Monday, July 20, 2015

Russia’s Coming Regime Change

By ANDREI V. KOZYREV, NYT, JULY 20, 2015

Asked about Russia’s intervention in Ukraine at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month, President Vladimir V. Putin spoke bitterly of America and Europe. “They have pushed us back to the line beyond which we can’t retreat,” he said.

This was more than a political blame game. His answer revealed both a concerted anti-Western strategy, in which the West is seen as the enemy, and also a policy of brinkmanship. The implicit message was that if the West acted in a manner not to the Kremlin’s liking, that could prompt an ultimate response, maybe even a nuclear one.

In April, after speaking to people close to Mr. Putin, Graham Allison, director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest, warned of a growing risk of nuclear war. But they offered a contrasting explanation.

“When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia was on its knees,” they wrote. “But since Vladimir Putin took over in 1999, he has led a recovery of Russia’s sense of itself as a great power.”

These two strands of the Kremlin narrative — recovery on one hand; encirclement on the other — have been fashioned to appeal to the Russian people and used to justify more than 15 years of authoritarian rule. But both strands are suspect. In the early 1990s, Russians rose up against Soviet authoritarianism. The first — and last — popularly and fairly elected president, Boris N. Yeltsin, had a mandate to pursue the true national interest of catching up with the advanced, democratic West.

(More here.)

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