Tuesday, April 1, 2014

3CP Redux

News that 44 just hit up Bad Vlad to please not park his panzers in downtown Kiev brings up the quiz of Commonwealth retaking all her Near Abroad...

At home and abroad, Putin wants Russia to regain the prestige it held when he was growing up.

The obvious place to start his campaign was in Chechnya, symbol of Russia's collapse. The Chechens had defeated Yeltsin's attempt to crush their self-declared independence, but it proved a bitter victory. The war devastated Chechnya's people, economy and infrastructure. Chechnya became a sink of kidnapping, violence and crime, and - until Putin - no-one did anything about it.

Finally, for long-suffering patriotic Russians, here was a man not only able to pay their pensions, but prepared to get his hands dirty to defend their homeland.

In Chechnya, hundreds of soldiers and thousands of Chechens died. Hundreds of thousands of Chechens fled to claim asylum outside Russia, but Russia's territorial integrity was secured, and Putin had begun his task of restoring Russian prestige.

In just four years, Putin had crushed Chechnya, reined in the free media and the oligarchs, gained a parliament that would do whatever he wanted, and shown that Russia had a strong voice in international affairs

The idea of Russia being separate from but equal to the West is convenient, since it allows the Kremlin to reject Western criticism of its elections, its court cases, its foreign policy, as biased and irrelevant.

Last year, intervention in Syria was out of the question. This year, intervention in Ukraine is justified and unimpeachably legitimate. It may be that principles have never been the issue - and that Putin's objective has always been to maximise Russian power, and to defy Western attempts to rein Russia in.

Putin has succeeded in building a version of the country of his childhood, one that can act independently in the world, and one where dissent is controlled and the Kremlin's power unchallenged. But that is a double-edged sword, because the Soviet Union collapsed for a reason, and a Russia recreated in its image risks sharing its fate.

Pic - "Eventually, the money is going to run out, and then he will find himself in the same position Soviet leaders were in by the late 1980s, forced to confront political and economic crises, while trying to hold the country together. He looks strong now, but his Kremlin is built on the one thing in Russia doesn't control: the price of oil."