RUSSIA REPORT: PUTIN
by Sharon Tennison
Fortunately, we have a wide range of contributors – experts on Russia, professors, Congress members, foreign analysts working in Russia, American CEOs living and working in Russia, former diplomats, tens of thousands of Russians at all levels of society and 30,000 American business and civic leaders who have trained the thousands of Russians brought to the US for training.
April 21, 2014
Friends and colleagues,
As the Ukraine situation has worsened, unconscionable misinformation and hype is being poured on Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Journalists and pundits must scour the Internet and thesauruses to come up with fiendish new epithets to describe both.
Wherever I make presentations across America, the first question ominously asked during Q&A is always, “What about Putin?”
It’s time to share my thoughts which follow:
Putin obviously has his faults and makes mistakes. Based on my earlier experience with him, and the experiences of trusted people, including U.S. officials who have worked closely with him over a period of years, Putin most likely is a straight, reliable and exceptionally inventive man. He is obviously a long-term thinker and planner and has proven to be an excellent analyst and strategist. He is a leader who can quietly work toward his goals under mounds of accusations and myths that have been steadily leveled at him since he became Russia’s second president.
I’ve stood by silently watching the demonization of Putin grow since it began in the early 2000s –– I pondered on computer my thoughts and concerns, hoping eventually to include them in a book (which was published in 2011). The book explains my observations more thoroughly than this article. Like others who have had direct experience with this little known man, I’ve tried to no avail to avoid being labeled a “Putin apologist”. If one is even neutral about him, they are considered “soft on Putin” by pundits, news hounds and average citizens who get their news from CNN, Fox and MSNBC.
I don’t pretend to be an expert, just a program developer in the USSR and Russia for the past 30 years. But during this time, I’ve have had far more direct, on-ground contact with Russians of all stripes across 11 time zones than any of the Western reporters or for that matter any of Washington’s officials. I’ve been in country long enough to ponder Russian history and culture deeply, to study their psychology and conditioning, and to understand the marked differences between American and Russian mentalities which so complicate our political relations with their leaders. As with personalities in a family or a civic club or in a city hall, it takes understanding and compromise to be able to create workable relationships when basic conditionings are different. Washington has been notoriously disinterested in understanding these differences and attempting to meet Russia halfway.