Paul Gottfried is wrong about Vladimir Putin

Paul Gottfried

…by Jonas E. Alexis


Paul Gottfried is a prolific writer[1] and a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. He has been very critical of the Neoconservative movement and has come up with a new term called Paleoconservative, which seeks to go back to the old conservative ideas.[2]

Gottfried has recently declared that Vladimir Putin’s “aggressive behavior in Ukraine and Syria suggests the need for us in the West to be wary of his expansionist ambitions.”[3] I find this statement really bizarre and unpersuasive.

First of all, why would Putin choose Syria to advance his “expansionist ambitions”? What is really there? Gold? Perhaps oil? Can Syria be called a “treasure island”? Couldn’t Putin choose a better place in the Middle East? Putin would have to be really stupid to choose make such a move. Gottfried does not elaborate on his statement, therefore it is really hard to assess.

Gottfried also fails to explain the fact Putin’s move in Syria is essentially a reaction to perpetual wars in the Middle East. He has witnessed how the Neoconservative ideology has literally destroyed countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. He has also observed how Washington, which is overwhelmingly guided by Neoconservative expansionism, was eyeing on Syria. Gottfried had to skip all of Putin’s speeches in order for him to make such an incoherent statement.

Gottfried also missed the point on Ukraine. It would help Gottfried understand Putin’s position better if he cares to watch the Oliver Stone’s “Putin Interviews.” Putin has explained his point over and over, and even John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago came to the conclusion that “the Ukraine crisis is the West’s fault.” Mearsheimer argued:

“The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine—beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004—were critical elements, too.

“Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion.

“For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president—which he rightly labeled a ‘coup’—was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.

“Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly. Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a 0awed view of international politics.”[4]

Mearsheimer put forth other rational and historical arguments which cannot be easily dismissed. Gottfried had to interact with Mearsheimer before he wrote his recent article.

Finally, Gottfried skipped the essentially crucial element that the vast majority of Ukrainians are Russians and that Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to join Russia.[5] Even the Wall Street Journal, of all places, reported quite rightly that “More than 96% of Crimean voters cast their ballots to break away from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, in a referendum that raises the stakes in the most acute East-West confrontation since the Cold War.”[6] If that is not part of democracy, what is?

Gottfried does not discuss these issues in his article at all. As I have argued in the past, to say that Russia invaded Crimea is tantamount to saying that the United States invaded California or Texas. Gotffried ends his article by quoting Neocon James Kirchik approvingly, saying:

“Putin has become a symbol of national sovereignty in its battle with globalism. That turns out to be the big battle of our times. As our last election shows, that’s true even here.”[7]

I agree with that statement. But if Kirchik really believes this, then he would drop his Neoconservative enterprise once and for all.

[1] Paul Gottfried, Revisions and Dissents (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2017); Fascism: The Career of a Concept (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2016); Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005).

[2] For an assessment of some of Gottfried’s views, see E. Michael Jones, “Close Encounters,” Culture Wars, September 2009.

[3] Paul Gottfried, “If Loving Putin Is ‘Right,’ I Want to Be Wrong,” American Conservative, July 17, 2017.

[4] John J. Mearsheimer, “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2014.

[5] Charles McPhedran and Anna Arutunyan, “Crimea votes to join Russia; Ukrainians prepare for war,” USA Today, March 16, 2014; “Crimea referendum: Voters ‘back Russia union,’” BBC, March 16, 2016; Anton Troianovski and Paul Sonne, “Ukraine Region Votes to Join Russia,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2014; Bill Chappell and L. Carol Ritchie, “Crimea Overwhelmingly Supports Split From Ukraine To Join Russia,” National Public Radio, March 16, 2014; “95.7% of Crimeans in referendum voted to join Russia – preliminary results,” Russia Today, March 16, 2014.

[6] Anton Troianovski and Paul Sonne, “Ukraine Region Votes to Join Russia,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2014.

[7] Gottfried, “If Loving Putin Is ‘Right,’ I Want to Be Wrong,” American Conservative, July 17, 2017.

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Jonas E. Alexis

Jonas E. Alexis graduated from Avon Park High School, studied mathematics and philosophy as an undergraduate at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and has a master's degree in education from Grand Canyon University.

Some of his main interests include the history of Christianity, U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the new book ,Christianity & Rabbinic Judaism: A History of Conflict Between Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism from the first Century to the Twenty-first Century.

He is currently teaching mathematics in South Korea. He plays soccer and basketball in his spare time. He is also a cyclist. He is currently writing a book tentatively titled Zionism and the West.

