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Vlad The Emulator

We should probably file this observation under Ironies of History:

The bloody mire of Mongol slavery, not the rude glory of the Norman epoch, forms the cradle of Muscovy, and modern Russia is but a metamorphosis of Muscovy… Katlita's whole system may be expressed in a few words: the machiavellism of the usurping slave… It is in the terrible and abject school of Mongolian slavery that Muscovy was nursed and grew up. It gathered strength only by becoming a virtuoso in the craft of serdom. Even when emancipated, Muscovy continued to perform its traditional part of the slave as master.

And so Karl Marx shall forever be known as the unapologetic Russophobe that time, and political economy, conveniently forgot.

What is it about Vladimir Putin's reptilian reign that has duped so many into thinking the ex-KGB agent is a "partner in peace" or happy helpmeet in the great democratic reshuffle that is the new world order? From his first day in office he has proven immune to all criticism and opposition, forging ahead on a kind of zigzag nostalgia trip that has fused the worst elements of Soviet bureaucratism with the worst nationalist reaction of tsardom.

Anne Applebaum wonders how comes it that every U.S. president goes weak in the knees for every venal Russian premier, much the way Cherie Blair says, in The Queen, every Labor prime minister does for the English monarch:

It is, if you think about it, an odd phenomenon. After all, American presidents generally don't campaign on behalf of their French counterparts or look deep into the eyes of German chancellors in order to divine their true nature. While at times very friendly, neither Clinton nor Bush appears to have felt a mystical connection to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Yet Russian politicians still seem to make American politicians grow starry-eyed and lose their bearings. Perhaps it's a secret longing for the glamour of those Cold War summits, for the days when it appeared as if the personal relations between superpower statesmen could ward off the destruction of the entire planet. Or perhaps they put something in the vodka—sorry, mineral water—at those elegant Kremlin lunches.

Applebaum also makes the relevant point that Putin is a major fan of Yuri Andropov. Why do I say relevant? Because the last time an Eastern Communist dissident was murdered, in a high-profile whodunnit on British soil, it was Andropov who resided in the Kremlin.

Georgi Markov was a Bulgarian journalist killed in 1978 while traversing the Waterloo Bridge; an unknown assailant apparently injected a ricin pellet into Markov's leg using the tip of a umbrella, thus giving ensuing criminal case (unsolved to this day) its James Bondish nickname, "the Umbrella Murder." Ex-KGB agents like Oleg Kalugin — more famous for accusing I.F. Stone of being an "agent of influence" for Moscow Central right up until the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 — have said that Markov's death was carried out by Bulgarian secret police, but given the go-ahead by Andropov himself. (Kalugin claims to have been in the room when the assassination plot was solidified.)

As with the recent irradiation of Alexander Litvinenko, another seemingly random body turned up in the Umbrella Murder, that of fellow Bulgarian Vladimir Kostov, who was shot in Paris ten days earlier, with elements of the same toxic substance used on Markov found in his bloodstream.

Would it be too much to suggest that Putin's admiration of Andropov has extended so far into emulation? And how pathetic does this then make his moralistic speech in Munich last week?

Putin may be a skulking Michael Corleone of global politics, as Niall Ferguson suggests in Time, but his gangsterism is very much out in the open and all the more shameless: Russia has built every one of Iran's nuclear reactors.

A little tough cold war rhetoric doesn't seem so regressive now.

Why do U.S. presidents fall in love with their Russian counterparts? – By Anne Applebaum – Slate Magazine

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