American Proscenium

Suspicious Minds

Will Russian philosophy gain a foothold in Russia?  It already has, laments David Brooks in a New York Times op-ed (“Putin Can’t Stop,” March 3).  Brooks finds disturbing Vladimir Putin’s tendency to quote the likes of Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Soloviev, and Ivan Ilyin; more worrying still, the Kremlin has recently sent copies of these three philosophers’ works to provincial governors.  An interest in Russian Orthodox thought has injected a “moralistic strain” into the Russian president’s speeches, Brooks argues, and said interest highlights the “highly charged and messianic ideology” now driving Russian decisions.  One gets the impression that the best-case scenario would be if Putin’s purported convictions turned out to be as phony as those of Beltway conservatives; what Brooks seems to find scariest is the possibility of the former KGB officer half-believing his own rhetoric about “defending traditional values to ward off moral chaos.”

Sincere or no, by recklessly destabilizing Ukraine Putin has set into motion forces beyond his ken:

The tiger of quasi-religious nationalism, which Putin has been riding, may now take control.  That would make it very hard for Putin to stop in this conflict where rational calculus would tell him to stop.  Up until now, we have not been in a Huntingtonian...

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