Putin’s new ‘values pact’

March 26, 2014

Now that Russia President Vladimir Putin has swallowed Crimea, the question becomes: What if the peninsula doesn’t satisfy his appetite for new Russian territory? What if the only thing that will satiate his hunger for power is the goulash known as eastern Ukraine? Or does he then move on to Moldova, and then on and on?

Indeed, while the world watched the protests in Kiev and the Sochi Olympics last month, the Moldovan territory of Gagauzia quietly held a referendum about whether or not to join Russia if the rest of the country opts for stronger ties to the European Union. Its citizens, just like those in Crimea, have argued that they would be economically better off on Putin’s planet, rather than as meager satellites in the Western solar system.

The prospect of joining Russia, of course, sounds far better on paper than in reality. The promise of benefits is likely to evaporate when robust Western sanctions throw Russia’s economy into a steeper downturn. The ruble has already lost almost 9 percent of its value this year against the dollar. Many have argued (myself included) that very soon Putin won’t be able to survive the international blowback.

But what if Putin’s grand plan is more than just presiding over the re-united Russian territories? What if his long-term strategy is creating a new global conservative bloc, building an iteration of the Cold War that pits decadent, neo-colonial Western democracies against everyone else?

By beating the anti-West drum and turning the sanctions policy on its head, Putin seeks to mold Russians into an ever more obedient, patriotic public — forced to give up many of their post-Soviet amenities for the sake of glorifying mother Russia.

It seems to be working already. Under Putin, 63 percent of the population finally see their country as a “great power,” the highest percentage in recent years. In this Russia, which is separate from the West, Putin can firmly play the king of the jungle. His jungle, however, is not just Russia, but a whole new world order he wants to establish.

It’s clear now that by 2008, Russia, particularly Moscow, began to resemble Byzantium, the storied center of Orthodox Christianity — only with more supermarkets and Mercedes Benzes. A double-headed eagle, the imperial coat of arms that the Russian tsars appropriated from the Byzantine Empire, now appears everywhere: on subways, in government buildings, in Red Square, even at the Bolshoi Theater.

This was deemed historically apt. Moscow has been known as the “Third Rome” since the 1400s. When Byzantium collapsed, old Moscovia assumed its responsibility to lead Eastern Christians against Western decadence and toward spiritual heaven on earth. Now Moscow can re-assume this role.

Under Putin, the Soviets’ secular society began to rethink its place in a world in which conservative religious beliefs take precedence over civic norms. This helps explain why two members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced in 2011 to almost two years imprisonment for performing their anti-Putin prank “prayer” in Moscow’s main Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Even given this harsh environment, the Kremlin’s new anti-gay propaganda law seemed too severe and unenlightened for a country that effectively participated in Western institutions — most notably (until Monday) the G8, a group of progressively developed nations.

Then, just before the Sochi Olympics, Putin announced that Russia will become a bastion of “conservative values.” He seemed to be following the Byzantium lead — aspiring to lead all nations, not just Christian, that suffer from the West’s “new colonialism.”

Putin had also skillfully reclaimed his place on the world stage by forcefully standing up to the United States. During the scandal over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance, Putin was able to stick it to the Americans by granting asylum to the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Putin also parlayed his role as key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into negotiating a surprise chemical weapons deal. Forbes selected Putin as the most powerful leader of 2013.

Reimagining the post-Cold War order by creating a new “Eastern” bloc to counter the dominant Western secular democracies is perhaps why Putin has continued to support the vile Assad regime in Syria. Now that Egypt has a new military dictatorship, which appears to prefer Russia to the United States, maybe Moscow and Cairo can form a new Warsaw Pact — based on conservative values, oil and arms. Iran might also sign on.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, would be a nice addition to this collection of anti-democratic states. Beijing has its own grievances with the West — the G-7’s tendency to moralize and lecture about human rights and a free press is just part of it.

Granted, this strategy might not work. China is eager to become a singular global leader and Iran appears to be trying to “reset” relations with the West. But who knows? If Putin can offer Beijing a territorial bribe — the most populous nation has been looking to “steal” land from Russia for years — and extend Tehran some nuclear expertise, it might seal the deal.

Yet even if Russia succeeds in becoming the new Byzantium by patriotically ignoring isolation and curtailing all Western influences, the result would still mean the end of Russia as we know it. Putin may be able to turn his post-Cold War grievances into a new Cold War ideology, and this may even allow him to hold onto power for some time. His ideology, however, offers no future, no constructive formula and no human benefits.

For all the West’s inconsistency and even hypocrisy since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, we have (for the most part) lived in the world of comfort and civility, not ideological fervor and militant rejection of legal and economic institutions. On a larger scale, this benefits all.

Sadly, Putin can’t make the same claim.


PHOTO (TOP): President Vladimir Putin waves during the closing ceremony for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

PHOTO (INSERT 1): Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) prepares to sign documents as Sergei Naryshkin (R), speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house, and Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council, look on during a ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow, March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Chirikov/Pool

PHOTO (INSERT 2): Russian President Vladimir Putin (R), Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy II (C) and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch meet at the Kremlin in Moscow, January 22, 2003. REUTERS/Pool/Ivan Sekretarev

PHOTO (INSERT 3): Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) looks at his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin



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I’m really enjoying Putin making Obama look bad on the world stage!

