Sunday, July 15, 2018

Putin and Trump Will Compete in Helsiniki with Their Respective ‘Whataboutisms,' Milshtein Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Like his Soviet and Russian predecessors, Vladimir Putin is given to whataboutism, the term which refers to a proclivity to invoke in any discussion about or with the Americans a supposedly clinching argument “But in your country, they lynch Negroes?”  But now the Kremlin leader faces a US leader who uses an analogous technique, Ilya Milshtein says.

            That is something new, the Moscow analyst says; but Donald Trump’s behavior at the NATO summit, in which he attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for paying for Russian gas rather than spending on defense “was whataboutism in a pure form” (

            “Looking back,” he continues, “it is impossible not to remember that the West won the Cold War because of the maximum firmness of the Americans who led the most powerful alliance and rejected compromises in clashes with ‘the evil empire.’”  The advocates of Ostpolitik, a more compromising position, argue they made a contribution as well.

            But, however that may be, “had it not been for Reagan, the fraternal Soviet peoples up to now would be enthusiastically building communism, and the most outstanding builders would be awarded with tours to the countries of the Warsaw Pact,” Milshtein argues.

            “Now instead of Reagan, there is Trump who certain hotheaded supporters even compare with a president wo forced us into perestroika; but this is not a fitting comparison. To imagine that the earlier Republican would say aloud that Andropov could sometime become his friend or in response to the invasion of Afghanistan by these future friends could say that this was under Carter who is guilty of everything is,” Milshtein says, “impossible.”

                “Undoubtedly, differences of opinion among NATO partners existed even then, but they weren’t expressed in public let alone in such an ugly way –to the joy of the aggressor. Reagan was perhaps simple-minded, but he was not, to put it mildly, a cocky simpleton capable of threatening or imposing sanctions on America’s closest friends or blackmailing them by threatening to withdraw from NATO.”

            When the US president and his Russian counterpart meet in Helsinki and when each deploys his whataboutism on the other, it is not hard to predict who will come out ahead. “Behind Vladimir Vladimirovich is a century-old tradition plus training in the secret school” of the KGB, Milshtein says.

            “Behind his friend Donald is only personal experience in television shows and presidential debates with the likely assistance of the Kremlin. The forces are clearly unequal,” Milshtein says; but Trump’s behavior at the NATO meeting suggests that he is in training for a session with Putin, perhaps an indication that he won’t do as badly as one fears.

No comments:

Post a Comment