Thirty years ago this month, Communist hardliners in the Soviet Union launched the “August Coup” against Mikhail Gorbachev’s reformist government. It failed and instead the Communist Party itself was suppressed, after 74 years of totalitarian power. Hopefully the current communist coup in the U.S. will similarly fail—but it’s worth examining why our managerial globalist regime enabling it retains a hatred for Russian’s current ruler, President Vladimir Putin, that is as intense as it seems inexplicable.
From “Russiagate” to charges that anti-globalists are shilling for Putin, the shrill accusations of Russia being behind every nefarious activity the global managers can imagine, to the comparisons of Putin to Hitler…On and on the trail of hatred goes, for fear is behind it.
Understanding the obsessive fear and loathing of Putin’s Russia requires historical memory, something our society is woefully short on, but it’s necessary for anyone seeking such understanding to back up to the end of the Cold War and recall the circumstances that gave rise to globalism.
The Fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The Soviet Union remained standing, but was fragile, reeling from Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”), which had unleashed a firestorm of previously pent-up popular frustrations. The Soviet economy was in shambles. The Soviets were losing their Eastern European satellites and nationalism was pulling the USSR apart at the seams.
I used to find it exceedingly difficult to explain to Americans the chaos and despair in Russia that followed the Soviet collapse. But with our country following its own path to self-destruction, perhaps that will no longer be the case. As the state and economy collapsed, their money worthless, their jobs evaporating, with crime, disorder, and corruption rampant, life expectancy plummeted in post-Soviet Russia. The longstanding Russian curse, alcoholism, became an endemic phenomenon in Russian life. Abortions substantially exceeded births, suicides soared, and the state apparatus and law enforcement collapsed along with the unkept utopian promises of a failed system.
The rug had been pulled from under the feet of the Russian people, the narod who had suffered so greatly, but who had felt pride in Soviet achievements—Yuri Gagarin and the Soviet space program, the country’s superpower status, and above all, their victory over Fascism in the Great Patriotic War. Now that was all apparently gone with the wind, and the proud Russians had to rely on Western aid, including aid from the International Monetary Fund, to survive, however unsteadily, however forlorn.
Nearly one year after the great collapse, your faithful observer was in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East. Vladivostok was formerly the home of the Soviet Pacific Fleet. At the time, the rusting hulks of the newly formed Russian navy were abandoned in their docks, listing and lifeless. I walked past them on a cold day in November, and they looked like bizarre modern sculptures, unguarded, unwanted, a gallery with an audience of one.
At the naval base on nearby Russky Island, Russian sailors had gone unfed, as their officers failed to provide rations for months. A number of them starved to death.
A winter storm had frozen the port city on the Sea of Japan’s Bay of the Golden Horn. The streets were covered with ice and packed snow, the power grid failed, and without heat, the residents of Vladivostok had begun dismantling wooden structures to burn to warm themselves. Police were deployed to stop the city from descending into chaos. They were supposed to arrest the people carrying off fence planks and other wood they had gathered, but they often ignored them.
As I left the unguarded naval docks, I trudged through the snow and ice, and noticed an old woman pulling a sled loaded with wooden planks. I pulled the sled up an incline for her. She crossed herself and blessed me, and I noticed a militia officer—a policeman—casually turning his head and pretending not to see.
A week later I was in Moscow. Beggars were quite common: amputees, destitute pensioners, old war veterans wearing their threadbare uniforms and tarnished medals, the very old and the very young, as armies of orphans took to the streets of Russian cities. Street vendors, often educated people who had worked in industry or for the state apparatus, hawked all sorts of cheap goods, often Chinese in origin, on the sidewalks of the dingy capital’s streets.
Through it all, I noted the good will of many of the Russians I met, people who seemed glad that the Cold War was behind us.
That emotional warmth would not survive the “shock therapy” economic policies of the Russian government that, on the recommendation of Western advisors, had gone all in on neo-liberal reforms, lifting price controls and beginning the massive selloff of Soviet era assets. Gradualists had warned that the country might collapse under the strain, and it nearly did. The political and economic dislocations that followed the Soviet collapse, along with the unpopular economic policies (“shock without therapy“) helped ignite a political conflict between President Boris Yeltsin and the legislature, the Russian Supreme Soviet, that would end with a mini-civil war in Moscow, when tanks commanded by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (the tank crews were reluctant to take such orders from lower ranking officers) blasted the parliament into submission in October,1993.
