Anti-Putin campaigns are all the same. An important but not necessary condition for them is that Russia has committed some "misdeed" at home or abroad
At the end of January, Komsomolka (Komsomolskaya Pravda) printed my article under the heading: "The 2014 Olympics are in danger." It ended with these words: "I recall that the preparations for the 2006 G8 summit in St. Petersburg took place to the accompaniment of a broad propaganda campaign to banish Russia from the 'big eight' and move the meeting place to another country. And now we've got the Sochi Olympics in a year! Do you think that the private foreign policy outfits are not already working out plans for dishing the dirt on Putin and at the same time spoil the holiday?"
Sometime later, I discussed the situation with the well-known American media analyst, William Dunkerley, a professional commentator on contemporary political propaganda campaigns. We came to the conclusion that something was bound to start up no later than summer. An interval of about half a year before the event would provide the optimum period for stirring up a full-scale protest campaign.
As it turned out, it seems we were clairvoyant. The American senator, Lindsey Graham, has already called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics if Russia does not hand over Edward Snowden. Subsequently the British actor Stephen Fry addressed the following penetrating words to British Prime Minister, Cameron, and the International Olympic Committee: "An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi is simply essential. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world. He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it."
Already, in their turn, Obama and Cameron have become involved in discussing a boycott. The IOC is demanding that our Olympic Committee give guarantees that gays and lesbians will not be persecuted during the Olympics. The IOC receives such guarantees but demands new ones, because, it says, it didn't understand something in translationIt has become commonplace in international discussions to compare the 1936 Olympics in Nazi-ruled Berlin with the upcoming Olympics in Putin-dominated Sochi.
In short, this is already a full-scale anti-Russian campaign. The campaign is proving successful, since in this case it's not the result that matters, but the process. It’s rather what the old rooster thought when running after the hen: "Even if I don't catch you, I'm at least warming up!"
The reason for all this is the law banning propaganda to children about non-traditional sexual relations, which was passed at the end of June and prescribes small fines. I will not even dwell on how ridiculous the reason for the boycott is. If not it, then something else would have popped up.
Let me continue citing my KP article: "The whole period since President Putin has been in charge has consisted of a sequence of propagandistic campaigns, one after the other. Putin, so they say, sank theKursk, blew up those houses in Moscow, murdered Politkovskaya and those kids in Beslan, attacked Georgia in order to strangle democracy, snubbed Ukraine by demanding payment for gas at market prices, and poisoned Litvinenko with polonium in London, and so on, and so on, and so on. And the more impudent the accusations, the easier it is even for intelligent people to believe new ones."
Campaigns directed against Putin have an underlying similarity, at the root of which is some alleged transgression that Russia has commited either at home or abroad. Oligarchs offended by Putin, with the means and opportunities to roll out operations abroad, take part in this business. At different stages, the players have been Gusinsky, Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, Saakashvili and Browder. Some we don't even know about.
The work is done through PR companies, a trade which in the West has achieved giddy heights of acuity. The Litvinenko affair and Pussy Riot, in particular, have been handled by the British firm Bell Pottinger, which was connected with Berezovsky. Randy Schoenemann, an adviser on foreign affairs to the leading American Russophobe, Senator McCain, is the co-founder of the PR firm, Orion Strategies, which served Mikheil Saakashvili. By the way, the firm reported these dealings were carried out in accordance with the law, and in compliance with FARA, the American law on registration of foreign agents.
One cannot do without such "recognized leaders of the people's struggle against the totalitarian Putin regime" as Nemtsov, Kasparov and Kasyanov, who have been key participants in US congressional hearings on the situation in Russia.
All of this rests on some deeply-rooted russophobic stereotypes, as well as a gullible public, the bias or laziness of the press, and the ignorance of decision-makers. Thus, my colleagues, who carefully followed the campaign to pass the Magnitsky Law, assert that many of the Congressmen and Senators who voted for it did not even understand that they were being taken advantage of by William Browder, a British subject of American origin with a decidedly dodgy business reputation in his homeland.
