In most cultures, young people use force to dominate others but with time, the majority of them uses other means to advance their agendas. But unfortunately, Russia today is ruled by someone who never outgrew his youthful belief that force is enough and who hasn’t been forced to reconsider that faith and grow up, according to Igor Yakovenko.
As a result, the ruler in the Kremlin is still psychologically a child, the Moscow commentator says, with all the dangerous consequences from being a child but having possession of enormous levers of power.
Putin’s constant recollections that he was educated in the Leningrad streets and learned early on to “beat first” show this, as do his preferred rhetoric since coming to power.” His machismo, including his pride in judo and his display of a naked torso, all show that he views the world not as an adult but as a child.
It is thus “not accidental,” Yakovenko continues, “that [the Kremlin leader’s] victims have become real men who have [unlike Putin] become adults: Mikhail Khodorkovsky whom Putin sent to prison for ten years and Boris Nemtsov who was killed on Putin’s order.” And the fact that he was installed by his predecessor rather than chosen by the people has only intensified his feelings of childlike insecurity.
Putin’s childishness is behind the extraordinarily high level of military spending, his aggressive use of force abroad and his repression at home. Support for “force” as such has “achieved heights in Putin’s Russia unprecedented even in the second half of the 20th century let alone the 21st.”
“Never in all its history have monuments been put up in Russia to the bloody murder Ivan the Terrible, but under Putin, they are going up. Never after the 20th congress in the USSR or in post-Soviet Russia was there open propaganda of Stalinism. Under Putin, Stalin has become the name of Russia and his glorification goes non-stop on state television.”
“The mass consciousness of Russians not simply accepted but was delighted and transformed into a cult of national pride the annexation of Crimea, the aggressive war in the east of Ukraine and the mass murder of the citizens of Syria,” Yakovenko says. This all means that “Russia is a very sick country.”
According to Yakovenko, “the conviction that force was, is and will remain the chief resource of foreign policy and that only military strength can guarantee security is [held not only by Putin and his supporters but is] shared by a significant part and perhaps a majority of the supporters of a democratic, liberal and western course for Russia.”
One has the sense, he continues, that “the mentality of even the most progressive Russians remains in the 19th or in the best case in the first half of the 20th century when military force was the only means of preserving sovereignty and guaranteeing peaceful life to one’s citizens.”
“Unfortunately, even the most progressive people in Russia when one begins to talk” about overcoming Putin and Putinism sound very much like his most passionate and thoughtless supporters, discussing everything in terms of force as the Kremlin leader does. Only if that changes is there a real chance for progress.
But that change will require Russians to grow up. And tragically, Vladimir Putin himself still a child is doing everything he can to keep them at the level of children.
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