Why the West does not want people to visit Russia

An American journalist traveled to Russia against the advice of his friends and colleagues and reports on his surprising impressions.

(Ed.) John Varoli used to report from Russia for years for the New York Times, Reuters and Bloomberg and knows the country well. He had to leave the Western media years ago because his reporting was no longer compatible with their biased reporting. Varoli lives now in the USA and recently visited Russia again. Here is his report. 

Western perceptions of Russia are based on propaganda wrapped in lies, inside mounds of disinformation. So, what’s the real Russia like? I went there to find out. The results were shocking. 

The Holy Trinity Lavra in Sergiev Posad

My lead above is obviously a play on Winston Churchill’s famous quip in 1939 about Russia being “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

In their effort to support the liberal globalist war machine, major Western media unabashedly fabricate their coverage of Russia, a country that they hate because of its defense of national sovereignty and traditional values.

In the realm of Western media lies, life in Russia is akin to North Korea — poverty is rampant and economic collapse imminent under the pressure of sanctions; secret police scour dark empty streets for hapless victims to drag off to slave labor camps; the Kremlin arbitrarily invades neighboring nations “to rebuild the Soviet empire”; and every Russian wants to escape and flee to the West.

This disinformation is so total and omnipresent that even the most educated and astute minds in the West can fall under its influence. The U.S. has few credible independent media and expert sources, and most Americans don’t have the time and skills to do their own research.

Even I had my doubts — just before departing New York last month, I almost cancelled my trip because I was bombarded with messages from people who tried to convince me that “Putin will abduct” me and use me as “a pawn to exchange” for Russians held in U.S. prisons. I began to wonder — “Maybe they’re right.”

With some apprehension, I boarded the plane and within a day I found myself on the Russian border. This was my first visit in five years. Instead of the lies and disinformation mentioned above, my trip revealed a country with a vibrant civil society where people enjoy far more freedom, economic opportunity and social protections than we do in the West.

The Winter Palace on Palace Square, St Petersburg

Developing in the right direction

I spent two weeks traveling to five regions — the Leningrad Region, Saint Petersburg, the Novgorod Region, the Moscow Region, and Moscow. I saw life in both provincial towns and big cities, and talked freely to a wide range of people. I traveled on my own schedule, living in local neighborhoods not in hotels.

Except for extra questioning at the Russian border due to my U.S. passport, never once was I approached, detained, followed, or harassed by police. Russian cities have a distinct vibe of freedom and safety; something you’d never say about U.S. cities.

Even though I visited in March, when the weather is gray and Russians still struggle with winter doldrums, I found the people to be of tremendous heart, goodwill, respect and kindness. I almost felt like I was back in the USA that we had 30 years ago.

The violence, arrogance, rapacity and anger that marked life in Russia when I lived there in 1992 to 2012 seemed to have dissipated significantly. What had happened in the past 12 years to make such a difference? ….especially when in this same period the U.S. has been on a downward spiral of violence, strife, hatred and collective insanity.

Russia is not perfect; it has a fair share of problems like any country. Provincial towns still have a standard of living that lags behind similar settlements in Europe and the U.S. But overall, Russia is developing in the right direction, which can’t be said for the West that’s plagued by increasing civil strife and approaching financial calamity.

Visiting the tomb of St. Sergius in the Holy Trinity Lavra

Packed houses of worship

Orthodox churches are packed. Unlike the U.S. and Europe that are building ‘progressive’ societies based on secular totalitarian ideology, I saw Russians exhibit sincere devout religious sentiment, visiting houses of worship even during weekdays, and, in general, adhering to a moral code as they went about their daily lives.

Even in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the churches were packed, which was very unexpected. Urban dwellers across the globe often have little room for religious faith in their lives. But that’s not the case in Russia. Moscow lives up to its moniker as the “Third Rome”, Christianity’s central city.

With some friends, I visited the tomb of St Sergius at the Holy Trinity Lavra in the Moscow Region. The line of the faithful stretched long to approach the saint’s tomb and leave a prayer request. In the fight with the West, Russia’s monasteries are the country’s ‘secret weapons’. No contraption designed by NATO’s military industries can overcome the spiritual power of Russia’s monasteries and its faithful.

Unlike Zelensky’s Ukraine where the native Orthodox Church has been banned, priests jailed, and churches and monasteries bombed, freedom of religion flourishes in Russia. Traditional faiths are protected from the scorn, derision and persecution that they often face in the West.

No anti-American feeling

While there (rightfully) was much criticism of the White House’s violent and lawless foreign policy, I encountered no hostile sentiment toward the American people; not the slightest incident. In fact, many Russians continue to learn English, watch American entertainment and listen to our music. Compare that to how we have cancelled everything to do with Russia and their culture.

Even though I’m a citizen of a country that now sponsors terrorism and fuels a brutal war against Donbass and Crimea, Russians didn’t harbor ill feelings towards me. I had encountered far more anti-American sentiment while living in Russia in the 1990s, a time when relations were rather friendly.

On this trip, Russians went out of their way to help me in every way possible; to be hospitable, friendly and accommodating. How to account for such humane and enlightened attitudes? Perhaps it’s connected to the piety of the Russian people, with their deep understanding of the power of mercy, charity and forgiveness, and a belief that individuals shouldn’t be held responsible for the sins of their ruling class.

