Staunton, March 30 – While Russians and the world are focused on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Yury Felshtinsky says, Vladimir Putin is quite likely preparing for a new war, given that war be it against the Chechens, Georgians and Ukrainians has been how he has built and maintained his popularity and power.
The US-based Russian commentator, widely known as the co-author with the late Aleksandr Litvinenko of Blowing Up Russia (2002), says that this history suggests that Putin will once again use military conflict to shore up his power and at the very least what he will do after the virus passes won’t be “anything good” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5E81CD421F170).
Despite the coronavirus and the economic crisis in its wake, Felshtinsky says, Putin is in a stronger position to launch an attack on the West than he was at least in the short term because all other governments are focused on dealing with their own problems rather than on the threat he presents. Putin for them is simply an inevitable “part of the furniture.”
It must be recognized, he continues, that Putin has “only a single measure” of success: the amount of territory he can seize. “In this sense, he is no different than Stalin or Hitler. Therefore, I would not consider his active measures against the West unsuccessful” as some are inclined to do.
Some have been “very successful – Crimean, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia – some less so – the Donbass, the series of killings and poisonings, and the not always clear backing of right-wing forces in Europe and the US. But since no punishment has followed his crimes, one can consider that even failed operations in fact have also been very successful.”
“Putin’s strategic tasks are to hold power in the interests of the Lubyanka corporation, a task he has already achieved, and the seizure of territory. He doesn’t have any other tasks.” All the things that people point do such as dividing the EU or destroying NATO are only part of this larger one.
The Kremlin leader’s ideal world is “a Fifth International (with Putin at the head) in which all European states will be included and all their presidents and prime ministers will be Putin’s agents,” Felshtinsky says, most of whom can be “recruited” by corrupt measures like making them directors of Kremlin-controlled companies.
To the extent Putin is planning another invasion, he will act “either now while everyone is occupied with the coronavirus or put off the war until 2021 or later in the hopes Trump will be re-elected. Time is working against him in the sense that he will not live forever.” And so he will be more inclined to act sooner, particularly if there are obvious risks on the horizon.
But Putin’s new aggression while it may save him won’t save the Russian Empire. Instead, it will hasten its end, Felshtinsky argues. Putin can continue to harm the West with impunity, but his own ego and vision requires him to move beyond that to achieve the territorial aggrandizement he views as the only mark of success.
That makes the current period especially dangerous, particularly since most people in the West assume that Putin is concerned as they are with fighting the coronavirus. That isn’t the case: the pandemic has not changed his goals. Indeed, there is an all too real possibility that it may open yet another path for him to try to achieve them.