I wish to substantiate a theory: on a world level, Putin now exercises a kind of political paternity over a large part of the western hemisphere in the same way that the U.S did previously, until the day that it occurred to them to elect an isolationist president. It’s true that many prefer to continue using the classic concept of “hegemony”. However, in my opinion, in attempting to understand the type of relations established by Putin with different governments, especially with some Latin American ones, the concept of paternity is a better fit.
According to the political scientist Joseph Nye, hegemony involves exercising a directive role over other countries through military or economic superiority; or via a charismatic ideology such as that which the Vatican exerts (or exerted?) over the Christian nations; or like that which the Kremlin exerted over the Communist countries before the Chinese schism. In contrast, paternity, as the name indicates, follows the guidelines indicated by a family relationship.
Now, what Putin can least exercise, considering that Russia continues to be a huge and impoverished nation, is economic hegemony like that which China actually implements in Asia. Suffice is to note that among the great migration of the labor force into Western Europe, there are not only emigrants from the Muslim world, but also a massive number of Russians.
Russia exercises military hegemony only over its bordering countries and if given the proper conditions, in the vacuums opened by the clumsiness of the U.S. under Trump, especially in the Middle East. Nevertheless, despite its demonstrations of power in the face of militarily weak nations, Russia isn’t in any condition to measure its war technology against the majority off the European countries, not to mention the U.S.
As far as ideological hegemony goes, this can’t be exercised by a government whose fundamental characteristic is a lack of ideology (a fact that makes it very unpredictable), including the fact that the ideological manipulation that Putin practices with respect to the orthodox religion is merely for internal consumption.
On the other hand, it’s clear that millions of young Russians feel an attraction towards Western culture in all its forms: from the literary, to the musical and cinematic aspects, right up to the lifestyles, including cheap consumerism. On the other hand, you can count on the fingers of one hand the western youth who feel attracted by Russian culture.
No – Russia can’t exercise economic, nor military, nor cultural, nor ideological hegemony towards the West. However, that doesn’t keep them from creating political zones of influence, especially in Eastern and Southern Europe. In addition, and that’s what I want to get at, it’s able to establish family type relationships with different governments. From this relationship stems the point I want to make: their paternal role. Effectively, Putin can be considered the political father of diverse neo-dictatorships of the twenty first century, among them those that abound in Latin America.
To be more precise, the primary form of political relations that Russia maintains with its neighboring countries (formerly part of the USSR) is that of military domination in its most brutal expression (as in Bellorussia and Chechnia, among others). Those it maintains with the majority of the governments of Eastern and Southern Europe (Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, or Turkey) are aimed at expanding its zone of influence. In contrast, those that it’s begun to establish with some of the Latin American countries (Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia) are based on family relationships, or it’s worth saying, in connections generated among systems of domination that are organized in the same or similar way. The leaders of those countries, if we were to group them into political families, would be effectively the true children of Putin.
Could it be that political regimes group themselves into families as do biological and zoological beings? In effect, they do, but we group them under the concept of “types”. These social and political types are the equivalent of the “families” that occur in the natural sciences. And that’s true in two senses: on the one hand, the similarity; and on the other, the empathic recognition established between them. In the case of the autocratic regimes of Latin America, all without exception can be considered children of Putin.
These regimes are autocratic in the truest sense of the word: the identification between power, people, government and state. This is as much a part of the Russian political system as it is in the Cuban, Bolivian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and if things continue as they are, in the Honduran system. In the same way as with Putin, in the majority of cases his new children and their system have arisen from democratic structures (flawed, but democratic). For this same reason, they conserve and build on the elements of the political formation from which they came, among them, the celebration of periodic elections. However, it’s nothing but a masquerade. The celebration of free and secret elections has been perverted in the countries we mentioned to the point of becoming rituals designed to perpetuate the power of the neo-dictators.
The opposition can’t really challenge power in any of those countries. In almost all of them, those who wield power reserve for themselves the right to veto candidates. In the case of Putin’s regime, his principal challengers are either periodically imprisoned as in the case of Alexi Navalni, or they appear dead, even in cases very close to the Kremlin as occurred with the dissident politician Boris Mentsov (an occurrence that recalled the death of the Cuban Oswaldo Paya). Maduro, following the example of his political father, has decertified his principal challengers: Leopoldo Lopez, who’s in jail, and Henrique Capriles. The important thing is that no one in a position of challenging the established power can actively exercise their political rights.
In the Putinesque systems, elections have come to be mere acts of sanctifying the infinite power of the autocrat. The electoral tribunals are simply ministries at the service of the executive. The judicial powers fulfill the function of blockading the power of Parliament. And last but not least, the common feature of all is that the highest army officers are members of the new dominant class that has established itself in power.
The ex-President of Bolivia, Carlos D. Mesa Gisbert, has called the actions of Evo Morales in support of his perpetual reelection a road towards totalitarianism (from the newspaper Los Tiempos, Dec. 3, 2017). But perhaps that term isn’t the most appropriate. It doesn’t allow us, among other things, to perceive the “new winds” that these regimes bring with them. To classify them as fascist, or Stalinist, may serve as invective, but they don’t shed enough light to really uncover the characteristics common to all of them. Without a doubt, we’re facing a new phenomenon. The time will come when we can speak of them with more appropriate terms. But for now, we can content ourselves with affirming that all of their representatives, in one way or another, are Putin’s children in the most exact sense of the term.
Amid the Latin American Putinism (whether the regimes are of the left or right), nonetheless, a dissident voice has emerged: Ecuadorian Lenin Moreno. Upon confronting the alternative of becoming the new son of Putin or the re-establisher of democracy in Ecuador, he has opted for national sovereignty, for the people, and against Correa’s re-electoral Putinism.
Moreno deserves the support of all Latin American democrats. His gesture shows once more, how that light that appeared once upon a time in Athens can reappear at any moment and in the places least imaginable. Lenin Moreno, in the exact sense given the term by Hannah Arendt, is a political miracle. And above all is no child of Putin.
Translated by Habana Times