Vladimir Shlapentokh

Июнь 18, 2013

Anti-Americanism like never before as the core of the Kremlin’s official ideology

Filed under: Uncategorized — shlapentokh @ 5:21 пп

Anti-Americanism like never before as the core of the Kremlin’s official ideology

 Vladimir Shlapentokh

          From the 1930s until Perestroika, anti-Americanism held an “honorable” place in Kremlin propaganda. It peaked in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and declined after Stalin’s death. However, even when anti-Americanism raged, it was never the core of Soviet propaganda. Under Stalin and each of his successors, Soviet propaganda was based primarily on positive ideology, with socialist principles and nationalist ideals, faith in a radiant future, and, of course, belief in the superiority of the existing Soviet system over the Western one.

          Anti-Americanism disappeared from the Russian media from the first years of Perestroika through the last years of Yeltsin’s regime. The USA was treated positively, in much the same way as the Russian liberal intellectuals in the 1960-70s had perceived America as a model for their country. The first shift toward a return to the old anti-Americanism occurred in the late 90s, when Yeltsin’s regime—being aware of the population’s growing discontent, which was based in economic turmoil and privatization—decided to foment some moderate anti-Americanism, partially blaming America for Russian troubles.

          Anti-Americanism increased dramatically with Putin’s rise to leadership, when it became evident that the ruling elite did not possess a positive ideology that would be attractive to Russians. In fact, Putin turned out to be the first Russian leader to rule the country without a cohesive ideology containing appealing ideals for his subjects. He has refused, of course, to describe himself as a champion of liberal capitalism, and he has never said anything about the advantages of liberal capitalism during his time at the top of power. Even less has Putin claimed to be the troubadour of socialism and Marxism. We have not heard anything positive about public property, planning or social equality from him during his entire 12 years.

Putin has often defended the Soviet past against its critics and has rarely missed an opportunity to save the name of Stalin from harm, directly or indirectly. This does not constitute protecting socialism, however, but the Soviet imperial past and the Soviet role in geopolitics. In 2009, at an economic forum in Davos, he dared to show his contempt for socialism to a foreign audience (he never did this inside the country); he even took on the role of adviser to Obama, warning him never to fall into the trap of socialism.

          It would also be difficult to present Putin as a herald of Russian nationalist ideology. By all accounts, it is much easier for Putin to declare that he is a “Russian nationalist” than a “socialist,” or a “liberal capitalist.” However, with all his apparent sympathy toward his Russian identity, personally, Putin is very tolerant of other nationalities. He is surrounded by Jews, Germans, Tartars, Chechens and people from various Muslim countries. Being aware of how easy it is to provoke xenophobic feelings in Russia—as in any other society—and how difficult it is to dampen the fires of ethnic hatred, which could ultimately destroy his regime, Putin has not, thus far, used this card in his propaganda.

          With all these constraints—no socialism (pro or contra), no capitalism (pro or contra), and no Russian nationalism (pro or contra)—Putin’s administration faces a very difficult task in creating an ideology that can legitimize his regime. In the first years of his rule, the regime’s official propaganda relied on the restoration of stability in the country as the main pillar of its mission. Official media incessantly blasted the “the terrible years of 1990s,” depicting them, not without grounds, as years of universal corruption and criminalization, a time of the disintegration of the Russian state and the decline of its international status. Of course, Putin’s role during the ’90s, such as the conditions of his arrival to power and the manner of his personal enrichment, were hushed, as were the careers of those oligarchs who later became close to him. Putin was proclaimed the savior of the nation, saving them from chaos and anarchy. He became almost as much of a sacrosanct figure as Stalin, who was the leader to save the motherland from enslavement by the Germans during the war.

The potential that lies in the figure of the savior—including the association with the image of Jesus Christ as the savior—is so great that even seven decades later, in the 2010s, a considerable number of Russians (no less than one-third) ascribe the victory over Nazi Germany first to Stalin, not to the army or the people. Putin, however, could not hope to continue to play the role of savior as long as Stalin. By the middle of the 2000s, after the country began to enjoy the benefits of some stabilization and high oil prices, Putin’s image of savior began to fade away, and the deeply dishonest presidential elections could not justify Putin’s presidential position.

 Putin was practically appointed to his position by Yeltsin; the election campaign of 2000 did not comply with even the most elementary requirements of democratic order. By the middle of the 2000s, Putin’s administration had to change its strategy to substantiating the legitimacy of the president. 

