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Russia and the Left


What explains the enthusiasm in certain quarters of the left for Vladimir Putin and Russia? Why do some cheer on Russian bombing in Syria, dismissing out of hand the evidence from Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch1 that they are criminally targeting hospitals? Why do some try to justify Russia’s takeover of Crimea or its blatant intervention in Ukraine?

Apologetics for Moscow, of course, has a long and ignoble history on the left. There is no excuse for this betrayal of left values, but we can at least understand some of the reasons that people held these wrongheaded views.

In the past, many Americans who were committed to progressive causes — especially civil rights and labor rights — joined the Communist Party because it was an organization actively and powerfully engaged in these struggles. They were aware that CP membership required following the Soviet line on foreign policy questions, but many joined despite this, not because of it. Now in fact even their contribution to the civil rights and labor movements was compromised to some degree by their allegiance to a hierarchical party that was subservient to Moscow’s foreign policy. (How many honest radicals became alienated from the left because of the CP defense of the Moscow Trials or the Hitler-Stalin Pact? How much harm was done to the left by the CP supporting the trial and conviction of Trotskyists under the Smith Act in World War II?) Still, we can understand why many CPers believed that their participation was furthering the cause of social justice at home, and, hence, why they gave the Soviet Union a pass.

Another reason for leftists to be soft on the Soviet Union was that internationally it was generally on the side of the great anti-colonial struggles of the day. Its economic and military aid and its diplomatic support helped many Third World nations break from Western colonial or neocolonial rule. Now this was never as consistent or as selfless as Moscow’s acolytes suggested. Soviet opposition to the Eritrean liberation struggle, for example, was horrendous, and as early as 1921 the new Soviet state sold out communist militants in Turkey in order to maintain its relationship with Mustafa Kemal. Moreover, national liberation that was supported with Stasi agents setting up a security apparatus was hardly very liberating. Likewise, Soviet support to the Republic during the Spanish Civil War was such that even if Franco had been defeated, Spanish democracy was unlikely to survive. In addition, it should be noted that great powers often tried to weaken their rivals’ colonial empire without at all being progressive — think of the German Kaiser’s aid to Irish rebels. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Soviet Union played an important role in hastening the end of colonialism, and so we can understand why many leftists were enamored of it. Soviet prestige was also enhanced by its role in the defeat of Nazi Germany (though this followed its pact with Nazi Germany).

A third reason that some leftists wrongly but understandably championed the Soviet Union is that the country was committed, rhetorically at least, to socialism. Principled socialists differ in their assessment of when the Soviet Union became a repressive state — I would date it from the crushing of the Workers’ Opposition and Kronstadt — but there is no doubt that by the mid-1920s there was no democracy in the Soviet Union and, because there can be no socialism without democracy, nor was there socialism. Beyond their rhetorical socialism, members of the Soviet bloc proclaimed their allegiance to social justice, and to some extent this was not all just words. Because social justice, like socialism, has to include democratic rights, the Soviet Union and other members of its camp were crucially deficient in social justice. But they did tend to have greater social and economic egalitarianism and more developed social welfare policies than many Western states. These accomplishments had the unfortunate effect of erroneously suggesting that we face a trade-off: we can have either economic justice or democracy, but not both. It is true that a resident of Brazil’s favelas might choose Cuba’s heath care over her own country’s formal democracy. But Costa Rica, no paragon of socialist enlightenment, offers both democracy and a life expectancy equal to that of Cuba’s. Still, to many leftists the fact that the “communist” countries, led by the Soviet Union, declared themselves to be pursuing socialism made it easier to overlook their misdeeds.

The question is, why do many leftists today close their eyes to Russian crimes given that each one of these lame but understandable reasons for Soviet apologetics no longer applies?.

Where the Soviet Union generally backed parties around the world and in the United States that were on the left, at the moment Moscow seems to be much more supportive of far right parties than of left ones.2 In the United States, Putin’s backing of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was clear, whether or not it is confirmed that Russia hacked emails with the intention of helping the Republican candidate. So left apologists for Putin are not turning a blind eye to the crimes of a regime that at least is promoting the U.S. civil rights movement. No, their blind eye is to the crimes of a regime that favors the candidate who will preside over one of the most rightwing governments in U.S. history.

Where the Soviet Union generally stood against colonialism, in this post-colonial age Putin’s Russia is now one of the leading powers seeking to acquire or hold on to territory by force: Chechnya, South Ossetia, Eastern Ukraine, Crimea (the latter annexation condemned by a vote of 100-11 in the General Assembly, with 58 abstentions).

Some leftists like to claim that Russia, Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah constitute an “axis of resistance” that has heroically been challenging U.S. and Israeli imperialism. This account ignores the fact that in the 1970s Hafez al-Assad intervened in Lebanon against Palestinians and the Lebanese left, and more recently Bashar al-Assad partnered with Washington in torturing prisoners.3 Today, hundreds of Palestinians languish in Bashar’s torture chambers.If this is an axis of resistance, we might consider adding the European far right parties that have been supporting Assad.5 Indeed, given that Moscow has been a substantial purchaser of Israeli military drones6 and a leading supplier of its oil and has coordinated its bombing in Syria with Israel,7 perhaps Israel too should be considered a member of the axis of resistance? After all, Israel did absent itself from the UN resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea.8

And where the Soviet Union could boast some progressive social policies, these are things of the past. Putin has explicitly adopted a rightwing ideology, drawing on émigré and even fascist philosophers.9 Putin’s party, United Russia, with three-quarters of the seats in the Duma, has officially adopted “Russian Conservatism” as its position. As RT, the Russian-government sponsored news outlet, reported:

Having called themselves “conservatives,” the members of United Russia “have simply determined their place” as a right-wing party, political scientist Dmitry Travin said. That means that they are “politicians who defend values of the market economy based on national traditions,” Rosbalt news agency quoted him as saying.

At the same time, they “are not staunch defenders of freedom as liberals,” and they are not “followers of egalitarianism as social democrats,” he said.10

In terms of Islamophobia and anti-LGBT repression, Russia makes the United States look like Paradise. Male life expectancy in Russia is six years less than in Brazil and a decade less than in Mexico; its spending on education as a share of GDP is 80 percent that of Mexico and less than three quarters that of Brazil.11 In terms of the size of the public sector, Russian government spending as a percent of GDP is smaller than that of Japan, Greece, the UK, and Spain (and its military spending is a far greater share of its overall government spending than any of these countries).12 Neither in practice nor in inspiration nor even in rhetoric does current-day Russia reflect left values.

So why then the left enthusiasm for Russia?

