Why Putin Confounds US Media

By Finian Cunningham

December 20, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - In the space of a week, Russian President Vladimir Putin went from descriptions in the US media as “an influential international statesman” to reiteration of hackneyed claims of “KGB spy” who is somehow in cahoots with President Trump. 

That’s a pretty impressive versatile range of roles, according to the US media – and all just in the space of a few days. 

The wild mood swing says more about the US media, than it does about Putin’s alleged character. 

When the Russian leader flew into Syria last week to announce the end of military operations there, after a successful two-year campaign to defeat a Western-backed insurgency, top US media outlets seemed to acknowledge Putin’s newfound global authority. 

On the same day last week, Monday, Putin also flew from Syria to Egypt where he was greeted by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and then later to Turkey to hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Bloomberg News reported that Putin was on a “victory lap”, while the New York Times in its Daily Briefing said the Russian leader’s “whirlwind tour of Syria, Egypt and Turkey underscored his country’s expansive role and America’s diminishing influence in the Middle East.” 

A rather candid assessment in favor of the Russian leader, it would seem, being told by major US media. 

The fact that Putin was warmly received by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, followed by al-Sisi and Erdogan – all of whom have been deeply at odds over regional politics – shows how much respect the Russian leader actually commands. That, in turn, is a reflection of how successful Russia’s military intervention in Syria has been – despite the recent churlish quibbles from the US and French governments that terrorism in Syria has not been vanquished. 

The Washington Post in its Today’s Worldview briefing starkly declared: “Putin is outplaying Trump in the Middle East”. 

It went on to say: “While President Trump has sparked outrage across the region [over his Jerusalem policy], Putin played the role of sober and dependable partner… all in all an influential international statesman”.

Again, this praise for Putin in major US media and his outshining an American president, seems extraordinary. 

Admittedly, those news outlets cited above are inclined to undermine Donald Trump for domestic political reasons, and so their seeming praise of Putin’s international leadership is partly aimed as a backhanded criticism of Trump. 

Nevertheless, their acknowledgement of Putin’s increased global authority would seem to be also a genuine reflection of objective reality.

When the Russian leader took the decision to send military forces into Syria’s war in October 2015, there were all sorts of predictions back then that it would be a failure. Trump’s White House predecessor Barack Obama predicted that Putin would get stuck in a quagmire, and there were also gleeful American predictions of another Afghanistan for Russia. 

On the contrary, two years on, Putin’s military intervention in Syria has been spectacularly vindicated. 

The foreign-backed insurgency that instrumented a US-led covert war for regime change has been defeated. 

True, the Syrian state is in ruins. But it has been salvaged from an even more disastrous fate of regime change and never-ending chaos. And the country now has the chance to rebuild in peace and freedom. 

Russia, along with the Syrian army and people, Iran and Hezbollah, takes pride of place in this historic victory. Even among those regional powers who backed regime change in Syria, primarily Turkey and Saudi Arabia, there is a quiet respect for what Russia achieved. 

The comments by Bloomberg, NY Times and Washington Post on Putin’s tour of the Middle East last week are a tacit admission of the Russian leader’s vindication, and Russia’s increased stature as a global power.

A few days later, however, the US media were back to denigrating Putin. 

On his marathon Question & Answer annual press conference in Moscow, the US media implied that the nearly four-hour event was the hobby horse of an authoritarian leader. 

Putin’s answering of wide-ranging questions in an open forum was sniffed at in the US media as being some kind of ego-trip by a strongman leader. It is an obtuse and bizarre way to distort what other people would describe as a vigorous effort by the Russian leader to be open and available for public scrutiny. Can you imagine Donald Trump, Theresa May, Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron affording such exhaustive public scrutiny?

American news outlet CNN then picked up on Putin’s favorable comments expressed during his Q&A about President Trump’s handling of the US economy and about how the relentless claims of “Russia-gate collusion” are an attempt by Trump’s domestic political enemies to undermine his presidential mandate. 

The snide implication in the US reporting was that Putin was revealing his alleged Machiavellian streak and his putative remote control over Trump. Viewers were reminded with hackneyed claims that Putin is a “former KGB colonel” and that political opponents in Russia end up dead or in prison. The slanderous views of Senator John McCain were aired again, referring to Putin as a “thug”. 

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During a discussion panel, however, a dissenting US pundit struck a blow for sanity by pointing out to CNN its contorted logic, and that a foreign leader expressing a friendly view of the US president is neither a crime nor anything nefarious.

Nevertheless, the overall thrust of the coverage was to try to paint Putin as a malign despot who has the American president under this thumb. 

In the space of a few days, therefore, Putin went from global statesman commanding international respect to an unscrupulous street gangster who meddles in US democracy and who is pulling puppet strings on the president.

Putin’s confounding of US media is possible because the US corporate-controlled media confounds itself. 

Its willful and reprehensible distortion of the nearly seven-year war in Syria as a “pro-democracy uprising by moderate rebels” instead of a US-led criminal war for regime change employing terrorist mercenaries; its distortion about Russia’s principled salvaging of Syria under Putin’s courageous leadership; its relentless lies about Russian interference in US elections; and so on and so on. 

In “reporting” on so many major international events, the US media have been preponderantly on the side of deception and propagating propaganda – instead of truth-telling. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syrian, Iran, Ukraine, Yemen, North Korea, NATO aggression in Europe, you name it. Their credibility among the American and international public is in tatters as a result. 

Over just a few days last week, the US media “story” on Putin evidently veered all over the place. From praiseworthy to malicious, from respected international statesman to evil foreign enemy. That’s because the US media are themselves all over the place – from their own systematic deceptions and distortions. 

If the US corporate media took a collective lie-detector test, the needle would fly off the chart.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation  -


Watch: Putin praises Trump, slams Russia probe

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