What does Russia really want?

Monday, the Russian government jailed another prominent opposition leader in Moscow. Tens of thousands of Moscovites protested recently in the streets of the capital city. Putin frequently resorts to virulent anti-American rhetoric. Americans have been banned from adopting Russian children. To many, Russia can be a confusing, hard to understand place. So what’s going on there? What do they want?



To answer that question, all you have to do is ask yourself, “What did the Tsars (or Czars) want?” Because that’s what Putin is, a modern-day Tsar.

I have spent a great deal of time in this fascinating country.  One thing I can tell you is that on an individual basis, the Russians are a very friendly lot, willing to help those in need. I recently spent a an unscheduled week in a Russian hospital and despite the harsh conditions, I enjoyed interacting with everyday Russians living their lives. They are a sturdy people used to hardship and the struggle for survival. They are highly educated and are enjoying the travel opportunities and consumer goods closed to them for decades. They desire to be citizens of the world.

But they are not in power. The elite political friends of Vlad are.

That is why it was so foolish for our president to think he could be more flexible with Putin and further the national interests of the United States. The Russians think Obama is a clown. So what did the famed reset accomplish? What did the betrayal of our ally Poland with the cancellation of our missile defense system on Polish soil achieve?  The Russians have attempted to water down or foil our foreign policy initiatives every chance they get. Syria is the latest example with Russian arms shipments supporting the Assad regime. Putin used Obama’s reset to further the aims of Russia, not a bilateral relationship with the United States.

So what does the new Tsar want? It’s very simple, he wants what Tsars have always wanted: power, and money.

To consolidate power among the people in the villages, Putin uses an age-old strategy. He blames everything on America. One-hundred thousand protesters in Moscow? It’s the Americans, etc., etc. He also has joined forces with the Orthodox Church. A large percentage of the Russian people are deeply faithful and held onto this faith through the dark days of communism.  Putin recognizes this and has elevated the Church to a quasi-governmental status.

To placate the wealthy urban citizens, he promotes capitalism. In short, he allows them to make money, travel, and do whatever they want, as long as they don’t criticize the government. Do that and you’ll end up in a labor camp in Siberia like the three young mothers who made the mistake of singing a song against Putin recently.

L. Todd Wood is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Twitter: @LToddWood

L. Todd Wood is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Twitter: @LToddWood

The Russian people are resigned to corruption. It will be interesting to see as the petro linked economy of Russia is strangled by graft and corruption, how Putin reacts. Will he further crackdown on unrest? Will he jail more leaders of the opposition? Will he start  another war to gin up nationalism?

The Russians are a great people and are restrained by their Tsar. The protests in Moscow are growing louder but the people in the countryside are content with a strong leader. This drama is fascinating to watch.

And one more thing, Putin can smell American and European weakness, and is preparing for the day when the Western economies possibly collapse.  Russia is the number one buyer of gold in the world.

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  1. Interesting article. I was recently in St. Petersburg and the people there were wonderful, So, it’s distressing to see Russia moving backwards from their limited economic and social freedoms that were achieved following the collapse of the Soviet state. As a side note, there is currently a government lead movement against their gay citizens including arrests and detentions. Which group of citizens will be targeted next? Jews? Christians? A scary situation for the Russian citizens. There is even a concern among Western nations as to whether or not to allow their gay winter Olympic athletes to attend the next Winter Olympics to be held in Russia for fear that those athletes may be arrested.

  2. Reblogged this on News You May Have Missed and commented:
    What does Russia really want?

  3. richardbaris says:

    I find it fascinating that George Kennan wrote the long telegraph more than a half century ago and it is still applicable. Yet, Obama thinks he is smarter than these people. Well, everyone actually. I thought I felt a minor vibration this morning but, it turned out it was just a nuke getting detonated in North Korea. Who… Russia backs along with the PRC. I remember Kennan testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the end of his career. He was old by this point, it was the 1990s. He was wagging his finger back and forth at these fresh face Senators who didn’t remember the Cold War warning “don’t you forget about those damn Russians.” They mocked him (much like Obama did to Romney over Russia) with stares of an old KOOK who didn’t want to except that the world had changed. Thousands of years of nation-state relations to study and somehow, every generation thinks they are smarter than the last. What’s that old saying? Oh that’s right, “if you don’t learn rom history then you are bound to repeat it’s mistakes.” Something to that effect anyway. Great column Todd.

  4. richardbaris says:

    Reblogged this on Richard D. Baris and commented:
    Great Column from Todd Wood

  5. Reblogged this on World Chaos.

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