Press "Enter" to skip to content

On Putin’s War: Talking With A ‘Tankie’

(All dialogue based on real interaction).

Me: Hi friend. Nice to see you. So, as predicted and feared, Putin invaded the Ukraine, even though you and your fellow travelers said that was all USA hype. And half a year later it’s a huge disaster in every way, as also predicted. It could even take Putin down at last, in addition to all the senseless suffering he’s caused. But you, a so-called leftist socialist type, support it. What gives?

Tankie: It’s all the USA’s fault. And NATO.

Q: You mean Putin bears no responsibility for his illegal invasion, war crimes, bombing civilians, hospitals, schools, all that?

A: The USA is bad, imperialist, militaristic. But why are you calling me Tankie?

Q: Oh right, sorry. It’s a new term to me, I had to look it up when a young Democratic Socialist friend told me about it and how embarrassed he is by your type. The Urban Dictionary: “A tankie is a hardline Stalinist communist who believes fully in the political system of the Soviet Union and defends the actions of the Soviet Union and other accredited states (China, Serbia, etc.) to the hilt, even in cases where other communists criticize their policies or actions. For instance, such a person favours overseas interventions by Soviet-style states, defends these regimes when they engage in human rights violations … tankies also supported “sending the tanks in” in cases such as Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1979, Bosnia and Kosovo, and so on, whereas the rest of the communist movement has gravitated towards anti-militarism)…”. I read all that and immediately thought yes, that’s you.

A: That means you don’t know anything.

Q: Why? You’ve even voiced support for Assad in Syria, Ghaddafi in Libya, and the like. These are butchers and dictators in the extreme. You’re an ultra-tankie. 

A: America has invaded all over the world.

Q: Can’t argue with you there. Russia meddles globally too. But for you that makes Putin’s actions justified?

A: Ukraine is full of Nazis. Putin’s just denazifying it.

Q: Oh boy. Even Putin has backed off on that transparent nonsense now. I think it’s true there are some bad actors there. But nobody was begging Putin to come in and save them, Ukraine’s President is a Jew and many Jewish Ukrainian Jews have been forced out, and the whole “denazification” thing is widely known as a sham - other than in Russia where free press is repressed and state propaganda reigns supreme, of course. Plus, should we destroy whole nations to get rid of a relative few? There are Nazis in Idaho - should we invade there? Remember Vietnam - “bomb them into the Stone Age” to save them from commies? What’s the difference now?

A: NATO caused all this by expanding throughout Europe.

Q: How much time have you spent in Russia, if any? How many actual Russian people do you know?

A: The USA is imperialist.

Q: Yes, yes, I know. That’s really all you’ve got it seems. As if Putin isn’t. I accused you of “whattaboutism” and you actually seemed to take it as a compliment. But you’d be booted out of any decent class in logic, politics, or the like. As would your “sources.” It seems all you do is spread Russian propaganda from fellow tankies who have never really done anything but that. And now you are in fact supporting imperialist warmongering.

A: Bull. Here’s ninety links you have to read to understand this situation. 

Q: That’s your other reflexive reaction - bury people in more rhetoric by those who think like you, parroting Putin but with no real experience. I’ve read too much of it already, it’s all the same. And most of it comes via Russian state media, which is all that’s allowed there now, or self-appointed experts with zero relevant experience. I don’t even believe you read much of it. The irony is, I’m with you on so much of the bad history of American foreign policy, militarism, hypocrisy, etc. But I - and most any humane thinking human - draws the line at bombing children, raping women, destroying hospitals and schools, and so on. You excuse it all if it’s on your “side,” just like any imperialist. It’s pure hypocrisy.

A: The CIA has engineered bad stuff in many places.

Q: True. And Putin was KGB, which might as well be Gestapo. Russia has horrible records and ratings on human rights of all kinds, and the worst rating on media freedom, from all the veteran human rights organizations. Reporters who don’t tow the Kremlin line get murdered or disappeared. Opponents get mysteriously poisoned or more recently, “fall” out of buildings. Solzhenitsyn’s gulag archipelago still exists. Meanwhile an utterly corrupt class of Russian elites become billionaires as so many in the “workers’ paradise” toil in poverty. Putin himself is likely one of the richest of all.

