Why do I bother trying to resurrect something that clearly is better off dead?
The election of Donald Trump is the mother of all American political disasters, a craven, yellow streak down the back of the body politic. The debasement of public discourse is, at this point, no surprise, but who would have expected it to trickle down to the American media’s coverage of Russia?
As if the 2015 speculation that Putin has Asperger’s weren’t enough, an offhand comment by Henry Kissinger now has pundits turning to Dostoevsky in order to explain the man they so mysteriously find mysterious. Of course, it’s wonderful when current events gets people to turn to the classics. I myself am often inspired by Kissinger’s career to recommend Dr. Strangelove. And recently, Ani Kokobobo proposed a very intelligent reading of Trump’s rise through the lens of Dostoevsky’s Demons.
But Dostoevsky and Putin? The comparison is both too easy (“He’s Russian, so let’s bring in Dostoevsky”) and too weak. Dostoevsky famously delves into the inner lives of his characters, providing them a psychological depth that rewards rereading. The endless speculations about Putin are based on the exact opposite phenomenon: a near-total lack of access to his inner life.
American necons’ and neolibs’ idealism and hubris continue to fog our perceptions of Russian politics. Francis Fukuyama expressed American post-Cold War ideological triumphalism in his The End of History and the Last Man, but upon reexamination he expressed deep regret in regards to his and his neocon comrades’ “naïve super-optimism” about our ability to social engineer in our own image a world populated by very different national cultures and civilizations. Those who bought and continue to buy into the utility of American foreign supremacy, ubiquity, omniscience, aggressive democracy-promotion and revolutionism are almost bound by their optimism to expect the emergence of color revolutions in countries most opposed to U.S. hegemony.
Russia under President Vladimir Putin is such a country, though it does not seek America’s destruction as many nowadays believe or at least claim. Pro-Western analysts are often misinformed by their hatred of Russia and disinformed by their Western colleagues’ ubiquitous strategic communications operations. Thus, there has been a veritable flood of articles predicting Putin’s death, illness or overthrow produced by such adepts from the ‘Washington consensus,’ as I have detailed elsewhere. According to such writings, Putin should have been six feet under, behind bars, or hanging from a rope on a lamp post long ago. Even the respected Russian analyst Nikolai Petrov predicted the collapse of Putin’s regime by April 2017 – five months from now and counting.
The Mayor of Moscow has come up with a new way of addressing the problem of migrants. Like many capital cities of the world, Moscow has a migrant problem. People flock there, both legally and illegally, in search of jobs. Often the result is culture clashes, inter-ethnic tensions, and even fights sometimes.
According to this new initiative, by the end of January the Moscow Mayor’s office will begin to disseminate 50,000 copies of a 100-page comic book aimed at an audience of migrants. The comic book is in Russian, and the drawings are done by certified artists. This government Purchase Order shows that the municipal government allocated 7 million rubles for this project.
Rex Tillerson made it clear at his confirmation hearing that he is not a fan of Vladimir Putin. That surprised many…
Obama’s foreign policy legacy is marred by the failure to improve relations with Russia. This failure is due primarily to his administration’s inability to envision Russia as anything but an obstacle to U.S. interests. Time and again, at key junctures, his administration failed to provide innovative leadership that might have moved Americans beyond the assumptions of the Cold War, and instead fell back on conventional stereotypes about Russia.
Why the Reset Failed
The “reset” serves as a model for the failure of the entire Russian-American relationship. From its inception the Reset rested on the flawed assumption that there was a rift between the values of the Kremlin and the Russian people that West could exploit. Its object was not to engage Russian officials in an open dialogue about values but instead, as the policy’s chief architect Michael McFaul explained, “to establish a direct relationship with the Russian people” over the Kremlin’s head.  As a result a golden opportunity to change the tenor of Russian-American relations by engaging in a real dialogue was lost.
In its fundamental assumptions about Russia, therefore, the Reset was really little more than a variant of containment, the policy that has guided American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union for more than half a century, and that has not been fundamentally challenged in the twenty-five years since its collapse.