The new Russian empire is Putin’s real goal, and in order to achieve it he is willing to lose everything

The new Russian empire is Putin’s real goal, and in order to achieve it he is willing to lose everything

The new Russian empire is Putins real goal and in

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We thank Peter the Great, the Tsar who founded St. Petersburg (originally Saint Petersburg, in Dutch a country and people the Tsar admired) in 1703 and who had the good taste of being born only 350 years ago. With the apology of the jubilee and the big holidays that come with it (do you want to put a Founding Father’s uprising the way Russia struggles?), Wladimir Putin he recalled the wars Peter had fought and compared them to his own. Both, he says, are wars of reconquest and not wars of conquest. In this way though it put an end to the pathetic talk of wanting to rebuild the USSR which has plagued us for years and has drawn attention to a much more serious and interesting subject: Does Russia feel like an empire? Does it therefore have an imperialist policy? Is the invasion of Ukraine part of this policy?

Regarding the USSR, Putin said everything that he thought could be said with the sentence: “A Russian who has no nostalgia for the USSR is heartless, but a Russian who thinks of reviving it is brainless“. Few and heartfelt words to close the question. But with the Empire, it’s a whole different story. For a long list of reasons.

The first is this Modern Russia was born in the form of an empire that annexed away the small city-states and principalities it encountered on the way to its expansion. And the matter took an even greater breath from 1380, that is, from the Battle of Kulikovo, when the Russians for the first time inflicted a serious defeat on the Golden Horde, the Tatar power that had settled in the Russian lands as a heir to the Mongolian Rich. Russia began to evolve into a multiracial and multireligious empire. A development that came to its fullest in the 16th century, precisely at the time when the first embryos of those who would eventually become nation states were developing in Renaissance Europe. Since then, Russia has always been an empire. With the tsars and the tsarinas, from Peter the Great (the first to boast the title of emperor) to Catherine II (who fought north, west and south, expanding territories and bringing Russia into the ranks of European powers) to to Alexander II (who bought Manchuria from China and sold Alaska to the United States). And of course with Soviet power too: what was Stalin but a tsar, capable of conquering spaces, organizing vassal and vassal states, and moving peoples hither and thither at his will?

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So on closer inspection Russia only ceases to be an empire on the night of December 31, 1991, when the USSR was officially dissolved. It ceases to be, but doesn’t feel like it. On the other hand, how do you define a country like Russia, which is almost twice the size of Canada and China (the countries that follow it in size) and more than twice the size of the US? A country that touches three continents? A country where non-Russians still make up 20% of the population? Where the second most widely practiced religion is Islam (the first being Orthodox Christianity, of course) and the third being Buddhism? Where are 30 languages ​​with official status? And then how to eliminate this imperial DNA that has been passed down through the ages and passed through different regimes.

Official historiography, which has devoted itself to supporting the Kremlin’s policy decisions during this period, places great emphasis on that All invasions of Russia came from the west: the Swedes in the Middle Ages (and Alexander Nevsky, Prince of Novgorod, who defeated them on the Neva, was also canonized by the Orthodox Church), the Poles in 1610, Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1915, Hitler in 1941. And also, in the Putinian narrative, NATO expanding eastward with the help of Ukraine. The Empire and its “depth”, and with it a possible conquest of all or part of Ukraine, would serve to protect Russia in the direction always taken by its traditional enemies. But Putin and his people are not so primitive as not to know that All that “depth” (the long march that crushed the armies of Napoleon and Hitler, who arrived in Moscow and were then forced to retreat) is now rendered useless by any ballistic missilecapable of carrying an atomic bomb thousands of miles.

So why this war so cruel and seemingly useless? It may take a long step back to the origins of Vladimir Putin’s power to try to provide an answer. On March 24, 1999, then Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov flew to Washington. He has to meet with President Bill Clinton to talk about Yugoslavia, the policies of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, the balance in the Balkans. Halfway through the flight, he gets news: The US began bombing Serbia without even warning Russia. A setback, an unprecedented humiliation. Primakov orders the pilot to reverse course and returns to Moscow with his tail between his legs.

But it doesn’t stop there. Three months later, Russian President Boris Yeltsin fires Primakov and puts the semi-unknown Vladimir Putin in his place. Four months later, Yeltsin himself resigned. Another three months pass and the young prime minister, Putin, becomes president in his turn. This is the climate in which Putin will reach the pinnacle of power. And his career matured in the belief that among powers, among great countries, imperialism and the practice of imperialism are the norm. The American war in the Balkans for Russia, and perhaps not only for Russia, is an imperial war, with which the American Empire dismantles and reassembles a crucial region of the world, and with which Russia has maintained important ties for centuries. And Putin, who, as a doctoral student at St. Petersburg University, wrote a dissertation on the role of the state and the importance of raw materials as a weapon of international confrontation, needs no further confirmation. His first major decision as prime minister is to crush the Chechen rebellion with a ruthless war. An internal Russian issue, but not only: Many in the Kremlin are convinced that behind Chechnya’s independence is the long hand of the US, which is fomenting and financing it through the allied countries of the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates United First .

What we call imperialism is therefore the natural path for many Russians to become rival great powers. And since then, for a blow struck by the US, one was struck by Russia. Is Georgia building oil pipelines and allying itself with the US? In 2008 the Russian tanks arrive. Is Ukraine inspired and funded by the US rebelling against Moscow’s patronage? In 2014, Russia recaptured Crimea and raised Donbass. Does the US want to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria? In 2015 the Russians intervened. Etc.

There is, of course, a weakness in the Russian stance and in Putin’s strategy. Imperialists yes, but not only: the US does not base its power solely on military strength but also on technological development, on the construction of wealth, on the intercultural mix, on the culture industry, in short on the ability to build up an attractive model of life and customs. The so-called soft power. Russia, at least so far, has not been able to do so. The economy, based on the export of commodities, especially gas and oil, is state-controlled and not very inclusive. Technologies are advanced in the military sector, but the rest is of Western or Chinese manufacture. Forced nationalism collides with the attraction of the different. Rome waged wars, but its empire peaked by offering coveted citizenship to the “barbarians” rather than taking them with cannon fire. And Putin, who often grapples with historical issues, should know that.

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