Staunton, May 20 – Many have observed that Vladimir Putin is a man of the nineteenth century in his geopolitical views and of Stalin’s times in his political ones, and others have suggested that the Kremlin leader lives in a world of his own imagination, one that is increasingly at odds with reality.
Historian Ivan Kurilla says that Putin’s recent obsession with the way the Stalingrad battle is not the focus of Russian history textbooks and his reference to a comment former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright never made about Siberia being shared out to other countries show this (newsru.com/blog/20may2021/putin.html).
These and other things are “creating the impression that the events and ndews of the last six years have in a miraculous way disappeared from the memory” of the Kremlin leader and that he “is living ever more in the middle of the last decade at the happy (for him) moment of the acquisition of Crimea.”
Abas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter who now works as a commentator, expands on this point. He suggests that Putin’s reference to Albright was something unscripted and thus reflects his deepest feelings. Had it been prepared, his remark would have focused on a more plausible threat than on this imaginary one (ehorussia.com/new/node/23498).
“No one of the more or less mainstream world politicians disputes Russia’s right to Siberia and defending it is approximately the same as showing that you are a homo sapiens,” Gallyamov continues. “No one says that you are a bear or a sheep.” And so what all this is about is trying to get Russians to focus on foreign policy rather than domestic problems.
“The only means of forcing Russian voters to stop challenging United Russia and to vote for it in more or less acceptable numbers is to force them to rally round the flag yet again by making reference to a foreign threat. Putin and his entourage understand this and are trying with all their might to push foreign policy issues and the theme of foreign enemies to the fore.”
Their problem, Gallyamov says, is that Russian voters no longer are willing to accept such a vision. When the Russian economy was growing and when Russian seized Crimea, they were prepared to do so. But with the decline in living standards, Russians aren’t ready to support the same kind of policies or the rhetoric that supports these policies.
Public support for Putin’s “foreign policy course is weakening and interest in foreign policy as a whole is falling,” the commentator says. “In focus groups in 2015-1016, all conversations were about foreign policy – ‘the Americans are guilty’ and so on. Now, the situation is just the reverse.”
“From foreign policy themes, everyone quickly shifts to what is going on inside Russia,” Gallyamov says. “Therefore, the Kremlin constantly seeks to inflate” foreign challenges “in the hope that seething emotions will overshadow the minds of the people.” Putin’s reference to the fake reports about Albright is completely part of that.