When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Putin's Next Ambition: Calling The Shots In A Post-Merkel Europe

There's nothing the man in Kremlin wishes for more than Angela Merkel's fall, which could give him plenty of leverage to play with and mould Europe.

Merkel and Putin in November
Merkel and Putin in November
Richard Herzinger

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has a vision for how Europe could collapse — quickly. If German Chancellor Angela Merkel should fall from power, the singular leader who has shaped Europe's attitude towards Moscow would be out of the way.

In recent weeks, Putin has seen several prominent German politicians question Merkel"s maintenance of punitive measures against Russia for its infringement of international law.

Horst Seehofer, a conservative Merkel ally and president of the state of Bavaria, has even paid his respect to the court of the new tsar on a recent trip to Moscow. With the German Chancellor struggling in the face of the refugee crisis, Russian officials increasingly believe the post-Merkel-era is within their grasp, which they see as a chance to exert their influence over all of Europe.

Seehofer's visit came just as the Kremlin had decided to step up its war of disinformation against the liberal democracy of Germany. Russian media has been spreading a false story of a Russian girl raped by a horde of refugees in Germany, presenting a warped view of a country turned into a diabolic place of laxity and lawlessness.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov topped this with brazen accusations that German authorities publicly apologize for the way ethnic Russians living in Germany are treated.

It's pretty clear: The Kremlin no longer hesitates when it comes to expressing its expansionist ambitions for Western Europe — and Moscow is continuously testing how far it can go.

What is Putin's ultimate aim? Though military conquest of Europe is not an option, his growing public threats could be laying the groundwork for political hegemony. That would follow his dream of breaking up the tight bonds written into the European Union, leaving in its wake various countries that would look for Moscow's approval on any important political moves.

Putin's vision of a Europe dominated by Russia is based on a neo-imperial ideology that melds Russian visions of superiority from its tsarist epoch with the heritage of Soviet despotism.

This world view is well tailored to the leader-and-redeemer personality that is Putin. His sense of mission and a cynically pragmatic instinct of authority merged into one inseparable unit a long time ago.

Sugarcoating in Syria

Considering the dimension of this European challenge, it looks like nothing but wishful thinking when the West assumes that Russia's struggling economy will force Putin toward moderation and cooperation.

Indeed Putin has already begun preparing his society to take on the responsibility of the unique metaphysical role of the controlling "Russian world" in saving the Christian West from its liberal decomposition traced to the weak-willed "American universalism." Disrespect of international law in the name of this higher mission is at the core of the Russian regime.

Putin has spent years building himself as the savior and renovator of "Russian-ness," and his regime is likely to answer to any challenges with an even more aggressive anti-Western line of action, in order to drive his own population's resentment towards an exterior enemy.

But even today, Putin's geopolitical push is of course not limited to Europe. In Syria, he proudly demonstrates how easy it is to expose a demoralized West by accomplished facts on the ground.

As a matter of fact, the West — including Washington — sugarcoats the Russian intervention in Syria in favor of Bashar al-Assad's regime by calling it a good step in the fight against international terrorism. Meanwhile, this fiction serves as a justification to put pressure on Ukraine to make more concessions to the Russian aggressor.

The U.S. is still hopeful it can come to an agreement with Moscow in Ukraine. But even if Putin should be ready to make tactical compromise due to the tremendous cost of his double operation in Syria and Ukraine, he will never cede on territorial claims in his own neighborhood.

Of course, even in the face of Putin's aggressiveness, agreements with the Kremlin are not out of the question. But as European unity dissipates, the West will find it increasingly difficult to impose clear boundaries on Putin's hegemonic ambitions.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest