How the United States Created Vladimir Putin


David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Apr 2022 – The title comes from a speech by Vladimir Posner at Yale Sept 27, 2018. Posner was the spokesman for Mikhail Gorbachev in the latter years of the 1980’s and has continued over the years to provide independent, informed journalism from his base in Russia.

In addition to providing an important background for the present war in the Ukraine, Posner illustrates two of the most important conclusions of the studies that led to my publication of the History of the Culture of War.

First, the culture of war needs an enemy, and will invent one if necessary, in order to justify the profits of the military-industrial complex and its exploitation of workers and countries of the global South. Without an enemy, the culture of war cannot obtain the consent of its voters.`

Second, the control of information has become the main arm of the culture of war, as it is needed to convince people they have an enemy.

Here are excerpts from Posner’s speech with explanatory additions in brackets.

“We are at an extremely dangerous moment. . . . At the height of the Cold War the Russians were not anti-American. . . But today Russians are anti-American at the grassroots level. . . And neither side seems to be afraid of using nuclear weapons.”

“Why are we at the point where we are today?”

[Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in February 1992, Russian president] Yeltsin came to the United States and he addressed a joint session of Congress. And he said the people of Russia are offering their hand to the people of the United States in friendship, to build a better world, a world without war, and this was exactly what the vast majority of Russians wanted. And I would even say that today, the vast majority of Russians would like to have, if not a friendship with the United States, at least a partnership. There’s no doubt to my mind that that’s the case. . . And what kind of response did he get? What kind of response did Russia get?” [Nothing.]

[When Gorbachev was asked about reuniting Germany at the end of the Cold War,] “he was told by the US Secretary of State James Baker, if this happens, NATO will not move one inch eastward [See February blog]. . . . But it’s not only Baker who said that to him, there were several people there, including the West German leadership . . . And NATO stayed put in those days. It stayed put under Bush Senior. It stayed put during the first four years of Clinton. But in the next four years, in 1996, approximately, a decision was taken to enlarge NATO to three countries, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.”

[May 2, 1998. NY Times interview by Thomas Friedman with George Kennan] “He called him up and asked him what did he think about this decision to enlarge NATO? ‘I think it is the beginning of a new Cold War, ” said Mr Kennan from his Princeton home. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely, and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. . . . That’s where it all began, because the Russian reaction . . . was ‘you promised not to do this. So, how do we trust you, if you make a promise?’”

[During the 22 years from Gorbachev until Putin in 2007] “Nothing, not one thing during that period” was done by the Soviet Union or Russia to justify such a decision.

[In the year 2000, Vladimir Putin became President.] And one of the first things he does is to ask for Russia to become a member of NATO. Why not be a member of NATO? NATO was created to defend Europe and perhaps not only Europe from Soviet aggression, from a country that you couldn’t predict. But there is no more Soviet Union and there is no more Warsaw Pact. ‘Why can’t we create an organization where we are part of it,’ said Mr. Putin, “and act together to protect from some kind of aggression?’ He was told, basically, go take a walk!”

“As soon as 911 happens Putin calls up Bush Jr and offers his help. And yes, and does help in Afghanistan. . . .we want to fight terrorism together. . . . And he gets nothing in exchange.”

“So finally in February 10, 2007, in Munich speaking to the group of 20, Putin says this, ‘I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurance or our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? I would like to quote the speech of General Secretary Mr. Berner of Brussels on May 17, 1990. He said at the time, quote, the fact that we are not ready to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.’ Where are these guarantees? And you know what the answer was? The answer was ‘Yes, but those were guarantees given to the Soviet Union, and you’re Russia.”

“Last year, I think it was, making a foreign policy speech, Putin said, ‘Our mistake was that we trusted you too much. And your mistake was that you tried to take advantage of that.” That is the situation today. Now it may seem to you that I’m blaming the United States, I don’t want the word blame used. It was a mistaken political decision. . . . that’s why I say that US policy created Putin the way he is today. . . . So now we are in a new arms race, which is terrible. We are in a new Cold War which threatens all of us. . . . ”

“And finally, as someone who works in media, I would like to say that Russian mainstream media paints America black. Russian mainstream media, controlled directly or indirectly by the government, shows an extremely negative picture of the United States, US policy and so on. And much to my surprise, mainstream American media does exactly the same thing vis-a-vis Russia. Which to me is amazing because this is supposed to be a free media that’s differing from the Russian one. As someone who works in Russian media, I can say it’s hard to call it a free media. There are some opposition newspapers and radio, but that’s not mainstream. They address a very small number of people. So there we are, I think people who call themselves journalists, in my book they’re not journalists. But those people have played and are playing a destructive role in creating the fear, the dislike, the distrust that the people in both countries have vis-a-vis each other. And the fact that we don’t seem to question our media is really quite interesting. But there it is, nonetheless, we just take it.”

“So I’d like to wind up with a quote from . . . Herman Goering . . . Hitler’s right hand man . . . interviewed by an American journalist shortly before he committed suicide. Here’s what he said, and I think this is something that we should all remember. ‘Naturally, the common people don’t want war. Neither in Russia nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country,’ said Mr Goering and I think he was absolutely right. And we are being led by our media, by our politicians, in that direction in both countries. . . . We’re being manipulated.”


Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

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