RULES-BASED INTERNATIONAL ORDER. The West is always gassing on about this. Moscow’s next move will demonstrate that what they really mean is that they make up rules, break them whenever they feel like it, and order the others to follow them. (A recent example of the mutability of the “Rules-Based International Order” is that gay rights are very important in Russia but not at all in Washington’s new “major ally” of Qatar). Moscow will invite every signatory of OSCE declarations (for example, Helsinki, Istanbul and Astana) to formally re-commit themselves. If they do, then Moscow will say “act on it now or we will”; if they don’t, then Moscow will say “we won’t either”. Remember R2P? If I were running Moscow, that’s where I would make my move.
THE BIG PRINCIPLE that Moscow is talking about is, quoting the 1999 Istanbul Summit, “(8) Each participating State has an equal right to security… They will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States… (9) The security of each participating State is inseparably linked to that of all others.” Kennan saw it in 1998: “Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia“. Russia was weak then and NATO was strong; now it’s the other way round. NATO strengthened its security at the expense of Russia’s and now its security is weakened as a direct consequence of that very act. That’s the whole issue in a nutshell.
PLANNING. What we see today has been planned in Moscow (and coordinated with Beijing) over a long time. Did it start with NATO expansion in 1999? US quitting ABM in 2002? Putin’s 2007 Munich speech? The destruction of Libya in 2011? I don’t know but this is no sudden whim; it has 30 years behind it. The preparations are complete, Russia is ready for anything.
NATO UNITY is crumbling. Maybe Croatia and Hungary aren’t so important but there are signs that Germany and France are not happy. Europe has to understand that Washington is not its friend: it will sanction Russia to the last Euro and cubic metre of gas. But all we can realistically expect from Europe today are baby steps. It will take time for the unpleasant reality to sink in.
NATO WAR POWER. NATO’s a paper pussycat and so it is being shown to be. Ritter explains that it hasn’t got the military muscle to influence anything. All it can do is destroy third world counties and lose anyway. I wrote this seven years ago and I see nothing to change; do you? Afghanistan? Iraq? Anywhere? Moscow has the military power and, despite the boasts, NATO forces would be just a speed bump.
RUSSIAN WAR POWER. Russia can’t land an expeditionary force in Mexico and conquer the USA, or conquer Europe, or win a naval war in the South Pacific, or conquer Ukraine; its power projection capability is limited. But it can beat anybody at home. And that’s all its armed forces are there to do.
UKRAINE. It must now be plain to everyone in Ukraine that their BFFs will only fight to the last Ukrainian. Their biggest cheerleaders are pulling out their citizens and moving their troops back. Does Zelensky understand that there is precisely one actor whose word he can trust? Russia has been about to “invade Ukraine” since October and it’s amusing to watch Kiev try to strike a balance between “help me!” and “don’t ruin me!”: “at the moment, as we speak, this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive…“. Washington is dialling it back too. Another glorious NATO victory soon to be declared! Of course, Moscow never intended to invade and be billed for the repair costs of that shattered polity.
RUSSIA/CHINA. Putin and Xi will be meeting on Friday. I expect a significant announcement. Beijing is perfectly aware that Moscow is fighting for it too.
AUDIENCE. The West in its more orotund moments likes to call itself “the international community”. It isn’t. Others watch and notice. Moscow is talking to them too.
(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)
Vladimir Putin’s sabre-rattling over Ukraine is scuppering any chance we have of alien contact, a UFO expert has warned. Nick Pope – who investigated flying saucers for the MOD – believes ETs who keep a close eye on earth will view Russia’s escalation of tensions with its neighbour as “primitive behaviour”. And the UFO expert says sophisticated alien civilisations, who he reckons would be light years ahead of us, may see it as a reason not to visit us or get in touch. Nick said: “Highly evolved extraterrestrials probably regard warfare as something that only primitive civilizations engage in, so the Ukraine situation means we’re unlikely to get an invitation to join the Galactic Federation for the time being.”
Daily Star, 21 January 2022. Yeah OK, but they must think that this is within the, admittedly broad, parameters of their readers’ universe.
On the other hand, maybe he’s saved us from an invasion by giant bugs who want to lay their eggs in us.
