In the wake of the mass public demonstrations in Russian cities last Sunday, Vladimir Putin has made it clear that he is not afraid of a color revolution breaking out in his country but rather a repetition of what took place in the Middle East that has come to be known as the Arab Spring, Vitaly Portnikov says.
The Ukrainian analyst argues that this becomes clear if one follows “the course of [Putin’s] though as expressed in his comments on the anti-corruption protests. For the kremlin leader, “the Ukrainian Maidan is only a logical continuation of this same spring, an instrument that became ‘the occasion for a coup’ in Ukraine” (graniru.org/opinion/portnikov/m.259890.html).
In his remarks, Portnikov continues, Putin made no reference to “the rose revolution in Georgia” or “’the orange revolution in Ukraine,’” both of which took place “before ‘the Arab spring.’” He did “not say that the State Department “began with the destabilization of the post-Soviet space, then shifted to making revolutions” in what he sees as his own backyard.
Why did he follow that logic? the commentator asks. “Because ‘the Arab spring’ is his own diagnosis: It is his illness and he knows perfectly well that it is incurable. But he is not in a position to understand the reasons behind this illness.” And that both reflects and says a great deal about how Putin sees the world and his place in it.
For the Kremlin leader, Portnikov argues, the color revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine were “an internal nomenklatura struggle” that led to the departure from office of leaders but not to their destruction. The Arab Spring, on the other hand, led to the executions of those who had held supreme power.
In the case of Egypt, Putin “saw that it was possible to be a true ally of the West but that no one will defend you. He understood that it is possible to reach agreements with the West like Qaddafi” but nonetheless be destroyed by one’s own people in the end. When he saw the pictures of Qaddafi’s execution, Putin “lost any trust in the West.”
And because he did, he “decided to defend his power down to the last Russian.” As a result, he viewed the Maidan “through the prism of ‘the Arab Spring’” and he sent forces into Ukraine in order not to suffer the fate of Qaddafi.
Putin’s “main mistake is that he doesn’t believe in the free will of people.” Junior KGB officers don’t. “He is convinced that any mass action always was arranged by someone and paid for, that people cannot decide to act on their own. That everything is matter of the State Department and invisible forces.”
The reason Putin was so pleased with the rise of Donald Trump in the US was “not that he expected to be able to reach agreement with him but that the Trumpian State Department would not organize ‘an Arab spring’ inside Russia” and that he, Putin, would thus be safe.
Putin really “does not understand that the West was totally uninterested in the collapse of Mubarak or Qaddafi, just as at one time, it was not interested in the disintegration of the USSR. He doesn’t believe in historical inevitably and in the will of people to rise up” or that the outside world only then has to deal with the results.
“There is nothing new in this approach,” Portnikov says. “Russian emperors wanted to be ‘the gendarmes of Europe,’” but that didn’t save them or their country. Putin wants to be the gendarme not only of the former Union but also of the Middle East,” but he does not understand why that is impossible and so continues to believe “in his own lie” which he tells to himself.
According to Portnikov, “Qaddafi had the very same problem: he subordinated to himself a conglomerate of clans but believed that he led a state of like-minded people,” people who in fact hated him not only politically but physiologically. “He thought he was fighting with conspirators: in fact, he was battling with an entire country.”
Vladimir Putin, “the Russian Qaddafi,” will make “all these discoveries” in time.