This is a major reason why anti-Americanism, which had only been an auxiliary instrument of Putin’s ideology up to this point, moved to the forefront, even surpassing “stability” to become the leading subject of his strategy. The importance Putin began to ascribe to anti-Americanism in official propaganda was also a direct effect of the color revolutions in the former Soviet republics in 2003-2005.

Indeed, while the color revolutions, in and of themselves, looked dangerous to Putin, his hatred of them was multiplied by his conviction that they were all staged by the West, particularly the US, which he believed viewed these uprisings as rehearsals for doing the same thing in Russia. Putin was particularly irritated that the color revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine clearly intensified the West’s critique of Putin’s regime and its legitimacy. Putin holds the strong belief that the masses in Russia (or in other countries) are unable go against their government on their own, without instigation and financing from abroad.

The West has, indeed, strengthened its efforts to spread the view that Russia is in the process of “de-democratization”—a term used in a prestigious report by the National Council on Foreign Affairs, entitled “Russia’s Wrong Direction” (2006). In 2007, Freedom House included Russia in a group of 45 countries that it classified as “not free”; its election processes were ranked a 3, as were those of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan (in France, the ranking was 12). The Kremlin was even more irritated by the public criticism offered by then high-ranking American officials, including Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney. All these developments were perceived by the Kremlin with its own opposition in mind, which the government believed could encourage its own color  revolutions with the help of the USA.         

The “Arab Spring,” and the collapse of the authoritarian regimes in Tunis, Egypt and Libya in 2010-2012—regimes which looked unassailable to the Kremlin—could only have enhanced the impact of the color revolutions on Putin. He was evidently affected by the fate of the rulers of Arab countries, “the victims of the Arab Spring”; Gaddafi’s fate particularly intimidated Putin. The Russian liberal media made regular parallels between Putin and the ousted dictators, and predicted the same fate for him. The execution of Iraq’s dictator Hussein could also generate unpleasant parallels in the minds of Putin and his elite.

 The Kremlin and its experts had no doubt that the “Arab Spring” was arranged by the USA, in the same way as the color revolutions. This could only have augmented Putin’s antipathy toward America. Moscow also watched the growing ideological offensive against Putin’s regime from the USA and other Western countries, under the impact of the “Arab Spring” with the utmost displeasure. In the opinion of the Kremlin, this, too, undermined the regime’s legitimization.

          Putin had already radically changed his policy toward the West and the USA by 2005-6. Once again, as it had been in the pre-war USSR, Russia declared itself a country besieged by enemies, a position which the Soviet government had avoided claiming after 1945, until 1991. It now feels invaded by various types of foreign agents, professional spies and recruited liberals, bought by the State Department, along with various foundations that serve only as front organizations for American special services.

These changes in the foreign policy doctrine were strongly dictated by Putin’s concerns for his personal power, and only minimally by geopolitical considerations. In fact, Putin’s attitude towards America has not been shaped by issues like anti-missile defense or North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The USA’s attitude on these issues have played a submissive role in Putin’s construction of relations with America, contrary to the views of many American politicians and experts who, like Putin’s propagandists, look at Russian foreign policy as being shaped by Washington’s actions on the international arena, and not mainly by Putin’s view that the West, and America first of all, are a threat to his position as the Russian leader.

Putin’s big innovation in his ideological fight against America was to shift from defense, Russia’s political order, to offense, denouncing the political system in the USA, and in the West in general, as even less democratic than his own (or at least of the same quality). He took a radical step in this direction in February 2007, in Munich, when Putin asked the West to stop teaching Russia about democracy, suggesting instead that they should “learn about it themselves.” He discussed “the double standard of Western policy,” the “CIA secret prisons in Europe,” the “illegal violence in Iraq,” the “weakness of American democracy,” and the immoral mass media. At his press conference on June 4, 2007, rejecting any critique of his regime, Putin described America in the gloomiest terms possible, as Stalin had a half century ago: “Just look at what’s happening in North America. It’s simply awful: torture, homeless people, Guantanamo, people detained without trial and investigation.” Since that year, Putin has rarely missed an opportunity to express his contempt for American democracy. For example, in June 2013, he mocked the view that the American Congress is independent, insisting that it is as submissive to executive power as legislatures elsewhere. He insisted on the moral superiority of Stalin over President Truman and contended that, in the spring of 1945, if Stalin had been in possession of an atomic bomb, he would have not used it against Germany but “ the Americans used it against Japan.” Without showing even a modicum of sympathy for the USA and its people, Putin also downgraded America as a country of “ethnic cleansing” and racism. Even at the peak of anti-Americanism after the war, Stalin and his propagandists never stooped so low as to muster their contempt for the American nation. They always made the distinction between the ruling class and ordinary honest Americans, as did Konstantin Simonov, Stalin’s pet writer, in his play The Russian question in 1947.