Posted by NE146D9 | Report as abusive

Nina, what do you think about your father who is not Russian citizen gave away Russian Crimea to Ukraine? Besides Ukraine as state is indeed Soviet era product – it was no Ukraine as country before 1917. Roosevelt recognozed Ukraine and Soviet Union in 1933.

Posted by Volgin | Report as abusive

The only prison camp in World these days without any justice – Guantanamo Bay

Posted by Volgin | Report as abusive

Nina, I am sorry, but the the “Liberal Democracy” model “has run out of steam”. There are really 3 hypothetical future visual paths:
1. Think of movie Elysium (without all that robot magic).
2. Think of movie Cyborg with JKVD (Post apocalyptic war world)
3. Age of Aquarius (no idea what that even looks like).

Perhaps, Marx was right after all? At the moment, we got labor surplus and it will only get worse.

Posted by SeeEyeDog | Report as abusive

So what’s the US trying to do? Colonize Russia like it did Europe? Is that possible? We’ll see.

“This helps explain why two members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced in 2011 to almost two years imprisonment for performing their anti-Putin prank “prayer” in Moscow’s main Cathedral of Christ the Savior.”

In the US, they would have received longer sentences for “trespassing” and destroying property. Someone tries to do what they did in a Synagogue or a Cathedral in Washington and see what happens to them.

As far as Crimea is concerned, the US would have done worse had extremists seized power in Mexico by force and installed an openly anti-American, unelected and undemocratic regime across the border.

Its a good thing that the warmongers in Washington get pushed back from time to time from their futile pursuit of world domination.

Posted by Fromkin | Report as abusive

Nice words this tool uses to sell the rot that the West offers — “civic norms,” “comfort and civility.”

The opening of borders to flood white nations with the Third World, promotion of homosexuality, codifying feminism as de facto state law — modernism in all its glory.

To oppose that is to be on the right side of history.

And really, anyone who holds up the laughable degenerates known as Pussy Riot as some avatar of freedom is a joke.

Go Vlad, go.

Posted by f00 | Report as abusive

Russia had to break away.

The West (i.e. Washington with its grandiose dreams of global military hegemony and European puppets in tow) has nothing good in store for Russia.

The writing was on the wall: Military encirclement (in Crimea they went for the jugular), the usual covert sowing of political chaos, then on to natural resource appropriation, handing yet another lot of economic serfs to the Western banking cartels.

I wish Putin and Russia all the best as they try sailing to Byzantium.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

Putin is returning greatness to Russia. And he’s doing so without deficit-creating tax cuts.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

“the Kremlin’s new anti-gay propaganda law seemed too severe and unenlightened for a country”

Is a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles ($111 to $139 at the current exchange rate) really severe?

Posted by yurakm | Report as abusive

All those who want to live in a country run by a commie dictator raise their hands and write good things about Putin. Come to think of it maybe you should move to Russia and give him a hand by busting some heads.

Posted by keebo | Report as abusive

US, especially this administration forget simple basic fact. People need minimum 2 generations to change. Typically, it take 50 years to change. Interest point is where women allowed to decide whether to have child or not after being matured society member means starting late 20s till early 40s, people are ready to move on. But in these society, how many percentage of young women drop out dreaming to be princess is the real risk factor even in these countries.

I do believe east Europe is most ready place where these change to happen. But for now, you need Putin. Because you need somebody being able to stop when stupid boyfriend or husband got drunk or high.

You need Putin just because your babies got chance to grow up matured way, then they are able to remove Putin type of leaders. Funny thing is Putin looks quite clear knowing that destiny and show power only to control these dictator type.

Putin and Xi seems playing exact role model which people there need at current society stage. And Putin looks quite readying to retire and now facing unexpected busy work instead of hope to appeal quiet loved protector image making before retirement. I’m sure Putin is angry against Obama’s stupid try. Russia need Crimea for not losing control of energy.

And prevent to pass back control to Britain or US capitalist is essential for people in former eastern block to achieve competitive infrastructure against US. He is also very cautious about too many Chinese (including Korean) to be resident of these countries. So, when looking at reality, he is doing great job for former USSR citizen although USSR is gone.

Real danger comes from either from happy (crazy) dictators or populist democratic politicians. That how Imperial (Emperor had no power so democratic in reality) Japan got junta politicians take control and started stupid war. Army in peace country is always most dangerous to take control of politics and economy.

People and society need time to change. That time is too long to use for election in foreign. So, I do believe Putin is friend and Obama is enemy to people from this planet. Xi and PLA is too clever his people’s desire and capacity of acceptance in globe still have great difference. Xi will lose power if world show chance of win and Xi did not try. So, we have to weak China, for Xi to stay in power and Xi will do needed change of red China society not eating others including ROC.

Posted by yellowjap | Report as abusive

Why should Putin follow the bankrupt model of the West? The West, and all of our “norms” only benefit us, not the rest of the world.

What Putin is doing is right. He needs to contain the West, which is exactly what he is doing!

Posted by KyleDexter | Report as abusive