Putin’s anti-American rhetoric now persuades his harshest critics

By Nina Khrushcheva
July 29, 2014

People I know in Russia, members of the intelligentsia and professionals who have long been critical of President Vladimir Putin’s anti-Western stance, have suddenly turned into America-bashers. Many have been swept away by Putin’s arguments that the United States, not the Kremlin, is destabilizing Ukraine.

Since the current crisis broke in Ukraine over its efforts to side with the European Union rather than Russia, Putin has been at war with the United States. He seems intent on proving that a U.S.-centric world order is over and that Europe should decide on its own what its relations with Russia will be.

Putin’s big lie reached fever pitch after Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 went down over eastern Ukraine on July 17. Putin swiftly placed the blame on the Kiev government and its reputed U.S. masters — not even bothering to express proper condolences about the dead.

Instead, the Russian president disingenuously asked for transparency in the investigation into the downing of the plane. In his laconic statements, Putin promised cooperation but delivered little. He insisted issues of politics had to be kept out of the tragedy.

Such as the nature of autocratic propaganda: The lie has to be overwhelming.

Journalists work at a media centre as they cover Russian President Vladimir Putin's live broadcast nationwide phone-in, in MoscowIn his 14-plus years in power, Putin has honed this skill. In the Kremlin universe, when any conflict takes place around the globe, it is the West — particularly the United States — that is to blame. After hearing it repeatedly, this belief is now widely shared by the Russian public.

My friends in Moscow look at the current crisis in the Middle East and the turmoil created by the Arab Spring 0f 2011, particularly the unrest in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak was forced out and the lawlessness in Libya after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was killed. “These were your American-supported revolutions,” they angrily reproach me. “Now it’s a mess. The U.S. has been wreaking havoc on our doorstep in Ukraine. They are out to get Russia.”

What has become clear under Putin is that so much of Russia remains the Soviet Union. Under the communist dictatorship, all problems were blamed on the enemies of the people or on Western imperialism.

Consider that in Moscow today the prevailing story, circulated by the pro-Putin media and pundits, is that the CIA actually loaded Malaysia Flight 17 with dead bodies in order to blame the Russians. Meanwhile, Russian TV networks and newspapers run photos of pro-eastern Ukraine demonstrations in Europe, with protesters demanding, “Stop U-S-A, the contractor of mass killings!”

Countries like Iran seem only too happy to help disseminate these anti-American conspiracies. Its Press TV, for example, talks about the Kiev “junta” and America’s wicked designs to take over the world.

Women inspect T-shirts, displaying images of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, which are on sale at GUM department store in central MoscowGiven the conspiratorial nature of the schemes attributed to Washington, these stories don’t seem even slightly believable to most in the West. But they serve to absolve Putin of any responsibility to provide facts that could support his version of the truth. When the West’s actions are presented by the Russian leadership in the grandiose, absolute terms of us versus them, questions as to “Why the missile was fired?” or “Who fired it?” begin to matter little.

A (now former) friend recently told me, “How dare you look for answers when Russia is under the attack of the ‘new colonialism,’ ” — a “threat” that Putin first spoke of in 2007.

The Kremlin is banking on this time-tested totalitarian propaganda technique: Use overwhelming patriotic fervor against an enemy. Then your people, even if skeptical of you, will not believe the words of other governments.

Russians have long been able to forgive domestic woes if an outside enemy is lurking. Why was Joseph Stalin’s network of Soviet gulags never fully probed? Because, as horrible as the mass purges were, the public still held to the conviction that communist interests against imperialism justified any means.

One of the best depictions of the Gulag mentality, Repentance by Georgian film director Tengis Abuladze, presents a chilling story about an anti-Stalinist who reports extravagantly exaggerated crimes against the state that were committed by hundreds of his friends. His reasoning is that the claims he makes are so outrageous that no one could believe them. Besides, he says, too many people would have to be arrested.

But all those he names were arrested — and shot.

In real life there was Leon Trotsky, among millions of others. This fiery revolutionary was on every Soviet patriotic poster. Until he was not. When Trotsky opposed Stalin’s version of totalitarian communism in 1928, he was suddenly the Soviet Union’s worst enemy. He was soon expelled and ultimately murdered in Mexico City 12 years later. Stalin had a very long reach.

nina -- stalinDespite all this, many Russians today continue to admire Stalin. They also admire, and even love Putin — because he has stood up to what they see as U.S. meddling in Russia’s backyard.

