The view from Russia
Regarding “Who is Putin? Even to Russians, a mystery (audio)” in the Oct. 23 Monitor Daily: To begin with, no Kremlin ruler is a mystery to us, as in our daily affairs we go by a Russian proverb: “God is high above, and the czar is far away.” Even when our shops are empty, rulers are simply ousted by their retinues, not voted out by us. We don’t even have a Russian phrase for “vote out.” So in a way, we are a parliamentary democracy.
Then there’s the Western expectation that Vladimir Putin’s successor will beat swords into plowshares. More than a century ago, Czar Alexander III said that Russia has just two allies: its army and its navy. With NATO forces moving closer to our borders, the army and navy are now getting top-notch radar, hypersonic missiles, and nuclear underwater drones to defend us.
On the topic of Western coverage of Russian protests: What we hear from you about our unrest is identical to what we heard about you during the Cold War. There is much concentration on the speck in another’s eye while ignoring the beam in one’s own. Incidentally, reports about the West are now rare here, but Western coverage of Russia is repeated by our media daily.
In the end, it’s naive for a Westerner to try to predict Russia’s next move by studying Mr. Putin just because he is our president.
Thank you for the photo and audio series “Life in a wildfire zone” by Ann Hermes in the Monitor Daily. It gives readers a sobering opportunity to walk in the shoes of others for a brief time, to feel compassion, and to pray that the will to find solutions can be immediate, not in the distant future.