Staunton, August 25 – Vladimir Putin had been remarkably, even amazingly successful in foreign affairs for the first 14 years of his rule in Russia, but his decision to set up Hamas-style regimes in southeastern Ukraine, the result of domestic imperatives, is going to condemn him to isolation and failure, according to Yevgeny Ikhlov.
Indeed, the Moscow commentator says, Putin’s violation of the rules of the game under which powerful countries do not seize the territories of others puts him on a course in which “not one of his undertakings from now on will be successful” and in which he will be increasingly isolated abroad and at home.
That this should be the case is suggested by what happened to two of his historical predecessors who were remarkably successful at one point in their careers and then, having suffered a major defeat, went on to their final ones almost without interruption, according to Ikhlov.
“Napoleon,” he writes, “fell because having discredited and destroyed the medieval orders, he liberated European nationalism — German, Spanish, and Russian which turned out to be no less powerful than the French a force whose awakening he so successfully based his operations.”
The obvious evil represented by Hitler united both heirs of the Great French Revolution, liberalism and communism which did not allow any chances for a medieval order to be reestablished by the Nazis.”
Everything was working for Putin as long as he was seeking to resolve “the historic tasks which objectively stood before Yeltsin but remained unresolved by him.” The current Russian president converted himself into a much desired “velvet Pinochet,” and he learned that he could have “the greatest success” with “a totalitarian restoration” based on “market Stalinism.”
But since Stalinism itself was “a restoration of Russian archaism” in and of itself, Putin’s “market Stalinism rapidly began to be transformed into a Chekist oprichnik operation,” with the FSB turning out to be a more reliable “party of power” although rapidly degenerating into “a corrupt police machine of the South Asian or South American type.”
According to Ikhlov, “Putin instinctively went along the path of least historical resistance – and developed consumer totalitarianism.” That worked for much of his time in office because it condemned protest against him to failure much as the dissident movement had failed in the times of Brezhnev and Andropov.
“But totalitarianism by definition is a society in the state of mobilization,” the Moscow analyst points out. Having “finally demobilized society” by his suppression of protests against him and clearly setting “the limits of the permissible,” Putin faced the challenge of coming up with a new means of mobilizing people.
That was war, and his “appeal to xenophobia, anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism and imperial nationalism almost doubled his social base,” Ikhlov says. But it led him to promote the formation of what can only be called “a ‘Russian HAMAS’” on the eastern portion of Ukraine which has been “just as uncompromising in its relation to the population which it supposedly is defending as is the Palestinian” origin.
Putin’s “Hamas in this case is a designation of a kind for a local, aggressive religiously motivated pseudo-state formation of a totalitarian (political-gangster style) type, which sets for itself utopian goals, uses violence against liberal values and global processes and does not have internal resources for its existence.”
While some Russians may find that attractive for a time, “the civilized world will sanction practically any abortion of the Donbass HAMAS,” Ikhlov says, and that in turn will limit Putin’s freedom of action and success in the future. In fact, Ikhlov argues, it may prove to be what Moscow was for Napoleon and El Alamein was for Hitler, the turning point to defeat.