Monday, August 12, 2013

Vladimir Putin: World's most dangerous person

"Dickhead Putin" by H. Masri

[The picture I had posted here of Vladimir Putin was taken down from the web. It may be that it happened because this post has had over 1,000 views, or more likely because Putin found the picture, which showed him with an automatic rifle, too close to the truth. Recently, many
people in Turkey and Ukraine have been reading MasriZone. I hope I have played a small part in revealing to the world what a dangerous man he is.] 

Vladimir Putin is the most dangerous man in the world. North Korea has been considered the most dangerous country in the world because their autocratic rulers, the Kim family, had both great power and nuclear weapons technology. The truth is, however, that a couple of nuclear devices are hardly a danger comparable to the oil reserves of Russia. Russia is now the largest producer of oil in the world.  More on this later.

Vladimir Putin is the ruler of Russia. Russia has a long history of authoritarian rule, and Putin has moved to follow that model. He has carefully built a cult of personality, similar to those created by the North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung and China's ruler, Mao Tse-Tung. But Putin's model is most likely Joseph Stalin.

Joseph Stalin, another Russian strong man, also built a cult of personality. Nearly all the portraits of Stalin showed him in an army uniform looking heroically into the distance. He is generally shown holding a pistol, with clenched fist, or with hands folded across his stomach. Most of the pictures show him from a low camera angle, nearly always alone. This made him appear taller than his actual height of 5 feet, four inches. Stalin had a penchant for erecting statues of himself. Hundreds of them stood in prominent locations in Russia and her empire. Many statues were colossal, standing on high pedestals.

Stalin's efforts to create a cult of personality worked. Russians believed him heroic, strong, capable of protecting them in a violent world. They also feared him, knowing he was capable of murdering his adversaries or anyone he believed was an enemy. Stalin was a violent man, and a narcissist, as revealed by the vast array of statues, photos, and posters bearing his image; he was a killer without conscience. Modern estimates place the number of his victims at more than 3 million people.  

Putin is building his own cult of personality. His photos in various poses strike Americans as odd, even amusing. Like a super model or movie star, he poses in all sorts of roles, all intended to make him appear powerful, vital, capable. He poses with symbols of power, guns, motorcycles, airplanes, even a bathyscaphe. He likes to show off his bare, clean-shaven chest. He shows no weakness in public, ever, refusing even to smile, or to pose with a woman.

Putin divorced his wife of 30 years and has been rumored to be involved with a 30-year-old rhythmic gymnast. He makes no comment about this and is careful not to be seen in compromising positions with the younger woman. There is no freedom of the press when it comes to covering Putin's private life. Putin may reinforce his masculine image by having a much younger mistress, but he obviously doesn't want to share the spotlight with a woman.

Putin has undermined democracy in Russia. After serving two terms as president, he picked Medvedev as his stand-in while Putin continued to make the decisions. Putin has now been re-elected president for a six-year term. He has bought a great deal of popularity by distributing the oil revenues of Russia to its citizens. He has further increased his popularity by passing laws that persecute dissenters and gays, actions that appeal to the conservative adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian authorities arrested a punk rock group called Pussy Riot for disrupting a church service by singing a song mocking Putin. A court sentenced three young female members of the rock band to two-year sentences in prison for hooliganism, a crime similar to disorderly conduct, except that in America we don't put people in prison for two years for disorderly conduct, or for singing mocking songs about our politicians.

Stalin had the backing of the Communist Party, which is now defunct. In its place, Putin uses the revived Orthodox Church as his power base. He has to reinforce his appeal to this base just as Republican politicians must satisfy the Tea Party. Putin's chief ally in this endeavor is Yelena Mizulina, a middle aged female legislator who proposes laws to enforce morality. One of her laws puts a tax on divorce; this is a stroke of irony, not just because Putin recently divorced his own wife, but also because Russia has the highest divorce rate in the world. Other laws under consideration would ban abortions and morning after pills.  Mizulina, a devout Christian, believes she can redeem Russian society (and increase the declining population) by passing laws that support "traditional family values".

Mizulina, with Putin's support, proposed a bill to prohibit gays from spreading pro-gay “propaganda”. She claimed that the phrase “gay men are people too” needed to be investigated as subversive by the Russian bureau of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare. Anyone who disagrees with her views is likely to be accused of being part of a “pedophile lobby” that she claims exists in the political party opposed to hers. She defends her laws by saying they are only intended to keep information about homosexuality away from children.

The penalty for spreading gay propaganda is relatively small, about $150, but the law legitimizes anti-gay activities. The laws are so vague that they can be used to persecute almost any non-traditional speech or actions. Russian police have attacked and arrested demonstrators at gay pride events, while anti-gay groups have attacked and tortured gays and gay sympathizers. The anti-gay attackers have posted videos of their activities on YouTube, where you can see young men assaulted, placed in hammerlocks, held down, stepped on, and threatened.  

Putin signed the anti-gay legislation into law. Putin's support of this and other legislation of morality reinforces his own support of traditional masculine values. It makes him look like a tough guy. Neither he nor Mizulina have shown any sympathy for young gays who are attacked by Christian thugs. Putin asks that both sides refrain from violence, but he equates a non-violent demonstration with an assault. The Pussy Riot demonstration in a church is the closest that anti-government protestors have come to violence; they were only making music.  Yet there are many graphic photos of the violence done to anti-government demonstrators by police and Christian thugs.

Putin has shown his indifference to human suffering on a large scale by supporting the Syrian government as it massacres its own people. His support has resulted in thousands of innocent deaths. Putin seems to act only to prove his own toughness and his willingness to stand up to the Americans. This demonstration of his own bravado also seems to be his only reason for offering asylum to the American fugitive, Edward Snowden; Putin has used Snowden’s high-profile case to figuratively tweak the noses of the Americans.  

Russian Oil and Global Warming

Putin is cementing his hold on power by outlawing protests, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech. What makes him most dangerous, though, is not how he oppresses the Russian people, but how this affects the rest of the world and its future. Putin's popularity is due to his handling of the Russian economy. Putin must continue increasing production of oil to meet the rising expectations of the Russian people.

The world's governments must work together to avert global warming, and they must do it soon. However, so long as Putin controls Russia, there will be no cooperation, since his continuation in power requires more oil production and Russia has no other profitable industries.  

Scientists have estimated that burning the 1.8 billion barrels of tar sands oil in Alberta (if fully developed) will raise global temperatures by 0.42 degrees Centigrade. By comparison, burning the 75 billion barrels of Russian tar sands oil could theoretically raise worldwide temperatures fifty times as much,  an increase of up to 21 degrees.  This estimate does not take into account the quality of the Russian deposits, which is as yet unknown.

Putin has no incentive to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases. There is no possibility of using force against Russia because it would cost too many lives and resources the world can ill afford to lose. Therefore, we must develop strategies that do not depend on Russia's cooperation. Some possibilities are: 

  1. Make renewable, non-carbon polluting energy sources cheaper than oil. This is not impossible, although oil prices are determined by a cartel, not the free market.
  1. Create abundant, affordable consumer devices (everything from cars and trains to barbecues) that do not use carbon-based fuel. Part of this solution would be to replace all fossil fuel electrical generators with generators that cannot use fossil fuel.
  1. Put a tax on devices that generate greenhouse gases (including electricity generators) so that their energy costs more than comparable "green" sources.
     4.  Cooperate with the family of nations to convince Russia to abandon its irresponsible ways.

Whatever strategy we use, we must realize that Vladimir Putin will not help us. But more than that, unless we work together to prevent it, he has more power to destroy the future of our planet than any single man in history. That is why he is now the most dangerous person in the world.

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