St. Petersburg — Nevsky Prospect and Griboyedov Canal

Rising living standards

The Russian economy is booming and people now live far better than before the year 2000 when Vladimir Putin became president. Unemployment hovers just above 2.5%, and inflation is under control. Interest rates, however, are in the range of 17%, which is a drag on further economic growth.

Even if we put aside the technological and industrial advances of the past two decades that have improved life for most people across the globe, there are specific policy decisions by Putin’s government that have improved the quality of life.

These include his vigorous efforts to improve law-enforcement, restore public safety, as well as smash organized crime and the stranglehold that liberal oligarchs once had over Russia’s economy. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the oligarchs siphoned off hundreds of billions of dollars in national wealth, mostly from the sale of natural resources, and then stashed the cash abroad.

To this day, I can personally name Russian gangsters, fugitives from justice in Moscow, who have found a warm welcome in the U.S. This is why some oligarchs in exile can’t forgive Putin and continue to finance so-called ‘opposition figures’ such as the deceased U.S. asset Alexei Navalny.

By ‘rising living standards’ I don’t merely mean material well-being. There are also non-tangibles to consider, such as living in a country where the government protects and supports national cultures, traditional values and sovereignty. This is certainly a major factor contributing to the optimism that I sensed in the air.

Finally, the food — the food is fantastic. Natural. Delicious. Fresh. I surmise this is the result of strict state regulation over the food supply and the quality of ingredients and means of preparation — Something that’s nearly absent in the U.S.

With students in St. Petersburg

Vibrant and open discussions

Everyone I spoke to, from the average person in the street to those who I met at events, exhibited an exceptional intellectual curiosity and ability. People were open-minded, eager to discuss and debate. They exhibited a high level of knowledge about their country and the world.

I lectured at the St. Petersburg Technology University, where insightful discussions ensued with students, some of whom disagreed with Russia’s policies. No one was afraid; conversations were lively and uninhibited. There were no ‘thought police’ ready to pounce, as is often the case in American universities.

For the most part, the vast majority of Russians sincerely support President Putin, as recent elections prove. There are two main reasons for his massive popularity — he stopped Russia’s disintegration in the 1990s, and his policies have made the country a much better place to live.

Also, I attended a few talk shows on state-run TV where we discussed geopolitics. I was surprised that the TV host always presented the U.S. version of events, even showing western media coverage so that the audience would clearly understand both sides of the issue, and not just the Russian point of view.

Then several of us would go on to discuss, debate and analyze the issue at hand. Never once did anyone try to prep me, control me, prod me or push me to say certain things. In fact, a few of the talk shows were live on air — which goes to show just how much freedom the Russian media allows.


“Do Not Travel” to Russia?

This could be the finest portrait of Joe Biden (above), capturing the essence of his soul — an evil man who has brought misery and suffering to so many. I suspect that such a portrait is hidden somewhere in a White House attic, something right out of Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The White House is afraid of Americans traveling to Russia. Why? Because they don’t want us to know the truth about how Putin has succeeded in making Russia stronger and more prosperous, how he protects the national culture and its traditions — All things that most Americans would love to see their own government do.

That’s why the State Department has labeled Russia as “a level 4 risk — DO NOT TRAVEL.” John Kirby, the White House’s national security communications adviser, has said that “If you’re a U.S. citizen, including a dual national, residing in or traveling in Russia, you ought to leave right now. Depart immediately.”

For my part, I can’t wait to return to Russia. And many Americans agree with me. Russia has become a destination for American dissidents and refugees, with a private effort afoot to build two ‘American villages’ outside of Moscow.


Crocus and Russia’s historic mission

My trip to Russia was marred on my last day with news of the heinous terrorist attack in Moscow. Investigators have pretty much proven that Ukraine’s secret services were behind the Crocus City massacre and that the West most likely assisted. Earlier this year, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland had threatened Russia with “nasty surprises”, while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Miley threatened “There should be no Russian who goes to sleep without wondering if they’re going to get their throat slit in the middle of the night.”

At the very least, the U.S. and all of NATO bear responsibility for the attacks because over the past two years they’ve incited hatred of Russians through disinformation, as well as by arming the regime in Kiev, and because the CIA actively trains the Ukrainian secret police in committing terrorist attacks and other crimes.

The Crocus City terror attack is a turning point. It’s the nail in the Kiev regime’s coffin, and possibly that of NATO. The attack has only strengthened Russian resolve. Just in the past week, the Russian Air Force has knocked out much of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, and a hunt is underway for agents of its secret services responsible for a multitude of terrorist attacks.

More than ever, Russians understand very well that they’re fighting for their survival, against a formidable coalition of some 50 hostile nations that’s come to their doorstep to continue where Napoleon and Hitler failed. In many ways, we could even classify the liberal globalist onslaught as the ‘spiritual heir’ to the bloody French Revolution and Nazi death cult.

Recent events show clearly that we’ve left the realm of mere geopolitical rivalry between East and West. This is now another epic war against evil. And the past 210 years show conclusively that Russia always emerges triumphant.

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John Varoli publishes his articles on his Substack account here.