I was just reading these two articles(1, 2) by John R. Schindler and I was thoroughly impressed. This guy seriously gets it. I highly recommend reading both of them, but the second one is particularly informative for people who don’t understand the Kremlin’s ideology.
Obviously there are things I would dispute in the article but nothing major- it’s simply difference of opinion or interpretation issues. I would highlight one thing that I recommend everyone keep in mind when examining the question of the Kremlin’s ideology. Study it as you please, but always keep in mind that there is always a limit to what extent Putin and his close circle actually believe in any of these theories. I figure Putin must have a measure of sincere belief, partially to rationalize his actions and partially because he is, possibly voluntarily, disconnected from reality. Still, you cannot fully understand Putin by ideology alone.
Putin and his elite come from the same cloth as the Russian oligarchs that came before. They have no moral principles whatsoever. All they cherish is power and luxury beyond belief, the latter being tangible proof of the former. Money is no object. If you have a genuine virgin Swiss milkmaid shit in a handcrafted burlap sack and put it on sale in an elite European mall, these pigs would pay thousands of euros to have it. When they look at European luxury cars and high-tech gadgets they don’t ask themselves how they could transform Russia into a country that produces its own versions of these products for export; they just want the products. Millions of pensioners, orphans, and terminally ill children be damned!
So basically the caveat here is that anyone who wants to understand Putin and his system must remember that ideology is a means to an end. Putin is scared and he needs to rally the people behind him. He has nothing real to offer so he courts a certain segment of the population that responds to his neo-imperialist ideology and sets them loose on dissenters. If Putin could somehow maintain power by selling a piece of Russia and its citizens to a foreign country, he certainly would. It just so happens that he can’t.
I have to say in some ways I think Schindler overstates Russia’s threat to the world, a la Edward Lucas, but after a more thorough reading and some reflection I don’t think that’s the case. I have always acknowledged that Russia poses a danger(as many other countries *COUGH*USA!*COUGH* do), it’s just that I’ve recommended not engaging in hysterics which only send the Kremlin and its key demographic into fits of masturbatory ecstasy. Moreover, I believe that like a drunk man swinging his arms around wildly, Russia can do a lot of damage to its neighbors before collapsing, which will open a whole other can of worms. In this sense, I don’t think there really is a difference between my view and that of Schindler, who does rationally argue that whatever his ideological beliefs, Putin will ultimately fail. It’s just a question of who suffers in the mean time. If there is a difference, it is only that Schindler appeals to Western leaders to wake up to this threat and do something about it, whereas I don’t put my faith in governments. I believe Western leaders would happily draw up a map with Putin if he would just leave Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and Belarus in their sphere. They were happy to tolerate him before.
Very educational reading.