Monday, April 3, 2017

Another Take on Vladimir Putin

Ah yes, here we go again with another attack on Vladimir Putin, this time from the pen of Joseph Stiglitz and I am a great admirer of his economic writing. But it’s fashionable once again to bash Russia and after watching too many decades of Cold War, I’m a bit fed up. This, from a recent Guardian UK article:

In terms of per capita income, Russia ranks 73rd (in terms of purchasing power parity) – well below the Soviet Union’s former satellites in central and eastern Europe. The country has de-industrialized: the vast majority of its exports now come from natural resources. It has not evolved into a “normal” market economy, but rather into a peculiar form of crony-state capitalism.”

Well Joe, Russia is de-industrialized because we gave it no choice. The majority of its exports come from natural resources because we blockaded all other options. Sanctions, as you so wisely admit, never work and we chose to sanction Russia to the limit.

Supported by Republicans in the Congress (and Democrats when they were in power), Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and the sucker-fish attached to their corporate bodies essentially run our Russia diplomacy. That's our peculiarly American form of crony-state capitalism. You’re a ‘follow the money’ guy, Joe and you know keeping Russia and America in a state of suspended Cold War animation is profitable to the guys who make the guns. The Pentagon’s top 100 contractors raked in $175.1 billion in contracts in 2015.

Military expenditures account for 52% of our annual national budget. This madness hasn’t won us a war in 72 years, yet it casts a shadow across our economic landscape that has left us with a ruined infrastructure, unconscionable long-term debt, a deplorably unjust tax structure and more than a third of our citizenry a single job loss or major health issue from bankruptcy.

Military contractors spent $126,591,498 in 2016 bribing the Congress. This enormous fraud against the general public is absolutely legal—because the Congress unilaterally made it the law of the land. Our Congress has made it legal to bribe our Congress in a world turned upside down.

So, you’ll excuse me if I see Mr. Putin in a different light. Pardon me all to hell if I see him struggling to hold a badly wounded country together with whatever tape and string is at hand. Yeah I know he knocks off dissidents. We just imprison our Chelsea Mannings and drive our Edward Snowdens to exile, but there was a time when America committed genocide, practiced slavery, assassinated foreign leaders, tortured political prisoners and toppled democratic governments we didn’t much care for. And much of that is within recent memory.

What Vladimir wants for Russia is within our power to give. He wants recognition. He wants the largest nation on the planet, his nation, to be brought into the West with a degree of dignity and a chance at economic parity, as China was offered that recognition 45 years ago. It is not too much to ask and should have been offered decades ago when the time was ripe and Mikhail Gorbachev was the man in charge.

And it almost was. But the military guys began to whisper in ears and line certain pockets and the military guys were hip-deep in the profits and villainy of Vietnam and god it was lucrative and only cost 50,000 American lives, but my god, the money. Preparedness was the magic word—way better than domino theories and encroaching communism, both of which were out of fashion and disproven. Preparedness was a forever word and the money rolled in and the nation staggered—but fuck the nation, the money was beyond belief.

So perhaps Dwight Eisenhower was simply too much a gentleman to say “beware those who will fuck the nation for profit.” But if he had it to do over again, he might have apologized to Mamie in advance, turned directly to the cameras and said it: “Beware the military-industrial complex who will fuck the nation for profit.” Eisenhower spoke from his farm in Gettysburg. That could have been his Gettysburg Address.

But that was then and this is now. We have a man in Vladimir Putin who is a realist and a pragmatist, which is sometimes even better. We may miss him mightily when he’s gone, because Russia is not known for men with whom one can reason.

The time is now, the vehicle is Rex Tillerson and we might then see something positive come out of this administration.

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