Middle aged Russian man searches for his masculinity.
It wasn’t so long ago that gumflappers on both the left and right were swooning over Russian president Vladimir Putin’s vim and vigor.
Pat Buchanan, that defender of all that is sacred and American, had this to say:
Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?
In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?
While such a question may be blasphemous in Western circles, consider the content of the Russian president’s state of the nation address.
With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered.”
“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil.”
Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.
No moral confusion here, this is moral clarity, agree or disagree.
President Reagan once called the old Soviet Empire “the focus of evil in the modern world.” President Putin is implying that Barack Obama’s America may deserve the title in the 21st century.
Yes, because America is, finally, evolving beyond a blinkered social parochialism, it is now the “focus of evil in the modern world”. I wonder what Mr. Buchanan’s former boss Pres. Reagan would have to say about that?
Then on the left, we have the likes of Stephen Cohen, professional leftist apologist for the Putin regime. New York Magazine has a rather quick and dirty precis on Prof. Cohen:
The most prominent intellectual apologist for Putin is Stephen F. Cohen, Princeton professor, Russologist for the left-wing Nation. Cohen is a septuagenarian, old-school leftist who has carried on the mental habits of decades of anti-anti-communism seamlessly into a new career of anti-anti-Putinism. The Cohen method is to pick away at every indictment of the Russian regime without directly associating himself with its various atrocities. Is Putin persecuting gays? Well, Cohen wants us to know that various Ukrainians nationalists dislike gays, too. And also Barack Obama’s claim to snub Sochi because of gay rights is probably not on the level. Is Putin bullying and killing journalists? Eh,says Cohen, “Every time a journalist breaks a leg, they say the Kremlin did it.” Accidents happen.
This Vladimir Putin must be some sort of man to unite people as supposedly disparate as Pat Buchanan and Stephen Cohen.
But, with a bit of thought, it’s not that amazing that elements of right and left should view Putin as some sort of savior. What unites them is a vitriolic hatred of Barack Obama and the depths to which they view the country as having sunk. Thus on the right Putin is lavished with praise for his virility and family values. On the left, he’s seen as a thorn in the side of US imperialism, and that black president who dares to work for US national interests, instead of abjectly apologizing for past US sins and ceding influence in the international sphere.
What both sides prattle about is that Pres. Putin is smarter than Pres. Obama, running rings around him diplomatically.
Not much hope was attached to the meeting of the US, EU, Ukraine, and Russia over the crisis between the latter two countries. Again, the usual suspects were saying that the West had no leverage over Russia, Ukraine was in chaos, and Vladimir Putin held all the cards.
Then a deal was struck.
The particulars are these:
* Illegal military formations must be dissolved * Occupied buildings must be vacated and their occupiers disarmed * Ukraine would grant an amnesty to pro-Russian protesters * The Ukrainian political discussion would touch on “inclusivity”, another word for decentralization * All steps are to be overseen by the OSCE, to which both the US and Russia belong
From the Right, President Obama has been castigated for “appeasement” and a “lack of resolve”. From the louder segments of the Left, he’s been upbraided for daring to intervene when after Iraq the US had no moral authority.
Pres. Obama didn’t give in to the hawks who wanted US warships moved into the Black Sea en masse and a buildup of NATO troops on the western borders of Ukraine. And he dismissed the idea that because of the Iraqi misadventure the US had lost all right to speak on the violation of another country’s territorial sovereignty.
He made it clear from the outset that military force against Russia was not an option. And he made it clear that the US would stand up for Ukraine’s rights, in spite of recent history.
Russia, for all its bluster, is a failed Potemkin state. Its economy is vulnerable to outside pressure, as an exporter of energy and raw materials. And the world’s banking system dances to the tune set by the US.