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Is Putin profoundly corrupt or “incorruptible?"

Sharon Tennison recounts her personal experience of and observations about Vladimir Putin

first published in 2014 and first appearing on this site in April 2017, we are re-airing this alternative analysis in the year of the Russian presidential election as being of continuing relevance in the struggle to separate truth from #fakenews. Tennison presents a view of VVP as essentially “incorruptible”. To those who get their information from the mainstream media, and even from many alternative news sites this will seem a slightly incredible idea. Yet Tennison’s opinion is not unsourced or unconsidered. And the numerous claims of Putin’s massive personal wealth and “gangster” mentality remain entirely uncorroborated. Where does the truth lie?

As the Ukraine situation has worsened, unconscionable misinformation and hype is being poured on Russia and Vladimir Putin. Journalists and pundits must scour the Internet and thesauruses to come up with fiendish new epithets to describe both. Wherever I make presentations across America, the first question ominously asked during Q&A is always, “What about Putin?” It’s time to share my thoughts which follow:

Putin obviously has his faults and makes mistakes. Based on my earlier experience with him, and the experiences of trusted people, including U.S. officials who have worked closely with him over a period of years, Putin most likely is a straight, reliable and exceptionally inventive man.
He is obviously a long-term thinker and planner and has proven to be an excellent analyst and strategist. He is a leader who can quietly work toward his goals under mounds of accusations and myths that have been steadily leveled at him since he became Russia’s second president.
I’ve stood by silently watching the demonization of Putin grow since it began in the early 2000s –– I pondered on computer my thoughts and concerns, hoping eventually to include them in a book (which was published in 2011). The book explains my observations more thoroughly than this article.
Like others who have had direct experience with this little known man, I’ve tried to no avail to avoid being labeled a “Putin apologist”. If one is even neutral about him, they are considered “soft on Putin” by pundits, news hounds and average citizens who get their news from CNN, Fox and MSNBC.
I don’t pretend to be an expert, just a program developer in the USSR and Russia for the past 30 years. But during this time, I’ve have had far more direct, on-ground contact with Russians of all stripes across 11 time zones than any of the Western reporters or for that matter any of Washington’s officials.
I’ve been in country long enough to ponder on Russian history and culture deeply, to study their psychology and conditioning, and to understand the marked differences between American and Russian mentalities which so complicate our political relations with their leaders.
As with personalities in a family or a civic club or in a city hall, it takes understanding and compromise to be able to create workable relationships when basic conditionings are different. Washington has been notoriously disinterested in understanding these differences and attempting to meet Russia halfway.
In addition to my personal experience with Putin, I’ve had discussions with numerous American officials and U.S. businessmen who have had years of experience working with him––I believe it is safe to say that none would describe him as “brutal” or “thuggish”, or the other slanderous adjectives and nouns that are repeatedly used in western media.
I met Putin years before he ever dreamed of being president of Russia, as did many of us working in St.Petersburg during the 1990s. Since all of the slander started, I’ve become nearly obsessed with understanding his character. I think I’ve read every major speech he has given (including the full texts of his annual hours-long telephone “talk-ins” with Russian citizens).
I’ve been trying to ascertain whether he has changed for the worse since being elevated to the presidency, or whether he is a straight character cast into a role he never anticipated––and is using sheer wits to try to do the best he can to deal with Washington under extremely difficult circumstances.
If the latter is the case, and I think it is, he should get high marks for his performance over the past 14 years. It’s not by accident that Forbes declared him the most Powerful Leader of 2013, replacing Obama who was given the title for 2012. The following is my one personal experience with Putin.

The year was 1992

Putin with Anatoly Sobchak, Mayor of St. Petersburg, early 1990s. Putin was one of Sobchak’s deputies from 1992-96


It was two years after the implosion of communism; the place was St.Petersburg.
For years I had been creating programs to open up relations between the two countries and hopefully to help Soviet people to get beyond their entrenched top-down mentalities. A new program possibility emerged in my head. Since I expected it might require a signature from the Marienskii City Hall, an appointment was made.
My friend Volodya Shestakov and I showed up at a side door entrance to the Marienskii building. We found ourselves in a small, dull brown office, facing a rather trim nondescript man in a brown suit.
He inquired about my reason for coming in. After scanning the proposal I provided he began asking intelligent questions. After each of my answers, he asked the next relevant question.
I became aware that this interviewer was different from other Soviet bureaucrats who always seemed to fall into chummy conversations with foreigners with hopes of obtaining bribes in exchange for the Americans’ requests. CCI stood on the principle that we would never, never give bribes.
This bureaucrat was open, inquiring, and impersonal in demeanor. After more than an hour of careful questions and answers, he quietly explained that he had tried hard to determine if the proposal was legal, then said that unfortunately at the time it was not. A few good words about the proposal were uttered. That was all. He simply and kindly showed us to the door.
Out on the sidewalk, I said to my colleague, “Volodya, this is the first time we have ever dealt with a Soviet bureaucrat who didn’t ask us for a trip to the US or something valuable!
I remember looking at his business card in the sunlight––it read Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

1994

U.S. Consul General Jack Gosnell put in an SOS call to me in St.Petersburg. He had 14 Congress members and the new American Ambassador to Russia, Thomas Pickering, coming to St.Petersburg in the next three days. He needed immediate help.
I scurried over to the Consulate and learned that Jack intended me to brief this auspicious delegation and the incoming ambassador.
I was stunned but he insisted. They were coming from Moscow and were furious about how U.S. funding was being wasted there. Jack wanted them to hear the”good news” about CCI’s programs that were showing fine results. In the next 24 hours Jack and I also set up “home” meetings in a dozen Russian entrepreneurs’ small apartments for the arriving dignitaries (St.Petersburg State Department people were aghast, since it had never been done before––but Jack overruled).
Only later in 2000, did I learn of Jack’s former three-year experience with Vladimir Putin in the 1990s while the latter was running the city for Mayor Sobchak. More on this further down.

December 31, 1999

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin leaves the Kremlin on the day of his resignation, December 31 1999. Prime Minister Putin (second left) became acting president.


