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Vladimir Putin Launches Bid for Russia as New Center of Global Conservatism

January 21st, 2022 09:27

MEMRI, an Israeli NGO that trans­lates for­eign media, has pub­lished a report on a some­what over­looked speech by Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin last Octo­ber, described by a Russ­ian aca­d­e­m­ic as the “first major and strong call for rein­vent­ing Russ­ian ide­ol­o­gy for Rus­sia and the world.” The MEMRI report con­cludes that Putin’s speech can be viewed as an ide­o­log­i­cal man­i­festo that tries to put Rus­sia back in the cen­ter of the world’s polit­i­cal map. Accord­ing to the report’s conclusion:

Putin has smart­ly intro­duced him­self into the debate that already exists in the West­ern world about lib­er­al­ism, and more specif­i­cal­ly pro­gres­sive lib­er­al­ism. If Putin man­ages to out­line a new con­ser­v­a­tive ide­ol­o­gy, then Rus­sia would become a polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal pole for con­ser­v­a­tives also in the U.S. and Europe. This is already part­ly hap­pen­ing in some Euro­pean coun­tries. Iron­i­cal­ly, we could wit­ness a new Cold War, but with reversed roles: the West would be a pole for pro­gres­sive-lib­er­al-com­mu­nist ide­ol­o­gy while Rus­sia would rep­re­sent the con­ser­v­a­tive pole. Even more iron­i­cal­ly, East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries that rebelled against the Sovi­et Union, main­ly Hun­gary and Poland, now have con­ser­v­a­tive elect­ed gov­ern­ments that in the future may look at Moscow as an ide­o­log­i­cal point of ref­er­ence. Of course, when Putin talks about “healthy con­ser­vatism,” he is not refer­ring to Ronald Rea­gan’s lib­er­al-con­ser­vatism, since the main nature of the Russ­ian regime remains authoritarian.

Read the full report here.

Putin’s full speech here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) urges inter­est­ed read­ers to read the MEMRI report and the speech in its entire­ty, but we note that Putin is close­ly mir­ror­ing right-wing themes that dom­i­nate the so-called “cul­ture wars” in the US. In this pas­sage, for exam­ple, Putin asserts that “social progress” advo­cates are adopt­ing Marx­ist ideas in their fight against racial discrimination:

The advo­cates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are intro­duc­ing human­i­ty to some kind of a new and bet­ter con­scious­ness. God­speed, hoist the flags, as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their pre­scrip­tions are not new at all. It may come as a sur­prise to some peo­ple, but Rus­sia has been there already. After the 1917 rev­o­lu­tion, the Bol­she­viks, rely­ing on the dog­mas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change exist­ing ways and cus­toms, and not just polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic ones, but the very notion of human moral­i­ty and the foun­da­tions of a healthy soci­ety. The destruc­tion of age-old val­ues, reli­gion, and rela­tions between peo­ple, up to and includ­ing the total rejec­tion of fam­i­ly (we had that, too), encour­age­ment to inform on loved ones – all this was pro­claimed progress and, by the way, was wide­ly sup­port­ed around the world back then and was quite fash­ion­able, same as today. By the way, the Bol­she­viks were absolute­ly intol­er­ant of opin­ions oth­er than theirs.“This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are wit­ness­ing now. Look­ing at what is hap­pen­ing in a num­ber of West­ern coun­tries, we are amazed to see the domes­tic prac­tices — which we, for­tu­nate­ly, have left, I hope — in the dis­tant past. The fight for equal­i­ty and against dis­crim­i­na­tion has turned into aggres­sive dog­ma­tism bor­der­ing on absur­di­ty, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shake­speare – are no longer taught at schools or uni­ver­si­ties, because their ideas are believed to be back­ward. The clas­sics are declared back­ward and igno­rant of the impor­tance of gen­der or race. In Hol­ly­wood, mem­os are dis­trib­uted about prop­er sto­ry­telling and how many char­ac­ters of what col­or or gen­der should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agit­prop depart­ment of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of the Sovi­et Union.

The claim that the US social jus­tice move­ment is Neo-Marx­ist has found its way into myr­i­ad blogs, pod­casts, and even to the pages of the Wall Street Jour­nal in this edi­to­r­i­al about so-called “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry,” a 40-year old aca­d­e­m­ic con­cept based on the idea that racism is a social con­struct and not mere­ly the prod­uct of indi­vid­ual bias or prej­u­dice,  In June of last year, the GIOR report­ed on a Russ­ian-backed media piece that defend­ed an Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive activist well known for his attacks on what the piece called “neo-Marx­ist crit­i­cal race theory.”

Oth­er Russ­ian influ­ence oper­a­tions cov­ered by the GIOR that echo Putin’s asser­tions include:

  • A report from Novem­ber 2020 on a Russ­ian-backed media OpEd claim­ing that Demo­c­ra­t­ic “Elites” are equal­ly cul­pa­ble as Trump in dis­sem­i­nat­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries because “these elites have them­selves been ped­dling equal­ly irra­tional views about cat­a­stroph­ic cli­mate change, crit­i­cal race the­o­ry, and iden­ti­ty politics.”
  • A report from July of last year that actors linked to Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions were tar­get­ing Amer­i­can far-right audi­ences on alter­na­tive online plat­forms employ­ing some of these same themes.
  • A report from July of last year on Russ­ian-backed media alleg­ing that US fam­i­lies were seek­ing to immi­grate to Rus­sia to escape the US school curriculum.

We have also cov­ered influ­ence oper­a­tions based on the same themes orig­i­nat­ing from the Repub­li­can Par­ty and oth­er ele­ments of the US con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, including:

  • report from June of last year on a new orga­ni­za­tion like­ly based in the Repub­li­can Par­ty that announced it had launched with an ini­tial “ini­tial sev­en-fig­ure nation­al ad cam­paign of well over $1 mil­lion” to com­bat what it described as polit­i­cal influ­ence in US schools.
  • A report from August of last year on an orga­ni­za­tion that said that it had uncov­ered ties between the ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Koch fam­i­ly and 28 con­ser­v­a­tive think tanks and polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions who pub­lished exten­sive mate­r­i­al Crit­i­cal Race Theory.
  • A report from Novem­ber of last year on a group behind attacks on Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry dur­ing the recent Vir­ginia gov­er­nor’s elec­tion that has ties to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s allies and is fund­ed by so-called ‘dark money.
  • A report from Jan­u­ary on the role of US right-wing influ­ence net­works pro­mot­ing so Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry as a hot-but­ton issue in US politics.

It is impos­si­ble to ascer­tain whether or not Putin seri­ous­ly holds the beliefs expressed in his speech or is sim­ply posi­tion­ing him­self as the ‘Com­man­der-in-Chief’ of the Russ­ian influ­ence oper­a­tions tar­get­ing the US as described above. Nev­er­the­less, the appar­ent attempt by Putin to posi­tion him­self and Rus­sia as the leader of a new cen­ter for glob­al con­ser­vatism is extra­or­di­nary, to say the least. The GIOR will con­tin­ue to fol­low these devel­op­ments as they play out over the com­ing months and years.