August 26, 2016

Americans finally beginning to recognize how odious Putin really is, says commentator


August, the month of vacations, is often referred to as the silly season in the media; but this year, something important is happening in the American media: its leading outlets are finally focusing on what most in Russia and its neighbors have long understood: Vladimir Putin has gone from strength to strength by odious means.

In the last few weeks, Moscow commentator Aleksandr Nemets says, the leading media in the United States – Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post – and London’s Economist as well, have focused on Mr. Putin’s odious methods because of his backing of Donald Trump in the American election (

After all the scandalous things Mr. Putin has done in the past and largely gotten away with, opposition to the Republican candidate is so strong that it is causing these outlets to focus on Mr. Putin’s involvement with the U.S. elections, an involvement that not only doesn’t appear to be helping Mr. Trump – his numbers are down – but is clearly hurting Mr. Putin as well.

In short, after all his crimes – including the invasion of Georgia, the invasion of Ukraine, the murder of dissenters at home and abroad, and his destruction of Russian democracy – Mr. Putin may now be held accountable in the U.S. for what he is more generally because he is trying to affect the election there.

If that is the case, it would certainly represent, although Mr. Nemets himself doesn’t use the term, a real and most unwelcome August surprise for the Kremlin leader.

Mr. Nemets begins his commentary by citing one in Newsweek by U.S. analyst Ian Bremmer who argues that “it is really a good time to be Putin” given the fears in the U.S., Brexit in Europe and the failed Turkish coup, even if the prospects for economic growth in Russia remain anything but bright.

“All this is correct,” the Moscow commentator says, because “the situation in the Russian Federation is extremely bad and getting still worse.” But despite that, “the Putin regime has as before one powerful resource: its willingness to use the most odious means and to exploit the chaos connected with them.” Those are the only things saving Mr. Putin and company just now.

In the past, Mr. Nemets points out, “Putin used… ‘ordinary terror’ in Russia, in Ukraine, in the U.S., and in Europe carried out by the hands of his own special services and sometimes the hands of Al Qaeda or ISIS.”  Now, however, he is using “cyber-terror” in the hopes of bringing to power Trump, someone who appears to be pro-Russian and would “intensify chaos both in America and in the entire world.”

If Messrs. Putin and Trump succeed, the Kremlin would have “a free hand in Ukraine, in the South Caucasus, in Syria, in the Baltic countries and in many other regions. And ‘the creator of chaos’ could as a result return the super-high prices for oil and gas,” the ultimate dreams of Mr. Putin and his regime, Mr. Nemets says.

Odiousness, “in the first instance, terror of all kinds and also false propaganda” is “the Kremlin’s basic instrument and chaos is its final goal.”  Any chaos from the Kremlin’s point of view is good because it keeps others from recognizing what is going on and organizing in response.

Many Russian opposition figures, as well as a large part of the citizenry in Ukraine, and “to a lesser extent the citizens of the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Sweden and Finland have already taken with greater or lesser success the very useful courses” about Mr. Putin’s odious nature “in 2014-2016.”

“Canada with its 1.5 million ethnic Ukrainians” has also begun to study this special Putin subject.  But until recently, the population of the U.S. had “preferred to ignore” the obvious odiousness of the Putin regime.  Now that may be changing and, if it is, Mr. Putin’s latest moves could backfire against him in ways he cannot even imagine.


Paul Goble is a long-time specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia who has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau, as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The article above is reprinted with permission from his blog called “Window on Eurasia” (