With no warning, at the turn of the year, President Boris Yeltsin made the announcement to the world that from the next day forward he was vacating his office and leaving Russia in the hands of an unknown Vladimir Putin.
On hearing the news, I thought surely not the Putin I remembered––he could never lead Russia. The next day a NYT article included a photo.
Yes, it was the same Putin I’d met years ago! I was shocked and dismayed, telling friends, “This is a disaster for Russia, I’ve spent time with this guy, he is too introverted and too intelligent––he will never be able to relate to Russia’s masses.”
Further, I lamented: “For Russia to get up off of its knees, two things must happen: 1) The arrogant young oligarchs have to be removed by force from the Kremlin, and 2) A way must be found to remove the regional bosses (governors) from their fiefdoms across Russia’s 89 regions”.
It was clear to me that the man in the brown suit would never have the instincts or guts to tackle Russia’s overriding twin challenges.

February 2000

Almost immediately Putin began putting Russia’s oligarchs on edge. In February a question about the oligarchs came up; he clarified with a question and his answer:

What should be the relationship with the so-called oligarchs? The same as anyone else. The same as the owner of a small bakery or a shoe repair shop.

This was the first signal that the tycoons would no longer be able to flaunt government regulations or count on special access in the Kremlin. It also made the West’s capitalists nervous.
After all, these oligarchs were wealthy untouchable businessmen––good capitalists, never mind that they got their enterprises illegally and were putting their profits in offshore banks.
Four months later Putin called a meeting with the oligarchs and gave them his deal:
They could keep their illegally-gained wealth-producing Soviet enterprises and they would not be nationalized …. IF taxes were paid on their revenues and if they personally stayed out of politics. [note by OffG – more accurately the oligarchs were required to remain within the law rather than explicitly stay out of politics]
This was the first of Putin’s “elegant solutions” to the near impossible challenges facing the new Russia. But the deal also put Putin in crosshairs with US media and officials who then began to champion the oligarchs, particularly Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The latter became highly political, didn’t pay taxes, and prior to being apprehended and jailed was in the process of selling a major portion of Russia’s largest private oil company, Yukos Oil, to Exxon Mobil. Unfortunately, to U.S. media and governing structures, Khodorkovsky became a martyr (and remains so up to today).

March 2000

I arrived in St.Petersburg. A Russian friend (a psychologist) since 1983 came for our usual visit. My first question was, “Lena what do you think about your new president?” She laughed and retorted, “Volodya! I went to school with him!
She began to describe Putin as a quiet youngster, poor, fond of martial arts, who stood up for kids being bullied on the playgrounds. She remembered him as a patriotic youth who applied for the KGB prematurely after graduating secondary school (they sent him away and told him to get an education).
He went to law school, later reapplied and was accepted. I must have grimaced at this, because Lena said:

Sharon in those days we all admired the KGB and believed that those who worked there were patriots and were keeping the country safe. We thought it was natural for Volodya to choose this career.

My next question was:

What do you think he will do with Yeltsin’s criminals in the Kremlin?

Putting on her psychologist hat, she pondered and replied:

If left to his normal behaviors, he will watch them for a while to be sure what is going on, then he will throw up some flares to let them know that he is watching. If they don’t respond, he will address them personally, then if the behaviors don’t change–– some will be in prison in a couple of years.

I congratulated her via email when her predictions began to show up in real time.

Throughout the 2000s

St.Petersburg’s many CCI alumni were being interviewed to determine how the PEP business training program was working and how we could make the U.S. experience more valuable for their new small businesses. Most believed that the program had been enormously important, even life changing. Last, each was asked:

So what do you think of your new president?

None responded negatively, even though at that time entrepreneurs hated Russia’s bureaucrats. Most answered similarly, “Putin registered my business a few years ago”.
Next question:

So, how much did it cost you?

To a person they replied, “Putin didn’t charge anything”. One said:

We went to Putin’s desk because the others providing registrations at the Marienskii were getting ‘rich on their seats.’

Late 2000

Into Putin’s first year as Russia’s president, US officials seemed to me to be suspect that he would be antithetical to America’s interests––his every move was called into question in American media. I couldn’t understand why and was chronicling these happenings in my computer and newsletters.

Year 2001

Jack Gosnell (former USCG mentioned earlier) explained his relationship with Putin when the latter was deputy mayor of St.Petersburg. The two of them worked closely to create joint ventures and other ways to promote relations between the two countries. Jack related that Putin was always straight up, courteous and helpful.
When Putin’s wife, Ludmila, was in a severe auto accident, Jack took the liberty (before informing Putin) to arrange hospitalization and airline travel for her to get medical care in Finland. When Jack told Putin, he reported that the latter was overcome by the generous offer, but ended saying that he couldn’t accept this favor, that Ludmila would have to recover in a Russian hospital.
She did––although medical care in Russia was abominably bad in the 1990s.
A senior CSIS officer I was friends with in the 2000s worked closely with Putin on a number of joint ventures during the 1990s. He reported that he had no dealings with Putin that were questionable, that he respected him and believed he was getting an undeserved dour reputation from U.S. media.
Matter of fact, he closed the door at CSIS when we started talking about Putin. I guessed his comments wouldn’t be acceptable if others were listening.
Another former U.S. official who will go unidentified, also reported working closely with Putin, saying there was never any hint of bribery, pressuring, nothing but respectable behaviors and helpfulness.
I had two encounters in 2013 with State Department officials regarding Putin:
At the first one, I felt free to ask the question I had previously yearned to get answered:

When did Putin become unacceptable to Washington officials and why??

Without hesitating the answer came back:

The knives were drawn’ when it was announced that Putin would be the next president.”

I questioned WHY? The answer:

I could never find out why––maybe because he was KGB.”

I offered that Bush #I, was head of the CIA. The reply was

That would have made no difference, he was our guy.

The second was a former State Department official with whom I recently shared a radio interview on Russia. Afterward when we were chatting, I remarked, “You might be interested to know that I’ve collected experiences of Putin from numerous people, some over a period of years, and they all say they had no negative experiences with Putin and there was no evidence of taking bribes”. He firmly replied:

No one has ever been able to come up with a bribery charge against Putin.”

