American Pussy Riot

A call for revolution in the New York Times?

DENIS SINYAKOV/REUTERS

American zealots for the recently convicted Russian punk rock trio Pussy Riot don’t know what they’re actually supporting, says New York Times Russian columnist Vadim Nikitin. If they did, they might think twice – Pussy Riot stands for ideals most American liberals, let alone conservatives, don’t really want. The US has a long history of loving their competitors’ dissidents. And Russia, either communist or oligarchical, has always proven to be the perfect foil.

Here’s what Vadim Nikitin has to say:

From Madonna to Björk, from the elite New Yorker to the populist Daily Mail, the world united in supporting Russia’s irreverent feminist activists Pussy Riot against the blunt cruelty inflicted on them by the state. It may not have stopped Vladimir Putin’s kangaroo court from sentencing them to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism, but blanket international media pressure helped turn the case into a major embarrassment for the Kremlin.

Yet there is something about the West’s embrace of the young women’s cause that should make us deeply uneasy, as Pussy Riot’s philosophy, activism and even music quickly took second place to its usefulness in discrediting one of America’s geopolitical foes. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, are dissident intellectuals once again in danger of becoming pawns in the West’s anti-Russian narrative?

Back in the ’70s, the United States and its allies cared little about what Soviet dissidents were actually saying, so long as it was aimed against the Kremlin. No wonder so many Americans who had never read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s books cheered when he dissed the Soviet Union later felt so shocked, offended and even betrayed when he criticized many of the same shortcomings in his adoptive homeland. Wasn’t this guy supposed to be on our side?

Using dissidents to score political points against the Russian regime is as dangerous as adopting a pet tiger: No matter how domesticated they may seem, in the end they are free spirits, liable to maul the hand that feeds them.

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