Staunton, December 18 – 2014 has been a real “turning point” in Russian history, one comparable to 1929 and marked by “the beginning of a confrontation of Russia with the West and the establishment in the country of an aggressive regime close to a fascist one which is in a state of permanent war” both internally and externally, according to Igor Eidman.
Both the external and internal dimensions of this change, the Russian analyst says, have potentially “unexpected and dangerous” consequences for their author, Russian President Vladimir Putin. And both the change and these consequences reflect his personality and the nature of the authoritarian regime he has set up (svoboda.org/content/article/26744737.html).
In the past, Putin had been more cautious, reflecting his careerist approach and his calculations about the world around him. But now, on the basis of his assessment of the situation, Putin believes his time has come, and consequently, he is acting on the values that he absorbed as a KGB officer 30 years ago.
Those values include, Eidman says, “Soviet imperialism, hatred to the West (above all to the US as the main potential opponent), contempt for democratic values and human rights, and a view of the republics of the former USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe as the natural vassals of Russia.”
To make his career, the current Kremlin leader served “’democrats’ Sobchak and Yeltsin” and was cautious when he first was elevated to the presidency. But now he has decided that the most favorable time has come “for the realization of his ambitions,” a conclusion that his “emotional reaction” to the Ukrainian Maidan accelerated.
He was pushed in this direction by the fact that he has surrounded himself with others who have a background in the Soviet and Russian security services and thus view the world much as he does, Eidman continues. But he bears responsibility for it because from his point of view, “a confrontation with the West” helps him personally.
Such a confrontation inevitably increases the importance of the siloviki, justifies harsh measures, and draws on the patriotism of the population. Moreover, 2014 in Putin’s view turned out to be just the right time to move in that direction. Economic growth, based on high oil prices, was coming to an end. And consequently, he needed “a small victorious war.”
Putin understands, Eidman says, that an economic downturn could cost him the support of the population and lead some to democracy as many did in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008. By creating an enemy that the country must oppose with either a hot or cold war, the Kremlin leader effectively restricted the opportunities of the opposition.
According to Eidman, “the shift to an expansionist foreign policy course was inevitable” because it was the product of the “internal organization of the Russian regime, its essence,” and itself the product of Putin’s personality.
“Putin’s system,” he continues, “corresponds to the classic definitions of fascism. At the center of ‘Putinism’ is the idea of national rebirth and revenge (for defeat in the cold war), a cult of a national leader, the priority of state interests over the rights and freedoms of citizens, the search for national traitors, militarism, sexism, and homophobia.”
Revenge is at the center of fascism and Nazism, Eidman says, “an idee fixe” for both Putin and Hitler and the driving force behind their actions. Other governments, including the Soviet, had elements of this, but “the Putin regime is more dangerous for the world than any post-Stalin leadership of the USSR.”
The reason for that conclusion is that unlike the late Soviet period, with its collegial Politburo that was inclined toward caution, Putin is completely in charge. He personally takes all the decisions on his own, and thus “peace on the planet depends on the state of his psychic health.”
Disturbingly, the Kremlin leader has shown himself “ever more inadequate,” and thus the risks that he might do something truly frightening are all too real. “It is perfectly clear,” Eidman concludes, that if the West does not stop him in Ukraine, “he will not stop but instead go further.”