Staunton, February 14 – Both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are using populism to advance their political purposes, and consequently, they are often lumped together as leaders interested in the destruction of the current international system and the re-industrialization of their respective countries, Yakov Azimandis says.
But in fact, they are committed to completely different ends and thus are fated to come into conflict. Trump genuinely wants to destroy the liberal internationalist order and rebuild US industry; Putin on the other hand simply wants to weaken the West in order to end sanctions and thus allow him to resume being part of the system that has existed up to now.
Thus, the Moscow commentator says, those who see Trump’s victory as a win for Putin are only partially correct; and if it is a victory for the Russian leader, it is likely to prove a Pyrrhic one for him given that what Trump wants to do will undermine any chance that Putin will gain his ends (rufabula.com/author/azimandis/1498).
Trump’s victory and the gains of outsiders in Europe involves an extremely diverse cast of characters ranging from the left to the right, “but there is something they have in common. And that is no populism” but rather “an attempt one and for all to destroy the existing system.” Their “populism is only … an attempt to mobilize as large a number of dissatisfied as possible.”
The common desire of those voting for such new comers “was and remains the desire to destroy the former world, the world of globalism, the world empire with the US and Western Europe at its head” and to “re-industrialize” Western countries even if that requires giving up “the imperial ambitions of the US.”
Many see Putin as having long pursued exactly the same goal, “but this is not so,” Azimandis argues. He and his regime call for lifting sanctions “in the first instance” so that they don’t have to worry about their property and accounts abroad. “They are the flesh and blood of the old world empire and part of the world trans-national elite.”
No one should be deceived by Putin’s talk about spiritual “bindings” and his “course toward the isolation” of Russia. These were forced measures that he felt compelled to take because of the intransigence of the former masters of the White House” in Washington, not a fundamental change of course.
Putin and even more Rogozin’s Rodina Party have adopted slogans about industrialization and re-industrialization, but these are only slogans, Azimandis says. In fact, the Putin regime has continued to de-industrialize Russia, closing more than 75,000 plants and leaving 95 of the 319 company towns “in critical situations.”
Under Putin, “post-Soviet industry has rapidly degraded. Those enterprises which still work are little changed from the middle of the last century … if the USSR at the end of the 1980s lagged far behind the West; no Russia significantly lags behind the USSR,” the Moscow commentator says.
Even in the last two years when the Kremlin has talked autarchy, “the process of the destruction of industry has been continuing,” he says, a decline that involves not only factory plants and equipment but specialists capable of operating them. Russia’s young specialists are simply not up to the task because of educational reforms.
“This is the most genuine post-apocalypse,” Azimandis says. “Our country is becoming ever more wild. We ever more resemble [those] who live on the ruins of a forgotten civilization” than people who are capable of operating it let alone expanding and developing it.
He continues: “We are already in a Zugzwang situation: those on top do not want to change anything or to try to build something new; those below cannot do so and already for a long time have not had the knowledge and experience. The destruction of industry is closely connected with the destruction of social institutions like education and medicine.”
Russia under Putin is being reduced to a transit route between Europe and China even as Europe and the US undertake genuine reindustrialization, something they can more easily do because they never gave up key aspects of industry in the first place. But Russia’s path is toward a country that will supply food and sells its “excess population” as cannon fodder in Syria or Ukraine.
Putin thus is not moving in the same direction as Trump and the new generation of politicians in Europe. He has tried to “mimic them” but “obviously he is not able to do so” given what he wants. And that points to conflict ahead: Trump needs low oil prices to re-industrialize; Putin needs them to go up because that is his only source of new income.
What all this suggests, Azimandis says, is that Putin will ultimately be succeeded by Russia’s “very own national populists,” its Trumps as it were, politicians who as in the West will appear to “come out of nowhere and not be connected with the former system or involved with it to a lesser degree.”
The Navalnys and Maltsevs, the commentator says, who aspire to fill “this niche” are too much part of the system and the old world. “They do not have an understanding of the processes which are taking place in the world now,and they will be sept away by the stormy flow of history.”
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