After years of behaving like a teenager shadow boxing in the basement of his mother’s house, playing out the fantasy of knocking out Ivan Drago in the 1985 movie Rocky IV, the US and NATO find themselves confronting the reality.
Being a member of NATO used to be pretty cost-free: fun even. You had a suite in the flashy new HQ, admired your flag with all the others, gloried in your excellent values. The biggest downside was that you were expected to provide a few soldiers to participate in the latest war in some dusty place. But, you could go home after destroying Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan and forget about it. Until the refugees showed up. And Washington really did insist that you buy some of its weapons and it was harder and harder to say no. And you started getting sucked into things that weren’t as much fun as you expected. But, overall, for the leaders anyway, it was an attractive deal. And most of you didn’t like Russia much, having edited your own communists out of the story and forgotten what the Germans did to you.
Russia was feeble and weak, going down, and certainly no match for “the greatest alliance in history“. But what happens when that teddy bear turns nasty? Blowing up countries from 20,000 feet, you had stopped paying attention. Lost wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq turn out to be poor preparation and the bear had been paying attention. But, you cry, NATO was supposed to protect me, not put me into greater danger!
There were two rounds of talks in Geneva and a meeting with NATO. The US written answer was delivered on 26 January and, in Lavrov’s words, did not address “the main issue” of NATO expansion and deployment of strike weapons, although there were openings on “matters of secondary importance”. So here we are and we await the next step. It is, of course, quite certain that Moscow has the next step worked out and the ones after that.
There have been some second thoughts. Washington and its allies have been booming the “Russian invasion” threat as hard as they can but Kiev is trying to to turn down the volume – it doesn’t want to scare its principal backers away. No signs on 2 January, or 25 January. Delicate job this, as we see here: you have to say not now but maybe later. Now even Washington is trying to dial it down – after all, Russia has been “about to invade” for three months now.
We are coming to the end of the story. All those people in the West who thought they could ignore Russia’s interests are starting to suspect that they don’t have the leverage they thought they had. Russia is pretty sanctions-proof. It is the closest thing to an economic autarky on the planet: lots of territory, lots of raw materials, lots of water, lots of energy, all the manufacturing it needs, self-sufficient in food, well-educated people, backed up government, armed to the teeth. It’s pretty impregnable and it’s not run by fools. And it’s very closely allied to the biggest manufacturing power and population in the world. Not an easy target at all and almost impossible to hurt without hurting yourself more.
And all this to preserve the so-called right of a country no one wants in NATO to ask to be admitted. What a principle to die for!
Time for Moscow to tighten the screws. How much will Europe and the other NATOites be prepared to pay for being in a security organisation that does nothing but get its members into disastrous wars and make them insecure?
Putin and his team can allow themselves a small smile: they’ve been planning this for a long time. He warned us in 2007 and here we are today.
DONBASS. It should be understood that the official position in Moscow at present is that the rebel areas are part of Ukraine and the Minsk Agreement provides a method for resolving grievances. (Note, BTW, given the constant refrain that Moscow must “comply”, that it has no obligation). But this position could suddenly change given that Kiev has never fulfilled any part (especially No 4) and that Kiev’s “allies” haven’t tried to make it. One of the many possible “Or Elses“.
LESSONS LEARNED. Little countries often try to play off the big guys against each other. But Kazakhstan and Belarus have just learned that this isn’t possible today because Washington wants total control. Others will learn from these examples.
NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. I don’t remember Soviet propagandists assuming their consumers to be as stupid as the creators of this do. Ummm – you told us that Putin tried to kill him, he’s completely in his power now: shouldn’t you at least spend a little effort coming up with some explanation for why he’s still alive to give interviews to you?
SWEDEN. This week drones, last week the Russians were going to snatch Gotland. Years ago somebody in the Swedish security apparatus told me that these stories – “submarine sightings” in those days – were faked up by the people in the Swedish security organs who want it to join NATO.
To Moscow, Ukraine is not the problem, Washington is. Or, as Putin might put it: Tabaqui does what Shere Khan tells him to and there is no point in dealing with him, go straight to Shere Khan. That is what Moscow is trying to do with its treaty proposals.
For the same reason, Moscow is not much concerned with what the EU or NATO says; it assesses that they are Tabaquis too.
