Putin’s Western army of whataboutists

o13-iconMichael Moynihan writes: Readers of a certain vintage will likely recall the oleaginous, Brooklyn-accented Vladimir Pozner, an American citizen domiciled in Moscow who regularly popped up on television in the waning days of the Cold War, propagandizing on behalf of the Kremlin. Pozner was a rather impressive practitioner of whataboutism, the debate tactic demanding that questions about morally indefensible acts committed by your side be deflected with pettifogging discussion of unrelated sins committed by your opponent’s side. Soviet tanks lumbering through the streets of Prague? Yes, but what about the mistreatment of the Native Americans? East Germany’s reluctant citizens penned in by an imposing cement wall, ringed by trigger-happy border guards? A necessary “anti-fascist protection barrier,” sure, but…what about Hiroshima?

Even after the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship, Pozner found it difficult to shake the whataboutist habit and rote moral equivalence. “Yes, there are dissidents and maybe they consist of one percent or two percent of the population,” he told PBS in 1999. “But you’ve had your dissidents and you don’t treat them all that well.”

And there he was last week on CNN, where he is now a contributor, at the start of what distressingly looks to be a new Cold War, discussing the results of Crimea’s referendum on splitting from Ukraine and rejoining Russia. And he sounded surprisingly reasonable. “I don’t know whether President Putin will accept [the referendum results],” Pozner told Jake Tapper. “I don’t know whether he’ll say okay, let’s take them into our federation, but if he does, let’s not forget that Crimea is part of Ukraine.”

Pozner might have softened in his dotage, but there is a Spetsnaz division of Westerners ready to take the place he once occupied, arguing on Moscow’s behalf, employing the familiar whataboutism and blame shifting away from Vladimir Putin and towards the Obama administration. [Continue reading…]

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