I was recently in Bulgaria, where I was told repeatedly that Bulgarians don’t approve of all that Putin is doing — but at least Russia, their Slavic brother, is now strong enough to curtail the actions of the United States. Mind you, Bulgaria is in the European Union.

Even Germany, the de facto leader of the European Union, has long been conflicted about a proper response to Putin’s actions in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian daily Izvestia, like newspapers in Soviet times, largely serves as a mouthpiece of the Kremlin, printing virtual propaganda that manipulates others’ discord to Moscow’s advantage. The paper called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, to make a choice between Russia and the United States. It touted Merkel’s good relations with Putin and cited her disdain for Washington after the National Security Agency eavesdropped on German intelligence and read her email.

Yet, on Tuesday many members of the Russian intelligentsia are calling for a congress in support of Ukraine and hundreds of luminaries have signed the petition. The are many others I spoke with in Russia who are also incensed by the Kremlin’s callousness about Flight 17. Thousands of handwritten notes have been placed at the entrance of the Dutch Embassy in Moscow. Many plead for forgiveness, saying, “We are not killers.”

In the eastern Ukrainian villages surrounding the crash site, local farmers tried to preserve the dignity of the deceased, holding vigils and prayer services.

Wreckage debris and mementos left by local residents are seen at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk regionNow, when many Russians may feel guilty about the crash (even though Putin seeks to absolve them of all blame), is the time to test the theory that Putin cannot afford to alienate the entire West. For he still talks about a “strategic partnership with Europe.” After all, not only does Europe get roughly 30 percent of Russia’s oil and gas, the European Union is Russia’s top trading partner. Moscow needs this money because capital flight has reached an estimated $50 billion to $200 billion this year, and the national economy has grown only around 1 percent. Moscow’s Central Bank has raised interest rates from 5 percent to 8 percent, which has also stifled growth.

Until this week, the Europe Union was reluctant to damage its economic ties with Russia, but now both the United States and Europe are ready to start targeting whole economic sectors, including Russia’s banking system, defense industry and energy production.

Anybody who knows Russia (and Germany’s Merkel certainly does) must ultimately realize that if Putin is not strongly challenged, he won’t divert from his efforts to “splinter” the Western alliance. He will continue to aim at U.S. power, since Washington has often been the only one calling him to task.

Putin has already said that Russians should be prepared to accept sacrifices in economic growth for the sake of his foreign-policy objectives. But let’s see what happens when sanctions dramatically increase, and Russians are unable to get their favorite Italian wine or French lingerie. Will they finally wake up to the consequences of supporting Putinism?

 

PHOTO (TOP): Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany in 1941 near memorials by the Kremlin walls in Moscow, June 22, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

PHOTO (INSERT 1): Journalists work at a media center as they cover Russian President Vladimir Putin’s live broadcast nationwide phone-in, in Moscow, April 17, 2014.  REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

PHOTO INSERT 2): Women inspect T-shirts, displaying images of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, which are on sale at GUM department store in central Moscow, June 11, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

PHOTO (INSERT 3): Joseph Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943. WIKIPEDIA/Commons

PHOTO (INSERT 4): Wreckage debris and mementos left by local residents are seen at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region, July 26, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

56 comments

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Mrs. Khrushcheva, I read most of your articles, and they are definitely anti-Russia. Are you a Russian that hates your own people and land?

If you are so hell bent on promoting American propoganda, why dont you go to Russia and promote your ‘peaceful US’ message.

The US government only wants one thing in Russia, regime change….

So as far as I’m concerned, any action Mr. Putin takes that is anti-American is legitimate. The US started this, and now must deal with the consequences!

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

Similar to those who believe everything our leader says. The upside is the number of the true believers is far less than rational folk.

Posted by NaplesHal | Report as abusive

Mrs Khrushcheva writes:
“Now, when many Russians may feel guilty about the crash (even though Putin seeks to absolve them of all blame)[...]”

Any reasonable human being would treat this person as being a sick and delusional hater of her country, her people, and truth, justice, and ethics in general!

Have the guilt of the whole Russian people in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight been ascertained and pronounced by this [im]moralist?

Will she be content enough with only this guilt? Will she demand her people to give up their institutions and freedom and let NATO back in charge of pulling the strings of drunken Russian puppets (maybe a Yeltsin era nostalgic)?

Is Mrs. Khrushcheva bitter because her clique of friends and family did not have the chance to grab the spoils of Russia fast enough after the fall of the Soviet Union?

