An excellent article from George Weigel who portrays Putin in the vein that I believe his behaviour deserves. I don’t agree with all of it but it is nonetheless an important counter argument to the growing voices of sympathy for Vladimir Putin.
Russia is, in many respects, dying. Alcoholism is rampant. Life expectancy is sinking: Today, a 15-year-old Haitian boy has a longer life expectancy than his 15-year-old Russian counterpart. The economy is stagnant, and the ruble is cratering. Russia imports potatoes from Romania. Churches are largely empty. Yet atop this rotting body politic is an oligarchic elite that functions very much like the Mafia families depicted in Puzo’s novel The Godfather and the films spun off from it.
in the waning days of the Cold War, KGB officers, far too clever to believe in Mikhail Gorbachev’s “reform Communism,” began siphoning Communist-party and Russian-state funds into KGB accounts, safely hidden offshore in banks run by the kind of men who ask no questions. Those funds, in turn, provided the financial leverage by which Vladimir Putin and some of his former-KGB comrades, taking advantage of the Wild West atmosphere in the post-Communist Russia of Boris Yeltsin, muscled their way into political power, allying themselves with other, previously non-KGB-related oligarchs and big-time Russian criminals — and then, when the time was right, liquidating those temporary allies, literally or through bogus criminal proceedings and long prison sentences. Thus Putin and his friends in the KGB, now-rechristened the Federal Security Service (FSB), drew all the strings of political power into their own hands while constantly enlarging their bank accounts.
No one knows for sure, but Vladimir Putin may well be the wealthiest man in the world today — a super-don, far beyond the ambitions of Vito Corleone, who has created something quite new on the global political landscape. Once upon a time, countries had intelligence services. Today, Russia looks a lot like an intelligence service that has gotten itself a country. And having done so, the FSB-dominated Russian oligarchy is buying up as much of what’s available — in London, on the Riviera, wherever — as it can.
Putin is like a shark: He has to keep moving in order to stay alive, meaning to legitimate his rule. The Maidan Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine threatened to halt Putin’s forward progress by posing an alternative, and potentially attractive, model of 21st-century social and political life among the eastern Slavs: not simply, or even primarily, because it promised access to the cornucopia of Western consumer goods, but because it promised a public life cleansed of corruption, violence, lies, and authoritarianism. Thus, from Putin’s point of view, Ukraine would have to be destabilized, perhaps even rendered a “failed state,” by a combination of annexation (Crimea) and invasion (the Donbass), amplified by a barrage of disinformation and lies, all wrapped in the mantle of a mythic, spiritually defined “Russian world” for which Moscow had a special, historic responsibility.
The idea of a new European war seemed inconceivable as recently as two years ago. It is no longer inconceivable; it would be an unmitigated disaster; and that is why Putin must be stopped now, by sequestering his regime as the first, necessary step toward regime change in Russia. One would like to think that there was some other way out. But there does not seem to be, for the new “plague bacillus” has spread and dramatic measures are required to stop its further progress, reverse course, and vindicate the victory of freedom in the Cold War.
Very interesting indeed.