Discover more from PREVAIL by Greg Olear
Big Little Liar: Putin's Mendacious Speech
Russia is a corrupt tree, bringing forth evil fruit.
On the last day of September, Vladimir Putin stood before a packed house in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St. George’s Hall and announced the “accession” of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Lugansk People’s Republic, the Zaporozhye Region and the Kherson Region—all territorial parts of eastern Ukraine—to the Russian Federation. He was joined on stage by the leaders of these fledgling republics, big strapping men in dark suits.
There was great fanfare. There was considerable pomp. There was solemn ceremony, including a moment of silence for Russians killed in the “special military operation.” There was the actual signing of treaties with the courageous leaders of the four new republics. There was a grand speech. Members of the audience—all dressed to the nines, like they were going to the Bolshoi Ballet—gave their full-throated approval.
The casual observer might conclude that this was a triumphant moment for Russia, and for its long-serving Dear Leader. And that was the point: to fool the rubes into believing, wrongly, that Putin is still powerful, that his invasion is a success, that his country is on the ascent. All of it was bullshit. Every word was a lie. This was reality TV at its most mendacious—a team of Mark Burnett-like producers putting enormous amounts of lipstick on a suckling pig destined for the slaughterhouse.
First and foremost, the entire premise of the event was flawed. Putin began his remarks citing the referenda in the four Ukrainian territories. “The people have made their unequivocal choice,” he said, as if he was merely doing his solemn duty by allowing them into his mighty Russian Federation. Never mind that the votes in those regions were a total sham. He then spun a ridiculous revisionist history:
For eight long years [that is, since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea], people in Donbass were subjected to genocide, shelling and blockades; in Kherson and Zaporozhye, a criminal policy was pursued to cultivate hatred for Russia, for everything Russian. Now too, during the referendums, the Kyiv regime threatened schoolteachers, women who worked in election commissions with reprisals and death. Kyiv threatened millions of people who came to express their will with repression. But the people of Donbas, Zaporozhye and Kherson weren’t broken, and they had their say.
I want the Kyiv authorities and their true handlers in the West to hear me now, and I want everyone to remember this: the people living in Lugansk and Donetsk, in Kherson and Zaporozhye have become our citizens, forever.
Which all sounds fabulous, if you’re a Putin fluffer like Tucker Carlson. But it conveniently omits the inconvenient fact that Russia doesn’t control those territories. As he spoke, Kherson and Zaporozhye were both safely in Ukrainian hands, and the Russian soldiers who had not already drunkenly surrendered were beating a hasty retreat out of Donbas. In short, this was pure fantasy. Putin might as well have had Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, John Neely Kennedy, and Marco Rubio up on stage with him to announce the incorporation of Kentucky, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Florida into the Russian Federation. “Our citizens, forever?” Even Trump wouldn’t make a claim that outlandish.
From there, Putin ups the preposterousness. Because the speech is weapons-grade Kremlin propaganda, and thus weaves reality with fantasy and spin, it is necessary to combat his lies with truth bombs.
We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately cease fire and all hostilities; to end the war it unleashed back in 2014 and return to the negotiating table. We are ready for this, as we have said more than once. But the choice of the people in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson will not be discussed. The decision has been made, and Russia will not betray it. Kyiv’s current authorities should respect this free expression of the people’s will; there is no other way. This is the only way to peace.
The truth is:
In 2014, Putin pulled the same trick in the Crimea that Hitler employed in the Sudetenland in 1938, claiming that native Russians and Russian speakers in Crimea were being mistreated by Kyiv, and therefore it was his duty to annex the peninsula. When the West shrugged, he did the same in the Donbas this past year.
So: Ukraine did not “unleash” the war; Russia did. Ukraine is the victim of Russian aggression, full stop. The atrocities committed by Putin’s invading army are the ugliest and most heinous kind of war crimes. Kyiv is going to defend its people and its territory, and the West is going to help (and should be doing more). Putin can end the war tomorrow by retreating from the sovereign nation he illegally invaded. That’s his only offramp.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the West decided that the world and all of us would permanently accede to its dictates. In 1991, the West thought that Russia would never rise after such shocks and would fall to pieces on its own. This almost happened. We remember the horrible 1990s, hungry, cold and hopeless. But Russia remained standing, came alive, grew stronger and occupied its rightful place in the world.
