Natasha Gural's picture

    Fellow Americans: Please Freeze the Cold War Rhetoric

    It's offensive and regrettable to hear Democratic politicians blame "the Russians" for Putin's crimes against humanity. The Russian people are not to blame, and, are in fact, among his most direct victims.

    This inappropriate Cold War rhetoric reeks of what I had hoped was a bitter, retrograde and bygone era in American discourse. While I understand the desire to criticize, even despise, Trump and Putin, there is nothing progressive about blaming "the Russians." This thoughtless language will only widen the rift that is damaging our country.

    I struggled to keep quiet, even as I cringed, when Hilary repeatedly scolded "the Russians" during the debates. Self-professed liberals and progressives (the two do not necessarily co-exist), let's not dismiss the ongoing failures of the Democratic Party leadership. The incessant use of the term "the Russians" to describe Putin’s regime undermines any claims of desiring or working toward progress.

    Yes, this is personal. Even with an unlisted phone number for decades, my parents received harassing phone calls that would now be classified as a hate crime in Massachusetts, accusing my family of being commies and pinkos. The callers didn't care that a young child answered the phone, and went off on curse-laden and threatening rants.

    My democratic socialist father was red listed for decades because he spoke freely and loudly about humanist ideals. His professor salary was downgraded because of his attempts to unionize and support colleagues of other cultures and races. His fight wasn't all in vain. Those colleagues did receive salary increases and promotions, while my father worked multiple outside jobs, day and night, and on weekends, to compensate for his own lagging wages. Before he became a professor, he lost a job at the Bureau of Labor Statistics when the government agency learned he'd volunteered to parachute into Siberia for the U.S. Army. Never mind that he'd served during World War II and the Korean War, only to send back money to his poverty-stricken factory worker immigrant parents who could not afford health care for his dying older brother.

    My maternal grandfather abandoned the Soviet Army and a high level Soviet government job in agriculture, resulting in the brutal killings and torturous Siberian exile of many family members. My mother, born under Stalin, lost her three brothers during infancy before she went on to survive labor and concentration camps in Belarus and Poland with her parents.

    I can still recall that voice on the phone accusing me as a young girl of being a commie who should "go back to the Soviet Union." Some two decades after Dec. 26, 1991, I was visiting another part of the country (I live in New York) when an American who earned college degree referred to 21st century Russians as Soviets. That little girl answering the phone during the Cold War wanted to leap out of my body and bellow.

    On Aug. 11, 1984, Reagan was getting ready for a live broadcast from his California ranch when he joked around with the National Public Radio audio engineers during the microphone check, saying "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." Those comments were not broadcast, but a recording of the joke was leaked to the public.

    What we're facing now isn't a joke. Please, let's not revert to that era. When quoting or paraphrasing Democrats taking swipes at Trump and Putin, please parenthetically add (the Russian government) in place of the Russians. A true progressive knows that there can be no headway amid the frigid bitterness of retrograde rhetoric.


    Interesting reading and fair point, thanks.

    Democrats know the problems are with Putin, not the Russian people. Democrats are not easily manipulated or xenophobic people, by and large they know the lessons of history.

    Our demagogue is a Republican.

    Demagogues use hate and target that hate on specific minorities to hold power, and achieve social cohesion among their disciples.

    The targets of hate can change overnight, and the believers will believe what they are told, and follow.

    Fear the demagogue, not his opponents.

    My experience with Russia was when my *ex-husband spent a year there in the late 70's as a physician for a group of young American Russian-speakers were on a trip to show how we Americans were so on top of things.  The fact is that every single person they came in contact with was a chosen one, and they were all spies.  One very hapless guy fell in love with a Russian woman.  Somehow it was decided that he would come and live in my apartment in Arlington, Virginia while he tried to get the paperwork straight.  I got quite an education about the Russian mind-set during that time.

    I didn't know Misha (his name} before he came, and my one-bedroom apartment was not one that I was willing to let indefinitely.  Long story short, after months of angst, Misha finally left, his Russian Lover eventually came (with all family members), they married. and as soon as the Green Card was obtained, she was out of there.

    For every story like yours, where there are good people who needed a way out, and were persecuted.  There were those who were so frightened who would do whatever it took to get taken care of.  In an authoritarian system fear is the main  factor of every day thinking.  

    But I have to say to you:  Please acknowledge that there are many, many, many Russian ex-pats who will seek and report whatever information that they hope will keep them (very. quietly) in a country where they will be safe. 