From 2001 up to today, I’ve watched the negative U.S. media mounting against Putin …. even accusations of assassinations, poisonings, and comparing him to Hitler.
No one yet has come up with any concrete evidence for these allegations. During this time, I’ve traveled throughout Russia several times every year, and have watched the country slowly change under Putin’s watch. Taxes were lowered, inflation lessened, and laws slowly put in place. Schools and hospitals began improving. Small businesses were growing, agriculture was showing improvement, and stores were becoming stocked with food.
Alcohol challenges were less obvious, smoking was banned from buildings, and life expectancy began increasing. Highways were being laid across the country, new rails and modern trains appeared even in far out places, and the banking industry was becoming dependable. Russia was beginning to look like a decent country –– certainly not where Russians hoped it to be long term, but improving incrementally for the first time in their memories.

My 2013/14 Trips to Russia:

In addition to St.Petersburg and Moscow, in September I traveled out to the Ural Mountains, spent time in Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Perm. We traveled between cities via autos and rail––the fields and forests look healthy, small towns sport new paint and construction. Today’s Russians look like Americans (we get the same clothing from China).
Old concrete Khrushchev block houses are giving way to new multi-story private residential complexes which are lovely. High-rise business centers, fine hotels and great restaurants are now common place––and ordinary Russians frequent these places. Two and three story private homes rim these Russian cities far from Moscow.
We visited new museums, municipal buildings and huge super markets. Streets are in good repair, highways are new and well marked now, service stations looks like those dotting American highways. In January I went to Novosibirsk out in Siberia where similar new architecture was noted. Streets were kept navigable with constant snowplowing, modern lighting kept the city bright all night, lots of new traffic lights (with seconds counting down to light change) have appeared.
It is astounding to me how much progress Russia has made in the past 14 years since an unknown man with no experience walked into Russia’s presidency and took over a country that was flat on its belly.
So why do our leaders and media demean and demonize Putin and Russia???
Like Lady MacBeth, do they protest too much?
Psychologists tell us that people (and countries?) project off on others what they don’t want to face in themselves. Others carry our “shadow”when we refuse to own it. We confer on others the very traits that we are horrified to acknowledge in ourselves.
Could this be why we constantly find fault with Putin and Russia?
Could it be that we project on to Putin the sins of ourselves and our leaders?
Could it be that we condemn Russia’s corruption, acting like the corruption within our corporate world doesn’t exist?
Could it be that we condemn their human rights and LGBT issues, not facing the fact that we haven’t solved our own?
Could it be that we accuse Russia of “reconstituting the USSR”––because of what we do to remain the world’s “hegemon”?
Could it be that we project nationalist behaviors on Russia, because that is what we have become and we don’t want to face it?
Could it be that we project warmongering off on Russia, because of what we have done over the past several administrations?
Some of you were around Putin in the earlier years. Please share your opinions, pro and con …. confidentiality will be assured. It’s important to develop a composite picture of this demonized leader and get the record straight. I’m quite sure that 99% of those who excoriate him in mainstream media have had no personal contact with him at all. They write articles on hearsay, rumors and fabrication, or they read scripts others have written on their tele-prompters. This is how our nation gets its “news”, such as it is.
There is a well known code of ethics among us: Is it the Truth, Is it Fair, Does it build Friendship and Goodwill, and Will it be Beneficial for All Concerned?
It seems to me that if our nation’s leaders would commit to using these four principles in international relations, the world would operate in a completely different manner, and human beings across this planet would live in better conditions than they do today.
As always your comments will be appreciated. Please resend this report to as many friends and colleagues as possible.

Sharon Tennison ran a successful NGO funded by philanthropists, American foundations, USAID and Department of State, designing new programs and refining old ones, and evaluating Russian delegates’ U.S. experiences for over 20 years. Tennison adapted the Marshall Plan Tours from the 40s/50s, and created the Production Enhancement Program (PEP) for Russian entrepreneurs, the largest ever business training program between the U.S. and Russia. Running several large programs concurrently during the 90s and 2000s, funding disappeared shortly after the 2008 financial crisis set in. Tennison still runs an orphanage program in Russia, is President and Founder, Center for Citizen Initiatives, a member of Rotary Club of Palo Alto, California, and author of The Power of Impossible Ideas: Ordinary Citizens’ Extraordinary Efforts to Avert International Crises. The author can be contacted at [email protected]

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Matt
Matt

“Defender of Putin, Detained in Russia: American Activist Deemed U.S. ‘Agent'”
https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-sharon-tennison-detained-us-agent/27558544.html
The irony of this author being arrested in Russia. Serves her right, for being as naive as she is.

Catte

RFE? We try to avoid citing violently extremist sites from either perspective here.
Tennison’s website doesn’t mention the incident and she’s been back to Russia several times since, so this obviously wasn’t much of an issue. Though you could email and ask her if you want a more reliable source.
There’s nothing ‘naive’ about trying to find ways for two nuclear superpowers to avoid confrontation. As many senior diplomats, intelligence operatives and others have said many times – if the relentless demonising and threatening of Russia doesn’t stop we could all find ourselves railroaded in a war that ends life on earth. Not because anyone wants it but because people were too reckless and ignorant to avoid it. Tennison, to her credit, seems to be trying to do something about it.
I’m not going to be dancing with you on this – so don’t feel offended if I don’t reply. I have a website to run on a staff of two.

George Cornell
George Cornell

Serves her right? Really? Naïveté is a hanging offense, is that what you want?

Mo
Mo

She wasn’t hanged! There was a visa issue apparently. She is still going back and forth to Russia. Every time Russian authorities take any action at all the West tries to make it seem like a KGB purge! People are pulled in for visa problems in the UK all the time! It’s routine bureaucracy

George Cornell
George Cornell

Relax Mo, ‘hanging offense’ is a figure of speech. I was responding to the uncharitable comment that getting arrested served her right.

Carrie
Carrie

Not with any intent to disrespect, but this is hilarious, and another example of Volodya being very human!
nullnull
[edited by Admin to fix image address]

Matt
Matt

Excellent article. Written by an American who has known Putin’s character from the early days, and who has worked with NGOs that actually helped Russian society (thus debunking the conspiracy theories that U.S. NGOs are bad for Russia), this is the sort of article I’ve been hoping to find.
Thanks for sharing it.

