Americans tend to have a very simplistic view of the world. For example: we are opposed to Evil Dictatorship. You are opposed to Evil Dictatorship. We are Liberal Democrats. Therefore you must be Liberal Democrats, too. I suspect that we are not alone in this tendency, but it has frequently gotten us into trouble. We should be careful not to assume that all those who oppose Dictatorships are George Washingtons.
Foreign Policy’s Passport blog has an excellent example of this fallacy at work. When I read Der Spiegel’s interview with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, I was not surprised to see him praise Vladimir Putin. After all, Solzhenitsyn is a Russian nationalist who regards the Communist period as an aberration (Communism is not a native Russian ideology). In his view, Russia must become strong and reassume its proper place on the world stage. So why are the bloggers at Passport surprised to see that Solzhenitsyn approves of the Putin’s leadership of Russia? Although he may be indeed be one of the greatest (and most famous) dissidents, his opposition to the Soviet regime does not make him into a liberal democrat.
Ironically, they note that Solzhenitsyn has been a critic of Putin in the past and link to a BBC article from 2000…but the blogger didn’t read very carefully.
So, in 2000, for what did Solzhenitsyn criticize Putin?
For being too “Western” (the Beeb notes his commitment to free markets and human rights) and for an overly conciliatory foreign policy that is insufficiently committed to a vision of renewed Russian greatness.
Apparently Putin has done quite well at dispelling Solzhenitsyn’s doubts in the last seven years.