By Aleksandar Đokić, Political scientist and analyst
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.
Russia’s leadership doesn’t even have a stable, non-contradictory set of principles or values it adheres to, and its hodgepodge of narratives shows it is trying to fuel any conflict it can, all with the goal of carving out an empire for itself, Aleksandar Đokić writes.
It’s not unusual that in times of major crises, analogies are often forced upon us to more easily come to terms with and understand the political reality we live in.
With the world struck by one shock after another in rapid succession in recent years, it’s also hardly surprising to see some draw parallels with the run-up to World War II.
Yet, the period of time most resembling our own could be compared to the early stages of the Cold War instead.
And this time, Russia, as the only actor on the global geopolitical stage completely hollowed out from any true belief, is an even greater agent of chaos than it ever was in the past.
A menace in a world of partial disorder
The structure of the global order is unwinding, not because democracies in Europe and North America are weaker or less economically influential than they were, but because other regional players have grown in the meantime.
In parallel, the institutional framework of the global order is outdated yet remains rigid to our contemporary needs due to clashing visions on the global stage, while no clear victor has yet emerged from the fray.
Some of the major actors outside of the Western democratic world are more rational, desiring economic growth rather than waging wars, and not all of them ascribe to an ideological system that is antagonistic towards the West as a whole.
Russia, unfortunately for the rest of us, is the exact opposite.
It’s putting the concept of state power in front of the well-being of its citizens; framing victory through the lenses of war, instead of economic development; all the while propping its authoritarian regime with an eclectic ideological mashup bound together solely by the belief that Russia is the opposite of the imagined and imaginary West.
Although other Russias did exist, like the strain of liberal thought in Russian culture going back all the way to the 18th century, we are dealing with a particular version of Russia which is highly minacious in a world of partial disorder.
Flashpoints outlining the Kremlin’s shadow
For the past two years, there have been three flashpoints all involving Russia: its invasion of Ukraine, the latest Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the bloody incursion of the Hamas’ military wing into Israel.
Russia plays various roles in all three. In Ukraine, it is the invader, in Nagorno-Karabakh it is the (intentionally) failed peacekeeper.
And as for Israel, it’s a weak partner who colluded with the Iranian regime as well as with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, while acting as a meddling influence on the balance of power in the Middle East.
Yet, it was Vladimir Putin whom Netanyahu officially spoke to over the phone after the attack, at the same time refusing an offer from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for a state visit to Israel in its time of need.
It can seem confounding, considering that the USSR armed the forces poised to destroy Israel on both occasions its very existence was at stake — the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War — as a Cold War flex to rattle the US.
But this time, Russia is not the USSR, especially not in terms of ideology, as much as it’s willing to toy with the idea whenever it thinks it’s useful.
Questions over Russia’s involvement in bloodshed
At the same time, Iran has been leading the charge in clamouring for war against Israel now — an aggressive stance most Arab countries have meanwhile given up on because of its futility and great cost.
Meanwhile, Russia is undisputably buying weapons for its war against Ukraine from Iran while forging a tenuous alliance with Tehran in Syria, where Moscow intervened to keep Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime in power by any means necessary.
Naturally, questions arose over Russia’s possible role in Hamas’ attack on 7 October.
Recently, it was uncovered that the Palestinian militants partially financed their operations by purchasing cryptocurrency in Russia in the lead-up to last Saturday’s incursion and the resulting atrocities.
Millions of dollars were funnelled through Garantex, a Moscow-based crypto exchange, to various extremist groups connected to Hamas.
Beyond that, there is no evidence that the Kremlin actually supplied Hamas or any other extremist group in Palestine with weapons, or that it took part in the planning of any of their operations.
Bullets for Kalashnikovs and conflicting narratives
Moscow, however, does enjoy close political ties to Hamas, seen again just last Saturday when its leadership publically waxed lyrical about Putin, saying it “appreciates Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position … and the fact that he does not accept the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
“We also affirm that we welcome Russia’s tireless efforts to stop the systematic and barbaric Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” they said in a statement.
In another interview with Russia’s state-owned RT in Arabic, a high-ranking Hamas official stated that “Hamas has a license from Russia to locally produce bullets for Kalashnikovs, that Russia sympathises with Hamas, and that it is pleased with the war because it is easing American pressure on it with regard to the war in Ukraine”.
On their end, Russian officials, state propagandists and organised bots have been peddling various narratives, some contradicting each other.
The Kremlin officials have blamed the US for Hamas’ attack, while not condemning the militants’ incursion, especially not in such explicit terms. In fact, Putin himself labelled it “a failure of US policy in the Middle East”, while the ever-increasingly toxic former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said it was a part of Washington’s “manic obsession to incite conflicts”.
The state propagandists supported the same narrative and also added a new one: Russia’s war against Ukraine is much more benign than Israel’s reaction in Gaza.
Russian bots, on many social platforms, didn’t hold back from supporting Hamas and accusing Ukraine of supporting the “fascists” in the conflict — meaning, Israel.
Carving an empire in blood devoid of meaning
Yet on a much larger scale, Moscow’s hodgepodge of narratives shows it for what it really is — an agent of chaos, trying to fuel any conflict in the borderlands of the democratic world, all with the goal of apportioning a regional empire for itself.
Russia’s leadership is not interested in peace and it doesn’t work towards it.
Its social media bots and online influencers tell us the tale of the lowest common denominator in Russian society — a revanchist, disgruntled anti-Semite who has given up on his own life and wants to see the entire world crumble down to his level.
The most striking part of it all is that Russia’s leadership doesn’t even have a stable, non-contradictory set of principles or values it adheres to.
Carving out an empire in blood is immanently meaningless when one lacks a higher cause to aspire to, let alone a coherent narrative. The Kremlin, however, has demonstrated time and again it’s utterly devoid of that, left completely without a vision, and in the end, barren of any semblance of a soul or empathy for others.
And that is what makes it more dangerous and unpredictable than ever — to its neighbours and to the rest of the world.
Aleksandar Đokić is a Serbian political scientist and analyst with bylines in Novaya Gazeta. He was formerly a lecturer at RUDN University in Moscow.
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