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Putin, Stalin, and the West

Putin, Stalin, and the West
Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

It took Vladimir Putin more than two weeks to acknowledge the fact that the Russian passenger plane had been blown up over Sinai.

Representatives of Western governments and intelligence services began to say almost immediately after the tragedy that the plane had been destroyed by terrorists. In Russia they tried not to focus attention on the possibility of a terrorist act. Instead, Russian officials argued there were all kinds of possibilities and that nothing could be confirmed before the investigation was completed. However, despite the fact the investigation has not yet been completed, both the Russia’s president  and the head of FSB (Russian intelligence service — Ed.) have acknowledged that this was a terrorist attack. The question arises, why just now ? After all, Russian leaders must have known the truth if not on the first day, then surely on the second or third.

The Russian acknowledgment is the direct result of negotiations conducted by Vladimir Putin in Antalya.  The central theme of these negotiations was the need to normalize relations with the West and to create a full-fledged anti-terrorist coalition. Specifically anti-terrorist and not pro-Assad.

One can only speculate about the reasons for this shift. Does the Islamic State present such a critical challenge for Putin or is this challenge just a pretext for settling relations with the West? Relations that need to be restored most of all because the price of oil has fallen and Putin is running out of money and not because the Russian president fears terrorism in Moscow. But whatever the real reason, the task of restoring mutual understanding with the  West is becoming a priority for Putin.

The attempt to resolve the Ukrainian crisis will  become one of the directions  for Putin’s turnabout. After the proposals on restructuring debt will come steps to relinquish the Donbas. Then a search for ways to get out of the Crimean impasse. However, there is no need to relax. Putin will not give up on attempts to “get back” all of Ukraine and he will not stop engaging in political and economic destabilization. But he will try to do it quietly to avoid angering the allies.

Another direction is the preparation of public opinion. For several years the Kremlin propagandists have portrayed the West — especially the United States — as the main enemy. So how is it possible that we were just fighting them and now we are friends, the public may ask. The Kremlin’s answer: we simply have a common enemy, the terrorists. The very same people who blew up the Russian plane organized the Armageddon in Paris. First we will defeat terror and then we will take care of the “details.”

In general, Putin is following the experience of his beloved Stalin, who became friends with Hitler in order to confront the Western democracies. And when the Fuehrer turned out to be a greater danger for Stalin’s regime than the West, the aid of the former enemies became a matter of survival.

In this framework Ukraine is very reminiscent of pre-war Poland. At first Stalin helped the Fuehrer destroy the hated state, but when Stalin joined forces with countries that went to war to protect Poland, he was transformed into a protector of its sovereignty. It is true that, as a result, he succeeded in ensuring that the new Poland became part of his sphere of influence.

And this is exactly what Ukraine must absolutely avoid in the new situation. However, Putin’s importance in the war on terror cannot be compared to Stalin’s importance in the war against Nazism. Therefore, Ukraine has every chance not to repeat the post-war fate of the countries of Central Europe.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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