The Eternal Russian Mystery
Russia has been famously described as a riddle wrapped in mystery surrounded by an enigma. And the fundamental question foreigners are always left with having dealt with Russians is: “Is it dishonesty, or stupidity?”
Which one, for instance, would make Vladimir Putin say “that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the U.S. four times in a row, and that didn’t damage the U.S. Constitution.” Is Putin really such an ignorant ape that he doesn’t know Americans immediately changed their Constitution after FDR passed from the scene, concluding his bid for power was outrageous and dangerous?
Which one would make Putin ask a British reporter: “Who do you think was worse: Cromwell or Stalin?” Is Putin really oblivious of the fact that while Cromwell’s civil war in England may have cost 125,000 lives, Stalin’s reign of terror cost 20,000,000 or more? Does Putin really see fighting against dictatorship and fighting to impose dictatorship as being the same? Does he really think that because Hitler murdered millions, it’s just fine for Stalin to do the same and Stalin can’t be criticized? Or is he simply engaged in vicious, dishonest, neo-Soviet propaganda?
Robert Skidelsky, who heard Putin’s entire set of remarks containing these at this year’s Valdai Discussion Club dinner with Putin, summed up the content of Putin’s remarks bluntly: “He didn’t say anything forward-looking.”
In other words, because Putin’s government has met total failure and is now absolutely stymied by its inability to address Russia’s problems, Putin is returning to neo-Soviet propaganda to distract attention from those failures.
Take, just for example, Putin’s budget deficit. Even as Putin was blabbering his ignorant, dishonest gibberish it was being announced that the deficit had mushroomed 20% in just the last month, up to 646 billion rubles in August from 539 in July. Russia has entered a period of long-term deficits which will require extensive borrowing and therefore even more dependence on foreign economic growth. Yet Putin’s policy has been to attack and destroy those same foreigners at every turn, and this fundamental contradiction is now biting Russia hard.
What we see from Putin’s Russia is depressing and tiresome. The regime ignores reality, just as the USSR always did, instead of a crazed euphoria of propagandistic lies. It ignores serious problems rather than reforming, and it languishes in failure. Ultimately, this policy will lead once again to national collapse and ultimate despair.