MOSCOW – Russia and the West are losing each other yet again. The magnetic attraction and repulsion between the two has been going on for centuries. Indeed, historians have counted as many as 25 such cycles since the reign of Tsar Ivan III.
In the past, however, Russia’s sharp anti-Western turns were reversed – usually out of simple necessity – after relations reached rock bottom. Not this time. On the contrary, the deterioration of the relationship nowadays has developed a momentum of its own.
There are four reasons for this. First, the “loss” of the Cold War, and with it imperial and superpower status, has created a deep and so far unresolved crisis in the collective mentality of Russia’s political class. Russian leaders continue to perceive the West as a phantom enemy in opposition to which all the traditional mythologies of Russian foreign policy are being resurrected.
Second, by the end of Vladimir Putin’s second presidential term, Russia’s modernizing dreams had been shattered. Modernization, indeed, simply turned out to be yet another redistribution of property to those on top, particularly those who came out of the St. Petersburg mayoral office and the Federal Security Bureau (FSB). The image of the West as an enemy has become the only ideological excuse for Putin’s model of the corporate state.