I betcha!

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

No_apartheid, if you would research Ms. Khrushcheva, you would find that she’s the adopted granddaughter of former Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev, so definitely has some insight to Russian life, especially from the inside of the Kremlin. She’s not anti-Russian, but attempting to show the West and Russia about the misconceptions on both side. Unfortunately for the Russians, they have became so ingrained by their media (RT, RIA and ITAR-TASS) that anything reported to them is believed to be 100% factual.

Posted by smokeymtnblues | Report as abusive

smokeymtnblues said: “Unfortunately for the Russians, they have became so ingrained by their media (RT, RIA and ITAR-TASS) that anything reported to them is believed to be 100% factual.”

Unfortunately for you, you don’t even take a peek at the mirror just in front of your eyes!

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

Unfortunately for the US audience, they have became so ingrained by their media (CNN, Fox and Associated Press) that anything reported to them is believed to be 100% factual.

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

@mcanterel

Smokeymntblues was typing a comment, so there would be a computer screen, not a mirror, just in front of their eyes.

Posted by RexMax46 | Report as abusive

It didn’t take much reading between the proverbial lines to see and feel the Russian hatred and resentment of all things USA during the recent Russian held Olympics. The USA is certainly not perfect, has many unresolved issues to deal with, but I’d thought the cold war was over. I was mistaken re cold war apparently. How anyone can defend Putin, the proven liar/ thief/ crook is beyond me; propaganda works I must say. Russian propaganda makes Western propaganda look tame.

Posted by anotherfakename | Report as abusive

Why didn’t their constitution provide for term limits on the presidency? Is dictatorship really more to their liking? – I’m just trying to understand…

Posted by Yowser | Report as abusive

It’s fun to come into the Ukraine related articles, and see the obvious examples of Putin propagandists having adopted western sounding screen names. I have to express my admiration of his agit-prop machine, as they’re managing to be represented in almost every one of these articles.

I wonder if they realize how obvious they are.

Posted by Yashmak | Report as abusive

They don’t Yashmak.

If they did, they’d make a marked effort to sound less brainwashed.

Posted by moros | Report as abusive

It is funny how much the so-called “free-world” audience is soaking in its own propaganda that they can’t fathom an opposing opinion without agitating spectres of Soviet propaganda …

How many times are you told to repeat “Putin-evil” and “Russia-evil” a day?

Pause for a minute and compare the deeds of your own country (say the USA for example) for the last 30 years, and those of Russia, on the world stage.

I am sure you will eventually feel the shame of having caved-in so low to your own “tyrants”.

Leave Russia alone, and let the Russian prosper without destroying the world (as the West did).

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

The Moscow Times also had an article about how President Putin is using his full force of Russian propaganda against the US, trying to deflect any criticism of his failed attempt at another land grab in Ukraine. The news is falling on deaf ears tho, as only about 1% of the Russian population goes on web sites located outside of Russia for their news.

Posted by JohnPombrio | Report as abusive

I have been to Russia twice and also eastern countries. I have felt that communism left a stench. Shocked with the reason Stalin was admired despite the crimes against his own. Hitler is no longer admired anywhere in the world. Perhaps, its Stalinism that leaves that stench. It does seem that Russians don’t have a soul or a moral compass and don’t appear to understand that you cannot just take another country. It does seem also that Russians are jealous of the USA and this has led to hatred. I sold all my Russian stocks and have boycotted all that is Russian. I have heard personal accounts of business people, one was told he would be allowed to live if he sold a mine at a discount, another a consultant to a business manager told me the manager was murdered. Putin is Stalin minus the 30 million deaths.

Posted by ThomasOne | Report as abusive

ThomasOne said : “Putin is Stalin minus the 30 million deaths”.

Or maybe, closer to us, and more verifiable in experience by all kind of readers, young and old: “Putin is G.W. Bush minus the 1 or 2 million deaths”?

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

Isn’t something? A descendant of Khrouchtchev has loads of admirers among the AEI right-wing neocon nutcases!

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

Paraphrasing Bertolt Brecht, to the benefit of the NATO-huggers Putin-bashers:

The people of Russia have lost the confidence of the “International Community”; the “International Community” has decided to dissolve the people of Russia.

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

Could anybody bother to refer to any case when VVS lied?
I simply have no idea what people are talking about.

