By Lloyd Billingsley
While Democrats and their media allies demonize Vladimir Putin, and anybody who might have talked to him, filmmaker Oliver Stone has been hanging out with the Russian strongman. “The Putin Interviews,” Stone’s four-part series, launched on Monday and according to Showtime:
“Oliver Stone was granted unprecedented access to Russian president Vladimir Putin during more than a dozen interviews over two years, with no topics off-limits. This remarkable four-part documentary series provides intimate insight into Putin’s personal and professional lives, from his childhood under communism, to his rise in power, his relations with four U.S. presidents and his surprising takes on U.S.-Russian relations today. Witness the most detailed portrait of Putin ever granted to a Western interviewer.”
Showtime compares “The Putin Interviews” to David Frost’s interview of Richard Nixon in 1977. The documentary emerges amidst accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but Oliver Stone surprisingly refutes those claims.
“That’s a path that leads nowhere to my mind,” Stone told Gary Maddox of the Sidney Morning Herald. “That’s an internal war of politics in the U.S. in which the Democratic party has taken a suicide pact or something to blow him up; in other words, to completely de-legitimize him and in so doing blow up the U.S. essentially.” And for the director of the conspiratorial JFK, “What they’re doing is destroying the trust that exists between people and government. It’s a very dangerous position to make accusations you cannot prove.”
So if not an election fixer, Stone explains, “Mr. Putin is one of the most important leaders in the world and in so far as the United States has declared him an enemy – a great enemy – I think it’s very important we hear what he has to say.”
As Tom Huddleston Jr. noted in Fortune, Putin thinks Russia’s intelligence services are “working quite well” and lawful. In the Showtime production, Putin chides the United States for surveilling Israel and Germany, “because it undermines trust. And it means that in the end it deals damage to your own national security.”
The New York Times headlined its review “Oliver Stone’s ‘Putin Interviews’: Flattery, but little Skepticism,” and television James Poniewozik managed to find some entertainment. Stone screens Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove for Putin, who had never seen it. As they watch, “Mr. Stone is animated, laughing and dropping bits of trivia. Mr. Putin sits still, smiling thinly. If you’ve ever seen a movie with your cineaste friend who really needs you to love it as much as he does, you know this dynamic.”
According to Poniewozik, “Mr. Stone gives Mr. Putin a platform for flattering versions of his government’s aggression in Ukraine; treatment of opposition parties; and the sheltering of Edward J. Snowden, the National Security Agency whistle-blower.” Putin may not be a hero but Stone “uses his perspective to challenge neoconservative American triumphalism about the Cold War and its aftermath.”
That is the view of Stone’s 2012 The Untold History of the United States, a helpful companion volume to the Putin show. Here the United States emerges as the flywheel of fascist imperialism, headed by warlike racist buffoons eager to back murderous regimes by any means necessary.
The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, which effectively started World War II, was an “unsavory deal” and Stone lists only two atrocities by Stalin: the massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn forest and “having the Red Army stop on the banks of the Vistula while the Germans put down the Warsaw uprising.”
Stone gives the Soviet Union full credit for winning World War II and afterward it was benign, having “no blueprint for postwar Sovietization of Eastern Europe and hoping to maintain friendly and collaborative relations with its wartime allies.” Further, the Soviets “had gone out of their way to guarantee West Berliners’ access to food and coal from the eastern zone or from direct Soviet provisions.” With the USSR essentially a peaceful regime, the heroic Berlin airlift touted in American schools was unnecessary.
Despite the occupation of half of Europe, the crushing of reform in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and the invasion of Afghanistan, the “picture of a hostile, expansionist USSR” from CIA director William Casey “didn’t accord with the facts.” The 1983 KAL 007 shootdown even gets a pass, as the Soviets “mistakenly took a Korean Air Lines passenger jet for a spy plane.”
In Stone’s view, the peaceful Soviets make “mistakes” and are evaluated by their aspirations. The militant United States commits crimes and is evaluated on the worst of its record. In “The Putin Interviews,” Stone continues that pattern with Russia, and he’s taken moral equivalence to a new level.
As Stone tells Putin, when it comes to spying and such, Americans believe the Russian government is as “bad” as the United States. Putin replies, “I think you are a cunning person,” and coming from a KGB veteran that is high praise indeed.
Putin autocracy or Stalinist dictatorship, Oliver Stone will always cast the USA as the bad guy.