The war with Ukraine was started and waged, of course, by Putin, trying to solve his domestic political problems. But the real war party is the entire elite and the system of power itself, which is an endlessly self-reproducing Russian authoritarianism of the imperial kind. External aggression in any form, from diplomatic rhetoric to outright warfare, is its preferred mode of operation, and Ukraine is its preferred target. This self-generated imperial authoritarianism is the real curse of Russia and the cause of all its troubles. We cannot get rid of it, despite the opportunities regularly provided by history.
Russia had its last chance of this kind after the end of the U.S.S.R., but both the democratic public inside the country and Western leaders at the time made the monstrous mistake of agreeing to the model — proposed by Boris Yeltsin’s team — of a presidential republic with enormous powers for the leader. Giving plenty of power to a good guy seemed logical at the time.
Yet the inevitable soon happened: The good guy went bad. To begin with, he started a war (the Chechen war) himself, and then, without normal elections and fair procedures, he handed over power to the cynical and corrupt Soviet imperialists led by Putin. They have caused several wars and countless international provocations, and are now tormenting a neighboring nation, committing horrible crimes for which neither many generations of Ukrainians nor our own children will forgive us.
In the 31 years since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., we have witnessed a clear pattern: The countries that chose the parliamentary republic model (the Baltic states) are thriving and have successfully joined Europe. Those that chose the presidential-parliamentary model (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) have faced persistent instability and made little progress. Those that chose strong presidential power (Russia, Belarus and the Central Asian republics) have succumbed to rigid authoritarianism, most of them permanently engaged in military conflicts with their neighbors, daydreaming about their own little empires.
In short, strategic victory means bringing Russia back to this key historical juncture and letting the Russian people make the right choice.
The future model for Russia is not “strong power” and a “firm hand,” but harmony, agreement and consideration of the interests of the whole society. Russia needs a parliamentary republic. That is the only way to stop the endless cycle of imperial authoritarianism. [Continue reading…]