By Richard Walker
As Vladimir Putin takes the reins of the Russian presidency for the third time, the Western mainstream media continues to demonize him. But the way Putin is portrayed is a tissue of lies deliberately engineered to place the West in conflict with Russia.
That conflict can best be seen in the recent statement of U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who described Russia as posing the greatest threat to the United States. From neocons to liberals, there has been a consistent drumbeat of portraying Russia as the old Soviet empire getting ready to strike back under the leadership of former KGB officer Putin.
Western media and politicians depict Putin as a cross between Rambo and an assassin. Built into this negative imagery is the notion that he is a godless commie who hates America and wants to return Russia to its former USSR glory days.
Missing is the fact that Putin’s mother was a devout Christian. Putin has clearly inherited her commitment to the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, he still wears a cross she gave him decades ago and regularly attends traditional church services. Under his tenure, the Russian Orthodox Church has thrived.
Putin’s role in transforming Russia into a global energy power has also made him enemies of the West’s big oil and gas corporations, especially after he ensured they would not dominate the energy resources of the Caspian. The very fact Russia now supplies the EU with much of its gas has led to fear mongering that he will use fuel to blackmail Europe.
When NATO officials announced plans to place a missile shield on Russia’s borders to supposedly protect the West from Iran, Putin called them out on the lie. Iran, he said, posed no nuclear threat to the West. He suggested establishing a joint Western-Russian missile shield in Azerbaijan, but Washington rejected the idea. No one asked how Washington would have reacted if Russia had decided to set up a missile shield on the borders of the U.S.
Putin has made it clear he thinks Washington has no right to lecture Russia about democracy, especially while it flouts international law.
Putin is on record saying he wants to build strong alliances with the West, based on mutual respect and trust. The West’s response is to demonize him more.
Missing in the anti-Putin demagoguery is the fact that the American people have more in common with the Russians than with most nations across the globe, including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Japan, China or even Mexico.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.