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  • nickcsadler
    started a topic Putin



  • Gotno Gizmo
    Vladimir Putins Russia is rehabilitating Stalin. We must not let it happen

    Great expectations characterised 1989. In Russia, the rock band Kino sang We are waiting for changes! In huge public rallies on the streets of Moscow, millions demanded freedom and democracy. The Gorbachev era brought about a frenzy of change, and people witnessed incredible events on a weekly basis: they snatched up newspapers, hung on every word broadcast on TV, and with every passing day they felt more alive and free:-

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  • Gotno Gizmo
    Putin bans Russian Russian flights to Georgia

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  • Hannia
    Politics of Sincerity Pt 5
    Although being a media tycoon, Trump can only dream of such control. In fact, he declared war on many influential American media outlets and journalists and uses his Twitter account to regularly denounce them. The irony is that no amount of negative media exposure was able to prevent Trumps election. On the contrary, the political spectacle of an election campaign full of highly controversial statements and scandals added to his popularity. If Trump was a fictional character before, he now became a double fiction, a Hyper-Trump. The Donald Trump we know, writes Paul M. Cohen, is nothing more than a media cartoon. That Trump has never stopped playing himself on reality TV. He is what the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard would call hyperreal: the perfect image of himself.

    Another difference concerns the way political leadership is gendered in the USA and in Russia. Putin, in the old Soviet tradition, is a lonely ruler showing up in public with no family or women around him, and media outlets have been severely punished for leaking rumours about his private life. Putins image-makers know very well that a liaison would not only diminish the presidents sex-appeal, but also that, since Yeltsin, family has been synonymous to corruption in the post-Soviet space. Trump, on the other hand, is unimaginable without his family, whose members contribute to the soap opera of his political career. Despite performing an ideal nuclear family and a loving couple in public, in line with the American tradition of presidency as a gendered institution, the Trumps are also a fiction. Married for the third time, surrounding himself with female supermodels and making money with beauty contests, Trump is anything but an ideal husband and father, a fact that does not seem to affect his popularity. Unlike the lonely macho Putin, who regularly ensures the media that everything is OK in his private life, Trump has no need to hide embarrassing details the more entertaining, the better. The American ideal of transparency has been perverted into a TV reality show, while in Putins Russia people must increasingly content themselves with watching old-fashioned puppet theatre, with the puppeteer showing up once in a while to collect approving applause.

    While the rise of Putins macho cult can be seen as an answer to the crisis of masculinity in post-Soviet Russia, Trumps popularity reflects the deep crisis of the white heterosexual American male. According to David Rosen, Trump is the symbol of American masculinitys last stand against a profound and irreversible crisis of traditional patriarchy. His victory can be explained as the revolt of angry white men. In his book with the same title, sociologist Michael Kimmel explains the rage of the lower middle and working class men who feel emasculated and humiliated by losing their traditional gender privileges as a result of the social and economic developments of the last decades. Over centuries, Kimmel argues, American masculinity evolved around the ideology of the self-made man: The promise of economic freedom, of boundless opportunity, of unlimited upward mobility was what they believed was the terra firma of American masculinity, the ground on which American men stood for generations. Now it is like a carpet being snatched from under their feet. While the reasons for these developments are manifold, it is usually feminism, the rise of minorities, and the indifference of the establishment that are blamed by the angry white men, who desperately seek to restore a sense of manhood to which they feel entitled.

    If we approach Trump as an answer to the crisis of the white man, and as someone who seeks to exploit these sentiments, we can better understand his racism and above all his sexism and misogyny. The latter became obvious as the leaked Access Hollywood tape was released with Trump talking about forcibly kissing and groping women. Far from being ashamed, Trump has assaulted female journalists time and again, for example the Fox News host Megyn Kelly during the Republican Party primaries, when he hinted, using sexist and vulgar language, that her menstrual cycle drove her to ask tough questions. While many, even in his own party, believe that Trump has crossed the line of decency, his ratings did not go down, on the contrary. As one commentator explained: In part, this is because he is running as a celebrity outsider who gives voice to the frustrations that many voters feel with the political system. Ivan Kurilla argued along the same lines:

    Americans sympathizing with Trump will hardly be appalled by his sexist jokes; they fit into his image and probably appeal to a certain part of his audience. Many people believe that Trump embodies the sort of America that despises the very notions of sexism, as well as racism and political correctness. They think that Trump is sincere and not, like his opponents, hypocritical.

    The difference between Trumps blatant and personally offensive sexism and the subtler Putinisms cited above is not only cultural, but also political. For Putin, they are part of his power performance as the alpha male of Russian politics, and a demonstration of independence from the West. Trumps verbal assaults, on the other hand, signal his claim for the restoration of the gender privileges of white heterosexual men and a challenge to the rules of political correctness.

    Comparison of Putin and Trump as embodiments of political masculinity also raises the question of the role of emotions in public performance. Putins public appearances have always been well-orchestrated, leaving little space for improvisation. If emotions such as anger are allowed, they are part of the power performance. But, in general, emotions are associated with weakness and vulnerability in the traditional model of masculinity. They would also signal some uncertainty or instability at the top. Trumps unleashed emotions during his public performances make him strikingly different from Putin, and the specificity of American political tradition explains this difference only partly.

    Populism, argues Michael Kimmel, is more an emotion than it is an ideology. And this emotion is anger. Trump, like other populists, capitalizes on mass emotions by amplifying them with offensive sexist and racist remarks on social media. But should we not expect from a man, especially a politician, some self-control, restraint and rational argument, instead of unfiltered emotions and unpredictable behaviour? Trump, according to Paul M. Cohen, has been performing a caricature of passionate masculinity, a notion suggested by historian Anthony Rotundo:

    In defence of the ostensibly imperilled virtues of manly toughness and autonomy, passionate manhood championed some of the very attributes combativeness, impulsiveness, wilfulness that had previously been stigmatized as boyish

    The impatience, impulsiveness and combativeness of a boy, speaking his mind, his lack of facade, authenticity and, yes, sincerity in contrast to the self-restraint and rationality of traditional masculinity has been at the core of Donald Trumps public performance of masculinity. As Trump himself admitted, he is fighting not women, but a bigger target: political correctness. Above all else, writes Aaron Colton, sincerity is for Trump an antidote to the political correctness of democrats, pundits, and liberal arts majors alike Sincerity, as Trump imagines it, will cure American government of its characteristic dishonesty.

