Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional

Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home

(VV note: This is not just true for Russia but has been true throughout world history. National exceptionalism has too often led to war. And this includes the U.S. as well.)

By Leon Aron, WSJ
May 30, 2014

In the winter of 2012, something surprising happened to Vladimir Putin: He discovered, as he wrote in a government newspaper, that Russia isn't just an ordinary country but a unique "state civilization," bound together by the ethnic Russians who form its "cultural nucleus." This was something new. In his previous 12 years in office, first as Russia's president and then as prime minister, Mr. Putin had generally stayed away from grand pronouncements on culture and ideology.

And Mr. Putin wasn't done with this theme. Elected in March 2012 to a third term as president—in the face of massive antiregime protests, replete with banners and posters scorning him personally—he told the Russian Federal Assembly the following year that it was "absolutely objective and understandable" for the Russian people, with their "great history and culture," to establish their own "independence and identity."

What was this identity? For Mr. Putin, it was apparently easier to say what it was not: It was not, he continued, "so-called tolerance, neutered and barren," in which "ethnic traditions and differences" are eroded and "the equality of good and evil" had to be accepted "without question."

To Mr. Putin, in short, Russia was exceptional because it was emphatically not like the modern West—or not, in any event, like his caricature of a corrupt, morally benighted Europe and U.S. This was a bad omen, presaging the foreign policy gambits against Ukraine that now have the whole world guessing about Mr. Putin's intentions.

(More here.)

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