Monday, June 20, 2016

Quotable: Leon Aron on the worldviews of Russian leadership

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Sunday, June 19th 2016
[Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy] . . . “is part of a long-term geopolitical project, rooted in deeply held ideology, a self-imposed personal Historic mission, and domestic political imperatives of his regime’s survival.”  Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute made this judgment in his “Statement before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs On US Policy toward Putin’s Russia: Drivers of Putin’s Foreign Policy,” on June 14, 2016.  Here are some key quotes:

●  . . . there are a few tenets in Putin’s credo we can be fairly certain about:

  • The end of the Cold War was Russia’s equivalent of the Versailles Treaty for Germany—a source of endless humiliation and misery.

  • The demise of the Soviet Union, in Putin’s words, was “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

  • The overarching strategic agenda of any truly patriotic Russian leader (not an idiot or a traitor or both, as Putin almost certainly views Gorbachev and Yeltsin) is to recover and repossess the political, economic, and geostrategic assets lost by the Soviet state at its fall. A few years back, I called this program the Putin Doctrine . . .

●  . . . many, perhaps most, key political actors in Russia today . . . . believe—and there is plenty of evidence in their articles and interviews—that Russia is “menaced by an external force” with the “greatest threats coming from NATO and the United States.

●  A West at war with Russia is the staple of the Russian state’s propaganda, which is why Putin called the Europe-bound Ukraine “NATO’s foreign legion.”

●  Like [philosopher Ivan] Ilyin, Putin believes that Russia is never wrong, but is perennially wronged by the West.  The West’s hostility to Russia is eternal and prompted by the West’s jealousy of Russia’s size, natural riches, and, most of all, its incorruptible, saintly soul and a God-bestowed mission to be the Third Rome, the light among nations. The plots against Russia are relentless,and while truces are possible (and often tactically advantageous to Russia), genuine peace with the West is very unlikely.

●  Minister Sergei Lavrov stated in a recent article that it is “in the genes” of the Russian people” to defeat “attempts of the European West to completely subjugate Russia, and to deny [Russia] its national identity and religious faith.”

●  Consistent with the view of the West’s perennial plotting against Russia, Lavrov also contended that World War II was caused by the “anti-Russian European elites [who] had sought to push Hitler to attack the Soviet Union.”

●  And today, too, Lavrov continued:  We see how the US and the Western alliance it leads try to preserve their dominance by any means possible . . . . .  The use all sorts of pressures, including economic sanctions and even direct military intervention. [The US] wages large-scale information wars.  It has perfected the technology of the change of regimes by implementing “color revolutions.”

●  Unwilling, therefore, to undertake liberalizing institutional reforms, Putin has made likely the most fateful decision of his political career: He began to shift the foundation of his regime’s legitimacy from economic progress and the steady growth of incomes to what might be called patriotic mobilization.

●  The new policy rested on two propaganda narratives.  (1) Russia is rising from its knees and because of that the West, first and foremost the United States, declared war on Moscow in order to preserve Its diktat in world affairs. (2)  Although threatened on all sides by implacable enemies, Russia has nothing to fear so long as Putin is at the helm: Not only will he protect the Motherland, but also he will recover the Soviet Union’s status of being feared and therefore respected again! On national television, where an overwhelming majority of Russians get their news, foreign policy has become a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of breathtaking initiatives and brilliant successes.

●  There followed the annexation of Crimea and the hybrid war in Ukraine and then Russia’s involvement in Syria.  Thus far, the regime’s patriotic mobilization must be judged a great success. A patriotic fervor at the sight of the Motherland besieged yet somehow also victorious; a Russia that again, as in the Soviet days, is mightily shaping world events along with the United States and acting as a moral and strategic counterweight to America has obscured for millions of Russians the increasingly bleak economic reality and repression at home.

●  . . . there is one area where the coincidence in goals is not just possible but vital to the interests of the United States. Today, Russia finds itself under siege. Not by the West, of course, despite what the state propaganda Machine asserts on national television daily. It is under siege from what I called the Russian Jihad . . . .

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