    *Inside Russian Medicine, by William A Knaus

    I didn't support the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq. I did all I could to stop the war. Many of us did. But it wasn't enough. It wasn't the government that invaded Iraq. It was the United States of America. It was Americans that did it. I have to accept the fact that Americans invaded Iraq how ever much I opposed it.

    I have no doubt that many Russians don't support Putin or the Russian government. I'm sure that I could find more agreement with many Russians than I find with Trump supporters. But "the government" couldn't do the things they do without sufficient support from the citizens. Not in America and not in Russia. Gallup, which is not a propaganda outlet of any government, shows significant support among Russians for Putin. In fact Putin's approval rating is not only higher than Trump's, it's higher than the approval rating of Bush and Obama.

    I understand the desire of a dissident wanting to separate themselves from the actions of their government and their country. That's exactly what I want to do. I suspect I'm going to want to do that over and over again the next four years. But I can't be honest with myself and others if I don't face the reality that none of this can happen with out support from at least a near majority of Americans. I think you might need to face that reality about Russians  too.

    Ocean-cat... nice try... but...

    Gallup polling Russians versus polling Americans?

    It's like comparing apples to rutabagas.


    Gallup is an international polling company that does polls in many countries and has quite a bit of experience doing it. There are respected polling organizations in Russia but I chose Gallup to forestall claims that the poll was Putin propaganda. All the polls I've seen generally agree that Putin is popular and good polling companies have ways to check accuracy when polling in authoritarian countries.  In article after article all foreign policy experts seem to agree that Putin is popular in Russia. Though he is a polarizing figure that engenders a significant amount of anger and hatred. I read a lot and I've never seen a single article that attempted to argue that Putin is actually unpopular in Russia. But if you have a link of someone respected in foreign affairs that makes the case that Putin is unpopular in Russia I'd like to read it.

    In life there are those who are naive...

    And and then there are those like me who apparently are downright gullible.

    First up: Where was Gallup in this last election cycle?

    Gallup has been the country's gold standard for horse-race election polling ever since its legendary founder, George Gallup, predicted Franklin Roosevelt's landslide reelection in 1936. But after a bruising 2012 cycle, in which its polls were farther off than most of its competitors, Gallup told POLITICO it isn't planning any polls for the presidential primary horse race this cycle. And, even following an internal probe into what went wrong last time around, Gallup won't commit to tracking the general election next year. Gallup gives up the horse race 10/07/2015

    Now... I'll elect to stick with those who are currently on top of the internal machinations within the Russian Federation.

    08 July 2015 | Institute of Modern Russia

    Putin’s Rating: How Much Would You Like?

    According to the latest poll by the Levada Center, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has reached 89%—a record figure for his 15-year hold on power. Alexander Podrabinek argues that since it is practically impossible to verify the trustworthiness of the figures involved, the results of the poll should be viewed skeptically.

    Accounting for propaganda and potential falsifications, Putin’s support in the elections might be in fact about 25-30%.

    n June the Levada Center pleased President Putin by releasing a new figure in his endlessly rising popularity ratings: 89%. Whether this figure should be taken seriously is largely a personal decision that depends on how much confidence one has in the polling institution. In general, it is customary to trust polling institutions more than journalists and politicians. Social scientists are supposedly part of the world of scholarly research , and thus it is considered totally unbecoming for them to lie. Yet the means by which this percentage was arrived at are unknown to the public at large. The pollsters release only the result, and if you choose not to believe it, then you might as well be part of the fifth column!

    Verifying the trustworthiness of the final figure is practically impossible. Ultimately, polling institutions are private organizations and are not obliged to account to the public. It is nonetheless difficult to imagine, given the strict control they exert over television and other mass media, that the authorities would have neglected polling institutions. Public opinion polls can be a serious propaganda instrument; therefore, can it really be expected that the authorities would refrain from using such a tempting tool to influence society?

    It is interesting that neither the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTSIOM) nor the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) nor the Levada Center maintain their own networks of interviewers. They entrust the polling of respondents in Russian cities to local polling institutions, many of which are attached to local administrations. And, in fact, all Russian business is greatly dependent upon the authorities. Is it really possible, given the extent of these pollsters’ dependence on the authorities, to consider the polls reliable, especially when they concern political issues?

