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Stop Calling It Russophobia -- It's Anti-Putin Provocateurism

Using the wrong word works against efforts to counteract specious news reports

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The term "Russophobia" is the understatement of the century.

Russia isn't the object of a phobia. The "-phobia" suffix in English mainly implies a fear, even an irrational fear. What's now popularly being called Russophobia is something much greater and far more insidious.

Hillary Clinton compares Putin's Ukraine strategy to Adolf Hitler's in Nazi Germany according to a Huffington Post report. CNN claims John McCain said the "US must stop Putin in Syria." "Marco Rubio vows to challenge Vladimir Putin in Syria," reports Breitbart. Those darned Russians! That aggressive tyrant Putin!

And the Kremilin's response? "I’m not amazed about this Russophobia," is the best that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has to muster about like remarks.


That's certainly the wrong name for it. For one thing, the focus of the so-called Russophobia is not the country and its people. It's the president, Vladimir Putin. So technically the present term should be Putinphobia not Russophobia.

But that's still the wrong name for it. The Clintons and McCains don't fear Putin. What they and other American politicians are doing is advancing a smear campaign. Its content has little factual basis. But it's actually been quite an effective smear campaign. The politicians make allegations that put Putin in an extremely bad light, even though they are unable to offer any real substantiation.

But who are they trying to turn against Putin? It's certainly not the Russian people. Putin's popularity in Russia has soared to nearly 90 percent. If Russians were the target, the smear would have been an abject failure.

So then who are they trying to turn against Putin? It's obviously the Americans and people in allied countries. They've been the audiences exposed to the smears. That's where the smear has shown its effectiveness.

The tactic used by the American politicians is to provoke fear among those exposed to their messages. I don't mean that they are simply being provocative. That in itself would not be so bad. Being provocative can get people to think and gain greater understandings.

Instead the Clinton/McCains et al are acting as provocateurs. defines a provocateur as "a person who provokes trouble, causes dissension, or the like; an agitator." That fits what they are doing.

Are there signs that this anti-Putin provocateurism is actually efficacious? Yes there are. For example it's caused people and governments in Poland and the Baltics to request American military assistance. According to news reports they believe protection is needed from an alleged possible tank attack from Russia. There's no evidence that this expectation is reality based. But provocateurism also caused many Americans to be supportive of their government's intervention. They have no idea that the tank invasion threat was as trumped up as Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

That's what successful provocateurism thrives on. It foists upon audiences counterfactual stories counting on the likelihood no one will try to check for facts or reality-test the allegations. I document this process in my book Ukraine in the Crosshairs.
So do you see what's going on here? The real Russophopes, the real Putinphobes, are actually victims not perpetrators.

They're the people who have fallen prey to the anti-Putin provocateurs. Indeed, they have come to suspect and fear Putin, even if on an irrational basis. There's no point in feeling scornful toward the poor victims. They're not the initiators of the malicious nonsense.

There is an important message in this for Foreign Minister Lavrov, and for anyone else who speaks or writes about Russophobia: Stop it!

You are playing into the hands of the anti-Putin provocateurs. You are minimizing the insidiousness of their game. You are confusing the victims with the perpetrators. You are beclouding the issue. And by not calling out the real perpetrators, i.e., the anti-Putin provocateurs, you are providing them, the real villains in all this, with cover for them to continue their dastardly work.

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