Whataboutism is a term coined by The Economist to allege a tactic primarily used by the Russians and former Soviets in their dealings with the West. At times when criticism was leveled against the Soviets by Western countries, the response would be: "What about X?" - an accusation of critics's hypocrisy in which a comparable but often less publicized related incident ("X") is brought up to reflect any criticism.
In 2008, The Economist claimed that this tactic is observed in the politics of modern Russia, along with this being evidence of a resurgence of Cold War and Soviet-era mentality within Russia's leadership.
At the end of the Cold War the usage of the tactic began dying out, but saw a resurgence in post-Soviet Russia in relation to a number of alleged human rights violations and other criticisms expressed towards Russia. The Guardian writer Miriam Elder commented that Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov used the tactic and that most criticisms on human rights violations had gone unanswered. Peskov responded to Elder's article on the difficulty of dry-cleaning in Moscow with a whataboutism on the difficulty Russians experience in obtaining a visa to the United Kingdom. In July 2012, RIA Novosti columnist Konstantin von Eggert wrote an article about the use of whataboutism in relation to Russian and American support for different governments in the Middle East.
The term received minor attention during the 2014 Crimea crisis and 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine. It was also used in reference to Azerbaijan, which responded to criticism of its human rights record by holding parliamentary hearings on issues in the United States.[unreliable source?]
- Staff writer (January 31, 2008). "Whataboutism". The Economist. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
- Staff writer (December 11, 2008). "The West is in danger of losing its moral authority". European Voice. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
- Elder, Miriam (April 26, 2012). "Want a response from Putin's office? Russia's dry-cleaning is just the ticket". The Guardian. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
- von Eggert, Konstantin (July 25, 2012). "Due West: 'Whataboutism' Is Back – and Thriving". RIA Novosti.
- Keating, Joshua (21 March 2014). "The Long History of Russian Whataboutism". Slate. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- Drezner, Daniel (20 August 2014). "Ferguson, whataboutism and American soft power". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- "Azerbaijan Concerned About Human Rights – In The United States.". RFERL. January 16, 2015.