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Putin’s Useful Idiots

Putin’s Useful Idiots

Western intellectuals have long had a soft spot for Russia. Voltaire, the French teacher of tolerance and a great friend of Catherine the Great, said that he would gladly move to Russia, though only if its capital were Kiev, not icy St. Petersburg. Johann Gottfried von Herder, the German philosopher of enlightened nationalism, dreamed that he would obtain earthly glory as the “new Luther and Solon” for an as-yet-unspoiled Ukraine, which he would transform into a “new Greece” within the Russian empire.

And in the last century intellectuals like André Gide, Pablo Neruda and Jean-Paul Sartre all stumped for the Soviet Union as what Lenin allegedly called “useful idiots,” apologizing for its monstrosities long after the rest of the world recognized them.

To those in the Eastern Europe left — myself included — who know Russia better than most, such naïveté has long been a source of chagrin. And yet it continues, even today, as many American and Western European intellectuals do all they can to minimize the dangerous aggression by Vladimir V. Putin.

Writing in The Nation, the Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen argued that Mr. Putin was largely blameless for the conflict in Ukraine, that he had tried to avoid it but that the West had forced his hand. In Mr. Cohen’s eyes, the West has unnecessarily humiliated Russia by inviting countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join NATO.

Ukraine, he wrote, is part of Russia’s sphere of influence, so why can’t we just accept Mr. Putin’s proposal that Ukraine be federalized, with neutrality guaranteed in a new constitution?

Mr. Cohen’s defense of Russia’s sphere of influence overlooks the question of whether the countries that fall within it are there by choice or coercion. Ukraine is willing to be in the Western sphere of influence because it receives support for civil society, the economy and national defense — and Russia does nothing of the kind.

Mr. Cohen and others don’t just defend Russia; they attack the pro-democracy activists in Ukraine. Another American pundit, Max Blumenthal, described the Euromaidan movement as “filled with far-right street-fighting men pledging to defend their country’s ethnic purity.”

True, such people were present at the square, but they were marginal figures, and slogans about ethnic purity never gained popularity. Yes, generally speaking, Ukraine has its skinheads and its anti-Semites and even serial killers, pedophiles and Satanists. They are not present in smaller or larger numbers than in any other country, even in the most mature European state.

In one particularly egregious passage, Mr. Blumenthal writes about how the “openly pro-Nazi politics” of the Ukrainian political party Svoboda and its leader, Oleg Tyagnibok, “have not deterred Senator John McCain from addressing a Euromaidan rally,” nor did it “prevent Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland from enjoying a friendly meeting with the Svoboda leader this February.”

That distorts how these things work. A whole range of Western political leaders traveled to Euromaidan, and virtually all of them were photographed with Mr. Tyagnibok. For better or worse, Svoboda was part of the coalition of parties behind the Euromaidan movement, and they had agreed to support one another. Americans would behave exactly the same way in a similar situation.

Strangely, Western intellectuals seem unbothered by anyone who notes the similarity between their pronouncements and Russian propaganda. Indeed, they dismiss such charges out of hand. Zoltan Grossman, who teaches at Evergreen State in Olympia, Wash., writes that it is “wrong and irresponsible to assert that the presence of fascists and Nazis in the new government is merely Russian propaganda.”

For Dr. Grossman, inconvenient details are less important than the fact that Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the far-right organization Right Sector, had been appointed deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

That sounds ominous, until you realize that Mr. Yarosh is not formally a member of the government, and that in February he met with Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine and gave public assurances that Right Sector intended to fight all instances of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and chauvinism.

What naïve American intellectuals say free of charge, the canny Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, says for 250,000 euros a year as a board member of Gazprom, the Russian oil giant. Mr. Schröder, the German father of “Gazprom socialism” — a new subspecies of limousine liberalism — has repeatedly embarrassed Berlin by supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

He isn’t alone — another former chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, has likewise sung Russia’s praises of late, as has Günter Verheugen, a prominent former European Union commissioner.

What drives these men? Is it a case of poorly conceived pacifism? An eruption of remorse for war crimes carried out against Russians, so many years ago? Or the Stockholm syndrome of a victim fascinated by his executioner?

