January 5, 2017
After the election debacle, Democrats and liberals have been pointing fingers in all directions—except, of course, at themselves and their party establishment—and especially at Russian president Vladimir Putin. He has become for them a kind of criminal mastermind, like a Bond villain, who invaded democracy-loving Ukraine, illegally annexed the Crimea, deliberately bombed hospitals and children in East Aleppo, and now has “hacked our election” to install his puppet, Donald Trump, in the White House.
All of this is absurd, of course. In the Ukraine, the US worked closely with fascist forces to spearhead a putsch against the democratically elected president, Victor Yanukovich, who had begun to pursue economic policies more favorable to Russia than to the West. Responding to the outcry from the ethnically Russian eastern region of the country, Putin responsibly attempted to defend that population from military assault. When a referendum about rejoining Russia passed in the Crimea by a margin of 97 percent, Russia allowed them to return to the country of which they had been a part until Khrushchev transferred it to the Ukraine in 1954. This was hardly an “annexation” with all of the connotations that word carries.
Nor to this point have US intelligence agencies provided any evidence of this “hacking.” This bizarre incident has all the hallmarks of a public relations spin job meant to paper over the embarrassing revelations from the Podesta emails, provide a pretext for expanded hostilities against Russia, and explain away the populist Trump victory. Even if the allegations do turn out to have substance, it would be hard to take the government seriously from a moral point of view given the massive scale of the hacking and surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden.
Far from being a villain, I cannot understand why Putin isn’t being awarded the Nobel Prize. Seriously. He brokered a deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons in 2013, avoiding direct US military intervention, which the Obama Administration (and especially John Kerry) was grotesquely eager to get underway. You’ll recall that this attack was to be in response to Assad’s supposed crossing of the “Red Line” by using chemical weapons on his own people. This claim was thrown into serious doubt by excellent investigative reporting of Seymour Hersch, which revealed that the chemical attack was more likely to have been carried out by the US-supported “rebels” themselves.
Putin may also have ended the war in Syria this year by helping the warring parties to reach a ceasefire agreement. The US, by way of contrast, has declared that the peace agreement does not mean the war is over. It will continue, says the White House, in evident frustration that its regime-change operation has failed so miserably.
Putin also turned the other cheek when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet (Turkey is now a partner with Russia in the ceasefire deal), and refuses to meet hostility from the US, in the form of a new sanctions regime, with more hostility.
What more does a man have to do to earn a Nobel Prize? Obama was awarded his Nobel Peace Prize after only having accomplished "Cash for Clunkers" and would shortly thereafter embark on a program of expanded war and drone murders.
Now, nobody should make any mistake about Putin: he simply and solely represents Russia’s oligarchs who took power following the dissolution of the USSR, and plundered state enterprises, giving rise to a parasitic class of multimillionaires and billionaires. His neoliberal regime is not seeking to build a just or decent society, but is acting on behalf of the interests of its capitalists.
Yet, even within that framework, his record is far better than the likes of George W. Bush or Barack Obama, who leave as their legacy bloodshed and upheaval on an enormous scale.