    At first glance, an impulsive, offensive Trump speaking his mind could not be more different from a Putin who is self-restrained, always in control of himself and his emotions. Some Russian commentators have compared Trump with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the notorious clown of post-Soviet Russian politics, whose task has always been to absorb the innocuous marginal protest of those frustrated with the Kremlin. Although sometimes quite rude, Putins homphobic and sexist comments are more impersonal and dressed as anecdotes and folk proverbs. What both men do have in common, however, is the performance of sincerity as a demonstration of power and a symbolic identification with the people at the same time.

    The same can be said for their attacks on political correctness. For both leaders, the appeal to restore the normal social order, which allegedly existed before feminism, migration and globalization, or the appeal to resist the import of political correctness from the West, go hand in hand with the denunciation of liberal hypocrisy the only difference being that, in the case of Putin, it is the hypocrisy of western elites and, in the case of Trump, the hypocrisy of the domestic political establishment and liberal public.

    Putins performance of political sincerity is to say openly what everybody is doing in other words pursuing national interests and securing geopolitical influence while talking about democracy and human rights. Trumps performance of political sincerity draws on racism and sexism, by saying aloud what everybody is thinking. Both share the underlying idea of a recovery of traditional masculinity victimized by the forces of globalization, (Soviet) modernization, and the extremes of (western) liberalism.

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  • Hannia
    Politics of Sincerity Pt 4
    Putins enigmatic divorce from his wife, along with the quickly supressed rumours about his subsequent, secret marriage to former sport star Alina Kabaeva, prove the persistence of the Russian pattern of political leadership that only Gorbachev was able to break: that a ruler must have no private life, because the presence of a woman would corrupt the sacred bond between him and his nation. Last years violent protests by Russian Orthodox fundamentalists against the film Matilda, which depicted the love affair between the future tsar Nicholas II and the ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, demonstrated how deep-rooted this idea of political power is. As a product of mass culture, Putin has become a sex symbol and an object of female desire, but as a politician he keeps his distance from women unlike his former friend and macho Berlusconi, and his current counterpart Donald Trump.

    How, then, does sincerity fit into the public performance of Putins political masculinity? Can we even talk about the sincerity of a politician socialized as a KGB agent, someone who carefully hides all information about his private life from the public? My answer is that Putins sincerity has to do with the demonstration of power both inside Russia and internationally and with uncovering the hypocrisy of the West. From Putins perspective, western hypocrisy is about hiding realpolitik and national interests behind a moralizing rhetoric of values, human rights and the promotion of democracy. This double talk is nothing but an instrument w of Sincerity Pt 4ith which to humiliate and control Russia. Putins straight-talking, tough guy image is often associated with the idea of Russia rising from its knees and regaining the respect of western powers. Transgressing political taboos and norms of political correctness is one way of performing macho political masculinity, as the following examples demonstrate:

    Putin struck back at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for comparing his actions in Ukraine to those of Hitler, by saying that its better not to argue with women. He went on to suggest that Clinton is weak, adding that maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.

    When Oliver Stone asked Putin during a tour of the Kremlin if he ever had bad days, Putin answered: I am not a woman, so I dont have bad days. When asked whether he would be comfortable showering next to a gay man, he said no. I prefer not to go to the shower with him. Why provoke him? But you know, Im a judo master.

    However, this aggressive, often insulting style of communication, which implies sexism and homophobia, is not just a way to humiliate an opponent or win applause from a conservative-minded audience. Neither can it be explained by the social origins of the current Russian political elite as attempted by Andrei Arkhangelskiy, who refers to the cultural trauma of the generation of new Russians, who arrived in the West with huge amounts of oil money but no idea about western cultural conventions. A similar approach is taken by Mikhail Epshtein, who emphasises the subculture of the gopniki the petty criminals of the 1990s which in his opinion came to dominate Russian politics, diplomacy, business and media.

    I would argue, however, that this style of communication indicates not so much a lack of civilized behaviour than a calculated means to challenge the West and its liberal political consensus. The performance of aggressive masculinity, including sexist and homophobic statements, fits into a counter-ideology that disguises itself as a zero-ideology by appealing to normality, including a normal gender order. This zero-ideology connects political power, sincerity and the rejection of political correctness as a form of western hypocrisy.

    A recent expression of this zero-ideology is a column by Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlins grey eminence, published on the Russia Today website in November 2017. Surkovs basic idea is that western countries are going through a severe political and social crisis of hypocrisy. He quotes from the song Wash it All Away by the American heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch, in which the words occur: Done with all your hypocrisy. According to Surkov, it sounds like a prophecy, a verdict, and the motto of a new era. He links the 2016 presidential election that led to President Donald Trumps victory and the ongoing sexual harassment scandals in the US with a widespread desire among Americans to wash it all away.

    And here we are back with Putins sincerity an instrument of re-asserting Russias geopolitical status and its sovereignty from the global elites. Commenting on an interview with Putin in the state-sponsored documentary Crimea: The Way Home (2015), which received broad resonance in Russia and abroad, the politician and academic Sergey Markov emphasised the unprecedented sincerity of Putin in revealing sensational details about the Russian military operation in Crimea. Why, asks Markov, was Putin so open?

