I've been watching Russia's English-language television channel, RT (Russia Today) for several hours a day for about a year now, and this has given me a picture of Vladimir Putin's presidency that casual watchers miss. When you have seen dozens of interviews by American-educated Russian Oxana Boyko, or French-educated Georgian Sophie Schevarnadze, Americans Abby Martin and Max Keiser, or Briton's goof-off John Brown exploring the farthest reaches of this vast country - or even the American "Resident' who poses short questions to New Yorkers on the street, you realize that Russia"s President is searching for something that is neither Western-style capitalism nor Communism. That puts him on the same wave-length as grassroots movements around the globe, whether we're talking about the demonstrators in Muslim Turkey's Taksim Square, Spain's 'Indignados', or the Occupy Movement.
While taking every opportunity to reveal America's problems at home and abroad, the 'Voice of Russia' seeks out movers, shakers, and thinkers from around the world who have something useful to say about the possibilities of combining equity with development for humans in the throes of religious upheaval on a planet that challenges their survival as a species. American dissidents like Tom Hartmann or Peter Lavelle have been joined by Larry King, who prefaces his interviews with the slogan 'Does the Media Abandon Us or Do We Abandon the Media?' [tag]
The sound bites that have accompanied the Sochi Winter Olympics, whether about security or the meaning of the low-level official US delegation (headed by the former head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, while a U.S. warship stands ominous guard in the Black Sea over an anticipated terrorist threat), are part of an American campaign to persuade the world that alas, although the Communist Soviet Union has been succeeded by a capitalist Russia, the largest country in the world is still not an acceptable partner on the international stage because it is not a democracy but an 'autocracy', ruled by a former KGB operative, Vladimir Putin. (Never mind that President George H. W. Bush was a former head of the CIA.)
This campaign is made more difficult by RT's message that according to a recent article in the Buenos Aires Herald (click here) is seen by 630 million people around the globe: cooperation is better than competition and confrontation. The new motto of France's English-language channel, France 24, 'Understand the World', is equally subversive, and both define the growing divide between official America and the rest of the planet. After a century of anti-Communism, it is almost impossible for an American politician or diplomat to see anything other than political maneuvering in Russia's behavior, a lamentable continuation of the Cold War, when the turn to capitalism of a re-baptized Russia fails to signal its alignment with everything we represent. Washington's antagonism toward the Soviet Union was based on its theoretic espousal of redistribution as opposed to "a level playing field'. But the reasons for its current antagonism vis-a-vis Moscow are the same as those that drove us to war against Germany and Japan: commercial interests, which have only been heightened in a world scrambling for the last resources. And in that confrontation, resource-rich Russia is seen as a threat to Washington.
Beyond that, while 'the West' (or 'Global Corporatism') seeks to maximize profits, Russia and China, harking to other traditions, see capitalism as the latest tool for achieving humanistic solutions to the problems of a post-industrial world, placing people above profits. And whether we are talking about the much-derided 'harmonious society' being touted in China, or Putin's emphasis on traditional values evidenced in RT's choice of investigations and conversations, both continue to believe that solutions require dialogue, negotiation, and cooperation, while the now old 'new world' mindlessly touts naked power and confrontation.
Many Americans are prevented from understanding what is going on by a permanent background noise that goes something like this: "The 'other side' claims to want 'peace', but it really wants to take over the world." The dominant theme of the Cold War interpreted the slogan 'Workers of the World, Unite' to mean that the Soviet Union - the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' - wanted to conquer the world in the same way that Hitler did. This misapprehension is enabled by ignorance of both the fascist and socialist ideologies. Incapable of defining either political system, the American people have been taught to fear only one thing: lack of 'freedom'. The Nazi dictatorship having been defeated, we do not need to fear fascism: however, the Soviet Union having imploded without undergoing Western-directed regime change, can still not be trusted under the name 'Russia' for notwithstanding elections, it is still an 'authoritarian regime', meaning one in which the people are not 'really free'.
The claim that the United States is bringing freedom and democracy to the world rings every day more hollow, as drones assassinate American citizens abroad, infra-structure crumbles, poverty grows, and spy mechanisms that Goebbels and the KGB could not even dream of penetrate every global citizens' thoughts.
For forty years the United States beamed its propaganda to the captive countries of Eastern Europe, and just as the Russian dissidents relied on America as a source of inspiration and information, American activists flock to RT to get their message out. Meanwhile, mainstream progressives continue to rely on the Old Gray Lady, fearing the contamination of Russian propaganda as much as they did that of the Soviet Union. They do not realize that precisely because state-owned channels such as RT or France 24 - or the BBC - can be counted upon to propagandize their respective state's ideas, their viewers get a clear picture of these governments' beliefs and goals. Similarly, American television (not 'state-owned', but 'corporate-owned', which is the same thing) broadcasts that the United States is determined to organize the world to suit the goals of the global corporatocracy; that if it doesn't like what a country is doing, it will do what it takes to change its government, and if that doesn't work it will go to war (all options being always on the table...).
But 2013 marked a bifurcation point in America's hundred-year ascendance: having begun with citizen revelations about war crimes and spying (Manning, Assange, Snowden), its descent gathered an unstoppable momentum when two American diplomats were heard discussing who should be the next President of Ukraine: although Germany's Angela Merkel has been part of the plot to replace the elected Ukrainian President with a nationalist tinged with fascism, she said out loud what presidents around the world are thinking: they will no longer defer to a country that spies on them.
Russia and China, while doing what they can to hasten the dissolution of the American Empire, are gathering the rest of the emerging world around the search for constructive ways to meet the challenge of feeding what will soon be nine billion people without allowing the branch on which they are sitting to crash. And ubiquitous signs suggest that the 99% AS WELL AS THE POLITICAL CLASSES they would defeat, no longer recognize American supremacy. With the Olympic Games in full swing, never was an ancient Greek saying more apropos: Do Not Trust Your Friends.