Putin’s Long Road Back To The UN

For the first time in nearly a decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be in New York to attend a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. His appearance will come at a time when Russia is under increasing pressure (and isolation) over its incursion into Crimea, its support for Ukrainian separatists and its unwillingness to use its influence in Syria to force the removal of dictator Bashir al-Assad.

Why Putin has chosen to go to the UN and what he will do next are questions several analysts say can only be answered by examining the philosophers and theorists from whom the Russian dictator gets his ideas.

“Why he struck when he did — and how, uniting most Ukrainians against him and speeding Kiev’s flight to the West — is hard to deduce from the distant past. The eminent scholar Walter Laqueur suggests in his book ‘Putinism’ that the Russian leader can be understood by looking at the history of ideas. To explain current policies, one must examine the strange mix of philosophers and polemicists that Kremlin officials have been reading,” suggests UCLA professor of political science, and director of the Russian Political Insight project Daniel Treisman.

In his book, Laqueur stresses Russia remains tightly linked to Europe in terms of culture, history, language and religion and that Putin’s guiding philosophy is  rooted in resentment over at Russia’s lost superpower status and its quest to return to its former superpower status. He also writes extensively about Ivan Ilyin, a philosopher whose beliefs Putin has quoted frequently over the years.

But while Laqueur examines the source of Putin’s ideology in his book, he wrote recently that the Russian leader has been blessed by a shared desire of the people over whom he rules to see the old greatness restored. And that may explain why, even after Putin is gone, Putinism will survive.

“At the core of the Russian character is a belief that, without discipline, people would not work and nothing would function, and only government authority can enforce this discipline. Given the basic anarchic inclination of the people, but for a strong state power, the country would fall apart,” he writes in Politico.

“But Putinism is likely to survive because it has not been a disaster, and there is at present no alternative. The only opposition comes from forces even more anti-democratic and further to the right than Putin. Russians perceive their country as a besieged fortress surrounded by enemies who want to inflict great harm on her. This fear is shared by a majority of the public and is reinforced by government propaganda, above all on controlled television,” continues Laqueur.

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