World Wrestling Entertainment’s Lana (C.J. Perry), manager of the “Bulgarian Brute” Alexander Rusev (Miroslav Barnyashev) heaps praise on Russia’s president and she seems to be right: Russians love themselves some Vladimir Putin.
Gallup reported on July 18 that “President Vladimir Putin’s popularity in Russia is now at its highest level in years.”
The 29-percentage-point increase in Putin’s job approval between 2013 and 2014 suggests he has solidified his previously shaky support base. For the first time since 2008, a majority of Russians (73%) believe their country’s leadership is leading them in the right direction. This renewed faith is apparent in their record-level confidence in the country’s military (78%), their national government (64%), and honesty of elections (39%).
What Gallup tells us echoes closely the rhetoric of Lana, who has called Putin “a true leader who practices what he preaches” and “the most powerful and dominant president in the world.”
“He makes fools out of every one of you,” she tells audiences. When she brags, “You are merely pawns in his game of global dominance,” it is easy to believe Putin thinks the same.
She warns audiences, “America, change your ways and follow this true leader. He is a nation builder and long ago should have won the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Nobel Peace Prize…probably not. The rest of the world was happy to see Barack Obama when he took office. Putin, like Bush, is the kind of guy who makes his neighbors nervous. We can’t call it Cowboy Diplomacy but can we perhaps call it Cossack?
Russia under Putin is, for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, flexing its muscles. Some might point to the fact that the United States has also recently been flexing its muscles, having just ended one war in Iraq and finishing up (we hope) another in Afghanistan.
In a way, it’s hard to blame Vladimir Putin for thinking he should be able to do what George W. Bush did, and much closer to home. It is difficult to argue that the United States had more vested interest in Iraq than Russia does in its own backyard.
When the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power says, “Russia can end this war,” she said. “Russia must end this war” we must hear her words in the context of two decade-long American wars we could have ended, and did not. If anyone knows this, the United States – and the American people – should: Wars are easier to start than to finish.
From the other side of the world, American protestations must sound hollow and hypocritical.
It might be pointed out as well that Republicans are eager to have another war and don’t seem particularly picky about the identity of the opponent. After all, though Putin is ultimately responsible for what happened, John McCain decided to blame Obama instead.
Each new crisis brings calls from people like John McCain to invade somebody, anybody, to show the world America means business. In this case, Ukraine should have had some missiles too. Apparently more missiles in the sky results in fewer passenger jets shot down.
And this comes from a guy who was shot down by a missile – a Russian missile. A missile, it might be pointed out, McCain didn’t try very hard to avoid.
The sad truth is that the last thing America – and the world – need is the kind of business Republicans want to engage in. War, by feeding the military industrial complex, makes Republicans rich. We get that. But it makes Americans – and again, the world – poorer. Not only in the economic cost, but in the loss of life. In tearing families away from their homes and turning them into refugees. In killing innocents. As in the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
In this case, the killers were supplied by the Russian military. But they could as easily have been supplied by American. Either way, as Obama said Friday, the destruction of MH17 was an “outrage of unspeakable proportions.” So, it might be pointed out, was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
It is unlikely Russians will choose to believe their president is responsible for the tragedy. Putin has already blamed the Ukraine, saying, “The government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.” Except for the inconvenient fact that the plane was shot down over an area controlled by Russian separatists supplied by Putin’s government.
Gallup tells us this popularity has been,
propelled by a groundswell of national pride with the annexation of Crimea in March on the heels of the Sochi Olympic Games in February. The 83% of Russians saying they approve of Putin’s leadership in late April/early June ties his previous high rating in 2008 when he left office the first time.
It might be noted here, while talking about popularity, that McCain’s own body, Congress, is much less popular with Americans than Putin is with Russians.
Now that they’ve got the Crimea back, Russians are less thrilled with the cause of separatists in the Ukraine these days, we are told by experts, but it’s anybody’s guess at this point how the destruction of MH17 will effect Putin’s policy decisions.
Just as WWE closely mirrored Tea Party rhetoric with their “Real Americans” storyline, even to the extent of directly quoting Tea Party figures (to truly hilarious Tea Party outrage), real life has been more or less accurately reflected in this new storyline:
Russians’ positivity also colors other aspects of their lives. While Americans have become less satisfied with their freedom to choose what they do with their lives, Russians became more satisfied in 2014. A record-high 65% of Russians are satisfied with their freedom. Some of this may be attributable to improving economic perceptions. Despite U.S. and European sanctions earlier this year over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, more Russians see their economy getting better now than has been the case since 2008. However, the economic outlook still remains relatively weak, with 35% of Russians saying conditions are getting better and 19% saying they are getting worse, and the jobs outlook has not improved.
As Justin Baragona wrote here yesterday of the tragic fruits of the Russian president’s increased bellicosity, “As for Putin, this horrific tragedy is an embarrassment on a massive scale.”
But if Bush and his gang can ignore embarrassment on a massive scale, there is no doubt Putin can do the same. It’s easy if you insist the truth is what you say it is despite all evidence to the contrary, if you pretend you did nothing wrong. The problem for Putin is not dissatisfaction at home but the difficult position he has put himself in with regard his neighbors and the world’s only remaining superpower.
I suspect the rest of us are just beginning to find out what it was like for the rest of the world to have George W. Bush at the helm of a powerful nation, a nation which loves Vladimir Putin.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.