Last Saturday, at United Russia’s congress, the ruling duumvirate of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin finally ended the uncertainty of some months’ standing. Putin first asked Medvedev to head United Russia’s list at next December’s Duma election. Accepting the offer, Medvedev proposed that United Russia nominate Putin as its presidential candidate in March 2012. The news is as welcome as it is unsurprising. Short of an act of God, the world’s largest country will have Putin as president for the next two six-year terms, until 2024. This will ensure much needed stability amidst the ongoing program of reforms at home and an equally desirable continuity in Russia’s foreign relations.
Medvedev is an able technocrat, Putin is a statesman. Medvedev is strongly aware of Russia’s pressing need to modernize, to diversify her economy and to streamline her bureaucracy, and he is well equipped to continue his earlier efforts in that direction. Putin is primarily focused on Russia’s need to preserve and enhance her identity as a Christian nation and a great power. He knows that Russia’s first-order priorities are to increase her relative political, economic and military clout in the global system, to revive the national sense of purpose, and to resist Western pressures to entwine modernization with suicidal multiculturalization.
The former is the job of a hard-working prime minister and his teams of hand-picked managers; the latter is the task of a visionary president. There is no contradiction between these two sets of tasks, Western media pack’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Modernization devoid of the guiding hand of statesmanship is self-defeating—as witnessed by Spain after Franco, a once-great country sadly adrift today. On the other hand, strong insistence on rootedness, cultural identity and tradition, however healthy in itself, may hamper a state’s ability to maintain the dynamics of its autochthonous existence if it is not accompanied by long-overdue reforms—as witnessed in Belarus.
Putin’s return to the helm is a key precondition that Russia will preserve its internal cohesion and external security as Medvedev proceeds with his modernization projects. The experience of the past four years proves that Russia is not inherently ill-suited to a successful “dual power.” It enjoyed 14 years of successful dual monarchy after the Times of Troubles (1619-1633) when the young, reform-minded yet weak Tsar Mikhail Romanov ruled in conjunction with his father Philaret, the Patriarch and “Great Sovereign.”
Since our neoliberals and neoconservatives and their European equivalents are equally antipathetic to a Russia—any Russia—which is cohesive internally and secure externally, it is unsurprising that they are screaming blue murder at the “undemocratic” arrangement about to unfold in Moscow and the country’s pending return to autocracy, corruption and stagnation. This is good. For as long as the Western bien-pensants repeat the mantra, Russia is on the right track. Any praise for its leaders from Washington, New York, London or Brussels—such as heaped on Yeltsin, Kozyrev & Co. two decades ago—would be a cause for alarm, justified by the country’s calamitous state during the 1990’s.
In a broader geopolitical sense Putin’s return to Russia’s helm is beneficial to the American interest because he has a more acute understanding than Medvedev that North America, Europe and Russia essentially share the same civilizational genes and belong to the same cultural sphere. As Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, noted almost three years ago, “If the northern civilization wants to protect itself, it must be united: America, the European Union, and Russia. If they are not together, they will be defeated one by one.”
This statement reflects a profound understanding of the biological, cultural and spiritual commonalities shared by one billion Europeans and their overseas descendants in the northern hemisphere — an understanding evidently taken for granted in Putin’s entourage yet odious to the Western elite class. Medvedev, by contrast, has displayed occasional symptoms of the propensity of Russian reformers ever since Peter to look at “the West” with some awe, or else with a naïve hope that Moscow’s constant assurances of “cooperation” and “integration” may erode the visceral antipathy of the Western elite class toward Russia. That disdain is based on the accurate recognition that Russia is the last bastion of faith and identity which those people have done their best to destroy in their own countries.
In Washington the ruling neo-liberal humanitarian interventionists will deny that any common Euro-Russo-American civilization exists, let alone that it is worth preserving or jointly defending, and they will use Putin as proof positive that this is so. Russia is still steeped in its barbarian blood-and-soil pre-modernity while the propositional credo of the U.S. transcends the shackles of ethnicity, race, culture, and faith. If Putin still insists on a Russian physical or cultural space that does not belong to everyone—while Siberia remains under-populated—he is a bigot, and under him it is even less likely that Moscow will finally see a Gay Pride Parade.
PUTIN AND THE GOP RACE—At the other end of the Duopoly, the timing of Putin’s expected return works out nicely for GOP presidential hopefuls looking for a cheap way to sound hairy-chested on foreign policy. One can’t help but recall then-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s reference to “Putin raising his head” in the general vicinity of Alaska, a comment no doubt reflecting the work of the lobbyist for Georgia’s necktie-munching president Mikheil Saakashvili serving at the time as Palin’s foreign policy adviser.
Russia has hardly figured in the Republican debates so far, which can be expected to change as the contenders—with the exception of Ron Paul—receive their cues from their various handlers and heavy-breathing commentaries (now being drafted) in the Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard, and “analyses” from Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, to the effect that Putin’s return amounts to a reincarnation of Stalin himself. The fact is that for many GOP apparatchiki the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism served not as a cautionary tale about the hubris of empire and the folly of millennial ideology but the opportunity to supplant the USSR at the end-of-history purveyor of “progressive” values. To the extent that Putin equals a strong Russia, his return is just unacceptable. He is an affront to the Beltway Elite article of faith that no power or combination of powers has any right to reserve its own Monroe Doctrine-like sphere or influence or even to exercise its sovereignty over its internal affairs.
The predictable effusion of anti-Putin rhetoric, for those few with a sense of perspective, will serve as a reminder that the last thing the American electorate will be offered in November 2012 is an American Putin. Depressingly, whether it is Obama or those lining up to challenge him, no prospective president is prepared to make our country once again strong, respected, and self-sufficient.
UNDERSTANDING PUTINOPHOBIA—That a “democratic” Russia can be only the one subservient domestically and externally to American demands and ideas is accepted on both sides of the U.S. duopoly and its Euro-cohorts. The party has already started, predictably enough, in Britain, with The Daily Telegraph expressing fears Vladimir Putin will turn Russia into outright dictatorship. British “conservatives” and their neocon ilk across the Pond have not an inch of space from George Soros when he claims that “a strong central government in Russia cannot be democratic” by definition, and further says that “Russia’s general public must accept the ideology of an open society.”
For both the quasi-Left and the quasi-Right in today’s Western world, “democracy” thus defined depends on an actors’ status on the ideological pecking order, not on his popular support, in line with the Leninist dictum that the moral value of any action is determined by its contribution to the march of history. To wit, Putin’s current approval rating of over 60 percent is now cited in the West as further evidence of his populist demagoguery.
Those Americans and Europeans who love their lands and nations more than any others, and who put their families, their friends, their neighborhoods and their loved ones before all others, should be pleased at Putin’s forthcoming return to Russia’s helm. Unlike our leaders, he is one of us.