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Putin Looks for an Enemy



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The accusation by President Putin that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was inciting protests in Russia over the falsification in the recent elections foreshadows the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

The Putin system — the attempt to monopolize power in Russia without a totalitarian ideology or mass terror — was always unrealistic. With the deepening of official corruption, as the gangster capitalism under Yeltsin was succeeded by the complete degradation of the state apparatus under Putin, Russians have finally grown restless. Putin’s hold on power is no longer secure. This means that he will rally support in the way that is traditional for Russia — by inventing a “threat” from the West.

The U.S. should expect a whole series of irrational new Russian arguments on missile defense. There will be more pious defenses of the importance of negotiations in dealing with Iran and Syria. Most of all, there will be angry denunciations of any attempt by the U.S. or other Western nations to defend human rights. And all of this will be accompanied by massive anti-Western propaganda in the controlled Russian media.

The Obama administration — including Mrs. Clinton — may continue to try to “reset” our relations with Russia under these circumstances but that is a Sisyphean labor. Russia needs a foreign enemy and the more we accommodate them, the more aggressive they will become.

— David Satter, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and Johns Hopkins University, is the author of It Was a Long Time Ago and the just-released It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past.



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