Oliver Stone is a genius filmmaker, giving us films such as Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, and JFK. He has also made several important documentaries about Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and now Vladimir Putin. Regardless of whether or not you have the same opinions as these world leaders or the ones that Stone has about them, recording conversations with them is a valuable and enlightening piece of documented history.
Having said the above, none of it excuses Stone from his bizarre defense of Vladimir Putin. Stone was recently granted unprecedented access to the Russian President for a Showtime documentary entitled “The Putin Interviews,” the second part of which is set to air tonight.
Stone has been a long-time critic of American foreign policy. During 2012 he made the documentary series “The Untold History of the United States,” which claimed that the history taught to most Americans is a whitewashed version of the truth. Like some, mostly on the far left, Stone is deeply suspicious of the United States and its role in the world. He is also skeptical of accusations from the West regarding authoritarian figures around the world, seemingly choosing to believe that rather than being bad actors, they are simply victims of deviating from official Western policy.
Keeping with his worldview, he portrays Vladimir Putin as an imperfect statesman, but not one all that different from any other one. Putin may be opposed to gay marriage, but so was Barack Obama until 2014. Stone also portrays Putin as leading Russia out of the chaos of Boris Yeltsin to influence and wealth and as a man victimized by Western press reports.
It is important to note that the United States has frequently displayed bad behavior in its dealings with the rest of the world. It used torture as an interrogation technique against suspected terrorists. It was complicit in the genocide of the Guatemalan Civil War and the 1973 Chilean coup. It stood by while Indonesians massacred citizens in East Timor. And it launched a fruitless war in Vietnam in which 500,000 people lost their lives.
It is appropriate to raise your voice when your own country behaves in a way that you deem immoral. But, the question here is, ‘Why do other world leaders have to be given a pass because of U.S. behavior?’ Can it not be possible that foreign leaders behave in corrupt and inhumane ways, while simultaneously voicing opposition to specific U.S. policies?
It may be true that Russia has enjoyed prosperity for much of the time that Putin has led the country, but a large portion of the credit belongs to higher oil prices. In any event, the strength of the economy should not be the only criteria for judging statesmen.
Putin’s Presidency has presided over more than just a stifling of free speech. Numerous political enemies of the President have been murdered when they have spoken out. False flag terrorist attacks have been sponsored. Aggression towards the Ukraine has been pursued. No doubt now exists that Russia attempted to interference elections in the United States as well as numerous other countries. And Putin has personally enriched himself, acting as perhaps the most corrupt head of state in the world today.
According to Stone, as quoted in The Guardian:
“They have freedom of worship, they do what they want. They have travel, the Russian people have never been better off. But of course in America, they’re miserable, dictated to, in stalags, in gulags, they’re all being chopped up by this monster. It’s just crazy. And the British are worse. I mean, this is Murdoch’s lies, he’s told lies about the entire world, they created wars.”
Except freedom of religion is slipping in Russia and they cannot do “whatever they want,” as members of the group Pussy Riot would be able to attest to.
If the United States behaves poorly, then protest it. But, it is of no use to the world to praise corruption and repression solely in the name of being open-minded and critical of American policy.