10/07/2023, 08.48
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Wars, world order, synodality: Putin's friends and the 'just multipolarity'

by Stefano Caprio

The president gave a new keynote address to the plenary of the 20th Club Valdaj, one of the 'ideological' venues. To 'intellectuals' the invitation to build a 'new world'. The evocation of the axis with China, the Arab world and India against the West, whose support for Ukraine is becoming uncertain. The 'synodality' (sobornost) that sums up Putin's justifications for the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a new keynote speech at the plenary session of the XX Valdaj Club, one of the main "ideological" headquarters of the regime, given that public debates and extensive interviews remained a pre-Covid and special operation memory.

On special occasions at most, triumphs are celebrated in the stadium, in which the Tsar gives himself away in a reduced and often artificial form, through avatars or less than credible scenographic appearances.

In Sochi, a town on the Black Sea where Russian leaders have always rested and where Putin celebrated the latest "peaceful" attempt to dominate the world at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the rhetoric of the "holy war" was revived, especially in light of of global uncertainties regarding support for the Ukrainian resistance seen by the Russians as the true sign of victory.

The title of Valdaj's "international discussion" this year recited the ideal of "Right Multipolarity: how to ensure security and development for all", Russia's commitment to building a new world. Putin urged those present to take on this epochal responsibility: "in this turning point the role of people like you, dear intellectual colleagues, is of extraordinary importance".

In the 20 years since this high meeting of "intellectuals" was held, "colossal changes" have occurred and time "is as if it had condensed": it is not two decades, but centuries or millennia.

At the first meeting, Russia had just gotten back on its feet after the tragedy of the collapse of the USSR, and was ready "to insert itself with all its strength in the process of building a more just world order". However, this willingness was understood by many as “submission to those who thought they were the masters”, the so-called “winners of the Cold War”.

Putin recalls that "at the beginning of the century everyone thought that the international community had learned the lesson of the ruinous consequences of the ideological confrontation of the past century", but in reality this was not the case, because "the USA and its satellites took the direction of hegemony". Fortunately for the whole world, he continued, "Russia understood from the beginning that this attempt was doomed to failure".

The claim for the primacy of anti-globalism and sovereignism is frequent in the president's declarations and takes on particular importance in light of the political developments underway in many countries; especially in view of the European and American elections next year, in the face of the new proclamation of the tsar's eternity scheduled for the "sacred" date of March 18, commemoration of the annexation of Crimea.

In fact, the world "is too complex and multifaceted to be able to confine it to a single scheme, even if behind it lies the enormous power of the West, accumulated over centuries of colonial policy".

Already last year Putin had complained in Sochi about NATO's refusal to welcome Russia, due to the "prevalence of geopolitical interests dominated by pride", the real cause of the "so-called war in Ukraine" (Putin also systematically uses the word " war"), which instead the Russians "only want to conclude", after having defended the population for years and above all "the children of Donbass", who today are "saved" with deportation to Russia.

In reality, it is a much broader conflict than the territorial question and "the system of principles on which the entire world order is based is at stake".

In this context, Western politicians are "obsessed with Russia", but at the same time "they also apply the image of the enemy to China", together with several Arab countries, and "India has also gone through it", calling to its side the “friendly” great powers that resist aggression.

It is a "fight for civilization", continues Putin, and it is no coincidence that Russia has defined itself in official documents in recent years, starting with the new Constitution, as "a country that represents in itself [samobytnoe] a civilization".

This, in his opinion, is becoming a model for many nations of the world, which aspire to become "civilization states". It is not a question of putting one's identity above others, because "everyone has the same rights, expressing the dimensions of their own culture and tradition" which should not be imposed on others, under penalty of global chaos from which we all must defend ourselves.

Russia remains "the largest country in the world, the Russian world has a global character", reiterates the Kremlin leader, "300 thousand of our compatriots live in Latin America alone, the Russian language is spoken everywhere".

Western uncertainties in armed support for Ukraine do not only have a "technical nature", given the budget difficulties in the USA and Europe, because "social protections are reduced by spending on weapons", but are linked to common sensitivity of many people who share anxieties about the future. For Russians, there are many "friends" even in "unfriendly" countries, who intend to "defend traditional values, especially those of the family".

It is no coincidence that Putin's speech is intertwined with the debate within the Catholic world, in the days of the opening of the "Synod on the Synod", which will have to address many issues on the revision of "traditional values" in today's world.

“Synodality” corresponds in Russian to the term sobornost, which summarizes in one word all Putin's justifications of the conflict in Ukraine and in the world: it is the “communion of civilisations” which should characterize the new world order, resulting from the victory of Russian identity guarantor of every identity of people, culture and religion.

Speaking to Orthodox theology students, Patriarch Kirill recommended "taking the lead in research in crucial directions and in the dynamics of intellectual research, remaining firm on the rock of evangelical truth and the doctrine of the Holy Fathers".

This is not simple reactionary traditionalism, as it might appear by applying ideological schemes of the past. In the vision of "traditional values" there is no nostalgia for the past, but a mortgage on the future: the values must not necessarily be real, but certainly "recognizable" and identifying at all latitudes, to oppose liberal conceptions that are unbearable for those who want to defend himself by the dark “masters of the world”.

The family is a cornerstone of this "defensive" vision, to be understood as a primary generic bond rather than as a social or religious institution: "our" spaces are affirmed to keep all others, foreigners and immigrants, groups of various sexual orientations at bay and ideological, minorities to be defended to the detriment of the majority of the people.

In this, Putin's Russia counts on vast "friendly" support not only in countries distant geographically and culturally, but above all among the neighboring populations of Europe and the lands of ancient Christian evangelization.

Putin reiterated that "we have many friends in the West, even if they are often not allowed to speak." Therefore it is not a question of spreading forms of pro-Russian propaganda or trying to influence the political life of other countries (still very "traditional" activities for Russians), but of bringing out a collective identity, sobornaja, capable of reacting to impositions more or less occult of the centers of power controlled by a few. An approach also reiterated regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, where Moscow is accused of having betrayed the Armenians it was supposed to protect.

The declarations in this sense by the President of the Council of Europe, Charles Michel, were returned to the sender by Putin with one of his typical "street" expressions: "whatever cow moos, yours is better off keeping quiet".

The Kremlin had at the time proposed a compromise to the Armenians, asking them to settle for some territories in the disputed area, leaving the rest to the Azeris, but "they didn't want to trust me". The final solution then taken by Baku, with the total occupation of the region, was only a "matter of time".

The Russian president therefore sees no reason to rage against Azerbaijan, which only seeks to "re-establish constitutional order" and defend its territorial integrity, but on the other hand "we continue to be available allies for Armenia".

Whatever the reasons for disputes, defeats and victories on the field, whatever the cultures, traditions and religions of the peoples who crowd together and confront each other at all latitudes, what matters is that they are all friends of Russia.


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