Obviously, they are entitled to their opinions. But in speaking out this way they are doing great damage to Germany’s postwar government, built on a commitment to democracy and national self-determination, everything that is currently under attack by Mr. Putin.

The irony is that by standing beside Russia and pointing fingers at fascist phantoms in Ukraine, Western intellectuals are aligning themselves not just with the autocrat in the Kremlin, but the legions of far-right parties across Europe that have come to Russia’s defense, among them Hungary’s Jobbik, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Austria’s Freedom Party, Italy’s Lega Nord and the French Front National. Who says Russia needs propaganda? It already has its useful idiots.

Slawomir Sierakowski became a contributing opinion writer for The International New York Times in the fall of 2013. Mr. Sierakowski, born in 1979, is a Polish sociologist and political commentator. He is a founder and leader of Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique), an Eastern European movement of liberal intellectuals, artists and activists, with branches in Ukraine and Russia. He is also the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw and the president of the Stanislaw Brzozowski Association, overseeing its publishing house; its online opinion site; cultural centers in Warsaw, Gdansk, Lodz and Cieszyn, in Poland, and in Kiev, Ukraine; and 20 local clubs.

contributors-images-slide-VVT3-articleInlineA graduate of the University of Warsaw, Mr. Sierakowski has been awarded fellowships from Yale, Princeton and Harvard and from the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He has written for many journals and newspapers, including The Guardian, El País, Haaretz and Die Tageszeitung and Gazeta Wyborcza. He has also collaborated (as a writer and actor) on “Mary Koszmary” (“Nightmares”) in 2008, which was expanded into a film trilogy, “And Europe Will Be Stunned,” by the Israeli-Dutch visual artist Yael Bartana. The work represented Poland in the 2011 Venice Biennale.
APRIL 28, 2014
Slawomir Sierakowski is a sociologist, a founder of the Krytyka Polityczna movement and the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw. This article was translated by Maria Blackwood from the Polish.
www.nytimes.com/2014/04/29/opinion/sierakowski-putins-useful-idiots.html?_r=0

Read More: Der Spiegel getting into the Putin’s useful idiots club by linking the Ukraine government to Syrian jihadists.
euromaidanpr.com/2014/04/28/der-spiegel-about-worthless-ukraine/#more-7887

German government distances itself from Schröder after Putin embrace How much is Germany anti-Ukrainian or how much pro-Russian is Germany?
www.dw.de/german-government-distances-itself-from-schr%C3%B6der-after-putin-embrace/a-17600263

Unverschämt!
www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/ukraine-krise-gerhard-schroeder-feiert-mit-wladimir-putin-geburtstag-a-966641.html

Merkel fury after Gerhard Schroeder backs Putin on Ukraine Is Merkel also a Russophile and former communist buddy of Putin?
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/10697986/Merkel-fury-after-Gerhard-Schroeder-backs-Putin-on-Ukraine.html

Terrible weapon of propaganda against Ukraine.

Ruslana: The problem is, we are dealing with this terrible weapon of propaganda against Ukraine. And we are not defending ourselves in any way from it.
And as a result, these are the consequences.

All weak spots were stepped on.
All aspects have… been touched, religion, language, military power – everything, all the main basis of support have been touched.
When will we actually be engaged in propaganda FOR Ukraine?
When will we be engaged in that internal core, which is a base for our country.

The fact that Russia suddenly, thanks to this propaganda, became aggressive.

Today I will be repeating the word “propaganda” as many times as possible, until we all memorize how much more terrible this weapon is, much more frightening than all the tanks gathered together around our borders.

And so, exactly thanks to this propaganda, note sociology. .
Yes, the selection is not very big – only 4.5 thousand respondents, nevertheless, an indicator.
More than 50% of simple people living in Moscow are ready to go to war with Ukraine… This is the result of propaganda…
These are the consequences of the entire negative, splashed out on us by Kremlin, and I personally think – Putin’s politics.

It’s absolutely obvious to me that now all these conflicts, this artificially created situation, absolutely accurately injected informational viruses, absolutely all of us are infected, everyone, even those who considers themselves adequate, believe me, certain nervousness is already programmed in us.

