In August Debbie and I’ll will head to Russia for an information gathering trip that will include a visit to a nuclear facility, and time spent in the seat of Russian power, Moscow. We will obtain on the ground intelligence about the mood of the Russian people and gauge their attitudes toward the West, and their own leadership.
Despite some recent anti-government protests led by Aleksei Navalny, for the most part Russians seem to have a very favorable view of Vladimir Putin, and typically applaud his management of the federation. After the Soviet Union broke apart, Russia was run terribly, exploited by oligarchs and interfered with by the West. Putin stopped that in its tracks.
In The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan, a frequent critic of hawkish rhetoric towards Russia, highlights the work of Chris Caldwell, who wrote in Hillsdale College’s Imprimis magazine:
“When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that.”
“In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Ataturk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he resurrected a nation-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country’s plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country.”
Putin often (but certainly not all the time), takes a better position on issues than American elite politicians like Sens. Chuck Schumer and War Dog John McCain. Buchanan highlights that, despite his problems, Putin has admirers at home and abroad thanks to his defiant attitude.
Much of the hostility toward Putin stems from the fact that he not only defies the West, when standing up for Russia’s interests, he often succeeds in his defiance and goes unpunished and unrepentant.
He not only remains popular in his own country, but has admirers in nations whose political establishments are implacably hostile to him.
In December, one poll found 37 percent of all Republicans had a favorable view of the Russian leader, but only 17 percent were positive on President Barack Obama.
There is another reason Putin is viewed favorably. Millions of ethnonationalists who wish to see their nations secede from the EU see him as an ally. While Putin has openly welcomed many of these movements, America’s elite do not take even a neutral stance.
Putin has read the new century better than his rivals. While the 20th century saw the world divided between a communist East and a free and democratic West, new and different struggles define the 21st.
The new dividing lines are between social conservatism and self-indulgent secularism, between tribalism and transnationalism, between the nation-state and the New World Order.
On the new dividing lines, Putin is on the side of the insurgents. Those who envision de Gaulle’s Europe of Nations replacing the vision of One Europe, toward which the EU is heading, see Putin as an ally.
So the old question arises: who owns the future?
Read more here.
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