The current propaganda meme in Washington is that Russia is going to “invade Ukraine” and absorb it. It will not: Ukraine is a decaying, impoverished, de-industrialised, divided, corrupt and decaying mess; Moscow does not want to take responsibility for the package. Moscow is fully aware that while its troops will be welcomed in many parts of Ukraine they will not be in others. Indeed, in Moscow, they must be wishing that Stalin had returned Galicia to Poland rather than giving it to the Ukrainian SSR after the War and stuck Warsaw with the problem. This does not, however, rule out the eventual absorption of most of Novorossiya in ultimo.
The second delusion in Washington is that if Moscow did “invade Ukraine” it would start as far away from Kiev as possible and send tank after tank down a road so that the US-supplied PAWs could exact a heavy cost. That is absolutely not what Moscow would do as Scott Ritter explains. Moscow would use standoff weapons to obliterate Ukrainian troop positions, C3I assets, assembly areas, artillery positions, ammunition dumps, airfields, ports and the like. At its choice. It would all be over quite quickly and the Javelins would never be taken out of their boxes. But that is the extreme option as Ritter explains.
Unfortunately the Blinkens, Sullivans, Farkas’, Nulands and others who seem to be driving USA policy don’t understand any of this. They remain convinced that the US is a mighty power, that Russia is feeble and fading, that Putin’s position is shaky, that sanctions are biting, that Russia’s economy is weak and so on. And that they understand modern warfare. Everything in the past twenty years contradicts their view but they hold to it nonetheless.
Take, for example, Wendy Sherman who was the principal American negotiator in Geneva this month. Look at her biography on Wikipedia. Social worker, money raiser for Democratic Party candidates, political campaign manager, Fanny Mae, Clinton appointee to the State Department, negotiator with Iran and North Korea. Is there anything in that record to indicate any knowledge or understanding of Russia or modern war? (Or skill at negotiations for that matter?) And yet she’s the one on point. Jake Sullivan: lawyer, debate preparer, political advisor, ditto.
Perhaps there’s an American general officer who sees reality – certainly there are those who have spoken of Russia’s formidable air defence or EW capabilities; others understand how weak NATO would be in a war on Russia’s home field. But, as Colonel Lang points out, maybe not.
Overconfidence rooted on nothing is the problem. Moscow has made a proposal that is based on the undeniably true position that security is mutual. If one side threatens the other, then the threatened one will take steps to shore up its position and the threat level will rise and rise. During the Cold War both sides understood that there were limits, that threats were hazardous and that negotiating prevented worse things from happening. But Washington is lost in its delusion of everlasting superiority.
The so-called “Thucydides trap” is the name given to a condition when one power (Sparta then, USA now) fears the rising power of (Athens then, China and Russia today) and starts a war because it fears its position can only weaken. The brutal truth is that that point has already been passed: Russia+China are more powerful than the USA and its allies in every measurable matter – more steel, more food, more guns, more STEM, more bridges, more money – more everything. NATO/US would lose a conventional war – American military wargamers know this to be true.
In short, how can Moscow compel these people to see reality? This, in a word, is the problem: if they can see it, then something better is possible; if they can’t, then it’s the worse. For everybody’s sake – Washington’s too – Washington has to pay attention to Moscow’s security concerns and dial down its aggressions. Moscow has asked – demanded really – and it’s not yet clear that the attempt has failed. The negative reaction of the Tabaquis doesn’t matter – Moscow only talked to them as a matter of form – it’s Shere Khan’s answer that matters. And we haven’t had it yet.
Perhaps the aborted colour revolution in Kazakhstan was an answer from some portion of the US deep state/Borg but, if so, it was a swift and powerful demonstration of how poor an understanding of the true correlation of forces the US deep state has.
We await Washington’s final answer but the prospects are not very encouraging at the moment: the cheap threats and bragging op-eds pour out. So what is Moscow’s Plan B?
The United States has not been threatened with a conventional attack on its home territory since 1814; Russia has several ways that it can do so. The problem will be to reveal the threat in a way that cannot be denied or hidden. A demonstration of Poseidon’s capabilities on some island somewhere followed by the announcement that a significant number are already deployed near US coastal cities?
Washington must be presented with a demonstration of Russia’s immense destructive military power that it cannot pretend away. Ukraine is the obvious field for such a demonstration. (See Ritter).
