Staunton, February 17 – Many make the mistake of assuming that Vladimir Putin has a more sophisticated understanding of the world than the propaganda image his regime puts out, Pavel Kazarin says; but that is not the case. Instead, Putin has fallen into the trap of believing his own propaganda, making mistakes, and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Ukrainian commentator argues that the Kremlin’s “main problem” over the last four years is that its “picture of reality doesn’t correspond with that of all the remaining players and that as a result it is condemned to commit errors” that create an ever more dangerous situation (nv.ua/opinion/kazarin/blizhnevostochnyj-vetnam-2452502.html).
This situation “began with Crimea when Russia decided that the Maidan was only a special operation of the West against it. When it annexed the peninsula, it was [therefore] convinced that it had not crossed any red lines.” That continued with the Donbass where Moscow “convinced itself that it was fighting in Ukraine’s east with ‘the West.’”
In both cases, “Moscow remained true to itself: [for it] no Ukraine exists, Ukrainians don’t want anything, and everything that is taking place is the work of forces hidden behind a curtain.” Thus, Moscow has felt all along that it is fighting with the West, a view that it has extended into the Syrian conflict as well.
Thus, “the role of the ‘junta’ was given to those who were against Syrian President Bashar Asad, but the main enemy remained unchanged – that is the West,” Kazarin says.
“Of course, we can say that this logic must not correspond with that of ‘the elite,’ that in Kremlin offices sit people who aren’t dominated by the messages of Dmitry Kiselyov, that he offers his media product only for ‘the lower’ part of society, and that the Russia elite is cynical, but sober and calculating.”
“But what if this isn’t so? What if Vladimir Putin watches television?” The same one that others do and that there is “no ‘second level of truth’ but only the first and it is the single one that exists? What if the entire Russian vertical is a cohort of feverish agitators who are continuing to fight” with the West as they did in the Cold War?
There is good reason to think that this is so: “The higher leadership of the Russian Federation consists of people from the special services, the same for whom conspiracy thinking is an obligatory condition of their careers, the same who are required to see a conspiracy in everything, and for whom the cold war never ended.”
Judging from his statements, Kazarin continues, Putin is very much one of these. And he is now pursuing the same enemy as in Vietnam “where Moscow supported one side and the collective US the other. But the main problem of this story is that unlike in Ukraine, there are Americans in Syria.”
“In the Donbass, the Russian army risks encountering only the Ukrainian one. [But] in Syria, that isn’t the only risk.” And now Russia is suffering the consequences: Russian casualties inflicted by American airstrikes.
“Russia thought up an enemy for itself, one with which it has fought consistently for a long time, but Syria is an example of what will happen if this enemy really turns its attention to Russia.” This is, Kazarin concludes, “a classic example of the self-fulfilling prophecy,” something that happens most often when those involved lose touch with reality.