Putin becomes the ‘perfect enemy” for the West

Joint Press conference following the meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. May 2, 2017, Sochi. (Russian Presidency work. Snapshot from a video).

Putin, after having won last Sunday’s presidential election in Russia with a landslide of 76.7% is now turning to the West for détente. According to Reuters, he said “had no desire for an arms race and would do everything he could to resolve differences with other countries”. Only a few days ahead of election Sunday though he had ‘informed’ the rest of the world that Russia has produced a new generation of ballistic missiles, able to hit any target around the globe, evading the anti-missile system developed by the US.

It’s a superfluous expectation by the Russian Tzar to ask the West to put up with all his threats and offers according to his home agenda. Obviously, his threat was used to boost the unbelievable percentage of his win. Any other leader would have conceded to get elected on the first Sunday for a fourth term as President, with a percentage just above 50%; not Putin. He wanted 80% as some of his friendly pollsters were predicting. There is a good reason for that.

The President of oligarchs

Understandably, in oligarchs’ Russia, the “Leader” has to be so indisputable, as to be able to keep them under control, not to fight between them and accept his “judgment”, as the tribunal of the last resort. Otherwise, they won’t hesitate from turning the place into a lawless inferno, if some of them think they can have it their way. Putin has slowly developed direct control over the government and state machines. He also, more or less, exercises a strong political commandeering on the judicial system. As a result, he can decide not only about government contracts and spending, but also on the way the ‘private’ sector of the economy functions and how most big business groups operate.

As for his latest ‘offer’ to the West, proposing ‘to avoid an arms race’, it’s of a crucial importance for the economic performance of his governance. The West has tried that successfully in the 1980s with the then Soviet Union. The US drove the military antagonism with the ex USSR to the skies, with Roland Reagan’s Star War. Finally, it obliged Moscow to capitulate on economic grounds. Putin has earnestly lamented that on many occasions.

In any case, Donald Trump, the unpredictable American President, not really paying any attention to what is happening in Russia, has – for his own reasons – announced great increases of federal spending on security and armaments. On top of that, the West cannot forgive Putin’s involvement in Ukraine and Syria and of course the Europeans and the Americans cannot forget the deceitful annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Moscow.

Newfound opponent

That’s why no Western leader rushed to congratulate Putin on his electoral victory. It was just the Chinese President Xi who did that right after the election results were announced. However, the West shouldn’t complain or pretend to be the uninformed bystander about possible ‘official’ interference in the vote, in favor of the incumbent and candidate president.

Only months ago, Putin had extended the Presidential term by two years, to six. No western leader accused him loudly then, for twisting and turning the constitutional order to his benefit. Not even the British took any really biting measures after the Russians tried to kill a double agent on British soil.

Soft on Russia

Actually, it’s not the first time the Russians do that in the UK. In 2006 they poisoned Alexander Litvinenko, another double agent, with polonium- 210. Yet, the British didn’t take or ask the West to impose seriously crippling measures against the Russian businesses and oligarchs, who have lifted London’s real estate market and the offshore banking industry to the skies. The expulsion of some Russian diplomats last week is just a bureaucratic step bound to be reciprocated by Moscow soon, without serious long term repercussions for both sides.

The same is true for Germany, and other major western countries, where Russian business leviathans like Rosneft and Gazprom are pumping in money and natural resources. The Germans continue to tolerate what former chancellor, Gerhard Schröder does for Putin. As President of Gazprom, he has cut off the gas supplies to Ukraine and has approved the annexation of Crimea to Russia. Yet, Schröder goes about Europe freely as a real Russian oligarch.

A useful enemy?

There is more to the Western tolerant attitude towards the Russian autocrat. Donald Trump, having been openly helped by Putin to win the 2016 Presidential election, is doing what he can to ameliorate the American sanctions against Russia. Of course, Trump is vehemently fought in that by the Democrats. If he hadn’t been investigated about his relations with Moscow, Trump was ready to turn the US – Russia relations into an amicable union.

On top of that, many Western neoliberal leaders tend to flirt with the autocratic style of government in general. In many Western power clusters, democracy is demonized for producing at times some problematic results like Brexit or something close to Grexit, and lately a difficult to govern Italy.

All nationalists

Yes, many people in the West think that Putin is a perfect leader and Russia shows the way to patriotism. They don’t have the ability to understand that nationalism of the Putin kind, may lead to dangerous regional conflicts as it does in Syria and even to possible catastrophe on a global level.

No doubt Putin is a dangerous man even for his country. His ways will lead Russia to a long period of instability and internal conflicts, after he is gone from Kremlin. In the Josef Stalin era of the Soviet Union, nobody had thought he could…die. The same is true for Putin. His ways and power network keeping the country and the various regional, business and personal conflicts under control has become unique and cannot be imitated even if Putin ‘baptizes’ a successor.

Impossible succession

Still, Putin played a regenerative role for Russia and as such he became the ‘perfect enemy’ for the West. Clearly, the western leaders avoid imposing serious sanctions on Russia, which could destroy his nationalist narrative. On the contrary, the West crippled Iran with brutal sanctions, because it had no position for the Ayatollahs.

In any case, the West knows that after ten years or earlier, Russia will again enter into uncharted waters. It will be a new chance for the Westerners to buy off the country. They had done it in Yugoslavia after Tito.

 

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