When Napoleon botched his invasion of Russia, he said, “It’s just a step between the sublime and the ridiculous.” The same goes for russophiles and russophobes. The former we have seen in the inane writings of Pat Buchanan (who is most likely on FSB payroll), and the latter we have seen in the fiery blog of La Russophobe (who is probably an expat of Russia).
The recent PBS Frontline documentary on Putin is not necessarily about Putin. It’s about the hyper-corrupt culture of Russia and historical geopolitical policies, of which Putin is a product. (There’s a reason Europe has always shut the door on Russia, and Peter the Great had to settle for a mere window to Europe!) Geography is a bitch.
It’s tempting to idolize Putin as a throwback to what Niccolò Machiavelli advocated in The Prince. And that is exactly how Putin is framed when he is being idolized by Westerners that have read too many Viking sagas and have never lived a day in Russia. (The rubber meets the road, though, when we read Machiavelli closely in historical context and understand that he was advocating what was good for Italy and Italians, not necessarily the prince. In this sense, the jury is still out on whether or not Putin is Machiavellian.)
From a Satanic standpoint, politics are personal. Whatever policies benefit an individual are his to endorse freely. In general, the government that allows the most freedom and prosperity is the best place to live, and people vote with their feet.
In Russia, if you keep your head down and drink your vodka, there are no guarantees that you won’t fall foul of the government. But before falling prey to being a russophile or a russophobe, go to Mother Russia and see what the Third Side is, and study the hidden history of so-called Russian culture (not the everyday culture of the banya, dacha, and garden). You will be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised, depending upon your persuasion, but it will definitely be a learning experience to either side of a bipolar view of Russia that is crazy to those of us in the know.