Two weeks ago, Steve Rosenberg at the BBC quoted the Russian political scientist (and historian) Valery Solovei:
“Yeltsin believed he had a mission, and so does Putin… Yeltsin saw himself as Moses: he wanted to lead his country out of its communist slavery.
“Putin’s mission is to return to the past. He wants to avenge what he calls ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century’, the fall of the USSR. He and his entourage, former KGB officers, believe the destruction of the Soviet Union was the work of Western intelligence services.”
Judging by his recent remarks in Russian-language media, Solovei has drawn practical short-term conclusions from this general thesis. If I understand him correctly, Putin’s messianic mindset has recently shifted into a doomsday gear. Apparently, the dictator feels his run as an active leader is rather limited (for health and age reasons) so the time has come to act out his revisionist fantasies on a truly grand scale. Besides, the West is conveniently divided at the moment, and generally weak-willed.
The endgame, according to Solovei, would start with the creation of a new state uniting Russia and Belarus, possibly through a Crimea-like operation. Ukraine would follow, as the outcome of a complicated game involving its oligarchs and president. As a final chord, Solovei doesn’t rule out a direct military attack on the Baltics, since the Kremlin believes it would win a conventional standoff with NATO over the region. The short-term costs to the country would be enormous, but messiahs don’t care. Also, none of these stages absolutely require the use of military force – all means necessary might be employed but not all may be needed.
I’ll reserve my comments until some later date. As a general remark, the USSR didn’t all die in 1991 and remains a half-corpse, half-vampire. Sooner or later, it will die completely, and Solovei’s scenario would probably hasten its final and complete demise. It’s the meantime that could be a not insignificant problem.