Russians have had more than ample reasons to be furious at American political regimes and the public that do little to understand any culture but their own. In Part I of this article we saw the contradictions between the actual achievements of Russian society as opposed to how Russia and its history is portrayed in the U. S. Secondly the United States has economically invaded Russia after 1991 while portraying it as some kind of liberation. Thirdly, American historians have attempted to revise Russia history. A whole field of historians, Sovietologists, has presented itself as getting to the real roots of Russian history. Lastly, the American movie industry has created despicable cultural caricatures of Russian men and women such as Natasha and Boris Badenov in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. Long before Cold War Democrats began to spin yarns of “Evil Putin” propaganda after the 2016 elections, American political scientists, economists and religious leaders along with their know-nothing public have disrespected Russians. It is important not to lump all US social classes together. As far as I can tell, the poor and working classes in the United States have not been won over. They simply pay no attention to the Democratic Party. It is the middle and upper middle classes, well-educated people, who have bought the Democratic Party propaganda, hook line and sinker.
From Patriotism to Nationalism
In Part I, I said that political scientists distinguish patriotism from nationalism. Patriotism is the willingness to defend one’s country against attacks. Nationalism is the aggressive stance of a state that seeks to expand its territory rather than just defending it. Given how Russia has been used and abused by the United States for at least one hundred years, it is not a difficult task to push a people who are justly patriotic down the slippery slope of nationalism.
The western powers and their satellites in Islamic and Arabic states have also played a sinister role in bringing about the war in Chechnya and the subsequent horrific terrorist acts. Western powers have managed to create a stereotype of the Muslim, Caucasian (from the Caucus region), Middle Eastern people within Russia that will be hard to erase from the consciousness of the Russian people, pitting them against each other. There is also a danger that the Russian state tries to manipulate these nationalistic and religious surges to suit its own needs. Russians perceive the United States as meddling with their internal affairs along with a middle and upper middle class who could not show Chechnya or Dagestan on a map calling the terrorists there “ freedom fighters”. It is distressing to see the effect that western propaganda had on the minds of the Russian people themselves, leading them away from internationalism and solidarity to militant nationalism in some cases.
Expansion of Religion to Explain Misery
Statistics show that the United States is the most religious country of the western powers so it might be hard to understand why a turn to religion by the Russian people might be perceived in a negative way. But many Russians thought that Marx was right about religion: it is the opium of the people. It is an opiate which keeps people from changing their material circumstances by promising a better life in the hereafter.
Between the time of The Russian Revolution of 1917 to its collapse in 1989, the majority of the Russian people were irreligious, although religion continued to exist underground. However, after the collapse in 1989, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, missionaries of all sorts appeared on the scene, promising to explain and justify the increased misery to the Russian people. The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the most influential and powerful religious entity and has strong grassroots among a wide segment of the population. It is hardly far-fetched for at least leftist Russians today to say religious authorities are parasites, living off people’s self-doubts and misery. However, until the Russian state can restore the improved material conditions of most people, we can expect these religions will continue to have a foothold and interact with nationalism to divert people from changing the material conditions in society for the better.
How Russians Perceive Americans Internationally
As I see it, two of the most critical international issues of importance to Russians are the current US administration’s stance concerning nuclear weapons and global warming.
In this article from the Huffington Post titled Nuclear Posture Review, January 2018, the content and tone raises grave concern about the Russian establishment as well as its people. This same attitude can be seen even on TV talk shows. The Damocles sword of a nuclear conflict once again hangs over the world. I hear Russians asking: “Have these people gone mad to talk so cold bloodedly and in a matter of fact way about ‘local nuclear conflict’? Only a people who have not seen foreign troops on thier own soil since the war with the British of 1812 could be so blasé. There is no collective memory of the horrors of war. The second issue is the denial of climate change and withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017. Those who are politically active in Russia are quite aware of the consequences and look with pessimism to where this step might lead.
How Russians Perceive Americans Domestically
Roughly, the western attitude towards Russia can be divided into the following categories: the right, the liberals and the left. We should always bear in mind that these divisions are relative. The tectonic shift that occurred in politics after the fall of the Soviet Union has pushed the liberals and Democrats to become like right Republicans, (they were not so distant from each other anyway), while the right republicans have become quasi-fascist. The left has lost its original red color and is turning pinkish with brownish tone.
I will start with the most vocal of the categories: the liberals and the Democratic Party. The anti-Russian campaign that we have witnessing for the last several years has taken on such proportions that it has become a grotesque monster. It appears that all the evils in the world are due to the Russian people and state. The liberals and Democrats lecture a proud people on how they should build their country and lives without even blushing. The hypocrisy is breathtaking for a country whose history starts with the strewn bones of the Native-Americans and Afro-Americans and continues with the blood that is still freely flowing in the Middle East.