For some, no doubt, it’s simply nostalgia. The U.S. Peace Council, a slavish Moscow tool during the Cold War, fondly recalls the Soviet alliance with the Baathist regime in Syria under Hafez al-Assad, and so perhaps it’s a simple move to glorify Russian support today for the successor to the Assad dynasty. (And thus the Peace Council’s awful propaganda trip to Damascus and subsequent participation in Syrian-government sponsored propaganda events.13)

But wistful longing for the glory days of the Soviet Union doesn’t explain most left attachment to Russia. Instead it’s the pernicious doctrine of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” that unfortunately has permeated large sectors of the left.

A civilian airliner is shot down over the Russian-backed break-away zone of Ukraine, the United States (among others) accuses the Russians of being responsible, and the automatic, reflexive response from some is that this was either a Western false flag operation (an intelligence concoction) or at a minimum a tragedy for which the United States and its allies bear primary responsibility. That Russian propaganda on the matter was so easily refuted merely confirmed for some how devilish the false flag operation really was.14

An aid convoy is bombed in Syria. Washington accuses Russia or Syria of being responsible. Given that Assad had a clear policy of forcing Aleppo to “surrender or starve,”15 Washington’s accusation was certainly plausible, but further evidence left little doubt as to Russian/Syrian responsibility.16 But to some on the left, the fact that the U.S. government said it made it false.

Now it is true that any time two imperial states contest for power each is going to try to push a one-sided, jingoistic narrative of the differences between them. Skepticism about the claims of one’s own government is certainly warranted. During the Soviet period, in the United States the official line tried to portray Moscow as wholly responsible for the onset of the Cold War, and as being in the wrong, the aggressor, in every single international dispute. It was and remains important to contest this dominant view. That doesn’t mean, though, that we should have dismissed the tendentious U.S. narrative only to adopt the equally tendentious Soviet counter-narrative — dismissing as Western propaganda such things as the gulag or the secret clauses in the Hitler-Stalin pact or the Katyn massacre or Soviet aggression in Hungary in 1956 or in Afghanistan in 1979-88. It was entirely possible — and right — to reject both the U.S. and the Soviet propaganda lines. The forerunner of the current Campaign for Peace and Democracy (www.cpdweb.org)– the Campaign for Peace and Democracy East and West — famously got Western Central America activists to sign on to a statement condemning Soviet policy in Eastern Europe and got East European dissidents to sign on to a statement condemning U.S. policy in Nicaragua and El Salvador. It’s this sort of rejection of both sides and their lies that ought to be key to any left politics.

If Russian hacking interfered in the U.S. election, it is not enough to point out Washington’s sordid record of interfering in foreign elections. The left condemns U.S. interference in foreign elections and we ought to condemn Russian interference as well (and not just in the United States). While some of the attacks on Russian hacking by the Hillary Clinton camp (“Ronald Reagan would be rolling over in his grave”17) do indeed smack of McCarthyism, there’s nothing wrong with the left denouncing Russian crimes. And all the U.S. crimes in the world don’t justify Russian crimes. Nor should U.S. crimes lead us to withhold our criticisms of the crimes of Moscow, any more than Russian crimes would lead us to withhold our criticisms of the crimes of Washington in Iraq, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Stephen R. Shalom is a member of the New Politics editorial board. Thanks to Joanne Landy for helpful discussions.


1. Physicians for Human Rights, “Russian Warplanes Strike Medical Facilities in Syria,” Oct. 7, 2015; Amnesty International, “Syrian and Russian forces targeting hospitals as a strategy of war,” March 3, 2016; Human Rights Watch, “Russia/Syria: War Crimes in Month of Bombing Aleppo,” Dec. 1, 2016. See also Medecins Sans Frontieres, “Review of Attack on Al Quds hospital in Aleppo City,” Sept. 2016.

2. Alina Polyakova, “Strange Bedfellows: Putin and Europe’s Far Right,” World Affairs, Sept.-Oct. 2014; Alina Polyakova, “Why Europe Is Right to Fear Putin’s Useful Idiots,” Foreign Policy, Feb. 23, 2016;  Anna Nemtsova, “How Vladimir Putin Feeds Europe’s Rabid Right,” The Daily Beast, Oct. 4, 2016; Mike Lofgren, “Trump, Putin, and the Alt-Right International,” The Atlantic, Oct. 31, 2016; Fredrik Wesslau, Putin’s friends in Europe,” European Council on Foreign Relations, Oct. 19, 2016. This is not to say that there are no left parties close to Moscow. See Péter Krekó and Lóránt Győri, “Don’t ignore the left! Connections between Europe’s radical left and Russia,” Open Democracy, June 13, 2016.

3. David Cole, “Getting Away with Torture,” New York Review of Books, Jan. 14, 2010.

4. Budour Youssef Hassan, “Syria’s disappeared Palestinians,” The Electronic Intifada, Feb. 18, 2015.

5. Wikipedia, Bashar al-Assad.

6. Patrick Hilsman, “Drone deals heighten military ties between Israel and Russia,” Middle East Eye, Oct. 3, 2015. There are reports that Washington has blocked further Israeli drone sales to Moscow.

7. Robert Zapesochny, “An Emerging Alliance: Russia and Israel,” American Spectator, Dec. 15, 2016.

8. Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis, “Defense Official on Ukraine Policy: Israeli Interests Needn’t Be Identical to U.S.’,” Haaretz, Apr. 13, 2014.

9. Dan La Botz, “In Putin’s Head,” New Politics online, Sept. 25, 2016.

10. Sergey Borisov,ROAR: United Russia ‘determined itself as a right-wing party,’” RT, Nov. 23, 2009.

11. See UN data here.

12. See UN data here and here.

13. See “Bashar Ja’afari (Syria) and US Peace Council Representatives on Syria – Press Conference,” Aug. 9, 2016.

14. Eliot Higgins, “How the Dutch Safety Board Proved Russia Faked MH17 Evidence,” Bellingcat, Oct. 15, 2015; Eliot Higgins, “The Russian Defence Ministry Presents Evidence They Faked Their Previous MH17 Evidence,” Bellingcat, Sept. 26, 2016; Aric Tole, “The Weird World of MH17 Conspiracy Theories – Part 1,” Bellingcat, Aug. 7, 2015.

16. Eliot Higgins, “Confirmed: Russian Bomb Remains Recovered from Syrian Red Crescent Aid Convoy Attack,” Bellingcat, Sept. 22, 2016; Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta, “‘From Paradise to Hell’: How an Aid Convoy in Syria Was Blown Apart,” New York Times, Sept. 24, 2016.

17. See Adam Schiff.

40 Comments

  1. Z3k3@ndZ@mi January 13, 2017 2:39 pm 

    Hi, just saw this – no, things seem to be progressing without rancor…

  2. Stephen Siegel January 13, 2017 2:25 pm 

    The article does a fine job outlining Russian crimes, but gives almost 0 evidence for “enthusiasm in certain quarters of the left for Vladimir Putin and Russia”. Who exactly on the left is cheering on Russian bombing in Syria and the takeover of Crimea?