A world-changing diplomatic move like a formal military alliance with China with a provision that an attack on one is an attack on both. This would be a demonstration of the correlation of forces that not even the most deluded could miss. Mackinder’s Heartland plus population, plus manufacturing, plus STEM, plus resources, plus military and naval might joined in a military pact.
We shall see. The negotiations are not over and something better may come from them. Doctorow, a capable observer, gives some hope. But to get to a better result would require a pretty major change in attitude in Washington.
PRESS CONFERENCE. (Rus) (Eng) Very much internally-focussed, not so much about garbage disposal as in the last couple of years (I guess it’s getting better) and markedly less of “Batyushka, can you fix my roof?”. Foreigners given less opportunity to pose, hector and interrogate. But those who did gave Putin a chance to put the Russian POV: “And you are demanding guarantees from me. It is you who must give us guarantees, and you must do it immediately, right now..”
BRITISH INTERFERENCE IN RUSSIA. Hackers – Underside – have released documents showing London’s investment in “democracy” “civil society” and so on in Russia. (Docs) (Docs) (Docs). All sounds very nice but it’s aimed at subversion. Imagine the reaction in the West if it had actual documents from Russian sources rather than invented nonsense like Putin weaponising humour.
Never mind that Russia won’t “invade Ukraine” for a host of reasons which I (for one – I certainly don’t pretend to be the only person who can see the obvious) laid out in 2014: Why Russia Hasn’t and Won’t Invade Ukraine. These reasons are only stronger now because Ukraine has become more decayed, more poor, more nazi, more corrupt, more divided and more hopeless. It is a huge hostile expensive liability that Moscow doesn’t want to pay for and police. Let those who broke it, pay for it.
However pitiful their suggestions, one may take comfort from the fact that they do not suggest that the USA/NATO go to war with Russia if it “invades Ukraine”. The truth, of which one signer has a some dim awareness, is simple:
if USA/NATO get into a conventional war with Russia, they will lose;
if USA/NATO get into a nuclear war with Russia, everybody will lose;
therefore, there is no war solution for USA/NATO
What do they suggest? What are the “immediate steps to affect the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculations”; “raising the costs”? Only worn-out repetition of past failures. One may be encouraged because it shows the paucity of thought among the warmongers but, at the same time, discouraged because it shows their paucity of thought. Stasis. Decay. Petrifaction. But never a reflective silence.
Here they are:
“a package of major and painful sanctions”;
“enhance the deterrent strength of Ukraine’s armed forces”;
“NATO should act now to begin bolstering its military presence on its eastern flank”;
USA/NATO should utter statements and hold consultations “to highlight the unacceptability…”;
“the United States and its allies should continue to make clear their readiness for dialogue with Russia, to include concerns of NATO and other parties about Russian military and other aggressive activities”.
The weapons they suggest are “Javelin anti-armor missiles and Q36 counter-battery radar systems as well as Stinger and other anti-aircraft missiles.” There won’t be a chance to use them – if the Ukronazis provoke a Russian reaction, it will resemble this story: “Товарищи, отойдите от своей базы подальше. У вас 10 минут“.
NOTE: Given that we’re going to hear this one a lot in the next little while, I have joined the two parts for ease of reference. I wrote the first in 2014, JRL picked it up and I got a lot of flak from flacks. But I proved my point in Part 2. Johnson sent me a lot of private messages from translators and interpreters saying that I was right. The essence of it is that English has three forms for adjectives: (big, bigger, biggest) but Russians have a fourth in between bigger and biggest. That’s the form Putin used and is so frequently misquoted.
The idea for what follows came from a Facebook discussion. One individual, certain that Russia was to blame for the situation in Ukraine, said, among other things, that Putin claimed the biggest mistake was the collapse of the USSR and that he wanted to restore it. I said Putin did not say anything like that and challenged him to find the original. I was hoping to make a point and lead him to understanding something for himself. He dug up a number of statements from the Western media saying that Putin had called the end of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the Twentieth Century”. Not so hard to find examples: Google returns 15 pages of hits for that exact search, starting with the BBC and ending with it used as a put-down by a commentator on a mildly approving Polish newspaper piece about Putin. The phrase has now become something like what Pravda used to say when it wanted to spread a lie, but had no real evidence, как известно: as is well-known. Over and over we see it used as the triumphant final proof of the argument. “Putin wants a new Russian empire”; “Ukraine PM: Putin wants to rebuild Soviet Union”; “Putin longs to be back in the USSR”; “Putin’s obsession is the restoration of Russia’s pride through the restoration of its imperium.”
