It doesn’t take much in our media system to be labeled a “Putin apologist” or “pro-Russia.” In this New Cold War, even suggesting that the official enemy is not Hitlerian or completely irrational could earn ridicule and attack.
After the largely stalled Ukrainian counteroffensive against the Russian occupation, conditions on the front have hardened into what many observers describe as a “stalemate.” Like virtually all wars, the Russo-Ukrainian War will end with a negotiated settlement, and the quicker it happens, the quicker the bodies will stop piling up.
Despite this, anyone who advocates actually pursuing negotiations is immediately attacked. The New York Times (8/27/23) did this in an article about former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in an article that argued he “gives a voice to obstinate Russian sympathies.” The Times wrote:
In interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Mr. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “illusory,” ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain “neutral,” and insisted that Russia and France “need each other.”
“People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,” he told Le Figaro. “European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time,” he added.
To Times writer Roger Cohen, Sarkozy’s remarks “underscored the strength of the lingering pockets of pro-Putin sympathy that persist in Europe,” which persist despite Europe’s “unified stand against Russia.” Cohen didn’t challenge or rebut anything the former president said—he merely quoted the words, labeled them “pro-Putin,” and moved on.
The New Cold War mentality has encouraged a new wave of McCarthyite attacks against anyone who dissents against the establishment status quo. Merely pointing out that Putin is “not irrational” flies in the face of the accepted conventional wisdom that Putin is a Hitler-like madman hell bent on conquering Eastern Europe. That conventional wisdom is what allows calls for negotiation to be dismissed without any serious discussion, and challenging that wisdom elicits harsh reactions from establishment voices.
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This content originally appeared on FAIR and was authored by Bryce Greene.