Putin: The New Empire

Unravelling the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, that is Russia

Since Russia was brought to its knees in the 1990s by crippling debt and the grip of the oligarchs following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin has made it his mission to return superpower status to Russia. Taking on the might of America and Europe he has succeeded in cementing a sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union, and extending his reach into the Middle East and Asia. While not partisan to Putin's wrongs, this insightful doc examines the logic and motivations of Putin’s vilified regime, and why he is so loved in his homeland.
As Sukhoi bombers screech over Aleppo, Putin addresses the crowd at the Victory Day Parade in Moscow: “International cooperation has become increasingly ignored. We have seen attempts to establish a uni-polar world”. Putin’s answer to the perceived homogenisation of the world in the image of the West, was to provide a lifeline to Assad. Whether malign or not, it was a stroke of genius, as Russia now takes centre stage in the reconstitution of order and control in the Middle East.

The years following the break-up of the Soviet Union saw explosions in poverty, unemployment, sickness, alcoholism, and crime. Western bankers gravitated to Moscow, armed with all the answers to Russia’s woes. Instead, an oligarchy based on theft, extortion, and violence emerged, taking total control of the state, media, and armed forces. Against all the odds, Putin managed to reassert the control of the state and reforge Russia's crippled economy. The disorder of the Yeltsin years had been ordered by Putin’s ‘vertical of power’.

With domestic affairs in order, Putin turned his gaze to the outside world, a place he saw as ever-hostile to Russia’s interests. “Russians feel scorned, surrounded, threatened with permanent destabilisation”comments former French Minister for Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine. Feelings only confirmed by the clear Western role in the Coloured Revolutions and Euromaidan. The annexation of Crimea, and support of the Assad regime, have not only propelled Putin’s ratings into the stratosphere, but highlighted the West’s inefficacy to combat Russia’s newfound strength. As Historian Hélène d’Encausse notes, “Russians are witnessing their country's rebirth and they are grateful to Vladimir Putin for stating that it exists and it is powerful”.

This measured analysis of Putin’s Russia carefully picks at the Western assumptions of Russian aspirations, and offers an antidote to the sensationalism and melodrama that persists in the Western media, and provides an invaluable insight into a man, and a nation, so often seen as enigmatic. All the more noteworthy for being directed by Jean-Michel Carre, renowned and most critical of Putinologists for France2.
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