Alexis welcomes comments, letters, and queries in order to advance, explain, and expound rational and logical discussion on issues such as the Israel/Palestine conflict, the history of Christianity, and the history of ideas.

In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, Alexis asks that all queries be appropriately respectful and maintain a level of civility. As the saying goes, “iron sharpens iron,” and the best way to sharpen one’s mind is through constructive criticism, good and bad.

However, Alexis has no patience with name-calling and ad hominem attack. He has deliberately ignored many queries and irrational individuals in the past for this specific reason—and he will continue to abide by this policy.

Comments Closed


  1. Hey, Jonas. Before you and Vlad the Man consummate your budding relationship, it might be in your interest – if you can find the time – to take a look at a chap by the name of Brendon O’Connell, an Aussie commentator and blogger who has a very interesting take on Putin and where his real interests lie.
    Brendon has a few ideas on who Putin is, and more interestingly: who is behind him. I follow international affairs reasonably closely in relation to my “day-job” – and what Brendon says fills in some rather large pieces of the jigsaw. (The pieces most of my colleagues don’t have the sack even to mention – let alone pick up for a look-see.) The man talks sense. And we readers wouldn’t like to see you get burned! Vlad’s not gonna save anybody. Just you wait and see. And he’s more than friendly with that *special* nation you so very much like to write about!
    Brendon O’Connell. Check him out if you can – I believe he’s already been interviewed by Kevin Barrett recently.

    • Sure, and then I’ll read it out loud for you while you sip a coffee. Sound good? I’ve provided you with the name of the commentator – you go do the research.

      Here’s a simple formula: “Brendon O’Connell” {enter into your preferred browser} + “Research” {definition available online – you need to do this part} + “Putin” {enter into your preferred browser}

      If you’d like it broken down into easier pieces, do let me know.

  2. Today’s politics are invented in someone’s mind. History and models are for fools. Not unlike math and physics equations which lead only to a paradox. Reality is perception. You are what you eat. No physical proofs are necessary. Lab experiments are not necessary. “It is what I say it is”. The descriptive word for today is …neoneosocioneo.

  3. Jonas: Although Gottfried is mistaken in demonizing Putin, why do YOU DEIFY Putin?

    Russia had no choice but to enable a Crimean referendum — given US/UK/EU coup against the duly-elected Ukrainian president. When Coup-Masters’ minions moved to secure Crimea, pro-Russia Crimeans & civilian-dressed Russian troops (legally in Crimea as per a military base lease) stopped them from overrunning Russia’s military port. Russia then enabled a referendum. So what? US/UK/EU nations would do the same.

    The question remains: Why do you deify Putin (writing as if Putin is totally trustworthy)? Although most VT articles are favorable to Russia & Putin, most intel-savvy VT writers (e.g., Duff) do NOT deify Putin. E.g., other VT authors know WHY Putin & Russia have NOT taken decisive military action in Syria to produce a mostly-lasting peace. Since Putin & Russia have not done so, neither Syrians nor others at VT totally trust Putin & Russia.

    Please also get your facts straight; and don’t purport that your references support assertions that just aren’t true. E.g., you say “[Gottfried]… has come up with a new term called Paleoconservative, which seeks to go back to the old conservative ideas.[2]”

    Your footnoted reference certainly does NOT support your assertion that “Paleoconservative” is a NEW term. Paleo-Conservative is a fairly OLD term distinguishing mostly-isolationist Paleo-Cons from mostly-interventionist Neo-Cons. But both Paleo-Cons & Neo-Cons have been & are anti-Russia.

    • “neither Syrians nor others at VT totally trust Putin & Russia”

      Well put. The question of who is Putin, who stands behind him (if anyone) and what his agenda is has never strayed from our minds, we have spent endless hours discussing this issue and countless more researching it. We still don’t know and it is far beyond the scope of a simple comment to even begin to lay out all the ins and outs of the issue and why we still don’t have any concrete answers.

    • Dr. Abu-Bakr Susta,

      What makes you think that I “deify Putin”? What logical inference that allows you to draw this extraordinary conclusion? Do you think it’s fair to come up with such an accusation without presenting serious evidence? And why don’t you refute the points that I have been making in my articles instead of positing unnecessary or unwarranted conclusions? Deal with what was exactly said, not what you think I am probably thinking.

      Like Paul Gottfried, you skipped the central point that over 90% of Crimeans voted to join Russia. If that is not part of democracy, then you are inexorably allying with the warmongers and Neocons in destabilizing the region. To say that “US/UK/EU nations would do the same” is categorically false. The majority of people on this planet rejected the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, etc. The warmongers have always overruled the opinions of the majority.

