Back in 2000, Vladimir Putin repeatedly petitioned for Russia to be admitted to NATO, according to the alliance’s former secretary general, George Robertson, as well as my friend, the filmmaker Oliver Stone, who has interviewed the Russian president extensively. It’s easy to forget that while Putin is now seen as a combination of Hitler and Stalin, when he replaced the drunken Boris Yeltsin in 2000, the West was eager to deal with him.
Boris Yeltsin had also made overtures for NATO admission, and even Mikhail Gorbachev had hinted that he was interested. When Putin was told to wait his turn and apply, he answered correctly: “We’re not standing in line with a lot of countries that don’t matter.” Sorry, but he was right. The idea that a great nation like Russia would wait for the approval of a made-up country like crappy little Belgium is ludicrous.
As Putin’s army shells Ukrainian hospitals, it is hard to blame anyone but him for the situation there. What makes it even worse is that until he ordered his troops to attack Ukraine, he was a hero to many on the right for resisting the West’s slide into woke politics. Just before last Christmas, he came to the defense of British author J. K. Rowling for calling a woman a woman, something a future U.S. Supreme Court justice cannot even do. He also denounced the fact that a male weightlifter can call himself a woman, saying that “women’s sports will cease to exist altogether.”
Putin’s war on woke had me cheering, especially when he urged nationalists, conservatives, and traditionalists to unite and reject multiculturalism. Embracing your enemy’s enemy is as old as when the Greeks went to war over a woman more than 3,000 years ago. Putin was seen as an icon and antidote to a flimsy transatlantic order that doesn’t understand his mystical attachment to the idea of a nation.
Russia, said Putin, rejects the West’s politically correct nonsense and will defend traditional Christian values. He lamented that Shakespeare is being dropped from school curricula in the West and that Hollywood is enforcing ridiculous quotas on race and gender. Better yet, Putin made it illegal to propagandize the Russian schoolchildren about gender orientation or alternative sexualities. A similar bill in the state of Florida has Disney employees in a tizzy, and the British media has called it prehistoric and fascistic. Well, I for one not only wholeheartedly agree with the sunshine state’s proposed bill, but the idea that those who disagree with it are presently free to walk around perverting youth turns me into a permanent Orlando furioso.
Hence, I was halfway into buying a one-way ticket to St. Petersburg—then Vlad attacked Ukraine. Mind you, he had endured plenty of provocations from the West, especially when NATO’s charter insisted that war would break out if Russia went anywhere near Estonia, one of the tiny countries on Russia’s border. Now he has become the world’s biggest gangster, or so it seems to many Western minds who think that nationalism is evil and that globalism and multiculturalism are the future.
Never mind. The world as I knew it seems to have turned upside down. Winston Churchill is called a racist by young Brits today, and America is a systematically racist backwater. The word “woman” has become a slur, and woe to anyone who claims that physical differences between men and women are enduring. Wokeism is reinventing the wheel, and Silicon Valley, the universities, and the media—not to mention Hollywood—are playing ball.
So what is there to defend for those of us who don’t agree with such bull—-t? Our statues of heroes past are coming down, gender pronouns are verboten, and the forces of liberty are on the run from tyranny. It’s the kind of madness even George Orwell did not dare include in his seminal novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where lies were truth and so on. America’s youth have been brainwashed to be consumed with victimhood and tortured by history. Young, educated Americans and Europeans today hate their fellow-citizen opponents more than any external enemies.
Which brings me back to Putin. How can I denounce him with a straight face when my real enemies are right here at home? For 500 years, Russia has tried to ingratiate herself with the West, most notably during the reign of Peter the Great, but on every occasion, the Russians have been rebuffed and snubbed.
Here’s the sixty-four-dollar question, as they used to say in old quiz shows back in the fifties: Why don’t I go and live over there like so many British spies did after they were revealed to be agents of the Soviets? The answer is that I’m still an American and still like apple pie, blonde cheerleaders, jazz, black-and-white Mickey Rooney films, Robert E. Lee, the University of Virginia, Fred Astaire movies, Park Avenue, the Marine Corps, Texas, Notre Dame football games—I could go on.
Well, if old Vlad can come up with some of the above, maybe I will be taking that one-way trip to St. Pete’s sooner rather than later.
Vladimir Putin (Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0)