Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

St. Petersburg Times
December 4, 2001
Russia Will Join
In response to "Putin: Russia Not Seeking To Join NATO," Nov. 27.


A new myth is being created: that Russia does not want to join NATO and that President Vladimir Putin has just renounced the idea of joining NATO. This myth is based on a series of inside-out spins that have been put on Putin's words, first of all by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson and then by virtually the entire Western press repeating after him.

During his recent visit to Moscow, Lord Robertson seized upon remarks made by Putin - or upon a misleading translation of them - to give them the opposite spin. Apparently hoping to reassure the Russophobes inside his own alliance, he said that Putin did not want to join NATO. "He said this was not some back-door method of Russia getting membership in NATO, and he already ruled out going in the front door," Lord Robertson said at a press conference.

Here Robertson combined two misleading translations or paraphrasings of two statements made at different times, and then gave them a spin opposite to their actual intentions by the way he put them together. His line sounded clever, however, and it was picked up uncritically by the Western media, including its finest newspapers, The New York Times and the Financial Times. No one bothered to consider that to object to "standing in queue" is not at all the same thing as to oppose the idea of entering the door.

The actual quote from Putin did not contain anything about refusing to go in the "front door," but read this way: "Russia is not standing in the queue to join NATO. But, on the other hand, it is ready to develop relations as far as the North Atlantic alliance is prepared for this." Read literally, this means that Russia is ready to join NATO, if NATO is also ready for Russia, but it isn't going to beg or be put through a humiliating wait in line for joining.

The Western media have picked up repeatedly on Robertson's bon mot, giving it the stature of a publicly accepted truth and a basis for making further deductions. This is falsifying its understanding of Russia's intentions, to its own disadvantage and in a manner that could turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ira Straus

Back to the Top    Next Article