09/16/2023, 09.00
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Russia's turn eastward and Putin's deadly embrace of Kim

by Stefano Caprio

The leader of the Kremlin welcomed the dictator of Pyongyang to discuss low-level weapons and technology. Xi Jinping kept himself far from the two "thugs" while the Russian president used "underworld" jargon in the meeting. Patriarch Kirill renewed his "material and spiritual" support for the holy war.

For Vladimir Putin, the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok was meant to highlight Russia’s new geopolitical role, a celebration of its “turn to the East” and its victory in the war against the West and globalisation, the real goals behind the fragile windscreen that has fallen over poor Ukraine.

The event, however, turned out to be much less symbolic and apocalyptic, a token of the Russian world and its leader’s turn eastward, reduced to the level of the world’s “pariah” par excellence, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

The story weaved by spinmeisters around the meeting between Kim and Putin bested even the legends surrounding Mao Zedong's 1950 trip to Russia, when the "four-time great" Master, Chief, Commander and Helmsman travelled almost 10,000 kilometres in an armoured train to meet Joseph Stalin, the Father of Nations, in a fusion of personality cults, three months after the Chinese revolution and five years after the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazism.

That was the solemn start of the Cold War between East and West, even though Beijing and Moscow would soon look daggers at each other, a harbinger of a much wider confrontation than that of Russia with Europe itself.

Kim's train travelled less than 700 kilometres at 60 kilometres an hour to cover the distance between Pyongyang and Vladivostok, while Asia’s real master, Xi Jinping, was careful not to be seen anywhere near the two "thugs" who talked about trading weapons and low-level technologies.

The occasion brought out all the spirit of gopnik that is in Putin, who once roamed the streets of Leningrad to assert himself among other petty criminals, and today probably wanted to boast to "Comrade Kim" of how he killed even "his friend Zhenya", the same Yevgeny Prigozhin who had tried to show off even more than the boss himself.

The North Korean strongman tried to rise to the solemn occasion of "Russia's holy war against the globalist West," but Putin's statements brought him down to the lingo of the underworld and the slums, which the Kremlin's godfather uses when he feels comfortable.

On the money that is pouring out of Russia, Putin warned against "always stepping on the same rake," a threatening remark towards those who "pinched honestly earned money" via various sanctions and machinations, but to be reassuring, he added that "we will fix everything. Those who hear me know what I mean.”

To the business community, Putin offered typically "paternal” reassurances that "there will be no deprivatisation. The Prosecutor's Office will do its job with those who deserve it, but no one should be afraid, just follow the rules.” The transfers of various firms and companies to state ownership are only "steps provided for by the law".

Even anti-war statements, such as that by Yandex founder Arkady Volozh, are only "attempts by these characters to save their business, especially since they took and left, deciding to tie their destiny to other countries ... May God preserve their health and have a nice life in Israel!"

Putin’s “turn” is particularly evident in remarks tainted with anti-Semitic flavour, for people who typify the “betrayal of the homeland".

According to the Russian leader, “every man decides in his inner self what he wants to be, if he has any sense of national self-awareness, or if he just wants to imitate others, giving up being a Russian born in the Soviet Union, trying to become a mask of others.”

And here Putin's wrath was suddenly like old times, when he came to power, aided by a great godfather who today has become the "traitor par excellence", the politician and economist Anatoly Chubais.

After fleeing abroad shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, and surviving a poisoning attempt, the great puppet master of the Yeltsin years recently published an article in which he is presented as an "independent researcher” from Glasgow, sending Putin into a rage.

“For some reason, [Anatoly Borisovich] is hiding there. They showed me photographs where he is no longer Chubais, but some Moshe Izrailevich,” a traditional trope of the “fleeing Jew”, mocking him for his lack of success in nano-technologies, a field in which Chubais invested himself in the past few years of his eclectic career and 30-year presence in the corridors of power.

Chubais’s flight inspired the godfather to take it out on the "cultural workers", those "about 160-170 who went abroad" forgetting some zero, of course, only for "material things to buy at shopping, houses and apartments in tourist areas.”

Putin claims that "no one here bothers those who do not agree with the Russian authorities, but they chose to go, God be with them", especially since at least they will avoid "digging into the brains of millions of our citizens, proposing some of their non-traditional values.”

Even Russia’s law on "foreign agents" is not a threat to anyone. “It is based on the one in force in the US since 1938, only much more liberal,” and if any details need to be ironed out, “we listen to the suggestions of humanitarian activists, and in the end, we stick to court rulings.”

As for the war in Ukraine, he said again that "we cannot stop fighting when the enemy is on the counteroffensive. We are not Trotskyites, who have no final goal.”

As before, Putin can count on the moral and spiritual support of Patriarch Kirill, who recently led solemn celebrations in honour of the saintly Prince Alexander Nevsky, who defeated the Swedes and the Teutonic Knights and was a friend of the Mongol invaders.

His remains in the Lavra (monastery) dedicated to him, at the end of the Nevsky Prospekt that runs along the scenic buildings of St. Petersburg, were again placed in the silver sarcophagus returned by the Hermitage Museum, without much protest from colleagues in the Tretyakov Gallery, contrary to what happened in the case of Rublev's Icon of the Trinity.

Inspired by the 13th-century ruler, the patriarch proclaimed that “the citizens of Russia must stand up in defence of the Fatherland, so that it may emerge victorious from the struggle sparked by the forces of evil.”

We must be ready "in the decisive hour", Kirill said during the sacred procession through the streets of the "capital of the north", the birthplace of the president and the patriarch himself, which he would also like to be proclaimed Russia’s “cultural capital”.

The head of the Orthodox Church called for a new general mobilisation, to end the war once and for all.

“Soldiers and political forces must be mobilised, the Church must also be mobilised, first of all, to offer prayers in support of our leaders, army, and to be on the front line alongside them", perhaps with new military chaplains, since some have already fallen heroically at the front.

The patriarch reminded the Orthodox faithful that "it is necessary to defend the homeland not only from external enemies, but also from internal ones... Faith is that force that can mobilise all of a person’s other energies!"

While the pope's envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, sought some support in Beijing for humanitarian missions, global distribution of grain and ways to stop the war, Russia (where he may soon return as part of his mission) offered only bombastic proclamations of global and "metaphysical" conflict on all fronts, from Ukraine to Vladivostok, not the union of peoples "from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean," as popes and the dreamiest politicians hoped for in the past.

With any luck, it cannot get any lower than comrades Kim, Volodya and Kirill, so we may begin to rise from their level, little by little.


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