Friday, January 02, 2015

Putin and the New Year

Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered a New Year's Message for 2015 to Russia.

This gives me the opportunity to post this segment from The Young Turks, which pokes fun at American conservatives in 2014 drooling over Putin's manly manliness. And also has a good discussion about the Ukraine issue, In 2014 The Right Fell Deeply In Love With Vladmir Putin 12/31/2014:

They describe the weird fascination of US conservatives with Putin well. Republicans would be mostly happy to see a new Cold War, with the opportunities it would offer to transfer tax money into the profits and CEO pay of arms manufacturers.

But actual political admiration for Putin in the American right is less clear than among the European right, who Putin is actively courting. There is a small subset of the Christian Right that actively admirers Putin's pose as the defender of Christianity, coming as it does with open hostility to gays and lesbians.

Konstantin Petrenko reported several years ago on the Christianist aspect of Putin's politics in The Kremlin and the Church: Russia's Holy Alliance Religion Dispatches 07/03/2009:

In today’s Russia, religion is in vogue. When the country celebrated Easter two weeks ago, thousands of Muscovites flocked to the magnificent Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the capital city’s main church. This colossal masterpiece of architecture, demolished by Joseph Stalin in 1931 and restored in 2000, symbolizes the reemergence of Russian Orthodoxy after seven decades of state-imposed atheism. The radiant Easter Vigil was a religious event as well as a political one; among those present were Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev, sharing center stage with Patriarch Alexiy II. “May the Lord grant you strength to continue the heroic deeds you have performed for the good of Russia,” the Patriarch said to Putin and Medvedev during the liturgy, and the two presidents exchanged traditional kisses with the gray-bearded Church leader in front of dozens of television cameras and a jubilant crowd of believers.

The presence of political dignitaries at major Christian events, unimaginable two decades ago, has become an ordinary occurrence in recent years. It underscores the special status of Russian Orthodoxy and harkens back to Russia’s tsarist past when the Church and the monarchy were inseparable. To their credit, Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev do not wear religion on their sleeves. When asked in a recent interview whether he believes in God, Putin replied: “There are things I believe, which should not, in my position at least, be shared with the public.” In a similar fashion, Medvedev said to a group of young supporters, “Personal religious feelings are an intimate matter, and this makes them especially valuable.” Nevertheless, both leaders regularly take advantage of the Church’s popular appeal to bolster their image.
But this is a Russian Orthodox Christianism, which regards Protestant churches with suspicion and hostility: "The anti-Protestant rhetoric escalated after many evangelicals took part in the 2004 Orange Revolution in neighboring Ukraine."

And he warned, "Russians have rediscovered religion, but without a strong commitment to religious liberty and secularism, the new fascination with Russian Orthodoxy is more likely to breed hatred and xenophobia than a healthy respect for religious pluralism that is crucial to the development of democracy and civil society."

Joshua Keating looked at Putin's Christianism more recently in Russia Gets Religion: Is Vladimir Putin trying to build a new Orthodox empire? Slate 11/11/2014.

Here is the RT report on Putin's New Year's message, Putin's New Year Address 2015: Reunification with Crimea landmark in national history 12/31/2014:

RT also provides the English text in 'Landmark in Russian history': President Vladimir Putin's New Year address 12/31/2014. The full English text as provided there follows:


The New Year of 2015 is about to begin.

As always, we look forward to it with anticipation, making wishes, giving gifts and traditionally seeing in the New Year with family and friends. An atmosphere of kindness, goodwill and benevolence warms our hearts, opening them up to pure thoughts and honourable deeds and giving hope.

Naturally, everyone is concerned primarily about the well-being of their own family, wishing health and happiness to their near and dear ones. The happiness and success of each individual makes up the well-being of Russia.

Love for one’s Motherland is one of the most powerful and enlightening feelings. It has found its reflection in our fraternal aid to the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, after they made the firm decision to return to their native home. This event will remain a landmark in national history.


Now, as we reflect on the outgoing year I would like to sincerely thank you for your unity and solidarity, for your innermost truthfulness, honour, justice and responsibility for the fate of your country, for your invariable readiness to defend Russia’s interests, to be with it both in days of triumph and in times of trial, to strive for the implementation of our bravest and grandest of plans.

Only a few years ago the Sochi Olympics were no more than a dream. Meanwhile, it not only came true: we not only prepared and hosted the best ever winter Olympics, but we also won them. This victory has been achieved by all the citizens of this country, both the Olympic athletes and those who supported them.

In the coming year, we are facing quite a few tasks and the year will be as good as we make it, depending on how efficient, creative and effective each one of us is. There are no other recipes. We need to implement all our plans – for our own sake, for the sake of our children, for the sake of Russia.


The New Year is knocking at our doors. It is time to let it in and say words of kindness to our near and dear ones. Time to thank them for their understanding and reliability, for their patience and care. The more kindness and love there is around the more confident and powerful we become, which means we will definitely be successful.

Happy 2015 to you! [my emphasis]
Paul Pillar warns against mindless triumphalism over low oil prices, which are causing problems for Russia, Iran and Venezuela, all of whom are currently on the United States' least-favorite list:

... the presumed connection between a country's economic discomfort and its regime's diplomatic flexibility considers only one half of the regime's calculations. The other half concerns whether, and how much, that regime believes it can improve its economic situation by making concessions to its adversaries. If it sees no prospect for improvement, it has no incentive to concede.

The point becomes all the clearer when, as with the recent drop in petroleum prices, it is a market that is causing the economic pain. Markets have no mechanism for pain reduction when someone changes a negotiating position or diplomatic posture. If lower oil prices really are making the leadership of Russia more willing to make concessions regarding the conflict in eastern Ukraine, what is supposed to happen regarding the prices and the pain if such concessions are made? That car-owners in the West will be so happy about this development that they will start driving more, thus burning more fuel, sending crude oil prices back up, and repairing the damage to Russian finances?

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