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The reversal in attitudes toward international public opinion

With his new propagandistic strategy, Putin radically changed the attitudes of the Kremlin toward international public opinion.

Throughout the 19th century and the 74 years of the USSR, Russian leaders displayed varying degrees of sensitivity to international public opinion, often suggesting that , as much as possible, their officials avoid any behavior that might bring the ire of the West down upon them. 19th century Western travelers to Russia, such as the Marquis de Custine (Empire of the Tsar: a Journey through Eternal Russia, 1839) or Sir Moses Montefiore (who visited Russia in in 1849 and wrote a memorandum of his impressions) noted the often awkward attempts of Russian officials to present their country to foreigners in the best light possible, at the behest of Tsar Nicholas I.

In the 20th century, those who attended the 1980 Olympic Games remember the energetic attempts made by Brezhnev’s officials to please foreign visitors. There were hundreds of Soviet jokes about the ruses devised by the authorities to try and present Russia in a favorable light to foreigners.

Under President Putin, however, Kremlin attitudes to international public opinion have changed radically. He has put a stop to attempts to gain the support of Western public opinion, rejecting any public criticism of his regime and sanctioning any act that supports it.

The Khodorkovsky case was the first sign of Putin’s growing indifference to Western public opinion. His arrest in 2003, first trial in 2005, and second one in 2010 aroused a storm of protest in the USA and Europe, but Putin was implacable; a third trial might even be in the cards.

The 2009 prison death (actually, murder) of Sergey Magnitsky, the lawyer and accountant who revealed a multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme by government officials, triggered an angry international campaign and demands for the punishment of the relevant law enforcement agencies. Once more, the Kremlin refused to react to the international outcry, or to the threat by Congress to introduce a law banning those officials responsible for Magnitsky’s death from entering the US. When the Magnitsky Act was passed and signed by President Obama in 2012, Moscow reacted defiantly, barring the adoption of Russian children by would-be parents from the US.

The new law on “foreign agents,” and the closure of the Russian USAID program— one of the American government’s most important agencies—were the next steps aimed at directly insulting the USA and international public opinion.

The Kremlin displayed the same contempt for Western outrage in the Pussy Riot case. Perhaps the group’s unauthorized guerilla performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior was both tasteless and deserving of disapproval, but sending 3 young women to prison for 3 years can only be described as cruel over-reaction. Western political figures and musicians protested, but to no avail.

Protests at the Kremlin’s evident intention to jail the charismatic blogger Alexey Navalny, now on trial on a trumped-up charge, have also been ignored by the Kremlin, which has remained similarly unmoved by the flight of the economist Sergey Guriev to the West, under threat of arrest for his connection with Navalny.

Yury Levada and Sociology

The history of sociology in Russia serves as a good illustration of the new policy toward international public opinion.

In the late 1950s, the Kremlin permitted the emergence of empirical sociology in the Soviet Union, as a demonstration to both its own intelligentsia and, more importantly, the West that it had embarked on a path of gradual liberal reform. In 1958, the Institute of Concrete Social Research was established; a powerful argument to Western observers that the Soviet regime had changed course. Soviet scholars were allowed to attend international congresses as full-fledged members of the profession, and, in 1966, some sociologists (well monitored by the KGB) attended the International Congress of Sociologists in Evian.

There was, of course, a system of tight controls: every word in a questionnaire had to be endorsed by 3 or 4 levels of academic and party hierarchy, though the authorities required the sociologists to conceal from their foreign colleagues just how restricted they were in their activities, and how much they were under the control of the Party and the KGB.

