Russia: Everything Old is New Again
Russia: Everything Old is New Again
The left has suddenly discovered that Russia is not a friendly, fuzzy country with which we can initiate a reset by pressing a fake, amusingly mislabeled button, but an adversary that has never stopped considering the United States its primary national security threat and has been engaging in a longterm strategy to restore its own power at the West’s expense.
Barack Obama ridiculed Mitt Romney during the 2012 Presidential elections, when the latter informed the then-President that Russia was our “number one geopolitical foe.” However anyone who has been paying attention to Russia’s activities since the fall of the Berlin Wall, could see that Russia was down, but definitely not out in this larger geopolitical conflict.
Slowly, but surely, under Vladimir Putin’s leadership – and even when Dmitry Medvedev was President while Putin took a hiatus as Prime Minister before returning to the leadership role – Russia has been transforming itself back to the ultra-nationalist, government jackboot-loving adversarial state that has briefly flirted with capitalism (which quickly turned into crony capitalism) and now is going right back to its statist roots.
A recent poll revealed that a record 70 percent of Russians now approve of Josef Stalin’s role in Russia’s history. This is not some extremist organization doing the polling. The Levada Center is a well respected, most objective polling organization in Russia that was designated as a foreign agent last year, probably because they refused to toe the party line and got some funding from outside Russia.
To quote Joe Biden, this is a big fucking deal. It means that Russia’s longtime nationalist propaganda campaign is having an effect.
Stalin’s image has been gradually rehabilitated in the 2000s from that of a bloody autocrat to an “outstanding leader.” President Vladimir Putin has revived the Soviet anthem, Soviet-style military parades and a Soviet-era medal for labor during his presidency.
Seventy percent of Russian respondents told the Levada Center in 2019 that Stalin played a positive role for Russia. Stalin’s previous record approval rating stood at 54 percent in 2016.
A record low of 19 percent viewed Stalin’s role negatively, down from 32 percent in 2016.
“Stalin begins to be perceived as a symbol of justice and an alternative to the current government, deemed unfair, cruel and not caring about people,” Academy of Sciences sociologist Leonty Byzov was quoted as saying by the RBC news website.
For those of us who have been watching Russia for a while, this comes as no surprise.
Putin took advantage of the disenchantment that came about after Russia’s turn to free markets became a vehicle for crony capitalists to cash in with the help of corrupt government officials. Those capitalists who tried to buck the system or opposed Putin were destroyed in one way or another. Former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested by Russian authorities and charged with fraud. The shares of his company Yukos were then frozen, and Putin’s government subsequently took further actions against Yukos, leading to a collapse of the company. In 2005 Khodorkovsky was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison, and while he was serving his time he was found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering. All because Khodorkovsky was openly critical of what he refers to as “managed democracy” within Russia.
Putin rules Russia with an iron paw, and the nationalism is one of the tools by which he controls Russian society. In 2005, Putin repatriated the remains of nationalist Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin – a significant symbolic gesture – and began to feature him prominently in his speeches. Yale University professor Timothy Snyder gave a quick lesson on Ilyin and how his fascist philosophy is applicable to today’s modern warfare a few years ago. The philosophy redefines “freedom” as knowing your set place in society, with democracy as a ritual and not a reality, while new technologies such as social media are helping turn this old fascism into political warfare.
Beyond the symbology of Ilyin, Putin has been instrumental in bringing back pro-nationalist propaganda to Russian schools. In 2013, he ordered historians to rewrite Russian history books.
Also in 2013, Russia passed an “anti-gay” propaganda law to appeal to Russian nationalists and exploit the Russian Orthodox Church as a tool to bring back “family values.” The state Duma unanimously passed a bill banning the promotion of “homosexual propaganda” and mandating stiff fines for violators. This came on the heels of another piece of… legislation, which punished those who “insult religious feelings” with fines and jail time.
Banning speech and other forms of expression that hurts TEH FEELZ™. Is anyone else reminded of today’s social justice left? Remember when in late May 2013 Judicial Watch reported that the Obama Justice Department warned that using social media to spread information considered inflammatory against Muslims could constitute a violation of civil rights?
This year Russia dropped even lower on the Reporters Without Borders annual index of press freedoms – to 149 out of 180. Putin this year signed a “fake news” law, criminalizing free speech and making it a crime to disrespect the state and publish “fake news,” bringing back the specter of Soviet Union censorship.
And let’s not forget Russia’s continued aggression toward its neighbors, toward NATO, and toward the West writ large and its continued attempts to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the former Soviet states.
Russia has meddled in the affairs of at least 27 European and North American countries since 2004 with interference that ranges from cyberattacks to disinformation campaigns, according to an analysis by a surveillance organization.
The alleged Russian interference abroad was compiled by the Alliance for Securing Democracy of the German Marshall Fund, a nonprofit organization that fosters closer bonds between the United States and Europe. In August, the group began tracking Russian efforts to influence U.S. public opinion through a network of Twitter accounts that disseminates messages considered helpful to the Kremlin.
The amusing thing is that today’s left doesn’t realize or comprehend just how much it is beginning to resemble the Soviets, even as they screech about TrumpHitlerRussia and blame the Russians for handing President Trump the election without actually understanding their tactics or motives.
Their tactics are nothing new. Their “active measures” have been adapted to today’s technology, but have been in use for decades, and the threat hasn’t changed or evolved. Thanks to continued Russian messaging, more than two-thirds of Russians view the US as their number one enemy – not their government that continues to stifle speech, send military and security personnel to undermine the democratic processes and territorial integrity of its neighbors, thereby bringing international scorn and sanctions, as well as economic troubles to Russia’s door, and refuses to diversify its economy, relying almost exclusively on energy exports while building up its military at the expense of other government institutions. No, the US.
And yet, the tonedeaf left – and at least some on the right – think that example is one to follow.
College students shun the First Amendment if speech or expression offends their tender sensibilities.
Conservative activists are attacked both verbally and physically on college campuses.
Filthy antifa and other scum stage violent demonstrations the moment they get a whiff of any opposing view getting a stage to speak.
Politicians air their fascist wet dreams in public without fear of scorn, because today’s left is so extremist, they no longer condemn attacks on free speech – or the Second Amendment, for that matter – and applaud it as long as it silences (or nukes) those who disagree with them.
And lest you think that this clownery is limited to the left, I want to remind you of what has become known as the media “blacklist” of outlets that have been banned from certain Trump events, echoing Barack Obama’s relentless assaults on Fox News that got even Jake Tapper to publicly slap the Obama Administration, and of the President’s continued demands that we need to “do something” about media bias.
No, we are not careening toward a fascist state, as the left hysterically claims, but we need to be more self-aware and more cautious not only about how we view Russia, but also about our own social and political environment and how we treat political opposition.
Learn the lessons of history before we repeat them.