Запад (Zapad) means west, West, in Russian. And it is a ubiquitous concept in Russian government rhetoric. The imaginary that has been constructed is that the West maintains with Russia the obsession it had with the USSR (they are right) and that from there almost all the ills that afflict Russian society have their origin in one way or another in the evil of Zapad. The West, that logic holds, will not stop until it ends Russia as it did the USSR.
When Vladimir Putin became president of Russia in January 2000, inherited a country plunged into a deep economic and moral depression due to the decline that began in the late 1980s and led to the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. For all intents and purposes the largest of those republics, Russia, inherited the legacy of the USSR. Including his defeat in the Cold War against the United States and the entire West.
In the few months that Putin was prime minister, he launched the second war in the rebel republic of Chechnya. And it was proposed that there was not going to be a third in his life, he, unlike Yeltsin, would chase them to “the toilet bowl”. He razed Grozny, the capital. I saw it. The journalist who best documented the atrocities committed by the Russian army, Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered on her doorstep in Moscow. Grozny has been spectacularly rebuilt with a multi-million dollar investment and Chechnya is ruled with an iron fist by a friend of Putin, who has now sent an army to Ukraine.
That victory in Chechnya plus the large oil export revenuewhich reached all-time highs, were the tailwind that allowed Putin to advance in a triumphant double strategy: increase the purchasing power of the Russians and restore their wounded national pride.
Putin was to be the one to avenge the humiliation suffered by Russia since the fall of the USSR in December 1991. Thirty years ago. He established a tacit pact with Russian society: in exchange for those two gains, freedom of expression would end. Forbidden to criticize Putin and his circle.
every day that passed nationalism and repression grew. When he glimpsed an economic or popularity crisis, there was always some conflict in some former independent republic where to go to liberate the Russian population.
Thus, Moscow has gradually regained control over what it calls an “area of vital interest”, or to put it another way, Russia is surrounded by allied republics. The good way or the bad way.
“Putin Doctrine. Moscow’s confrontation with NATO is only the beginningThus begins the article published last Wednesday, February 23, by Serguei Karaganov, honorary president of the Council for Foreign Policy and Defense of Russia, on the website of RT, Russia Today, the Kremlin Television channel.
In that article he develops the concept of “constructive destruction“, which it defines as non-aggressive to the point that “Russia will not attack anyone”. With one exception, NATO. And there we enter what we have commented on several times and the Kremlin always invokes the betrayal of NATO, far from dissolving as the Warsaw Pact has been expanding to the border of the former USSR.
They always omit that NATO has not annexed any of these former members of the Warsaw Pact, but that it was they who from day one, fleeing from the threat they felt from Russia, were knocking on the door of the Alliance until they entered.
No, for Moscow, the expansion of NATO and the “formal or informal inclusion” of Ukraine, writes Karaganov, is a threat that Moscow cannot accept. And the time has come to avenge that betrayal because, and here comes the transcendental, we must take advantage of the West’s weakness.
The decline of the West
That is the thesis, that “The West is in a slow but inevitable declineboth in international politics and in the economy”, for this reason, the argument continues, the West has started a new Cold War. A war that this time it will lose, he maintains, and will become “a more reasonable partner”.
Simultaneously, “Russia will have to balance its relationship with an increasingly powerful China“. From his perspective it is “the West” and not Russia that is using Ukraine as a mere instrument in this tantrum to prevent decline. “We have to convince the West that it is hurting itself.”
In short: Russia has to take advantage of a double opportunity: the decline of the West and that the world has turned to the East and that places Russia in an ideal place to regain weight on the international scene and avenge the successive betrayals of NATO in the last 30 years.
As in any chessboard, in this game there are pawns, the last in the value scale and the first that is sacrificed to save the queen and the king. The pawns we are the citizens with no more power than our lives and our vote. The second does not count in Russia, in the West much more.
The first victims, whose lives are currently worth absolutely nothing, are the citizens of Ukraine, driven from their own lives by bombs.
But the Russian citizens are also victims. They will suffer the consequences of the sanctions against Russia much more than Putin and his circle will. And today they already suffer from feeling hated by the rest of the world and by their Ukrainian friends and acquaintances.
Some victims that will escape the perception of the West are the Russians, citizens who live in Russia and have a Russian passport, but who they and the rest of the Russians consider to be Ukrainians because they are from Ukrainian families. This poisoned distinction between citizenship and nationality/ethnicity.
Mixed families of Russian and Ukrainian nationality are already sufferingIf not materially, then emotionally. Affective ties of a lifetime are breaking in a traumatic way. Also in Ukraine. In Ukraine there are no Russians only in Donbas. Russians live all over Ukraine, who today are in the minority and are the aggressors in the sight of their neighbors, classmates and co-workers.