“Pudding – Alice: Alice – Pudding. Remove the pudding!”
Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
In the early 2000s, the Western world wondered “Who is mister putin?”, 15 years later, this question is still waiting for a solid answer. For more than a decade, he has been the uncrowned monarch of russia, but the West didn’t advance much in the understanding of the preconditions and the origins of his experience, the formation of his philosophy and goals. According to the authors of the book “Mr. putin: Operative in the kremlin” Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, putin, in fact, is a man of many complex identities. Drawing on various sources, including their own personal encounters, they describe the six most important: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer.
According to them, understanding the multiple personalities of putin is crucial for politicians trying to understand how to deal with russia. Vladimir certainly has its own idealized view of himself as the CEO of «russia, Inc». However, instead of managing a transparent public company, he heads a closed corporation, unaccountable to its shareholders. And that is exactly what the West keeps thinking about him. However, reality slowly begins to dawn on the crippled generation of Western politicians. Now, when his corporation is mired in an economic, social, and identity crisis, what can putin counter challenges of time? Besides bombast, only war, devastation, and a large portion of “greatness”.
I’ve heard nonsense, compared to which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!
Free media are one of the key elements of any democratic civil society. However, as soon as the media are denied their autonomy, society is deprived of pluralism, and they become an effective policy instrument, both internal and external whatever cynical it may be. Certainly, it is no news and was thoroughly tested at the dawn of the 20th century. And today putin’s russia is following that familiar path, gaining a tendency of strengthening advocacy to ensure all socioeconomic and political processes in the attempt to construct an informationally controlled society.
With the constant attempt to move the boundaries of ideas that can be accepted by society farther and farther. According to the so-called “Overton Window” – political theory, which puts the viability of an idea in the speculative “window” of public opinion, the shift of the window is possible not when ideas change among politicians, but when they change in a society that votes for those politicians. Hence, the long-term propaganda in the russian media and all the ensuing consequences.
Hand it round first, and cut it afterwards
A new type of war of the 21st century they say? Not even close. It is a well-established scenario of the last century. Massive propaganda, total terror, and so-called sovereign republics. All that is a typical product of the USSR. The Bolsheviks hoped for the world revolution and naively believed that “subjects” of their worldwide federation will appear from Germany to China. And though the world revolution never really happened, the concept of “handing round the cake first” lives on. First destabilization, then separation. The concept was applied again and again in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and now in Ukraine – first “The Island of Crimea,” now “Dumbass republic.” *
putin’s regime will take as much as it can carry, even if it only thinks that it can. Obviously, if it will be able to destabilize Ukraine, it will switch to Moldova or even the Baltic States. Perhaps the beast will be pleased for a while, perhaps… However, sooner or later “USSR 2.0” will be ready to move on. And although it is common knowledge in countries closer to russia’s borders, Western Europe pretends it will not affect it. Well, perhaps many Europeans embraced the idea of the onset of the enlightened 21st century a little too early, forgetting the lessons of the 20th century. However, they will have to wait for the Golden Age transition, to hold their horses, so to speak.
The great art of riding is to keep your balance properly
The main intrigue, of course, is whether comrade putin is going to ride a white horse with the naked torso right to the golden pages of the russian history as a vanquisher of the “evil West”. After all, he lacks only this. The time of the main battle for putin has arrived, and of course, as with any epic story, where he certainly envisions himself as a hero, it is a life or death struggle. However, the balance is already lost. It is interesting that in spite of all the facts, some Western politicians, analysts, and even experts see putin as a geopolitical Grandmaster, intellectual giant – the father of the russian sovereign democracy, and almost an Emperor. It’s possible, but it is only possible in the reality where they themselves are not a striking example of weakness, stupidity, greed, and lack of principles.
So who is Mr. putin? Spy, KGB operative, FSB director, Prime Minister, President, Prime Minister, President, archaeologist, firefighter, macho, la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la? Some believe that putin has no face, no essence or soul. Mr. Nobody, who can be anyone he wishes to be. But can this faceless creature, this so far last incarnation of russian imperialism get what it wishes for? Probably not. But he has yet to learn it. In the end, history does not leave him a chance, the collapse of the empire is inevitable.
1. A novel “The Island of Crimea” by Vassily Aksyonov suggests an alternative history where the southern scrap of the old russian Empire survives the revolution and the civil war as a separate country.
2. The name “Dumbass republic” here refers to the fact that many so-called rebels, that in fact were nothing more than russian mercenaries, didn’t know how to spell Donbas correctly in their multiple graffiti.
First published in 2014