Putin’s Syrian campaign a truly ‘Orwellian one,’ Kalashnikov says

Homs, Syria (Image: Yazan Homsy / Reuters)

Homs, Syria, November 2016 (Image: Yazan Homsy / Reuters) 

Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Syria, Moscow commentator Maxim Kalashnikov says, is “Orwellian in the purest way, completely in the style of 1984” because “it serves exactly the same goals that the unending battles” that lie behind the story of that 1948 English novel.

Like Orwell’s rulers, he argues today on the Forum-MSK.org portal, “the Kremlin doesn’t need a victory: it needs to prolong it as far into the future as possible in order to use it as an instrument of domestic policy and as the basis for propaganda” abroad.

“The Syrian political technology war is being conducted on the periphery and there is no way that it can spill over into the territory of the Russian Federation.” And that means, Kalashnikov continues, that “the war in Syria … is being conducted as a form of theater for the benefit of television screens.”

Even the risks that the Islamists will strike inside Russia are straight out of 1984, something that the Russian regime and its media occasionally refer to, he argues. That is because they recall the occasional attacks on London in that novel that killed a few of the people but never touched the elites.

But both in English fiction and Russian reality, this “political technological war” provides “a justification of the economic failings of the powers that be, the impoverishment of the masses, the senile obsession with guns instead of butter, and the suppression of any dissatisfaction within the country.”

Indeed, according to Kalashnikov, “this plot is practically ideal [as] it allows the Russian ‘elite’ to preserve its ‘power and wealth,’ to keep the Russian economy a raw materials-exporting one, and to ensure the controlled dying out of the [ethnic] Russians, demographically, biologically, mentally and morally.”

And the regime needs exactly that now because unlike during Putin’s first two terms, it doesn’t have the ability to offer the population a better life in exchange for leaving politics and power to others. Now, the Kremlin can say “There’s a war on! Be patient!” and have some expectation that most Russians will do as they are told.

A Syrian man cries while holding the body of his son near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Oct. 3, 2016. (Image: Manu Brabo / AP)

A Syrian man cries while holding the body of his son near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Oct. 3, 2016. (Image: Manu Brabo / AP)

The regime is not risking anything by taking this approach, Kalashnikov says: “The electorate from year to year is becoming ever more dumbed down and practically does not read any books. Its members don’t know Orwell.” But there can be no doubt, he concludes, that “it is precisely 1984 that inspired the imagination of the Kremlin political directors.”

That Russian television is in active support of this Orwellian project isn’t surprising. Indeed, in recent months, Moscow channels have started a new set of programs which show Russians fighting abroad and thus seek to make that into something entirely “normal.”

This development is especially worrisome to countries like Belarus whose population watches such programming, but at the same time, such programs, like the telescreens in Orwell’s novel, may be having an even greater effect in Russia itself, something that does not bode well for either the rest of the world or for Russia itself.


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Edited by: A. N.

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