Earlier this week, Angela Merkel worried that Vladimir Putin was living "in another world." Leonoid Bershidsky writes that Putin does indeed inhabit another world -- not because he's crazy, but because he has read different books than those we have read:
Maria Snegovaya, a graduate student at Columbia University, provides a useful analysis of the sources of Putin’s ideology, rooted in the writings of early 20th century messianic, nationalist philosophers Nikolai Berdyayev, Vladimir Solovyov and Ivan Ilyin. To them, Russia had a mission to spread and maintain the Orthodox Christian faith on territories it controlled, and the West was the eternal enemy of that mission, perpetually trying to break up the Russian world. Snegovaya also recalls the 2006 book Third Empire: The Russia That Should Be, by Mikhail Yuriev, an entrepreneur and ideologue popular with Kremlin bureaucrats. In Yuryev’s utopia, Russia gathers up the lands of the old Russian empire, grabbing, among other areas, eastern Ukraine after a standoff with NATO. Two years before Russia’s small victorious war against Georgia, Third Empire described a Russian conquest of the disputed Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
His education has given him a world view which has little in common with our Western -- Renaissance inspired -- world view:
Putin’s world view is so different from that of Western politicians seeking to prevent a war that they are speaking different languages — not just in the linguistic sense. The only language they have in common is that of money, but it has little effect on Putin now.
In Putin’s world, the Russian civilization is clashing with the Western one. Money and the formalities of international law mean little in this existential struggle. Paradoxically, if the West is not willing to live by the harsh rules of this imagined world, it is going to watch Putin settle for less after threatening to take more. Specifically, Russia will keep formal or informal control of the Crimea, while the rest of Ukraine limps ahead on its nation-building path.
The disconnect with Russia mirrors our disconnect with the Islamic world. And -- for Canadians -- it raises the question, "What does Stephen Harper read?"