“I believe,” Putin tells Solovyov, “that no one should ever impose any sort of values he considers correct on anyone. We have our own values, our own conceptions of justice.” Putin doesn’t name names here, but the implication is clear throughout: World Order endeavors to incriminate American foreign policy and place the blame for the current chaos in the Middle East on the United States. The film’s anti-Americanism is subtle but relentless, and the spin comes mostly from omission of relevant facts. And though it originated within the Russian state propaganda machine, some of its criticisms of wrongheaded U.S. policies and blundering interventions in the Middle East since September 11, 2001, would give American liberals, centrists, and even a few conservatives little cause for dispute. Yet the documentary goes further, leaving the strong impression that greedy, bungling, incorrigibly myopic conspirators “from across the ocean” (a phrase Putin uses repeatedly in the film to describe the U.S. leadership) bent on world domination are to blame; Russia comes off as unjustly demonized and Russians themselves forced to suffer economically as a result.
The last point is not stated, but is implied, and gives another clue about how the world looks from Russia. For Russians, to a degree unthinkable in the United States, foreign policy is also domestic policy, not least because their Near Abroad includes Ukraine, with which their ties of blood, history, and culture remain intimate. And thanks to multiple invasions of Russia during the 19th and 20th centuries, a preoccupation with national security and national pride figure strongly in Russian politics, with the possibility of war not at all remote. A philosophy of realpolitik—and not, say, values promotion—would come naturally under the circumstances.
Indeed, as the film tells it, the root of all international evils is the American penchant for democracy-spreading, both subtle (via U.S. support for “color revolutions” in the post-Soviet sphere) and overt (as in overthrowing Saddam Hussein). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declares that the Arab Spring was fomented from abroad, disregarding the Middle Eastern region’s widespread popular discontent with official corruption, political stasis, and lack of job opportunities. The United States intervenes despite bitter experience within living memory; the American director Oliver Stone appears onscreen to tell viewers that “America didn’t learn the lesson of Vietnam, which is you shouldn’t go around invading other countries.”
But Putin denies chiding Obama directly at the UN for the consequences of the Arab Spring. “I wasn’t saying this [to President Obama]” Putin tells Solovyov, but to the constellation of leaders, both American and European, who have been meddling in Muslim lands since 2001. “I have always been telling [these leaders] that they have to act carefully. It’s wrong to impose one’s scheme ... of ideas concerning good and evil, or in this case, good and democracy,” on countries “with differing cultures, a different religion, with other traditions. But frankly, no one listens, because they apparently consider themselves infallible and great.” No one, he adds, holds those leaders accountable, whatever the outcome. When an “operation” produces the wrong results, Putin says, the (again, unnamed) leaders in question just say, “Oh well. Next!” After all, “They’re great and sitting across the ocean, the dollar is the world’s currency, they have the biggest economy in the world.”