    • Moreover, if you are unfamiliar with the fact that Gottfried was one of the guys who came up with the term “Paleoconservative,” then I cannot help you. I did not place a footnote for “Palesonconservative” as a new term because I thought this was common knowledge. You have proved me wrong.

    • Jonas: You ask “What makes you think that I ‘deify Putin’?” You “deify Putin” because you have NEVER been critical of Putin or Russia in ANY of your articles.

      If you want some probable (good) cause, see today’s “The Real Reason Trump Jr Met the Russian Lawyer” by Ian Greenhalgh at There are other VT articles critical of Putin & Russia. Based on what you write, you don’t read them (or rarely). “Deification” may be hyperbole — but not by much.

      IF Putin is really (legally) taking 50% of Kosher Nostra oligarch/gangster money before it goes to Trump & others, is that reason enough to be critical? IF so, then why do you say NOTHING critical?

      You ask: “[W]hy don’t you refute the points that I have been making in my articles instead of positing unnecessary or unwarranted conclusions?” A: Because you appear to be pedantic & condescending — and déjà vu all over again. However, unless otherwise said, I mostly agree with you. Others & I just want you to write better. Sometimes, I don’t know what you think (or IF you do – 😉 ).

      FYI: Unlike what NeoCons, NeoLibs & YOU say/imply, “Democracy” is NOT necessarily the highest good. It’s just the political system that’s usually easiest to manipulate — as per CIA. In addition, “Democracy” is still used as a ‘good’ U.S. excuse to bomb, invade & occupy.

      As Macaulay asked in “Home Alone 2,” have you had enough? Or are you ready for more? 😉

    • Dr. Abu-Bakr Susta,

      Is this how logic works now? Since I “have never been critical of Putin or Russia,” therefore the conclusion is that I “deify” him? Do you really think that this bizarre way of reasoning is coherent? Do you really think that this is a serious argument?

      Second, saying that I “have NEVER been critical of Putin or Russia in ANY” of my articles is complete falsehood. You even capitalized “NEVER” and “ANY,” which suggests that you are absolutely sure about this. I don’t think you have read all my articles at all. I have written over 800 articles over the past few years, and it is presumptuous and frivolous to say that I have not criticized Putin or Russia. If you are still sure about this, then I must say that you are either lying or dishonest because there were at least two articles in which I specifically argued that it is high time that Putin challenge Netanyahu or the Israeli regime.

    • You continue to bring accusations without evidence or context, such as the following: “…because you appear to be pedantic & condescending—déjà vu all over again…Sometimes, I don’t know what you think.” How do you expect people to deal with statements like these? What are you referring to? Examples?

      Who says that “Democracy” is “the highest good.” And do you really think that the CIA really follows the principles of democracy or a perversion of it? It also tells me that you have not been really paying attention to what I have been saying in my articles. Sure, the CIA and the Neocons pretentiously and diabolically have used the label “democracy” to bomb countries all over the world, but does that have anything to do with the principles of democracy itself? If police officers abuse their power, should we close down the police department, or should we just fire those police officers?

    • Move over, Jonas, as you say: “[I]f you are unfamiliar with the fact that Gottfried was one of the guys who came up with the term “Paleoconservative,” then I cannot help you. I did not place a footnote for “Palesonconservative” as a new term because I thought this was common knowledge. You have proved me wrong.”

      Cute, Jonas. Your 2nd sentence says: “He has been very critical of the Neoconservative movement and has come up with a NEW term called Paleoconservative…[2]” Caps Emphasis Added.

      As you well know, Jonas, my afterthought point was solely to dispute that ‘Paleo-Con’ is a NEW term. Your end note also does NOT support your assertion. Nice try, Jonas. But stop wasting our time with deflections etc. It’s pedantic & condescending — and déjà-vu-all-over-again transparent.

    • Jonas: Our semi-contemporaneous comments crossed in the only-virtually-contemporaneous ether. Some of your replies are still pedantic & condescending (IMHO). So, I won’t respond to such quibbles.

      However, in your reply you ask “Who says that ‘Democracy’ is ‘the highest good.'” YOU implied it when you said, “If that is not part of democracy, what is?” Of course, the Crimean referendum was a good procedure for reunification of Crimea with Russia. Although that’s not the only reason that it was good, that’s the only reason that you state.

      Quibbling about CIA uses & manipulation of democracies & other forms of govt. is a level of discussion beyond the scope of simple comments & replies. Suffice it to say that U.S. & foreign covert Ops agencies use & manipulate ALL forms of govt. — including in U.S.

