Vladimir Putin and his regime continue to try to blame Gorbachev or the West for the demise of the USSR, a reflection of their unwillingness to face the fact that the most important player in the events of 1991 was not some internal or external enemy but the Russian people itself who had become “finally tired of empire,” Aleksandr Tsipko says.
Today, the Moscow scholar says, it is much more important to ask why the political elite of Russia refuses to recognize that fact and refuses to give up the myth of the supposed attachment of Russians to Great Power ideas and territorial expansion regardless of how much such policies cost the population.
And that failure means not only that Moscow does not address domestic problems but fails to conduct its foreign policy “in correspondence with our possibilities,” Tsipko continues.
No one needs the empire some in the Kremlin are talking about; and “all talk about the rebirth of the empire is completely absurd and a violation of both logic and the facts.”
But what is troubling is the Kremlin’s unwillingness to face the truth reflects its “deep distrust in the Russian people” and even a belief that the Russians are made for suffering so that the state can continue to expand without limits. Such unwillingness means that Russia’s leaders “not only have lost the desire to draw the necessary conclusions about the disintegration of the USSR but have lost the basic human values of freedom and respect for human life.”
But this also means that those who believe, as Kremlin insider Vladislav Surkov does, that the desire for expansion reflects “the existential meaning of Russian history” are acting in ways equivalent to suicide,” Tsipko argues. The coming sanctions if Russia expands its invasion of Ukraine will make those the West imposed after Putin’s 2014 occupation of Crimea and starting the war in the Donbas look like nothing.
Russia will face not only painful sanctions but it will drive all the rest of the world away for it, because no one needs a country driven in this way. But it is not only foreign countries who will be alienated but the best and the brightest of Russia’s young people: they will leave because they will have no use for such a country as Putin wants Russia to be.
It is time to recognize that “the Russian empire died once and for all and that the meaning of our existence consists not in extending out borers but in the creation of worthy conditions of life for free Russians.”
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