by Jerry Alatalo
“What kind of truth is this which is true on one side of a mountain and false on the other?”
– MICHEL EYQUEM DE MONTAIGNE (1533-1592) French philosopher
merican Sharon Tennison has been a regular traveler to Russia for 35 years as a citizen diplomat trying to build peace, understanding and goodwill between the people of the United States and Russia – and she is very concerned.
She is concerned that news organizations and politicians in America and the West over recent years have misrepresented events and conditions in Russia, or, in other words, not been conveying the truth. For that and other reasons, particularly the increased threat of war over unopposed rumors, Ms. Tennison felt compelled to create the following video where she addresses what she calls “Ten Myths About Russia”.
Ms. Tennison states: “It’s kind of dangerous for us (Americans) to be getting wrong information on this country”.
Myth #1: Russia is a failing state. Sharon Tennison says this is “completely wrong”. She does believe it true that Russia was indeed a failed state in the 1990’s, but that since then, marked by the rise to leadership of Vladimir Putin in and around the year 2000, Russia has turned around and gotten back on its economic feet again.
Myth #2: Russia is a gas pump state. The phrase was popularized by the late Arizona Senator John McCain, and Ms. Tennison does admit that Russia, “blessed with a lot of gas and oil”, was almost fully dependent on energy resources revenues in the 1990’s-early 2000’s. In time with Putin’s rise to leadership, the nation has undergone extensive economic diversification, including greater (organic) food production, notably becoming the world’s largest producers of wheat. She notes that – ironically and amazingly – it was U.S.-Western sanctions which led to Russians becoming more self-sufficient and industrious.
Myth #3: Russia is seeking territorial expansion. Looking at the map showing Russia and its huge landmass covering 11 time zones, and this myth becomes easily debunked. With a low population relative to its nation’s colossal size, the Russian people have no need for stealing former republics, more land and/or resources – the country provides everything necessary to meet the basic needs of its citizens.
Myth #4: Moscow and Saint Petersburg are showcase cities, while the rest of Russia is impoverished. Ms. Tennison points out that rural areas in both America and Russia have shared fundamental experiences relative to evolutionary economic developments. This implies that persons perpetuating myth #4, either intentionally or through unconscious projection, miss the commonalities of the two nations.
Myth #5: Russian men are dying prematurely in their 50’s. Again, Sharon Tennison admits the truth of this assertion, but that the phenomena occurred most intensely in the terrible 1990’s Russia, and that health conditions/life expectancy measures for both Russian men and women have steadily improved over the last two decades.
Myth #6: Russia is a dangerous country for American travelers. After receiving a recent warning from the U.S. State Department advising Americans against travel to Russia, Ms. Tennison realized that:
“There was nothing dangerous about the society … I live in Russia part of the year, and I can tell you that looking out my windows I see young women and men walking the streets 12 o’clock at night, never afraid of anything. Generally, Russians consider themselves living in an extremely safe society. There are no guns among the citizenry, and the police themselves don’t carry guns – they carry billy sticks”.
Myth #7: Russia intends to be the #1 world power.
“This is completely fallacious”.
Myth #8: Putin is a thug and an assassin. After hearing news that Vladimir Putin was receiving strong consideration as Russian leader after Boris Yeltsin’s departure, Sharon Tennison describes her thoughts at the time:
“I said to my friends: He will never make a decent President of Russia. But, of course, knowing him (Putin) and having had this very intense experience with him earlier, I watched him like a hawk from the beginning. And I began to see what this man was made of. I was not watching the rumors; I was listening and watching what his foreign policy was, and what his internal policy was. So, from my perspective, Putin is a very logical, a very astute, a very quiet, a very honest man … The two (different) pictures of who this man is just don’t match”.
Myth #9: Putin is the richest man in the world. After Putin assumed the presidency of Russia, one of his major actions was to greatly diminish the levels of financial/economic corruption, and especially tax evasion, predominant in the horrible Russian version of the “robber baron” years which cruelly darkened ordinary Russians’ lives in the 1990’s. The highly increased levels of tax receipts/revenues as a result of the corruption crackdown were redirected to rebuilding and renovating cities and regions all across Russia’s 11 time zones, leading to an appreciation of Putin by Russians described by Ms. Tennison:
“Anyone looking at this country today, compared to where it was 18 years ago, understands that a miracle has been created here … He’s considered the greatest leader ever of Russia after Peter the Great”.
Myth #10: Russia is our enemy.
“We have just come from 10 regions and 15 cities across Russia, and we haven’t had one single manifestation, of any kind, of enemy-ship from the Russian people. They all say, ‘We want to be friends with the United States. We admire Americans. We look up to you as leaders and number one in the world. We want to be like you’ … They have to have defensive weapons when we are on their borders with our offensive weapons. Russia really, still, wants to be our friend, and still the friendship is offered. So, we need to take advantage of that”.
“In closing friends, please consider the role of rumors in international relations today. What do they do? They influence people who don’t follow the issues closely. They influence Congress members who have reasons of their own for wanting to go along with whatever the rumor is. They create the opportunity for wars to take place, and invasions to take place that Congress has never authorized. This is the role of rumors”.
“They’re not harmless. It behooves all of us to listen carefully to what’s being said, and to ask questions about it. And to talk with our Congress members about it, and to be on the alert of what’s going on in our names … As these rumors fly around, one after another that are unsubstantiated, that have no relation to the truth and yet they’re creating havoc internationally. One that we could have a nuclear war over”.
For more information, please visit The Center for Citizen Initiatives
(Thank you to Center for Citizen Initiatives at YouTube)