    You write “[s]ome leftists like to claim that Russia, Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah constitute an ‘axis of resistance'” — but you don’t tell us who those leftists are or give a source for this quoted phrase ‘axis of resistance’. Who are they?

    Of course you can always find a few loonies in any community but to say these views are representative of any significant portion of the left is going to require some substantiation.

    • Philip Log January 13, 2017 3:04 pm 

      i agree completely. also would like to point out that this is not needed at a time when the entire mainstream media is hammering putin and russia. do we really need another “enemy”?

    • avatar
      Paul D January 13, 2017 6:58 pm 

      Stephen,

      Agreed. The problem seems to come from an extreme amount of confusion of what constitutes the “left”. I see this on a personal level with millennial aged people who use the term to simply mean “people who are critical of the US and notably US foreign policy” – for example, they consider Glen Greenwald to be a “leftist”.

      Also, there seems to be a genuine, large volume of apologetics for Putin and Assad from either self-described leftists and established more doctrinaire left sources (like the contributors to the Trotskyist WSWS web site). Syrian leftists like Yasin Al Haj Saleh or earlier, Ukranian anarcho-leftists like the AWU would not be expressing their exasperation with US, western European leftists if the volume of pro-Putin/Assad rhetoric was not substantial.

  3. Philip Log January 13, 2017 11:21 am 

    Paul D, thanks for the response but I find it unsatisfying.

    1. I agree about the mainstream media but you did not answer my question. Who are the leftist apologists for putin. If you are talking about some fringe left groups who have a special love for putin or Russia seems no need to bother.
    2. “You will never hear the mainstream media call Putin a capitalist gangster.” – really?? So because our criticism is so different we are not adding fuel to the mainstream efforts to demonize putin and his policies. That does not make sense to me.
    I know the history of the Ukrainian uprising but that was not my main point. Here is cohen on the subject – is he wrong?
    STEPHEN COHEN:
    “here’s what the European Union did back in November. It told the government of Ukraine, “If you want to sign an economic relationship with us, you cannot sign one with Russia.” Why not? Putin has said, “Why don’t the three of us have an arrangement? We’ll help Ukraine. The West will help Ukraine.” The chancellor of Germany, Merkel, at first thought that was a good idea, but she backed down for various political reasons. So, essentially, Ukraine was given an ultimatum: sign the EU economic agreement or else.
    Now, what was that agreement? It would have been an economic catastrophe for Ukraine. I’m not talking about the intellectuals or the people who are well placed, about ordinary Ukrainians. The Ukrainian economy is on the brink of a meltdown. It needed billions of dollars. What did the European Union offer them? The same austerity policies that are ravaging Europe, and nothing more—$600 million. It needed billions and billions.
    There’s one other thing. If you read the protocols of the European offer to Ukraine, which has been interpreted in the West as just about civilizational change, escaping Russia, economics, democracy, there is a big clause on military cooperation. In effect, by signing this, Ukraine would have had to abide by NATO’s military policies. What would that mean? That would mean drawing a new Cold War line, which used to be in Berlin, right through the heart of Slavic civilization, on Russia’s borders. So that’s where we’re at to now.
    One other point: These right-wing people, whom Anton thinks are not significant, all reports—and I don’t know when he was in Ukraine, maybe it was long ago and things have gone—but the reports that are coming out of Ukraine are the following. One, the moderates—that’s the former heavyweight champion boxer, Vitali Klitschko, and others—have lost control of the street. They’ve asked the people who have been attacking the police with Molotov cocktails, and to vacate the buildings they’ve occupied, to stop. And the street will not stop, partly because—I’d say largely because—the street in Kiev is now controlled by these right-wing extremists. And that extremism has spread to western Ukraine, where these people are occupying government buildings. So, in fact, you have a political civil war underway.
    What is the face of these people, this right wing? A, they hate Europe as much as they hate Russia. Their official statement is: Europe is homosexuals, Jews and the decay of the Ukrainian state. They want nothing to do with Europe. They want nothing to do with Russia. I’m talking about this—it’s not a fringe, but this very right-wing thing. What does their political activity include? It includes writing on buildings in western Ukraine, “Jews live here.” That’s exactly what the Nazis wrote on the homes of Jews when they occupied Ukraine. A priest who represents part of the political movement in western Ukraine—Putin quoted this, but it doesn’t make it false. It doesn’t make it false; it’s been verified. A western Ukrainian priest said, “We, Ukraine, will not be governed by Negroes, Jews or Russians.” So, these people have now come to the fore.”
    3. Again I know the history of the Syrian uprising but you did not answer my question. Do we need another destroyed state in the middle east because that is what the u.s., turkey and Saudi are creating. You seem to think it is only nice democratic revolutionaries in allepo – really? Turkey (with our help) has been arming the crazies there for years.
    4. On your final point – once again I don’t get it. I do not see anyone defending assad, saddam or putin. I am not and please do not interpret what I am saying in that way. I am saying that I think that the Russian policies in Ukraine were more reasonable than those of the eu and u.s. I think our government has been trying to create an enemy and you and srs are helping. The ruling class does not need your help. I agree that putin is a very bad actor – I do not support him. so were bush, cheney and Obama. I think you and srs should point your pens at our crimes and let your Russian and Ukrainian friends attack their leaders and policies. Maybe if you stop our government from adding fuel to the fires there they can move their countries in the right direction.

  4. Philip Log January 12, 2017 5:09 pm 

    So I have a few questions for paul d and srs,
    1. Who are these leftists we are talking about? Certainly the “left” in mainstream media is demonizing Putin at the same time presenting very little evidence.
    2. Is this demonization a good thing – is it helping the ruling class to ratchet up tension and therefore the threat of a shooting war with a nuclear power?
    3. Is it a good thing for the world and the region for nato to continue to encroach on Russia’s borders?
    4. Which government has been more reasonable in regards to Ukraine. Russia offered aid and so did the Eu. The EU and the u.s. forced Ukraine to choose sides and helped to create this crisis. I assume you know the involvement of the u.s. and ms Nuland. If not read Stephen Cohen the most informed writer on the subject – at least in this country.
    5. As far as south Ossetia goes, I can only assume you do not know the history. Had mexico done that to texas we would have nuked them.
    6. Which government is more reasonable in Syria? Do we want to destroy another state there? Turkey, Saudi and the u.s. have been funding and arming isis and others for years now. would another failed state be good for the world and the region?
    7. Lastly, there is plenty of evidence of neo nazi involvement in Ukraine. Again I would refer you to Stephen Cohen on the subject. The u.s. governments use of Nazis and fascists is long and well known. Putin and Russia have too many problems and human rights abuses to recount here – that is not the point it seems to me.

