khrushcheva159_ MIKHAIL METZELSPUTNIKAFP via Getty Images_putin speech MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

The Kremlin’s Suicidal Imperialism

The more apparent it is that Russia is losing, the more forcefully President Vladimir Putin declares that it is not. His speech declaring four more Ukrainian regions part of Russia – even as more territory there slips from Russia’s control – is a case in point.

MOSCOW – Not since the Soviet Union collapsed have I listened to a speech as Orwellian as the one Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered to declare that four Ukrainian regions are now Russia. Just as communism was once supposed to save humanity from imperialist exploitation, Russia is now apparently responsible for defending countries’ right not to be subjected to a “new colonialism” that would turn them into Western vassals. In Putin’s Russia, war is peace, slavery is freedom, ignorance is strength, and illegally annexing a sovereign country’s territory is fighting colonialism.

In Putin’s mind, he is righting a historic injustice, as the annexed regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia – were once part of Novorossiya (New Russia), brought into the Russian empire by Catherine the Great. He is also standing up to the West – especially the United States, which has bled it of resources and dictated its actions since the Cold War – on behalf of the rest of the world.

I love a good propaganda speech – I’ve taught the subject for years. But, coming from the leader of a country that has established itself at the center of two empires, with other states as its satellites, Putin’s rhetoric is too rich to be satisfying.

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