    Another interesting fact is that according to Levada Center polls, Putin’s approval rating from 2000 up to the present has varied between 61% and 89%, averaging 77%. This rating is a good number and serves as evidence of the great love the Russian people have for Putin. But in all presidential elections from 2000 up to the present, only 36 to 46% of the electorate has voted for Putin. In none of the three elections that occurred over this period did Putin receive an absolute majority of votes. Some persons didn’t turn out for the elections, believing voting to be an empty gesture, some filled out their ballots incorrectly, and some voted for other candidates. Putin did not need to be elected by an absolute majority in order to win the elections, but these voting percentages don’t tally with the 77% approval rating.

    t must be taken into account that the electoral figures given previously for the 2000, 2004, and 2012 elections are drawn from the official site of the Central Election Commission. These figures do not reflect potential falsifications, which many specialists estimate made up 20 to 25% of the totals. Thus, Putin’s support in the elections was in fact even less: from 25 to 30%. Where do Putin’s high approval ratings in the polls come from? The answer is obvious: they are dictated by propaganda needs. Putin needs a justification for his illegal occupation of the post of president and support for the Kremlin’s expansionistic foreign policy.

    Anyone who is not inclined to doubt Putin’s ratings should recall past election results for deputies to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the soviets of the Union republics. These results were never less than 98 or 99%. The figures were used to demonstrate the uniform support of the Soviet people for the policies of the party and the government, but they had nothing to do with reality. In the national referendum held in the spring of 1991, 78% of voters favored preserving the USSR. But as soon as repression slackened, the Soviet Union fell like a house of cards, and no one especially regretted it.

    Putin’s approval rating is inspired by the nostalgia of today’s authorities for the illusory Soviet unanimity. Those who desire a return to Soviet reality will always find a pretext for self-deception, but everyone else should be skeptical about propagandistic ratings.

    Alexander Podrabinek

    Sorry to bore you...





    I quickly skimmed through your long list of links and none of them address the question of Putin's popularity at all. What was your purpose in posting a couple of dozen links to the same site? Did you think that by posting a couple of dozen bullshit links you'd "win." That's really pathetic dude. They did bore me and wasted by time. This site has the look of a propaganda site for the left. Which I'd likely support being of the left. But I wouldn't trust. I'm careful of confirmation bias. Do you think I'm some sort of Putin apologist? Putin is an authoritarian who oppresses and murders  dissidents and journalists. He also happens to be popular in Russia.

    Seven reasons to explain Vladimir Putin's popularity cult

    I'll ask again, if you have a link of someone respected in foreign affairs that makes the case that Putin is unpopular in Russia I'd like to read it.


    I'm not looking to win shit...

    The article pretty much exhibits what suppression within the country will do to make that 3 year old Gallup poll moot.

    Now go play a game of tennis if you wish to make this a competition.


    Well ogd there has to be some reason you took the time to create a couple of dozen links to the same site. Links that in no way address the question. You're playing some bullshit game here and I can only speculate that you want it to appear as if you have reams of evidence when in fact you don't. Which is a debate technique people use when they want to win. All you have is an anti-Putin propaganda site.

    There seems to be a wide spread view that Levada is separate from Putin. I've seen this from several sources. I've posted a few links from reliable sources like Washington Post and others that make thatclaim.

    Survey results published by the Levada Centre, one of the few polling agencies in Moscow with a degree of separation from Russia's authorities, indicate that Mr Putin's popularity spikes at moments when he takes decisive, forceful action.

    The latest numbers on Putin's popularity did not come from some Kremlin entity, which might, to put it delicately, have a conflict of interest. Rather, they came from the Levada Center, an independent and respected polling agency whose leadership has a contentious history with the government. The pollsters at Levada have no incentive to fabricate Putin's approval ratings to bolster the public image of the Kremlin.

    While it is true that in authoritarian societies, even independent polls can overstate the leader's popularity due to citizens not wanting to dissent from the political climate, conformity can only account for so much. The magnitude of Putin's popularity means that even with this factor taken into account, he still would have the support of the overwhelming majority.

    Once again, if you have a link to someone respected in foreign affairs that makes the case that Putin is unpopular in Russia I'd like to read it. Because there is really no debate here. While there is disagreement about the degree of Putin's popularity I've seen no foreign affairs expert that denies his popularity.

    ocean-kat... hey now...

    I finally found the answer to guarantee you win...


    I don't think this is helpful.

    I made a similar point below - that Putin's an elected President, there is no requirement people vote even if he dismisses the  and seems to have significant local support, that he's Made Russia Great Again after the buffoonery of Yeltsin, and that many of his foreign policy moves are designed to appeal to Russian populist consumption. For example, despite speculation that his heavy-handed handling of Breslan with the death of 129 captives would hurt him, BBC noted 83% satisfaction with Putin and he was re-elected with 71% of the vote.

