Thursday, October 02, 2014

Emperor Putin’s War on Truth


PRINCETON, N.J. — I spent most of the summer in Moscow, treading past kiosks stocked with T-shirts that read, essentially, “Bring on the sanctions.” In retaliation for financial constraints imposed by Washington and Brussels for Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine, which make foreign check card purchases deeply problematic, the Russian prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, has barred the import of a wide range of American and European foods. The McDonald’s restaurant on Pushkin Square has been closed “for technical reasons.” And at the otherwise posh Bakhetle supermarket two teenage boys took pictures of Oreos; they had apparently been tasked with reporting the infiltration of enemy trans-fats to the authorities.

People are dying in Ukraine. Atrocities are being committed. But in Moscow, the conflict has an illusory, theatrical quality. President Vladimir Putin’s poll numbers are high and the crisis has served to focus attention on Russia’s true enemy: the United States.

I heard an earful every day from my Russian friends and acquaintances who could not understand why America would interfere in a region that was once part of the Russian Empire and no doubt (from their perspectives) will be again. The battle over Ukraine, I was reminded by people in their early 30s up to their late 80s, comes as the consequence of NATO’s eastward expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Russia was on its knees. Mr. Putin drew his red line at the border between Poland and the Ukraine; the idea that NATO ships — American ships — would dock in the Black Sea ports of Crimea seemed unthinkable.

(More here.)


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