Perhaps the most interesting reference my correspondent pulled up, however, was this from an essay by Anders Åslund:
What is interesting about it is that he actually footnotes the original source. I assume Åslund expected that no one would bother to look it up or be unable to find it. But it’s out there on the Internet.
Not the greatest; not the most important; not the largest of anything. Not Number One. Not the superlative. One of many geopolitical disasters of the century, but a “major” one. If you like, you could argue with Putin about whether it was “major” or “minor” – here are his reasons for putting it on the “major” side of the list; you put yours:
As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself. Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups – possessing absolute control over information channels – served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere. Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.
(Note, by the way, how deceptive Åslund was with his second ellipsis).
Certainly big; anyone would agree that it was a bad enough disaster at least for those who lived through it. But bigger than any other disaster? No, but Putin isn’t saying it was. It ought to be perfectly obvious what he’s talking about: not a desire to re-create the USSR but an accurate description of how miserable the 1990s were for Russians (and, actually, for most other people in the former USSR). But, read on. This statement was part of the orator’s pattern, after the bad times, things are getting better: “Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life. In those difficult years…”. And so on. Ex tenebris lux, or something like that.
The message is plain: Putin thought Russia was over the worst and better things can now happen (he was right, wasn’t he?). To use this as “proof” that he wants the USSR back, or is a “neo-imperialist” is wilfully to misunderstand what he said.
But just think how feeble your assertion that Putin wants to re-build the empire would be if the only quotation direct from his mouth that you had to nail your argument down tight with was “Putin did say that the collapse of the USSR was a pretty big disaster because people lost their savings, a lot of crooks stole stuff and many other sufferings ensued”. Doesn’t have quite the same ring does it?
So, the point that I was trying to get my correspondent to understand is that you simply cannot trust Western media reports on Putin or Russia. There is so much distortion, mis-quoting and outright falsifications that nothing you read in your newspaper, see on your TV or hear from your politicians can be accepted at face value. This particular quotation was ripped out of its context and made to serve another purpose; then it was endlessly repeated to cap the assertion that Putin is the world’s enemy because he wants to conquer his neighbours. The history of its use is a perfect illustration that the default position is alwaysanti–Putin. No secondary source can be trusted, always go to the original: is it an accurate quotation? what is the context? If you cannot find the original (both President and Prime Minister have a site in English, by the way; it’s not that hard to find the original), then doubt.
But there is a greater point. The West, NATO, the USA and its followers, we are at war with Russia. A rhetorical war with economic aspects at the moment but it may already be a shooting war by proxy. It will get closer to a real war if the Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 is passed. The authors of the bill are quite certain that Russia is expansionist, aggressive and wishes domination over its neighbours. The famous quotation is not in the bill but it is alive in the US Senate:
An influential mis-quotation, wouldn’t you say? Creating and supporting anti-Russian propaganda since 2005. It would, of course, be wrong to say that we are creeping closer to war with Russia only because of a mis-quotation, but the mis-quotation has certainly played its part in the creep.
A number of people have challenged my (and the official Kremlin translators’) choice of “a major” for “krupneyshey” in Putin’s famous sentence “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” I stand by what I said: he did not say that there was no worse geopolitical disaster in the century. Neither did he mean that he wanted the empire back.
1. Meaning of the word “krupneyshey”. I take my authority from Pekhlivanova and Lebedeva: “Russian Grammar in Illustrations”; Moscow 1994; p 161. Here it is stated “To say that an object possesses some quality in extraordinary degree, without comparing it to other objects, the Russian uses a special adjectival form ending in -eyshiy (or -ayshiy, after zh, ch, sh, shch). A footnote tells us “These forms are used more frequently in bookish speech”.
To express the meaning “the object possesses the quality in the highest degree as compared to other objects” the modifier samyy is used.