    • avatar
      Paul D January 12, 2017 9:15 pm 

      1: There are no “left” viewpoints in the US mainstream media. I would define the “left” to be the global community of people who agree with Marx’s theory regarding the unjust social-economic relations of capitalist production and wealth accumulation, and advocate replacing it with the ownership of productive property and assets, equitably and collectively, by the ones who create the wealth through their labor. The ultimate objective (and its not going to happen in my lifetime) is “from each, according to their abilities; to each, according to their needs” and and end to the nation-state.

      There are myriad factions and tendencies in leftism with their own views as to achieve this long-term objective – from social-democratic and labor-activist gradualists to the doctrinaire Leninists and Trotskyists to the libertarian socialists which include anarchism, anarcho-sindicalism and, of course, Albert and Hahnel’s Parecon Model.

      Needles to say, we need to remember that it’s “workers of the world unite”; build international solidarity across borders and in doing so, discard this conspiratorial notion that the USA is the source of all injustice in the world and especially, not takes sides with one capitalist against another.

      2 and 3: No, the demonization of Putin, or Russians in general, by the political class and corporate media and resulting provocative military actions by NATO are most decidedly NOT good things. Of course this saber-rattling from the West warrants loud criticism from the left. But should we support in any way a gangster capitalist with pulls the levers of state for his enrichment (like Trump will be doing too) and is likely the richest man on earth?. We are not risking appearing to side with mainstream capitalist politics and the media – becasue our criticism from the left is entirely different. You will never hear the mainstream media call Putin a capitalist gangster. This “new-left” that seems to have arisen over the past year or two really needs to discard “enemy of my enemy” thinking and learn to keep two (or three or four) thoughts in ones mind at the same time. Becasue most of our fights are three-way fights. They always have been.

      4 and 7: I prefer Ukrainian sources on the matter – such as article by the Ukrainian AWU in my previous comment to a Ukrainian-Syrian co-worker at my workplace. The Maidan Uprising was misguided in expecting that EU membership would bring Germany-style affluence rather than Greece-style exploitation – and yes, there was sympathetic US involvement. But the Maidan uprising was largely a genuine grassroots uprising. Those that adhere to the conspiracy theory that it was all a US covert plot do untold damage to the left by robbing ordinary humans of agency for change, and creating a sense of “learned helplessness” where concerted action becomes impossible.

      The role or right wing and neo-fascist factions in the Maidan uprising and the subsequent government is greatly exaggerated. Once again, I take this from the Ukrainian AWU who as anti-state anarchists, have no dog in the fight regarding who runs the state, and my Ukrainian co-worker – who travels home fairly often.

      5: I have no strong opinions regarding South Ossetia – the breakup of the former Soviet Union in that area was a messy affair.

      No nuclear weapons would be used in your hypothetical situation as conventional forces would take Texas back quite handily. Although, that may not be true if the president is an unstable psychopath like Trump.

      6: Bashar Assad, and his father before him, have one of the worst human rights record on the planet. Needless to say, they are not “left” in any sense of the word. The Syrnian Civil War started with a peaceful mass uprising by the Syrian left in 2011 but it was brutally crushed with violence. The uprising took up arms, and for a while the Free Syrian Army had objectives worth supporting by the left. Now, there are no good guys in Syria anymore. No, the US did not supply ISIS. That is a unfounded conspiracy theory. The US military role in Syria has been minor and mostly anti-ISIS, occasionally waffling to pro-Assad. The notion that the Syrian Civil War was started by the US is conspiracy-theory nonsense – once again agency-robbing and insulting to the Syrian left.

      There were no ISIS forces in Aleppo. The great majority of Syrian civilian deaths have been under the bombs of Syria and Russia. With the desert-called-peace Bashar has created, there will likely now be round-ups of the anyone rumored to be disloyal for torture and execution by the thousands. The Syrian left (mostly in exile) are besides themselves with the way the US and European so-called “left” have so egregiously betrayed them. I am in contact Syrian refugees in Toronto where my brother is sponsoring them. One of them had to flee with only the clothes on his back becasue he had been arrested (for peaceful dissent against the regime) but mistakenly released and subject to re-arrest. The perspective of the Syrian left is that the US/European left is adopting perspectives that are more in line with the right. A good article on the Syrian perspective by Syrian leftist and prisoner of Assad Yasin Al Haj Saleh is here:

      http://newpol.org/content/syria-and-left

      On a final note, you may recall that the US and European left mounted a massive movement against the US invasion of Iraq. Yet, through it all, from 2002 to 2005, I don’t recall ever reading or hearing any anti-war or anti-imperialist activist defending the vile Saddam Hussein. What has changed?

      • Philip Log January 13, 2017 2:11 pm 

        hey paul, i responded to you incorrectly so you will have to scroll up to see it. after thinking a bit though, i think my response is unneccessary. i really only have two questions for you, srs and michael. first who are these lefties you are speaking to? secondly why do you feel the need to point this out now. when the whole of the u.s. media and ruling class is trying to whip up hatred of russia and putin. is it because trump does not seem to hate him?

        • avatar
          Paul D January 13, 2017 7:19 pm 

          Philip,

          I provided the principled reasons for our opposition to the regimes of Putin and Assad in my long piece. The position of supporting someone simply because a more geographically proximate enemy opposes them is absolutely infantile. Your suggestion that our views are some kind of puerile reaction to something Trump said (which will change tomorrow) is an insult. Yes, I find a Trump-Putin gangster capitalist global warming-denying, axis dominating the globe to be a pretty scary prospect. But that has nothing to do with the formerly dominant views of Putin by the global left which go back a decade (Remember Pussy Riot?)

          Recall my previous points in the long post above:

          1. Oour fights are almost always three-way fights.

          2. We never support one capitalist regime against another.

          3. Workers of the WORLD unite – we develop our views with the goals of developing solidarity with the left everywhere. Such as the left in Russia, who despise Putin, and Syria (who, in exile, despise Assad.

          • Philip Log January 14, 2017 12:54 pm 

            didn’t mean to insult you but you did not answer my simple questions. who are these leftists srs is railing against? i don’t see any. and why attack russia and putin now – the timing is interesting no? just when the u.s. capitalist ruling class is jumping on russia wiht both feet. and will your next attack be on cuba? not a perfect society – or iran or another “official” enemy.

            you are right that the left in syria is in exile so who is fighting the assad govenment? isis and the like – do you support them. is russia doing the right thing by not allowing another state in the region to be destroyed by the u.s. and it’s allies. and please not another rant about the workers of the world unite – it’s a bit early for that no? how about workers of the u.s. unite and elect someone who is not insane. i am not a fan of capitalism but it is not going anywhere soon so let’s figure out the next step in your revolution before we talk about the end game.

            • Clive Ray January 14, 2017 7:51 pm 

              Touché Philip Log. This is my concern too: just as the MSM is ramping up its Russia-bashing rhetoric to heights that render the word propaganda entirely inadequate to describe it, why are ‘alternative news’ websites such as Znet and Democracy Now! piling onto the bandwagon? It is having the effect of making them look like just another component of the echo chamber.