The “Wild 90s” traumatized the Russian people in ways Westerners failed to fully understand at the time. And they also failed to account for historic Russian distrust of the West—the flipside of the good will I had seen so much of early on in Yeltsin-era Russia. By the end of the 90s, with NATO intervening in the ruins of Yugoslavia, bombing, among other sites, targets in Serbia, a traditional Russian ally, even Yeltsin had had enough and made his displeasure known to “friend Bill,” as he called President Clinton, to no avail.
Russia, humiliated in its war with Chechen separatists, would soon face the prospect of NATO expanding eastward toward Russia’s borders, though the Russians thought they been promised this would not happen. Relations with the West would continue to go downhill for some time. But a turning point, though few realized it at the time, was reached when an ailing Yeltsin resigned on New Year’s Eve, 1999, elevating Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the presidency.
Western triumphalism and globalization
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a seminal moment in Cold War history. To all intents and purposes, the Cold War with the Soviets was over. We would later hear talk of a post-Cold War “peace dividend,” a return to normal relations with the countries of the world and, hopefully, a much smaller military budget and a decrease in the vast array of American defense commitments made during the “twilight struggle” with Communism. Some of us looked forward to a time when Americans could set down the heavy burden President Kennedy had urged us to take up in his inaugural address. We had borne the burden of doing battle for “the free world,” and it appeared that there was at least a fair chance that America would come home.
It was not to be.
1989 also saw the publication of an essay by Francis Fukuyama in The National Interest, an essay that would become a widely discussed book, one that was a blueprint of sorts—at least in a cruder, simplified form—for globalism. The book, published in 1992, was The End of History and the Last Man.
What Fukuyama posited wasn’t that all struggle, strife, and achievement—what most of us think of as “history”—would end, but that human development had reached an end point: the apex of the evolution of mankind’s social, economic, and political development had been attained in liberal democracy.
Market economics was the most efficient method of producing material wellbeing. There simply wasn’t anything else. The Cold War had been a struggle of alternative developmental models and democratic capitalism had won—now the rest of the world would, perhaps in fits and starts, accept that as the only viable developmental path.
So went the theory.
Foreign policy realists and old-fashioned patriots might have mocked Fukuyama (and probably partly misunderstood what he was saying). But their real failure had been to misunderstand the nature of the Cold War itself. Traditionalists had viewed the battle as one against “godless Communism,” a fight to protect traditional values and social-economic structures. However, they had allied themselves with a Liberal-Left nexus that tightened its hold in the West with a victory in another war—the war against Nazism and Fascism.
The victory in that war solidified liberalism’s ideological triumph in the West, and further extended its cultural and social reach in popular entertainment, education, and the corporate world. A “long march” of the Liberal-Left through the institutions would marginalize—and later, practically outlaw—anything that even vaguely resembled a genuine Right in America. “Fascism,” which the Liberal-Left took to mean any manifestations of what they considered dangerous atavistic impulses like patriotism and religious and social conservatism, had been defeated. The Right was on “the wrong side of history,” as the defeat of Nazism and Fascism had shown. Any doubts about the developmental vector of the West and the world in general was deemed suspect by a globalist elite (and its minions in mass media) that was taking shape well before the Cold War was over.
The passage of the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 was a key point in the evolution of the Left-Liberal managerial regime during the Cold War. Opening the immigration flood gates was part of the Cold War architecture of the era. The propaganda aspect of the Cold War was fought in ideological terms as a clash between Communism and Capitalism (“the Free World”), a war of ideas, not of countries with concrete national interests and distinct peoples. Hart-Celler, which opened the door to non-European immigration, was an ideological extension of the Civil Rights legislation of the era, which was used in Cold War information campaigns to counter Soviet anti-capitalist and anti-U.S. propaganda.
Discrimination of any kind was viewed by US elites as arming the Communists with useful propaganda points—a Western democracy discriminating against the colored peoples of the earth undermined the global anti-Communist line.
Universalist language in American political discourse wasn’t anything new, but the Cold War went a long way toward promoting America as an idea, not a real place or a people with national interests to defend.
Thus, a global elite spawned during the Cold War, bolstered by Cold War era ideological abstractions, had consolidated its stranglehold on power in the Western world. The United States wasn’t exactly the leader of “the Free World,” but, rather, had become the seat of an expansive globalist project.
The Military-Industrial Complex had interests of its own, and peace wasn’t one of them. Globalist billionaires and the “Deep State” had become the not-so-Hidden Hands that manipulated “democracy” for their own ends. Ending the global “geopolitical architecture” that was established during the Cold War would be a direct, existential threat to their power.
