July 25, 2014
Translated from Russian
Introduction by Ernest Partridge
The following response to my
"Bungling toward Oblivion, A Letter to my Friends in Russia,"
stood out among the many replies from both Russia and the United
States. The others can be found here at
The Crisis Papers correspondence page. Because of the eloquence
and insight of this reply, The Crisis Papers editors have decided to
set it apart by treating it as a "Guest Essay."
The author, in addition to other Russian respondents, has requested
that we not publish his name. Still others have explicitly
stipulated that their replies not be published. This reluctance
testifies to troubling conditions in Russia today.
This is not the Russia that I experienced in my last visit in 1999.
I expect soon to say much more about the remarkable responses to my
"letter" in a forthcoming essay.
I read your article "Bungling Toward Oblivion - A Letter to My Friends
in Russia "and I want to express gratitude for all what you wrote.
I was in the last generation of children who joined the Pioneers. [The
Soviet "Boy Scouts" ed.] I remember all the changes in my country, from
the collapse of the USSR, to the shameful and humiliating nineties: the
drunken president and fear for the future of family and country.
While still a student at the school in
the last years of USSR, we were taught that all people of all nations
are equal and should be respected. We were not taught anything negative,
only a knowledge and a love of humanity.
In the early 1990s, the majority of Russians had a positive attitude
toward America, but then it all quickly went down. The actions of the
United States accurately described in your article reflect all that
happened. But this is history. The US attempted to push around and
control other countries - to take advantage of their weakness. This
applies to both external influence from America, and the internal
response on the part of our government, police, etc. Meanwhile, the
Russian people had not learned how to assert their rights.
I like America and Americans: their patriotism, their diligence, their
desire to develop and build. I like that Americans have created a system
which allows smart, creative, hard-working people to achieve success and
enjoy the fruits of their labor. I like their respect for the law,
property, other people's freedom, for their work and achievements. I
would like to live in America, for there are many good features. It's
very close to me in spirit.
But with all my love for the Americans, American policy scares me, in
particular the incompetence of some American politicians, the stupidity
of their statements, and the terrible consequences of their actions. The
American desire to remain at the head of the world has dreadful
consequences, among them disrespect of other countries including its
loyal allies, suppression of civil liberties in the United States, the
overthrow of undemocratic regimes abroad while ignorant of their
historical contexts and heedless of the possible consequences of these
interventions for their peoples. And there is the hypocrisy. For
example, how can the United States be friends with Saudi Arabia, which
stones women and sponsors terrorism, while at the same time condemns
Russia as "undemocratic?" Why does not the U.S. president impose
sanctions on Saudi Arabia?
Oil, gas, loyalty to the United States, are the only criteria of
"friendship" for America. Among sovereign states, a sense of honor,
fairness, trust, respect is absent. Rhetoric about "democracy," "freedom
of speech," "human rights" is merely another type of weapon employed
instead of tanks and bombs, against countries with which it would be too
expensive to fight with these conventional weapons.
Thus the enlistment of the press and television in this bloodless
"warfare." I read a lot of the Western press in translation and what
they write shocks me. Only lies, dirt, anger, disrespect toward Russia
and other countries with rival power. Without respect no person or
country can understand the other side, perceive conflicts from their
point of view and seek compromise and accommodation. Pride kills.
Unfortunately, the Russian press and television are no better. They have
become impossible to see and read. Among my friends and colleagues are
educated and intelligent people who no longer watch and read this
nonsense. But most people are very easily convinced by official
propaganda, and it is extremely difficult to convince them otherwise.
How sad that so few recognize with this influence, forestalling for many
decades mutual respect among peoples. I would love to be wrong here.
I very much hoped that U.S. President Obama would see and act above the
propaganda. I thought this young and intelligent man might bring into
the relationship between our two countries trust, mutual respect and
peace. But unfortunately this did not happen.
Regardless of what one thinks of Putin, it is simple to compare his
speech and Obama's speech. Obama speaks in the abstract as if he were
not the president of a real country, but rather a Hollywood actor in a
film about the attack on an alien planet, playing the president and
inspiring the nation to a heroic victory. In his speeches there are few
facts; only bravado about the great and exceptional nation. Likewise
almost all U.S. policy-makers up to the highest ranks. They easily blame
others and never will blame themselves, even though the whole world
recognizes their mistakes. Black and white. Putin is also responsible as
he confirms all the facts rasied by his opponents, while not always able
to present arguments against them.
I'm not a fan of Putin, nor am I an outspoken opponent. Every position
has pros and cons. I am for freedom and a democratic future for all of
our neighbors and our country. I am strongly opposed to military
operations; war always brings sorrow. I am for the eradication of
corruption at all levels. I believe in science and in virtuous and
I dreamed that the forces of Russia and America would come together to
tackle the truly important and interesting challenges for humanity:
exploration of the cosmos, science, medicine, ecology, safety.
I was hoping it would all be realized in my lifetime -- that I would see
it with my eyes. But I can already see that it will not. Mankind has
learned how to create technically complex things and to manipulate
atoms. But when it comes to the development of mutual understanding,
communication and global thinking mankind is still in the dark ages.
Now it remains for me to believe that conditions will improve when a new
generation of young Americans come to power; that these educated young
people will not be subject to the old stereotypes and thus be able to
build a new world based upon mutual respect of people, interests and
opinions. That same hope applies to Russia.
And I hope that journalists, especially mass media and popular
television, become aware of the responsibility that they bear toward the
public, and that they will examine world's problems impartially with
respect to all sides of global conflicts. Journalists should be citiznes
of the world, treating all peoples with honor and dignity.
There are, to be sure, bad conditions and evil people. But neither the
America or Russia people in general are evil. The world's problems are
created by historical, political, private reasons. If we are to resolve
these problems, we must be willing to negotiate and communicate.
Sanctions will not resolve these problems. Sanctions humiliate and
create hostility, dismantling decades and generations of constructive
dialogues and positive perceptions.
If you look at the sky, there are an infinite number of stars, galaxies,
planets . There's so much unknown and interesting. Let's negotiate and
implement the dreams of science fiction.
Once again thank you for what you are doing!
(Name withheld at the author's request).