Breaking Vlad: The American Conservative Obsession with Putin

The sun glistens from his bare chest as he emerges from the water; in all his virile glory, Vladimir Putin captivates the masses with his stoic Soviet countenance and his powerful pectorals.  In the United States, a sense of fascination emerges, and borders on obsession with Putin and his carefully constructed image.

Putin’s contrived persona hearkens back to the type of propaganda that set the stage for the glory days of the Soviet Union, when leaders were elevated to mythical status, and the people’s affections fluctuated between fear of a fascist regime and the nationalistic pride that comes from isolation and coerced adoration.

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In the 1980’s reforms were attempted to resurrect the dwindling economy and stagnating policies of communist Russia.  Gorbachev instituted glasnost/perestroika reforms, but after a crippling series of uprisings and revolts, the Soviet Union was ultimately dissolved, and a new era of democracy was ushered in to a dazed region, not certain what to do with all of that freedom.

Gorbachev’s successor, Boris Yeltsin, helped to create an air of liberty that Russians had previously never known.  However, as a leader he flailed uncertainly and the former superpower tanked.  The dramatic fall of the Soviet Union devastated its economy.  With republics now cut off from the Kremlin and forced to govern themselves, Russia and the entire Eastern Bloc spiraled into a depression that made the Great Depression in the United States look mild by comparison.  As post-Soviet states struggled to stay afloat, desperation reigned in the once formidable land of the hammer and sickle.

In the minds of many, the question began to emerge.  Did we make a mistake?  Were things better when we were united?  Was the U.S.S.R. really so bad?  What has become of our once great people?  Polls held across the former Soviet states show that the majority of people feel that the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. was harmful to the region.  In one tramadol hc Orlando, it was revealed that upwards of 60% of Russians are nostalgic for the Soviet system.  The only group who does not believe dissolution was a mistake, includes young people who did not live during the time.

http://www.evpmc.org/Like a bear depicted in Russian folk art, Vladimir Putin emerged from the woods to remind the world of that fierce Soviet stoicism of a bygone era.  Putin lists czarist reformer Peter the Great as the historical figure he most admires. He is most relaxed while listening to Tchaikovsky.  His grandfather was a cook for both Stalin and Lenin.  As a young boy, he dreamed of one day becoming a spy for mother Russia.  He became a martial arts expert. After graduating from Leningrad State University, he joined the KGB.

With the collapse of the Berlin wall, Putin’s assignment as an undercover agent in East Germany was ended.  After assisting the KGB in a failed coup against Gorbachev, Putin left the KGB altogether.

When Putin arrived on the political scene, he was a man of mystery and ambition.  Landing a spot in Yeltsin’s administration, he soon took the role of head of the Federal Security Service (successor of the KGB).  In 1999, he became Prime Minister. Several months later he won the Presidential ballot.  Four years later, he was re-elected in a land slide victory that was not devoid of corruption speculation.

As President, Putin put the smack down on uprisings.  He ground down Chechen rebellion, which delighted many Russians, even if it did involve a few human rights violations.  Putin was solidifying his image as a no-nonsense tough guy.  He began to flex his muscles on the world stage, flaunting Russia as a newly established energy-superpower, injecting himself into Middle East affairs, condemning western policies and trampling down home grown dissent.  Putin is a star.  Oh sure, there is a bit of funny business with his elections.  And yes, if you’re a minority of any kind, you’re not exactly treated with kindness by the Putin administration… but mostly… Putin rocks.  His popularity ranking remains around 70%, even if the polls MIGHT be a little bit skewed to his favor… Putin rocks.

Putin further demonstrated his strangle hold on Russia when his hand picked successor , Dmitry  Medvedev,  selected Putin to be Prime Minister, only to step down and swap jobs (a notoriously obvious sidestepping of term limit laws), allowing Putin back into the Presidency, likely assuring his authoritarian style rule until 2024.  The shenanigans involved in this bizarre switcheroo were not lost on the Russian people.

Meanwhile, the United States is in turmoil.  We’ve elected a President that promised hope and change, and has delivered nothing but a flailing economy and division.  His policies are unpopular, his backbone is non-existent, he embraces controversial social issues, and his popularity plummets.

Putin is nothing if not a savvy politico.  He sees a chance to make his move and solidify his presence as an admired leader, not only at home but abroad.  Putin begins to court the west, particularly U.S. conservatives.

One of Us!!

The conservative Pro-Putin machine first lurched into motion in the wake of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws.   Conservative pundits marveled at the bravery of such an action, while my Facebook stream blew up with comments like, “I’m moving to Russia!”  Few seemed to consider the actual climate in Russia or the past despotism of Putin and his cronies.  It seems that a little bit of anti-gay fervor was all it took to win many hearts and minds.

It seemed to bring out the worst in people. While the Russian laws themselves dealt primarily with public homosexual “propaganda” (in essence, it is illegal to promote the gay lifestyle to people under 18 years of age), it quickly became clear that the official stance opened the door for thugs to take out their hatred against homosexuals in a more public way, while police and other officials turned a blind eye.  A prominent Russian actor and celebrity, Ivan Okhlobystin, is quoted as saying of gays “I’d burn them all alive in ovens.”  Violence against gays has risen across Russia, including attacks from neo-nazi groups and orthodox sympathizers. Even if these reports are overblown, that they are happening at all is cause for concern, and one would presume that Christians would stand in opposition to such violence.  Sadly, I’ve continued to witness a lack of compassion from my brothers and sisters, instead I see excuses and allowances being made.  For me, this is tragic.

