Author sparks conversation over Putin


Jackie Jahfetson

“‘Normal’ is a word I never heard spoken so lovingly as in Russia. If you live with 70 years of totalitarianism, chaos, famines and purges, normal seems like a fantastic thing. When I first went to talk to people in Russia, they loved that Putin was sober minded…and that came as a tremendous relief to many people in ways we did not appreciate,” said Susan B. Glasser, Chief International Affairs Columnist and author.

Glasser, who co-wrote “Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution,” spoke via livestream on Monday to NMU students and the community of how Putin’s leadership came into place and whether or not another Cold War is on the rise.

The lecture titled “Putin, Russia and the New Cold War?” came with the continuation of “The Great Decisions Global Discussion Series” held every Monday at the Learning Resource Center (LRC). Glasser shared the four years she spent in Russia as a Washington Post Moscow Bureau Chief and her belief that Putin’s rise to power may have been a miscalculation of the United States.

“Will [Putin] make it to Stalin’s record in office, it’s hard to say,” Glasser said. “Vladimir Putin is the leader of Russia in the 21st century but he is a product 20th century Soviet Russia in a way that shapes all of his perspectives and experience.”

Though Glasser’s focus was on Putin, her lecture left out some variables that could better illustrate the expansion of Russia, said Hanna Kassab, NMU political science professor. Kassab added that he thought her comparison of Putin to Joseph Stalin was not an accurate depiction.

“It’s like when you compare Donald Trump to Hitler, it doesn’t mesh well. There’s certain traits maybe strong leaders share. But when you really boil down to it, you should not throw that label around because it becomes meaningless,” Kassab said.

With Russia’s expansion pursuits in places like Crimea, this is not an ordinary playing field and the topic of Russian foreign policy should be viewed as an issue to be reckoned with, Kassab said.

“We have to be aware as the leader of the free world of what our interests are, what Russian interests are and somehow cooperate,” he said. “You have to be mindful because, eventually, a clash may occur and clashes may result in war.”

It’s not just a national issue, students can also benefit from these lectures and come away with a better understanding of global politics, he added.

“I think it’s wonderful to bring speakers at a low-cost fashion to Northern,” he said. “We live in a global world, and the things that happen out there always come back to influence us.”

For students like senior political science major Cole Wahoviak, Glasser’s presentation offered a new perspective on the fall of the Soviet Union and understanding Russia as a major player in international politics, Wahoviak said.

“Debate and discussion are quintessential to establishing progress. It’s important to the community and it’s probably the most important issue of our time,” Wahoviak added.

Next week’s lecture features “South Africa at the Crossroads: Implications for U.S. South Africa Relations” by Desiree Cormier, senior director of Albright Stonebridge Group’s Africa Practice. It will be held from noon to 1:40 p.m. in room 111-C of the LRC.