Posted by OUTPOST2012.NET | Report as abusive

Enough blind nationalism already…we should all know that when the right hand is signing the peace treaty, the left hand is destabilizing the nation next door to one’s adversary – this is true of both sides. There are no innocent nations. By historical definition a nation has a boarder with an inside and an outside, and must look out for the interests of those inside.

We are in an era now where the very idea of a nation is practically obsolete. Unless we all collectively take the time to redefine our 20th century Us vs. Them view of the Geo-political landscape, problems arising from our degradation of the environment will likely be insurmountable.

Posted by CanyonLiveOak | Report as abusive

We LOVE PUTIN in Macedonia too

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

She is mad that could not get a decent job in RT because she is Ukrainian

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Her grandfather gave Crimea a Russian territory to Ukraine

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Wow. Putin’s reach is amazing. These pro-Putin comments are definitely an eye-opener for me. Thank you, Ms. Khrushcheva for explaining this.

Posted by TanMan1217 | Report as abusive

@TanMan1217, one can hope that one day you will come to grip with this simple fact: people have diverse opinions, and there are all shades of grey in them.

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

@mcanterel,

I had never before realized the words “gray” and “idiot” could be synonyms.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

A great article !

Posted by al43 | Report as abusive

@Smokeymtnblues, what about the propaganda we are fed here??? Like how Iraq had loads of weapons of mass destruction, only to find out there were none. How we eliminated the Al-Qaeda threat, only for ISIL to emerge. Or how Iran planned on paying the Mexican drug cartel $1.5M to kill the Saudi Ambassador. Do you really think that Iran needs to pay anyone to kill a Saudi royal? They can kill a dozen of them on Saudi soil. Further more, do you think the Mexican drug cartel would do ANYTHING for a meager $1.5M???

My friend, the US government has the largest propaganda machine in human history. No country has ever rivaled us.

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

Feels like 1984′s newspeak and Asimov’s psychohistory have come to life…

And we call ourselves intelligent life. ha…

Posted by michaelryan | Report as abusive

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Posted by Andy111 | Report as abusive

@No_apartheid,

Your world would look better and be more pleasant if you would quit skipping your meds. Chill, dude.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Nina Khrushcheva, Thank you for the insights. I hope to read more of your work. I may have different opinions than you, but don’t rant as so many posters do on every article.

Posted by Dragonmaster | Report as abusive

Mother of all (lost) wars – USA. Starting from Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and the list will continue as long as they (US) are ready to step in any other place. The latest one is Ukraine. I am for the ordinary people of Ukraine. Better they seek support from any one country is a clear winner at least one war.

Posted by Middleview | Report as abusive

The US is the “fly in the ointment.”

Posted by MonitorLizard | Report as abusive

This is all about Western bankers and their globalization than a conflict between countries. Sanctions are the new army divisions. It’s war played with money.

Posted by SR37212 | Report as abusive

His propaganda machine notwithstanding, Putin’s activities will eventually come to light with his people. Unfortunately, by that time, he will have such complete dictatorship control of Russia that protests will be silenced by guns, same as with Stalin.

Posted by act1 | Report as abusive

His propaganda machine notwithstanding, Putin’s activities will eventually come to light with his people. Unfortunately, by that time, he will have such complete dictatorship control of Russia that protests will be silenced by guns, same as with Stalin.

Posted by act1 | Report as abusive

His propaganda machine notwithstanding, Putin’s activities will eventually come to light with his people. Unfortunately, by that time, he will have such complete dictatorship control of Russia that protests will be silenced by guns, same as with Stalin.

Posted by act1 | Report as abusive

His propaganda machine notwithstanding, Putin’s activities will eventually come to light with his people. Unfortunately, by that time, he will have such complete dictatorship control of Russia that protests will be silenced by guns, same as with Stalin.

Posted by act1 | Report as abusive

Oh my… Looks like Ms. Khrushcheva struck a nerve. Mention the Devil, and he shall appear.

Posted by 64_Commuter | Report as abusive

Hey, Reuters team!
You are anti-Russian gang: twice I wrote my comments, none was published. How can you be objective? Shame on you, so-called-professionals! I will never read and more over, I will never trust to any of your news.

Posted by Marat66 | Report as abusive

Russians should have higher living standards than Germans or Canadians. Guess why they don’t. Bad leadership with little rule of law. Putin should worry about his Chinese friends more than Europe, or far away America and Canada.

Posted by Discovery451 | Report as abusive

[…] Posted by Dame_Enda This is what Russian propaganda media is telling its people according to Khruschev's grand-daughter. In other words Russian media is […]

US certainly know the best who should be the best president for Russia. They picked an excellent prime minister for Ukraine which kills Ukrainians for the glory and prosperity of US. Good service.