Interestingly, when it comes to things that most conservatives are upset with our own leadership about, Putin seems to be on board, even backing Obama’s administration when it comes to issues like the NSA scandal.  Of the Snowden leaks, one might presume that Putin is in favor of transparency, given the asylum Russia is currently giving to the whistleblower.  Not so.  Putin says, “How do I feel about Obama after Snowden’s revelations? I envy him because he can do this without incurring any consequences.”  Putin’s support of spying tactics shouldn’t be shocking, given his ex-KGB status.

Still, conservatives have been wooed by Putin’s stark criticism of Obama on other matters.  On the issue of foreign intervention, Putin said, “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it.”

Between his ruggedly outdoorsy appeal that hearkens to a simpler time in our own nation’s history, and his fearlessly conservative views on social issues, religious issues, and geopolitical issues, why should conservative minded person be wary of Vladimir Putin?
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1.  In reports compiled during his time in East Germany working for the KGB, Putin was described as a “philanderer and a wifebeater”.

2.  Apartments allegedly blown up by Chechen rebels made Putin’s election a sure thing.  Some evidence suggests that intelligence agencies staged the bombing in an effort to bolster the Putin campaign with Putin complicit in the false flag.  One man wrote a book exposing the fraud. He is now dead of radiation poising.

3.  A Wikileaks cable reveals that Putin’s topless publicity stunts and outdoor exploits could be just that… stunts. The U.S. Embassy in Russia called him lazy and saying he prefers not to go out, opting to work from home.

4.  Political prisoners: If you are wealthy and powerful, and could potentially launch a successful campaign against Putin or his policies, Putin will put you behind bars for a long time.  Mikhail Khodorkovsky ‘sent to secret prison’   (Khodorkovsky was recently released ahead of the Sochi games.  He currently advocates for the release of all of Putin’s political prisoners)

5.  More political prisoners:  There are about 70 people listed by a Russian human rights organization who are considered political prisoners, many of whom committed the crime of being publicly opposed to the Putin administration.

6.  He stole New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s 2004 Super Bowl Ring. Seriously! And he was “advised” by the Bush administration to say it was a gift to Putin, so as not to sour U.S./Russia relations.  But Kraft says that Putin brazenly took the ring.  Kraft: Putin stole Bowl ring

7.  A lot… I mean a LOT of journalists have been killed while Putin has been in office. Journalistic death toll in Putin’s Russia

8.  Many Conservatives appreciate Putin’s defense of Christian values and adherence to Christian principles. It is important to note that while Putin has called for an end to persecution of Christians worldwide, things function somewhat differently inside his own country.  Putin is an adherent to the Russian Orthodox Church, and some have suggested the ROC involvement in government matters has become troublesome.  Head ROC Patriarch Kirill referred to Putin’s time in power as a “miracle from God.”  ROC clergy are allowed to run for office.  Putin has said he’d like to see the ROC gain more control over Russian life.  Meanwhile, religious tolerance inside Russia and outside the ROC is still quite tenuous.  ROC has a favored status.  It is the de facto official religion of Russia.  Why is this a problem?

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It isn’t, unless you live in Russia and are NOT a member of the ROC.  In once case, a Methodist church was visited and harassed by the FSB (successor of the KGB), labeled as a sect, and eventually forced to shut down.  According to the NY Times, 300 miles from Moscow in a city called Stary Oskol:

the police evicted a Seventh-day Adventist congregation from its meeting hall, forcing it to hold services in a ramshackle home next to a construction site. Evangelical Baptists were barred from renting a theater for a Christian music festival, and were not even allowed to hand out toys at an orphanage. A Lutheran minister said he had moved away for a few years because he feared for his life. He has returned, but keeps a low profile.

On local television last month, the city’s chief Russian Orthodox priest, who is a confidant of the region’s most powerful politicians, gave a sermon that was repeated every few hours. His theme: Protestant heretics.

“We deplore those who are led astray – those Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, evangelicals, Pentecostals and many others who cut Christ’s robes like bandits, who are like the soldiers who crucified Christ, who ripped apart Christ’s holy coat,” declared the priest, the Reverend Aleksei Zorin.

So, as you can see, in Putin’s Russia, Christianity equals Russian Orthodox Church, and most other denominations are considered “sects”.  They are often barred from sharing literature and suffer harassment.

My aim with this article is simple.  It is meant to serve as a wake up call to those who would proclaim Vladimir Putin to be some sort of hero for the Conservative Christian cause.  While he has certainly gone out of his way to portray himself as a defender of many things conservative Americans value, his statements abroad often do not line up with his actions in his own country.  His appeal to the conservative west is clearly contrived.  It is a calculated political maneuver to garner him more power and appeal on the world stage.

I have been somewhat shocked to see conservatives embrace this man.  His personal ideology and political philosophy is antithetical to what we as Americans claim to hold dear.  Putin’s totalitarian views and oppressive actions are not worthy of admiration.  For my Facebook friends who have become fond of saying things like, “We need someone like Putin in control here in the U.S., I simply say… be careful what you wish for.


 

Breaking Vlad: The American Conservative Obsession with Putin

Further Reading:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/apr/26/vladimirs-tale/?pagination=false

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/01/us-russia-putin-church-idUSBRE91016F20130201

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/dec/18/observer-editorial-putin-russia-journalists-murdered

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/world/europe/23iht-church.4.12274801.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

 

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