: “managed democracy” (i.e. restored order)
  4. He needed a consensual history patching up Czarist, Soviet and post-Soviet eras without imposing one, single, version of history
  5. He needed Western support to modernize the Russian economy
  6. He wanted Russia to be a great power, but not a super-power
  7. He never favored iron-curtain isolationism; he is an internationalist (more European than 90% of Russians, at least in the beginning).
The key thesis is this: Putin began as a pro-Western, European leader and with time he realigned himself with a much more traditional, Russian worldview. He is more in line with Russian voters today.

Professor Cohen concluded by addressing two topics which, I presume, his audience cared deeply about: he said that, contrary to Western propaganda, the so-called ‘anti-gay’ laws in Russia are no different from the laws of 13 US states. Secondly, that “by any reckoning, be it flourishing inside Russia or relations with Israel, by general consent of all, nobody denies this, Jews under Putin in Russia are better off than they had ever been in Russian history. Ever. They have more freedom, less official anti-Semitism, more protection, more official admiration for Israel, more interaction, more freedom to go back and forth”.