What led a leader who started out on the scene as a pro-Western one to take such angry positions towards the West? From meetings with NATO to Biden’s judgment (she doesn’t have a soul), up to current isolation, the parable of a leader
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
BERLIN – Angela Merkel once defin Vladimir Putin a leader who applies methods of the nineteenth century to the twenty-first centuryin the sense of reasoning and acting as a nationalist in the era of globalization.
It happened in 2014, at the time ofannexation of Crimeawhen the Kremlin leader dusted off the concept of Novorossia and declared his ambition to unify Russkij Mir, the Russian world.
But it hadn’t always been like this.
The man who today is holding Ukraine in check and according to Western governments is ready to unleash the biggest war in Europe since 1945
it had started differently on the European and world stage at the beginning of the Millennium.
Surely it was rash judgment that George W. Bush gave them in 2001 after their first meeting, when the American president said: I looked into his eyes, found him direct and trustworthy. I was able to get a perception of his soul: a man deeply dedicated to his country. And it would have been even more exaggerated a few years after that of the German Chancellor Gerhard Schrderwho had defined it a flawless democrat.
But yet, Putin had started his parable of power as a true or presumed pro-Westernborn and raised in St. Petersburg, with the myth of Germany where he had lived for a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In his early years at the helm of Russia, in addition to economically and politically rebuilding a country annihilated by the Far West of the 1990s, Putin had entered into a close dialogue with the US and the Westculminating inNATO-Russia cooperation agreement and even going so far as to theorize that Moscow could one day be part of the Alliance.
The turning point came in 2007, at the Munich Security Conferencewhen Putin launches an all-out attack on Westerners, denouncing the order created after the Cold War, the use of American military power in Iraq and above all the expansion of NATO to the borders of Russia.
From that moment, the Russian leader began a turnaround, screwing in an increasingly authoritarian, nationalist and aggressive spiral.
Gi in 2008 he launched his first military action in the former Soviet space, occupying Abkhaziaas far as the territory of Georgia.
There are many factors behind Putin’s involution and his metamorphosis into an increasingly authoritarian leader. The Arab springs And the violent end of Gaddafi they had a strong impression on him. There first Ukrainian revolutionthe orange one, was another devastating signal for the Kremlin leader, who he saw in the neighboring country a dangerous example of rebellion, democratic demands, chaos.
The failed reset with the Obama administration it was a consequence of this personal and political change.
In 2011, when as prime minister (in the four-year period in which he handed over the office to Dmitry Medvedev) he met him for the first time face to face, the then vice president Joe Biden radically corrected Bush’s judgment: Prime Minister, I’m looking you in the eye and I don’t think you have a soul..
Putin replied with a smile: I see that we understand each other very well.
After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, nothing has been the same.
Western sanctions have accelerated Putin’s narrative of an encircled country, which has earned him very high levels of support. His polemic against the decadent and depraved West grew stronger and stronger. While on the inside, who didn’t line up like Alexeij Navalnywas persecuted and suffered attempts on his life.
Now, after 20 years in power, Putin is increasingly alone.
Consensus creaks, thanks to a constantly worsening economic situation. The pandemic has accentuated his physical and mental isolation. become unpredictable to his own collaborators. Nobody knows what his next decisions will be. After more than two decades in power and on the eve of 70 years, with a health condition that has become a state secret and according to many at risk, Putin may be starting to think about his legacy, that of unifying Russky Mir. The one in Ukraine could seem to him the completion of the mission.
This article was published for the first time in America-China, one of the three events of Il Punto, the newsletter reserved for subscribers of Corriere della Sera. To subscribe: corriere.it/newsletter