Putin’s Doomsday Weapons: A Global Threat or Strategic Move In A Political Campaign For Geopolitical Leadership?
Russian President Vladimir Putin used the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, which is analogous to the US President’s State of the Union Address, to champion the prosperity of the Russian People. He used his speech, of course, to promote the economic successes of Russia under his leadership and called for a rather progressive policy agenda to promote the prosperity of Russia, which he framed as beneficiary to all Russians and not just the elite. He then tied Russian prosperity to Russian military strength by highlighting some of Russia’s most advanced weapons before shifting back to economic issues with an emphasis on reforms.
Although written to reinforce the facade of the ill-democratic 2018 Russian Election, which is engineered to guarantee Putin will win, and garner a critical mass of support for his leadership, Putin’s speech also delivered a message to the International Community. By making outlandish claims about Russia’s nuclear superiority, and reiterating established truths, Putin was stoking panic. Putin used Russian grievances against the US, including the 2002 abandonment of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, to frame his posturing as defensive, even though his justifications were not being utilized to argue for a correction of harmful US policy. As in the past, Putin wants the world, or at least the Americans People, to fear Russia, to see Russia as an enemy.
In a followup interview for NBC News, Putin reiterated his claims of Russia’s nuclear invincibility and the battle readiness of Russia’s advanced nuclear weapons. He addressed the subject of a second Cold War, which he dismissed as propaganda. He also dismissed claims that his pronouncement were designed to aggravate tensions between the US and Russia. Recognizing ongoing tensions over the Ukraine Crisis, clashes between Russian-allied and US-allied forces in Syria, and Putin’s attempts to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, among other issues, it is difficult to see Putin’s remarks as anything but an attempt to agitate.
That said, Putin is correct to some degree. There is no Cold War between the Peoples and among the Nations of the world. There is a political Cold War between the Russian leadership and Western governments. By stoking Cold War-era fears of a Russian takeover and making Russia the “bad guy,” Putin can force Western leadership, with an emphasis on US leadership, to react and galvanize support against all of Russia, which Putin can use to unify his support among the Russian People. By making Russia look like a victim of US imperialism willing to fight back in the eyes of those who hate the US , Putin can garner international support, thus fostering a new Cold War alliance for Russia.
In other words, Vladimir Putin seeks to polarize the world and use hatred of the other side to galvanize support for himself. In many ways, it is the prevailing strategy embraced by Republicans and Democratic inside the US applied to an international scale. This geopolitical campaign, of course, comes at a time when the US is struggling to cope with the Russian Election Hacking Scandal. Given the goal of the Russians trolls responsible was to spread confusion in order to neutralize the political and economic responsiveness of the US , Putin’s statements fit nicely into a misinformation and disinformation campaign. There may not be a official position for world leader, but Putin is running a campaign to assume that role.
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