In a recent article on Fair Observer titled, “Making Sense of Vladimir Putin’s Long Game,” Atul Singh and Glenn Carle make the case that president has an overarching plan to bring back the tsarist empire. They contend that has thought deeply about strategy and tactics and is influenced by history, philosophy and the Orthodox Church in devising his actions. They assert that Putin’s dream is to restore modern-day to its historic greatness and global power.
Making Sense of Vladimir Putin’s Long Game
The authors imply that the same impulses motivate thepeople, and that the president is leading a popular movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. is an opportunist, a kleptomaniac, a thug and a mafia boss. If he were leading a popular movement, he would allow free elections. But he does not, preferring killing, poisoning and imprisoning anyone who dares to stand against him. is motivated only by survival.
The current crisis revolves around Ukraine, which most likely refers to the Vikings who came to the region from present-day Sweden in long boats. In 882, Kyiv was taken by Prince Oleg who established the first Rus dynasty.contends is not only an integral part of but more resonantly the site of the original Kingdom of Rus and the wellspring of the peoples. Incidentally, the word “Rus” is cognate with “rower” and
This conquest is embedded in insisted that Ukraine was independent and should be granted separate membership with a vote at the UN. Most Ukrainians have always longed for independence from Moscow’s rule.consciousness, and many Russians consider Kyiv and the surrounding lands as an essential part of the motherland. However, over a long and complicated history, Ukraine has had many different rulers. For generations, Ukraine and have had separate identities, and even Joseph Stalin, at the end of World War II,
A stronger influence on Putin’s and many Russians’ thinking is the humiliation wrought by the Germans in 1917 with the enforcement of the Brest Litovsk Treaty. In 1917, Vladimir Lenin was determined to getout of the Great War at any price. The Germans exacted crushing terms and took the Baltic states, Ukraine and Belarus from . It was a disaster.
Fast forward to 2022, and the borders of that treaty are almost identical to the current borders of NATO, plus Ukraine and Belarus. If Ukraine were to join NATO (or the EU), then from Putin’s point of view,would be back at its lowest point of the past 200 years and, worse, Germany would have prevailed after all.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union still actively haunting called it the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” — many Russians have sympathy for the contention that the West has taken unfair advantage of weakness and betrayed alleged promises made to Mikhail Gorbachev at the end of the Cold War regarding NATO’s eastward expansion. is naturally determined that the final act — Ukraine’s absorption into the West — does not happen on his watch.’s collective consciousness — President
What is more, he thinks he has identified an emotional, nationalistic issue which he can use to divert thepopulation from his failures. But is, in fact, on the back foot, trying to avoid another humiliation, not restoring its greatness.
Weakness and Decline
Looking south,has lost many of the territories it gained during the wars with Turkey and Iran in the 19th century. Armenia and Azerbaijan have not joined NATO, but Georgia would like to. Here too, is trying to fend off more humiliation.
Moving east, the Taliban victory in Afghanistan is another disaster for . One of the main reasons, or the least bad option at the time, for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was to halt the rise of militant Islam that threatened to infect the Muslim states of the USSR, principally Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. You can bet is worried sick about the effect on its near abroad and the possibility of the Chechens, Dagestanis and Tartars rising up again with Taliban support.
Even farther east, Far East Federal District, which, at nearly 7 million square kilometers, makes up over 40% of territory. The regional capital Vladivostok sits on land taken from China in 1860 and is regarded by Beijing as one of the lost territories, along with Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Migration from China into the region has been an issue for decades, prompting nationalist nightmares of a Chinese takeover.is on dangerous ground. Just over 8 million live in the
may be cozying up to China, but from a position of weakness. cannot cope with a hostile Beijing that may eventually want to recover territory, or more. may be pursuing friendship and alliances with China but he is dancing to Xi Jinping’s tune.
Vladimir Putin’s failures have led projected to drop to 135 million in 2050 from today’s 146 million. Russia’s GDP is about $1.7 trillion, lower than Italy’s and minuscule compared to the US at over $20 trillion. The economy is wholly dependent on oil and gas exports in a decarbonizing world. Moreover, it is laden with punitive sanctions. There is not one single company that has any sort of global presence to rival the likes of Coca-Cola, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Volkswagen, Samsung or Rolls Royce.into economic and national decline. The population is shrinking and is
Much is made of the bungled reform of the richest men in the world, with critics estimating a fortune of some $200 billion. Meanwhile, GDP per capita in is a little over $10,000 per annum, ranked 81st in the world by the World Bank, below China.economy after the fall of the USSR, but has now been in power for over 20 years and has done nothing — in fact, worse than nothing — to rectify matters. Instead, he has enriched himself and his henchmen enormously. is now one of the
has one overriding motivation — to stay in power. His crimes are so enormous that he fears terrible retribution should he ever lose his grip. Like all totalitarian dictators, he knows that he can only be replaced by whoever kills him.
Butis still dangerous; he plays dirty and asymmetrically, using cyberattacks, election interference, irregular forces and acts of terrorism. Even a dismembered and impoverished state can wreak havoc. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and Iran’s missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities are recent examples.
is in a weakened state and becoming ever weaker. There is no grand plan for the restoration of imperial greatness or even the USSR. The game is survival and Putin’s own skin — and fortune. The West can play this game too. We have long experience of dealing with bullies, megalomaniacs and totalitarians. China too is watching carefully, and President Xi knows where his advantage lies.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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