    All politicians lie. Putin is also a politician and during the Crimean operation he did not disclose the participation of the Russian military. But real leaders differ from ordinary politicians by sometimes telling the truth. Putin eventually told the truth. Obama, Biden, Cameron until they retire they will never tell the truth about their special services participation in the ”oup dtat in Kyiv That is why they hate and fear Putin so much because he can tell the truth, he can say what he thinks. And they cannot.

    As we can see, sincerity is a category of power, something one can afford, an exclusive right to transgress norms of communication and political taboos, the right that only an alpha man possesses.
    If Putin has become a celebrity and cultural icon, then this is all the more true of Donald Trump. When Putin entered the Kremlin, his Superman image had to be built from scratch however Trump was a media star before he even entered the presidential race. This meant not only a competitive advantage, but paradoxically gave him an aura of authenticity: His supporters believe he says what he wants to say, with no PR shill telling him what the polls show, wrote a commentator: Like Sanders, Trump is his own man. Of course, Trump has exploited the powerful American myth of the self-made man who owes his fortune to initiative and hard work. The (self-fabricated) success story of the billionaire entrepreneur challenging the corrupt political establishment and hypocritical elites is what eventually won Trump the election.

    Comparing Putin and Trump as media(ted) masculinities, a first difference between the American and Russian political systems emerges. Putin became Super-Putin by taming the oligarchs and bringing Russian media under the Kremlins control. In todays Russia, even the few oppositional outlets that still exist do not encroach on the taboo on criticising Putin personally, let alone on investigating his business or family affairs. The Russian media report on him no more than the Kremlin considers necessary; otherwise, the Russian president communicates with the country via the heavily orchestrated, annual TV show Direct Line.

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  • Hannia

    Politics of Sincerity Pt 3
    In what follows, I compare Putins and Trumps performances of sincerity. What has to be stressed is that, in this context, sincerity is not a personal quality but a cultural construct. Sincerity is part of the political spectacle of masculinity and, as we will see, is performed in different ways in different political cultures.

    In December 2017, when Vladimir Putin made it official that he would be running for president for the fourth time, an art exhibition under the title Super-Putin opened in central Moscow. It showed about thirty works of art presenting the Russian leader in his various capacities as a superman: Putin riding a bear, Putin launching rockets, Putin petting a leopard. The exhibition, which drew on Putins already established macho image, was yet another signal that the Kremlins politics would hardly change in the next five years. However, it also allowed for a kind of irony that a decade ago, when Putins cult of personality was still in the making, did not exist. One would have thought that after the annexation of Crimea there would be no need for the president to fly with cranes or bare his torso publicly. Yet Putin 4.0 cannot be anything other than Super-Putin. The latter is not only a successful brand, but the constant of a political regime caught in the trap of personalized power.

    Those who remember the start of Putins political career know that there was little appealing about this small, mousy man with thin blond hair. How has a stolid bureaucrat metamorphosed into an international macho icon? asks Helena Goscilo. Her answer is that Putins macho cult was carefully staged, mediated and turned into an everyday public spectacle. Before it became a successful political brand, Putins image was built from scratch by spin-doctors and the Kremlin-controlled media. The masculinisation of Putin was a long process that went hand in hand with the Kremlins consolidation of power, the taming of the oligarchs, and Russias re-gaining its geopolitical status.

    To understand the rise of Putins macho cult we also need to consider the crisis of masculinity that was broadly discussed in the late Soviet and post-Soviet era. Soviet men were seen as infantile, incapable of taking responsibility for the family, and seeking refuge in heavy drinking. This lack of masculinity was blamed on the Soviet ideology of female emancipation, which had supposedly distorted traditional gender roles. During perestroika, the demasculinisation of Soviet/Russian men was often explained as a result of the abolition of private property and the paternalist culture under Communism. Market reforms and privatisation were expected to empower men economically. If anything, however, the neo-liberal reforms of the early 1990s exacerbated problems such as alcoholism, unhealthy living and self-destructive behaviour among Russian men. Post-Soviet Russian masculinity entered a crisis and Vladimir Putin young, sporty and a non-drinker appeared to promise both a new gender model and at the same time Russias national resurgence.

    Putins machismo cult became tantamount to the strengthening of the power vertical in Russia, the economic recovery of the country after the chaos of the 1990s, and the new self-esteem, not to say arrogance towards the West. Towards the end of Putins second term, all these achievements were tied to the personality of Russias leader. As Valerie Sperling argues, the macho cult became an instrument for strengthening the legitimacy of Putins political regime, particularly during the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014 and the Russian annexation of Crimea. According to Nikolai Petrov, the nationalist mobilization fuelled by the annexation of Crimea invested Putin with the extra-electoral legitimacy of a military chief more prone to demonstrating strength, resoluteness and aggression. Putins legitimacy, Petrov argues, is based less on free elections than on the loyalty of a people convinced that they are under siege. The only way for Putin to maintain this legitimacy is through further confrontation and shows of strength, if only rhetorical.

    According to Elizabeth A. Wood, Putins deployment of hyper-masculinity is a strategy for creating not just legitimacy, but power itself:

    Putins symbolic actions have been overwhelmingly derived from a masculine menu that would be impermissible for Russian women These actions also frequently demonstrate, in words or gestures, his active and absolute dominance over his interlocutors in ways that would be inacceptable for other, subordinated men as well.

    Putins performance of dominant masculinity therefore has not only a visual but also a verbal aspect. To demonstrate his authority or to threaten an opponent, he sometimes disdains politeness and diplomatic speech, using tough language or even adolescent street slang. These moments of truth, when Putin an ordinary man breaks through the veneer of political conventions, are also his moments of power. Putins sincerity reveals itself in these moments of transgression, when he violates the protocol and becomes one of us, showing his emotions and allowing himself politically incorrect remarks.

