Many in the West following the decision of more than 20 countries to expel Russian diplomats to show solidarity with the British think that Vladimir Putin has been driven into an untenable position and soon will be forced to back down in the face of this Western resolve, Irina Pavlova says.
But that is not how Putin views things, the US-based Russian historian says he doesn’t feel he “trapped” but rather in a position to intensify his attacks on the West because he “considers himself smarter” that his Western counterparts and thus is “raising the stakes” in ways that the West has forgotten how to counter .
According to Pavlova, the Kremlin’s strategy toward the West has been in place for some time and is based on “a vision of Russia as a great power in the Stalinist style for namely under him and in his understanding, the country experienced the peak of great power status, having generated a model for emulation.”
The only difference is that Stalin strove to Sovietize Western countries while “Putin and company seek the fundamental weakening of the West and the destruction of close coordination between Europe and the US.”
Given that goal, the historian continues, the Kremlin’s power depends not on its GDP but on “consistently, decisively and aggressively speculating on the weaknesses and problems of present-day Western civilization” and on Moscow’s ability to use the technological achievements of the West “to strengthen [the Russian] regime.”
Putin’s strength is further enhanced by the fact that he “adroitly plays on the human weaknesses of the representatives of Western countries, corrupting some successfully, dividing and perverting them.” As for the sanctions the West threatens, “they only strengthen this regime above all in the eyes of its own population.”
In response to the Western expulsion of Russian diplomats, Pavlova says, Putin adopted not only the mirror response of expelling Western diplomats but directly “accused the countries of Western civilization not simply in Russophobia but in the support of Nazism.” Unfortunately, up to now, few in the West have taken note of this in the serious way it deserves.
That charge is part of a special operation which is “the most important part of the great power strategy of the present-day Kremlin.” Today in fact, the Stalinists in Russia are enjoying their greatest heyday since 1953.
And while the West doesn’t want to admit it, it is confronted by a Russia that has become “a Brave Re-Stalinized World.”
This strategy, Pavlova argues, is being used by the Kremlin to “completely justify both the Stalinist USSR and Stalin, who [in its vision] ‘saved Western civilization from Nazism/fascism.” Indeed, “the Russian authorities have for a long time successfully privatized the role of the chief world fighter” against “the invented threat” of the revival of Nazism.
Putin’s Russia seeks to portray the Western world as facilitating this invented threat “not only in the former Soviet republics of the USSR – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine – but in the Western countries themselves,” she argues. And it has created an organization “The World Without Nazism” with branches in many countries including the US to push this line.
“The sad fact of present-day reality is that the West is not prepared to oppose modernized Stalinism,” Pavlova says.
Instead, the West must face up to the challenge of how to “force Russia forever to stop falling for the temptations of Stalinist great power notions.” And to do that, it must start with an understanding of what it means that Putin has chosen Stalin and Stalinism as his models for emulation and legitimation.
“It is possible,” Pavlova says, “that “’the key’ to the resolution of the world problem known as ‘Russia’ should be sought precisely here.” What must happen, she argues, is that the Nuremberg tribunal must be reconstituted to render judgment on the other totalitarian system of the 20th century, Soviet communism.
“Only by depriving present-day Stalinism of its foundation can one hope for a normal relationship with Russia in a globalized world.”
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