The truth is:
Built on a big lie, the Soviet Union fell because of decades of gross mismanagement, corruption, terror, and abuse. After the fall, the West, and the United States in particular, bent over backwards trying to help Russia transition to a capitalist economy with as little pain as possible. President Clinton ensured that Russia received preferential treatment; in the international community, the inebriate Boris Yeltsin was treated like a legacy at Harvard. Ultimately, this failed—because of corrupt leaders like Vladimir Putin, who cared more about amassing grotesque wealth by plundering from the Russian people than helping Russia thrive.
Meanwhile, the West continued and continues looking for another chance to strike a blow at us, to weaken and break up Russia, which they have always dreamed about, to divide our state and set our peoples against each other, and to condemn them to poverty and extinction. They cannot rest easy knowing that there is such a great country with this huge territory in the world, with its natural wealth, resources and people who cannot and will not do someone else’s bidding.
The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity, the rent paid to the hegemon. The preservation of this annuity is their main, real and absolutely self-serving motivation. This is why total de-sovereignization is in their interest. This explains their aggression towards independent states, traditional values and authentic cultures, their attempts to undermine international and integration processes, new global currencies and technological development centers they cannot control. It is critically important for them to force all countries to surrender their sovereignty to the United States.
In certain countries, the ruling elites voluntarily agree to do this, voluntarily agree to become vassals; others are bribed or intimidated. And if this does not work, they destroy entire states, leaving behind humanitarian disasters, devastation, ruins, millions of wrecked and mangled human lives, terrorist enclaves, social disaster zones, protectorates, colonies and semi-colonies. They don’t care. All they care about is their own benefit.
The truth is:
This is red meat for the Assange/Snowden “The U.S. Is Always Wrong” crowd, and most of what he says here is true—only it’s completely backwards. Russia is the power trying to strike the West. Russia is the scourge on the international order. As for the bit about “destroy[ing] entire states, leaving behind humanitarian disasters, devastation, ruins, millions of wrecked and mangled human lives, terrorist enclaves, social disaster zones, protectorates, colonies and semi-colonies,” that’s what Russia has done, repeatedly, in places like Syria and now Ukraine. Goebbels would be pleased.
There were numerous plans to invade Russia. Such attempts were made during the Time of Troubles in the 17th century and in the period of ordeals after the 1917 revolution. All of them failed. The West managed to grab hold of Russia’s wealth only in the late 20th century, when the state had been destroyed. They called us friends and partners, but they treated us like a colony, using various schemes to pump trillions of dollars out of the country. We remember. We have not forgotten anything.
The truth is:
The Time of Troubles was the 15-year period of Russian history after the death of the mentally challenged son of Ivan the Terrible—the first tsar of Russia and a proto-Putin—and Mikhail establishing the Romanov dynasty. There were famines, plagues, and succession crises. During this period, the Polish king Sigismund III did indeed invade Russia—not to conquer it, but to break up its alliance with the Swedes. His son was chosen by the Russians to be tsar, but Sigismund, wisely concluding that the vast expanse was more trouble than it was worth, turned them down. Then as now, Western powers were not interested in ruling Russia.
Who was interested in ruling Russia was a Polish con man, who showed up in Moscow one afternoon claiming that he was tsarevich Dmitri, long-lost and presumed dead son of Ivan the Terrible. The boyars decided to go along with the ruse, or else believed the big lie, and this imposter was tsar for almost a full year. Then he was found out, executed, and his remains fired in a cannon in he general direction of Krakow. A few years later, another Polish rando did it. There were two False Dmitris.
What this history teaches us is that, first, the Russian people have always been gullible and easy to manipulate, and, second, that the ruling class is much more concerned with its own wealth and power than improving the lives of its citizens. Boyars rallying around a fake tsar are no different than oligarchs and elite mobsters propping up Putin. Then as now, average Russians suffer.
And all we hear is, the West is insisting on a rules-based order. Where did that come from anyway? Who has ever seen these rules? Who agreed or approved them? Listen, this is just a lot of nonsense, utter deceit, double standards, or even triple standards! They must think we’re stupid.
The truth is:
One rule that’s easy to understand, and that the civilized world all adheres to, is that sovereign nations are not allowed to invade sovereign nations. In 1991, Saddam Hussein fucked around with this rule and found out that the West was serious. Putin knows all this, which is the entire purpose of this sham speech: to claim that, in the wake of the four referenda, Russia is merely protecting four new sovereign nations, and not invading Ukraine. But the fact is, Russia invaded a sovereign nation.