Marcus
Marcus

speaking of Putin the man, this video popped up and I’d like to share it. We’re all familiar with the ghastly fake scenes of Obama, Cameron and the rest fake ‘crying’ to order at some scene of public mourning. It’s so fake it’s cringeworthy and shameful.
So for contrast look at this. It’s not a funeral or any staged mourning, it’s just an official ceremony in Mongolia, but while the Russian national anthem is playing Putin visibly actually weeps.
https://youtu.be/M5oXlIB9rCk
If you watch the clip you can see his chest and shoulders heave as he struggles to control it, and his slightly shame-faced attitude, which probably all us blokes can relate to. He seems to be sobbing almost uncontrollably. At one point he wipes his face with the back of his hand.
It’s touching. And very real and human. It has actually increased my respect for him and my preparedness to think he may be a real person. But that said it seems a quite extreme response. He must have heard his national anthem about once a day for the last 18 years. Bit worrying when a head of state is that tightly wound even if it does humanise him. This was late 2014 by the way.

Afriend
Afriend

I think this should be posted here, not only because it shows the extent of ignorance surrounding Putin in the West, but also perhaps it adds another factor in the mix of the general Western hostility to him, from those that are anti-religious, or anti-Orthodox Christianity.
http://russiafeed.com/vladimir-putins-ice-bath-ritual-perplexes-american-journalists/

Admin

Yes agreed -we will post it in the new Putin section we are running prior to the election

Afriend
Afriend

This is no doubt another reason for some of the hostility directed at Putin, which afaik didn’t get reported in the MSM;
http://russiafeed.com/putin-calls-israel-end-occupation-palestine/

Marcus
Marcus

Since we’re discussing Vlad here, has anyone read the piece on the Saker to mark Putin’s 65th birthday last October? It’s very flowery and a bit too lyrical for me, but pretty true to known facts in its general summary. But this part at the end struck me as a bit obscure. Does anyone know what is being referred to? I presume “war” is being used figuratively as it seems to be throughout the piece. But all this distancing himself from loved ones and being prepared to die – maybe I’m too English. But it what on earth is the writer on about? Unless he’s privy to events that haven’t been made public I don’t see where this fits in with anything on the record. I posted a question on the site but haven’t had a rely as yet. Any thoughts?
https://thesaker.is/vladimir-putins-birthday/#comments

Before the last war, just in case, he was prepared to die.
He distanced himself from people he loved the most, so they wouldn’t die with him. And, he went to war.
He dedicated his life to rescue us all.
He sacrificed himself and pried entire nations out of the Abyss’ jaws.

vexarb

@Marcus. I think I get the drift.
“Who would the sword of Justice wear
Should be as holy as severe”.
It’s a temperament, like the Dark Duke in “Measure for Measure”. Dag Hammarskjoeld had more than a touch of it. Which is why bright-and-breezy Alastair Cooke quipped: What is the difference between Dag Hammarskjoeld and U Nu? Hammarskjoeld has the Oriental mind.

Marcus
Marcus

I get that in a generic way. I was just wondering what evidence there might be for his being prepared to die or at risk of death and for “distancing himself from people he loved most” so they wouldn’t die. It sounds a bit extreme and dramatic to a plodding Englishman

Afriend
Afriend

I hope everybody saw that devastating Real News interview where the Putin hating Guardian hack Luke Harding was exposed as an empty smear merchant, well here’s Jimmy & Aaron have a good laugh over it, before going on to comment generally about RussiaGate;
https://youtu.be/hJDo0OSAg9s

vexarb

Because of their roles in saving Syria from NATZO’s Daesh terrorist invasion, I have come to regard President Putin as a profoundly religious man along with Dr.Assad and Rev.Nasr’Allah. These men are made of a different metal from the corruptible Pharisees like TB.Liar and GW.Bush who pray ostensibly in public. They are socially conscious builders, and their countries go uphill despite attacks and financial sanctions, while the NATZO countries are going downhill despite 70 years of peace.
How The Russian Church Influenced Putin To Save Christians in Syria

And from Ivan Ilyin, recently called “Putin’s Philosopher”: Ilyin’s most personal and spiritual work, The Singing Heart (Поющее сердце), which was first published in 1958 by Ilyin’s widow in München. It is a spiritual, theological, in some cases political, and biographical work which is deeply influenced by the Orthodox and Russian spirits, and in a certain sense, can be considered one of the hidden masterpieces of Russian spiritual prose.

vierotchka

Surely you meant mettle and not metal. 🙂
“Because these two words are homophones — words that sound identical — many people don’t realize they are actually two different words. However, mettle means the stuff one is made of, the strength and quality of one’s character. Metal, as you probably know, is any of a variety of handy substances used to make cars, computer parts, appliances and so on.”
Source: http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/writing-for-business/test-your-metal-or-mettle/

vexarb

@vierotchka. Thank you, I did not know that mettle and metal originally meant the same: the earthy stuff of which someone is made. So I tend to use mettle to denote the spirit; as in mettlesome; and metal as the right stuff eg, Hamlet’s preference for Ophelia, “Here’s metal more attractive”; or the student definition of Geologist: a man who can tell virgin metal from any old ore. Actually, I was comparing the metal of Russian President Putin vs that of UK Prime Minister TB.Liar in the sense of their chemical resistance to tarnishing: gold vs brass.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle

The story of the Panama Papers is a fascinating one, looking more and more like the latest installment in the cold war.
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/4wbz8g/a-conspiracy-theorists-guide-to-the-panama-papers
Even so Craig Murray still thinks Putin is ‘bent’ (ie guilty of troughing) but what the Panama Papers reveals about the West is infinitely more interesting than Vladimir Vladimirovich stashing a few million roubles in the банка
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/04/corporate-media-gatekeepers-protect-western-1-from-panama-leak/

Admin

Unfortunately CM doesn’t say why he believes Putin is bent. Presumably he’s playing the odds and assuming he must be because most politicians are and corruption is so high in Russia. It’s a fair assumption, but it’s not evidence of anything.

Afriend
Afriend

CM has said a lot of things about Putin, including, “Putin tried to kill Yuschenko”, & ( in response of the West v Russia), “I believe Putin is the greater evil.’
He has a search facility on his Blog, just put in Putin to pull-up his Blog Posts, but be aware that sometimes he comments btl also.

The Cad
The Cad

Craig sometimes gets carries away with the myth that there are good and bad states. They’re all bad, the only difference is the lies they tell about the people they murder.

Admin

Even if we accept that myth though, it’s hard to see why Russia would be a “bad” state if any Western power isn’t.

Afriend
Afriend

Not if you take him at his word, he claims no animosity towards Russia or Russians, just Putin, whom he demonises almost everytime he mentions him.

Marcus
Marcus

Craig Murray is completley discredited IMO. He is the very essence of a gatekeeper, allowing some of the suppressed truth out but making sure the most dangerous parts remain denied a platform.
He refuses to even discuss 9/11 and endorses 90% of the putin-phobic bullshit in the mainstream media. He just repeats claims such as “Putin tried to poison Yuschenko” as if they were fact and scrubs anyone who demurs. Never posts any evidence.
If he’s not a gatekeeper he’s a man of very limited intelligence and an arrogant, bigoted outlook. We don’t need people like this even if they do give us the illusion of being on our side – up to a point. At best it’s an ego trip for him. At worst he’s misdirecting energies.
And I don’t believe in his mythical “team of moderators” who accidentally censor people. I think he knows full well what’s going on and a lot of the time he’s doing it.
Plus the fawning of his hardcore fans is pretty hard to stomach, but that’s another story.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle

Murray’s position on Putin/Russia is slightly more nuanced than you suggest – for example, he says, “The neo-imperial ambition of the western powers, and their remorseless pursuit of the neoliberal agenda, has since again isolated Russia from the West, despite the fact that very many (myself included) have been very thankful to Putin for redressing the balance of Western foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, where the USA’s Saudi driven support for Sunni jihadists is barking mad. One result of the neoliberal fury at Putin’s great effectiveness at frustrating their international designs, has been the McCarthy like anti-Russian phobia sweeping the USA. Today is exactly one year since the FBI announced it was investigating Russian “hacking” allegedly to damage neoliberal idol Hillary, and in that twelve months the one thing that is clear is that there is not one single solid bit of evidence to back it up.”
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/10/normalising-russia/
You are right about Murray’s position on 9/11 which I find baffling – nice take down here
https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:Craig_Murray_and_9-11

Marcus
Marcus

But look at him claiming Russia “invaded” Georgia in 2008, and taking it as read that Putin personally orders every suspicious death that occurs in Russia. And his ridiculous claims that Putin is a threat to the former Soviet republics.
This is the worst and most ignorant type of Russophobia and Murray rehearses it in his own blog!

Afriend
Afriend

Murray has toned-down a lot of his Russo-phobic sentiments lately, especially as he’s caught-up in RussiaGate via his involvement with Wikileakes; nervertheless he still occasionally comes out with the nonsense that Russia is an aggressive empire, holding down it’s former eastern provinces, and forever looking to expand. Likewise he has somewhat curtail his once previous frequent personal barbs & smears against Putin. However you only have to read his Blog Posts at the time of the Ukraine coup, to realise just how anti-Russian/Putin he really is, which included such low points as claiming that the victims of the Odessa Massacre (whom he wrongly predicted would hardly include any women or children), were kill by Russian thugs personally over sent by Putin ! Of course he also blamed the whole crisis on Putin, and stated that Russia had/has “invaded” the Crimea, etc.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle

The list of people, countries, or regimes disparaged by Murray is a long one, so its hardly surprising Russia appears on the list from time to time.
But getting back to the original point – Murray expressed certain opinions about Putin following revelations in the Panama Papers.
This raises questions about whether or not the Panama Papers might be true (mostly), or if are they mainly bullshit, in other words a phoney story invented by the media?
So far Murray has focused on the highly selective nature of media reporting (see RT interview) since its impossible to escape the fact the finger has been pointed at the likes of Putin but few if any corrupt political or financial figures in the west.

As you know Murray was stationed in Uzbekistan and maybe this country’s dealings with Russia has coloured some of the opinions he subsequently developed about the relationship between Russia and neighbouring states?

Admin

Just for clarity – is Putin’s name mentioned in the Panama Papers?

Afriend
Afriend

Apparent three friends of his are, but not him. Good enough for the guilt by association crowd it seems !

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle

No, not directly (AFAIK) – as Afriend says (below) links are by association.
The allegations are;
According to analysis, as much as $2 billion has been secretly shuffled through banks and shadow companies linked to Putin’s associates.
Bank Rossiya, identified by the U.S. as Putin’s personal cashbox, has been instrumental in building a network of offshore companies.
Dozens of loans, some worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sold between offshore companies for as little as $1 or less.
https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-putin-russia-offshore-network.html

Jen
Jen

One does smell a rat when a bank is described as a “personal cashbox” for a politician who leads a country seen by the US government as a major geopolitical rival.
The ICIJ report makes allegations, true, but can’t make them stick.
The one thing that does stick (in some people’s craws, maybe) is the fact that the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) is based in Washington DC and is funded by, among others, the Ford Foundation, the Omidyar Network and the Open Society Foundations (George Soros’ pet philanthropic project).
https://www.icij.org/about/our-supporters/

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle

Of course you have nailed the bigger problem – trying to find a source that is not hopelessly tainted by its own agenda.
Personally I think bias is a universal problem.
For example here is the BEEBs account of Putins wealth.
It may contain some truths but the west’s anti-Russian agenda means a huge dose of salt is required before viewing.

The good thing is bloggers and sites like Off-G keep us all on our toes.

Marcus
Marcus

I actually watched that video last night and posted a link here! I also commented on the channel thus – “There is literally not one fragment of proof offered here for ANY of the allegations of corruption. I’m not a Putin-fan but seriously – come on! This is bad!”
When you say ‘it may contain some truths’ – which part of the program are you talking about? The completely unsubstantiated rumour that Putin has shares in Rosneft? Or the completely unsubstantiated rumour he has a big yacht? or the completely unsubstantiated rumour that he owns that huge palace? Where are the facts? I come to this site because it respects a level of truth we are fast forgetting is necessary. Evidence isn’t some chap saying “this is evidence, “ for God’s sake.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle

Maybe we will find out more after Putin’s death, Marcus?
The salary of the Russian prez is not vast
https://www.rbth.com/politics_and_society/2016/11/17/what-is-vladimir-putins-officially-declared-salary_648533
If he bequeaths large sums to his daughters then the obvious question is where did the dosh come from.
I haven’t seen Vladimirs bank statement but its almost a cast iron guarantee that wealth accompanies power.

