The headline comes from a comment that appears under an article by Chris Floyd that appears on his site, Empire Burlesque.
Floyd writes that while he lived in Russia in the mid-1990s:
…the general public had already come to regard “demokratsia” as a dirty word, synonymous with the endemic corruption, ruin and violence that the Western-backed elites had visited upon the country. This cynicism was confirmed by the election of 1996 — my last hurrah in Moscow — when a half-dead Yeltsin, supported vigorously by the West, miraculously overcame a 2 percent popularity rating to win “re-election.” The price of this pyrrhic victory was the final surrender of the state to the oligarchs and security apparatchiks who, along with their American campaign operatives, had engineered the outcome. Flush with victory, they proceeded to push the country into yet another major crash in 1998, when life expectancy rates plummeted to the lowest levels since the famine years of the 1930s.
This is the rotten foundation upon which the increasingly ugly regime of Vladimir Putin is built. A culture, a country, a people savaged over and over through a century of unprecedented upheaval and violence were once again subjected to a firestorm of chaos that killed 3 million innocent people and left millions more stripped of hope, of opportunity, of meaning. Now Putin, who emerged from the dark nexus of power blocs that saved Yeltsin, fills this moonscape with empty symbols that play upon the fears and resentments of a battered people: hysterical nationalism, cartoon history, blustering machismo, fake religiosity, and “traditional values” more aligned with American Tea Party tropes than anything that has actually existed in Russian culture. He rails against the West but he rules a mirror image of it: a violent, militarized crony-capitalist pigsty that degrades and deceives its own people while directing their anger and confusion toward outsiders. In many ways, it’s the American Cold Warriors’ dream come true: we have finally turned the Russians into us.
The conflict in Ukraine has many causes — not least the meddling of American apparatchiks and oligarchs to engineer the overthrow of the elected government and destabilize the region. But if Western governments find themselves puzzled by the motives and moves of the Russian regime that now vexes them, they need only look in the mirror, and it will all become clear.
So there you have it: Post-Soviet Russia is a Frankenstein’s monster created by the West and thus for whatever Putin does, he bears little responsibility. The West, with its imposition of a brutal capitalist agenda combined with NATO’s relentless eastward expansion makes Russia a victim and like all cornered victims, it must do whatever it needs to survive.
Within this perspective there is some wistfulness — a hint that the collapse of the Soviet Union might not have been such a good thing after all.
What is missing is any recognition that what Russia has become is just as much a product of what the Soviet Union was — that people who wield totalitarian power will always look for new ways to exploit that power even as many of the structures once provided by the state are modified.
A totalitarian system is inherently corrupt and corruption is endlessly adaptive and thoroughly pragmatic.
Those in the West who ostensibly believe in social justice and yet also find the forces of oppression in Russia, or Syria, or China, or Iran, somehow excusable — excusable because the oppressive nature of the governments in each of these countries is eclipsed by the rapacious demands of their overbearing adversary: Western capitalism — are effectively saying that the political freedoms which exist in Western democracies have little intrinsic value. Free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly — none of those freedoms apparently mean very much. They are perhaps nothing more than baubles which serve to distract a suitably docile citizenry with an illusion of freedom.
Ultimately, this perspective strikes me as nihilistic and self-serving. It conjures an image of a world in which we are all powerless individuals who can do no more than quixotically rail against malevolent forces utterly beyond our control. We can wallow in our self-righteous indignation, comforted by the thought that what might look like inertia is simply realism.
When opposition becomes a way of life and a relentless focus on the things you stand against overshadows a clear sense of what you believe in and what you affirm, then paradoxically a nominal allegiance to justice can gently glide towards the accommodation of tyranny.