Staunton, March 17 — Many analysts in Russia and the West are seeking to explain what Vladimir Putin has done in Crimea in terms of a paradigm which no longer works, according to Moscow analyst Aleksandr Morozov, instead of recognizing that by his actions, Putin has shown himself to have fundamentally changed and to have fundamentally changed Russia as well.
In an article on the Colta.ru portal today entitled, “A Conservative Revolution – The Meaning of Crimea,” Morozov suggests that the Ukrainian crisis has entered a new phase, one of “war” rather than political “trade” and that explanations which fail to recognize that cannot explain what Putin is doing and where he is leading Russia.
Morozov begins by surveying what he describes as three basic interpretations of Crimea: the first, offered by many in Moscow and elsewhere is that what Putin has done is a form of “revenge” for Kosovo and that no one should think that Putin “is beginning any ‘new process’” at all.
The second, he suggests, is that “the ‘Ukrainian strategy’ of the Kremlin is a conscious effort to begin a new war with the West.” In that view which has been articulated by Fyodor Lukyanov, “Crimea is only a casus belli” rather than revenge for Kosovo, and thus represents an effort to overturn 1991 and “begin a new era” in international relations.
And the third, offered by Gleb Pavlovsky, holds the Putin’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis is not really about foreign policy at all but rather is “only an occasion for changing his own system of power,”a revolution intended to allow him to exit from “’procedural democracy’” and to create “a situation of indeterminacy” in which he can act more freely.
Morozov himself offers a more radical interpretation. According to him, Putin in Crimea has dramatically changed course. Until 2012, he writes, Putin plotted his course between “capitalization” and “sovereignty,” terms that followed “a completely traditional political logic” and one entirely understandable in the West.
But he continues, “’Crimea’ means that Putin has completely shifted to another politics altogether. Now, he is prepared to sacrifice capitalization, to suffer a sanctions regime and risk the blocking of accounts. And by seizing Crimea, he has broken with the old ideas about sovereignty as well.
In short, Morozov says, “capitalization and sovereignty have been exchanged for the creation of a situation of an indeterminate future and the policy of revenge.” And revenge of this kind by its very nature “cannot be served by the forces of regular political discourse. It has another form of rationality” and “is based on a political myth.”
That in turn means, he continues, that “the discourse of Realpolitik is giving way to risk, heroism, the hero-ization of suicide, and … [a handing oneself over to] ‘fate,’” a shift that “does not consider any other possibilities for the future, except success” and thus does not make the kind of calculations that most political leaders do.
In the first decade of this century, he writes, “the Kremlin defined the Russian Federation as a ‘regional power,’” or as an energy one. Everyone accepted that. But “after May 2012, the Kremlin began to promote a conservative moral rhetoric and the impression arose that it had chosen a course of creating some kind of analogue to “a conservative Komintern.’”
But that interpretation was a mistake, Morozov continues. Instead, at the end of February and the beginning of March, “we became witnesses (and hostages) of process of transformatoin. Putin changed himself not simply into a player for high stakes but into a politician of a different type than he had been earlier.”
Now, Putin has become “’a permanent revolutionary,’ who is throwing all his resources into creating a situation of indeterminacy and unpredictability. At the same time, we are witnesses the transformation of Russian society. It has not withstood the tension of the post-Soviet quarter century,” Morozov insists, in contrast to the other peoples of the former USSR.
Also “transformed” has been the Russian political space. Up until two years ago, there were people on the left, people on the right, and people at the center, and the center consisted of an “amorphous” mix of bureaucrats, “’technical liberals,’” and “’technical conservatives,’” among others.
Putin has now “completely destroyed the configuration of the political center, and as a result, the newly emerged “’political center’ unanimously votenot only for the annexation o Crimea but in support of the transformation of Putin from a moderate autocrat into a completely new figure.”
“At the head of the Russian Federation stands a ‘conservative revolutionary,’ a revanchist player who is prepared to sacrifice any of the old statuses of the Russian Federation in order to be in a position to threaten the entire construction of the world as it emerged as a result of events in the 20th century.”
“The Anschluss of the Crimea shows,” Morozov says, that this is no ‘playing at Gorbachev.’ This is playing at ‘Hitler and Stalin.’ This is a game of the policies of force of the 1930s,” and it is extremely dangerous to all concerned.
For any revolution, including a conservative one, “one must play a high price,” Morozov concludes. It is a price that is not the result of a quarrel with a specific US president or specific German chancellor. Rather, it is a price that has to be paid because of the “insanity” of its author by those who are pleased with what he is trying to do and those “who have been against it.”