Sunday, April 15, 2018

Kremlin Elite Views Even Nuclear War as Computer Game, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 15 – Unlike in Soviet times, the current denizens of the Kremlin have neither direct personal experience with war nor a set of goals they are pursuing that any war would make impossible to achieve, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. Instead, they view even nuclear war as “a computer game” that they can take part in and possibly “win.”

            No one in Soviet times would ever have said that “we can repeat” a war, the Russian analyst says. “Such a slogan was impossible in the USSR.” But now even Vladimir Putin has said this and he is not constrained by that kind of experience or by allies who insist on moderation (

            Instead, Russia’s few allies are today what they have been in the past, only those whom Moscow could intimidate or take care of; and “today, there are only those which we have,” a microscopically small number even compared with Soviet times.  As a result, the positive consequences of coalition building are lacking.

            That makes the current situation more dangerous than it should have been, Inozemtsev continues. “The problems of Syria are relatively local; and if relations between Russia and the US were more or less normal, the West wouldn’t care all that much about Moscow’s intervention on behalf of Asad.

                But relations between Russia and the West are anything but good, and the recent fight against ISIS divided rather than united the two “for a number of reasons. Russia found bad allies, it ‘is leading’ Turkey away from the west, and finally Asad is ever more often viewed as a military criminal which he is.”

            Putin got involved in Syria in 2015 to try to “’force the West to dialogue’ but he wasn’t able to do that.” Instead, he offended rather than compelled, and “now the conflict has no good resolution, Syria is on the way to disintegration, and relations between Russia and the West will only continue to deteriorate at least for a long time to come.

            Over the coming months, “Russia will lose and be forced to leave. Asad will be killed, and the country will fall apart into separate units and become the same kind of problem zone as Iraq has been,” the Russian commentator says. 

            What is especially dismaying is that Russia’s advance did not reflect its national interests but rather was “for Putin only a means of supporting his personal power in order that he could continue to rob the country. He doesn’t really want nuclear war or his own death in such a conflict.”

            According to Inozemtsev, “Putin acts within the paradigm of someone who has been ‘offended’ largely because the West didn’t take him in as partner two decades ago.  Had the West done that at the time, he continues, it is “completely possible that Putin would long ago have lived in Sardinia next to Berlusconi and there would be peace in Ukraine.”

            But because he is offended, he wants to take revenge and to try to force others to live by his rules. At home, he is able to do this; but abroad, he faces countries far stronger than his own.  But because he lives in a parallel universe of his own design, he seldom can cope adequately with either domestic or foreign policy challenges.

            Domestically, the next few years are going to feature “a very hysterical policy which will not bring desired results in any direction.” Putin doesn’t like to work under pressure and so he is more likely to give the impression that everything is as he wants it than to actually do anything that will improve matters.

            “Inside the country, expectations in the economic sphere are extremely low,” Inozemtsev says. “No one hopes for improvement in the standard of living.” Instead, the main thing is that people do not want their impoverishment and the prices they must pay to increase at an increasing rate.

            In foreign affairs, the Russian analyst says, “the population believes that the West is almost carrying out a war with Russia now and therefore for the support of his popularity it is sufficient for the president to demonstrate that no one is fighting with Russia.” In that sphere too, “real problems will be ignored as much as possible.”

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