Anti-Anti-Putinism

You’d think given the creeping post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan “realism” that has influenced most U.S. foreign policy discussions this side of the hardcore let’s-have-another-war neocons, those pushing back against a militant posture towards Russia’s Ukraine brinkmanship would have more compelling arguments than “Putin’s not so bad.” But as Jonathan Chait explains today, a lot of the voices raised in dissent over a potential confrontation with the Kremlin seem to rely to a considerable extent on what he calls “anti-anti-Putinism.” Indeed, in one prominent dissenter, Stephen F. Cohen of The Nation, Chait sees Soviet-era “anti-anti-communism” morphing seamlessly into an apologies for the new boss in Moscow (I am agnostic on this rather serious charge, not having read much of Cohen since his excellent biography of Bukharin way back in 1980).

More generally vulnerable to Chait’s argument are the American journalists associated with the heavily-compromised television network Russia Today:

Their motives appear to be a mix of careerism, naïveté, and utter incuriousity. The modal career arc of an American RT reporter appears to be an ambitious but not terrible bright 20-something aspiring journalist who, faced with the alternative of grim local-news reportage, leaps at the chance to make two or three times the pay while covering world affairs, sort of. It’s the sort of reward that dims one’s incentive to perform due diligence into just who is signing your paycheck, and why.

I’d mainly observe that anti-anti-Putinism, if that’s what it is, should not be countered with more of the same. It is entirely possible to have an unblinkered and negative view of the Putin regime without (a) arguing that it’s the Soviet regime come right back to life, relying on expansionist militarism as its life’s blood, or (b) that the U.S. can or must crush Putinism with more aggressive tactics than we actually displayed when the Soviets were aiming missiles at us. Chait doesn’t take either of these tacks, but I’m guessing others who share his contempt for Putin’s defenders are putting on the war paint as we speak.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.