Western Hypocrisy and the Russian Election

Vladimir Putin wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes as he exulted in his presidential election victory and shouted “Glory to Russia!” The entire American punditocracy, to say nothing of the Brits, responded as one with accusations the election had been fixed, confidently predicting a “crackdown” on “dissent” as the Russian leader resumed the office he had never really left.

Yet there is very little to these claims of fraud. Of course, in every election ever held anywhere there have been “irregularities,” such as are commonplace in our very own Chicago. There is some evidence the Russian parliamentary elections were somewhat less than honest – the 99 percent pro-Putin vote in Chechnya, of all places, was particularly suspect – although no one has gone so far as to say Putin’s United Russia party actually lost.

The reality is that Putin is immensely popular in Russia, a fact the English-speaking media only admits with great reluctance. The “dissidents,” who are fawned over by Western journalists, are viewed by Russia’s vast-albeit-silent majority as a tiny faction of professional discontents with dubious motives. Putin has characterized them as professionals in the pay of Washington and London, a charge given credence by some hilarious video of a British diplomat and Russian “democracy activists” who wound up between a rock and a hard place.

Even before the OSCE report on the presidential poll was issued, the chief of the mission, one Tonio Picula, averred:

“The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia. There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt.”

Senor Picula may be unfamiliar with the details of American electoral history, but was the outcome of every US presidential election from 1936-44 ever in any doubt? “No real competition?” Has Picula looked at the Republican presidential field lately? “Abuse of government resources”? Oh please, spare us the sanctimony: what incumbent hasn’t utilized the power and prestige of incumbency to win reelection? Western politicians hand out goodies to their supporters, and then bus them to the polls on election day: why should we expect a Russian election to be any different? We’re told pro-Putin voters were bussed from polling station to polling station, engaging in “carousel voting,” and yet the Russian election seems relatively clean compared to how the process was conducted in the Iowa and Maine GOP primaries.

This charge of a lack of competition is ironic, given the system we have here in the United States, which effectively ensconces two state-supported and state-subsidized parties, giving them a monopoly on the political process at the state and federal levels. These two parties are, in legal terms, effectively extensions of the state, and they have managed to not only preserve but reinforce their privileged status. If only the OSCE and the “human rights” crowd turned their attention Westward, say to California, where an “top-two” system has effectively banned third parties from the ballot.

What this means is that in San Francisco, for example, where the Democratic party regularly racks up majorities totaling nearly 90 percent of the vote, all the candidates for, say, Congress, regardless of party, will run in the same “primary.” The top two vote-getters will run in the general election – again, regardless of party. In the Bay Area, where the GOP regularly polls around ten percent, it is highly unlikely a Republican candidate will make it to the ballot in the general: it will be Nancy versus some Democrat to her left.

That’s “democracy,” California-style. As for the rest of the country, the situation for “third” parties is nearly as bad, with increasingly restrictive ballot access laws making it impossible to present “dissident” views to the electorate. Yet we don’t hear Human Rights Watch and all the other international do-gooders in the regime-change camp howling about a “crackdown” in the US against “dissidents.” Why is that?

As I write, the results of “Super Tuesday” aren’t in, and yet one wonders how much it really matters. A veritable avalanche of special interest money decided the “election” in advance, and the “winner” will go on to challenge an incumbent who will have a billion in hard and “soft” money from the many who seek favors from the most powerful man on the planet.

Western critics complain the Russian media is a pro-Putin monolith, yet these are privately-owned television and print outlets controlled by corporate interests friendly to the regime. How is that different from our own system, where corporate interests line up behind the two state-sanctioned parties: with George Soros, Goldman Sachs, and GE supporting the Obama-ites, and the Koch brothers, for example, or Rupert Murdoch funding the opposition?

