Dances with Bears

Is there a moral equivalency to be reasonably made between the Russian government, and especially its leader, President Vladimir Putin, and the American-lead NATO alliance? Are Russia’s alleged actions in the eastern Ukraine, Chechnya, and Syria as equally deplorable as Washington’s invasion of Iraq or the toppling of Colonel Mummer Qaddafi in Libya? Are those Westerners who express admiration of Russia or sympathy toward President Putin little more hypocritical, opportunistic “Russia worshippers”?

To the contrary, such charges seem like little more than the anxieties of those Westerners, especially Americans, who worry that too heavily criticizing NATO and admitting that Russia is acting in a defensive manner would open themselves to the charge of not only being “anti-American”, but also “Kremlin shills”. Being anti-Russian is meant to take off the edge and stigma off being “anti-American”.

But to conceive Russia as the mirror image of America and NATO is absurd when viewed beyond the moral signaling found in social and alternative media. Russia’s reactive and ultimately defensive actions in the Ukraine and Syria are in no way comparable to the unprovoked aggression against Iraq and Libya carried out by Washington, along with its European allies.

The exact extent of Russian involvement in the Ukraine is a matter of dispute, but its suffices to point out that whatever its nature, it came about as the result of a violent Washington-backed coup, led by bands of neo-Nazi thugs, that overthrew a president friendly toward Moscow, and replaced him with a junta violently hostile toward Moscow, and openly admitted its hostility toward the Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population. In that atmosphere Putin moved to claim historically Russian Crimea, which chose to peacefully secede from the Ukraine, and provided limited support to Russian-speaking anti-coup activists in the east of the Ukraine, especially after they were ruthlessly suppressed by Kiev-sponsored ultra-nationalist militias.

It seems entirely reasonable that Russia would act against a hostile act on its border by a hostile, rival power seeking to expand its influence. Seen within the context of over a decade of expansion by NATO, an organization that should have been abolished after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, from well beyond Western Europe into the sphere of traditional Russian influence, Moscow’s limited and defensive reactions in the Ukraine in fact seem too little, too late.

Likewise, Moscow’s more recent intervention in Syria to defend the weakened government of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus from Islamist terrorist groups is likewise a limited, defense reaction in the face of the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other countries providing large amounts of the weapons and funding to the various terrorist factions, including Daesh and al-Qaeda aligned outfits. Russian support for a long time ally is again, not unreasonable, and was a long time coming.

The United States can make no such claim of justified, national self-interest in its vicious and unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003, nor can the US and its NATO allies make such a claim in the bombing of Libya, which led to the brutal murder of Colonel Qaddafi and the rise of Daesh and other Islamist terrorist groups and warlords that have dragged the once developed, stable, and unified nation into civil war and poverty. In fact, we know now that American officials, such as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were after Libya’s oil and gold reserves. No such charge can be made against Putin in Syria.

Now whatever else might by said about Russia or Putin, the charge that they are the other side of the Washington/NATO coin is ridiculous. Limited operations in traditional spheres of influence by Moscow are in no way comparable to Washington’s decades-old policy of marching to every corner of the globe overthrowing governments and invading weaker nations. Attempts at moral equivalency here are really acts of moral cowardice.

Likewise, those who support Russia in its progressing efforts to free itself from international oligarchic domination desire a multipolar world and see the leadership of Putin as a refreshing challenge to the status quo of Western global hegemony. Men and women courageous enough to swim against the current should not to be dismissed as “Kremlin shills”  by those who only claim opposition to an imperium that drives to enslave us all.