Staunton, November 26 – One of the sadder aspects in Russia today is that Vladimir Putin and his regime routinely criticize others for what Moscow has in fact done or is planning to do. Indeed, at a time when lies have come to dominate Russia’s government-controlled media, that is one of the most reliable indicators of what Putin and company are up to.
Among the charges that Putin and especially his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov regularly level against Western countries is that the latter, these two officials say and others echo, are guilty of double standards, requiring that Russia behave in ways that the West does not and then criticizing Moscow for failing to do so.
But the true homeland of double standards is not now the West, as the Kremlin claims, but Russia itself, where polls show that a large proportion of Russians now accept the Kremlin’s line that Russia can do things abroad that Moscow will not permit Russians even to talk about let alone act on within the boundaries of the Russian Federation.
In a post on Ekho Moskvy today, Boris Vishnevsky, a deputy in the St. Petersburg legislative assembly, notes that 65 percent of Russians say that Moscow should recognize the breakaway governments in Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states following the elections there (echo.msk.ru/blog/boris_vis/1444208-echo/).
What is striking and disturbing about the poll’s finding, he continues, is that the survey was carried out in a country “where the principle of ‘not giving an inch’ has been raised to the level of an absolute value and where separatism is considered a criminal offense” and where “calls for ‘federalization’ of the Kuban or Siberia” can lead to prison terms.
Moreover, Vishnevsky says, the poll occurred in a country where not so long ago “with the help of tanks, planes, rocket barrages, and ‘carpet bombing,’” Chechnya “which wanted to separate from Russia” was brought to heel and where Russian leaders routinely denounce Kyiv for doing the same thing.
In short and thanks to Kremlin propaganda, Russians today “approve in a neighboring country exactly what they deny in their own,” a pattern that is “traditional for the authorities in an authoritarian state” but one that is troubling when there is evidence that the population accepts such “double standards” as appropriate.
For such people, it is entirely appropriate to “suppress by force Chechnya which did not want to live with Russia” and at the same time “do everything to support Abkhazia and South Osetia which did not want to live with Georgia and Transdniestria which did not want to live with Moldova.”
For them, Vishnevsky continues, it is all right “to destroy freedom of speech in Russia and then go into hysterics when the authorities in Ukraine do not allow military propagandists from the lying Kremlin media to enter the country.”
For them, it is all right to support fascism at home which denouncing an invented “fascism” in Ukraine. For them, it is all right to defend its own terrorists but denounce those in Israel and Ukraine who are fighting against them. And for them, it is OK to insist that Koenigsberg and the Kuriles must always be in Russia but cheer “’the reunification of Crimea.’”
The spread of such double standards from the regime to the population at large is something really dangerous, the result of intense government propaganda “against which as it turns out, tens of millions of [Russian] citizens do not have any immunity.”
This disease is not incurable, as the experience of other countries shows, and recovery will eventually come. But “the medicine usually is bitter and the process of cure long and unpleasant.” Those responsible for this acceptance of double standards should have known that “it would have been better not to get sick in this way.”