The 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia resulted in a Kremlin attack on honest sociologists. This was disguised as a debate within the sociological academic community, and had the figure of Yury Levada, one of the discipline’s main theorists, at its center. In his Lectures on Sociology (1968), he denounced the tank invasion of Prague, for which he was sacked from both Moscow University and the Institute of Sociology. He refused to repent, though his challenge to the Party meant that he would spend the rest of his life cut off from professional work and living with the threat that at any moment he could be sent to the Gulag. Had he actually been arrested, public amazement would have been minimal. He was under constant KGB surveillance and was unable to teach, publish, run seminars or participate in conferences. There was, of course, no question of him travelling abroad. His students, including the future director of the Levada Center, Lev Gudkov, were unable to find jobs. The Kremlin was incensed by the social scientist who had dared to challenge its power, but did everything it could to hush up the scandal. The media said nothing about the attacks on Levada.

During Yeltsin’s rule, and by the first years of the Putin regime, Levada not only had the reputation of a staunch (former) Soviet dissident—a status awarded by public opinion to very few intellectuals—but an active career in circumstances he could only have dreamed of during the long dreary years of the 70s and 80s. However, when Putin decided to do away with any suspicion as to the legitimacy of his position, Levada once more found himself in the firing line because Putin recognized in him a pollster who could not be bought off or scared.

Boris Yeltsin had invited Levada to become a member of the Presidential Council. At the same time, in 1988, he, together with the radical scholar Tatyana Zaslavskaya, became the directors of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), the first social survey organization in the history of Russia (from 1992 until his death in 2006, he was the sole director of this organization). They began asking the Russian public questions that would have been unthinkable in Soviet times. Levada’s greatest achievement was to put together a group of young people devoted to the quest for truth—as far as possible in social research—and ready to fight for their freedom as researchers. Articles by him appeared regularly in the press, and he became a familiar figure on TV. This was a complete change of fortunes for someone who had lived with the constant threat of imprisonment for so many years.

But the fairytale started to unravel when Putin came to power. When he decided to do away with any suspicion about the legitimacy of his position, Levada once more found himself on the firing line because Putin recognized him as a pollster who, unlike many of his colleagues in similar organizations, could not be bought off or scared. The Kremlin decided to exploit the formal connection between Levada’s company VTsIOM and the state (the Center was officially part of the Labour Ministry): in 2003, Levada was removed from his position as director and replaced with a yes-man. ( Levada later organized his own firm to study public opinion ).This time, public opinion at home and abroad did react: Putin was traveling to the USA and, at a meeting with journalists, was bombarded with questions about Levada. But Levada’s re-instatement was not going to happen, and the outcry in the American media was ignored.

Foreign agents

The mass protest movement of 2011-13 produced the same effect on Putin as the color revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine. Once more, Moscow regarded the US as the instigator of the protests—it is immaterial whether this was sincere or not. This time, the Kremlin decided to escalate the fight against the opposition and eradicate the last oasis of resistance. The ideological device for the new offensive was the “foreign agent.” In our globalized world, practically every organization in Russia has some connection with the West, and in particular with the United States, so it is not difficult to brand any group, association or company as “foreign agents.” With an enviable self-confidence, Putin’s henchmen have dismissed any criticism from the US as irrelevant and not meriting attention.

After a raid on the Levada Center in May 2013, the Kremlin officials wrote a warning memo to the Center about its foreign companies, which subsequently became a laughingstock throughout the world. This quasi-historical document accuses the Center of engaging in political activity by producing data which can be exploited, for instance, “in an election campaign or a debate in Parliament.” In the mind of Putin’s ruling elite, the Levada Center’s guilt is compounded by the fact that the firm receives money from abroad, chiefly the USA, even though this represents no more than 2% of their total income. The accusation is that the Center is turning into a “foreign agent,” representing the interests of a foreign country in Russia.

The implications of this accusation are many. First, as Lev Gudkov said in his statement on the subject, it signals a return to the political climate of the pre-perestroika era. As in many other areas, the fact that there is some freedom conceals the restoration of elements of totalitarianism. On the surface, sociologists are not monitored on a daily basis by political minders, as they were before 1985, but the indirect methods of control—including self-censorship and fear—are enough to make sociologists and the media react instantly to signals from the Kremlin. Every polling company in Russia keeps its eye firmly on the ball; there is no need for state intervention or memos to compel the bosses or their subordinates to engage in self-censorship or to contemplate becoming an informer for the authorities. Russian sociologists enjoyed the freedom to conduct social research for such a relatively short time; now it is gone once again, probably for a long time.