              • Philip Log January 15, 2017 1:11 pm 

                right on clive, i still want to know who these “leftists” are that are siding with putin and russia. stephen cohen has been extremly reasonable in his commentary – only a fool would say he is an appoligist for putin. paul d mentions “contributors to the Trotskyist WSWS web site” – oh boy! Since i do not go to that site i NEVER see andone who “loves” putin as srs claims.

                secondly seems to me that in trying to stabilize the Syrian state russia is doing the world and region a favor. war crimes no doubt but have we been doing humanitarian work in mosul – i doubt it. war is hell – leaving isis in control of large areas of syria does not seem to be a good idea. also seems clear that the u.s. and eu were helping to create the crisis in ukraine and russia was pursuing a very reasonable policy.

                really stupid article and i am glad you jumped in! maybe srs will think a bit l;onger before writing another one like that. not sure where paul d is coming from – the anarchist fringe?

                • Wei-Ting Chen January 15, 2017 7:32 pm 

                  WSWS love Putin? As far as I can tell, the contributors of WSWS do not love Putin.

                  WSWS condemn the NATO+Gulf states much more than Russia on Syria issue for they think the NATO+Gulf states are more problematic.

                  WSWS also doesn’t buy most this author’s accusation of Russia’s crime, and most of them with good reasons.

                  Can this be called “love Putin”? I don’t think so, but I’ll leave it to you for your own judgement. I do recommend you to take a look on that WSWS articles about Ukraine or Syria as well as others.

                  • Philip Log January 15, 2017 9:49 pm 

                    thanks for the info – i haven’t read anything from wsws but i will now. paul d seems off on lots of his thinking so i am not surprised he missed the ball on wsws also.

                  • Clive Ray January 16, 2017 8:42 pm 

                    I endorse Wei-Ting Chen’s comments on WSWS. It can be a bit over the top at times politically speaking in that nobody seems quite Left enough for them, but geopolitically the site is refreshingly perspicacious and objective.

  5. avatar
    Joe Emersberger January 11, 2017 9:30 pm 

    Sure. Leftists exist who could fairly be called apologists for the crimes of US enemies. However, as we saw in Iraq in 2002, in Haiti in 2004, in Libya in 2011, in Syria since at least 2013 – there are also leftists who provide niche marketing for US aggression.

    Perhaps at some point Steve Shalom might want to address what Rania Khalek told me in this interview regarding Syria:

    How Most of the U.S. Left Failed Syria
    http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/How-Most-of-the-U.S.-Left-Failed-Syria-20170110-0029.html

    EXCERPT:
    Khalek: What surprised me most about the attacks and smears, which were launched by neocons and Zionists, is the degree to which people who support Palestine believed them and participated in spreading them. As someone who has covered Israel/Palestine and has been heavily attacked because of it, I’ve never experienced the sort of blacklisting that came with showing skepticism toward the mainstream narrative on Syria. The behavior of progressive media, in particular, has been incredibly disillusioning. I lost my main source of income because of the Syria smears. And I’ve since had a difficult time finding outlets on the progressive left willing to publish on-the-ground reporting from places like Damascus and Aleppo. At the end of the day, I think the U.S. left failed Syria. As U.S.-backed jihadists invaded Syrian neighborhoods, imposed a reign of terror and tried to force state collapse, many segments of the U.S. left cheered the armed groups and ignored their victims. 

    ***
    Also can’t help but add that your Costa Rica / Cuba comparison was very poorly chosen. Costa Rica, unlike Cuba, has not been subjected to over 5 decades of vicious economic sabotage and terrorist attacks by a superpower.

    • avatar
      Justin Podur January 12, 2017 12:39 am 

      It is funny Steve – you and I are on the same yet opposite wavelength again, on this issue. I was planning to write something against what I see as so many on the left seeming intent on starting up a new Cold War! I was preparing to cite nostalgia, the historical precedent of the neocons using an analysis of totalitarianism to equate the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and then a final analysis that the real problem was that these sections of the left had decided it better to make common cause with imperialism because they feel there are no alternatives any more. My conclusion would have been that because we have a moral responsibility for that which we can affect, that denouncing Russia is so much posturing, perhaps thinking we could establish sound credentials before moving to a critique of the West, but what ends up happening is we’re playing into the further demonization of whatever enemy happens to be fashionable. So, completely parallel.

      I think the socialism-democracy debate is a bit more complicated than what you present. I also know Costa Rica pretty well and there are some very unique features to that society, every bit as unique as Cuba, that don’t make it a good example to try to hold up against Cuba. Why Costa Rica has been “allowed” to abolish its army in 1948 and create a pretty good education and health system (while also conserving about 1/3 of the national territory for ecological reasons) is one of the mysteries of the history of the Americas, but the presence of movements and of alternatives like Cuba no doubt played a role.

      So too, for that matter, did the Soviet deterrent play a role in what has been described as one of the only two legitimate humanitarian interventions of the 20th century (India’s war with Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh).

      Lots more to talk about here, of course. But I’ll leave it at these comments.

      • avatar
        Paul D January 12, 2017 4:13 am 

        Justin,

        First of all, we are not “denouncing Russia” we are only denouncing Putin and his cronies – in the same way we denounce the vile capitalist bosses – notably Trump -here in the US, and the recent capitalist coup’s in Latin America.

        Believe it or not, there is a dissenting left in Russia opposed to Putin – and they receive a lot of legal harassment because of it. Shouldn’t we be supporting the Russian left?

        Personally, I find defense of Putin from the left to be bizarre. How can such a person even be considered a leftist? Does the left defend any of the rogues gallery of capitalist bosses running the US? Then why do we defend the ones in Russia?

    • Clive Ray January 12, 2017 9:23 am 

      Many thanks to Joe Emersberger for his wise contribution to this discussion.

  6. Philip Log January 11, 2017 1:56 pm 

    i can read articles like this in the washington post – i would rather read matthew cole or mark weisbrot. thanks for those

  7. george patterson January 11, 2017 2:53 am 

    This is an excellent, balanced and insightful article, illustrating historically the flaws and strengths of the governments of the US , Russia, ex-Soviet Union, and western government and what we, on the left and progressive groups need to do create truly progressive governments and societies, based on economic justice and democracy. In conclusion, this will be a long, arduous task. We’ll prevail ultimately.

