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Ideas

Russia's Prime Export Under Putin: Chaos

Russia's president is neither clearly right-wing nor left-wing. As his dubious allies around the world suggest, he simply hates Western liberal democracy and seeks to expand his personal power, at home and abroad, by sowing unrest and conflict.

Photo of Nicolas Maduro shaking hands with Vladimir Putin

A file photo of Putin with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

© Alexei Druzhinin/Russian PPIO/ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — A glance at Vladimir Putin's friends around the world gives us a clear idea of the Russian president's preferences: It is not about a penchant for the left (as you might think, given his friendship with supposedly leftist governments) or the right (and he does have allies on the right).

His real inclination is for governments that despise liberal democracy, or at least democracy as conceived in the European Union, United States, Australia or Japan.


Even leaders from those democratic countries with authoritarian tendencies will immediately reveal sympathies for Putin and his methods.

Strongman friends on the left and right

Wherever you see a strongman spouting nostalgia for past strongmen or determined to unite the country around him, you'll soon find Putin. So Putin is close to Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela — the autocratic leaders of the continent's supposed left — but there is also recent affection between Putin and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.

The latter recently visited Putin, right in the middle of the Ukraine crisis (declaring there, "Putin believes in God, honors his military and values family"). There is also flirting with the Argentine Peronist (nostalgic of General Perón) Alberto Fernández, another recent visitor to Russia, eager for dollars Putin cannot give him.

Is Putin a killer? Some former colleagues believe so.

The path by which the fascist Bolsonaro has become Putin's new friend in Latin America is pretty evident. When Biden won the U.S. elections, Bolsonaro was the first to side with Trump. Bewitched by his idol and model, he declared Biden's victory to have been fraudulent. Now, Trump was already friends with Putin, owing the autocrat a lot of favors for his own election campaign against Hillary Clinton. And he paid him back, systematically closing his eyes to Putin's crimes. To get an idea of the change between Trump and his successor, Biden bluntly called Putin a killer.

Photo of Vladimir \u200bPutin in talks with Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro in Moscow

Putin in talks with Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro

kremlin.ru

Nostalgia for Soviet influence

Is Putin a killer? Some former colleagues believe so. Take the dissident Alexander Litvinenko, for instance: a former Russian secret serviceman who escaped arrest in Russia and fled to the United Kingdom with his family, where he was given asylum, then naturalized. He accused Putin of having ordered the murders of the disgraced Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, both fierce critics of his regime.

Litvinenko didn't survive his declarations long — he was poisoned in 2006 with a lethal isotope, Polonium-210. It took a microgram (a millionth of a gram) of it dissolved in a drink to cause him an excruciatingly painful death within 20 days. All clues in that case led the same way: toward the former KGB colonel and spymaster of communist East Germany, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Putin misses that time, and wants to restore Soviet domination of this land.

Just in case you didn't know, Putin is also the grandson of Stalin's personal chef. Ukraine is one of Europe's chief producers of grain. Its fertile plains are wheat production platforms. Its sin is to want to move closer to the EU's model of democracy and away from its past as a republic dominated by Soviet, or Soviet-style, Russia.

Under Stalin, the Ukrainian language was banned and the Soviet Union sought to Russify the country entirely. Putin misses that time, and wants to restore Soviet domination of this land. Since Russia has no industries or export technologies (only weaponry and raw materials), it exports what it can — chaos.



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Ideas

How Turkey Can Bring Its Brain Drain Back Home

Turkey heads to the polls next year as it faces its worst economic crisis in decades. Disillusioned by corruption, many young people have already left. However, Turkey's disaffected young expats are still very attached to their country, and could offer the best hope for a new future for the country.

Photo of people on a passenger ferry on the Bosphorus, with Istanbul in the background

Leaving Istanbul?

Bekir Ağırdır*

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — Turkey goes to the polls next June in crucial national elections. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is up against several serious challenges, as a dissatisfied electorate faces the worst economic crisis of his two-decade rule. The opposition is polling well, but the traditional media landscape is in the hands of the government and its supporters.

But against this backdrop, many, especially the young, are disillusioned with the country and its entire political system.

Young or old, people from every demographic, cultural group and class who worry about the future of Turkey are looking for something new. Relationships and dialogues between people from different political traditions and backgrounds are increasing. We all constantly feel the country's declining quality of life and worry about the prevalence of crime and lawlessness.

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