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Putin Wants To Party Like It's 1815

  • Brian Whitmore

Vladimir Putin is a holy alliance of one.

Vladimir Putin is a holy alliance of one.

You just knew it was going to happen. There was no way it couldn't.

It was just a matter of time before a senior Russian official openly accused the United States of orchestrating a coup in Armenia, where thousands of demonstrators are protesting electricity price hikes.

And as if on cue, lawmaker Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation Council's International Relations Committee, delivered the goods.

"The U.S. Embassy in Armenia is actively involved in the current events in Yerevan," Morozov told RIA Novosti on June 24.

"Armenia is on the brink of an armed putsch. This will happen if President Serzh Sarkisian has not learned the lessons from the Ukrainian Maidan and drawn the correct conclusions."

Morozov didn't offer any evidence. But, then again, he didn't have to.

Senior Russian officials just know that any uprising anywhere against a Moscow ally in the former Soviet space -- or even beyond -- is orchestrated in Washington. It doesn't matter if it's Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, or Armenia.

Call it "fear of orange" or call it "the taming of the rose." But by whatever name, the Kremlin's colored-revolution phobia may be paranoid, but it is very real -- and has been dialed up to 11.

"Western politicians imagine the Kremlin’s anxiety about color revolutions is rhetorical, not real. But Mr. Putin and his colleagues believe what they say: that street protests are stage-managed by Russia’s bitterest enemies," political analyst Ivan Krastev, head of the Sofia-based Center for Liberal Studies, wrote recently in the Financial Times.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has even commissioned "a study on the phenomenon of color revolutions and the military’s role in their prevention." The general staff began working on the research this week.

General MIkhail Smyslov, head of army personnel, called the colored-revolution threat "real and long-term," adding that the military needed to "understand how to counter it."

Think of it as Moscow's policy of containment -- of democracy.

In a recent commentary, Christopher Walker, executive director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, wrote that Putin's Russia has turned George Kennan's ideas about containing communism on their head by "seeking to contain the spread of democracy rather than the growth of totalitarianism."

"Having come to the conclusion that their regime security is under perpetual threat in the era of globalization, they have decided to go after democracy before it comes after them," Walker wrote.

And this has historical precedent. You just need to go back to the early 19th century to find it.

The Kremlin's antirevolutionary fervor is reminiscent of the Holy Alliance, the partnership among the monarchies of Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

And why not? Vladimir Putin has long expressed admiration for Tsar Alexander I, who founded the alliance, and Nicholas I, who continued it.

And now the Kremlin leader wants to party like it's 1815.

Then, as now, Russia was concerned with containing popular revolutions and republicanism. The alliance helped suppress antimonarchist uprisings in Naples and Piedmont in 1821 and in Spain in 1822. It also managed to roll back the revolutions of 1848 across Europe.

Then, as now, Moscow was seeking to uphold "traditional values" amid a rising tide of secularism. The Holy Alliance's stated purpose was to protect the divine right of kings and instill Christian values in Europe.

But then -- in stark contrast to today -- Russia's aims were largely shared by other European rulers and it had the backing of two of the continent's strongest powers in its antirevolutionary crusade.

Today the Kremlin is moving sharply against Europe's mainstream and has to settle for support from fringe politicians like France's Marine Le Pen and rogue leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

By the mid-to-late 19th century, the Holy Alliance was clearly a lost cause. But it's a cause Moscow is still clinging to more than a century later.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or

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