  8. george patterson January 11, 2017 2:46 am 

    This is an excellent, balanced and insightful article, illustrating historically the flaws and strengths of the governments of the US , Russia, ex-S

  9. Philip Log January 10, 2017 10:38 pm 

    paul and mike, first of all i wold like to know who we are talking about. i see only those who talk about the crimes of putin in what is supposed to be the left of mainstream media. making charges with very little evidence to support them.

    my complaint with the article is that it falls in lock step with the u.s. elite demonization of russia. we do not need to help push the world into another war. yes much to criticize about russian behavior but is that what we on the left should be doing. let’s talk about the attack on mosul instead. or remind our fellow americans about the crimes of fallujah. or maybe we could educate people about how the u.s. enabled turkey to arm isis in it’s attack on syria. are we supporting the democratic opposition there or are we trying to do to syria what we did to libya? will the destruction of the state of syria make the world a better place – it seems not to me.

    for a real understanding of the situation in ukraine read stephen cohen. so much more to that than the propaganda about mh17. and again the u.s is neck deep in the big muddy there. plenty of good writing on the lack of evidence of russian hacking – right here on znet. also good info here that it is unclear who bombed the convoy syria. as howard zinn said – “you can’t be neutral on a moving train” – seems to me hezbollah, iran and russia are doing more good (ok, maybe not the right turn of phrase??) than the u.s., turkey and saudi.

    lastly i would like to say that for sure there is much to criticize where russia is concerned. seems to me it is more improtant for americans to understand the role our government has to play in the death rates there and poor spending on social programs. are we helping the situation by moving nato (german) troops to it,s borders and ringing the country with missles – forcing russia to spend too much on defense. right out of ronald reagans playbook seems to me – or was that jfk’s. yes cuba has problems, so does iran and many other official enemies. the u.s. ruling elite do not need the help of znet to point those out. let’s clean up our governments behavior

  10. avatar
    Dimitris Fasfalis January 10, 2017 9:19 pm 

    One more thing: the permanent superficial criticism of the “propaganda” by “Western media” misses one important issue, namely the facts. To often in these left circles, the denunciation of the “media” opens the door to a conspirationist way of thinking typical of the extreme right, such as Alain Soral in France or some of Trump’s collaborators.

    • avatar
      Paul D January 12, 2017 4:17 am 

      Very true. The comspiratorial, obsession with state affairs rather than theory and and global organizing is one of the great problems with the left right now.

  11. avatar
    Dimitris Fasfalis January 10, 2017 9:13 pm 

    Interesting question, but your answer falls short in providing key ideas to prevent these pitfalls in the lefts today.

    In my view, the appraisal of the roots of misguided enthusiasm over Putin’s Russia among the Western lefts today should start with this assessment at the end of your paper: “And all the U.S. crimes in the world don’t justify Russian crimes. Nor should U.S. crimes lead us to withhold our criticisms of the crimes of Moscow, any more than Russian crimes would lead us to withhold our criticisms of the crimes of Washington in Iraq, Honduras, and elsewhere.”

    In that sense, one of its roots is the profound mistrust regarding Western powers’ diplomacy since the French and British-led intervention in Libya, backed by the US, on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution whose meaning was distorted. This gave way to the idea of the Kremlin but also many among the lefts that only force eand violence exists in international relations, international law being an illusion.

    Second of all, there is all a lack of dialectical thinking in the lefts: in the Syrian conflict, either with Assad/against ISIS, or on the rebels’ side against Assad. Late Daniel Bensaid exposed the close relationship of such a view with the war-driven neoconservative view of the world divided between good and evil.

    At last, one may also see the disasters within the lefts of a peculiar way of thinking along “camps” in international conflicts. Anti-imperialist politics of the sixties and seventies upheld the principle of pursuing alliances with regimes and organisations far from the socialist Left by virtue of a united front against the “main enemy”, i.e. imperialism. We know by now, after the tragedies of the 20th century, that such a political framework has nothing to do with the struggle for individual/collective emancipation.

  12. avatar
    Paul D January 10, 2017 8:34 pm 

    The question in my mind is how many of these “leftists for Putin and Assad (and sometimes even Duterte)” are actual leftists at all? Most seem to be newcomers with confused opinions arising out of the post-ideological mush the internet seems to have spawned – or people who never called themselves leftist at all – such as “Intercept” whose founder/benefactor and staff are largely “libertarians” in the repugnant US sense.

    Certainly what is being called the “left” in the US is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the Truimpist right on many matters – notably its power-politics worship replacing its former opposition to hierarchies or all forms, its disregard of human rights, and human dignity, and its racism-denialism. And with many young people totally confused as to what it means to be a leftist, maybe it is time to discard the term for now and start from scratch.

  13. avatar
    Paul D January 10, 2017 8:03 pm 

    Philip,

    Then you can start with me.

    Please provide a refutation, paragraph by paragraph, of what Mr. Shalom wrote. Please take care to avoid ad hominems – especially of the tu quoque type and use information from credible fact, not opinion-based sources. Mr. Shalon has provided a lot of non-controversial historical and current day facts which make it quite clear that support of Assad or Putin is completely inconsistent with the values and vision of the left. Note that many of us – notably in the aanrcho-sindicalist tendency of the left oppose the very concept of “leaders” altogether.

    The onus is on you to provide the rebuttal. Make sure you provide citations as Mr. Shalom did in his article.

    • Clive Ray January 10, 2017 11:20 pm 

      In answer to Paul D let’s look at a few of Stephen Shalom’s remarks.

      “Why do many leftists today close their eyes to Russian crimes,” he asks. So in Shalom’s mind Russia is guilty as hell. Let’s see the evidence.

      “At the moment Moscow seems to be much more supportive of far right parties than of left ones”, he avers. I’m sorry but the evidence for this is less than convincing.

      “In the United States, Putin’s backing of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was clear”! Wrong. President Putin was extremely careful to do no such thing in any public statement that he made and there is precisely zero evidence that any Russian hacking of US computer systems which could have influenced the US election – no matter what Stephen Shallom may have read in the US press.

      “Putin’s Russia is now one of the leading powers seeking to acquire or hold on to territory by force: Chechnya, South Ossetia, Eastern Ukraine, Crimea.” True in the cases of Chechnya. South Ossetia and Crimea; not so in the case of Eastern Ukraine. Chechnya had been under prolonged attack by Western-backed Islamist terrorists; South Ossetia had been invaded by Georgian troops whose intention was to expell the locals from ‘Georgian territory’; Crimea was endagered by a neonazzi regime brought to power by the US and EU. Any leftist who does not welcome these interventions must be less than fully informed as to their background

      “In the 1970s Hafez al-Assad intervened in Lebanon against Palestinians and the Lebanese left”. Maybe he did, but this was not Bashar al-Assad and it was during the Soviet era which is precisely what we are not dicussing; we are discussing ‘Russian crimes’ since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

      “More recently Bashar al-Assad partnered with Washington in torturing prisoners.” This is true. In part this is the price that any government has to pay in order not to be targetted for regime change by the US: it has to cooperate. What is more only the blind can fail to see that Syria has come under assault by jihadist extremists, the threat of which had been long on the horizon, so who can blame Russia for not taking a holier than thou attitude towards Syria over this? Syria merely provided the venue, the CIA did the torturing and the UK and others provided the transport. What is Shalom’s point?