    In such moments, Putin appears as a normalnyi muzhyk meaning one of us or one of the lads, and at the same time referring to a heterosexual gender norm. Being a normalny muzhyk also entails performing straightforwardness, showing a seductive combination of toughness and tenderness (Goscilo) and demonstrating a sense of humour, often at the edge of sexism and political incorrectness. Putin is a master of this genre of communication, making it easy for ordinary men to identify with him and for women to adore him.

    Isnt this how populism works in the West, too? Not exactly. Putin, if he can be called a populist, is first of all an autocrat drawing on a long tradition of sacralised political power. As the Kremlin official Vyacheslav Volodin famously put it in 2014, attacks against Putin are attacks against Russia. Without Putin, there is no Russia. This evokes what Ernst Kantorowicz referred to as the doctrine of the kings two bodies in medieval politics, notes Andrei Kolesnikov, who cites another Kremlin loyalist, the pop singer Josif Kobzon: Putin is married to Russia. Seeking popularity among ordinary Russians, Putin is at the same time lonesome on his Mont Blanc of political power; he is a symbol rather than a man with a private life and a family.

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  • Hannia

    Politics of Sincerity Pt 2
    A last remark on Putin and populism. While there is broad consensus that Donald Trump is a populist, opinion is divided regarding Vladimir Putin. Some cite his crusade against the oligarchs and his attacks on corruption in the state, as well as his nationalism and consistently high approval ratings. Others argue that Putin is not an outsider to the Russian political establishment, since he is a creature of Yeltsin and his entourage, and that Putins war on the oligarchs was not for the sake of the Russian people, but for the state. Moreover, unlike populism, Putinism is based on the de-politicization and de-mobilization of the people and discourages activism. While populists treat the state as an obstacle between them and the people, Putin worships a centralized state machine where professional technocrats do their daily jobs. In short, populism is the malaise of democratic regimes, while Putins regime is authoritarian. Although he is increasingly perceived as a godfather of contemporary populism in the West, his regime is itself vulnerable to populism as the Navalny case demonstrates.

    Whether or not Putin is a classical populist, he has to some extent become a model for many western (and eastern European) populist politicians. Long before the current wave of populist rebellion against the dictatorship of Brussels, Russia had forwarded the idea of sovereign democracy, denying the right of the West to interfere in Russian domestic politics under the pretext of promoting democracy. More recently, Putin has become the poster boy of the global conservative movement and indeed, he does call for the preservation of traditional family values and conventional gender roles. The discourse on Gayropa, which has become popular in Russian nationalist media (combined with the recent anti-gay legislation), portrays Russia as the last bastion of normality to the sexually (and politically) perverted West. All of this sovereignty, independence from global elites, the courage to speak out against the liberal consensus fits the model of a new political masculinity.

    On the benefits and harms of sincerity in politics
    How, then, is the notion of sincerity related to populist masculinity? The debate on sincerity, both as a value and as a danger for All of this sovereignty, independence from global elites, the courage to speak out against the liberal consensus fits the model of a new political masculinity.
    On the benefits and harms of sincerity in politics

    How, then, is the notion of sincerity related to populist masculinity? The debate on sincerity, both as a value and as a danger for democracy, is not new to political theory. The concept can be traced back to Rousseau, whose obsession with the fight against hypocrisy created the modern cult of sincerity. In contemporary political theory, sincerity is a central norm in discourse ethics and a key virtue for a functioning deliberative democracy. So, shouldnt we be happy if politicians embrace this virtue?

    The trouble with being earnest is a chapter in The Politics of Sincerity by Elizabeth Markovits. She shows how an unquestioned belief in the value of sincerity, or its abuse, can lead to a pathology that she calls hyper-sincerity and the cult of plain speech. My argument is that the phenomenon of hyper-sincerity goes hand in hand with the hyper-masculinity of populist politicians.

    In cultural and literary studies, the new sincerity (sometimes associated with post-postmodernism) refers to a trend in music, literature and film. Interestingly, some US bloggers connect the new sincerity to the style of populist politics that emphasises the value of being oneself or speaking honestly about ones feelings. Aaron Colton defines the new sincerity as a common outlook ours is a culture oversaturated with indifference, and if theres any hope for us, its in a return to honest expression, in saying what we really believe. So who, asks Colton, fits the bill better than Donald Trump? Another blogger underlines the danger of misusing sincerity by populists like Trump:

    A return to affect and humanity is a noble pursuit, but emotions can be a dangerous weapon. The populist agenda thrives on sincerity its soil is fertilized with extremities and the emotions of the masses. Having detected the publics need for emotional sincerity, populists like Donald Trump pluck their political fruits with fear mongering and finger pointing.

    References to the new sincerity can also be found in the Russian discussion. The style of political communication with which Russian governing elites address the West is, it is argued, becoming self-assertive and often aggressive. To be sure, the new sincerity as a cultural trend is present not only in the American but also in post-Soviet Russia. Ellen Rutten argues that Russia is a society that has historically maintained an excessive interest in the concept of sincerity15 and that today the Communist experience remains formative to sincerity rhetoric in the post-Soviet space. These observations echo in Aleksei Yurchaks investigations of a renewed engagement with Soviet topics and aesthetics by Russian artists during the 2000s. As a reaction to the first post-Soviet decade, which was associated with cynicism, pragmatism and the disintegration of social solidarity, they argued for non-ideological engagement with the Soviet era, which for them meant sincerity, idealism, purity, friendship and self-sacrifice. Both authors, however, are uncomfortable with the political implications of the new sincerity in post-Crimean Russia. What does sincerity even mean in the cynicism and hypocrisy-laden Russia of Putin? asks Rutten. Citing a conversation she held with with Yurchak in October 2014, she writes that: Under Putin, the concept had mutated into something that paved the way to cynical purism and for uncomplicated, collectivist patriotism.

    This helps us understand the mechanisms whereby sincerity is appropriated by Putins regime. While, in the late Soviet era, the discourse of sincerity cultivated in the private space of the kitchen took aim at the hypocrisy of official Soviet ideology, the current Russian regime has used the widespread frustration with Yeltsins reforms of the 1990s to present the West and the Russian liberals as the embodiment of a new hypocrisy.

