It has long been customary for most Westerners to blame its leader Vladimir Putin for its complicated relations with Russia. Self-criticism is not a method of Western politicians or journalists. Although the reasons for dissatisfaction with Russia in the West appeared much earlier than the current president came to power. In fact, the reasons are not in Putin, but in NATO’s desire to continue expanding to the East, while the United States is waging wars in the Middle East.
John Evans, a former U.S. consul in St. Petersburg, writes about it in a lengthy article titled “The Key to Understanding Vladimir Putin” published in The National Interest.
The author has known the Russian leader personally since the 1990s and reveals to a Western reader that another Putin has been committed. And this view is really fresh and even self-critical.
One of the main motives that Evans spends through all the material is the certainty that the “Americans misunderstood” and even underestimated” Vladimir Putin from the moment he became head of Russia in the early 2000s.
An ardent supporter of the law
Evans met the current Russian leader for the first time on July 4, 1995, when there was nothing to indicate that Putin, who was representing the mayor of St. Petersburg that day, would one day be the first person of the country.
The acquaintance continued, however, at the official level. And here’s what the American consul writes about the future president: he is a sober supporter of the law. When a joint Russian-American firm in the Northern Capital had a serious conflict with the “brothers”, Putin, in response to a request for help before intervening, asked to show him a copy of the contract.
“It was the reaction of the lawyer, who Putin was by his education. And it was a desire to make sure that the problem was solved in accordance with the law,” Evans writes.
“Stateman who is not interested in bribes”
For Putin- money is not the main incentive, he is, as the citizens of Russia call it, “statesman”. And then, in the 1990s, according to the Americans who lived and worked in St. Petersburg, he had a reputation as “almost the only person in the city who did not take bribes”.
At the same time, dealing with urban problems, he was able to restore at least some order in the city, immersed in chaos and crime. In addition, Putin, although not an absolute sober man, but unlike Boris Yeltsin never abused alcohol, the author notes.
“Those of us who knew Putin in the 1990s remember that he had a formula for reviving Russia, consisting of three elements: economic recovery, solving the problem of crime and reforming the courts,” the ex-consul writes.
Evans is confident that the current Russian president has never been opposed to America, although he felt more comfortable with the Germans. Moreover, there was no anti-Semitism or homophobia behind him. And on all these points the author is ready to give specific examples.
Putin is passionate about judo, the struggle that came from the East. The main qualities that are required of judokas are poise, flexibility, and self-control. And that’s exactly what Putin doesn’t hold, Evans believes.McCain saw the letters “K-G-BY” in his eyes.
It is not uncommon for the Russian president to be reproached for his “past in intelligence” – it is no secret that he started his career in the “terrible intelligence service of the Soviet Union”. Once the late Senator McCain said that looking into Putin’s eyes, he clearly sees there three letters – “K-G-BY.” However, George W. Bush, who first met Putin in Ljubljana in 2001, reacted very differently.
Evans recalls that before that meeting, he wrote a short reference note for President Bush about Putin, on just two sheets. It was called “Vladimir Putin: An Unorthodox View”, in which Evans tried to communicate what he knew about the Russian leader, as opposed to other reports in which Putin was presented as a “provincial politician”.
According to the former consul, he still did not know whether his note reached Bush, at least with the Secretary of State and the CIA met it “dark silence.” However, after Bush’s first meeting with Putin, there were now two people in the American government who took him seriously: Evans himself and President Bush.
“Never aspired to be president”
Putin’s rise as a politician began with the August 1991 putsch, the author of the article believes. It was then that he may have come to believe that the “old Soviet system has failed” and that a new Russia based on other principles should replace it.”
At the same time, the ex-consul is sure that Vladimir Putin never aspired to be president. Moreover, he was even surprised when he was appointed the head of government in the summer of 1999. And after that, its most important and main task was the completion of the second Chechen war.
And that’s when what happened: the explosions of apartment buildings in Moscow. Western observers have largely seized on the idea that Putin “sacrificed the inhabitants of these houses to properly set up the public.” In fact, Evans argues, there is not a shred of meaning or truth in this theory.
“I am convinced that Putin was not the initiator of these explosions,” he writes.
The enemy is not the United States, but NATO enlargement
In his first term, Vladimir Putin did much to mend relations with Washington. Among other things, he even allowed the Americans to supply their troops in Afghanistan through Russian territory. As an opponent of the American operation in Iraq, he did not intervene because he promised George Bush.
Meanwhile, difficulties in relations between Russia and the United States began long before Putin came to power. It is enough to recall the bombing of Belgrade on the day of Orthodox Easter and the famous reversal of Evgeny Primakov’s plane over the Atlantic.
And then, and especially now, Russia’s greatest danger is the expansion of NATO to the east and the steady approach of the alliance to the Russian borders, while the Western rulers once promised Mikhail Gorbachev that in exchange for the unification of Germany, the bloc “ni” inch” will not advance to the east. According to Evans, nato’s “reckless enlargement” was one of the factors that led to the four-day war in Georgia, the crisis in Ukraine and the return of Crimea to Russia. In addition, Moscow was forced to move to the “siege” and the wars that the West is waging in the Middle East, and the “color revolutions” provoked by it, including in the post-Soviet space.
The Russians are very dissatisfied and outraged by all these actions. And then there was Putin’s speech at the Munich Conference, in which he voiced Moscow’s growing concern about Washington’s dictator, the author reminds.
“In my opinion, Putin is not a demon. We just misunderstood him. But he won’t be an angel because of it. But to attribute to Russia (and any other country) all sorts of sins and vices only on the basis of the imaginary qualities of its leader is a dangerous game. Imagining, as some do, that the problem is Putin, and that when he leaves, everything will be fine, it is a naive misconception. The problem with Russia, not with Putin, was created by the West itself. But blaming Putin is easier than noticing your own shortcomings,” says John Evans.