Admin

But you agree that an absence of evidence isn’t a reason for accepting rumour and assumption as fact.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle

‘But you agree that an absence of evidence isn’t a reason for accepting rumour and assumption as fact’ – well, I’ve said what I believe, which is that Putin is probably worth a bit more than his official salary.
Reuters have made claims about vast wealth acquired by his daughter.
https://www.unian.info/politics/1179541-reuters-putins-daughter-katerina-tikhonova-owns-billions-of-dollars.html
While Russian media have reported on Putin’s penchent for expensive time pieces, i.e. a A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual ‘Pour Le Mérite watch,’ apparently worth a cool half million dollars.
http://uk.businessinsider.com/how-putin-spends-his-mysterious-fortune-2017-6
Wealth is intrexicably linked to status and power, so even if ‘on paper’ Putin appears to be worth very little, the nice suits, expensive watches and comfortable lifestyle tells us his quality of life is much better than that of most Russian citizens.
That doesn’t make western imperialism any less toxic or Putins leadership qualities any less effective but I think on the balance of probabilities he is at least pretty well off.

Admin

It’s not that we disagree with you. It’s that we want to steer the conversation away from assumptions and toward facts. If the current fact is that no evidence for VVP’s corruption has been produced then this is what we should lead with – otherwise what are we doing?

Thomas Peterson
Thomas Peterson

how would a bank function as a personal cashbox and stay in business?
a snappy phrase that makes no sense

George Cornell
George Cornell

This sounds like a classic scam. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists sounds like a Consortium of Cats, herded by the common goal of combatting Washington-uncomfortable embarrassments which might pop up from time to time. It is like the UK “inquiry”, a la Blair.
There is plenty of American embarrassment to spread around, so let’s see some non-partisan Washington-unfriendly exposures. Something other than the well-deserved Trump stomping.

Afriend
Afriend

I’ve followed the Murray Blog for over a decade now, and when I say he has a particular fixation with Russia, I use the word fixation carefully as it’s exactly the right word.
Whetever this is due to his Uzbekistan experience, or due to his cold-war FCO background, or just plain old bigotry, it’s hard to ascertain.

Marcus
Marcus

I’m interested in an exploration of him as a human being. His ethics, or lack of ethics. His belief systems.
His is a very strange and unusual story. From total obscurity to overnight power. Rich with the possibility he might really be that one in a billion thing – a decent politician. Or are we being scammed? Is he just better at keeping his billions and his mistresses hidden than most of them are?

Mixasik
Mixasik

You really think its possible to hide anything nowadays? Wealth is not measured in paper money, wealth is measured in power, and that he got plenty and not even trying to hide )))

Marcus
Marcus

No, wealth is measured in money. Power is measured in power.
It’s not difficult.

Manda
Manda

Thanks for bringing this piece to the top. I looked for it a few weeks ago and couldn’t find it.

anthony hall (@UptiCToc107)

Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Ecuador are the only countries in the World to stand up to Americas self-appointed right to kill anybody, anywhere, anyway they see fit. The rest of Americas Puppets lick it`s arse with fake orgasms. That’s why Putin etc get demonised and fitted up for fake,false flag attacks in the “Western” media. The last time the UK said NO to Uncle Sam was in 1965 when UK PM Harold Wilson refused to send British Troops to Vietnam.

Ron
Ron

No mention of how the “incorruptible” Putin became one of the richest men in Russia. And he was never a business man for a single day in his life!

Admin

Is there any evidence to support the allegation of Putin’s wealth? We have been looking for some data, but haven’t found anything yet beyond the “a friend told a friend he was massively rich” type of innuendo. If you have a good source please let us know.

Sorry, Not Buying It
Sorry, Not Buying It

Please take those stories with a grain of salt. Even though Putin is indeed the capitalist chieftain of the Russian state/national bourgeoisie, it doesn’t mean that accounts of “his billions” are anything other than propaganda aimed at propping up US efforts to encircle and intimidate Russia. Putin is obviously not “incorruptible”; no capitalist ideologue can be. But he is certainly not open to selling out his country to US imperialism, which is the reason that the US media apparatus demonizes him in the way that they do. Whether or not Putin does any of the bad things ascribed to him, it’s a certainty that he’s going to be accused of such given his opposition to US imperial designs.

George Cornell
George Cornell

So put up or scatter in the light Ron. Regurgitating Faux news propaganda just doesn’t cut it here.

Rhisiart Gwilym
Rhisiart Gwilym

You and Sibel Edmonds, Ron. Evidence? Any smidgeon at all…? No, thought not.

The Cad
The Cad

Where’s the money?

Sorry, Not Buying It
Sorry, Not Buying It

Opposition to US imperialism and provocation against Russia, and solidarity with the people of Russia to defend themselves against said imperialism, should not lead the international (or Russian) working class to view Putin as their “comrade”. Russia today is itself a capitalist-imperialist power with Putin as its chieftain. Just like the US, it is also imbued with big power national chauvinism. It is also imbued with ugly macho posturing, heterosexual supremacism and gay-baiting, “traditionalist” tendencies (i.e. male chauvinism and social conservatism), promotion of religious themes and “morals”, and military pornography (worship of the military and its showcase of fancy new weapons, wrapped up in pride for “Russian engineering prowess”). These are all poisonous, regressive tendencies that Putin cultivates, or at least fails to oppose, because he knows that the success of forging his “new Russia” (which looks very much like the old Russia before 1917) relies upon riding the wave of these reactionary motifs. The social and class character of Russia he is trying to build is not anything that true progressives should want to emulate. Russia is one of the most unequal societies in the world. Capitalist-state formations, corrupt managers and bureaucrats and criminal mafias define its economic structure. Even if Putin manages to open up more of the benefits so that they trickle down to average Russians, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that Russia is still run in the interests of the Russian national bourgeoisie. It is committed to an extractivist development model, and the interests of smaller nations (including those within the Russian Federation) must inevitably be pushed to the side as Russia behaves more like a big power chauvinist and imperialist.
This is not to say that there are not progressive elements in Russia’s actions (helping to defend Syria against Western imperialist proxy war, for example), but Russia undoubtedly has its own “strategic interests” in such calculations. Russia is not a socialist state by any stretch of the imagination; it is a capitalist one with elements of feudalism.

aaronmicalowe
aaronmicalowe

Written better than the article.
We need to stop worshipping one “side” over the other, take politics out of it altogether and recognise the common issues.

