Ah, the entertaining hysteria of Russian imperial decline. A few months ago, it was Stalin battling aliens to save the world. Today, it is another machoismo photo-op by the Pootie-Poot (George W Bush’s nickname for Putin). Now he’s shirtless in Siberia. Cuttin’ brush just like W! I bet the ladies just love this sorta stuff…
I’ve written before about the psychology of resentful post-imperial Russia. Vice-President Biden basically nailed it this summer when he said the Russians were suffering from a severe postimperial “hangover,” and Philip Stevens at the FT gets it right too, that endless, tiresome Russian bitterness has made it friendless. Another FT op-ed basically tells you why 20 years after the USSR, eastern Europeans still want NATO as a bulwark against Russian neo-imperialism.
Old glories die hard – although ‘glory’ hardly defines gray, dingy Soviet imperialism – and in Russia’s case the ‘hangover’ has been more severe than normal because the fall from imperial greatness happened so fast – less than 5 years. This rapid fall followed by a consequently more extreme nationalist reaction characterized Weimar Germany too, so this is pretty worrisome actually. At least Britain had a long time to retrench from empire, so Britain’s public and elites could slowly adjust to its declining power. Even Enoch Powell, who loathed the Americans during WWII for their secret intention to break up the Empire by releasing India, came to advocate no further British commitments east of the Suez.
By contrast no figure in Russian political life speaks this way. It is competitive, macho, one-upsmanship in foreign policy. Bullying and bitterness are the order of the day, and national ideology is Weimar-esque resentment. Even as Russia is depopulating, the strut and overconfidence insecure powers require in IR now dominates Russian foreign policy. This is the route to national suicide, and given how unhelpful Russia has been for 15 years on everything from NK to Chechnya to Iran, I guess we should be ‘happy’ they’re on this kamikaze course. Still, they are one of the great cultures on the planet, having produced Dostoyevsky, Shostakovich and the rest, so it is disturbing and tragic to watch them destroy themselves. Sad…
Pingback: Turkey’s ‘neo-Ottoman’ Rise (3): Why I am Wrong… « Asian Security Blog
Pingback: Russia is so Discounted that Putin Re-Takes the Prez & No One Cares… « Asian Security Blog
Pingback: It’s Time to De-Russianize the BRICS | Robert Kelly — Asian Security Blog
Pingback: My October Diplomat Essay: Russia between Empire and Modernity | Robert Kelly — Asian Security Blog