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  • Hannia
    The importance of being earnest: Putin, Trump and the politics of sincerity
    EUROZINE MAGAZINE Tatiana Zhurzhenko 26 February 2018

    Vladimir Putin's 'ordinary bloke' appeal is cultivated through calculated breaches of political decorum. Donald Trump's transgressions also cement his popularity, even if he lacks the traditionally masculine self-restraint of his Russian counterpart.

    The virtues of sincerity and the ills of political correctness loom large in todays populist rhetoric. Presenting themselves as strongmen who have the balls to say aloud what others are only thinking, populist politicians challenge the social norms of political correctness in the name of free speech. Some try to please the conservative public by openly despising the notions of racism and sexism, and by playing with nostalgia for natural gender roles. Donald Trumps election campaign provided many examples of this. Though different from Trump in many ways, Vladimir Putin also employs sincerity as an instrument of power, and attacks political correctness as the hidden ideology of the liberal West. In this respect, the similarities and cross references between the Russian and the US political discourses are striking. In what follows, I compare American and Russian political masculinities as exemplified by Putin and Trump and look into features common for male political leadership of two declining superpowers.

    The concept of political masculinity refers to the intrinsically gendered nature of political institutions, norms and traditions. These include, of course, political leadership. While there is a rich literature on the US presidency as a gendered institution, such studies are only emerging on Russia and focus mainly on Putins persona. In todays globalized world, however, political masculinities cannot be considered merely national phenomena. While legitimizing claims for national leadership, they are often constructed and performed transnationally. Thus, Putins geopolitical machismo was originally a response to war president George Bushs self-styling as Americas Cowboy-in-Chief. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putins performance of power fascinates many western politicians and media figures, from Donald Trump to Oliver Stone.

    According to the organizers of a recent conference, entitled Political masculinities and populism, the most overt link between the concepts of populism and political masculinities lies in the figure of the populist leader. Referring to Cas Mudde and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser, they hold that this figure is associated with a charismatic strongman whose authority stems from a leadership cult and who is usually portrayed as masculine and potentially violent. Relying on anti-intellectualism and often using crude and vulgar language, the populist leader emphasizes action and demonstrates the courage to take difficult decisions.

    Political correctness has become a favourite target of populist attacks. Strictly speaking, the term refers to norms and policies meant to avoid discrimination of any particular social group. However, it is far from being neutral. Rather, it is a pejorative term used to disparage and deride what is deemed to be unjust, excessive, liberal dogmatism. If populism is, as Jan-Werner Mller defines it, a form of identity politics that is anti-pluralist and critical of elites, and that makes a moral claim to an exclusive representation of the people, then it is clear why western populists oppose political correctness.

    To them, political correctness appears as an ideology of the liberal political establishment that replaces true national values. It privileges minorities over the people and alienates democracy from the silent majority that populists claim to represent.

    An aversion to political correctness is also strong among the Russian elites. Here, it stands for the Wests political and intellectual hegemony. As conservative Russian sociologist Leonid Ionin puts it in his book Political Correctness: The Brave New World:

    Political correctness is the ideology of contemporary mass democracy, serving on the one hand to legitimize the domestic and foreign policy of westerns states and their alliances and, on the other, to supress alternative thinking and impose consensus on ideas and values.

    For Ionin, Russia as a mass democracy is not immune to this disease. In the majority of Russian nationalist discourse, however, political correctness stands for the moral decline of the West, which only conservative Russia is able to prevent.

    Intrinsic to populist political masculinitys fight against political correctness as a form of liberal hypocrisy is the claim to sincerity. Here, sincerity means a particular style of political communication that pretends to directly express genuine feelings and thus to transgress cultural conventions and political taboos, such as the ban on sexism and racism. This marks both the discourse of Trump and Putin. Yet despite all intriguing parallels between them as manifestations of political masculinity, there are also disparities. These, I argue, reflect differences between the Russian and US political systems and traditions of power.

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  • Hannia
    Browder, Navalny and Pugachev likely top Putin’s hit list, Eidman says
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2018/09/23 - 12:30

    Political murders in Russia are always ordered by the top man rather than being the decision of some subordinate group, Igor Eidman says; and once a Kremlin leader demonstrates he is ready to use this technique, the potential hit list usually contains those who have most infuriated the dictator.

    For Stalin, those included Trotsky, Mikhoels, and Konovalets; for Putin, it has already included Litvinenko, Nemtsov, Voronenkov, Kara-Murza Junior, the Skripals, and Verzilov, all people who have infuriated Putin by their statements or actions, the Russian commentator says.

    This suggests, Eidman continues, that those at greatest risk from the Kremlin are those who have angered Putin the most. And he suggests that “the top there potential victims of Putin” in the coming weeks and months include:

    1.“Bill Browder. Putin hates him. He is practically ‘the Trotsky of today.’ The most active critic of the Kremlin in the West. I think,” Eidman says, “that the dictator would have killed him long ago” if there were a way to do so at less cost to himself. “It is completely possible that the Russian special services simply are awaiting a suitable case to dispatch Browder.”
    2.“Alexei Navalny. Putin also obviously hates ‘this person’ too. In contrast to Browder, it would not be hard to seize Navalny but this would threaten unpredictable consequences including an intensification of conflict between the authorities and young people. However, Putin at any moment can decide that Navalny has crossed a red line and to kill him is more suitable than not.”
    3. “The banker Sergey Pugachev. For Putin, he is a traitor. He belonged to a quite near circle and now is giving the Western media their common secrets.”