Sorry, Not Buying it
Sorry, Not Buying it

“take politics out of it altogether”
Wrong. We need consciously class-based politics, the most SERIOUS politics. As Mao said: “Put politics in command.”

Aaron Lowe

What has politics achieved between Russia and America?

Sorry, Not Buying It
Sorry, Not Buying It

Your question is totally irrelevant. The real issue is that without class based politics, the working class, in Russia, the US or anywhere has nothing. The masses need revolutionary politics, not the junk politics they’re fed every day.

Aaron Lowe

Since I’m not brainwashed by political obsessives I have a fresher approach. No doubt if I kept reading up on “good practices” I’d end up losing all perspective on what is real.
Is it possible for you to express what you’re saying using real world examples rather than relying too heavily on arty farty concepts?

Sorry, Not Buying It
Sorry, Not Buying It

Ironically, you can’t do anything even approaching that. You can only invoke the arty-farty concept of “ditching politics altogether” – whatever that means.
The world’s masses don’t have the luxury of philosophical-idealist claptrap. They have to get serious about wielding concrete political power for themselves, at the expense of the exploiting classes.

Rhisiart Gwilym
Rhisiart Gwilym

The basic difference between your stance and Putin’s, Sorry, not… is that he operates in the real world, rather than the armchair theoretician’s, and deals with real human psychology, sometimes lamentable though they may both be. Idealist Marxist doctrine-thumping is no substitute (much as I admire Karl).

The Cad
The Cad

He’s in the same boat as anyone resistant to the US empire – have military forces capable of inflicting considerable casualties on the US head-chopping, heart-eating rapers or go under. It was the same for Lenin and Stalin, not because they were ex- or fake-bolsheviks but because no state can exist as an independent entity without the means to kill lots of Americans. Of course the Russian state is a version of the US but that’s because states are generic, fascist entities. I support Putin because I want to see the Washington barbarians humbled before I die, not because I think that Russia and China are fundamentally different.

mohandeer

Sorry, Not Buying It,
You’ve pretty much described half the countries “governments” in the world. Do you think that the UK and it’s cronyism and right wing neoliberalist elitists says something far removed from how you described “Putin’s” Russia? Sorry, not buying it. That’s not to say that you misrepresent “Putin’s” or “Yeltsin’s” or “Gorbachev’s” Russia entirely, but a little parity goes a long way. Judging by the way many so-called socialist and “lefties” jump on the pro-US interventionist and regime change Foreign Policy bandwagon, I’m not entirely sure quite who represents the “working class” anymore. For that matter, is their a global standard for “working class” and if so, what is it and where might we find an example?

Norman Pilon

@ Mohandeer,
“Do you think that the UK and it’s cronyism and right wing neoliberalist elitists says something far removed from how you described “Putin’s” Russia?”
I think that there is an enormous difference, Susan. The neoliberal elitists would have you believe that in moral terms, they stand head and shoulders above Putin. They don’t. And this despite that Putin may be, as an individual, highly principled and that he may privately care deeply about what happens to ordinary people, be they Russian or whatever.
What SNBI is reminding us about is that Russia is a capitalist society, that is to say, a CLASS divided society, as indeed are all others currently in existence, since not a single one doesn’t operate on the principle of capital accumulation, that is to say, in accordance with the profit motive, the exploitation of the vast majority by a tiny minority through the enforced mechanism of permanent expropriation that we call ‘private property,’ or what Marxists quaintly refer to as “ownership in the means of production and distribution.”
Consequently, if it’s true that Russia is capitalist and that the presidency occupied by Putin is effectively that of the CEO of the capitalist class, and not that of the working class, then the primary interests he is institutionally (and legally!) constrained to serve are those, not of ordinary people, but of the Russian oligarchy, a social class of power elites that only exists by virtue of being in a position to collectively exploit the vast majority of ordinary and economically destitute Russians.
In my opinion, SNBI has it about right: “Russia is not a socialist state by any stretch of the imagination; it is a capitalist one with elements of feudalism.”
A working class schmuck such as myself, whether in Russia or Canada or anywhere else, would do well to keep this in mind, lest one becomes overly confused about where one’s fundamental class (and therefore political) loyalties should lie.
Putin may be in fundamental moral terms a “good” person. As president of Russia, he is pledged to serve Russian capitalist interests above all others.

vierotchka

Consequently, if it’s true that Russia is capitalist and that the presidency occupied by Putin is effectively that of the CEO of the capitalist class, and not that of the working class, then the primary interests he is institutionally (and legally!) constrained to serve are those, not of ordinary people, but of the Russian oligarchy, a social class of power elites that only exists by virtue of being in a position to collectively exploit the vast majority of ordinary and economically destitute Russians.

Have you ever been to Russia and talked with Russians? I doubt it, and I think you ought to do so instead of jumping to conclusions.
[edited by Admin to fix coding; note to commenters – the html needs to be inside angle brackets NOT square brackets]

Norman Pilon

So, Russia is not, according to ordinary Russians, capitalist?

Franziska
Franziska

Russia is capitalist but not neoliberal or austerity capitalist. It is a welfare state. Free healthcare. And the policy has been to redistribute the wealth downward for the past 18 years of Putin. Compared to the West there is decent support for the poor and working people and the policy of social support which everyone had in the West 40 years ago is not banished.
This is why the IMF hates Russia.

Norman Pilon

Well and fine. A welfare state is still a capitalist state. Since you cannot have capitalism without exploitation, Russia, whether a welfare state or not, remains a society that is exploitative, no?

vierotchka

That is not what I said, your strawman fallacy notwithstanding.

