The West is slowly getting to grips with the Vladamir Putin problem through its economic warfare designed to restore the unipolar world it thought it had established in the New American Century.
That warfare – sanctions and a secret understanding with the Saudis to pump oil when there is no logic in pumping it – is having effects on the Russian economy. It is hoped that these effects will influence the Russian democracy, which the West pretends does not exist, into getting rid of Mr. Putin who has had the temerity to resurrect Russia as a force in the world – something that was considered impossible after the Cold War had been won and continued on until NATO reached the Russian borderlands in Ukraine.
The problem is not the character of Mr Putin’s Russia, for the West. The problem is what Putin has done for Russia.
Alexander Dugin’s recent book, Putin vs. Putin, reveals that Putin came to power when the pro-Western ‘democratic’ elite that was governing Russia realised Yeltsin was unable to rule. This elite was becoming prosperous by sponging off the West and robbing the Russian masses of its inheritance. Putin was seen as a “manageable patriot” popular with the masses who could provide the front behind which a liberal Western course could be plotted.
At this point Russia “was on the verge of a catastrophe: disintegration, terror, civil
war and chaos, and society was stricken by apathy and silent resentment, while a grim, odious and sick tyrant was looming above it all.” (p.31)
What was required was a great show of patriotism to disguise the Western course and this was provided by the Chechen campaign. Russia had previously been humiliated in the first Chechen war and this played a major part in its disintegration. In 1999-2000 Russian forces recaptured Grozny and curtailed the separatists and their radical ideology.
However, Dugin argues, the scriptwriters of the Westernising scheme were pushed aside by the directors and then the star, Putin, who became a cult figure after the success in Chechnya, and he began to rewrite the script. The patriotic front began to acquire substance under Putin and the masses began to respond.
In his first term Putin successfully reversed the direction of the Yeltsin years. He prevented the disintegration of Russia in the Caucasus and began pulling localist elements back together to restore cohesion to the Russian State.
He placed the districts under a federal administration of military character re-establishing obedience to Moscow. Two of the most notorious oligarchs were exiled and several political and economic institutions were established to promote re-integration.
However, Dugin argues that Putin was unable to complete his ‘labours’ and in some areas he had to give ground and surrender the positions he had occupied. He provided Russia with a respite rather than a resurgence.
Dugin puts Putin’s failure down to two main factors. He came to power too quickly with the result that he had no effective entourage to assist him in his ‘labours’. That helped things to regress again. Secondly, there was the Western counter-attack enabled by 9/11.
Dugin notes that Putin has been walking a tight-rope between what the Russian people want of him and what the West requires of him. Dugin is clear that what the Russian democracy wants fundamentally conflicts with what the West requires. The people wish for a strong state with a patriotic orientation guarding its independence. The West wants dynamic liberal market deregulation, the establishment of pro-western values and compliance with the EU and its economic and social norms. This produces things that adversely effect the people like lack of housing availability, haphazard utility provision, rising fuel tariffs and the breaking up of natural monopolies. Putin, to walk the tight-rope, has tended to be liberal between electoral cycles and increasingly patriotic toward elections. However, Dugin believes that in Putin’s second term he has increased the liberalism at the expense of the patriotism.
Dugin explains Putin’s failings by his lack of a substantial political force providing him with a coherent ideology to deal with Russia’s position. United Russia is more a barometer of electoral popularity, swinging one way and then another, than something grounded in coherent thought. It tends to be like a communist party without real belief in communism, maintaining discipline but incapable of giving Putin strategic backing. Dugin believes that grafting an ideology on to it would not work in improving it. United Russia is a start, for Dugin, but not a solution.
Dugin believes that what Putin needs is an independent Eurasian party providing the leader with a distinct ideology of Eurasianism.
But at the same time Russia needs Putin, since the country’s improvement is fragile and in the balance. If Putin goes Russia is back to liberal chaos – where the West wants it -because there is nothing at the present developed in the country that indicates Russia standing on its own without Putin.
It seems that De Gaulle was right all along. The Cold War was just a passing phase. The eternal struggle was the Anglo-Saxon world preventing Russia from emerging onto the stage of history. Britain began it and conducted its Great Game for half a century against Russia. Two interludes happened when Russia was required as an ally to do down Germany. But the US took over from its Anglo-Saxon cousin after 1945 and has continued the doing-down of Russia long after Communism ceased to contest the world.
Geopolitics was primary, ideology matters nothing.