Putin's Old Playbook

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tags: Russia, Putin, Ukraine

A scholar who directs an East-West think tank in Maastricht, Netherlands, Van Herpen asserts in a timely new book, “Putin’s Wars,” that the Russian leader deliberately launched two wars after coming to power in 1999, first in Chechnya and then in Georgia, and that his relative success in both led directly to his current drive to dismember Ukraine.

Putin’s supreme geopolitical aim is to restore the Russian empire that was lost with the collapse of communism a quarter-century ago. But the former Russian intelligence chief also has a personal political agenda – nine more years in power beyond the 15 years he’s already dominated Russia, Van Herpen says.

The annexation of Crimea, which has driven up Putin’s domestic approval ratings, serves to distract attention from the country’s failure to turn into a modern state. Its economy depends on the export of oil and gas, democratic development has gone into reverse, and the absence of rule of law stymies economic development and growth.

“In Russian history, there has always existed a negative relationship between empire building and territorial expansion on the one hand and internal democratization on the other,” Van Herpen writes.

Unlike Western Europe, which launched colonial empires after the formation of nation-states, Russian expansionism has gone hand in hand with the establishment of the Russian state, he says. From the middle of the 16th century, Russia conquered territory the size of the modern Netherlands every year for 150 years running. Catherine the Great, who was emperor from 1762 to 1796, famously stated: “I have no way to defend my borders but to extend them.”

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/04/01/3564409/russias-history-and-politics-not.html#storylink=cpy
Read entire article at McClatchy

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