The Democrats and Republicans in the US and the neo-liberals in the European Union have taken up the crusade against Russia as their main slogan showing themselves to be past masters of McCarthyism. Furthermore, the ultra-right and pseudo-fascists in the US and Europe have raised the banner of anti-immigration and racism.
The west is doing its utmost to surround and weaken Russia, whether through economic sanctions under various dubious pretexts or endless provocative events and proxy wars in Syria, Ukraine, Georgia, and a number of other less conspicuous simmering conflicts. Because of this, the US Democrats as well as most of the European liberals have lost most of their ideological influence in Russia. The majority of the Russian people either despises or laugh at the Democratic party.
The Russian turn to the right
From what I’m told by most of my Russian friends and what I feel in the streets and on talk shows is that the Russians have had their fill of the liberals’ hypocritical stance and endless patronizing, self-appointed holier-than-thou attitude. Tired of their sanctions, tired of their threats, tired of their endless attempts to humiliate Russia and its people.
Because of the attacks by the liberals and the Democratic Party, much of Russia has turned toward the right and copied the US right with its racial and anti-immigration policies. The Chechen wars; the terrorism fueled by Arab and Islamic acts; the anti-Russian policy in many of what were the soviet republics’, all this was the fertile soil wherein the US and European right and pseudo-fascist have planted their seeds. In Europe there even seems to be some kind of loose pan European pseudo-fascist solidarity. This is a dangerous tendency that has all the attributes of the Nazi race theory with its glorification of the Nordic races. I find their influence on part of the Russian youth disturbing.
Russia at the crossroads
The dilemma that is confronting the Russian people is whether the totally understandable rejection of US and European neoliberalism lead them to the arms of the ultra-right and pseudo fascism? Is my enemy’s enemy my friend? The Russian people and the Russian State have a difficult route to navigate between Scylla and Carbides. Russia at the moment is moving from being a satellite for resources to aspirations of being a super power. Will they enter the fray as another capitalist country or will they try to find a course of their own?
The place of the left
That leaves the left; the left has been unable to make up its mind. Many in the left play the role of purist of various shades who also lecture the Russian people. They point out every mistake that was made in the name of socialism without ever mentioning its achievements. Some have jumped on the bandwagon of the Democrats. And very few have the courage and understanding to present a balanced evaluation.
The task of the left is to reveal the machinations and lies of its ruling classes and try to convince the Russian state and people that their real ally in the struggle against western imperialism hegemony is the left. Otherwise, the European and American right mentality and attitude will be blindly copied by part of the Russian population.
The Election of Putin and His Relationship With the Oligarchs
The elections in Russia and the corresponding events that have taken place are of importance and have far reaching results. President Putin won by a large margin. To many people in the west, whose daily dose of news comes from the mainstream media, this seems strange. But president Putin, whatever you may think of him when he started his presidential career, took over a country on the verge of disintegration, and managed to pull it through the Chechen war, the terrible terrorist acts where hundreds died, and led it to embark on a period of relative stability.
What is Putin’s relationship to the Russian oligarchs? Before embarking on a very brief summary I would like quote Carl Boggs in his article Russia and The War Party in CounterPunch. “American oligarchs (multibillionaires) in fact far outnumber their Russian counterparts – 565 to 96 – and possess many times the wealth and influence.”
Why are Russian oligarchs depicted as sinister, evil characters while American oligarchs are the “pillars of society”? From my point of view they are all equally evil.
President Putin’s relationship with the oligarchs is not a straightforward one. It has many sides and faces. After the Yeltsin years, when U.S. market fundamentalists had free rein to plunder and rob as they pleased as part of “privatization and the capitalist road”, the majority of these oligarchs transferred their ill-gotten gains using various dubious schemes to the west and various offshore havens. On coming to power, Putin was well aware of the clout they held. Slowly but surely, the country was set free of their grasp. However they still held on to enormous wealth but they were to stay away from governmental positions. The west always took their side. A good example is the Khodorkovsky case. Khodorkovsky is an exiled Russian billionaire, philanthropist and former oligarch now living in Switzerland who Putin pardoned after his arrest and imprisonment for fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.
Anti-Americanism of Russians
The Russian reaction to this cultural, economic and political propaganda war outlined in Part I was a profound and large-scale disillusion with the west and its traditional values. There is a small minority (the oligarchs, also known as “the Atlantic integrationists”) concentrated in big cities that have connections to the west through their businesses. They are also attached to so-called human rights groups and NGOs by receiving grants and scholarships and what awards are left from the Yeltsin era. Strangely enough, the economic sanctions that were imposed by the Obama and Trump administrations hurt a portion of the pro-western oriented business community.
