Let’s talk about Vlad

Let’s talk about Vladimir. Let’s not hold back, shall we?

(This is a satirical follow up OpEd  by the author after his entries found here and here)

If we’ve learned one thing from this gentleman, it’s the inability to show restraint. Source: Toronto Sun

Unfortunately our predictions about Russia’s actions in Ukraine (regarding the rebels) turned out to be accurate. The rebels have been (quite successfully) fighting their way through the Southeast of Ukraine with a purpose to create a passage to Crimea. Meanwhile, the economic situation in both Russia and Ukraine is devastating. This is all obvious, boring and rather predictable, right? Therefore in today’s article I have decided to talk about something else. In this piece I will be discussing “the root of all evil in the universe”- Vladimir Putin.

Now, that Russia’s President has been openly, widely and regularly accused of fueling the war in Ukraine and driving Russia’s economy into shambles, his ratings of approval should logically be plummeting. In reality, however, they have been skyrocketing since the beginning of the war. You may legitimately ask: ‘why is the ‘despotic tyrant’, as he is often described by Ukraine and Europe, loved by his people who, allegedly, should feel oppressed. We all know about flagrant violations of gay rights, human rights, and freedom of speech in Russia. Why do over 80% of Russians still approve of his actions?

One answer could be Machiavelli’s principle he developed in the essay called ‘The Prince’. Machiavelli reckoned that for a prince it is more advantageous to be feared rather than liked. But is this the case with Vladimir Putin? Do people actually fear him? Well, some of them do, but the majority of Russians respect him. Logically, it gives rise to the next question: ‘What is he respected for?’. The answer is simple- for ‘protecting’ his people. ‘But in order to protect there must be an enemy’- you may legitimately remark. And you know what they say, when there is no enemy to unite people against, create one…

The Russian Federation is the biggest country in the world with hundreds of nationalities and ethnic minorities. Furthermore, the country has such potentially unstable territories as Kaliningrad and Chechnya which could easily develop separatist movements. However, somehow Russia manages to keep everything together no matter what. You may disagree with the following, but the reason why Russia has not fallen apart is the widely hated ‘dictator’ who has been literally doing everything to keep his country together.

Putin clearly loves Russia, and evidently Russia loves him back.

And why would you not love him? Source: Business Insider

Let us come back to the enemy we were talking about in the second paragraph. In order to unite Russian people, Russia chose the United States as its evilest enemy implying that ‘America’ is trying to expand and impose its values upon the rest of the world. It appears that two rival doctrines of the Soviet times are still depicted as mutually-exclusive in Russia. In fact, 40% of Russians would support a war against the US. The only man who can protect Russia from ‘the aggressor’ is Putin. In order to engrain this vision into the population’s brain, Putin is constantly depicted as a ‘badass’ or a good villain (is this even a thing?) who can casually hang out with bears, dive to the bottom of the deepest lake in the world and take down some judo fighters. ‘Can your Obama do this?’- is a typical argument used by Russians arguing with Americans and Europeans on political matters. This ‘badassery’ has been cultivated for a decade, and, as you can see, quite fruitfully. There is even a video on youtube comparing Putin’s and Obama’s workout, emphasizing Putin’s superiority.

Coming out of closets can’t be debated upon in Russia Source : CBC

As for gay rights in Russia, gay propaganda is forbidden in accordance with the Russian law. Many people talking about Putin as a dictator often use this argument. What they have not considered is that Russia is the Orthodox country where a majority of people believe that God does not approve of being gay. Other people just ‘do not like them and do not want them to influence their children’s choice’ (seriously?). We may logically conclude that such legislative actions of Putin just reflect the population’s opinion on the subject. Good or bad-it does not matter. It is politics. After all, he was chosen to represent his people stance.

Another matter is human rights and illegal prosecutions in Russia. This is a tricky part. Generally human rights thrive in small to medium democratic countries with well-educated people. Unfortunately, it is not a case in Russia. The country is tremendous, the population is not only huge but multicultural and multiethnical, and some (many) people’s only education is television filled with Russian infamous propaganda.  If human rights situation was to improve in Russia, there is a strong possibility that the people would rise against the regime which would very likely undermine Russia’s integrity, and this is the last thing Putin wishes for.

As for illegal prosecutions of oligarchs and ‘opposition’ members, e.g Hodorkovskiy and Navalnyy, when Putin came to power he made himself clear to the oligarchs that they either cooperate or go to jail. As a result, some ‘heretics’ have been put behind bars, but Russia remained strong and united. To the contrary, in Ukraine where there is at least three rival oligarch groups with each group pursuing its commercial interest. The later played the key role in Ukraine’s ‘democratic revolutions’ and their further consequences.

Putin loves Russia as if it was his own child. But, as you may know, too much love has a negative effect on clear and objective thinking. As a result, his politics of ‘end is more important that the means’ can lead to grave consequences either for him or less importantly, for global cooperation and peace.

In conclusion, this piece’s purpose is not to justify Putin’s actions, but rather to explain the thinking behind them. But the most important thing to understand here is that a majority of people in Russia do not feel oppressed as oppression presupposes forcing people to do something through coercion, intimidation or other leverage. People in Russia voluntarily choose to be oppressed, they like to be oppressed. Consequently, there will not be any substantial change while the Russians choose to be dictated what to do and most importantly what to think.

 

Bogdan Nesvit

Bogdan Nesvit

Editor, Eastern Europe at InPRA
Having completed his under-graduation at Dnepropetrovsk National University, Bogdan read as a post-graduate at the University of Oxford and University College London(UCL).

Coming from Ukraine, he has worked for Ukrainian City Councils, magazines, journals and joined the United Nations in 2014.

He hopes to bring a different but robust prospective on Eastern European and Eurasian politics with his work.
Bogdan Nesvit

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