Conquering Putinism

Author : Edward Lucas

Source :

Confronting Putinism abroad is much easier than fight it at home. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the failed coup in Moscow it should be remembered as important lesson for states that have emerged (in the case of the Baltic states - revived) after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as their allies
15:30, 31 August 2016

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In 1991 we celebrated a double victory: the collapse of the Evil Empire that enslaved our neighbors and set a choice for the West - nuclear war or defeat, and the fall of communism with its weak economic system, which was implemented by means of political repression.

The first victory, it seems, is still important. Russia has not become the world superpower. Its empire, or rather the sphere of "harsh" influence extends only to the territory of shiftless satraps - Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, "DPR" and "LPR". In Asia, China overshadows it. In general, Russia is a regional threat and creates a mess. But it is rather just because of the weakness of the West, not through the power of Russians.

The second victory was more partial. To tell you the truth, no one (especially the Russians) do not believe that the socialist planned economy is effective. But the eradication of Soviet political heritage proved to be more difficult. One-party communist system that was based on the dictatorship of the proletariat and other Marxist-Leninist dogmas disappeared, but it was replaced with a muddy cocktail of weak institutions and impunity wealthy powers, almighty security forces, corruption and desperate and helpless society.

Related: Poroshenko and Putin need to hold talks on Donbas without intermediaries, - Kravchuk

Firmly on the foundations of international standards of political freedom stand only three states that were once in Soviet borders: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The same is mostly true relating to countries of the former Warsaw Pact, however, in Hungary and Poland, there are disturbing trends close to Putinism: the politicization of the judicial system, persecution of political rivals, contempt for independent institutions and artificially increased xenophobia. Echoes of these destructive trends in the Brexit campaign and in the US presidential race cause worry for the political health of other countries.

And amid all of our weaknesses Russia increasingly using explicit and hidden tools against us: in skilled and surprising manner. We mostly can’t counter this threat. US and Western Europe require more serious safety culture: societies of our countries need more awareness of the actual dangers.

Instead, the former captive nations who are well aware of the dangers are threatened with another point: too sharp reaction. When the country is faced with the influx of propaganda, one is tempted to restrict media freedom. At the risk of sabotage is a risk of catching spy mania and allow erosion of civil liberties. When economic instruments of war are applied to the country, a seductive solution seems control through subsidies, quotas, taxes and so on.

Related: Clinton: ‘Putin is grand godfather of extreme nationalism’

All these dangers are also related to Ukraine, where political culture is eroded by continuous war in the East. Fighting corruption stalled, Prosecutor General's Office is in open conflict with those who, despite the obstacles, fight abuse. Journalists who do their job, pose uncomfortable questions, find interesting information and publish it are accused of aiding the enemy and cooperation with it. This is not the reason which protesters on Maidan risked their life for.

Looking back at the past 25 years, remember that structural stress points - a necessary component of democracy. We, journalists, officials, lawyers, politicians, businessmen, religious leaders, academics and ordinary citizens play by the same rules, although in different teams. Openness, fairness and diversity always lead to errors and confusion, but it is better than a system where everything is controlled from above in the name of unity and patriotism. If an urgent need to confront Putinism pushes us to establish the same Putinism in our own countries, then Russian leader’s victory can be considered convincing as so as journey of Russian tanks in our capitals.

Related: Kremlin hopes for Putin, Obama meeting at G20 Summit

Related: Poroshenko: Putin wants all of my country

Related: Putin offers Obama disadvantageous for Ukraine deal

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