      “Hundreds of Palestinians languish in Bashar’s torture chambers”. There may be hundreds of Palestinian ‘activists’ languishing in Syrian government detention centres (as well as many who are being ‘detained’ by Isis), but evidence of mass torture is disputed, But for Shalom, Assad is guilty and so is Putin.

      “Moscow has been a substantial purchaser of Israeli military drones and a leading supplier of its oil.” Relevance please?

      “Moscow has coordinated its bombing in Syria with Israel.” Yes. It’s called avoiding World War Three.

      “Israel did absent itself from the UN resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea.” So this means Moscow is in cahoots with Israel? Can anybody think of territory that perhaps Israel might like to annex and might be happy to see pecedents for?

      Shalom then quotes political scientist Dmitry Travin whose opinion is that President Putin’s party, United Russia, having called themselves ‘conservatives’, have “determined their place as a right-wing party”. This is one man’s opinion. There are other opinions. In the US ‘concervatism’ is about keeping traditional American values such as market worship and individualism. In Russia concervatism is about returning to traditional Russian values such as socialism. That’s my opinion.

      “A civilian airliner is shot down over the Russian-backed break-away zone of Ukraine.” Not a Russian crime. Maybe a East Ukrainian separatist crime but the evidence does not suggest this. The timing of the tragedy was somewhat suspiciously convenient for US efforts to pressure the EU into imposing sanctions on Russia.

      “An aid convoy is bombed in Syria.” There was no incentive for either Russia or the Syrian government to have done this. Plenty of incentive for the ‘rebel forces’ to have done it.

      “But to some on the left, the fact that the U.S. government said it made it false”. Wrong. Any sensible person, whether left or right, would simply ignore absolutely anything the US government says. It has exactly zero credibility. Particularly under Obama.

      In sum, what Russian crimes are we being accused of turning a blind eye to?

      • avatar
        Stephen R. Shalom January 11, 2017 6:04 pm 

        I can’t reply to each comment, but let me just briefly respond to a few things from Clive Ray’s critique. (His quotes are from my original article.)

        Clive Ray (CR): “At the moment Moscow seems to be much more supportive of far right parties than of left ones”, he avers. I’m sorry but the evidence for this is less than convincing.

        SRS: I’m not sure what it takes to convince Mr. Ray. Does the fact that the leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom party, founded by ex-Nazis, just signed a cooperation agreement with Putin’s party suggest anything? (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/world/europe/austrias-far-right-signs-a-cooperation-pact-with-putins-party.html ) (The Austrian also just met with Trump’s designated national security adviser, Michael Flynn.)

        CR: “In the United States, Putin’s backing of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was clear”! Wrong. President Putin was extremely careful to do no such thing in any public statement that he made and there is precisely zero evidence that any Russian hacking of US computer systems which could have influenced the US election – no matter what Stephen Shallom may have read in the US press.

        SRS: One might think that Trump, Putin, and some leftists are the only ones who see no sign of Russia’s role in the DNC hacking. But three days ago, Trump’s incoming chief of staff said the president-elect accepts the reality of Russian hacking. (https://thewire.in/98268/trump-putin-russia-intelligence-hacking/ ) (And today, Trump said the same himself. http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/11/politics/donald-trump-press-conference-highlights/index.html) So now it’s just Putin and some gullible leftists.

        CR: “Putin’s Russia is now one of the leading powers seeking to acquire or hold on to territory by force: Chechnya, South Ossetia, Eastern Ukraine, Crimea.” True in the cases of Chechnya. South Ossetia and Crimea; not so in the case of Eastern Ukraine. Chechnya had been under prolonged attack by Western-backed Islamist terrorists; South Ossetia had been invaded by Georgian troops whose intention was to expell the locals from ‘Georgian territory’; Crimea was endagered by a neonazzi regime brought to power by the US and EU. Any leftist who does not welcome these interventions must be less than fully informed as to their background

        SRS: I criticized some on the Left for being oblivious to Russian aggression. But here Mr. Ray actually praises it.

        CR: “Hundreds of Palestinians languish in Bashar’s torture chambers”. There may be hundreds of Palestinian ‘activists’ languishing in Syrian government detention centres (as well as many who are being ‘detained’ by Isis), but evidence of mass torture is disputed, But for Shalom, Assad is guilty and so is Putin.

        SRS: I gave a source for the torture claim. Mr. Ray says it is disputed and gives no source. Has there ever been an atrocity that was not disputed? The issue is not whether a claim is disputed, but how credible the dispute is. We await Mr. Ray’s evidence.

        CR: Shalom then quotes political scientist Dmitry Travin whose opinion is that President Putin’s party, United Russia, having called themselves ‘conservatives’, have “determined their place as a right-wing party”. This is one man’s opinion. There are other opinions. In the US ‘concervatism’ is about keeping traditional American values such as market worship and individualism. In Russia concervatism is about returning to traditional Russian values such as socialism. That’s my opinion.

        SRS: I don’t doubt that this is Mr. Ray’s opinion. All that’s missing is that little thing called evidence: one quote from Putin saying “When I talk about going back to traditional Russian values, I am referring to socialism.”

        CR: “A civilian airliner is shot down over the Russian-backed break-away zone of Ukraine.” Not a Russian crime. Maybe a East Ukrainian separatist crime but the evidence does not suggest this. The timing of the tragedy was somewhat suspiciously convenient for US efforts to pressure the EU into imposing sanctions on Russia.

        SRS: The evidence “does not suggest this”? Is Mr. Ray referring to the evidence of the Dutch Safety Board? Of the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team? Independent researchers? The UN tribunal set up to prosecute the crimes? — oh wait, there was no UN tribunal set up because the Russians vetoed. (http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.7498)

        CR: “An aid convoy is bombed in Syria.” There was no incentive for either Russia or the Syrian government to have done this. Plenty of incentive for the ‘rebel forces’ to have done it.
        “But to some on the left, the fact that the U.S. government said it made it false”. Wrong. Any sensible person, whether left or right, would simply ignore absolutely anything the US government says. It has exactly zero credibility. Particularly under Obama.

