Almost from the very start of his presidency, Vladimir Putin has been relentlessly vilified in the western media. If their portrayal of Mr. Putin reflected the objective truth, we should believe that the man has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. As I noted in the first in this series of excerpts from “Grand Deception,” systematic demonization of a nation’s leader predisposes many people to consent to war or regime change as means to help a stricken nation rid itself of a rotten, tyrannical leader. If we detest Vladimir Putin, we might approve of our intelligence communities orchestrating a coup to throw him out of power, even if the blood of some Russians is spilled in the process. It should be an honorable deed done for a greater good. Indeed, those who are desperate to have a regime change in Russia should be very keen for us to detest Mr. Putin. Hence the nonstop, un-nuanced negative coverage. Here I offer a different perspective: what if Putin isn’t an arch-villain? What if he does in fact have redeeming qualities? Should we not try to get to know the man a bit better before we shrug off another regime change or war to rid the world of tyrants?
According to his chief of security, Alexander Korzhakov, Boris Yeltsin worked about two hours per day. The rest he spent eating, drinking, playing tennis, hunting or enjoying some other pastime. Vladimir Putin reportedly works exceptionally long hours and several of his advisers and ministers have testified to working with him until very late into the night and then receiving a call from him early in the morning the next day. Exiled banker and former oligarch Sergei Pugachev described his experience: “…we hardly parted company, we met on a daily basis — from early morning to late evening until 3, until 4 AM, every day, every day. We naturally discussed matters of state business development, the state of the economy and so on. Putin needed someone who understood and knew those matters well.” (Harding, Smith and Maynard 2015)
Some of his advisors and ministers reported meeting with him to discuss some matter within their own domain of specialty only to be startled in realizing that Putin commanded a more detailed understanding of that very matter than they themselves had. Being that immersed in and devoted to his occupation enables Vladimir Putin to hold his famous marathon press conferences when he speaks for three or four hours answering journalists’ questions with accurate and detailed information and without teleprompters. His 14th annual call-in marathon in 2016 lasted 3 and a half hours during which he took and answered 80 questions! Most western politicians no longer dare to face any public forums without pre-packaged and rehearsed speeches, which they read off teleprompters, taking only a handful of questions from friendly reporters before their handlers usher them away from any potential embarrassment.
Fight against terrorism
Russia and the United States have had one major thing in common in the 21st century: their respective wars against terrorism. As the United States took its war on terror to Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia had been fighting her own war on terror in Chechnya which went on for nearly ten years, from August 1999 to April 2009. In the Summer of 2015, only six years after the hostilities had ceased Time magazine’s correspondent Simon Shuster visited Chechnya. He reported that, “Chechnya has undergone a striking transformation. Its cities have been rebuilt with money from Moscow. All traces of its separatist rebellion have been suppressed.” (Shuster and Martinelli 2015)
Indeed, Chechnya under Putin has attained the highest levels of prosperity it’s ever had. The video clip embedded with Shuster’s article related how, “The kids growing up in Chechnya these days are a lot luckier than their parents and grandparents. At least the youngest ones have only known their homeland to be a peaceful and even quite beautiful place, full of enormous mosques and skyscrapers and shopping districts and fast food joints.”
By contrast, American war on terror has left chaos and disorder in all nations it has touched, from Afghanistan and Iraq, to Lybia, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. Kosovo, which has been a de-facto American protectorate since the year 2000, is today the poorest and most corrupt nation in Europe with massive population exodus and unemployment in excess of 35%. Ever sanctimonious West has frequently accused Vladimir Putin of heavy handedness in his fight against Chechen terrorists (whom they usually call “rebels” or “separatists”), but this is an arbitrary and meaningless reproach. Western analysts may know what distinguishes a gentle war on terror from the ruthless kind, but this is a pointless debate that I would propose to settle by “judging them by their fruits.”
Forgiving Cuba’s debts
When Vladimir Putin visited Cuba in 2014, he wrote off 90 percent of the Cuba’s $32 billion debt owed to Russia from the Soviet times. Conceivably, this may have been a calculated gesture made with some ulterior motive favorable to Russia’s interests. Even so, the gesture was remarkable because at that time, Western creditors led by the IMF had been pushing a cruel and inhumane austerity program on Greece for full repayment of her own debts. The same IMF that had raided Russia twenty years prior was now forcing an economic strangulation on Greece with similar effects on that country as it had on Russia in the 1990s.