    Of course, Eidman says, Putin’s “list is much longer. These three are simply the most obvious names.”
    Browder, Navalny and Pugachev likely top Putin’s hit list, Eidman saysEuromaidan Press |

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  • Hannia
    Putin’s Russia has a social pyramid like the oriental despotism it is, Eidman says
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2018/08/09 - 12:45
    Vladimir Putin visiting Karyes, the Orthodox enclave of Mount Athos in May 2016. The above photo, of Putin standing at an ancient throne alongside Greek officials and Orthodox dignitaries, was described by various Russian news outlets, both within the country and abroad, as Putin standing at a place which had until then been reserved only for Byzantine emperors.

    Russia under Vladimir Putin resembles an oriental despotism in that all property belongs to the ruler and all people are dependent on him, Igor Eidman says. As a result, it is no surprise that the country’s social pyramid corresponds to that reality from top to bottom.

    In the original oriental despotisms, the Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle says, the ruler owned all the land because land was the basis of wealth. In Putin’s Russia, the Kremlin leader controls all the major corporations and banks and thus controls the property they have and the incomes they make.

    From this, it follows, Eidman continues, that “all the residents of the country are vassals subordinate to the president. Regardless of their social status, they must serve their sovereign,” with each paying tribute to those above him or her and ultimately this wealth passing up to the Kremlin leader personally.

    Just below the president in this social hierarchy is “the close circle of the ruler,” most of whose members are present or “former” officers of the special services. They are “personally devoted to the first person and connected with him by years of service. They control the work of the government and represent the interests of the president in business.”

    Among them, Eidman says, are Sechin, Patrushev, Miller, Shoygu, Rotenberg, Timchenko, Bortnikov and so on.”

    The next lower stage includes the oligarchs “who are not directly connected with the chekist circles” and who in most cases arose under Yeltsin.” They are like the boyars at the time of Ivan the Terrible. “They are richer than many of the oprichniki but are completely dependent on them and pay them tribute. The guarantor of their existence is the president.”

    Further down are “the oprichnik squads – the special services, the judges, procurators, the leadership of the police, and army officers. And below them are the ordinary officials who “just like the oligarchs are completely dependent on the oprichniki and pay them tribute.” When they lose their protection, they are ousted from this circle.

    And below these are the entertainers who amuse the rulers and stupefy the population, “the qualified slaves of mental work and the creative class of the big cities,” lower level bureaucrats, workers in key extractive industries, and “below them are the ordinary slaves, the run of the mill intelligentsia, including the majority of doctors, teachers, workers and peasants.

    And still lower down, Eidman concludes, are “the poor, including the majority of pensioners, invalids, and the unemployed.” The powers that be sometimes give them a few kopecks but then periodically attempt to take even that back for those above them and ultimately for the president. Putin‚Äôs Russia has a social pyramid like the oriental despotism it is, Eidman saysEuromaidan Press |

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  • Hannia
    Putin "schizophrenic and maniac": Ukraine official warns citizens to be prepared for any scenario
    Tuka pointed at the Russian president's unpredictability.
    UNIAN 09:00, 09 August 2018

    As Russian President Vladimir Putin has already said that Ukraine and Georgia's possible entry to NATO is a "direct threat to Russia's national security," predicting the scenario of Kremlin's response in case of Ukraine's successful accession to the North Atlantic Alliance is simply impossible, says Deputy Mnister for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Displaced Persons, George Tuka.

    Tuka also called Putin a "schizophrenic and a maniac," according to the Obozrevatel online media outlet.

    "Unfortunately, we are dealing with a schizophrenic and maniac who has built an authoritarian regime in the neighboring state and who can actually go for any of his whims: today, he is seeing no resistance in society, inside that state, and among politicians of that state," Tuka believes.

    "It's simply impossible to get into the head of this 'lord of the rings' and predict what ideas and intentions he has there, what he will have in his head tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow," the deputy minister said.

    In his opinion, Ukraine needs to prepare for any scenario, but Tuka says he is resolute.

    "I can't see how they could scare us now? They have already seized Crimea, killed several thousand of our fellow citizens," he said.

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  • Hannia
    As Putin's approval rating slips, Russians are more positive about the West than at any time since the annexation of Crimea
    Meduza 06:40, 2 august 2018

    As federal officials push ahead with the unpopular decision to raise the country’s retirement age, Russians’ attitudes about the West are more positive than at any time since Moscow annexed Crimea.

    According to a new poll by the Levada Center, July 2018 marked the first time since March 2014 that positive attitudes about the United States and European Union outweighed negative attitudes: 42 percent versus 40 percent (for the U.S.) and 42 percent versus 38 percent (for the EU). As recently as May 2018, support for the West was dramatically lower: 20 percent for the United States and 26 percent for the European Union.

    As Russians’ views about the West turn rosier, approval ratings for the country’s leaders have slipped to post-Crimea lows. President Vladimir Putin’s job approval rating is now 67 percent, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s rating has fallen to 31 percent (a historic low).

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  • Hannia
    Putin’s ‘long game’ consists of a multitude of special ops, Shtepa says
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2018/08/02 - 11:03

    Vladimir Putin is almost universally described as a brilliant political tactician, but if the West is to counter him effectively, it must recognize that he has a strategic vision of the world, one that constitutes “a long game” he expects Russia to win even if it takes losses in the short term.

    Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the After Empire portal, argues that it is critically important to understand Putin’s vision, a vision he laid out in his interview with Vladimir Solovyev when he said “our opponents sometimes achieve their goals at a tactical level, but I think in the long run we will win.”

    Putin’s long game is “an attempt at a global response to the West for the defeat in the former Cold War which led to the disintegration of the Soviet empire. But it is directed not simply at the rebirth of the former USSR but is being conducted on the territory of the West itself by the newest offensive means of ‘hybrid war.’”

    Given his KGB background, Shtepa continues,

    “Putin views world politics not as a system of international agreements but only as a dividing up of ‘spheres of influence’ and ‘special operations’ of various degrees of force.”
    Thus he saw the Ukrainian Maidan in 2014 not as a popular uprising against a corrupt regime but as the work of shadowy special services.