The United States is the only country in the world that has used nuclear weapons twice, destroying the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. And they created a precedent.
The truth is:
In 1945, the U.S. used weapons its scientists had just invented to end a world war, bombing two important cities in the country that launched the Pearl Harbor surprise attack. There is nothing remotely analogous about the United States dropping atomic bombs on the Empire of Japan almost eight decades ago and what Putin hints at here: Russia launching tactical nuclear weapons at Ukraine, a sovereign nation it invaded, in 2022. Invasion of a sovereign nation is a red line. Attempted genocide is a red line. Terrorism is a red line. Use of nuclear weapons is a red line. Crossing all four red lines should mean that the West stops granting Putin the courtesy of being treated like a legitimate head of state, and starts regarding him as a homicidal mobster—which is what he is and always has been.
They call the orders and threats they make to their vassals Euro-Atlantic solidarity, and the creation of biological weapons and the use of human test subjects, including in Ukraine, noble medical research.
The truth is:
Here, Putin alludes to a roundly debunked conspiracy theory, popular with the same QAnon types who think JFK Jr. is still alive, that holds that Russia’s attack on Ukraine was precipitated at least in part to blow up biotech labs where Dr. Fauci is working on an even more virulent coronavirus to release to the world. That Putin mentions it at all is further indication that the whole speech is chock-full of lies.
But the Anglo-Saxons believe sanctions are no longer enough and now they have turned to subversion. It seems incredible but it is a fact—by causing explosions on Nord Stream’s international gas pipelines passing along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, they have actually embarked on the destruction of Europe’s entire energy infrastructure. It is clear to everyone who stands to gain. Those who benefit are responsible, of course.
The truth is:
Russia blew up the pipeline. (We know this because, first, Tucker Carlson went on TV the day it happened to blame the U.S., and, second, because President Biden pretty much said so.) It did this in international waters, to strike at the Baltic States without technically attacking a NATO country. It did this to blame the West and cause chaos. And it did this to help boost the price of oil, which is needs to generate revenue for its disastrous war.
Putin’s M.O. is always to commit acts of terror against his own people, and then use this to inspire Russians to rally round the flag. That’s how he came to power in the first place, with the apartment bombings in Moscow.
Don’t let the Botox fool you: Sick old dog, sick old tricks.
And here it is important to recall that the West bailed itself out of its early 20th century challenges with World War I. Profits from World War II helped the United States finally overcome the Great Depression and become the largest economy in the world, and to impose on the planet the power of the dollar as a global reserve currency. And the 1980s crisis—things came to a head in the 1980s again— the West emerged from it unscathed largely by appropriating the inheritance and resources of the collapsed and defunct Soviet Union. That’s a fact.
The truth is:
The Great War as “bailout” is a curious interpretation of world events. The Soviet Union, which defeated the Nazis on the field of battle and lost some 27 million souls in the process, also gained in power and prominence after the Second World War. As for the plunder of the collapsed USSR, that was the work of transnational organized crime leaders and oligarchs (there is significant overlap there). That “inheritance” helped finance Putin’s rise to power, and pays to keep him there.
Now, in order to free itself from the latest web of challenges, they need to dismantle Russia as well as other states that choose a sovereign path of development, at all costs, to be able to further plunder other nations’ wealth and use it to patch their own holes. If this does not happen, I cannot rule out that they will try to trigger a collapse of the entire system, and blame everything on that, or, God forbid, decide to use the old formula of economic growth through war….
The current neocolonial model is ultimately doomed; this much is obvious. But I repeat that its real masters will cling to it to the end. They simply have nothing to offer the world except to maintain the same system of plundering and racketeering.
The truth is:
Again channeling Goebbels, Putin is really talking about his own country, its devious plans (“trigger a collapse of the entire system, and blame everything on that”), and its Sopranos-style economic model of theft and criminality on a giant scale.
They have already moved on to the radical denial of moral, religious, and family values. Let’s answer some very simple questions for ourselves. Now I would like to return to what I said and want to address also all citizens of the country—not just the colleagues that are in the hall—but all citizens of Russia: do we want to have here, in our country, in Russia, “parent number one, parent number two and parent number three” (they have completely lost it!) instead of mother and father? Do we want our schools to impose on our children, from their earliest days in school, perversions that lead to degradation and extinction? Do we want to drum into their heads the ideas that certain other genders exist along with women and men and to offer them gender reassignment surgery? Is that what we want for our country and our children? This is all unacceptable to us. We have a different future of our own.
