Understanding Russia, Un-Demonizing Putin – Consortiumnews

Since Vladimir Putin became president of Russia in 2000, there has been a steady barrage of negative press and hostility from the West. With Putin up for reelection this year, Sharon Tennison tries to separate fact from fiction.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

By Sharon Tennison

Russian President Vladimir Putin obviously has his faults and has made his share of mistakes. Yet, my experiences with him, as well as what I have heard over the years from people I trust –– including U.S. officials who have with him worked closely –– indicate that Putin is essentially a straightforward, reliable and exceptionally inventive man.

The Russian president is clearly 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 the Russian Federation’s second president.

I’ve stood by silently watching the demonization of Putin grow since it began in the early 2000s –– I pondered my thoughts and concerns, and included them in a book published in 2011.

Like others who have had direct experience with this little-understood figure, I’ve tried to no avail to avoid being labeled a “Putin apologist.” If one is even neutral about him, they are called “soft on Putin” by pundits and average citizens who get their news from CNN, Fox and MSNBC.

I don’t pretend to be an expert, just an NGO program developer who has lived in Russia and the Soviet Union for the past 30 years. But during this time, I have had far more direct, on-the-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.

Understanding Differences

I’ve been in country long enough to reflect deeply on Russian history and culture, 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…

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