Monday, February 26, 2024

Putin and the unbearable hypocrisy of the West

By Nikos Mottas

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, western imperialism always seeks for a “boogeyman” in order to justify its crimes: In 1991 and 2003 it was Saddam Hussein, in 1998 it was Slobodan Milosevic, in 2001 Osama Bin Laden, in 2011 Muamar Qaddafi, in 2013 Bashar Al-Ashad and so on. 

During the last two years, as a consequence of the imperialist war in Ukraine, the role of the villain in global politics has been given to Russia's President, Vladimir Putin. 

The recent death of Alexei Navalny revived the anti-Putin tirade of western mainstream media. Once again, the US, NATO and EU are presenting themselves as the standard-bearers of the “free world” against “Russian authoritarianism”. Once again, the West is posing as the defender of “democracy” and “human rights” against Putin's dictatorship. What an unbearably shameful hypocrisy!

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who today is portrayed by western leaders as a “dictator”, is one of their own. He is a political offspring of the capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. His political mentors include notorious anti-communists, like Boris Yeltsin and Anatoly Sobchak. Putin shares common values with all US Presidents and EU leaders; he is a proponent of free market economy and a devoted anti-communist.

The same West which today denounces Putin's “authoritarianism” is the same one that was celebrating his rise to power in August 1999. Back then, they were welcoming the “liberal” and “democratic” leader who was taking over as Russia's PM at the behest of the then President Yeltsin. A few months later, Putin was appointed and then elected President of the Russian Federation. His commitment to the liberalization of Russian economy was highly appreciated by western leaders who were competing over who would invite him first for an official visit. After all, anti-communism, like capital, tends to unite all those who work for the exploitation of the working masses.

Valentin Yumashev, one of Yeltsin's most trusted aids, played an important role in Putin becoming President. During a BBC interview, Yumachev said that Yeltsin “had several candidates in mind, like Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Stepashin and Nikolai Aksenenko. Yeltsin and I talked a lot about possible successors. At one point we discussed Putin. Yeltsin asked me: 'What do you think about Putin?' I think he's a superb candidate, I replied. I think you should consider him. It's clear from the way he does his job that he's ready for more difficult tasks" (…) The fact that he was ex-KGB meant nothing. Putin had shown himself to be a liberal and a democrat, who wanted to continue market reforms”.

US President Bill Clinton, who met Putin for first time in 2000, agreed with Yumashev: “Putin has expressed a genuine commitment to economic reform”. When US and EU leaders talk about “economic reforms” we all know what they actually mean: More profitability for the monopolies, expansion of privatizations, complete dissolution of welfare state and further exploitation of the working class. That is exactly what Vladimir Putin did in Russia in the last 20 years.

Putin was the “good guy” and an ally of US, NATO and EU until 2007, when he publicly declared the strategic intention of the Russian bourgeoisie to assert more actively and aggressively its upgraded position in the international imperialist system and to expand Russian monopolies' interests in the rest of the world (3). What followed (armed conflict in Georgia, secession of South Osetia and Abhazia,  US-backed Euromaidan in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea by Russia, etc) led to the escalation of inter-imperialist competition between Moscow and the West. 

Today, the Euro-Atlantic imperialist bloc tries to draw false diving lines between the so-called “democratic” west and Russian “authoritarianism”. But the plain truth is that both sides are born and bred in the same capitalist system; both of them serve the same purpose which is the profitability of their own monopolies at the people's expense.

Two years since the beginning of the imperialist war in Ukraine, V.I. Lenin's words are more timely than ever before: “The working class, in case it is conscious, will not support any group of imperialistic predators”. 

* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.