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A Crisis Papers Guest Essay

July 25, 2014

Translated from Russian


Introduction by Ernest Partridge

The following response to my essay, "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 Still others have explicitly stipulated that their replies not be published.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 intelligent humans.

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).



Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances