Opinion – In 2017, I wrote a short article for this Foreign policy Asking whether Putin is a product of his KGB background and personal circumstances, or whether he could be better described as acting in the long cultural and historical traditions of the Russian Tsar and Soviet party leaders. I came down to the previous explanation.

Since then, however, Putin has justified his actions by including the invasion of Ukraine in increasingly nationalist and historical terms. He explores Russian mythology and historical allegations, quotes quoting Russian philosophers, and even claims that Ukraine does not exist without part of greater historical Russia.

Of course, he also continued his pattern of using KGB tactics in political and information warfare. At the head of the war, Putin’s Kremlin was involved in confusions, insurgencies, propaganda, support for marginalized and violent groups, movements, cyber-theft, incitement, deception, conspiracy, and even assassination. His goal was to intimidate Western leaders in the hope that they would not find the will to push back against his attack. As the war continues, Russia has increasingly used lies and deception to deny its apparent war crimes.

Although the West took a long time to understand and react to the Russian confusion after the 2016 US presidential election, we have become accustomed to the Kremlin’s lies ever since. However, despite their dishonesty and credibility, many people are deceived. According to a recent Levada Center poll, Putin’s popularity has risen from 61% to 63% since the start of the war. Similarly, Americans on the far right and on the left seem innocent to accept conspiracies that sadly reinforce their point of view.

However, as the war continues, blatant lies are less of a concern than the daily slaughter of the Russian military. Although Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade an innocent country, the Russian military’s use of rape, torture, looting and brutality in Ukraine has encouraged commentators for decades to review and find parallels in Russian military activity. And there are many.

Credible allegations of Russian and Soviet war crimes against Syria, Chechnya, Georgia, Afghanistan, Finland, Poland, and the Baltic states, as well as various Soviet nationalities, and during World War II are readily apparent. A recent article New York Times Describes the deep historical roots of Russian barbarism.


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In a recent discussion with Dr. New Yorker Editor David Remnick, Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin put the recent attack in historical context. According to Kotkin, “what we have in Russia today is not a surprise. It does not deviate from any historical pattern. Before NATO’s existence – in the nineteenth century – Russia looked like this: it had an authoritarian. It had repression. It had militarism.” “It’s a Russia we know, and it’s not a Russia that came yesterday or in the nineteen-nineties. It’s not a reaction to the actions of the West. Russia has an internal process that is responsible for where we are today.”

And those 19 keysM Centuries parallel? 19 to those who study RussiaM The French aristocrat of the century and author Marquis Astolfe de Castin, one of the most famous historians of Russian political culture. A travel writer who writes in the style of Alexis de Tokville Democracy in AmericaDe Castin traveled to Russia in 1839 and wrote his travelogue Tsarist Empire. De Castin visited Russia in the hope of finding material to support criticism of the French government, but instead became an advocate for the constitutional government and a vocal critic of Russian dictatorship. He identified the number as 19M The tyrannical features of the century that can equally describe Vladimir Putin’s Russia include domestic repression, institutional incompetence, and a culture of lies.

Led by the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin escalated repression at home, poisoned his opponents, and imprisoned those who criticized the government. In 1839, de Castin described Zarvadi Russia as a prison with the emperor’s key. He remarked, “Under a dictatorship, all laws are counted to aid oppression; Each of those statements is equivalent to the crime of high treason [and] The only culprit is the one who is not punished. “De Castin concluded that” other nations have supported oppression, the Russian nation has loved it: they still love it. “In Russia,” authoritarian oppression is perpetual. “

Although Putin’s use of lies can be attributed to his KGB background, there are considerable historical and cultural predecessors. In his book, de Castin claims that the jury court demonstrated a single “skill of lying, the natural tendency to deceive, which is rebellion.” He added that lying seems to be part of a larger cultural instinct, not just to hide the truth, but to lead people astray. “Russian dictatorship not only gives little respect to ideas and feelings, it will also deny the truth; It will fight against the evidence, and it will win the battle! ” De Kastin, who further noted that in Russia, “lies still play the role of a good citizen; Speaking the truth, even on seemingly insignificant matters, conspiring. “And as we have seen in 21St. Centuries, innate lies have a political value. As De Castin points out, “By constantly trying to hide the truth from the eyes of others, people are finally unable to realize it on their own.”

The recent invasion of Ukraine has also shown an astonishing level of bureaucratic incompetence. It seems that the Russian military was suffering from a variety of problems, including poor planning, poor intelligence and the inability to make decisions without approval from middle- and lower-level officers.

In Putin’s Russia, loyalty to the Kremlin is far more valuable than professionalism. Like Stalin, led by WWII, Putin’s intelligence chiefs reinforced his preconceived notions rather than challenging them. This behavior was also widespread in the 19th centuryM The Russian court of the century that de Kastin faced.

According to its history, the Tsarist court suffered in the complete absence of independent thought for fear of overthrowing the Tsar. According to de Castin, “a deep flatterer in Petersburg is equal to a great speaker in Paris.” He went on to say, “A Russian hides everything,” and “throwing a word of truth in Russia is a spark that could fall on a barrel of gunpowder.” De Castin also mentions a familiar resemblance that the Russians have shared over the centuries. Here, he says, “the greatest joy of man is to be drunk; In other words, oblivion … I don’t believe suicide is common there: people have a hard time committing suicide. “

Like the Tsars before him, Putin has survived by maintaining the will and the image of power at home and abroad. Over the past two decades, many observers have used the same phrase to describe Putin’s actions on the international stage – Putin plays a weak hand. His threats, intimidation and lies have saved him from those who could threaten his power.

However, like Tsar Nicholas in WWI, with his invasion of Ukraine, Putin foolishly flipped through all his cards and showed his weak hand, apparently breaking the spell of his invincibility. By doing this he allowed his enemies to better measure their own strength and position. While it is not clear if Putin has seriously threatened his control at home, he has weakened himself and Russia, and he can no longer bluff that he is playing the winning hand.

As described by de Castin 19M Russia of the century, however, can be said of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, “a government that lives by mystery, and whose power lies in disintegration, fears everything.”

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The main post on Putin’s weakness was first published in The Cipher Brief.

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