Saturday, March 22, 2014

That wasn't Vladimir Putin's first tweet. This is Vladimir Putin's first tweet: "...good intentions cannot justify the violation of international law and state sovereignty."

Putin Russian Twitter Account Profile
This week twitter released a new service to view anyone's first tweet. Vladimir Putin's first tweet garnered a lot of attention. Sent in November 2012 it commemorated the occasion of President Obama's reelection:
Vladimir Putin's first English tweet

The tweet was characterized in MSM and blogs as ironic and an indication of how badly relations have degraded in subsequent years. Examples include WaPo, NBC, CBS, The Independent, TPMHuffington Post, etc, etc, etc. I'm not sure how truly "ironic" that tweet is. Certainly banal. Probably perfunctory. Maybe sarcastic. But not ironic.

Regardless, there is a bigger problem with the the reporting on that tweet. Despite the media assertions, that was not Vladimir Putin's first tweet.  Not even close. That was Vladimir Putin's first tweet from his English language twitter account.  Vladimir Putin's actual first tweet was sent from his Russian language twitter account over 10 months earlier in January 2012. Vladimir Putin is, after all, a Russian.

This was Vladimir Putin's actual first tweet, and it is one hell of a lot more interesting than the pablum with which he inaugurated his English language twitter account:
Putins 1st Russian tweet

What? You don't read Russian? Okay. Here a translation from the first free Russian-English online translator that pops up in a google search:
"Vladimir Putin: Russia concentrates – Calls which we should answer."
It's a free translation tool. You get what you pay for.

The text of Putin's actual first tweet is the headline for a linked editorial/article in the Russian newspaper Izvestia. Context is important. This tweet was sent two months before the Russian presidential election in March 2012. Former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is running to succeed the current President and future Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev (the Putin "mini-me") . Yes, they are just switching jobs. The linked article is the Putin Manifesto. It is his campaign platform, essentially a "stump speech". In the article Putin outlines all that ails Russia and the world, along with the Putin prescription to fix it.

Google translates the headline for the editorial with slightly different wording (I'm using google's chrome browser for automatic translation):
Linked article from Putin's first tweet

Since this is an automated translation we can assume much of the nuance is "lost in translation", the syntax is suspect and accuracy questionable.  I suspect that headline should be read as: "Russia must focus on the challenges we need to confront." Just a guess.

In any case this Russian language "first tweet" linked article provides a great deal more insight into the mind of Putin than that useless English language "not first tweet" congratulating President Obama on his reelection.  Much of this Putin campaign manifesto is domestically focused, filled with surprisingly familiar political fodder that would sound perfectly comfortable coming out of the mouth of any American politician on the campaign trail. Paraphrasing:
We want our country back. I am champion of the middle class. I won't spend money recklessly. We must root out corruption. The Russian people are good hard working people except for the those ne'er-do-wells who aren't. Everyone who held this office before me screwed things up (except me). I know how to fix everything. Together we will restore Russian greatness. Everyone running against me is an asshole...  yadda yadda yadda. 
The most interesting elements of his platform are to be found when he opines on foreign affairs and Russia's role in the world. He decries the United States emerging as the single world power after the fall of the Soviet Union and our inability to impose order on the world:
"Obviously, the current world order, developed over 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, includes the phenomenon of "unilateralism." Now the only former "power pole" is no longer able to support global stability, and new centers of influence are not yet ready to do so. This dramatically increases the unpredictability of global economic processes and the military-political situation in the world requires trust and responsible cooperation of states, and especially the permanent members of the Security Council of the "Big Eight" and "Big Twenty". Continued efforts are required to overcome mutual suspicion, ideological prejudices and short-sighted selfishness."
Interesting that bit about the need for cooperation of states. Particularly in light of this:
Russia isolated on Crimea in world community

But I digress. To "overcome mutual suspicion" among these leading states,  Putin employs unintentional irony by suggesting in the very next paragraph that Russians be suspicious of states (the U.S.) who ally themselves with destabilizing democratic protests (think Syria and Euromaidan):
"Now the largest economic centers rather than to serve the engines of development, to give stability of the global economic system is increasingly causing problems and risks. Rapidly increasing social and ethno-cultural tensions. In some regions of the planet "unwind" and declare themselves aggressively destructive forces, ultimately threatening the security of all peoples of the Earth. Objectively, their allies often are those states that are trying to "export democracy" through force, military methods."
Which bring us to the "money quote":
"Even good intentions cannot justify the violation of international law and state sovereignty."
Indeed. Now that is truly ironic.

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