“Globalization” was a popular media buzzword even before the Internet made a truly inter-connected world possible. The collapse of Soviet Communism, increased global “migration,” and “free trade” agreements, together with the expansion of transnational corporations, global air travel, and cellular communications, facilitated the realization of the One World dream of a transnational system. Internationalism, dating back at least to the failed League of Nations, became transnationalism as global technological infrastructure evolved.
“Putinism” as an alternative developmental model (“Cold War II”)
Another mistake traditional patriots made at the end of the Cold War: believing—inadvertently echoing Fukuyama—that the great ideological battles of the 20th Century were over and that “we” had won. They missed the fact that their own reason for fighting the Cold War was not shared by an internationalist elite—and that this elite’s ideology had morphed into a nascent form of globalism.
As James Burnham had theorized in The Managerial Revolution (1941), mid-20th century economic, technical, and political power had fallen into the hands of a technocratic elite, the “managers” who also oversaw rival forms of the managerial system in Fascist and Communist regimes. The battle among them was one for global hegemony. So “we,” traditional patriots, did not win the Cold War. “Our” managerial elite notched a victory over their rivals.
As Burnham wrote, the “free enterprise system” was no longer the venue of bourgeois proprietors, but of corporate managers. Together with their counterparts in mass media, the educational system, and the bureaucracy, this managerial, technocratic elite comprised our permanent government.
Godless capitalism had triumphed over godless Communism.
By the end of Yeltsin’s presidency, Russia’s traditional suspicions of the West had been re-ignited, and the man Boris Yeltsin chose to succeed him, Vladimir Putin, would fight another war with the Chechens, preserve the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, and revive the Russian state apparatus. He curbed the influence of prominent Yeltsin-era “oligarchs,” and, with some luck (especially rising oil prices that had tanked under Yeltsin), improved Russian living standards.
Most importantly of all, those developments boosted sagging national pride. Russians value order above all, something that is understandable considering their turbulent history, and Russian identity is strongly connected to great power status. As their country became a player in world affairs once more, Russians again felt pride in their homeland. Higher living standards and revived national pride, along with at least a semblance of order, were the bedrocks that Putin built his popular support on.
The malaise that had afflicted the country under Yeltsin, and on into the early 2000s, dissipated under Putin. He proved to be a skillful player in the game of factional politics, as he used his connections with a number of Russia’s influence groups (“clans“) to create a balance among them. Elites could breathe easier—assassinations of top-level players in politics and business became far less common. Many ordinary Russians could afford consumer items, vacations, a car, even foreign travel. A sort of tentative optimism, for Russians are a fatalistic people, reshaped Russian reality—today, life expectancy in Russia is about 74 years, up from 65.5 in 2000. Life expectancy for Russian men has soared from about 58 in the 90’s to 68 years.
The bargain struck between vlast (the authorities) and Russian society was derzhavnost (great power status) and a measure of prosperity, in exchange for a limited “managed democracy” and “stability.” Since most ordinary Russians believed politics to be none of their business and enjoyed a new world of consumption (albeit quite limited by Western standards), it seemed a good tradeoff.
To be sure, after more than twenty years of power, the “new” has worn off the Putin system, and recent events (especially pension reform that raised Russians’ retirement age, as well as inflation that has eroded real incomes), together with weariness with Putin’s extremely wealthy cronies (a number of the Yeltsin-era “oligarchs” were displaced by Putin-connected magnates who control vast state and quasi-state enterprises), has increased discontent in Russian society. The perennial Russian problems of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption are as prevalent as ever.
Yet popular protests have never gelled into a countrywide movement directed against the Kremlin, despite the best efforts of the “non-systemic opposition,” whose best-known leader, Aleksey Navalny, is now serving a prison term. A crackdown on opposition media outlets and the forced exile of a number of other opposition figures, together with the Kremlin administration’s control over “systemic” political parties, has prevailed, at least for now.
At the same time, “Putinism” has resisted the incursion of what we now call Woke ideology. A law banning “homosexual propaganda” is indicative of policies that earned Russia and Putin the ire of the “global community.” When friends have asked your faithful servant why the global elites hate Putin with such visceral intensity, my usual reply has been “No gay pride parades in Moscow.”
That’s an oversimplification, of course. Russia, for instance, has forcefully re-asserted its might in its traditional sphere of influence. The 2014 annexation of Crimea sparked a wave of anti-Russian sanctions by Western governments and general hysteria in the West over “Russian expansionism.” A series of attacks on and assassinations of Russian exiles has not endeared the Kremlin to the West, and not without reason.
