Roger L. Simon

Putin Doesn't Read Blogs

Well, that’s a safe bet. But it’s even safer after reading this report in Newsweek of Bush and the Russian president’s meeting in Bratislava:

When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: “We didn’t criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS.”

It’s not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush’s National Guard service. Yet it’s all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media-just like his own. Bush’s aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin’s inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how he had no power to fire American journalists. It made little difference. When the two presidents emerged for their joint press conference, one Russian reporter repeated Putin’s language about journalists getting fired. Bush (already hot after an earlier question about his spying on U.S. citizens) asked the reporter if he felt free. “They obviously planted the question,” said one of Bush’s senior aides.

No doubt they did. This squares with my experiences in Russia pre and post Soviet Union. Paranoia, alas, is buried deep in the Russian soul, probably from the time of the Tsars or even before. It destroys their society. At least there’s a funny part in this case. We all know something those “crafty” KGB-types would never believe – that Charles Johnson had more to do with the “firing” of Dan Rather and company than George Bush.