Monday, September 28, 2015

Putin’s power plays

By Anne Applebaum Columnist September 27 at 7:51 PM, WashPost

It is always tempting, when writing about the Russian president, to lapse into geopolitical waffle. Though the Cold War ended a quarter century ago, we are still accustomed to thinking of Vladimir Putin as a global actor, a representative of eternal Russian interests, the inheritor of czarism/Lenin/Stalin, a man who inhabits a Kissingerian world of state actors who compete against other state actors for control over territory, all of them playing a gigantic game of Risk.

To those wearing this particular set of rose-colored glasses, Putin’s recent foray into Syria makes a certain kind of sense. His amazingly well-timed decision — just before the U.N. General Assembly session! — to send hundreds of Russian soldiers, 28 fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and artillery has been variously described as a bid to re-enter the modern Great Game of the Middle East; to extend Russian influence to the Mediterranean; to shore up the Iranian government; and to displace the United States as a regional leader.

All of which misses the main point. For Putin’s entry into Syria, like almost everything else that he does, is part of his own bid to stay in power. During the first 10 years he was president, Putin’s claim to legitimacy went, in effect, like this: I may not be a democrat, but I give you stability, a rise in economic growth and pensions paid on time. In an era of falling oil prices and economic sanctions, not to mention vast public-sector corruption, that argument no longer works. Russians are demonstrably poorer this year than they were last year, and things look set to get worse. And so his new argument goes, in effect, like this: “I may not be a democrat and the economy may be sinking, but Russia is regaining its place in the world — and besides, the alternative to authoritarianism is not democracy but chaos.”

(More here.)


Blogger Tom Koch said...

We have nothing to worry about. The great one has assured us that the 1980 would not call to ask for their foreign policy back.

7:27 PM  

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