What is Russia up to? More specifically, What is Putin up to? He wants a bigger role on the world stage, possibly the same it enjoyed during the Cold War. It is a natural aspiration of any leader. One who heads a former super power is entitled to far greater ambitions. It is the execution of the ideas that matter. What alternatives does Putin offer? The global populace will be hard pressed to accept the policies of torture, carpet bombing, invasions and annexations. Russia's contemporary foreign policy appears to be a Version 2.0 of the czarist era. It is a new game of sorts where Russia is propping up dictators, carrying out mass killings and grabbing territory by force. It holds no emancipatory promise for the world.
Putinism --the set of ideals pursued by Putin -- does not hold much promise. He is on a collision course with a large chunk of Europe and the Middle East. The annexation of Crimea and the Ukrainian crisis reflects the distorted worldview of the neo-czar. The Syrian campaign offers the latest insight into the mind of Putin. He is out annihilating civilians and targeting the moderate factions who are fighting the genocidal dictator Bashar al-Assad. The pretext was to be counter Daesh but the Russian forces are paying the least attention to it. The collusion with Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias is complicating the situation. Russian forces are perpetuating terror in Syria and further strengthening the cause of Daesh.
Then there is Turkey. It refused to bow down to Russian aggression and since has become the victim of boycotts and divestments. Russia recently invited Turkish dissidents and allegedly promised them favors in return for instigating chaos at home. Opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas raised the demand for Kurdish autonomy on his return from Moscow. Is Putin inciting the Kurds to start an insurrection against Turkey?
Putin recently hosted the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders signed mammoth defense deals, where Russia will sell hundreds of fighter jets to New Delhi and build nuclear reactors. Russia also reached out to Pakistan, finalizing the sales of military helicopters and other defense equipment. Is Putin playing up the rivalry of two nuclear states? Ironically enough, Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan on his way back. Any prospects of peace in the region may turn out to be a nightmare for Putin.
Russian invasion of Crimea and the subsequent annexation was widely condemned by the West. Putin also received flak for his Ukrainian misadventure. The Syrian incursion, however, has garnered some support. There is a small group of Putinophiles who applaud Russian actions. Four years of Western inaction led to the rise of Daesh, which was also helped by the Assad regime. Russia is operating under the facade of targeting Daesh, though the reality is otherwise. What the Putin supporters fail to mention is the disastrous impact on the region caused by Russian powerplay. Ruthless bombing can only result in thousands of casualties. Propping up a murderous dictator can only go so far.
Unlike socialism, which at least had the semblance of emancipation and social justice, Putin's ideology is devoid of any niceties. It promotes a disconnect between the ruling elite and the masses. It doesn't support mass movements but aids brutal regimes. It invades and annexes regions. This is not to say that the Soviet model was a success. The horrors of Stalinism are still a living memory. Nevertheless, the past model had some romanticism to it. What Putinism espouses is a rehashed version of imperialism. He appears to be a big bully who is out terrorizing others. Bullies target meeker victims as the fear of retribution prevents challenging the powerful ones. This time, however, U.S. reticence has emboldened the Russians. They've got an open playing field. One must give it to Putin for capitalizing on the waning American influence and a chronic fatigue syndrome.
Putin could have been a more productive replacement if he had joined forces with others to address global issues. The existing manifestation of Putinism, however, is one of aggression and high-handedness. The neocolonialism advanced by Putin thus should not be encouraged. It is an anathema to democracy, human rights, sovereignty and basic morality. The West should not become accomplice to Russian plans. It will be very bad news for global peace and stability.