As it’s clear to us what situation we are in. (I want to use concrete word…)

And we are trying to understand, how to simply go outside with the flag and try saying something nice… you might get killed, taken down. I can’t…
I am trying to plan a trip to, at least one of the cities in the east, and it’s impossible because I’m told, “well, Ruslana, there is not enough security present to ensure your safety”.

I know that there are people living in Donbass, who call every day asking for some help. They say, “We are patriots, we won’t give up Ukraine. Will never give up Ukraine, never, under no circumstances. Kiev, please, give us a hand”.
There were 300 signatures collected in 3 hours, if I’m not mistaken. Look, these are live signatures of people from Donetsk who signed for united Ukraine.
They ask Turchinov (acting President) to somehow personally pay attention to protection. The East is protected neither by police, nor by “Berkut”, nor by informational politics.
Can you understand how it’s for these people to live in these conditions?

Here I’m specially addressing to them! Guys! We will come to you and will help, and we will give you a hand. Most important – please keep that core inside you! Your core is Ukrainian!

Three facts to the guys in the east who are watching this program now.

Guys, “Russian Radio” started broadcasting in Lviv, started about a year ago. Was there at least one person who came outside with protests, did you hear anything like this, that Lviv was protesting against “Russian Radio”? It’s broadcasting and people area listening to it in minibuses. I will even tell you more, God forgive my hometown, but it’s the fact. And is there at least one problem? – No.

I will tell you more, my mother is Russian, and she is from Ural.
My mother speaks Russian in L’viv 35 years. Nobody has ever made a remark regarding that during her whole life.

And the third, concerning fascist technologies, we were sent the poster (everyone knows about it, it was disbursed online) – there is an eagle on the background and a mother with the child. This is classical propaganda, in Soviet style posters, and it has writing: the Russian Empire brings you better life. There was identical Hitler poster found dating to the 1930’s, absolutely similar picture, simply changed the name.

That is, after all, technologists know what gets on people’s nerves, what intimidates them, keeps them frightened. This means, it is necessary for Putin to keep Russia in awe, and for some reason we are the ones suffering from that. Perhaps, after all, we will find (I will address to you all the time) find that core within ourselves, find it, it is Ukrainian, it is much stronger than Russian core, we is stronger today. The problem now is not puppet – Yanukovich. He already ran away. There is much more serious problem upon us, and unfortunately, most likely Ukrainians will need to fight this problem. And this problem is one word – Putin.

Once again I can appeal to Putin because it is my method. I personally chose it. I travel worldwide and try to implement protection for our country’s image on the informational arena, because it is getting killed at the international level, globally, and killing us in such manner than it’s very difficult to imagine.

Here is one of those famous plots, very famous on the internet, where the same person is filmed in two different episodes and showed on two different Russian TV channels. According to the story, he brought about 500 thousands EUR to Maidan in order to supply military protective uniform. I was at Maidan. We never had any protective uniform. There was always deficiency. We had merely 20 armored shields for the entire Maidan and we exchanged them often with each other, depending what direction the bullets were coming from. In the second video, same person played anti-maidan protester who took part in rally against current temporary government and was beaten there. So this means that Russian propaganda technologists work crudely. It means that not in all cases everything has been going well. They rely on the idea that we are all, Russians in particular, stupid idiots who are going to believe anything they say. So, they work very and very crudely.

Now I would like to appeal to some Putin’s agents…

I hope Putin will get this appeal on his table sooner or later.
Taking an opportunity, once again I want to address to Putin and say:

“If you think that there were technologies, I personally, as a person who was at Maidan, can tell you that no technologies were present. I did not see them. I was at Maidan for 4 months, 3 for sure, and the last month I devoted to international travels and meetings. However, in the course of 3 months, during which day-by-day, night-by-night, I was at Maidan, everything was born in itself, people thought it out under way. We organized it because it didn’t exist and it was immediately needed. So, why are you assuming the right to our so-called “technologies”, inversing it? Why do you use everything we created and show it as the end product of technology? But there were no technologies. It was simply defense mechanism of Ukrainian people to actions you tried to implement with the help of Yanukovych”.

That’s all!

Ruslana receives Women of Courage award
www.kyivpost.com/guide/people/lifestyle-blog-ruslana-receives-women-of-courage-award-338653.html