بوتين للسيطرة (E)
بوست - 14/2/2007
Moment To Seize
By David Ignatius
February 14, 2007
-- Vladimir Putin made headlines last weekend when he blasted the Bush
administration for its "almost uncontained
hyper-use of force" that has created a world where
"no one feels safe." If he had been a
Democratic presidential candidate, it would have been a
standard stump speech. But coming from a Russian
president, his remarks had pundits ruminating about a
new Cold War.
I was in the audience in
Putin made his speech, and the tone seemed to me more
one of resentment than belligerence. He was proud,
prickly, defiant -- a leader with all the Russian chips
on his shoulder. You could hear his inner voice: We let
you dismantle the Berlin Wall. We folded the Warsaw
Pact. We dissolved the
on your promises that you wouldn't take advantage of our
weakness. And what did we get? Nothing! You surrounded
us with NATO weapons.
Putin's comments may be jarring to Americans, but they express a bitterness
that's widespread here. His generation of Russians grew
up in a country that claimed the status of
"superpower," and they don't like being taken
for granted. Putin, a former KGB officer with a black
belt in judo, has been pugnacious in standing up for his
country's interests, and Russians seem to like that. In
the latest opinion polls, his popularity is well above
I met with one of Putin's top aides yesterday in a building that once housed
the headquarters of the Soviet Communist Party. "We
want to work together with you," he explained.
"But please open your eyes. We will never accept
that the sole power in the world will be the
is back. That's the real lesson I take from Putin's blunt
comments. A country that was near collapse after the
fall of Soviet communism has regained enough confidence
and stability to take a verbal shot at its old rival.
"We are emerging from nothing," the Putin aide
told me. To explain the Putin phenomenon, the Kremlin's
chief ideologue, Vladislav Surkov, recently compared him
to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another president who
brought his country back from economic disaster and
restored its pride. Like FDR, Putin is using
"presidential power to the maximum degree for the
sake of overcoming the crisis," Surkov said.
Visiting here for the first time since 1990, I am struck by how everything
is different, and everything is the same. Driving in from
the airport, you see the familiar monument marking the
farthest German advance in World War II -- a testament
to the Red Army's fierce resistance to foreign invasion.
And next to it is the Mega Mall with its huge Ikea
showroom -- a foreign invasion that, in the end, proved
, the somber stones of Lenin's tomb are a reminder of
Soviet power. But across the way, in what used to be the
drab GUM department store, are glittering displays of
the latest fashions from Vuitton and Dior.
What hasn't changed is
's neurotic relationship with the West. Russian friends tell me the country
feels unloved and unappreciated -- a political doormat
that Western powers think they can walk on at will.
That's the frustration that surfaced in Putin's speech
By Russian standards, this is something of a golden age. Putin recently
touted some of the country's achievements: Russian
average incomes increased 10 percent in 2006 over the
previous year; the economy grew by about 6.7 percent;
inflation was in single digits for the first time in
's currency reserves rose to $303 billion, the
third-largest in the world, and its "stabilization
fund" of energy profits was nearly $100 billion.
All this in a nation that in 1998, on the eve of Putin's
presidency, was essentially bankrupt.
has a moment of opportunity.
, far from the "unipolar" superpower Putin
describes, is weakened by the
war and is badly in need of allies. If Putin is wise, he
can play a pivotal role in resolving the Iranian nuclear
crisis -- and thereby restore some of
's lost diplomatic clout. Or he can keep complaining that nobody appreciates
his country -- and let his old rival struggle a while
longer in the
manifesto an "invitation to dialogue," as one
of his aides told me? Or was it a warning shot from a
that is rather enjoying
's troubles? If Putin wants to play a role in stabilizing
the post-Iraq world, he is pushing on an open door. But
does he have the vision and political will to seize the
The writer co-hosts, with Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, PostGlobal, an online
discussion of international issues athttp://