The New York Post
December 12, 2016
Vladimir Putin is our enemy. Not because we want him to be, but because resentment and hatred of the United States is central to his being. Russia’s president yearns to do us harm.
He blames us for the Soviet Union’s self-wrought collapse. He blames us for Russian stagnation. He blames us for the derelict lot of his drunken, diseased country. And he wants revenge.
Putin has five strategic goals: He wants international sanctions lifted, Europe divided and NATO destroyed. He seeks to restore the empire of the czars. And he wants to humiliate the United States.
Americans and Europeans are targets of a ruthless, audacious and skillful disinformation campaign portraying Russia as a victim, not an aggressor. Not since the heyday of the Soviet-sponsored Ban-the-Bomb movement in the 1950s has Kremlin propaganda thrived so broadly.
We naively insist the truth will prevail. That’s nonsense. Putin knows that big lies work, if repeated until absorbed. And he’s aided by Western stooges who, for money or malice or moral malfeasance, abet Putin in deluding our populations.
The current pro-Putin narrative holds that Russia’s a martyr to Western aggression, that we’ve abused Russia since the USSR dissolved and that NATO’s eastward expansion equals aggression. Then there are the preposterous claims that Russia’s battling Islamist terrorists on behalf of civilization, even as Russian bombs butcher civilians by the thousands.
We can’t polygraph all the pro-Putin voices (although I’d love to, publicly), so let’s look at the facts of what Putin has done.
-- He interfered with our presidential election via computer hacking, the use of front organizations and fake news (Kremlin-gate may prove our worst political scandal). His military challenges us in the skies and at sea. In Afghanistan, his agents assist the Taliban. In Syria, his jets target Syrian hospitals, clinics and civilians in a literal “Slaughter of the Innocents” at Christmastide.
-- He invaded Georgia and Ukraine (the latter twice). He threatens the NATO-member Baltic states and subsidizes Europe’s extremist political parties to radicalize electorates, undercut democracy and realign nations with Russia.
-- At home, he suffocated Russia’s nascent democracy, crushed the free press, jailed and murdered his opposition, cheated foreign investors and turned Russia into a gangster state where the czar is the only law.
What of his claim of a vast Western conspiracy to harm Russia?
I served in Washington (traveling often to Moscow) as the Soviet Union died of organ failure. Far from attempting to punish the “new” Russia, we and our European allies fell all over ourselves to indulge Moscow’s whims and encourage investment. Our State Department’s infatuation with the “new” Russia was embarrassingly extreme.
Nor did our goodwill end with the Clinton administration’s witless indulgence. President George W. Bush insisted he’d seen into Putin’s soul and that we could be partners. Putin then embarrassed Bush with glee. Next, President Obama fooled himself into believing he could deal constructively with Putin behind the backs of American voters. He wound up shocked and humiliated.
Putin would be delighted to chump another US president.
Russia’s problems are made in Russia. We’ve tried to help, not harm. But Russians refuse to help themselves, preferring brutality, squalor and hostility to the rule of law and civilization.
As for the upside-down charge that NATO’s eastward expansion signaled aggression against Russia, look at how Putin has treated non-NATO-member Ukraine and you’ll understand why the newly free states of eastern Europe cling to history’s greatest peacetime alliance.
Putin suggests a Russian right to the Baltics and Ukraine, as well as to hegemony in Eastern Europe. Russia has no such rights. Ukraine has not “always” been part of Russia. It was conquered in the 18th century and, ever since, Moscow has tried to crush Ukrainian identity, from czarist-era bans on the Ukrainian language to Stalin’s horrific man-made famine that killed at least 10 million.
Is it any wonder Ukraine doesn’t want the bear back? Or that Ukrainian (and Baltic) partisans continued to fight the Red Army and its commissars after World War II?
As for the Baltic states, when they gained independence after World War I, they went through an incredible cultural flowering — only to be invaded by the Red Army, the Nazis and the Red Army again. Now they want to live in peace and freedom, as part of the West to which their cultures belong. How is that aggressive? Is little Latvia going to march on Moscow?
The east-European states — above all, Poland — know too well how savage Russian mastery can be. The key event in modern Polish-Russian relations remains the mass murder in the Katyn Forest of 15,000 Polish-officer POWs by Stalin’s secret police. The nightmare of Soviet domination followed. Is Poland wrong to fear Russia?
Should those who suffered under Moscow’s tyranny forget the slaughter of workers in Berlin in 1953? The bloodbath in Hungary in ’56? Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in ’68? Or the millions who disappeared into the Gulag?
Russia’s victims scream warnings from the grave.
In today’s age of cyber-assaults, Russian subversion and Putin’s naked aggression, fear is back. We must decide what we value, either freedom and decency, or foolhardy efforts to make friends of monsters.
To align ourselves with Putin in 2017 would be the equivalent of allying with Hitler in 1937.
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