The deranged mindset of Greece’s creditors was on display during the Brussels Group meeting in March of 2015. As Greece was coming dangerously close to defaulting on her debt obligations, the delegation representing her creditors suggested to Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis that his government would be able to service its debts by withholding the payment of public employee salaries and pensions for two months. (Durden 2015) Recommending outright theft of money from ordinary Greeks did not seem to faze or embarrass Greece’s enterprising creditors.
One and a half years later, in November of 2016, the “leader of the free world,” US President Barack Obama came to Greece on his last official visit. On that occasion, he offered neither help nor debt relief. Instead, he rubbed more salt into the country’s wounds by reiterating that Greece had to continue to press on with austerity, which had already pushed its economy into a crushing depression.
Regardless of motives and national interests, Vladimir Putin’s gesture in Cuba stood in sharp contrast to that of Greece’s creditors and U.S. President Obama. In essence, Vladimir Putin’s gesture toward Cuba was generous and humane. At the same time, West’s treatment of Greece has been inhumane and cruel.
Edward Snowden asylum
In June of 2013, U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden unveiled the massive extent of NSA’s global surveillance program that illegally collected nearly all electronic and telephone communications of ordinary, law abiding Americans and foreign nationals. Exposing the secrets of the American (and British) surveillance state turned Edward Snowden into a wanted man overnight and the CIA mounted one of their most massive manhunts ever. To evade capture, on Sunday, 23rd Jun 2013, Snowden boarded an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong to Moscow. His plan was to fly on to Cuba and from there further to another South American country, possibly Venezuela or Ecuador. U.S. government charged him with espionage and began immediately to pressure various governments around the world to apprehend Snowden and extradite him. By the time his flight from Hong Kong landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, American authorities revoked his passport and he was unable to continue his trip from Moscow, at which point his whereabouts became unclear.
Two days later, on 25th June, Vladimir Putin confirmed that Snowden was still at Sheremetyevo, that he was a free man, that he may choose his own final destination and that Russia would not arrest or extradite him. Through various channels, the U.S. government spent the following days trying to persuade their Russian counter parts to seize Snowden and turn him over. So keen were the Americans on getting Snowden that when they thought that he might attempt to flee Russia on the presidential jet belonging to the Bolivian President Evo Morales, they ordered the French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese authorities to breach international law and deny Bolivian President’s flight access to their airspace, forcing his aircraft to land in Vienna where President Morales and his crew were detained for 14 hours.
CIA’s information that Snowden was on the plane turned out to be false so the whole diplomatic incident only succeeded in unmasking the nature of the relationship between the empire and its European vassals as well as their cavalier attitude toward international law. Apparently laws are there to be broken when the hegemon’s expediency obliges. The incident also showed Edward Snowden that it would have been futile for him to seek asylum with any western nation allied with the U.S. since they would have been likely to violate their own laws to comply with an American extradition request. As a result, Snowden had little choice but to stay put and request asylum in Russia. On the 1st July, Putin stated that Edward Snowden might be granted asylum in Russia on condition that he desists in causing further damage to “our American partners.”
Watching these events unfold through late June and July of 2013, I wondered if the Russians wouldn’t in the end get Edward Snowden and trade him for some big concession from their “American partners” who were clearly extremely keen on getting the renegade whistle-blower. I remember thinking that the outcome of that incident would give us an important indication of what Vladimir Putin was made of: would he do the right thing and offer Snowden asylum and protection, or would he end up trading him off? My gut feeling was that Putin would indeed do the right thing, but at the same time I cringed at the thought that I might end up disappointed. After several weeks of legal procedures, on July 31st 2013, Snowden was granted asylum in Russia.
Today (it’s late March 2017), Edward Snowden has been living as a free man in Russia for nearly four years, thanks largely to Vladimir Putin’s principled stand and courage in defying American pressure. If not for his asylum in Russia, Snowden would today most likely be serving a very long prison sentence for doing his patriotic duty.
To be continued: Is Vladimir Putin Evil? The Corruption Thing (3/3)…
Alex Krainer is a hedge fund manager and author. His book, twice banned by Amazon in September 2017 and again in August 2018 is now available in pdf, kindle, and epub formats at the following link “Grand Deception: Truth About Bill Browder, the Magnitsky Act and Anti-Russian Sanctions.” Paperback version published by Red Pill Press is now available here. Alex also wrote one book on commodities trading.