Putin's "Сrusade" Against Democracy
The war waged by Putin's Russia against Ukraine has a much broader propaganda rationale within the aggressor state itself. They are allegedly at war with the NATO bloc, or even with the entire "collective West." This explanation is reflected in the constant information attacks on Western values, on Western culture, and, of course, on Western democracy, which has long been the main scarecrow for Russian propaganda.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin's hatred of democracy has deeper roots. The Kremlin leader himself came to power in a formally democratic election, but it was clearly neither free nor alternative. Putin was put in the presidential chair by the will of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and thanks to the full control of the media by a group of oligarchs who supported him.
For some time, Putin adhered to the formal requirements of democratic procedures, but gradually abandoned them. On this way, he destroyed independent media, liquidated opposition parties, and imprisoned opposition politicians. Accordingly, Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov has already said in interviews with Western media that presidential elections in Russia are not democracy, but "expensive bureaucracy."
At the same time, it is obvious that Putin not only does not want democracy in Russia, he sees the existence of democracy in other countries as a direct threat to his own power. Putin's closest geopolitical partners (like the dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko) are the same autocrats who do not allow free elections in their own countries.
It is clear that Putin sees the threat here in the possibility of a "color revolution" in Russia, aimed against authoritarianism and in favor of democracy. This fear was not born yesterday and has a number of reasons. For years, Putin has watched dictatorships collapse in Asia and Africa, as well as in the former Soviet republics.
In Georgia, the democratically elected president (after the victory of the revolution) Mikheil Saakashvili has launched ambitious reforms aimed at overcoming the legacy of the totalitarian past. Ukraine, too, has experienced both revolutions and reforms, as well as regular presidential changes through democratic elections. It is not surprising that Ukraine and Georgia were the first countries to experience open military attacks by the Putin regime. The latter simply could not stand the fact that someone next door to Russia was trying to break out of the authoritarian and corrupt political swamp.
The War Against Democracy in the West
A separate topic is the Russian regime's constant attempts to undermine democratic institutions in countries that traditionally set democratic standards for the rest of the world. Here, if we analyze the situation in recent years, we can find several main areas of undermining democracy in the West that Russia is working on.
First, there is direct interference in elections, hacker attacks and attempts to cast doubt on election results. A classic example is the well-known attacks during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which were later officially blamed on Russian hackers. This is the most famous and high-profile case, but obviously not the only one. The goal of such actions is to undermine public confidence in democratic procedures and institutions.
Second, it is the permanent corruption of high-ranking officials in Western countries. Since Western politicians are often professional party bureaucrats who have been involved in politics all their lives, they are fundamentally different from Putin himself and other Russian officials who never report to anyone about their income and sources of income.
Putin's palaces are a well-known story for everyone in the world thanks to numerous investigations. If you offer any European politician at least a part of such wealth, some of them will be willing to cooperate with Russia and lobby for its interests. A classic example is ex-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who long ago received a serious position in Russian Gazprom and has been actively lobbying for the Kremlin's interests in Europe. By attracting such people to his side, Putin obviously wants to show everyone that he can easily buy all this democracy.
Thirdly, it is the radicalization of the political system of Western countries through the support of fringe far-right and left-wing political forces. In many cases, this support means Russia's direct funding of political parties. Such as the Alternative for Germany, which was recently investigated and found to have received direct funding from Russian sources for filing a lawsuit in a German court to stop military aid to Ukraine.
By supporting such parties, the Kremlin not only seeks to gain a presence in the parliaments of the leading Western countries. The Kremlin is also demonstrating the "crisis" of democracy, as marginal and radical politicians are gaining more and more weight. And this is supposed to look like something opposite to Russia's "stability."
Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, there have been numerous calls for negotiations, compromises, and understanding with Russia. The problem with any such steps is that their authors assume that Russian aggression is something accidental, not systemic. At the same time, the entire history of recent decades points to the exact opposite.
Russia's aggression against Ukraine is a reflection of the Russian dictator Putin's deeply rooted perceptions of the world around him, of his power, of democracy, and of the dangers of the latter to his own rule. Putin is afraid of democracy, hates democracy, and wants democracy to disappear, at least from the states that directly border Russia.
It is obvious that a democratic Ukraine is the biggest, most insurmountable challenge for him, and he will not accept its existence, and therefore will continue the war against it as long as he has the opportunity to do so, while simultaneously increasing pressure against the West, where he sees the roots of his "democratic troubles." It is impossible to change this through negotiations or concessions, and therefore we must prepare for a systematic and serious confrontation with Putin's anti-democratic "crusade" against the civilized world.