Let me repeat that the dictatorship of the Western elites targets all societies, including the citizens of Western countries themselves. This is a challenge to all. This complete renunciation of what it means to be human, the overthrow of faith and traditional values, and the suppression of freedom are coming to resemble a “religion in reverse”—pure Satanism.
The truth is:
It’s a bit rich for an alleged pedophile whose military grooms, rapes, and pimps out its soldiers—and which has committed egregious war crimes in Ukraine—to lecture anyone on morality. (Seriously, Vlad, why did you give that little boy’s belly a smooch? Who does that? If you can’t control that urge in public, what do you do in private?) But what Putin is really attacking here is inclusion.
In America—the non-MAGA part of it, at least—we celebrate diversity, because we understand that diversity is what truly makes America great. The United States is not a melting pot as much as a gigantic salad, and each new element brings with it its own special flavor. Putin, and his sycophants in the U.S., want us all to subsist on a wedge of blanched iceberg drowned in white dressing. Variety is the spice of both salad and life.
And if Satan is real, he’s the one bombing churches and schools and residential buildings, raping and pillaging, targeting civilians, knocking out the power grid as the weather gets colder, dumping his own people in war zones without basic training, sabotaging the energy supply, blockading the delivery of food, and blaming all these atrocities on Western provocation—even though he’s the only one responsible.
At the end of the speech, Putin was joined on stage by the four leaders of the four new members of the Russian Federation, a quartet of treasonous thugs who look more like gangsters than heads of state—and who, if they manage to survive the war, will either spend the rest of their miserable lives in exile, in Russia, in prison, or in line for the firing squad. All four quislings were a foot taller than the man who summoned them there. They clasped hands, bounced around like Trump and the Saudis at the orb, and grinned idiotically. What was intended to be a show of strength and solidarity came off like ridiculous cosplay—Walter White in the last season of Breaking Bad with four Russian Todds. Putin, with his giant Botoxed spherical head, looked more like the Great Pumpkin than the Great Dictator. For all the pomp, it was a pathetic spectacle.
Since that speech, the wheels have started to come off. We learned that most of the Russians in the audience were employees of the state, forced to attend or lose their jobs. Putin turned 70. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat notes in Strongmen, dictators make a show of their virility to stay in power. Strong men, not men of any other descriptor. The KGB twerp who once rode a horse shirtless to display his machismo is unequivocally old now, frailer, plagued by rumors of Parkinson’s. This desperate need to present as strong, and not mere vanity, explains all the Botox.
On Putin’s birthday, the Ukrainians—at least, we assume it was the Ukrainians; the Russians would have done it at rush hour, to kill more people—blew up the Kerch bridge that connects Crimea, to the West, with Russia, to the East. It’s the longest bridge in Europe. Here’s what it looks like:
This is a huge deal, in terms of both the degree of difficulty and the end result. It’s hard to wreck a concrete bridge like this. And the Kerch bridge is the easiest way to get from Crimea (part of Ukraine that Russian invaded in 2014) to Russia. The hit on the bridge means that Russians in Crimea are stranded there. It’s also symbolic: Crimea cutting the cord from Russia.
Further humiliated, with the end of his regime if not his life staring him in the wrinkle-free face, Putin unleashed his fury. Russia launched missiles willy-nilly into residential areas of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other population centers.
There was no military objective here. This was Uvalde and Sandy Hook and Las Vegas and Orlando, but with bombs instead of assault weapons. This was an act of terror—and of desperation. What is “real Satanism,” if not that?
Putin closed his speech with an allusion to Matthew 7:20. “Exposing false messiahs, Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘By their fruits ye shall know them,’” he said. “These poisonous fruits are already obvious to people, and not only in our country but also in all countries, including many people in the West itself.”
He must have missed the preceding line: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Putin’s Russia is a corrupt tree, bringing forth evil fruit. The oligarchs, the propagandists, the generals, the spies, the state police: all evil fruit. And if Satan is real, his name is Vladimir Vladimirovich, he is the richest man in the world through plunder, and he is the president for life of the Russian Federation. The devil, he lies.
Photo credit: The Kremlin. Putin and four traitors. Kerch bridge: Rosavtodor.ru, CC BY 4.0.