March 3, 2007 by AK
Now that the discussion is over, as usual. In two words, the problem is not the message but the messenger. The problem with Putin’s speech is Putin.
On the substance of the speech, I’ll limit myself to one comment. Bush’s policies — imperialist abroad and detrimental to civil liberties at home — have made it near-impossible for Americophiles like me to defend America before people who sincerely believe it is a new Evil Empire. That much I have to admit, but it matters little.
Coming from the mouth of Ahmadinejad or Kim Jung Il, a speech like that would have elicited laughter. Putin is neither A. nor KJI. Some of the accusations against him in the Western press are ridiculous. Still, his undoubted transgressions are enough to indict and convict him. Among other things, Putin seems unconcerned about the future of Russia’s native-born citizens and their children; one only has to compare how much defense spending has grown since his accession compared with government expenditures on health care and education, even adjusted for the growth of the private sector. Ironically, this is what Soviet propaganda used to demonize Reagan for: deficit spending on defense, slashing social programs.
Whatever NATO can do to Russia, short of waging war of course, can’t do as much long-term damage to its people as Putin’s social policies.