A photograph of that page of the book is below
2. There is the argument from common sense: no Russian would ever say that any “geopolitical disaster” was bigger than the Second World War. His tongue couldn’t even form the syllables.
3. One must assume that Putin chooses his words carefully and knows what they mean especially in a formal speech like his address to the Federal Assembly in 2005 from which the sentence is taken.
4. One must assume that the Kremlin English translators know what they are doing. They chose the word “a major” for “krupneyshey”. By the way, I read the speech when it was given and downloaded the text in Russian and English at the time. There has been no change since. (It occurs to me, given that, in Latin, “maior” is the comparative of “magnus” – big, or great – the translators by that word choice might have been trying to suggest some quality that was on the high side of the scale without being “maximus”; in short “krupneyshey”; not just big but bigger than most? The comparative meaning of “major” seems to be hard-wired: can you even say “more major” or “most major” in English without sounding illiterate?)
5. The context makes it quite clear that Putin is not talking about loss of empire or anything like that. Here is the text around the famous sentence:
I consider the development of Russia as a free and democratic state to be our main political and ideological goal. We use these words fairly frequently, but rarely care to reveal how the deeper meaning of such values as freedom and democracy, justice and legality is translated into life.
Meanwhile, there is a need for such an analysis. The objectively difficult processes going on in Russia are increasingly becoming the subject of heated ideological discussions. And they are all connected with talk about freedom and democracy. Sometimes you can hear that since the Russian people have been silent for centuries, they are not used to or do not need freedom. And for that reason, it is claimed our citizens need constant supervision.
I would like to bring those who think this way back to reality, to the facts. To do so, I will recall once more Russia’s most recent history.
Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.
Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups – possessing absolute control over information channels – served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere.
Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.
But they were mistaken.
That was precisely the period when the significant developments took place in Russia. Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life. In those difficult years, the people of Russia had to both uphold their state sovereignty and make an unerring choice in selecting a new vector of development in the thousand years of their history. They had to accomplish the most difficult task: how to safeguard their own values, not to squander undeniable achievements, and confirm the viability of Russian democracy. We had to find our own path in order to build a democratic, free and just society and state.
When speaking of justice, I am not of course referring to the notorious “take away and divide by all” formula, but extensive and equal opportunities for everybody to develop. Success for everyone. A better life for all.
In the ultimate analysis, by affirming these principles, we should become a free society of free people. But in this context it would be appropriate to remember how Russian society formed an aspiration for freedom and justice, how this aspiration matured in the public mind.
Above all else Russia was, is and will, of course, be a major European power. Achieved through much suffering by European culture, the ideals of freedom, human rights, justice and democracy have for many centuries been our society’s determining values.
It is bordering on dishonesty, to take that one sentence out of that context and use it as the capstone of an accusation that Putin wants to get the USSR back. It obvious that he is saying the Russian people are not doomed to become slaves or failures, they have come through this disaster and will grow again; freedom and democracy are possible for them. Ex tenebris lux.
Speaking of freedom and democracy, if one must quote Putin, why not this one? “History proves all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are intransient.” (“Russia at the turn of the millennium” 1999). Interesting point, isn’t it? Democracies will outlive dictatorships, no matter how tough the former appear at the beginning.
What’s he mean by “democracy”? “Authoritarianism is complete disregard for the law. Democracy is the observance of the law.” (Interview with reporters, 24 Dec 2000). Depends on the laws, of course, but not a silly or trivial statement, is it?
Or, if we want his opinion on the USSR, how about this one? “In the Soviet Union, for many decades, we lived under the motto, we need to think about the future generation. But we never thought about the existing, current, present generations. And at the end of the day, we have destroyed the country, not thinking about the people living today.” (Putin, press conference in Washington, 16 Sept 2005, White House website). The failure of the USSR was built-in from the start.
I could go on – I have a file of quotations collected over the years – Putin has said a lot about a lot of things. Almost all of it carefully considered and embedded in a deep and broad context. But I’ll stop at one more:
“Our goals are very clear. We want high living standards and a safe, free and comfortable life. We want a mature democracy and a developed civil society. We want to strengthen Russia’s place in the world. But our main goal, I repeat, is to bring about a noticeable rise in our people’s prosperity.” (Address to the Federal Assembly, 26 May 2004”.