    While I imagine his popularity can be lower than 85% in reality, and getting people to speak honestly might affect polling numbers, there were large protests after his seemingly rigged 3rd election in 2012 that he won with 64%, including a protest of 8000-20,000 people ending in beatings & countered by a Putin-arranged stadium gathering in support. 

    But Gallup captures that downturn in popularity quite nicely in its opinion polling, and then shows an upsurge as Putin shifts Russian attention to the presumed unfairness of the EU & US:

    This isn't a 1-trick pony - they've been polling Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, likely before in some manner - and they break down opinion into different facets, elections being 1 area with continuing disapproval, but confidence in national governance rebounds impressively between 2013 & 2014 - perhaps as a natural fallout of taking on powers abroad - a common tactic of leaders as they lose popularity at home - plus the leadup to the Sochi Olympics, etc. - Putin's charm offensive worked.

    Simply dismissing the Telegraph article as the result of some unspecified oppression belies reality and history - Russian society is more accustomed to suffering than many and has great pride in imperial reaches since the time of Peter the Great - it's entirely believable that Putin's actions mostly please his populace and that they've sublimated consumer issues for more nationalistic/militaristic ("defense" we call it pleasingly), and as noted, "who else?" If everyone else is seen as weak and incompetent, the Russians may not throw so many stones at the 1 guy able to pull it together, whatever his obvious flaws.

    Gallup chose to stop polling presidential elections for 2016, a major change and a sign of the more difficult glutted & questionable polling field, instead focusing on issues polling.

    So as OK notes, a bunch of links without some explicit rationale doesn't contribute to the discussion. Is there a link showing Putin's popularity significantly lower than what we've been seeing, or is there a link providing some other clarification of the situation in Russia we should mull over? We're all eyes & ears. But just to click around the internet aimlessly, thanks but no thanks.

    BTW, while Russian citizens hold American leadership in utter contempt - so that any anti-US behavior is likely to please Russians - both Asia & Europe were fairly cool on Obama's years as well. Worth putting in our global calculations.

    I did a quick google and, found Anna Nemtsova's somewhat less scientific explanation of the topic at the Daily Beast:

    Is Putin As Popular as Trump Says?

    and being more of a circular thinker than a linear one, and also being a longtime afficianado of Russian culture, I basically buy it.

    Here's her bio:

    Anna Nemtsova is a correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast based in Moscow. Her work has also appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Foreign Policy,, Marie Claire, and The Guardian. She is the winner of the 2012 Persephone Miel Fellowship and a 2015 recipient of the prestigious IWMF Courage in Journalism award. Follow her @annanemtsova.

    "Putin’s party United Russia’s public support had shrunk from 57 percent to 50 percent in one month." - so if his party was at 57% a month ago, I'd guess Putin was at least at 70%.

    "The attack was not about the center’s polls—the recent ones show that about 81-82 percent of Russians approved of Putin’s policy. "

    “Unlike other sociological groups, we ask Russians about Putin’s corruption and about 25-28 percent say they believe he is corrupt, 25-30 admit they do not care, for as long as their life is better under Putin, and only 11-18 percent do not believe that president Putin is corrupt,” director of Levada Center Lev Gudkov told The Daily Beast.

    “Trump is right about Putin’s popularity rating but it needs to be said, that this figure has nothing to do with Putin’s success, public love or sympathy for him,” Gudkov told The Daily Beast. “Eighty-two percent of Russians support the myth or the revival of the Great Russia status, as Putin makes people feel proud of Russia’s greatness since the fall of the USSR,” Gudkov said.


    In short, Putin seems to be rather popular.


    In short, Putin seems to be rather popular.

    Yup, I'd go so far as to say it's silly to even question that. The "devil in the details" is rather in trying to understand why and also trying to understand the considerable minority that despises that and that both groups are a continual factor in their culture over centuries.

    PP... the points I'll address...

    The links provided at the conclusion of the article I posted were simply posted to show the background work of the author. Let's just leave that with, He Knows His Shit!

    And I continue to stand on the position that when people in Russia are presented with all these "polls" it becomes slanted by the fact that there are thousands, make that hundreds-of-thousands of Russian people who answer these polls in such a way as to not bring negative pressure into their meager lives. Prime Example See: Recent US election polling.

    And as to negative pressure? From artappraiser's DailyBeast link:

    Dozens of businessmen gathered at the “FuckUp Nights” event in a hip conference hall of the Digital October center in downtown Moscow to discuss their most dramatic business failures. “When we decided to launch our business of smoking cabins in Moscow City, we could not imagine that the crisis would begin and all businesses would move out of the Moscow City,” Armen Manukyan, one of the failures, told the audience. Not many dared to blame Putin for a collapsing market or unemployment.

