THE RUSSIA HOUSE [ UPDATED]
Brace yourself for a good deal of rubbish in the next few days regarding Putin's address
to the Russian people, particularly regarding his grandiosely ahistorical claim that the demise of the USSR was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."
MSM psuedo-experts and talking heads are going to pop up next Sunday morning with Tim and George to engage in ominous, arm-waving, hysterics over that line.
It was a phrase designed to raise an emotional red flag ( pun intended) but at home, not in the West. It is dubious that Putin himself really believes that - at least to that extent - since if the USSR were still around he'd still be trying to recruit the local girlfriends of the Marine guards at the American Consulate in some Bulgarian backwater, instead of being President of Russia. There are millions of patriotic Russians who miss the days when their country was the feared superpower and they like to hear that kind of rhetoric from Putin.
Trust me, these quasi-nationalists are also the same people who used to tell jokes about Brezhnev being a walking corpse. These people don't want the Bolsheviks to come back, they want to stop feeling humiliated about the condition in which Russia finds itself. By speaking as he does, Putin sucks all the political air away from the extreme Right and the hardline Communists who would be waving the ultranationalist bloody shirt for all they were worth if they could. They can't though, so long as Putin is seen as a " respectable" outlet for conservative sentiments.
These Russians, muzhik-descended, second-generation urbanites, older for the most part and living in outlier cities and towns are Putin's equivalent of Nixon's " Silent Majority" and Putin plays to them in a similar way. The beneficial aspect in terms of American interests is that Putin prevents their radicalization with his blunt talk. The extremists on Russia's political margins on the right and left are a scary, anti-semitic, wildly anti-American and anti-capitalist bunch. We really don't want them riding a populist wave to power, we want to help Putin where he takes positive steps and help the real Russian liberals build truly credible, democratic, alternatives to authoritarian rule.
But get the U.S. to loudly push the case of the check-writing, " democratic", mafia Oligarchs and you can paint what is left of Russia red and brown.UPDATE:
The text of Putin's speech