I want to encourage everyone who can to watch the new Showtime documentary by Oliver Stone, an interview with Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation. I have watched three of the four parts, and they are all worthwhile.
For more than a decade, we Americans (and Europeans) have been treated to a steady diet of Putin-hating messages from government and the media, leading to the recent proclamation by General Mattis that Russia is the greatest existential threat to the United States and Putin is the greatest threat to world order. Of course, as we have been taught by the media, Putin is the most authoritarian and criminal despot in the world.
So, it is refreshing to look the devil in the eye, and like President Bush, see Putin’s soul. The man comes across as so resembling an ordinary human being that I have to scratch my head. Where are the horns? This is clearly a nice man, very intelligent, and cool, a man in control of himself.
On the other hand, Oliver Stone comes across sometimes as kind of a jerk: obsequious, opinionated, crude. Nevertheless, Stone was brave enough to risk his reputation by offering a once-in-our-lifetime unbiased picture of Vladimir Putin and to allow President Putin to tell his side of the story.
I often ask the heretical question to Americans, “What has Russia done to you to make her your enemy? How has she hurt you?” Answers usually are confined to aggression in Ukraine or malevolent election influence, neither of which satisfy me (the Americans are as guilty of the Ukrainian mess as the Russians, and we have done a fine job ourselves of malevolently influencing our elections: Think Koch brothers, George Soros.)
Then there is the ‘Putin is a killer’ meme, that President Trump squashed by saying “We are not innocent,” i.e. we are all killers. The real answer, of course, is that Russia will not knuckle under American leadership, clearly the greatest of crimes. Nevertheless, I am predisposed to be charitable to Vladimir Putin, and I believe that anyone watching the Stone show will be pleased by what they see.