The 2013 attack on the Levada Center was, indeed, a clear message to all sociologists and pollsters that Russia’s boss will not countenance any data that might cast doubt on the legitimacy of his leadership. Many observers have pointed out that Putin’s attention is constantly focused on two sets of data: the price of oil and his popularity rating in Russia. The head of the Kremlin may have no leverage over the first, but he is confident that he can regulate the second.

Actually, the lack of free and fair elections or a strong ideology makes Putin’s ratings one of the few props available to the regime. The Kremlin has virtually said it will not allow a recurrence of the situation in May 2013, when social survey companies loyal to the government reported approximately 64% support for Putin among Muscovites, whereas the Levada Center figure was 20%. The Center has also published data showing that 51% of Russians agree with Navalny’s description of “United Russia” as the party of “crooks and swindlers.” The argument by some Russian liberals, that Kremlin leaders are depriving themselves of real data on the state of affairs in the country, is no more convincing than suggestions were to the Soviet leaders that it would be in their interest to support empirical social studies. For the Putin (as for the Soviet) regime, objective information is more of a danger, because it helps the enemy, than a benefit, because it would provide information about the best way to remain in power (they know this without being told).

Putin will certainly get good ratings from polling firms now. The old joke in Alexander Zinoviev’s 1977 novel Yawning Heights, about Kremlin leaders who were disappointed with their sociologists because the popularity rating of the General Secretary was reported at 120% when they expected 140%, has once more become relevant. In recent years, the Russian public has doubted the validity of much of the data produced by various organizations, but had been more certain that the Levada Center information was still reliable. Now they will doubt that the Center, if it survives, has been able to preserve its independence, without yielding to Kremlin pressure.

The attack on the Levada Center was the culmination of the Kremlin campaign against “foreign agents” (for “foreign” read “American”). Many organizations in Russia have been harassed, but the Levada attack is particularly significant because it was aimed at freedom of speech. It is, in effect, yet another indication that the USA is public enemy no. 1 to Russia, and that their agents have penetrated every single cell of Russian society.

The new frame for propaganda: anti-Americanism

          Authoritarian rulers almost always choose a frame for their propaganda. This means that whatever issue is raised by propaganda should be presented in one or another ideological frame. In the first decades of the Soviet system, the frame was based on the theory of class struggle. Almost every subject in the media, movies and works of fiction was interpreted in terms of class struggle. After the war, until Stalin’s death, Russian nationalism was the frame. Since 2003-5, and especially after 2011, Putin awarded this role to anti-Americanism. It means that, whenever possible, those who serve the regime or who are loyal to it have had to support the status quo by tapping into the font of anti-Americanism, directly or indirectly. These people turn almost any debate on flaws in the existing system into a speech about America, where a defect is much bigger than anything found in Russia. The critique of elections in Russia is downplayed by the statement that American elections are much more dishonest than those in Russia. Corruption in Russia is, of course, high but in America the situation is even worse. If Russia has a problem with creating a middle class, the USA has even more troubles because, as Ilai Baranikas (a Russian journalist working in America) suggested, its middle class is disappearing, while in Russia it is still holding out. It makes no sense to scold the Russian authorities for their inability to cope with natural disasters since the USA showed how helpless they were in dealing with Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

          There are important differences in the activities of anti-American propagandists in the Soviet times and Putin’s time. Now, Russian journalists and American experts know the USA much better than their predecessors did fifty years ago. Many of them have often traveled to the USA, and know the real weak spots of American society. This knowledge of “the enemy” helps them to carry out their anti-American propaganda, since a combination of real facts, lies and semi-lies influences the public much more effectively than a concoction comprised only of lies. Soviet participants in ideological warfare were ill-equipped with knowledge of America. For instance, they had big problems understanding the Watergate affair, and for a long time (up to its end) described it as Nixon’s intrigue.

          There is another interesting detail found in the changes in the anti-American propaganda in Russia. In Soviet times, almost all trials with political overtones, like that of poet Joseph Brodsky in 1964 or of writers Andrei Siniavsky and Yuli Daniel in 1966, were closed to foreigners. Now, the Russian authorities are self-confident in their confrontations with the USA and the West, and have opened the court to foreign journalists during the Khodorkovsky trials in 2005 and 2010, and for Navalny’s trial in 2013.