Posted by Tolan | Report as abusive

Nina earns her money the old-fashioned way. Churning out propaganda for Imperial America.

Posted by Eideard | Report as abusive

@ Discovery451 – Americas living standards are nothing to crow about either now are they. 73 percent of Americans enrolled in the country’s major public benefits programs are from working families, stuck in jobs whose paychecks don’t cover life’s basic necessities. The United States has the highest proportion of low-wage workers in the developed world, most earning only minimum wage, and typically capped by their employers well below 40 hours a week, so they won’t qualify for benefits.
Source:http://blogs.reuters.com/great-de bate/2014/08/01/think-everything-on-a-do llar-menu-costs-a-dollar-think-again/

Obviously the real jobs have left the US, enriching US corporations, and destroying middle class families. Sounds like that bad leadership you mentioned.
And as to the rule of law, well, the US has the record in this category too, with for profit prisons on every corner in the good ole land of the free. And just as you advise Mr Putin to worry about his Chinese friends, (for whatever reason), perhaps America should follow similar advice and keep her nose out of the Ukraine and many other countries half way across the globe.

Posted by Norml018 | Report as abusive

Well, if I were anti-American, I’d ask to have an American president warning everyone to be “with or against” his aims, quarreling and quartering middle easterns, increasing its national indebtednes and social inequality… that I would ask … and I’m afraid, so would the Chinese.

Posted by juegito | Report as abusive

As an American, I see much truth in things Putin says regarding our nation at present. Instead of taking an arrogant, self-justifying posture, we should take them to heart. It matters not if Putin is truly authentic. We are a nation that has deviated from our God-fearing past and corresponding principles of liberty. There is only one Judge of all the earth. One to whom all nations must give an account. This Judge is not the United States.

Posted by dwalton | Report as abusive

Do we want Ukraine to be lost?

Posted by JamesKershaw | Report as abusive

KGB is alive and well, more desk jobs than ever responding to criticism of Putin and Russian expansionism.

Posted by ThomasOne | Report as abusive

Propoaganda article. No data, just blaming game.

Posted by AKondra | Report as abusive

Frankly, this article is garbage. If the author does not think Kieve is working at the behest of Western countries, USA in particular then he is either a jingoist, a racist, a propagandist or an ignorant idiot. So, the phone calls by our state department oficials does not mean anything, the fact that both the sons of our leaders in the state department and vice-president involvement in the Ukranian pipeline deals also mean nothing. Only the piece of garbage the author espouses counts.

Posted by ofilha | Report as abusive

Frankly, this article is garbage. But this is very typical of ex-communist oficials who race to come to America and become the propagandists for the Voice of America.

Posted by ofilha | Report as abusive

@Tolan,
And Americans of course know who should lead Ukraine or Russia, except that they don’t know who should lead them.

Posted by ofilha | Report as abusive

Well, I’ve noticed the same thing on Facebook. I’m an astronomer and had many stimulating interactions with Leonid Elenin, of comet fame, a Sukoy test pilot by day and astronomer by night. I was always impressed with his technical ability, knowledge and grace under pressure, even when conspiracy theorists were insisting he didn’t exist.

Then Flight 17 was shot down. Out of the blue he believes ever word Putin says and questions nothing. I tore him a new one and we went our ways. If there was ONE Russian that I thought would never stoop to that level… I think the author has noticed something valid.

Posted by KaFaraqGatri | Report as abusive

Test

Posted by Skeeter2 | Report as abusive

And europe can also decide to pay for their own defense, which will probably be against Russian expansionism. I’m tired of being hated by the Western World that 1- we have given so much to, and 2 – have a better standard of living. Let them out from under the American umbrella. Go, please.

Posted by SeaWa | Report as abusive

Would Russians really prefer their favorite Italian wine and French lingerie to helping their brother Crimeans, for a short time, 2 million of whom were unemployed under the unstable Ukrainian government, a government that has recently passed a law that only pure Ukrainians can hold civil service jobs and a new form that all Jewish people must fill out registering themselves as Jewish with the Ukrainian government?? Is the Ukrainian government getting ready for an “ETHNIC CLEANSING,” or what?? Didn’t we learn anything from WWII?? I’d say the Ukrainian government,starring Svoboda, are the true Hitlers here!!

Posted by galations65 | Report as abusive