Yet the myopic globalists, totally lacking self-awareness, failed to acknowledge that their hegemonic aspirations of homogenizing the planet as defined by their ideological precepts were themselves, by definition, expansionist. Russia’s sharp reaction to post-Cold War Western/globalist triumphalism, which interpreted the fall of the Soviet Union as opening the door to globalist expansion across the vast Russian sprawl in Eurasia, was entirely predictable.
As it turned out, a great “twilight struggle” between opposing worldviews was not over, something many of us failed to understand in 1991. “Cold War II” is the follow on to Cold War I, just as the Cold War itself was a spinoff from World War II.
“Liberal democracy” vs. “nationalist authoritarianism”
In short, Vladimir Putin’s brand of quasi-democratic national conservatism, blended with an authoritarian cult of personality (albeit a mild one by Russian standards—Putin is hardly an autocrat, as he is hemmed in by commitments to powerful interest groups) and suppression of potential anti-Kremlin rivals; Russia’s revival as a world power; the rejection of Woke politics and “homosexual propaganda”; the revival of the Orthodox Church as a force in Russian life (though the Church’s spiritual influence over its flock is more apparent than real); as well as Russian actions in the “Near Abroad” (the 2008 war with Georgia and the annexation of Crimea, for instance); and the promotion of a “multi-polar” world, with Russia moving closer to China to balance a globalist West, have made Putin the face of what globalists interpret as an alternative developmental model—one that rejects the End of History triumphalism that once swept globalist circles.
The Putin-controlled Kremlin has enriched the president’s cronies. But has proved wise enough not to empty state coffers, distributing enough income from oil and natural gas exports to raise Russian living standards. Putin has effectively played the role of “the good Czar,” descending from on high to take on ordinary Russians’ day-to-day complaints (access to natural gas lines for heating, local officials’ broken promises, health care for remote areas, the list goes on and on) in what Russian media dubbed “manual control” mode.
Vladimir Putin himself is everything globalists hate—he’s a perfect “patriarchal” foil for Woke ideology and zealous globalists.
What’s more, as globalists see it,”Putinism,” in the form of populist pushback against globalism, has also reared its head in the UK’s Brexit vote, in Viktor Orban’s conservative Hungarian nationalism, and, most of all, in the person of Donald J. Trump.
Of course, the notion that Trump, a weak president who couldn’t manage the White House, much less “Drain The Swamp,” was an authoritarian Strong Man is laughable. But it’s predictable given the mentality of the globalists and their Leftist allies. For them, any support for traditional values and patriotism is by definition “authoritarian.” Traditional social structures (the nuclear family, marriage, churches) are themselves deemed anti-egalitarian, and thus, oppressive and archaic. “Democracy” means adhering to the precepts of a globo-Leftist worldview and its utopian ideals.
Thus, Trump, like Putin and Orban, was portrayed as a fascist dictator—which he was, in the World According To Globalism.
But there’s something else to consider: the longing for a return to order, an end to chaos, and the repudiation of Woke ideology that underpinned the emotional investment so many “MAGA” supporters had in the unlikely figure of Donald Trump.
Early on, his Internet supporters produced memes depicting Trump as “God Emperor.” That yearning for decisive leadership did not go unnoticed by the globalists and its Leftist militant arm.
Hence the Regime Media’s sharply negative reaction to Tucker Carlson’s interviewing Hungary’s Viktor Orban, and to Carlson’s sympathetic portrayal of what the national-conservative (“right-illiberal“) Hungarian leadership is doing, including limiting immigration. This fed the beast of globo-Leftist fantasies about what the “Deplorables” are all about.
Rod Dreher has been in Hungary for a while and, in responding to David Frum’s harsh criticism of Orban, explained why Hungarians, despite some misgivings about corruption under Orban, nevertheless support him:
I have spoken to plenty of Hungarians who assume — as many people in the post-communist countries of this region do — that their leaders are going to indulge in corruption…One of them said that she doesn’t like the government’s corruption, but believes that Hungary can live with it. What it can’t live with, she said, is the kind of corruption that says it’s okay to teach children that they might be one of fifty genders. That form of corruption can destroy a society.
Tucker In Budapest: Blowing People’s Minds, The American Conservative, August 3, 2021
And in Russia, a major reason Putin has remained in power so long has become apparent to this observer: lots of Russians have observed what is happening in the West—and they have come to the conclusion that if the choice is between Pussy Riot and Putin, they’ll take Putin.