Vladimir Putin’s Existential Struggle against the West https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/politics-current-affairs/2021/07/vladimir-putins-existential-struggle-against-the-west/

July 22, 2021 | Leon Aron
About the author: Leon Aron is the director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of, among other works, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life and Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution 1987–1991.

From very early in its history, Israel found itself aligned with the U.S. against the Soviet Union, which armed Syria and Egypt so long as they fought the Jewish state, cultivated the PLO, and unleashed the global anti-Zionist propaganda campaign that remains with us even after the USSR is long gone. Jerusalem and Moscow now have good relations on the surface, but the Kremlin protects Iran and fights alongside it in Syria. More importantly, perhaps—as Leon Aron explains—the modern-day Russian regime is anti-American to its core:

Contrary to the prevailing view, Vladimir Putin’s domestic regime is not merely a corrupt autocracy founded on propaganda, political manipulation, and repression. . . . Over the past two decades he has ceaselessly and systematically reshaped Russia’s national identity: the ways in which Russians see themselves, their country, and their history. He has rewritten, updated, or reawakened the elements of his country’s legitimizing myths—what he calls “spiritual bonds” (dukhovnye skrepy)—and deployed them in ways that proved deeply satisfying to tens of millions of followers.

Along the way, Putin has recovered the defining elements of the cold war and made them part of the national credo: the conflict between Putin’s Russia and the West is not about normal competition among large states and occasional frictions about specific issues. It is about an incompatibility of values. Just as the Soviet leadership did, the Kremlin today perceives the struggle with the U.S.-led “West” as ubiquitous and global, whether in Georgia, Syria, or Ukraine. This contest is permanent, and the West’s effort to undermine Russia, [according to Moscow propaganda], is relentless.

Exceeding Soviet propaganda in stridency is a sign of a disturbing difference between the two cold-war regimes. . . . [T]he Politburo elders had little to prove and could rest on their laurels. Having known firsthand the horrors of [World War II], they were wary of provoking a direct confrontation with the West. . . . By contrast, since 2014, when Putin recast himself as a wartime president, war or threat of war has been the key to his regime’s legitimacy. What my Russian colleagues called “militarized patriotism in peacetime” became the leitmotif of the Kremlin propaganda orchestra.

Read more on Dispatch: https://thedispatch.com/p/welcome-to-the-new-cold-war

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now