The majority of the Russian people show an intense dislike to the way their country is being portrayed and treated and have rejected integration into the Anglo-American empire. In searching for allies against these Atlantic integrationists, European liberals and the American Democratic Party, the state turned to the European and American right figures as allies. These include odious personalities from Berlusconi, Le Pen and other petty right pseudo fascist leaders in Germany, Austria, and Holland as well as the people in the U.S. who support Trump.
A lot of small businesses in Russia no longer admire the West. The average person, the pensioners, are simply red-hot mad, since any raise in prices could affect their livelihood. They hate America for this and the Americans. The Russian state apparatus and its Eurasian sovereigntists are considering other countries to invest in such as China and India. The Russian media blames the Obama administration. Political pundits were at first reluctant to attack Trump, but the mood is changing. The main villain, no matter who is president, is the American elite who want to bring about a change that will destabilize their country. Chaos will then reign and make it easy to divide Russia.
Creating a Multi-polar World: Eurasian Sovereigntists
An alternative to the Atlantic Integrationists are the Eurasian sovereigntists, who argue for a multi-polar world. This is very close to Putin’s position. What would interest the western observer is his foreign policy. I would like here to refer readers to the official proposal of a “Big Europe” called “From Lisbon to Vladivostok”. President Putin stated that Russia was part of the European-Christian civilization and wanted to be acknowledged as such without having Russia lose its own identity. This was more or less ignored by Europe.
At present Russia is seeking allies, business partners elsewhere. The following organizations comprise the possible foundations of a new Eurasian-sovereign world:
-The Eurasian Economic Union
-BRICS: BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
-The strategic partnership with China: This tendency has been emphasized by officials, in the press and by analyst of different types. Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts
The Chinese and Russians are now realizing that if they firmly stand together on strategic issues it will be difficult for any power to harm or damage them, whether economically or militarily. In order to demonstrate the scale of this cooperation, here is an extract from a Russian newspaper on the subject related to investment in Russia:
“After the meeting with the Russian side at the highest level 66 priority joint projects were selected. The sum of the investments amounted to 90 billion USD – mainly from the Chinese side to Russia. Concretely including the joint development of a wide fuselage airplane, a military helicopter and the construction of a high speed railway Moscow-Kazan.” 13November 2016
-The CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)
This entity compromises a number of previous Soviet republics cultivating economic, cultural and security issues with each other. Russian policy is moving away from being exclusively dependent on the west. They are trying to forge an independent policy that would take into account Russia’s interest.
There is an important issue related to conducting business transactions and trade between Russia and China to trade in national currencies that bypass the US dollar. In addition to the critical economic advantage, there is also one of strategic security.
De-dollarization is spreading to other countries that have also seen the light and plan to trade and do business in their national currencies. For example, quoting Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci an exclusive interview with Trend: “Turkey does not see any obstacle to switching to settlements in national currency with Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, we have already seen how negatively the currency fluctuations affected our economies. We believe that trade settlements in Turkish lira and Azerbaijani manats would be the most effective way to get rid of damage, which the currency fluctuations can cause to the economies of our countries,” the minister said. News.AZ
De-dollarization is also spreading to Latin America.
The US elite is extremely touchy about this and will go to any lengths to stop it. Libya is a good example. NATO intervened when it was disclosed that Libya planned to create a gold-backed currency to compete with the euro and the dollar.
Desperate Western Propaganda Continues
Meanwhile, western circles have financed terrorism through their Arab and Islamic satellites and propaganda about Wahhabism (and continue to do so) in the hope of destructing the country or at least tarnishing its image with another campaign to discredit Russia.
The scene that was set in the last 3-4 years through the present for Russia can be briefly described as follows. A number of incidents that followed one another in a sequence without apparent relations between them, but which primary goal was to discredit the Russian state and its leadership with the aim of changing it in favor of a more pro – western and pliant one. Whether through sports (WADA and the doping scandal) or the Skripal poisoning scandal, the constant flow of anti–Russian rhetoric continues from all the branches of the US establishment. These include the U.S. Congress, State Department and think tanks filled with retired generals and politicians. Any sane opinion requesting facts and judicial procedure is drowned out in this cacophony of jingoism.
This in its turn has consolidated the Russian people around their president as the election showed, fanning the antipathy they feel toward the west, especially the Anglo-Saxon segment. What is troubling in all this is the polarization around the right and its nationalistic and religious ideas on both sides
I have attempted within the framework available to portray this huge wonderful country of Russia and its talented people in the process of struggling to come to grips with the changes that occurred in its destiny, to try and salvage from the past its best traditions and move on. Despite all the problems, civil wars, terrorist acts, plots and intrigues and the difficulties facing them, my experience of the Russian people is that they are a resilient, hardy lot with a magnificent culture, science, literature and art to inspire them.