    A few who did came under attack.


    But getting to the bottom of all this poll crap is like the proverbial...

    That is all...


    Except polling data is often accurate, despite the misdirection & squirreliness of people - good pollsters dig out opinion and the direction of opinion; bad ones just collect data. It works if careful & clever, even in Russia.

    The idea that election polling this cycle was way off is incorrect though it's become a meme. Almost all the polls showed Hillary winning and she lost so the polls were terribly wrong. Most people don't understand how to read polls and go on the most superficial analysis. Most of the polling showed a very close race especially those taken a day or two before the election. Most presidential polls were national polls of people. Only a few people, like Nate Silver, dug into the polls to look at state totals to estimate electoral college votes. All the polls that showed Hillary with a 2 point lead were accurate. She won 46% to 48%. Most of the polls were accurate within the margin of error. Even the polls that were incorrect were only a few points off.

    More, Silver highlighted significant known unknowns and unknown unknowns that made the certainty factor significantly less than more amateurish pollsters (Huffpost included) accepted.

    And to repeat myself...

    Getting to the bottom of all this poll crap is like the proverbial...



    Frankly, it's not. Polls just require thoughtful analysis which most people don't do. They either dismiss polling completely or latch onto a superficial analysis. But polls are no different than other data. How do people get their information on climate change? One has to carefully consider the source and the questions asked just as one must do to get value from polls. Understanding GMO's require even greater careful analysis as there is very bad data spread by liberal environmentalist sources as well as bad data from conservative and corporate sources. Even people who do thoughtful and careful analysis of articles they read often fall for superficial analysis of polling data. The flaw is rarely in the polling but in the readers reluctance to spend the time to go deeply into the data.

    As they say...

    Third time's a charm...


    I don't watch videos. It's a waste of time. I read. No one can speak as fast as an average person can read. I get a lot more information reading than I can get watching talking heads. I've already wasted enough time with your bullshit.

    ocean-kat, I've been watching this thread and was feeling guilty about letting you handle this all alone, but then I was also conflicted, thinking: let it go, it's a waste of time. So I'm glad to see this comment! wink

    Thanks, Natasha. It's a good point, and I admit sometimes using 'the Russians' as shorthand for "Russian intelligence" or "the Putin regime." I'll try to be more thoughtful.

    A bit overwrought, methinks.

    We regularly acknowledge Pussy Riot, the opposition leaders who get imprisoned or poisoned, the writers for Moscow's Echo, appreciate their academic work and tech startups and literature, and I sometimes work with quite likeable and talented Russians in distinctly non-government capacities.

    But it's common shorthand when discussing politics to say the French, the Chinese, the Japanese and mean obviously the government.

    In short, it's not "Cold War rhetoric" - it's simply how we speak.

    However, the Russians, meaning the people, don't deserve a completely free pass either. Russia is ostensibly a democracy, and while Putin's done a great job shutting down the opposition, presumably the people in a post-Soviet period could do something to throw off the old authoritarian order. Many of the excesses and proclamations Putin makes are to garner favor with the Russian masses, bolstering his popularity at home while concerning us abroad.

    It's nice to see you, Natasha. Thanks for posting. You raise a fair point, and we should certainly take care to avoid conflating Putin's regime with the Russian people, but I don't think we're in much danger of reverting to the era of Russophobia. Fear of the Other is most powerful when combined with a scary ideology that unites disparate threats of violence into an existential menace. In the early 1900s, the bugbear-in-chief was Anarchism--which intensified fear of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. In the mid-1900s, it was Communism--which intensified fear of Russians and leftists. In the 21st century, it's Sharia/Islam--which has intensified fear of Arabs, Persians, North Africans, and Southeast Asians.

    Without communism or some alternative (neo-fascism?), we're unlikely to see a serious resurgence of Russophobia, especially in the current political climate. Ethnic intolerance is primarily a right-wing phenomenon, and today's right has apparently decided that Putin is their ally against liberals and Muslims. It's hard to imagine anti-Trump progressives taking out their anger on Russian immigrants.

    PS Full disclosure, I have been known to threaten my Russian wife with deportation, but in that case, it's totally justified!

    Lock her up! Nasty woman! (oops, no piroshkis for you - and where'd that wall towards the bedroom come from?)

    BTW, how many times have you been forced to watch Mrazik?

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