World politics is not only diplomacy or warfare; it is more the silent agency of soft power and sweet power that appeal to individuals everywhere.
Russia is lacking all this soft power – no other nation wants to follow Russian model of governance and politics. Even most of the former Soviet republics chose the European Union or even NATO as soon as they had freedom to make their choice.
A simple question: why did they want to join western democracies, not to Russia?
By starting a full-scale war in Ukraine President V. Putin has lost an opportunity to gain any respect in the western world ever. He will never be a trusted partner for any constructive policies and projects of cooperation. Mr. Putin destroyed Russia’s position in the world.
Indeed, Mr. Putin has ruined Russia’s status at the world arenas for decades.
Most likely V. Putin underestimated the western powers and even more Volodymyr Zelensky. The western world is unwilling to wage a war. Therefore, they did not act militarily. Putin knew that. Yet the western powers have other weapons. It is the economy. They act in a way that increases further the welfare gap between western democracies and everyday life in Russia.
Eventually, this gap will seriously shake the Russian political establishment.
Now it is very difficult to see how all this could be settled and a new optimistic start found. Yet it is something we, the people, are destined to pursue.
At worst, a positive turn in the relations between Russia and the western democracies will not take place until the Putin era has passed. It may not happen soon.
I am historian, not a fortune-teller. Yet as a historian it came to my mind that after the Japanese war 1904–1905 it was not the socialist leaders and revolutionaries who stirred up the people to revolt. In St. Petersburg there was one cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church, Father Georgy Apollonovitch Gabon, who was a key organizer of the demonstration.
It was this peaceful protest to which the tsar responded bloodily but which, however, opened the path to the final collapse of the whole Russian empire.
We never know what will ignite the revolt. Restricting political rights, destroying free media, and an oppression of opposition with other ugly means of dictatorial powers, can postpone the moment of change. Yet in history, the change has always come.
Karl Marx said that sometimes in history nothing seems to change for twenty years. Then comes a day when more happens than in the preceding quiet decades.
My Russian Diary has been on the sidetrack in my mind since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The blog was aimed to cover general topics like traveling, meetings with the people, history, and culture, written with some positive optimism and understanding.
Then came the war 2014 and occupation, a huge disappointment for me, as it cemented the aggressive, disgusting course Russian political leaders had taken. Up until to that day I hoped that Russia will strengthen the democratic course and would develop an open civic society.
I thought, naively, that the deal, achieved in 1994 between Russia, the USA and the United Kingdom (Britain), could secure Ukraine’s sovereignty as it was agreed. By the way, it was also this deal in 1994 when Ukrainians gave away their nuclear arsenal.
They were promised by the signatories of the agreement to be free and independent.
Our world has huge problems, climate change, poverty and pandemics among the most difficult. Even for Russia, Ukraine is surely not the worst problem. Western powers did not threatened Russia, they did not have plans to attack Russia.
Furthermore, people in the western world would not accept that kind of moves.
However, nations – especially small nations – will seek to secure their independence, Finland among them.
V. Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine was a colossal mistake.
I liked the time when living in Russia, I liked traveling there, I like the people, and I still have good friends in Russia.
Because of the pandemic I have not seen them for a while. Now it seems that the war prolongs this pause of meeting schedule, as it is not clear if and when one can travel to Russia. Moscow was one of my favourite city.
But, yes, questions arise: How many disappointments one can stand? Why is it so difficult in Russia to create – or even tolerate! – a democratic, liberal society, a civic society?
I’m sorry for all the innocent people, especially in Ukraine but also in Russia, where many will suffer because of the war.
At this moment, indeed, it is very difficult to see how the conflict could be settled and a new optimistic start found. And yet it is something we, the people, are destined to pursue.