Should Putin Apologize to the Russian Nation?
A snippet from the following video clip, in which Scott Ritter recently offered a fairly measured criticism of Russian authorities' actions in relation to recent military setbacks in Kharkov, has been separated from its larger context and used by certain Russian language internet sources to portray Scott as duplicitous in what otherwise would appear to be a generally supportive attitude toward Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin. Please take a moment to view the video, with English audio and Russian subtitles, before reading our further observations on the fuller context below.
The approximately 5-minute subtitled clip is extracted from a roughly 2-hour interview Scott recently did with Richard Medhurst. That original interview contains the full context of our 5-minute clip, our excerpt aiming to provide, for any Russian-speakers who may have viewed and been influenced by the 30-second clip, the relevant surrounding discussion. It is being provided here in order that a fuller context to some of Scott's remarks made in relation to recent Russian military setbacks in the Kharkov region, will be available to a wider audience (a Russian translation of this article can be viewed here). Our aim is to counter what appears to us to have been an attempt to undermine Scott's credibility among Russian speakers by posting the far more truncated version.
During the 30-second clip's brief lifetime on YouTube, it garnered more than a thousand comments by Russian speakers, almost all of them expressing negative attitudes toward Scott--the posters having evidently fallen for the out-of-context ploy the 30-second video clip's creator(s) had intended. That was a matter of great concern to us, knowing well both Russian language and culture as well as being familiar with Scott's stances on matters connected with Russia's military actions in Ukraine.
Our speculation is that the purported Telegram personality Tanya Solovyeva, who self-presents as an ultra-nationalist monarchist, may well be attempting to aid western intelligence efforts that seek to sow discord among Russian speakers and thereby to foment social discontent that might lead to popular opinion in Russia turning against Putin. The statements "Putin, get out" and "Putin should apologize and leave" this source attempts to attribute to Scott, calling him a "fake patriot" and suggesting he is a modern-day Brandenburger (Nazi sabotage squads who passed themselves off as members of the opposing forces), give an indication of the intent behind excerpting the 30-second clip and linking it to this slanderous posting. In any case, that 30-second clip only appeared on YouTube for a few days, and the link to it now turns up the message "The video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated."
The more extended 5-minute clip we present starts at about the one-hour 33-minute mark of Medhurst's original interview and follows the interviewer's query regarding whether Russian popular sentiment may be shifting against the military campaign, which in turn evokes Scott's response to the effect that popular support has not been much affected, and some further remarks from him as to how he thinks the Russian government should address the populace in the wake of the Kharkov setbacks. The 30-second clip for which we are providing additional context starts at about the 3-minute 20-second mark of our 5-minute excerpt. It included Scott's exclamation "Hey Putin, you abandoned the Russian nation . . ."
The interview is slightly dated, as can be seen in Scott's observations about what were at that time upcoming referendums, specifically in the Kherson region. Given that, although a large percentage of the vote in that region was in favor of joining it to Russia, the region was, nonetheless, the one in which the majority (a little over 87%) of residents in favor of joining was smallest of the four regions in which referendums were held.
One cannot, knowing the fuller context of the 30-second clip, come away with the impression that Scott is somehow of the mind that Putin is to be faulted for the Kharkov setbacks, much less that he is incapable or unworthy of leading his nation. Rather, Scott is urging greater openness on the part of the Russian government about mistakes the military made that led to those setbacks, and this so that the Russian populace can be reassured that mistakes are being corrected and that they will continue to be protected from attack by hostile forces in Ukraine and elsewhere. In hindsight, had such a course of action as Scott was urging been taken by Russian authorities--and Scott actually specified that he would like to see a military leader or perhaps governmental figure offer those concessions to the populace rather than Putin himself--perhaps the majority in the Kherson region in favor of joining Russia would have been yet higher than 87% and might have rivaled the 90%-plus majorities in the other three regions where referendums were held.