Friday, May 28, 2021

Putin’s Love-Hate Relationship with US at Odds with Russia’s Interests, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Vladimir Putin’s attitudes toward the US, attitudes that reflect a classic “love-hate” relationship, have led him to imitate, oppose, or act with regard to this country in ways that undermine the interests of his own country and especially its people, Kseniya Kirillova says.

            The many in the West who follow Moscow’s active measures have often noted that “the main problems of the Kremlin are rooted in the goals of its own policy which contradict the interests of its own country,” the US-based Russian journalist and commentator says (

            And they have pointed out that the fundamental and increasing weakness of Russia means that its chances of achieving its goals, the main ones being a new division of the world and the acceptance of Russia by the West as an equal partner, are not only declining but further reduced by its actions because they make “Russia an ever less attractive partner.”

            Recognizing this trend, Kirillova continues, “the Kremlin ever more often uses a “harsh” approach but that “only leads to the greater isolation of Moscow and makes relations with Russia so toxic for Western politicians that even true ‘friends of the Kremlin’ … cannot speak for Russia without the risk of serious consequences” for themselves.

            But there is another “importance weakness of Kremlin tactics” that is less often pointed to, she argues, “the complete dependence on Russian foreign and even domestic policy on the United States.” Moscow not only uses the US as “a suitable ‘foreign enemy’” but behaves as if it suffers from “a psychologically irrational dependence.”

            “In fact,” Kirillova continues, “everything the Kremlin does, it does with the US as its starting point: imitating that country, doing something to spite ‘the hated Washington,’ or hoping to get something from the United States.” That frequently causes Moscow’s policies to be at odds with Russian interests and gives the US the opportunity to manipulate Putin.

            Kirillova says one can identify “three types of behavior of Vladimir Putin and his entourage which directly arise from this dependency.” The first involves Russian copying of “the real or imagined actions of the US” be it interference in elections or the broader promotion of color revolutions without a recognition of the very different positions of the US and Russia.

            The US achieves many of its goals not by active measures but by having a system people want to emulate. Putin fails to recognize this and so believes he can make up for any Russian weakness by using active measures to achieve what Washington is often able to achieve without them.

             That leads Russia to take risky actions and often to suffer serious failures, Kirillova continues. And these extend to Putin’s domestic policy as when he assumes that the January 6 events in Washington give him complete “indulgence” for behaving as he likes in Russian elections.

            The second category of Russian actions arising from this love-hate relationship concerns Russia’s desire to do everything it can to counter what it believes is American policy. If the US is seen as wanting to split Russia and China, then for Putin, developing the Russian-Chinese alliance becomes even more important than perhaps it should be.

            In the name of countering the US, Moscow has made sacrifices to China that are not in its own interests except when viewed through the distorting lens of world politics that Putin uses. Thus, under his rule, Russia has sacrificed to China much that it not only did not need to but that has not been in its interest.

            And the third category of Russian actions arising from this love-hate relationship involves Putin’s constant pursuit of dialogue with Washington because he feels the need to be “an equal partner of the US.” His pursuit of this often leads to actions which the West feels compelled to block by tough new positions.

            If Putin were less obsessed by the United States, he would be better able to navigate the world as it is. Moreover, he would be better able to promote the interests of Russia and its people rather than as now sacrificing both because of his own psychological shortcomings.

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