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Alliance & Adversaries

Three days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022, President Vladimir Putin reportedly said: “Ukraine is not a real country.” According to the Russian President, Ukraine has no history, no separate identity, or a long tradition of being a true State. He further claimed that Modern Ukraine has been built by Russia, more specifically Bolshevik Russia or the erstwhile Soviet Union. According to President Putin, the process had started soon after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The Russian strongman believes that Vladimir Lenin and his comrades had made a mistake, as they divided Russia in order to create Ukraine as a separate State. In other words, Ukraine is part of the vast Russian civilisation, as it was built during the process of building a modern Nation-State, with Lenin giving utmost importance to the value of each and every member of the Soviet nationality. Later, the Soviet flags appeared in different parts of Ukraine when the Russian tanks rolled on the Ukrainian soil. In various Ukrainian cities, the puppet pro-Kremlin administrators enjoyed power for long.

It may be noted that President Putin has often condemned Lenin, but has also praised the Soviet system. In fact, there were two main characters of the erstwhile Soviet Union: Socialism and the Status of World Power. The Socialist Structure had collapsed in the 1990s, and Putin had resigned as Lieutenant Colonel of the KGB soon after the August Coup (1991) through which the Communist Party made a desperate final attempt to seize power. In an article, titled ‘The Moscow Coup(s) of 1991‘ (published in Centre for European Reform (CER) website on August 17, 2021), CER Director (Foreign Policy) Ian Bond wrote: “Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer in Dresden from 1985 to 1990, while (Mikhail Sergeyevich) Gorbachev left East Germany to its fate. By 1991, he had become Deputy Mayor of St Petersburg, as the Soviet Union’s economic and political order disintegrated. What lessons did he draw from the coup and the events around it? In his authorised autobiography ‘First Person’, published in 2000, Putin says: ‘In the days of the putsch all the ideals and goals that I had on going to work in the KGB collapsed.’” Bond added: “It is not clear whether he was disappointed that the KGB had tried to depose Gorbachev, or that it had failed so incompetently. But evidently, he did not lose his faith in the methods of the KGB, or in its personnel. (Boris) Yeltsin split up the KGB into a number of different services; and Putin has reassembled most of them in the Federal Security Service (FSB), with the exception of foreign intelligence.

Gorbachev (L) and Yeltsin

In the early 1990s, former Mayor of Leningrad Anatoly Aleksandrovich Sobchak (August 10, 1937 – February 19, 2000) became the mentor of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, who served as Russian President from 2008 to 2012, and also as Prime Minister from 2012 to 2020. Sobchak helped Putin become a popular administrator. During Sobchak’s final years, Putin arrived in Moscow, and became a close aide of Yeltsin. Eight years after he resigned as Lieutenant Colonel of the KGB, Putin was appointed as the Director of FSB. With this, he also emerged as the successor of Yeltsin. He became the President of Russia for the first time on May 7, 2000, three months after the demise of his mentor Sobchak. Thereafter, he started nurturing a few Soviet legacies in an attempt to make Russia a Super Power, once again.

As the collapse of the Soviet Union created a vacuum, the Russian State System gradually moved Westwards. Moscow accepted the model of multi-party Democracy, and also shaped its Foreign Policy on the basis of Liberalism. Sovereignty of the neighbouring countries, which were highly influenced by the Kremlin for long, was recognised in the 1990s. Issues, which had triggered the fall of the Soviet Union, also disappeared. However, Putin turned the wheel after becoming President in 2000, bringing back Soviet nostalgia. The Strongman argued that each and every country has some problematic chapters of history, and the Russians should not feel guilty for that.

Anatoly Sobchak (L) with Putin

In democratic Russia, it was not possible for a person to serve as President for more than two consecutive terms. Hence, Putin became the Prime Minister in 2008, and made his close aide Medvedev the President. As per the Constitution, Putin returned as President in 2012, and established his political monopoly over all the State institutions, apart from amending the Constitution. The amended Constitution allows Putin to continue as President till 2036.

President Putin has successfully re-established the Soviet Political Culture in order to stamp his authority in Russian Politics. Attempts were also made to bring back those, which were lost due to the democratisation, by using force. The first initiative was the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The move was successful, but it triggered the (ongoing) conflict with Ukraine. The more the Ukrainians have claimed their Independent nationality and denied Russian domination, the more President Putin has rejected the existence of Ukraine as a separate nation.

Empress Catherine the Great, also called Catherine II (April 21, 1729 – November 6, 1796), and Joseph Stalin had occupied Ukraine for long in the 17th and the 20th Century, respectively. Ukraine wanted the Right to Self-determination during every Freedom Struggle… during the fall of Tsarist Rule or the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, it is a struggle between a small Nation-State in the Modern World and a big Nation with rich Cultural History. Furthermore, Ukraine, rich in human and mineral resources, is economically very important to Russia. Russia had lost large tracts of farmland, factories and coal mines in Ukraine as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It was a separate peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918 between the Bolshevik Government in Moscow and the Central Powers (German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) that ended Russia’s participation in the First World War. The treaty was agreed upon by the Russians to stop further invasion. As a result of this treaty, the Soviet Union defaulted on all of Imperial Russia‘s commitments to the Allies, and 11 nations became Independent in eastern Europe and western Asia. Under the treaty, Russia lost nearly all of Ukraine, and the three Baltic Republics were ceded to Germany. Later, the inclusion of Ukraine as a Soviet Republic helped the erstwhile Soviet Union become the world’s second largest economy. President Putin, too, seemingly, cannot live without Ukraine.

Alexei Anatolievich Navalny is a fine example of how the Russian President treats his opposition. In Russia, hundreds of Anti-War Activists have been jailed since February 24, 2022. After successfully managing the domestic situation, the mighty Russian President has started looking at the outer world, as there is no end to Glory.

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