Vladimir Putin, a Bismarck for the Modern Age?

by Robert Bridge, Strategic Culture:

It would be no exaggeration to say that Putin has been the real peacemaker since coming to power, Robert Bridge writes.

While no historical analogies are ever perfect, there are some noteworthy similarities between the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and Vladimir Putin, although not for the reasons some pundits are suggesting.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

– Mark Twain

Bismarck, the 19th century German statesman from a landowning Junker family, may never have appeared shirtless astride a horse, or photographed saving a television crew from a Siberian tiger, but there is more to the story between he and Vladimir Putin than first meets the eye.

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Much like the Russian leader from a later epoch, Bismarck, the fervent anti-liberal who held sway over Prussia from 1871 to 1890, found it a matter of existential importance to bring his own people, the Germans, together in common ‘statehood.’ But whereas Bismarck’s empire-building initiatives led to a string of successful wars against Denmark, Austria and France, Putin’s nation-building efforts were necessarily focused on long-simmering internal problems, which had the potential, if not defused, to bring post-communist Russia to its knees.

A comparison between Bismarck and Putin was made last month by the columnist George F. Will. Unsurprisingly, however, Will, writing in the pages of The Washington Post, used his analogy to support the perennial ‘Russia the Aggressor’ narrative, suggesting that Putin would move to conquer other countries after ‘demilitarizing’ and ‘denazifying’ Ukraine.

“The Baltic nations — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, all NATO nations — should worry,” he warned.

Such a groundless and reckless claim, aside from stoking Russophobia, flies in the face of everything that Putin has stood for during the duration of his presidency. Moreover, it ignores the fact that the Russian leader has already fought his ‘wars,’ so to speak.

While Bismarck was initially compelled to fight against foreign adversaries, Putin’s priority, in addition to taming the oligarchs who had practically taken over the Kremlin in the 1990s, was to end the war in Chechnya, which had its start in 1994 under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. Just around the time this conflict in the North Caucasus was coming to an end, in 2008, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili made the reckless decision to launch a military offensive on the breakaway state of South Ossetia. The unprovoked attack, which occurred while Putin was serving as prime minister, resulted in the death of several Russian peacekeepers and culminated in a brief war between Russia and Georgia that ended swiftly on the side of the former. This conflict was followed seven years later with Moscow’s intervention in Syria, which began in September 2015 with an official request from Damascus to help defeat the terrorist fforces of Islamic State. Up until the launching of Moscow’s special operation in Ukraine, those wholly defensive campaigns had been the extent of Russia’s so-called ‘aggression.’

What Will fails to understand in the course of his comparison is that Bismarck, who expressed his personal revulsion to war on many occasions, was no ‘neocon’ as it were. The shrewd chancellor, after putting his enemies in check, was the driving force behind an age of peace on the European continent that lasted for two decades. In that respect, a comparison could be made between ‘the Putin Doctrine’, as it were, and the realpolitik of Bismarck.

Here is a quote by the historian Eric Hobsbawm as he describes Bismarck: “He remained undisputed world champion at the game of multilateral diplomatic chess for almost twenty years … [and] devoted himself exclusively, and successfully, to maintaining peace between the powers.”

Sound familiar? Any reader who has not been thoroughly brainwashed by the mainstream media and its kneejerk anti-Russia stance will quickly see that that description also aptly applies to Putin and his judicious approach to foreign affairs over the duration of his tenure. The prediction here is that (unbiased) future historians will be writing much the same words about the Russian leader, whose defensive actions in Ukraine, for example, will be viewed as absolutely warranted in face of the existential threats they countered. But I digress.

The WaPo columnist also conflates the ‘mindset’ of modern, democratic Russia with that of the sprawling Soviet Union and its 15 republics. Since the collapse of the communist empire in 1991, and certainly long before then, the Russian people have had no appetite for ‘empire-building’ adventures, unless, perhaps, it is employed as a boardroom strategy for some business expansion. Russia is a full-blown ‘capitalist democracy,’ abundant in natural resources, human talent and lebensraum (‘living space’), and as such has absolutely no need – regardless what the pundits would have everyone believe – for wars of expansion.

With regards to Crimea, which voted in March 2014 to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, Will was noticeably agitated that Moscow deferred to the late U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and his self-styled concept of “self-determination” as a universal right and “an imperative principle of action” to justify its actions. Clearly, such highfalutin ideals are only acceptable when the ‘exceptional’ Americans are behind them.

“It must delight Putin to employ an American saint’s piety in an act of anti-American realpolitik,” Will seethed. “Much of Putin’s geopolitics consists of doing whatever opposes U.S. policy.”

Considering that Western policy to date has been blood-stained since around the turn of the millennia, “doing whatever opposes U.S. policy” may not be the worst choice of strategy.

Clearly, the non-stop efforts by the Western media to paint Putin as the epitome of evil do not flush with reality. Unlike the United States and NATO, which have initiated scores of unprovoked attacks on a number of hapless countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, Putin has never felt the need to travel abroad in search of “monsters to slay.” Rather, they came knocking on Russia’s door instead, one after another. Indeed, listening to the jeremiads emanating from Western officials these days, they actually seem incredulous that Russia has military bases in such close proximity to the territories of NATO states, some of which, like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway, now actually share a border with Russia.

In the face of this aggressive posturing on the part of the U.S. and NATO, it would be no exaggeration to say that Putin has been the real peacemaker since coming to power. For those who would argue at this point that the 30-member military bloc is merely a “defensive” organization, imagine the hysteria that would erupt should Moscow ever decide to militarize America’s borders in the Caribbean and South America. In fact, there is no need to imagine anything; we already saw that hysteria during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the world teetered on the brink of war for endless days between the nuclear powers.

For many years, Russia, China and the rest of the world have been captive spectators, watching as the United States and its allies run roughshod around the planet, regime changing here, breaking things there. And now that Russia has finally punched back after years of issuing unmistakable warnings that fell on deaf ears, the Western hemisphere would have everyone believe that Moscow is behaving as the aggressor. The memory of the public may be short, but it’s not that short. The majority of awakened people (as opposed to ‘woke’) may despise military conflict and the horrors that it brings, but without a Russian intervention in Ukraine at this critical juncture in history the consequences down the road would be far more severe.

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