In the discussion of the results of the Presidential elections in Russia, Sen. John McCain claimed the result was an insult to all Russians. Israel Shamir on the pages of The Unz Review claimed they were rigged just a little. Some pro-Western Russian critics argued that that the very fact that Putin received over 75 per cent of the vote proved that the election results was not normal, because in normal countries there usually are two candidates who run in close proximity and then follow in a run-off. In the view of this speaker, that in itself is proof of the democratic nature of elections.
The overall reaction of Western media is disbelief, suspicion of foul play or at best reluctant and cold reception of the fact. The smashing victory this landslide shows exactly the opposite. Russia is normal, rallied around its leader, and the West is in a deep domestic crisis. The run-off in France or close results in the USA or Germany or Italy are symptoms of a serious malaise or as one political scientist put it, turbulence in Western Democracy as a system.
Russian West-looking Liberals have habitually accustomed themselves to thinking that anything that is in the West is better. This kind of attitude is unfortunately very Russian or at least very typical for the Westernizing part of Russian intelligentsia.
Remember that in 1914 Russia’s educated society was almost entirely pro-Western. The Constitutional Democrats, the leading party then (Kadets) wanted Russia to be like France, the Socialists Revolutionaries wanted to overthrow the hated Tsarist regime and worshipped the Russian peasants as the repository of wisdom and goodness, and the Marxists of all varieties were inspired by the Western Marxist ideology of liberation. Lenin’s priority was not Russia but world revolution. Of course, there was a Stolypin, the murdered Prime Minister who wanted not great upheavals but Great Russia. Yes there was Petr Struve who claimed that Russian intelligentsia lacked gosudarstvennost or concern for the wellbeing of the state. He thought it was too destructive and mimicking of the West.
What is particularly repulsive in the reactions of these western critics, is the contemptuous disdain for the votes of millions of Russians. Who gave McCain the right to evaluate the wishes of the Russian people? Who is in crisis? Look at the Western democracies….
What Putin has accomplished or what Russia has accomplished since 2000 is astonishing. It amounts to a political, economic, and moral revolution. Any aspect of Russia’s existence you take, you see measurable progress. The standard of living has grown, pensions are payed, factories are working, and unemployment is lower than in most European countries. Life expectancy has steadily increased, birth rates have increased, and incomes have increased. Education is back, Russian research and development is back again, one of the best in the world and not staffed by foreigners who flock to Silicon valley, but staffed by Russians educated in Russia.
Military technology made a breakthrough of historical significance. For the first time ever Russia has weapons superior to those of the US, not to mention Britain, France and Germany combined.
For the first time in a hundred years Russian agriculture is producing for export and for the first time ever, Russia exported more grain that the US.
Russian culture is flowering again, the spurt of creativity is breath taking. Look at the Russian theater, more than 30 plays in big cities every single day with a repertoire that changes daily. By contrast in Washington there is one theater Arena Stage and in Boston-Cambridge also one, Repertoire theatre. In New York you have mostly the same musicals that run for months. In most American cities, there are no theatres at all. Russian dance, ballet, songs, and poetry is back again as in the good old times. Russia is experiencing a true new renaissance. Most importantly, for the first time since a long time Russians can be proud to be Russian. They do not need to look at accomplishments of the West. For the first time in its history Russia can show that what it has is truly Russian, unique and beautiful, a unity of the nation that has overcome a very difficult period. Putin’s victory is much much more than a victory of a candidate in elections. It is a triumph of the nation that found strength to come together again to find unity and rally around the leader who saved the country from the abyss it faced.What the western critics do not comprehend is that Russia has overcome its turbulence, has come out of the crisis, has discovered a new path.
Of course it is not just Putin. It is the creativity of the nation. It is the talents of millions, it is the Presidents’ team. But still, the leadership counts for a lot. Look at our ex-Soviet neighbors. Ukraine is still in the hands of the thieves and oligarchs. Worse, it was hi-jacked by neo-Nazis. Look at the Baltics, that like to think of itself as a success story. In fact, these republics are ruled by scared nationalistic elites that had sold out national sovereignty to Germany and US. Their young people are fleeing as soon as they have a chance to wealthy Europe. They are totally dependent on Western investment Western everything. Is that the independence they sought? Moreover, they are deluding themselves that they are ahead and they are free and that beyond is wild uncivilized Russians. I once talked to a neighbor in the airplane to Vilnius and he seriously was telling me that they Lithuania were the last bulwark against the Russian hordes, ready to jump onto Europe. Truly, I was disappointed in Vilnius: it looks like a provincial Soviet town, sleepy and deserted. Coming to Moscow after Vilnius is like coming to New York from Oklahoma.
So Russia under Vladimir the Savior has accomplished unimaginable. When I was young in the 1970s Soviet Union we dreamed of a Russia free from aging gerontocracy of Soviet regime, free from censorship, a country of freedom, prosperity and democracy. Well now the dream is pretty much come true. Russia is free and sovereign and proud and strong, everything one can dream of. One has to be either stupid or blind not to see it.