A: We have “oligarchs” too, we just don’t call them that.

Q: Agreed. But most of them don’t pretend to be anything else, they’re proud capitalists. Wasn’t Russia supposed to be different, better, more equitable, all that? That’s all gone, and they are one of the most corrupt, repressive, and even militaristic nations of all. Even though it looks like they might not be so good at that last one after all.

A: You’re just saying “Russia Russia Russia”, but even Mueller couldn’t pin all that stuff on Trump.

Q: Er, actually, Mueller's report and many more after have shown mass Russian meddling here, but right, Trump was likely not directly in on it - unlike many of his cronies and lackeys who were. I mean, what smart meddler would tell Trump about anything, really? But doesn’t it give you pause, as a leftist, even radical, to be aligned with the likes of Trump - who called Putin a genius - and Tucker Carlson, et al? And that the supporters of Putin’s war are down to North Korea, Iran, now Berlesconi in Italy, and very few others, all right-wing authoritarians?

A: That’s just anti-Russia propaganda.

Q: No, now even China and India are voicing opposition to Putin’s invasion. So have progressive icons like Noam Chomsky, for crissake. The International Socialist Alternative, for one such group, demands Putin’s withdrawal from the Ukraine. Inside Russia, ever more officials, public figures, and protesters in the streets are bravely opposing the war - brave, as ever more of them mysteriously die. Now there’s a mass military draft there - do you support that, or would you here?

A: Russians support the Special Operation.

Q: Ahem. That’s what Putin called his attack on Georgia too, and his support for Syrian atrocities- Assad, trained as a doctor, called them “operations, where you unavoidably spill some blood.” And inside Russia few have dared speak out honestly - it’s a mass surveillance state, and who would be honest in fake pollsters calling? On the other hand, Zelensky won his office with 70% of the popular vote but you and Putin want him out. Honestly I think that if this were the Spanish Civil War you’d be siding with Franco’s fascists. And all based on archaic twisted Marxist ideology, like old farts arguing over Das Kapital in some cafe. But you’d never put yourself in harm’s way. Such cowardly “revolutionaries” you Tankies are.

A: You’re just arrogant.

Q: Me? Unlike you, I don’t pretend to know what I don’t. Even though I’ve been to Russia, where people begged us to get them out, and have read the objective reports and books by those with real backgrounds and direct expertise, I don’t pretend to be an expert myself - unlike your ideologues, astrologers, armchair commentators, and downright creeps, including convicted pedophiles. I just hate war, especially under utterly false pretense. Putin wants the Ukraine’s land, more subjects, and natural resources, like gas - follow the money. Read “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West” by Catherine Belton (2020). The Guardian review summarizes it: “The revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine of 2004-5 fed Putin’s “dark paranoia” that the Kremlin was threatened by a western plot to topple his regime. The Kremlin has subsequently revelled in escalating conflicts with the western powers as a marker of Russia’s newly regained stature on the world stage. At home, a slavish media celebrates Russian military exploits in Ukraine and Syria, while abroad, the Kremlin’s media networks spew a stream of innuendo and obfuscation that creates mistrust in western governments and institutions.”

A: She’s a stooge, a transcriber for the US State Department.

Q: No, again, the only media allowed in Russia now is purely State-controlled. But you’re fine with that, and spread it. Read a piece called “The anti-imperialism of idiots” by Leila Al-Shami. It nails your fringe: “This left exhibits deeply authoritarian tendencies, one that places states themselves at the centre of political analysis. Solidarity is therefore extended to states (seen as the main actor in a struggle for liberation) rather than oppressed or underprivileged groups in any given society, no matter that state’s tyranny…This pro-fascist left seems blind to any form of imperialism that is non-western in origin… I will never see people who place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories and atrocity denial, as allies.”

A: She’s a stooge, a transcriber for th-

Q: Please, somebody get me a strong drink. Who can argue with cultists? I give up. 

