The luncheon will continue as scheduled today for those able to attend. We look forward to seeing you if possible and be safe.
One reason for Putin’s huge popularity at home is that he has tapped into Russians’ two strong yearnings: a cultural affinity for strong, Tsar-like leadership, quite different from Western European and North American predilections, and an understandable hunger for prestige and world recognition, a need to be relevant. In the course of 15 years, the Russian people saw their country go from superpower to junior partner, and then thanks to Putin, to a renaissance of empowerment. Unlike during the Soviet era, Putin’s sojourn has not been on the back of nuclear weapons, which the country still owns in abundance, but has been fueled by oil and gas. What Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev could not do with nuclear weapons and raw military power, Putin has attempted with oil and gas, in what arguably can be called energy imperialism.
Russia’s prowess in, and reliance on, the use of oil and gas to gain political clout has its roots in the country’s tumultuous and astounding history. Developed over decades, the Russian repertoire of petro-political maneuvers is the product of gradual changes punctuated by dramatic moments of symbolic and concrete significance. At times, oil was weaponized as a matter of the system’s survival. Other times, it seemed the best possible way to pry open the door to the reluctant West. In both cases, the regime often found that the best way to be treated as part of Europe was through the strategic use of its raw materials.
This talk and book deal with Putin and the re-Sovietization of the country using energy sources as the means of personal and national empowerment. Vladimir Putin – his personality, his role in Russian evolution, and especially, his place in Russian hearts and minds – are all necessary to understand the cultural underpinnings of his success. We discuss history, analyze, and predict. More than in any other country, including the largest consumer of all, the United States, oil and gas have played a pivotal role in the modern history of Russia, the key to Putin’s re-Sovietization. Although Russia held recent elections with a new President, Dmitri Medvedev, Putin is in a commanding position. He will be around for a long while and he has to be reckoned with.
The future of Russia is, again, its past and we in the West must take notice.