On Tuesday, June 23, The Institute of World Politics was pleased to welcome our very own Pawel Styrna to discuss the dangerous tide of Russian aggression in Eurasia. Mr. Styrna is a member of IWP’s Class of 2015, a Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies research assistant, and a student of modern European and Soviet history.
Mr. Styrna informed a large gathering that his lecture would attempt to explain the mindset of the current denizens of the Kremlin, their anti-Western inclinations, historically expansionist ambitions, and the consequences of an unchecked Moscow.
Mr. Styrna explained that the Russian leadership under Vladimir Putin considers the Western alliance, i.e. the United States and NATO, to be a subversive enemy threat to their nation’s sovereignty and integrity. The Russian Federation, Mr. Styrna noted, is convinced that these powers wish to instigate a regime change in Moscow and will use the crisis in Ukraine to accomplish this goal. Thus, the Russian government has done a masterful job of reversing the roles of victim and aggressor.
Mr. Styrna explained that, in reality, Putin and his cronies will stop at nothing short of engineering the rebirth of the Russian Empire. He connected the present regime’s imperialist attitudes to centuries of Russian history. The Russian Tsars, in conjunction with the Russian Orthodox Church, were considered by many Russians to be the rightful heirs to the ancient Roman and Byzantine Empires. This notion of a “Third Rome,” Mr. Styrna explained, is the basis for a line of thinking that legitimizes Russian hegemony in greater Eurasia.
He pointed out, however, that in his view, the legacies of the Mongols and the Soviets were even more important in understanding the post-Soviet Russian regime’s “besieged Kremlin” mentality than the Byzantine-Orthodox element.
Mr. Styrna went on to tell the audience of the constructed moral hue from which the Putinist regime has absurdly garnered power and support. The Federation, Mr. Styrna said, considers itself to be the last bastion of morality and traditionalism in a sea of Western decadence and excess, a bulwark against Euro-liberalism, LGBT culture, waning religious faith, and American deceit and exploitation. It is on this basis, the speaker said, that the regime exerts its supposed moral authority under the pretext of Orthodox-Muscovite exceptionalism.
Mr. Styrna continued by demonstrating a Russian map with the locales of American military bases populating the Eurasian land mass. From Germany and Turkey, to Kazakhstan, the Middle East, Japan, and Alaska, Mr. Styrna showed attendees how these bases and missile silos are regarded by the Russian regime as an aggressive encirclement of their country by American armed forces. This perceived conflict paradigm, Mr. Pawel explained, means that Russia will at all costs attempt to subsume the remnants of her former empire.
Mr. Pawel expounded on the importance of a strong American-led Western alliance to check the growing militarism of Putin’s Russia. Ukraine, he said, must be vehemently supported with arms, funds, and logistical support in its defensive war against Moscow. However, the will to stand against this tyranny, is the most crucial element of what is sure to be a prolonged engagement with a “besieged Kremlin.”