The support of anti-Americanism in the country

          Putin gets help in his anti-American obsession, even from people who are regarded as his political opponents. Of course, Communists and nationalists are happy to join Putin in his anti-American propaganda. Paradoxically, in recent years, quite a few Russian liberals have also made their contribution to this cause, denouncing various aspects of American society. Some of them, such as the respected political scientist Lilia Shevtsova, a merciless critic of Putin’s regime, wrote in American Interest in June 2012, that America (as well as the West in general) is bankrupt in all possible ways: “failing economy, dysfunctional domestic political systems, entrenched interests, dwindling prosperity and populism.” A known liberal journalist from the popular newspaper Moskovskii Komsomolets, Mikhail Rostovsky—who is also pitiless on the Russian political system— published two big articles in May 2013. Their major purpose was to suggest to his readers that America has hated Russia since the end of 19th century, and is now consumed with the desire to turn their country into its vassal. The “Magnistsky act” is one instrument for achieving this goal. The bacilli of anti-Americanism is widely spread among the Russian professional class, and anti-American tirades are habitual at every private party in Moscow, and, of course, on any talk show on official TV. 

In some way, this has created an unexpected turning of a considerable part of the  intelligentsia toward anti-Americanism—unheard of in either Soviet or post-Soviet times, up until Putin’s regime. This was caused by a mixture of motives, even aside from the impact of governmental TV. Putin’s critics wanted to show their “objectivity” and patriotism, to vent their frustrations about their life in a backward society, and to console themselves and others with the idea that life “there” is not much better. The animosity toward America is also fed by the bitterness of some liberals that the USA has not intervened effectively enough in the Russian political process to protect the opposition from Putin.

At the same time, despite all their critiques of America, Russian liberals, and even pro-governmental journalists and politicians, regularly use some elements of American life to support their arguments in favor of their proposals, or of actions inside Russia. Several times in recent years, Putin, himself, has justified his actions using elements of American society. For instance, he cited the case of Bernie Madoff to rationalize his treatment of Khodorkovsky. In addition, the same critics of America buy assets in the USA, and even often make the existential decision to leave Russia for America, forgoing their anti-Americanism of yesterday.

          If the refined intellectuals can fall to the infection of anti-Americanism, it is not so amazing that the Kremlin could easily foment xenophobia among ordinary Russians, and lure most of them into hatred of America. Indeed, all data have shown that the majority of the population—no less than two-thirds in April -May, 2013—consider the USA and its government to be Russia’s main enemy, and have accepted the Kremlin’s aspersions against America, when they proclaim its evil intentions to influence the political process in their country. Data from an April 2013 study revealed that only 9 percent of Russians want better relations with the USA. Contrarily, it is also true that the Kremlin has not managed to persuade the majority of Russians that America is a bad country, and even in 2013, 50-60 percent of Russians hold positive attitudes toward American society. Paradoxically or not, the average Russian often sees more positive features than sophisticated intellectuals and bureaucrats.

 Generally speaking, though, the Kremlin has managed to control the attitudes of all groups of the Russian population toward America, so far.

Conclusion

          Putin made anti-Americanism the core of his ideology, as well as the main instrument of the legitimization of his regime and the persecution of the opposition. All propaganda led by the Kremlin is now based on the thesis that Putin’s society is better (or at least no worse) than American society, and those who are critical of it are “foreign agents” or “agents of the State Department.”

The necessity of maintaining a high level of anti-Americanism dictates Putin’s foreign policy to a very great degree, which is primarily aimed at describing the USA as the main Russian enemy. Those in America who do not see the linkage between the hostile actions against America in the international arena and the role of anti-Americanism as the main instrument of the legitimization of Putin’s personal power will not understand the motivation of the Kremlin in the Syrian conflict or in dealing with Iran or North Korea.

Unlike all previous Russian leaders, Putin has demonstrated his full indifference to international public opinion, especially to the views of the American government and the American public on developments in Russia, and on his actions as the authoritarian ruler in particular. Since the main goal of his activity as the Russian president is the perpetuation of his personal power, the hardening of his regime, and the elimination of all possible opposition comes at a cost (discontent in the West with his politics), but this is much lower than the benefits this strategy brings (movement toward the restoration of the Soviet political order for the strengthening  of his personal regime).

The prospect for a change in attitude regarding anti-American ideology in Russia is rather bleak because Putin does not plan to leave the Kremlin in the next decade, and because he sees the USA as a power that will never endorse the restoration of the dictatorship in Russia. The USA can, indeed, improve its relations with Moscow but only on condition of supporting Putin’s claim to be the leader in Russia for the near future; a high cost for this country.

 

 

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