Putin Shifts Focus of Patriotism
Published: May 14, 2014 (Issue # 1810)
Aáfew years ago ináan interview with Western journalists, President Vladimir Putin made aástatementáthat was so strange people thought it was aájoke. ôIt is my misfortune...[and] tragedy that I am alone. There just isnĺt anyone else like me ináthe world. After Mahatma Gandhi died, there was nobody left toátalk with.ö
Actually, Putin chats with Syrian President Bashar Assad, theáleaders ináIran andáother people Gandhi would clearly never have spoken with. But there is aásmall bit ofátruth ináwhat Putin said. Theáworld really doesnĺt listen toáPutin. People only hear what they want toáhear, andáthat is whatever doesnĺt upset them. Back iná2005, Putin said that theádissolution ofáthe Soviet Union was ôthe greatest geopolitical catastrophe ofáthe 20th century.ö Many people only remembered these words when it became clear that ôfixingö theáresults ofáthat catastropheáŚ atáleast inápartáŚ has become Russiaĺs top foreign policy strategy.
Buried ináthe usual official niceties ofáthe two speeches Putin gave toácommemorate Victory Day onáMay 9 ináMoscowáandáSevastopoláwere several important messages. Addressing theáworld, Putin asked everyone toárespect ôour legitimate interests, including theárestoration ofáhistorical justice andáthe right toáself-determination.ö
But self-determination does not apply toáethnic groups within Russia, where ôpromoting separatismö was recently made aáfelony. AndáRussiaĺs ôlegitimate interestsö include former Soviet republics, where Putin, ináviolation ofáinternational law, has been ôrestoring historical justiceö as he sees fit.
It is interesting toácompare Putinĺs speech atáthe May 9 parade ináMoscow with theáspeecháhe gave aáyear ago. Last year, he ended with aácall ôto overcome all difficulties andáobstacles andápass onáto our children aáprosperous, free andástrong Russia.ö This year, ôprosperousö andáôfreeö were gone. Inátheir place were calls toáôplace service toáthe fatherland above allö andáto ôdefend theáinterestsö ofáRussia.
Theádifference between this yearĺs ôdefending Russiaĺs interestsö andálast yearĺs ôdefending theáhomelandö is significant. Theádifference can be understood fromáthe text ofáthe law onáveterans. Out ofáthe list ofá49 wars that theáSoviet military fought ináthe 20th century, only ináWorld War II did Soviet soldiers defend their country fromáinvasion. All theárest ofáthe wars took place onáforeign territory. Theálist includes theásuppression ofáthe Hungarian uprising ofá1956, theáwar ináKorea, military operations ináEgypt during theáSix-Day andáYom Kippur Wars. It also includes military operations ináVietnam beginning ináJanuary 1961, when U.S. President John F. Kennedy was still categorically opposed toásending U.S. troops intoáthe conflict.
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