In Russia there is no effective political opposition: the “liberals” are a confused lot, and split into four or five competing parties. Together, these groups make up no more than 10 percent of the electorate, at best. The main opposition parties are openly authoritarian, with the neo-Stalinist Communist Party of the Russian Federation leading the pack, and the “Liberal Democrat” supporters of openly fascist Vladimir Zhirinovsky trailing slightly behind. To add to this unsavory mix, the most visible of the anti-Putin activists are the militants of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), led by virulent nationalist and sometime punk-novelist Eduard Limonov. The National Bolsheviks are a bizarre ultra-nationalist sect prone to violence: their official party symbol is a sinister recapitulation of both Nazi and Soviet emblems. Western accounts of Russian “dissidents” figure Limonov and his followers prominently, and yet somehow fail to mention the NBP advocates the expulsion of all non-Russians and the creation of an authoritarian state with the Leader – Limonov himself, naturally – at its head. In Limonov-land, as he puts it in his manifesto, The Other Russia:

Boys and girls will be taught to shoot from grenade throwers, to jump from helicopters, to besiege villages and cities, to skin sheep and pigs, to cook good hot food and to write poetry. There will be sportive competitions, fighting, a free combat without rules, running, jumping….

“We will have to leave Russia, to build a nest on the fresh central lands, to conquer them there and to give rise to a new, unseen civilization of free warriors united in an armed community. Roaming the steppes and the mountains, fighting in southern nations.

“Many types of people will have to disappear. Alcoholic uncles Vasias, cops, functionaries and other defective material will die out, having lost their roots in society. The armed community could be called ‘Government of Eurasia.’ Thus the dreams of the Eurasians of the ’30s will be realized. Many people will want to join us. Possibly we will conquer the whole world. People will die young but it will be fun.”

Although one might think no one would take such a person seriously, our Western journalists routinely give his violence-prone followers free publicity, highlighting, for example, a NBP election-eve protest in Moscow. Photos of Limonov’s crazed followers fighting the police were flashed all around the world with news of Putin’s election victory: this was meant to illustrate the official Western narrative, which is that Russia is slipping back into authoritarianism and Putin represents the reincarnation of Stalin.

This contention is beyond absurd. In little more than two decades, the country has emerged from one of the most vicious and bloodthirsty dictatorships in world history, where millions perished in the gulag and a totalitarian ideology was the official doctrine of the state. Seen from this perspective, Russia’s progress toward an open society has been unprecedented: to hold Putin’s Russia to a standard not even the United States can live up to is Western hypocrisy at its most brazen.

Why have the regime-changers and “democracy”-exporters turned their sights on Russia? It’s all about Putin’s independent foreign policy: the Russians have the temerity to block the regime-changers’ plans in Syria and Iran, and Putin routinely berates the NATO powers for acting as if the cold war never ended – as, indeed, for them it hasn’t.

As the US and Britain move against Iran, setting up Tehran for a round of “shock and awe,” the Russians aren’t sitting still for it: they’re sending arms to Iran’s ally, Syria, and calling for mediation with the mullahs. Western leaders are especially nonplussed at Putin’s blunt denunciations of US policy: “They want to control everything,” he told student interlocutors in Tomsk, “sometimes I have the impression the United States doesn’t need allies, it needs vassals.”

Truer words were never spoken. The last thing Western NGOs – and their governmental paymasters – want is a strong, united, and relatively free Russia. They much prefer the corruption and chaos of the Yeltsin years, when a perpetually intoxicated “leader” and his Rasputin-like cronies helped the West and the former communist elite seize the country’s “privatized” assets, and let the nation crumble around them. Putin saved Russia from dissolution, and those who were hoping to pick up the pieces were not at all pleased. This is the reason for years of relentless anti-Russian cold war era propaganda, the charges of “authoritarianism” leveled against a nation emerging from a 70-year-long nightmare, and the revived hype about a Russian “threat.”

The nations of the West should look to clean up their own houses before they go around chastening other countries for allegedly “undemocratic” practices. And if they want to know what or who is the greatest threat to the sovereignty and self-governing aspirations of the world’s peoples, then all they have to do is look into a mirror.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].