Russia experts in the West

The Western media touts a bizarre array of so-called experts on Russia. These range from Western academics who simply live in delusional universes of their own making to dissidents who, like most dissidents, know which side their bread is buttered and will say what their new masters in MI6 and NATO require. (The media usually slavishly reports whatever they say without doubting a morsel). Many of these experts work for “think-tanks” with clear links to the Western war machine.

This is an interview by someone whom the Guardian describes as “an expert on Russian politics and crime”. Mark Galeotti is a writer on Russia. He is an “associate fellow” of the Royal United Services Institute in London.

A few extracts and comments is all, sadly, I have time for:

On Putin: “he could be considered something of a lazy autocrat who sits back and lets others come up with all kinds of plans and stratagems of their own.”. It is de rigueur if you want to be taken seriously as a commentator on Russia in the world of the military linked anti-Russia campaign to be personally abusive towards Putin. An accurate observer of Putin will note that he is a man of thought and compassion; a serious exponent of Judo he is a man who understands honour. We are talking here about the man as he relates to children and young people (for example) whom he meets in the course of his duties. All this abuse will not touch a man of this level of development. The idea may have some merit (indeed does) – Putin is to some extent a figurehead and others around him come up with political ideas. But the abuse is gratuitous.

“But Russia is very much in a process of transition: it is moving, very slowly admittedly, into a more western pattern that is familiar to us. “. This is true. Russia is doing precisely this. Just read the OECD reports. In some areas Russia is ahead of the West – at least in the centre, though much of the “good practice” e.g. in social welfare, does not reach far from the centre. Russia would move less slowly if it wasn’t being strangled with sanctions.

In answer to a question “What are Putin’s key motivations?” this expert on Russian politics and crime deigns to tell us: “They are essentially emotional. One of them is for his own security and, most importantly, legacy.” How Mr Galeotti is able to read Mr Putin’s psychology from afar is not explained. Further; had Mr Galeotti cared about what he was saying he would not have fallen into this trap. He has explained that Russia cannot be understood solely in terms of ‘Putin’ – that there are many forces in Russia over which Putin as President has greater or lesser degrees of control. This is a correct analysis. But if he cared about it he would brush off the question which precisely wants to reinstate the myth that Putin is Russia.

If one looks at Putin and his advisers, they think that not only is the west weak but also it has already made up its mind about Russia and they have very little to lose. A lot of this is prison yard posturing: you want to look so tough that no one messes with you.

True or not, it would be quite possible to make such a point without the nasty tone “prison yard posturing”. If this is how the “thinkers” on Russia flavour the matter one can only imagine the bilge and filth that must exist in the minds of the warmongers they act as the public face for.

In response to this question: “How much influence do you think Russia had on the US elections?” Mr Galeotti says, very reasonably, that this was “dramatically overplayed”. Maybe the Russians tried something but they can hardly be credited with swinging the election. Galeotti recovers his career from this dangerous leaking of realism by suggesting that we should “laugh” at Russia. Why not have a hearty laugh at all the Western journalists who have been madly plugging this absurd story?

Then we have: “But my view is that history is not on Putin’s side. On the whole, ordinary Russian people, but also the Russian elite, do not want to be in some ideological crusade against the west. I am ultimately optimistic about Russia’s trajectory.” It is absolutely true (as a generalisation) that “ordinary Russian people, but also the Russian elite, do not want to be in some ideological crusade against the West”. Wake up! This is Russian policy. This is how the “elite” says they act. This is how the elite acts. This is indeed, how ordinary Russians feel. I have to force myself to not to use capitals here; there is no ideological crusade in Russia against the West. This whole “Russia is against the West” is something dreamt up by the West (political and media classes, the military and an industry of pseudo academics) to justify their aggression. Russia knows it is not a world power. Putin says this when he says that in military terms Russia could not match NATO in a fight – but could defend their country. Where is the evidence for this “anti-Western ideology”? It simply isn’t there. It isn’t there in reality and it isn’t presented by Mr Galeotti in this interview. Russia is, as Mr Galeotti himself admits, modernising along Western lines. The economy is capitalist; again as Mr Galeotti admits. Crimea? This may be unwelcome in Western capitals who thought they’d got the whole cake when they organised a takeover in Kiev (a model they are currently repeating in Venezuela) and don’t like Russia getting a little slice – but it can be explained in terms of Russian history and in terms of defending national interests. Russia took back Crimea because most Russians feel that was the right thing to do, because 80% of people who live there wanted it and because they have an important military base there – all rational reasons which can be explained in terms of self-defence and national pride. They didn’t do it to spite the West!

It is very hard to find sensible, rational, comment on Russia. There are hints of it in Mr Galeotti’s pronouncements. But it appears that overall, perhaps because he has his eye on his career, he can’t escape this need to abuse Russia when writing about it – a trend which is a defining hallmark of so much of Western “thinking” on Russia.


Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer