Why Putin will never be a friend

Why Putin will never be a friend, by Daniel Hannan.

What does Vladimir Putin want? It is hard to read much into his flat, high-cheekboned face. The Russian despot smiles rarely, says little, and guards his privacy so ferociously that almost nothing is known about his daughters beyond their names.  …

Putin is an unchallenged autocrat, wielding the arbitrary powers of an 18th-century tsar. He is also reported to be the richest man alive.

Put these facts together and it seems reasonable to conclude that he is mainly interested in keeping that (for him) happy state of affairs going. Putin does not have the option of stepping down, building a presidential library, and going on to the global speaker circuit. If he were ever forced from office, the best he could hope for would be to spend the rest of his life fighting off criminal indictments. There is a reason dictators generally don’t stand down. As that flinty English politician and saint, Sir Thomas More, observed 500 years ago, “Sola mors tyrannicida est”: Death is the only way to get rid of a tyrant. …

Putin needs foreign foes, so stirs the pot occasionally:

Autocrats depend on public opinion. They may not have to worry about elections, but they need a critical mass of public support to sustain their regimes. Putin knows how to use foreign quarrels to shore up his position, keeping Russian voters in a state of high-octane, patriotic anxiety.

Putin’s domestic record is, by most measures, pretty shoddy. Opposition parties have been closed down, critical media silenced, and dissidents murdered. Economic growth is lackluster, and unpopular decisions — such as his attempt last year to raise the state pension age –can lead to a sudden drop in support for the regime. But as long as Russians feel besieged, they will swing behind a tough leader. …

It is hard to see any realistic way to draw Putin into the comity of nations. We can flatter him, lift sanctions, invite him to rejoin the G-8, and force concessions on Ukraine. But in the end, none of it will make him behave differently. Our enmity is more valuable to him than our friendship could ever be.

Putin is against the left in the culture war. He stands firmly against cultural Marxism, yet knows the tactics of the Marxists intimately.