MOSCOW – Across Europe, apologists for Russia and Russian policy have coalesced into what amounts to a fifth column. The emergence in Western capitals of what might be called the “Party of Putin” is an exceptionally dangerous development, precisely because those who comprise it are not only the usual far-left and far-right suspects. So who are its “members”?
They are, for starters, those who, regardless of party, have had nothing critical to say about the full state reception that Russian President Vladimir Putin just staged at the Kremlin for that multi-recidivist enemy of the West (and butcher of his own people), Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They are those whose craven relief that a “strongman” has appeared to impose order (his own) on the Syrian mess prevents them from seeing that the primary effect of Russia’s massive, indiscriminate bombardments has been to accelerate the flow of refugees toward Europe.
And they are the great many who simply ignore what motivates Putin’s armed diplomacy (and not just in Syria): the desire to exact revenge on those who, in his eyes, were responsible for the Soviet Union’s downfall. Putin famously declared that the Soviet collapse was a “major geopolitical catastrophe of the [twentieth] century,” and he has never stopped blaming it on the United States, the Catholic Church (and its Polish pope), and Europe.
Yet the Party of Putin prefers not to see how seemingly discrete events are components of a Kremlin strategy of retribution, humiliation, and, at the very least, destabilization aimed at Europe. But one must be almost willfully blind to miss the big picture, because Putin’s tactics – pouncing on the slightest breach or sign of weakness in Europe in order to sow division – have been remarkably consistent.