      Despite the prior utility of appeals for U.S. support for foreign democracies in support of U.S. foreign wars, the U.S. itself is a ‘Republic’ — not a true ‘Democracy.’

      IF you reply to this comment, please answer my original (primary) question, which is roughly ‘Why are you never critical of Putin?’ …And please don’t quibble. 😉

    • Supplement… Jonas: If even you could only find 2 of 800 (0.25%) of your articles in which you criticized Putin (for not challenging Bibi/Israel), let me revise my base question to be: ‘Why are you (virtually) never critical of Putin?’ My last request remains: Please don’t quibble.

    • Terrific stuff, Dr. You can obviously walk the walk, rather than just talk (and talk and talk) the talk. A good lesson in effective and balanced counter argument. THAT’S philosophy in action – and I tip my hat to a real pro. I for one always learn much from your comments – ever think of posting an article? Or even two?

    • “US/UK/EU nations would do the same.”
      And they have, in Yugoslavia.

      The move by Russia in Crimea is kindergarten level obvious in the realm of Geopolitics. It they did not, today there would be a NATA base and Russia would have had a sh*t storm of a problem.

      Additionally, the Crimea Referendum was monitored by EU reps !!! Is that not good enough ? In the case of Montenegro it was the will of the people, right ? There Russia or Serbia had no right to protest.

      “deify Putin.”
      What I am noticing in the Western press is that one constantly needs to explain oneself why one is saying something positive about Russia or Putin specifically. Hell, from Bush Jr. on it is obvious who is behaving like a statesman and who is acting like an idiot. Sorry to break your party but their is no deifying, it is pure and simple recognition that in the West we are looking at idiots who pretend to be leaders.

      ” other VT authors know WHY Putin & Russia have NOT taken decisive military action in Syria to produce a mostly-lasting peace. ”
      Why is that ? I’m sure lots of people are wondering the same thing.

    • Dr. Abu-Bakr Susta,
      “However, in your reply you ask “Who says that ‘Democracy’ is ‘the highest good.’” YOU implied it when you said, “If that is not part of democracy, what is?””

      The last part implies —> “the highest good” ? Seems to me like you are forcing a square peg into a round hole and just needling Jones. The formed argument has no logic.

      “Others & I just want you to write better. Sometimes, I don’t know what you think (or IF you do – 😉 ).”

      This is truly amazing. To write “better” means write like we do. That sounds to me like “thought police” tactics. Jones is required to criticize Putin/Russia because you say it must be so because you know what is the Truth !!!! Amazing :-(.

  4. Who are you, Mr.Gottfried? Who are you to tell the Crimean HOW to vote, where to live and WHAT you are – to judge? Who are you, your scornful cheap “USA NGO” soul, to express your unwanted miserable ideas and opinions to the people, whose region you can hardly find on a map?! Just shut up and sit quietly in your Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania – ’cause we hear your name first time and do not know you at all. Professor of Humanities of the McDonald’s University. And for all Russians and Ukrainians your name and opinion costs no more than a cholesterol cheap hamburger. In the USA you may think you cost 1 bill $, in the former USSR your life and soul costs nothing. Your megalomania is for US students.

    • Andrew: US School System hardly contact students with the rest of the World, other than with a Reader’s Digest written and condensed World history. Intellectual poor contents, psycologicaly psycopathic and wrong readings or scant moral or religious beliefs have prepared young Americans, since Independence day, to descend from the his country’s plateau into the wilderness that he’s being thaught its the rest of the World, where mankind condition disappears along other’s national borders Just reading political forums and opinions like Yahoo World provides a clue of a solid distorted perception toward other nations.
      Certainly, to expand and build an empire has to set aside respect and kindness virtues replacing it with with abundant military hardware, the true US Dollar underwriting. , . .

  5. I guess since I’ve been here since 08 I should say something. In the first few years I was in and out of Crimea and Kyiv, Ukraine but got to see what happened. Mr. Jonas and Mr Stone pretty much has nailed it when it comes to the Pravda but its hard to change those minds of Washington and EU when they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to say that Russia stole Crimea and invaded Ukraine. I , at first had my reservations about Crimea going back to Russia but really didn’t think much about it at first.I knew things would get better -especially with the infrastructure and stability. The weeks leading up to the vote was like Victory day for these guys and when the vote was counted – it was like the 4th of July’s we had in the 50s and 60s – and it’s a shame the rest of the world has turned it back on what the people truly want. So Weaselton – you can kiss my ” Novee Crimean Ass ” because these people did vote more democratically than anything the US has done democratically since JFK was elected. Spacibo Mr. VT

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