        SRS: Mr. Ray confuses deciding that something is true because the US said it (which I did not do) and deciding that something is false because the US said it, which he seems to do. But let’s look at the non-US evidence. The Russians said rebels carried out the attack or, alternatively, that it was a hoax. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/aleppo-aid-convoy-attack-syria-russian-un-satellite-data-confirms-that-air-strike-killed-20-aid-a7345601.html) The UN investigation found the attack to have been carried out by aircraft, and noted that the rebels don’t have aircraft and that no one (including Russia) accused US-allied aircraft of being involved. Here’s what the UN report said:

        “In reaching this conclusion, the Board considered and rejected the possibilities that the incident was caused by direct fire or ground assault, whether by Syrian Government forces or by armed opposition groups, or by ground-delivered improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or by indirect fire, whether by Syrian Government forces or by armed opposition groups. It also considered and rejected the possibility that it was a staged or hoax event.” (https://dpa-ps.atavist.com/summary-of-un-headquarters-board-of-inquiry-report)

        And why was there no incentive for the Russians or Syrians to have done it, given that the UN was forced to suspend aid convoys to rebel-held sections of Aleppo following the attack? (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/end-of-syria-cease-fire-marked-by-new-offensive-and-bombing-of-aid-convoy/2016/09/20/92aead0c-7eb7-11e6-ad0e-ab0d12c779b1_story.html)

        Obama may have exactly zero credibility, but note that Mr. Ray provides exactly zero evidence for his claim.

        • Clive Ray January 11, 2017 11:28 pm 

          In reply to Stephen Shalom’s response to my critique of his article, first let me warmly thank him for his personal attention and allow me to reveal my cards, of which I have few.

          I am neither an academic nor an expert of any kind in any field at all, let alone geopolitics. That said, I do have the time to scour the net for information from a wide variety of sources and try to make sense of what may or may not be going on in the world.

          With regard to the Russian ruling party signing an agreement of cooperation with the Austria’s Freedom Party, this is hardly the same thing as Russia’s backing the Freedom Party, which is what I had understood your article to suggest. Of course Russia is going to work with any European political party which is willing to work with Russia, particularly towards the goal of removing the unjust sanctions regime. This is not the same thing as ‘backing’, which suggests – to me at least -providing funding or covert interference. I would also point out that president Putin was more than willing to work with Matteo Renzi’s Partito Democratico towards the same goal. I would also point out that Renzi’s ‘centre-left’ PD is well to the right of Austria’s Freedom Party as far as economic policy is concerned, which is why the Italian electorate rejected Renzi’s referendum proposals last month.

          With regard to alleged Russian interference in the US elections: so president elect Donald Trump now accepts the CIA’s ‘assessment that Russia likely interfered’. This doesn’t change that the fact that the CIA has revealed no evidence. Now does anybody seriously believe that Donald Trump could function as president of the US if he continued to face down it’s entire security apparatus accusing them of lying. Clearly Donald Trump doesn’t. This must be clear to anybody who gives the matter more than a second’s thought.

          With regard to Chechnya: http://journal-neo.org/2015/05/15/what-if-putin-is-telling-the-truth/
          With regard to South Ossetia: http://www.globalresearch.ca/destabilization-caucasus-geopolitics-threatens-russia-s-security/17843
          With regard to Crimea: It’s population are largely ethnic Russians; some 90% speak Russian as their mother tongue; ‘ownership’ of Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1953 when all three countries/regions were part of the Soviet Union and so the ‘exchange’ was much like my generously ‘giving’ you a can of beans while still inside a supermarket. When the Soviet Union was dissolved and it was check out time, the issue of the ‘ownership’ of Crimea should have been addressed but the drunken, Western-puppet, Yeltsin conveniently passed(out) on that one. After the Western-backed coup in Ukraine, the Crimean’s voted to rejoin the Russian Federation. The Crimean peninsula is a crucial Russian military outpost and has been for hundreds of years. It houses Russia’s only deep-water port on the Black Sea. To have lost this would have been an existential threat to Russia. Geopolitics would have been, for them, like playing chess having lost their queen. Losing the Crimea to NATO would have been like playing chess having handed your queen over to the other player. Yes, I praise Russia for its annexation of Crimea. I see no crime to turn a blind eye to.

          Now we may disagree on the above points, however the point at issue is this: it may not be that some on the left turn a blind eye to Russian crimes as Stephen Shalom asserts but that some on the left do not blindly follow Western narratives which interpret certain events as Russian crimes.

          I am on shakier ground with regard to allegations of Palestinians being tortured at Syrian government hands. The link the Stephen Shalom provides as evidence is to an Electronic Interfada webpage. I had hitherto considered this group to be fairly reliable, but the source they cite is the obscure London-based, Action Group for Palestinians in Syria. I couldn’t find on their website the relevant information in English. Forgive me but I am somewhat suspicious of this source as it smacks of the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights – a one-man ‘organization’ which operates from a small office above a launderette in Coventry. This one man is a Syrian who has not been to Syria since well before 2011 and whose function appears to be to launder US and UK propaganda on Syria as reliable and authoritative information. The reason I am rather sceptical of accusations of mass torture by the Syrian government (some torture surely goes on as it will anywhere under such circumstances) is due to revelations such as this: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/03/04/the-caesar-photo-fraud-that-undermined-syrian-negotiations/

          I will endeavour to address some of the remaining points, time permitting, tomorrow.

  14. Philip Log January 10, 2017 2:54 pm 

    one more thing – i would like to see more back and forth between readers and writers. i would like to see Stephen defend this piece against informed readers. i would also like to see more readers comments and more back and forth between readers. the site is not friendly that way.

  15. Philip Log January 10, 2017 2:51 pm 

    Clive, you hit the nail on the head! i would read the washington post if i wanted info like this. seems he forgot to read swanson before he wrote this piece – or stephen cohen or glen greenwald or……

    • avatar
      Michael Albert January 10, 2017 9:48 pm 

      See my reply to Clive…

  16. Clive Ray January 10, 2017 1:56 pm 

    Another useful idiot woefully misinformed by Western media and Western NGOs. Surely Znet could spare us this nonsense.

    Note: Bellingcat is a one-man team and a thoroughly debunked inexpert.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert January 10, 2017 9:44 pm 

      Clive,

      Refrain from personal attacks.

      I posted Shalom’s piece…he is not only not dumb and not misinformed, he is about as smart and well informed as anyone I know of on the left.

      But suppose you think what you say. The piece has many many assertions…if they are ignorant repetitions of lies, or whatever you may think, you should be able to easily demonstrate as much.

      I don’t believe you will. I don’t believe you can. I don’t think Swanson, who you mention, or Greenwald, or anyone else will, or could, either. Because I think Steve is incredibly careful and accurate in all he writes. And of course what he writes here seems to me quite evidently sensible and informed.

      So instead of tarring him with an accusation, in a manner that pretty much makes his point for him, why not demonstrate your greater insight by making a case. If you try to do so, however, and find that you can’t, I respectfully suggest that you ask yourself how you could have been so dismissive of his article without basis.

    • Clive Ray January 13, 2017 1:59 pm 

      Dear Michael

      I was just wondering if my two comments, in which I provide links in order to justify my views to Paul D and Stephen Shalom, are still ‘awaiting moderation’ due to a question of tone, which I genuinely tried to keep mederate.

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