    And the Kremlin leader responded with his Anschluss of Crimea and the unleashing of hybrid war with Ukraine in the Donbas. All agreements Russia had signed about respecting Ukraine’s borders “for him did not have the slightest significance.”

    Putin of course recognizes that he is not in a position to defeat the West by a direct attack, the regionalist says.

    And “therefore, his ‘long game’ is a series of a multitude of ‘special ops,” ranging from direct military intervention as in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria, to propaganda penetration as in Europe and the United States.

    More than his Soviet predecessors and more than any current Western leader, Putin views propaganda as a major tool to achieve his ends; and those require that it “play on the contradictions within the present-day West,” rather than simply offering an alternative Russian narrative, and thus spreading doubt in the West about democratic values.

    “Putin’s ‘long game,’” Shtepa concludes, suggests that for the Kremlin leader, there is no possibility that the political situation in Russia will change anytime soon. But “history all the same teaches another lesson: when this or that ruler of an empire begins to be confident in his own ‘eternal’ rule, this empire soon will fall apart yet again.”
    Putin‚Äôs ‚Äėlong game‚Äô consists of a multitude of special ops, Shtepa saysEuromaidan Press |

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  • Hannia
    American foreign policy
    Donald Trump’s humiliation in Helsinki
    How to interpret a shameful press conference with Vladimir Putin
    THE ECONOMIST Jul 21st 2018

    DONALD TRUMP likes to boast that he does things differently from his predecessors. That was certainly true of his trip to Europe. In Brussels he chided Germany for a gas deal that left it “totally controlled by Russia”. In England he humiliated his host, Theresa May, blasting her Brexit plan before holding her hand and hailing “the highest level of special” relationship. From his Scottish golf resort he called the European Union a “foe” on trade. And in Helsinki, asked whether Russia had attacked America’s democracy, he treated President Vladimir Putin as someone he trusts more than his own intelligence agencies. It was a rotten result for America and the world.

    Americans were more than usually outraged. At the post-summit press conference in Helsinki, with the world watching and the American flag behind him, their head of state had appeared weak (see article). He was unwilling to stand up for America in the face of an assault that had been graphically described three days earlier by Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing election meddling, in his indictment of 12 Russian military-intelligence officers (see Lexington). Republicans were among Mr Trump’s fiercest critics. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” wrote Senator John McCain. Even Newt Gingrich, normally a staunch defender, decried “the most serious mistake of his presidency”. The reaction forced Mr Trump into a convoluted series of climbdowns, which did little to repair the damage.

    Yet, for all his hostility towards allies and cosiness with Mr Putin, the trip could have been an even bigger disaster. Fears that Mr Trump might torpedo the NATO summit, as he had the G7 one, proved overblown. He put his name to a communiqué reaffirming the allies’ commitment to mutual defence and their tough stance against Russia. Worries that with Mr Putin he might promise to roll back sanctions or recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea proved groundless—as far as we can tell (the presidents met with only their interpreters present).

    Mr Trump even did some useful things. He was right to press NATO allies to spend more on defence, even if his claim to have raised “vast amounts of money” is an exaggeration. And talking to his Russian counterpart makes sense. To be sure, Mr Trump’s hopes for a tremendous relationship with Mr Putin may end in a familiar disappointment: George W. Bush looked into Mr Putin’s eyes and detected a soul, and Russia invaded Georgia; Barack Obama pressed a “reset” button, and Russia invaded Ukraine. But America and Russia have a lot to discuss, not least on nuclear-arms control.

    America worst

    However, these gains come at too high a price. Mr Trump’s behaviour, a quixotic mix of poison and flattery, has further undermined Europeans’ trust in America. When asked about the Mueller probe and the decline in relations with Russia, Mr Trump said feebly that he holds “both countries responsible”. Perhaps his vanity does not allow him to treat seriously a Russian attack that he fears could tarnish his own election triumph. Perhaps, as some suspect, Mr Putin really does have material compromising Mr Trump. Either way, where America once aspired to be a beacon, relativism rules. That leaves all democracies more vulnerable.

    Mr Putin, fresh from a successful World Cup, thus emerges as the winner in Helsinki. True, he may have scored an own goal in admitting that, yes, he had wanted Mr Trump to win the election. But a self-doubting West, damaged democracy and the spectacle of America’s president deferring to him on the world stage count as a hat-trick at the other end. In Helsinki Mr Putin looked smug. Mr Trump looked, at best, a mug.

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  • Hannia
    The Week In Russia: Summit Shortcomings, Pension Perils
    RADIO FREE EUROPE Steve Gutterman July 20, 2018 12:24 GMT

    From Washington to Moscow, the summit in Helsinki was widely seen as a big win for Vladimir Putin. But despite President Donald Trump's follow-up invitation for Putin to visit the White House within months, the meeting may have fallen short of some of the Kremlin's more ambitious expectations.

    And when it was over, Putin returned home to a country facing the prickly problem of pension reform, with trepidation over planned retirement-age hikes denting his popularity.

    Here are some of the key developments in Russia over the past week, and some of the takeaways going forward.

    'Better Than Super'

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called it "fabulous," while opponents of Donald Trump -- and some fellow Republicans -- were aghast over a meeting at which the U.S. president seemed to side with Putin on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and put no public pressure on Moscow over that issue or any other.

    Headlines in both hemispheres spoke of a win for Putin, and three days later the White House announced a glittering prize: An invitation for Putin to meet Trump in Washington in the fall.

    But despite Lavrov's assessment -- "better than super" - the Kremlin may still wish Putin had left with a little more to hold onto.

    It's true that Putin didn't need any major, concrete deals to put the stamp of success on the summit.

    It's also true that he didn't get any, as far as we know.

