Ben Stein Addresses Russian Energy Imperialism on Fox News

This week the actor and former Nixon advisor Ben Stein appeared on the Fox News Channel to discuss Europe’s reliance on Russian energy. Judge for yourselves, but I think Stein’s use of the terms “evil” and “barbaric” play right into the hands of Russia’s apologists, who promote the Russia-as-victim metanarrative, and uphold the image of Russia being subject to irrational fear and undeserved suspicion from the West. To put the energy imperialism discussion in these black and white moral terms, Stein is doing for Russia what George W. Bush did for international relations following the Axis of Evil speech – all populism and no progress. I am critical of Russia’s energy policies because 1) they break international rules and norms, 2) they violate property rights and are in flagrant breach of contracts, and 3) they are overtly used a political lever, especially toward the former satellite states. These issues are more than enough to motivate a response – it is not necessary to pass moral judgments. In my view, the entire discussion on Russia going off the rails – it has become way too emotive, way too pejorative, and there is no doubt that it is absolutely helping the radical forces within the Kremlin gain more and more influence.