The Russian Empire Strikes Back
Vladimir Putin’s strategic and private ambitions extend far beyond the rocky and waterless Crimean peninsula reaching out into the Black Sea. These days, he is often described as an aggressive revanchist, seeking to restore the former glory of the Soviet Union. It is true -- to a certain extent.
The area within the former USSR borders is too narrow for Mother Russia. Her main goal is global supremacy. No more, no less. Although there are no signs that the West is aware of the threatened danger.
Rustling of the Laurel Crown
Of course, Mr. Putin and a great many of his retinue had once been communists. But at present they are inveterate capitalists. You’ll never find them humming The Internationale or studying 55 volumes of Lenin’s Complete Collected Works. Yet almost every one of them is well-versed in tricky business and shady financial schemes.
The ascetic traditions of the revolutionary Bolsheviks were rejected a long, long time ago. The political elite of modern Russia are concentrated together in the famous suburb Rublevka, the most expensive in the Moscow region and in the whole of Russia. It is a dream that came true, a place shining with luxury and splendor. President Putin lives there.
You may think that the Kremlin clique have everything they need. In this case you are wrong. They will not rest till they have got the whole world. It is as simple as that.
In 2008, Russia had already won the Blitzkrieg against Georgia, when Putin (behind then-President Medvedev’s back) sent the army over the border to protect local Russian population. Those forces still occupy the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Now it is the turn of Crimea. It must be cut off from the Ukraine.
There will be more economic sanctions and diplomatic threats, but the world is unable to prevent this forcible annexation. Like Bush before him, Obama did not dare to confront Russia on the battlefield. As for the rest of the West, they will prefer to stay away, because too many European countries are heated by Siberian gas and too much of Russia’s money circulates through the banking system of the UK.
And Vladimir Putin understands it very well. From the bottom of his soul he despises the West and thinks it is rotten to the core. Rather a natural point of view for the man who has described the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”
Hard Man with a Soft Voice
During the rule of Putin the Russian Federation began to be transformed into the Russian Empire, which is aggressive and expansive. Nothing to wonder about it because the emperors always dreamed of world conquest, and Putin is undoubtedly the emperor.
Why didn’t anybody notice this before? Only 15 years ago, President George W. Bush’s statement that he had looked the Russian leader in the eye and glimpsed his soul was greeted with relief and also hope. This March, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton compared him to Hitler, and no one was astonished.
Many analysts concluded that Putin had been suddenly changed into a dangerous dictator, which is wrong. He is acting the way he always did -- with empty eyes and cold heart.
Over and over, he demonstrates aggression, roughness and falsity in both his foreign and domestic meetings. When Putin spices his political speeches with vulgar jokes, when he lies so easily to the international press and the public, he is showing everyone his disregard for all rules of good manners and good neighborhood.
For Western culture, which is based on principles of mutual respect and recognition, it is impossible to accept such a world view. It is too alien, too otherworldly to provide comfort to anyone who considers himself or herself as a part of civilized society. But Putin does not fear destroying diplomatic or economic and relations with Europe and the US. Quite the contrary, he becomes more and more provocative.
As Putin reclaimed the presidency in 2012, he proclaimed: “We're a victorious people. It's in our genetic code, passed down from generation to generation. The battle for Russia continues! We will be victorious! We won’t let anyone meddle in our domestic affairs!'”
Interference in the domestic affairs of Ukraine is entirely another thing, of course.
So what will happen next? No one, even in Washington, really knows.
As for me, I want to conclude with the aphorism of Clausewitz who once said that “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Putin would subscribe to these words.
Sergey Maidukov is a Russian speaking writer in Eastern Ukraine