At the end of 2014, Moscow commentator Yevgeny Ikhlov posted on Livejournal a comment entitled “Molotovs in Search of Ribbentrops” in which he argued that Moscow hoped to find the kind of partners in the EU and the West more generally who would agree to draw a line through Ukraine.
But that policy has failed, he writes today, because however much Vladimir Putin has imitated Hitler or Stalin, he hasn’t been able to create a situation in which Barack Obama will play the role either of Churchill or Chamberlain but instead is reprising the role of John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“The conflict of the US and the Russian Federation has reached the point where it has acquired an ideological character on both sides, with the State Department now calling the Putin regime ‘authoritarian,’” Ikhlov says. Up to now, it would only say that Putin’s Russia was “extraordinarily centralized with growing authoritarian tendencies.”
He notes as an aside that Washington is clearly “lagging behind” the Russian liberal opposition “which for a long time has recognized Putinism as authoritarianism with totalitarian, that is fascist-like, tendencies.” Were the State Department to take the next step, it would have to use a term like “’the fascist Kremlin junta.’”
But even what it has done so far, Ikhlov says, matters and matters profoundly. “Having called Putin a dictator, America has deprived itself not only of the chance to maintain dialogue with the Kremlin but to seek compromises with it, for any compromise with dictators now in the Free World will lead to the moral ostracism of those who engage in it.”
That makes impossible the kind of exchanges Putin succeeded in getting only two years ago. According to Ikhlov, “it is not difficult to understand the American logic: if England in 1939-1940 had had the military potential of America in 1943-45,” London would not have made the concessions it did to Hitler and Stalin.
Now, “on the ruins of PAX RUSSICA,” when the US has pulled both Cuba and Iran out of “the Kremlin orbit,” Putin is proposing a grand alliance with the West in which Obama could play the role of Franklin Roosevelt. But Russia not only does not have the resources but the ideological legitimacy to form such a grouping – and the Americans know it.
“The very idea of dragging America, which has been declared the primary cause of all misfortunes in Ukraine and in the Middle East into a single holy military alliance with Holy Rus as it seems the Russian World will soon be renamed is already a recognition of complete foreign policy and ideological bankruptcy.”
Moscow feels compelled to try it because it has few other cards to play, but now the cynical new Molotovs in Moscow, the Russian commentator continues, aren’t going to find equally cynical new Ribbentrops in the West.