US neo-Nazis and white supremacists may idolize Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but he just revealed that he really considers them to be “morons” even though they serve his interests as “useful idiots” by sowing disinformation, discord, and hatred in the US
And that’s not all Putin had to say Saturday at a bizarre “Beauties and the Beast” propaganda event at an Aeroflot training center near Moscow. The Russian leader answered questions about serious topics not from but from female flight attendants and pilots from Russian airlines.
The flight attendants listened passively, displaying little emotion as Putin read off his talking points to their questions which most likely were prepared in advance. After declaring that his goal was “demilitarizing and de-Nazifying” Ukraine and making it neutral, Putin said:
“I’m talking with my Western counterparts (who say), `You also have radicals.’ Yes we do, but we don’t have them in our government. And everyone knows that they have.
“Maybe we have some morons that are running around with these mottos and slogans, but do we support it at the government level? Do we have torchlight processes in Moscow or in other large cities with swastikas, with torches like in the 1930s in Germany? Do we have anything like that? But they do. And they support them.”
(The English-language translator on the tape uses the word “jerks,” but a translation of Putin’s remarks on the Meduza website, a Latvian-based news outlet that covers Russian news, translated the word as “morons.”)
In the US, there was the Unite the Right torchlight rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after which President Donald Trump said there “were very fine people, on both sides.” In Ukraine, there have been torchlight rallies by members of ultra-right nationalist parties in Kyiv and other cities marking the birthday of Stepan Bandera, the leader of a rebel militia that fought alongside the Nazis during part of World War II.
Putin’s remarks may come as a surprise to the participants at last weekend’s America First Political Action Committee conference where the mood was pro-Putin and pro-Russia. These are the folks that consider CPAC to be too liberal. The conference’s organizer, notorious white supremacist Nicholas Fuentes, actually joked about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at his address to the conference on Feb. 25. “Now they’re going on about Vladimir Putin and Russia, and Vladimir Putin is Hitler—and they say that’s not a good thing.”
Fuentes then added, “I shouldn’t have said that,” and laughed.
The crowd at the conference then chanted, “Putin, Putin.” That’s the same conference where Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar also spoke, prompting Republican Sen. Mitt Romney to call them “morons.”
Here’s the complete video of Putin’s bizarre event. I think it serves as a good example of the type of propaganda Putin is putting out to the Russian people. It’s a throwback to the bad old days when joined the KGB in 1975 at a time the Soviet Union was at the peak of its power.
Now I spent many years as a correspondent and editor dealing with this kind of propaganda. I attended press conferences in Poland with communist government officials and read English-language dispatches from government-run news agencies from Russia’s TASS to North Korea’s KCNA. It’s a matter of sitting between the lies, threats, and overly optimism depictions of what’s going on. You have to read between the lines, and look at which topics are discussed.
Putin opened the event by wishing all the best to women in the aviation industry and throughout Russia ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8. Then he took a question from a female Airbus pilot who first stated that we all support your actions in the “special military operation” in Ukraine. She then asked why the military action started and it was possible to avoid it, and threw in a line that we know civilians do not suffer.
Putin replied that it was “a difficult decision” to launch the military operation in Ukraine. And then gave a distorted account of events leading to the conflict, starting with the 2014 revolt that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian president. He called it an “anti-constitutional coup d’etat” that was supported and financed by Western countries.
Reading between the lines, it’s obvious that felt angry and humiliated over the 2014 Euromaidan revolt in Ukraine that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. The US and other Western countries imposed tough after Russia annexed Crimea and intensified support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. It’s reasonable to assume that this is when hatched the plot to seek revenge by meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. It’s no coincidence that Paul Manafort, who had received millions of dollars to serve as a consultant to Yanukovych, ended up as Trump’s campaign manager shortly before the Republican nominating convention.
At Saturday’s event, Putin went on to spread disinformation to justify the war in Ukraine. He accused Ukrainians of shooting members of Russian-speaking communities like “stray dogs.” He not only cited what he considered the threat posed by Ukraine joining NATO but also made the baseless claim that Ukraine intended to start a nuclear weapons program with the help of the West. Actually, Ukraine had dismantled the nuclear weapons and delivery systems it inherited after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 in return for security guarantees from Russia, Britain, and the United States.
And then he threatened: “The current leadership needs to understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they risk the future of Ukrainian statehood.” He also made other threats and said that any attempt by other countries to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be viewed as active participation in the armed conflict.
Putin tried to dismiss the mounting evidence that the Russian military campaign was going less well than expected: “Our army will fulfill all the tasks. I don’t doubt that at all. Everything is going to plan.”
At the same time, Putin was asked whether any conscripts had been sent into battle in Ukraine. Russian law places restrictions on using scripts in combat. Putin flatly denied that Russia had sent any conscripts into battle. However, parents of draftees have told the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers that their sons had been forced to sign contracts and then were sent to Ukraine, according to Meduza.
And then Putin tried to shore up the home front. He said there were no plans to declare martial law, adding that such a step would be taken only in “instances of external aggression.” He said the economic sanctions imposed by Western nations are “akin to a declaration of war. … But thank God it has not come to that.”
The sanctions have caused the ruble and the Moscow Stock Exchange to plunge in value, many Russian banks have been suspended from the Swift international payments system, and the Russian central bank has doubled interest rates. Global brands such as Ikea have closed their stores in Russia.
But that didn’t stop Putin from putting a positive spin on things despite the grim economic reality facing Russians. He promised to index pensions and social benefits, and said the Russian economy needs “maximum economic freedom for businesses.” Then he offered a proposal that Trump would surely love: the Russian leader actually supported suspending felony prosecutions for economic crimes, especially if the damages are compensated.
This was one of Putin’s rare public appearances since the invasion of Ukraine—and the audience of female flight crew members was carefully chosen for maximum advertising effect. The Russian aviation sector, already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, is on the verge of collapse, and many airline crews could soon be out of work. Russian airplanes have been banned from the airspace of many countries, denied access to vital spare parts for its Western-made planes, and stripped of insurance. Aeroflot’s only international flights are to ally Belarus.
And what Putin had to offer: He promised to increase domestic flights, improve regional airports, and speed up the production of the new Russian-made series of MC-21 passenger planes. He boasted that the MC-21 is “actually better” than Western-made planes, claiming it’s “more comfortable” with more legroom and space for luggage. He said that, within months, Russia would ramp up production of the MC-21 planes.
“We will build an airplane by ourselves, completely manufactured in Russia,” Putin said. That’s certainly reassuring, given the performance of the Russian-made military equipment in Ukraine.