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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student


Putin's push for Russian domination

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has a dream for himself, his people and his nation.

What is the dream? No one really knows, but it involves, best I can tell, elements of Russian exceptionalism, Russian power and Russian legitimacy.

When articulated in such a way it sounds reasonable. Doesn’t every head of state around the world desire something similar? Yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that it is not out of the ordinary for leaders and citizens to believe in their country, its ability and its right to have a seat at the global table.

However, no, in the sense that instead of Russian exceptionalism it should read sole Russian exceptionalism, for Russian power, Russian dominating power and Russian legitimacy as a Russian version of global manifest destiny. We have only to look at Ukraine and all that has happened there for proof of this. Putin is attempting to build an empire.

As to why, there is no simple answer, but I would like to shed light on something that I believe is often overlooked as part of the equation ­— the Russian people.

The commentary surrounding Russia generally depicts the people as servants or maybe even slaves to Putin’s hard rule. This in many respects is true and I would never deny it as a piece of the puzzle. But this gives us a view of the Russian people that is ?fundamentally wrong.

It leads us to believe that the Russian people somehow disagree with Putin, that their vision for Russia is different and that if up to them they would handle world affairs in a much friendlier way.

Of course, there are some that feel this way, and I am not saying every Russian is Putin, but the majority are closer to him than you might think.

Let me give you two examples. First, a Russian poll recently found that 73 percent of the people see the United States as their main foe .

Second, 30 percent of Russians cite Putin’s foreign policy as his greatest achievement.

I have been to Russia, both the capital and the frontier, and there is without a doubt an anti-west, anti-American atmosphere.

You can’t deny it. Again, it is not everyone.

But it is, I would argue, an element of what it means to be Russian.

It is not about a Cold War hangover, an East and West divide or Ukraine wanting to be a part of the EU. It is not even about Putin’s ambition — it is about a war of ideas. It is about two conceptions of the world that couldn’t be more different.

I do not want to make a value judgment about Russian ambition, the Russian opinion of us or anything, for that matter — it is not my place.

But if we fail to recognize that there are those who think differently, believe differently and, through and through, hold different presupposition about life — Putin, Ukraine, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Ebola, terrorism, Hong Kong and on and on will always be an enigma to us.

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