Putin Has Stumbled in Ukraine
Published: August 13, 2014 (Issue # 1824)
Fifteen years ago onáAug. 9, 1999, President Boris Yeltsin stunned Russia with his televised announcement ofáVladimir Putinĺs appointment as prime minister, as well as his characterization ofáthe new appointee as his successor.
Whatever theámotivations behind this choice, it turned out toábe theáright one. It was aámatter ofáhonor foráthe second president toáshow his personal loyalty andáfulfill his obligations toáthe first president.
But most importantly, after theáupheavals ofáthe 1980s andáĹ90s, Putin was just theákind ofáleader people wanted: not brilliant, but dependable, capable ofáfinally bringing theáendless chaos toáa close andáensuring theáreturn ofáhope foráthe future. Putin, whom few initially considered anáappropriate fit forápolitics, consolidated Russian society around theáidea ofástability.
Stability ináthe 2000s didnĺt mean stagnation or preservation (there wasnĺt anything atáthat point toápreserve); it meant action. Toáachieve stability, it was necessary toátake aáseries ofámeasures toárestore theámanagement ofáthe country, lay aáfoundation foráeconomic development andágive people aásense ofápurposeáŚ not through aáôbig projectö (not really Putinĺs forte), but through actively building andáimproving their own lives.
But Putin arrived under theábanner ofástability atáthe same time that stability was coming toáan end ináthe world atálarge. He came toápower atáan uncertain time, against aábackdrop ofáan eroding world order. This contradiction between internal goals andáexternal conditions gradually became more andámore apparent.
TheáWest sees Russiaĺs president as anáenemy ofáprogress, aásymbol ofáoutdated viewpoints andáold-fashioned approaches. He, meanwhile, expresses his astonishment atáthe policies ofáleading nations, which seem toábe almost intentionally adding fuel toáthe fire ofáinternational conflicts. Faith ináthe possibility ofáa ômajor dealö with theáWest, andáRussia joining theácircle ofáleading nations, has weakened, although Putin did see it as possible when he first took office.
But after Putinĺs return toápower iná2012, he saw theáWest, primarily theáUnited States, as theámain destabilizing force ináthe world. This wasnĺt due toáanti-Russian sentiment ináWashington or Brussels (Putin considered that obvious ináany case), but toáthe Westĺs thoughtless andáarrogant interference ináone situation after another, destroying theáfoundations ofánational governance.
Many outside observers are sure that Putin is aácunning strategist, his actions governed byáa larger idea: planned expansion, restoration ofáan empire, strengthening theáso-called ôpower vertical,ö aáreturn toáthe Soviet Union, anti-liberal measures, etc.
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