I admit it, I admire Russia’s leader Putin. He seems the only major Western leader who rises any where near the category of Statesman.
This may seem strange for one who was raised during the height of the Cold War, but I am not alone in my admiration. In elementary and middle school in the 1950s we were taught to expect a Russian nuclear attack any time. Russia was the great beast behind everything bad. Ludicrously, fifth graders were told to shelter under their desks in case of such an attack.
Strangely, we were not taught much about why Communism was so evil. Some of the biggest haters of Russia, although they were not alone, were Trotsky Communists who were later to emerge as Neoconservatives and are still today preaching war against post-Communist Russia, doubtless for their own reasons. Nobody really explained why Russia had become so great an enemy in the 1950s after being our “great democratic ally” in World War II.
When I was growing up Communism was for many a true obsession. It was not something to be sensibly countered, but an unearthly evil that had to be actively destroyed. The atmosphere resembled the hysterical, fanatical hatred of the South that dominated much Yankee mentality in the 1850s. Our rulers went so far that they had a plan to massacre Americans and blame it on the Cuban Communists.
I don’t pretend to have any expert authority over Cold War history, but when the rulers are not interested in defending their own people but involved in international gamesmanship, you know something is seriously wrong.
It was also curious that the Establishment suppressed patriotic efforts to expose the Communist spies in its own membership who did so much to strengthen the Communist regime in Russia. See two excellent recent books: Stalin’s War by Sean McMeekin and American Betrayal by Diana West.
But then came the great civilizational triumph of the fall of the Soviet Union. What a great moment for mankind! Russia could now be welcomed back into the fraternity of free nations, join the West economically and culturally to the enrichment to both sides, and the greatest threat to peace be gone.
It didn’t happen. I never saw my “Peace Dividend.” Instead, Washington did everything it could to loot Russian resources and keep up an air of hostility and suspicion. The leaders of the U.S. have too big a political and economic investment in a gigantic defense establishment to welcome peace. That establishment supposedly is required to defend “democracy” around the world. The U.S. is now more aggressive and projecting more military power over previously untouched areas than it was in the Cold War. They have launched massive costly defeated wars in the Mideast on the pretext of fighting terrorism. Terrorists are best dealt with by very good Special Forces, not huge invasions.
The U.S. Establishment is now fighting a proxy war and whipping up hate against post-Communist Russia. A border dispute between Russia and the criminal regime of the Ukraine is not a grave international crisis---unless we make it so. It is not a world class threat to democracy. The ignorant American press and public has no idea that Washington has repeatedly rejected Putin’s reasonable requests for negotiations. And unlike the U.S. leadership, Putin has resisted provocation to make the conflict bigger. He has all along tried to achieve friendly relations with a West that refuses to treat Russia as a fellow. Unlike the American elite, he actually believes in and defends Western civilization.
Putin may well have made some mistakes. But unlike the Western elites, he actually has a statesmanlike vision and actually does what he thinks is best for his country and people.
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews