By Dmitry Orlov for the Saker Blog
The systemic crisis which we are currently witnessing in the West (and in other parts of the world that are too tightly interconnected with the West to avoid experiencing it as well) is objectively being caused by the West itself. But Westerners, being unaccustomed to acknowledging their mistakes (being all superior, indispensable and infallible-like in their own addled minds), are forced to resort to explaining away their epic failures in virtually every sphere by blaming it all on Putin. That is, they don’t even blame Russia in general, but blame Putin personally; after all, Russia can be good and agreeable at times (as it was under Gorbachev and Yeltsin) but Putin makes it misbehave. That’s why it’s all got to be Putin’s fault.
Here’s what it’s come to: an entire President of the United States (or whoever runs his teleprompter), who, in the course of his election campaign, swore up and down that he will take responsibility for whatever happens under his command, now blames “Putin’s Price Hike” so regularly and monotonously that the phrase has become a meme.
By now the narrative of “it’s all Putin’s fault” has spread to encompass all of the more sensitive problems: inflation, fuel prices, food price hikes and even… shortages of baby formula! It turns out that the shortages aren’t caused by the discovery of dangerous bacteria in the products of a monopoly producer but by shortages of imported sunflower oil from… the Ukraine. That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, no less! The logical steps needed to make it all Putin’s fault are then obvious: the shortages are because of the war and the war is Putin’s fault.
This wonderful strategy works just fine for the short term, but it has a major vulnerability in the longer term because of a certain mechanism of mass psychology. Superficially, it is simple and seemingly bulletproof: Putin is irrational; he has imperial ambitions, suffers from paranoia, delusions of grandeur, is obsessed with restoring the USSR… Since his motives are irrational, they cannot be dealt with through rational means such as negotiation, diplomacy, compromise and so on. Putin is a crazy dictator with lots of nuclear missiles and so all we can do is suffer. This construct seems good enough for most purposes, such as explaining away social problems, economic issues and failures of leadership. But only in the short term.
If the unprecedented tidal wave of sanctions which the West had sent toward Russia had produced some sort of tangible effect during the first two or three months of Russia’s special operation in the Ukraine, then this strategy would have been quite enough to ease suffering Western masses through the shock of the unfolding crisis (although the crisis would continue to unfold even if the Russian economy had collapsed). But over the longer term this strategy stops working. First, the “blame Putin” narrative is rather monotonous and gets old quickly. Second, and far more importantly, at the level of mass subconscious, it creates the impression that Putin is a god: super-powerful, super-influential and able to influence processes both global and local through subtle and invisible means. Moreover, Putin the god is Zeus-like and has powerful atomic thunderbolts at his disposal, adding terrifying appeal to his already frightful image.
Sooner or later the Western mass subconscious will form a simple and perfectly logical thought: if Putin is all-powerful and super-influential, and if we with our feeble “sanctions from Hell” can do nothing to weaken or dislodge him over three, then five, then seven months, then, obviously, we must come to terms with him and accede to his demands before things get any worse for us! And while it would be demeaning for the Western mass subconscious to negotiate with a petty tyrant or a mad despot, negotiating with an all-powerful demigod who holds the fate of humanity in his hands is not shameful at all but a necessary, unavoidable, eminently reasonable measure. Moreover, it should be possible to portray such a compromise in flattering terms: as a magnanimous gift from the community of civilized nations offered in good faith in order to save the world from nuclear armageddon about to be unleashed by an angry, all-powerful demigod.
In turn, if Western politicians are, as one might expect, reluctant to negotiate with Putin and to compromise, suffering Western masses will blame them for any delay. If Putin is all-powerful and super-influential, then why aren’t they negotiating and seeking compromise? What are they waiting for? What’s wrong with them? The better-informed element among the Western masses might even be able to vaguely guess at a seldom-discussed but rather obvious fact: what Putin wants is not at all unreasonable. He just wants some of Ukraine (not necessarily even all of it—just the enthusiastically, patriotically Russian bits) and he also wants NATO the hell away from Russia’s borders. “What do we want this Ukraine for anyway?” this enlightened element might inquire. After all, most people in the West lived many happy years not knowing that the Ukraine even existed. What’s more, their recent discovery of its existence has coincided with the onset of a very nasty crisis—and they still can’t find the damned place on a map! And now they have to suffer with sky-high gas prices, with unaffordable food, galloping inflation, shortages of baby formula—all because some idiot politicians are refusing to give Putin this fucking Ukraine which nobody else wants anyway? (Well, Poland does, but who the heck is Poland?) Come on! Be reasonable! Get rid of this stupid Hunter Biden playground and let’s get on with it!
That is the new narrative that is inevitably forming in the mass subconscious of the West, and as time passes, energy prices continue to increase, shortages of all sorts of things become commonplace… and meanwhile the ruble strengthens and Russia gets richer and richer in spite of “sanctions from Hell,” unhurriedly moving its fabled wall of artillery fire westward across the Ukrainian landscape, this narrative will become stronger and stronger and will eventually become dominant. At that point, any attempt to “blame Putin” will be met with boos, hisses and a volley of rotten vegetables. What should we expect Western politicians to do under such circumstances? We should not expect any surprises; they will do what they have always done: they will try to suppress the new, competing narrative. They will “cancel” anyone who tries to articulate it within the media space. (Tucker Carlson beware!)
In doing so, the West will neatly echo what’s happened within the Ukraine itself—a symptom of a creeping Ukrainization of the West. In the Ukraine, for every single disastrous, catastrophic failure that had occurred in 2014 and 2015, the Kiev regime blamed it squarely on Putin personally. Over time it has succeeded in forming a sort of quasi-cult of Putin as an all-powerful evil deity hell-bent on destroying poor, sore-beset little cuddly Ukraine. As a result, by 2018 give or take a year, in the Ukrainian mass subconscious there formed a new narrative: “What do we need this Russian-infested Crimea or this ornery Donbass for? Why can’t we just give them to Putin, so that he leaves us alone and lets us develop as a European-oriented country?”
What did the Kiev regime do about this new narrative? It did whatever it could to suppress it. This wasn’t any sort of independent initiative on its part; it is, after all, a colonial administration run from Washington. And since Washington was busy architecting a Ukrainian war against Russia, any narrative that involved making peace with Russia was simply not allowed. That’s why all Ukrainian opposition political parties were banned, all non-government-controlled television channels were shut down and anyone who ventured to guess that giving de facto independent territories a chance to decide their own fate might be a good idea were charged with separatism and imprisoned or killed. As a result, the West got what it wanted: a Ukrainian war with Russia.
But then something went horribly wrong. Putin pre-empted the Ukrainian attack and lit a backfire by sending in tank columns into territory previously controlled by the Kiev regime, scrambling its logistics throwing its battle plans into ghastly disarray. Then he set about methodically blowing up the Ukraine’s warmaking capacity using standoff weapons. According to schedule, it will be all gone later this month, Western military aid notwithstanding. And then it turned out that Russia was ready for “sanctions from Hell,” having spent eight years preparing for them, and was able to sustain the blow, which then bounced back onto the West and started smashing it to bits. The West reflexively continued to follow the Ukrainian pattern and blame it all on Putin. By now the alternative narrative of an all-powerful Lord Putin is fully formed and we should expect to hear more and more voices clamoring for negotiation and compromise with him.
The aforementioned Tucker Carlson is one of these voices, and his influence on his vast audience sets the tone for a significant chunk of electorate in the US—not that their vote counts for much. Much more surprisingly, the same opinion was voiced at Davos by none other than that talking fossil Henry Kissinger! In response, the Ukrainians added Kissinger to their… terrorist database. Various Kiev regime mouthpieces positively choked from fury. How could he? Doesn’t he know that negotiating with Putin is strictly verboten? That narrative must be suppressed—in the Ukraine and in the West!
The strategy of blaming it all on Putin has backfired grandly in both the Ukraine and in the West and will continue backfiring, eating away at the social fabric and demoralizing the population. But that’s not all! This strategy is also immensely helpful to Russia. Ignoring the obvious thought that anything that is detrimental to the West is automatically beneficial for Russia, there is another, much more significant benefit that this strategy provides to Russia directly: it works to raise Russia’s, and Putin’s, prestige in the rest of the world, which is already much more important to Russia than the West will ever be again.
By now, the world is quite unified in terms of access to information. The elites of just about every country have access to the internet and can either read English or can feed it through Google Translate and get the gist. And what they read is that in the West, which is entering into a major crisis, they are blaming it all on Putin. Therefore, Putin is all-powerful and super-influential. Further, these elites can observe that Putin isn’t the least bit afraid of the West and is willing to enter into conflict with it—armed conflict, as in destroying the largest army in Europe, one trained and commanded by Western specialists, over a period of three months using just a small fraction of his own army and with minimal casualties. They see Putin consigning to history books the traditional military dogma by which attackers must outnumber defenders by a healthy margin. This causes them to reach an obvious conclusion: Putin is definitely someone they should treat with great caution and respect; the West—not too much any more. The longer the “it’s all Putin’s fault” narrative continues to be in use, the greater will grow Putin’s already very significant influence and prestige on the world scene, and this will, in turn, improve Russia’s chances of reaching favorable agreements in just about any international negotiation.
But this advantage extends far beyond Russia’s bilateral relations. For the first time since Russia was part of the Mongol Empire, Russia has a real chance to confront the West not standing alone but as part of a mighty international coalition.
• Where were the large non-Western countries when Russia was confronting the collective West in the 17th century, with Poland spearheading the charge? India, Persia and China were all stewing in their own juices, while the Ottoman Empire was, as usual, hostile to Russia. Africa, South America, Southwest Asia were Western colonies.
• Where were these countries in the 18th century, when Russia was being accosted by the Swedes, with the rest of the West standing behind them? The situation was barely different, except the conflict with the Ottomans was even hotter.
• Where were they in the 19th century, when Russia was assailed by the French, with the rest of Europe fighting on the side of France? Same thing again.
• Where were they in the 20th century, when Russia battled Germany—twice!—with the rest of the West arming and funding the Germans? During the first half of the century they were still all colonies or semi-colonies, while during the second they were still finding their own way and had little to offer militarily, economically or politically.
From the time of Genghis Khan’s Empire of the Blue Sky, which at one point encompassed Russia, China, Korea, India and Persia (and featured the familiar Russian themes of collective security and obligatory mutual aid) and until the present time Russia has stood alone in its perennial conflict with the West. But now Putin, standing alone, stands a chance of cementing a gigantic international alliance of non-Western nations, comprising the vast majority of the world’s population, an independent and plentiful resource base and well over half of all the economic power. Nobody else has anywhere near this level of Western public relations support, care of the “blame Putin” campaign. Putin’s only peer competitor in vying for the position of a new Genghis Khan is Xi Jinping, who would very much want to join the coalition as Putin’s equal. But China has a test to pass before this dream can be realized: it must reconquer Taiwan. Avenging the humiliation it suffered at the hands of the Japanese would be a nice additional feather in its cap. Once Russia expels the US from the Ukraine and China expels the US from Taiwan, the path toward Eurasian unification will be clear.
What, if anything, should the West do about that? Why, blame Putin for it all, of course!
Credit: A. Galkin