A: See? I win.


  1. john ignoffo October 11, 2022

    The MSM has already done an excellent job of demonizing gangster/plutocrat Putin. As true and incisive Mr. Heileg’s analysis may be, this perspective makes a negotiated settlement increasingly unlikely. The alternative should be unthinkable, but it isn’t.

  2. Jonah raskin October 11, 2022

    Thanks Steve!

  3. Ted Dace October 14, 2022

    This article reads like an exercise in anxiety management. Unfortunately we have a lot to be anxious about right now. President Biden has stated that if Putin resorts to nukes in Ukraine, the result will be Armageddon. Presumably he means that the US will counter with an equal or greater strike and that the back and forth could easily escalate into full scale nuclear war. This would of course mean the end of civilization and possibly the extinction of the human race.

    If Putin does resort to a tactical nuclear strike, it will be in response to the huge amount of advanced weaponry the West is pouring into Ukraine. So the obvious resolution is to stop arming Ukraine and start talking instead. Putin has just in the last few days reiterated his desire for talks, and the Biden administration refused, perhaps thinking that a NATO-fueled Ukraine can decisively win this war. One thing we can all agree on is that Putin wants to incorporate Russian-majority areas of Ukraine into Russia. These are areas where most people speak Russian and identify as Russian and who no longer wish to be part of Ukraine. Even if it means letting the “bad guy” win, are we seriously going to risk the future of the human race over this? What about all the people around the world don’t care in the least about this conflict? Why should their lives be threatened by nuclear winter because of our obsessive need to punish the object of our hatred? And what about our own descendants? All out nuclear war kills not only the current generation but all future generations. It’s the greatest crime imaginable. For that matter, why do we even still have these horrific weapons? Not only is it imperative to negotiate an end to this crisis, but we need to get serious about destroying the nukes once and for all.

    We were warned for many years by our own authorities, including renowned cold warrior George Kennan, that expanding NATO to Russia’s border with Ukraine would provoke a very nasty response from Russia. Since the 2014 coup that overturned Ukraine’s Russia-friendly government, Kiev has been not just pro-Western but contemptuous of Russian-majority regions in the east, shelling cities and killing thousands of people. According to OSCE, shelling sharply increased each day starting on February 16th, eight days before Putin invaded. Clearly this action served no purpose except to provoke Putin. Zelensky did this despite the fact that he won overwhelming support from his people by running as a peace and reconciliation candidate, promising to stop the violence in the Donbas and pledging to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Instead he betrayed his people and brought them war and death. My point is not to justify Putin’s invasion but only to make it clear that the West, which backed the 2014 coup, is complicit in this. We had a hand in creating this catastrophe, and it’s up to us to put a stop to it before it escalates to Armageddon.

    Proving that we’re right and the other guy is wrong is a great way of containing and minimizing anxiety, but it’s not helping us deal constructively with the awful situation we now face.

    • Steve Heilig Post author | October 15, 2022

      Hi and thanks for your comment.
      But: It’s not about “anxiety,” but about hypocrisy- those who accept and even endorse from Putin (or China, Syria, etc) what they (rightly) decry from the USA. All out of blind ideology. I don’t pretend to have answers. But appeasing an invading madman won’t help. It’s naive to think he’d stop with the Ukraine. And again two wrongs don’t make a right. I think your interpretation of the history thus far is highly questionable. Putin has brought war and death. But too much to get into here.
      Chomsky had it right from the start: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a major war crime, ranking alongside the U.S. invasion of Iraq & the Hitler-Stalin invasion of Poland in…1939… It always makes sense to seek explanations, but there is no justification, no extenuation.”
      Thanks again.

      (Re nukes, read the atomic scientists’ take – frightening indeed:

  4. Ben Johnson October 16, 2022

    Another title for this piece: “Pundit Debates Self, Loses Badly”

    • Steve Heilig Post author | October 18, 2022

      Clever, and so we might wish, but as stated, the dialog is all too real. In fact I left out the most unhinged tankie stuff as most reasonable readers would not even believe such Putinist propaganda from so-called ”progressives”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *