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Creating The Devil In Their Own Image

in reply to: [email protected],


Creating The Devil In Their Own Image
February 21, 2016

This comment was chosen by Mod HS from the post â??International
Military Review â?? Syria, Feb. 18, 2016â??.  The moderator believes this
comment reflects the Westâ??s obsession with President Vladimir Putin
and how their media demonizes him.  The commenter, mmiriww, responds
to the article written by Sharon Tennison. where she shares her
thoughts as the Ukraine situation worsened. Unconscionable
misinformation and hype was being poured on Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Journalists and pundits scoured the Internet and thesauruses to come
up with fiendish new epithets to describe both. Wherever Sharon makes
presentations across America, she finds the first question ominously
asked during Q&A is always, â??What about Putin?â??.

Comment by mmiriww
Is Putin incorruptible? A U.S. insiderâ??s view of the Russian
presidentâ??s character and his countryâ??s transformation.
â??What about Putinâ??

Itâ??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 Russiaâ??s second president.
Iâ??ve stood by silently watching the demonization of Putin grow since
it began in the early 2000s â?? â?? Like others who have had direct
experience with this little known man, Iâ??ve tried to no avail to avoid
being labeled a â??Putin apologistâ??. If one is even neutral about him,
they are considered â??soft on Putinâ?? by pundits, news hounds and
average citizens who get their news from CNN, Fox and MSNBC.I donâ??t
pretend to be an expert, just a program developer in the USSR and
Russia for the past 30 years. But during this time, Iâ??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
Washingtonâ??s officials. Iâ??ve been in country long enough to ponder
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, Iâ??ve had
discussions with numerous American officials and U.S. businessmen who
have had years of experience working with him â?? â?? I believe it is safe
to say that none would describe him as â??brutalâ?? or â??thuggishâ??, 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, Iâ??ve become nearly obsessed with understanding
his character. I think Iâ??ve read every major speech he has given
(including the full texts of his annual hours-long telephone
â??talk-insâ?? with Russian citizens). Iâ??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 â?? â?? 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. Itâ??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 1992â?¦

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 Americansâ?? 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, â??Volodya,
this is the first time we have ever dealt with a Soviet bureaucrat who
didnâ??t ask us for a trip to the US or something valuable!â?? I remember
looking at his business card in the sunlight â?? â?? it read Vladimir
Vladimirovich Putin.


Putin as Deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg in the early 90s.

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 â??good newsâ?? about
CCIâ??s programs that were showing fine results. In the next 24 hours
Jack and I also set up â??homeâ?? meetings in a dozen Russian
entrepreneursâ?? small apartments for the arriving dignitaries
(St.Petersburg State Department people were aghast, since it had never
been done before â?? â?? but Jack overruled). Only later in 2000, did I
learn of Jackâ??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

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 â?? â?? he could never lead Russia. The next day a NYT article
included a photo. Yes, it was the same Putin Iâ??d met years ago! I was
shocked and dismayed, telling friends, â??This is a disaster for Russia,
Iâ??ve spent time with this guy, he is too introverted and too
intelligent â?? â?? he will never be able to relate to Russiaâ??s masses.â??
Further, I lamented: â??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 Russiaâ??s 89
regionsâ??. It was clear to me that the man in the brown suit would
never have the instincts or guts to tackle Russiaâ??s overriding twin

February 2000

Almost immediately Putin began putting Russiaâ??s oligarchs on edge. In
February a question about the oligarchs came up; he clarified with a
question and his answer: â??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.â?? 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 Westâ??s
capitalists nervous. After all, these oligarchs were wealthy
untouchable businessmen â?? â?? good capitalists, never mind that they got
their enterprises illegally and were putting their profits in offshore

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 â?¦. IF taxes were
paid on their revenues and if they personally stayed out of politics.
This was the first of Putinâ??s â??elegant solutionsâ?? 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, didnâ??t pay taxes, and prior to being
apprehended and jailed was in the process of selling a major portion
of Russiaâ??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, â??Lena what do
you think about your new president?â?? She laughed and retorted,
â??Volodya! I went to school with him!â?? 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, â??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, â??What do you think he will
do with Yeltsinâ??s criminals in the Kremlin?â?? Putting on her
psychologist hat, she pondered and replied, â??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 donâ??t respond, he will address them personally, then
if the behaviors donâ??t change â?? â?? some will be in prison in a couple
of years.â?? I congratulated her via email when her predictions began to
show up in real time.

Throughout the 2000s

St.Petersburgâ??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, â??So what do you think of your new
president?â?? None responded negatively, even though at that time
entrepreneurs hated Russiaâ??s bureaucrats. Most answered similarly,
â??Putin registered my business a few years agoâ??. Next question, â??So,
how much did it cost you?â?? To a person they replied, â??Putin didnâ??t
charge anythingâ??. One said, â??We went to Putinâ??s desk because the
others providing registrations at the Marienskii were getting â??rich on
their seats.â??â??

Late 2000

Into Putinâ??s first year as Russiaâ??s president, US officials seemed to
me to be suspect that he would be antithetical to Americaâ??s interests
â?? â?? his every move was called into question in American media. I
couldnâ??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
Putinâ??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 couldnâ??t accept this favor, that Ludmila
would have to recover in a Russian hospital. She did â?? â?? 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 wouldnâ??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

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: â??When did Putin become unacceptable to
Washington officials and why? Without hesitating the answer came back:
â??â??The knives were drawnâ?? when it was announced that Putin would be the
next president.â?? I questioned WHY? The answer: â??I could never find out
why â?? â?? maybe because he was KGB.â?? I offered that Bush #I, was head of
the CIA. The reply was, â??That would have made no difference, he was
our guy.â??

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, â??You might be interested to know that Iâ??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 bribesâ??. He firmly replied, â??No
one has ever been able to come up with a bribery charge against

>From 2001 up to today, Iâ??ve watched the negative U.S. media mounting
against Putin â?¦. 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, Iâ??ve traveled
throughout Russia several times every year, and have watched the
country slowly change under Putinâ??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 â?? â?? 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 Modern Russia, thriving

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 â?? â?? the fields and
forests look healthy, small towns sport new paint and construction.
Todayâ??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 â?? â?? 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
Russiaâ??s presidency and took over a country that was flat on its

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 donâ??t want to face in themselves. Others carry our
â??shadowâ?? 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 Russiaâ??s corruption, acting like the
corruption within our corporate world doesnâ??t exist?

Could it be that we condemn their human rights and LGBT issues, not
facing the fact that we havenâ??t solved our own?

Could it be that we accuse Russia of â??reconstituting the USSRâ?? â?? â??
because of what we do to remain the worldâ??s â??hegemonâ???

Could it be that we project nationalist behaviors on Russia, because
that is what we have become and we donâ??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?

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 nationâ??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.

Sharon Tennison