Staunton, Feb. 10 – German defense minister Boris Pistorius recently remarked that “a world without Putin would be better;” but according to Mikhail Aleksandrov, a real Russian hardliner, the West should be glad that Putin is in the Kremlin rather than someone tougher like Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev or Belarus’ Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
“If our leader were tougher” as both of these leaders are, the Moscow political scientist who was fired from MGIMO last year for suggesting that Moscow should attack Azerbaijan’s infrastructure with rockets, “Russia would be able to control the entire post-Soviet space, including the Baltic countries” (svpressa.ru/politic/article/361725/).
Putin unlike the kind of tough leader Russia needs “acts very carefully and cautiously, often delays the resolution of pressing issues,” and makes concessions he doesn’t have to in the hopes that the situation will come right for him and Russia, an approach that has failed in both Georgia and Armenia, Aleksandrov says.
The Putin regime unfortunately “appeased anti-Russian politicians” across the Caucasus, he continues. It even sent a peacekeeping contingent to Qarabagh. But “Moscow “now fears putting pressure on Azerbaijan lest, God forbid, the Azerbaijanis might start shooting at our peacekeepers. And [Yerevan] refuses to allow CSTO exercises on Armenian land.”
“If a tough national leader like Aliyev or Lukashenka were in power in Russia,” Aleksandrov says, “he wouldn’t both with Saakashvili but would have supported Abashidze; and Georgia would be ours. In that event, the West wouldn’t have dared arranging a coup in Ukraine. There’d have been no Maidans and Ukraine would be allied with Russia and Belarus.”
If only Russia would have had such a leader, “Russia would have been stronger ten years ago and by now we would have controlled the entire post-Soviet space, including the Baltics. We would have forced them to leave NATO by means of military and political pressure.” But Putin has been “acting too softly.”
It is likely that many Russian conservatives share Aleksandrov’s view; but the fact that he was able to publish it in a prominent Moscow portal may be an indication of something else: Putin may be well pleased to be able to say to Western leaders that they must not press him because he is under pressure to do even more than he has against Ukraine.
That would be completely consistent with Putin’s approach, however “soft” people like Aleksandrov suggest he is.