Norman Pilon

What did you say? What did I say? Did I jump to conclusions by asserting that Russia was capitalist?

vierotchka

comment image

MLS
MLS

Where do you see the elements of feudalism in Russian society? I’m not challenging you, I don’t know enough about Russia to have an opinion, I’m just interested to hear more

Norman Pilon

The element of religion, or religious orthodoxy, in the national zeitgeist, as well as the associated and culturally influential institutions of the church, that is to say, influential in a politically conservative direction. The same element is alive and well in the United States and in any other country in which religion figures prominently as part of the national culture. I can’t see what else SNBI would have in mind.
As for my self, the more prominent and significant feature of Russian society — as of the entire world, actually — is its capitalist character.

vierotchka

Seriously? LOL!

Norman Pilon

Thank you for your insightful one liner replies, vierotchka.
So, according to you, my first comment to Mohandeer was without justification and clearly showed that I had never either been to Russia or spoken with any ordinary Russians.
But what was the nub of my reply to Mohandeer, vierotchka? Merely this: that Russia is a capitalist and that consequently the presidency of Russia is a capitalist presidency.
Obviously if that was the nub of my assertion and you objected to it without putting into words the gist of your objection, a reasonable person could only presume you might doubt that Russia was a capitalist state. Hence my first question to you that you declared to be a “strawman.”
In what sense was my question a “stawman?” Or are you incapable of any elaboration beyond emotional ejaculation, vierotchka?
And now I get a third penetrating reply from you, vierotchka, presumably a Russian who could enlighten us about Russia, but one who prefers instead to express disdain at our apparent and uncouth ignorance.
What? Does religion have no place in the lives of any substantial proportion of the Russian population? Are all Russians atheists? Or is it that you don’t like the characterization of religion as a hangover from a feudal past? What do you have in mind, vierotchka? What is ridiculous about the claims that “religion in Russia is culturally influential and that in its organized forms is a feudalistic legacy?”
Or are you merely reacting at a purely emotional level at something that to you smells of petulant ‘criticism’ of Russian society? Is Russia, then, to your mind, beyond criticism? Or is criticism of Russia something that only Russians are entitled to make? If so, doesn’t this smack just a little of something that goes by the name of chauvinism? Or maybe there is no such thing as Russian chauvinism, eh, vierotchka?
Surely you can do a bit better than spout one line insults?

Bonnie

Thank you Sharon. You’ve written an excellent piece I can forward to friends who have unthinkingly adopted the Russia demonization presented endlessly by western governments and their media. I look forward to checking out your book.
As a few in the comments have noted, those of us who seek out for ourselves a better understanding of what’s happening in the world share some degree of high regard for Mr. Putin, regardless of where we find ourselves on the political spectrum. I am dismayed and perplexed, though, to see so many on the so-called left of the spectrum join in the chorus of demonization — and have been repeatedly surprised to find folks on the right voicing their support of and comfort in Putin’s intelligent, canny and cautious leadership through treacherous waters. Perhaps the political axis is shifting away from a now meaningless left-to-right and toward a spectrum of common sense/informed-to-complacent/uninformed.
Weighing in on the philosophical argument that seems to have hijacked the thread: Of course all humans are, in potential, corruptible: we have free will and constantly make choices small and large. While many (and most people in the heights of government and business) base their choices on self-interest, money and power, there are also those who choose, as best they can, to seek and speak the truth, to serve the common interests.
These people are quieter and fewer, but if you count yourselves among them, it’s important to speak up and stand up for truth and our shared interests — now more than ever.
The truth needs champions, brave and steadfast. The uninformed need greater access to wider and varied perspectives. The future of our world is in the balance.

George Cornell
George Cornell

I think blaming “Western governments” is too broad. What you really mean is the US. The nonsensical hysterical attempt to smear Trump and his allies with the stories about Russian meetings and collaborations seems to overlook the possibility that meeting and collaborating with the Russians might be a good thing.
But the American need for scapegoating and the evil forces obsessed with increasing the defense budget (really an offense budget) have interacted to tirelessly promote the ‘Russia bad America good’ delusion.
Trump has shown himself quite capable of discrediting himself, his supporters and his country without having to resort to making up stuff about the Russians.

Empire Of Stupid

It’s impossible to be an apologist for somebody who has little or nothing to apologise for. Putin’s the sole adult in a room full of petulant, spoiled seven-year-olds with ADHD.

rongoddard

greg bacon,
if you are silly enough to attempt to accept money(bribe) over the i/net well there are places for people like you; they are called lunatic asylums, and then to public announce your lunacy is worse, silly bugger. and your mate who got 1/26th of a pint of beer, is pulling your leg!
to me putin is a man of integrity and deserves total support of westerners, though not their ‘governments’, who are a collection of parasites and hitmen who try to win popularity polls every few years then fall into line with every other government which bows down to the rothschilds etc. including our oz ‘government’, a mere puppet of u.s.a. just plain ‘suckups’. cheers from land of oz.

rongoddard

to keep to the point, vladimer putin is doing his job as best he can. i don’t know if i could put up with the m.s.m. sniping and debasement of my actions or character. and remember that we only get ‘our side’ of the story from our media. we are naturally 100% right and the russians are 100% wrong. so there! that is so much b.s. nobody or anything is 100% right about anything. i am so glad that putin doesn’t tolerate same sex marriage and is concerned with building his country. the kerch bridge is an outstanding achievement. 19kms of high tensile crossing from russia to ukraine at the entry to the sea of azov. trouble is too many americans cannot conceive anything good about russia.

JP
JP

Why the US powers that be are so down on Putin, and Russia? Sharon Tennison’s employment of the psychological principle of transference is very suggestive. Personally I tend to analyze these things more from the viewpoint of geopolitics.
The USA inherited the hatred of Russia from the British, along with their imperial primacy. Britain is an island, and it had a sea-based empire. The US is even further separated from the world’s great continents. Russia is the huge land mass that crosses 11 times zones. It has always been the top rival to beat.
It’s just rivalry and desire for hegemony. The US elites are envious and arrogant, they want all nations to be their playpen. There is no interest in the four principles of fair play, at all. Goodwill, and Will it be Beneficial for All Concerned? No way.
They think it’s a zero sum game — Which is just sadism masquerading as rationality. And that’s why within the USA itself, inequality and injustice keeps increasing — while Russia keeps advancing. That’s why some Americans have enough sense to wish Putin was their President!

elenits

‘sadism masquerading as rationality”
Spot on.