Finally there is another component, which comes directly from bad, or more correctly, absent Russian counter-propaganda. As the above-mentioned Dunkerley expresses it, "Putin farmed out the formation of his own image in the West to his enemies."
The most cynical of such campaigns, obviously, must be the coverage in the Anglo-American press of the seizure of a school in Beslan by terrorists. It went roughly like this: desperate freedom fighters used a school as a platform to tell the world about their grievances, but Putin gave the order to kill them together with the children.
The most Goebbels-like case ("the more monstrous the lie, the easier it is to believe") was that of Pussy Riot. These serial exhibitionists, who had received an extraordinary punishment for their barbarous stunt, were elevated to the status of fighters for human rights on the level of Dr. Sakharov.
My favourite for the virtuoso nature of the performance was the "Litvinenko affair." Everybody was certain that he had been poisoned by polonium on Putin's order, even though after 6 years the case still lacks an official conclusion regarding the cause of death and even whether it was a homicide.
However, if someone thinks that this has some relation to Russia's real problems, I can only say that under Yeltsin nothing of the sort happened, even though all the basic crimes of the current regime were committed precisely by him. The assault on parliament in October 1993, and the falsification of the results of the constitutional referendum in December of the same year, and the re-election of the president in 1996 (which no normal person can believe was fair), and the unleashing of the first Chechen war, which cost twice as many lives as the second. To say nothing of the whole liberal economic policy: from Gaidar's shock therapy to Chubais' privatization. By this logic, Putin's rule looks like a notable softening of the way of doing things created by the regime's predecessor.
But Yeltsin fed the oligarchs and did not offend them. He obeyed American advisers, and therefore he enjoys to this day in the West the reputation of the "father of Russian democracy," while Putin is dubbed a tyrant.
Now let's return to the campaign for an Olympic boycott. I believe that we have been very lucky because it was initiated by LGBT activists. On one hand, this is a very aggressive and "creative" lobby with a strong position in the media and the cultural field. That means that in the upcoming months we are guaranteed some fun times, in the form of all sorts of inventive and colorful anti-Putin events all over the Western world. I think that all kinds of gay demonstrations are also being planned for the Games. Take a look and you'll see agitators tightening their "white ribbons" to protest against anything and everything. The unfortunate correspondents in Sochi will wear themselves out running between sporting competitions, gay parades and dispersals of unsanctioned meetings, while editors at home mix everything together in a single information stream.
Something like that already happened at the 2009 Eurovision finals in Moscow. At that time, on the morning after the concluding worldwide broadcast (generally viewed as an outstanding television show) the lead columns of the prominent Western papers carried articles on the dispersal in Moscow of an unsanctioned gay parade of about 15 people. In other words, instead of a sporting holiday, we risk having Sodom and Gomorrah on our screens and on the spot.
What we need now is for normal people to speak out: those who relate to each other not by sexual orientation but simply as conversation partners, friends, business partners, and athletes. This should include those who have a "non-traditional sexual orientation," but who are disgusted by the defiant exhibitionism of a narrow range of gay activists who have been clever enough to make same-sex marriage practically the most important human right in the contemporary world. However, contemporary liberal ideology would also classify them as "homophobes."
None the less, hundreds of thousands of such "homophobes" are taking part in demonstrations in France. Still more of them in these so-called "civilized countries" are grumbling in their kitchens, spooked by political correctness. But I think that many will only be glad if the "progressive forces" boycott the Olympics. And Putin, not bowing to their pressure, will become a national hero for the majority without even making an effort to do so.
A Snowden-related boycott would indeed be a gift. In chasing after that unfortunate fellow, the Americans have already insulted the whole of Latin America, and utterly humiliated their European allies, when they forced them to ground and search the plane of Bolivian president Evo Morales. And you want them to support the Olympic boycott, called to reduce Russia to the same condition?
Thus, in the situation with the unfolding campaign to boycott the Olympics, the best thing that Russia could do is to do nothing. Don't put on airs. Strictly observe legislation currently in force and pray that Lindsey Graham and Stephen Fry’s ardour lasts until the start of the Games. Let’s also hope that in place of their whims, no reasons of greater seriousness show up. The fact is there is still time for it.