    The Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said on state television two days after the summit that he believes "important verbal agreements were made." And on July 19, Putin called the summit "successful overall" and said it led to "some useful agreements."

    What's The Deal?

    Those remarks are causing concern in the United States, particularly among critics of Trump who fear he could have made concessions to Putin during their more-than-two-hour one-on-one meeting with only translators present.

    But the only actual agreement announced by the U.S. side so far is for "working level dialogue between the two security council staffs," which White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders mentioned in her tweet about Trump's invite for Putin to come to Washington.

    Those developments will clearly please Putin, providing vital fuel for the Kremlin's argument that Russia is far from isolated despite U.S. and European sanctions.

    But to the naked eye, at least, there was no grand bargain struck in Helsinki, no sign of sanctions relief, no specific agreement on nuclear arms control.

    And while the comments in which Trump seemed to side with Moscow on election meddling caused an uproar that may not soon subside, some of the presummit fears about what Trump might do to please Putin were not borne out by the public comments from the two presidents.

    "Trump didn't recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea, announce a troop pullout from Syria, promise to disband NATO, withdraw U.S. troops from Germany or stop the deployment of U.S. anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe," Bloomberg Opinion columnist Leonid Bershidsky wrote.

    Bromance With Benefits?

    After waiting nearly 18 months after U.S. Inauguration Day for a full-fledged meeting with Trump, Putin may have hoped the summit would turn their long-distance courtship into a "bromance with benefits."

    Instead, according to Bershidsky, the Trump-Putin relationship "increasingly looks like a love affair that won't be consummated."

    "Each would like to do something for the other. But Putin has nothing to offer that the U.S. media and the Republican establishment might support, and Trump is mindful of where he stands with both and is blocked by the Constitution from giving anything away," he wrote.

    That point seemed to borne out by the fate of Putin's proposal that the United States let Russian prosecutors who are pursuing Kremlin critic William Browder question several Americans, including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, in exchange for Russia letting U.S. officials interview Russians such as the 12 military intelligence officers indicted by U.S. authorities three days before the summit over the alleged election interference in 2016.

    A day after she indicated Trump would consider the proposal -- prompting howls of protest from his opponents and a pithy assessment from the State Department, which called it "absurd" -- Sanders said the president "disagrees" with the idea, making clear it wouldn't happen.

    For Trump, of course, the fact that no deliverable was delivered may also be a disappointment, despite efforts by both sides ahead of time to play down the prospects for concrete agreements.

    After a summit that "accomplished very little of substance," the closing press conference "left Trump & team with all the blowback, but no deals," Olya Oliker, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a "cooling-off take" on Twitter.

    Amid the firestorm over his press-conference performance, Trump tweeted on July 18 that he and Putin "discussed many important subjects" and promised: "Big results will come!"

    Trump did not explain what those might be, beyond stating that "Russia has agreed to help with North Korea," but Russian officials have given hints about some of the results they want to see.

    One appears to a be Crimea-style referendum that could tear the parts of two eastern Ukrainian provinces held by Russia-backed forces further from Kyiv's grasp – but this time with the imprimatur of the U.S. president and international backing in place to lend the vote legitimacy.

    Bloomberg News quoted two people who attended a closed-door speech by Putin on July 19 as saying he told diplomats that he made the referendum proposal to Trump at the summit but agreed not to disclose it publicly, in order to give Trump time to consider it.

    Whether the referendum idea gets anywhere or not, the dissonance between the White House and State Department on the proposal for questioning Americans seems to underscore two things about Putin's approach to the United States.

    On the one hand, many analysts say one of Putin's main goals is to sow discord both between Western countries and within them. So he can check that box in this case.

    But it also seems to show how closely tied Putin now is to Trump in terms of Russian relations with the United States.

    When U.S. elections roll around, Russian officials normally make a show of saying they are ready to work with the winner, whoever it may be. But Kremlin bosses have also often relied on personal relationships with foreign leaders in the hope of plowing past the checks and balances in countries like the United States and getting what they want done –and done faster.

    In Helsinki, Putin again denied that Russia meddled in the U.S. election. But for the first time, he acknowledged publicly what has seemed obvious for about two years -- that he wanted Trump to win.

    Ties That Bind

    Trump's critics say he bent to Putin's will.

    But Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, says Putin took a risky step closer to Trump at the summit, where he says the two presidents "held a common front" against U.S. Democrats, special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation, and the U.S. media.

    Putin "evidently decided to make a serious bet on Donald Trump in his confrontation with the greater part of the American political establishment," Trenin wrote.

    "Russia, having publicly stepped into the domestic political arena of the United States, had better be prepared for various unpleasant surprises," he wrote, depicting U.S. politics as a "rollercoaster" -- the Russian term is "American hills" -- that can send you soaring for the heights at one moment and screaming toward the ground the next.

    'Like A Serf'

    Back home, Putin faces the task of pushing through a nearly unprecedented, highly unpopular pension-reform plan that would increase the retirement age for men to 65 from 60, and for women to 63 from 55.

    While one of the Kremlin's mantras is that Putin does not worry about opinion polls, its approach to the pension reform so far has seemed to contradict that assertion.

    A day after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev outlined the proposal in mid-June, Putin's spokesman said that the president was "not taking part in that process" and that the situation had changed since Putin promised, in 2005, not to raise the retirement age while he was president.

    Polls show that Putin's ratings have dropped since the announcement, and independent outlet Dozhd TV (TV Rain) has quoted sources as saying that the Kremlin has asked media, pro-government bloggers, and members of the pro-Putin ruling party United Russia not to use the phrase "pension reform."

    Amid protests outside the State Duma on July 19, the measure passed in its first of three readings in the lower parliament house -- with every single "yes" vote cast by United Russia.

    Among those voting against was flamboyant firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He called the pension reform "a yoke around the neck" that would leave the ordinary Russian citizen "like a serf who can only leave work feet-first" -- that is, when he dies.

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