Who does Washington prefer - Putin or Zyuganov?

There is no place in US’s revolutionary, utopian view of the world for concepts of national interests, spheres of interest or balances of power.

Vladimir Putin_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Vladimir Putin_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
There is little doubt Washington would prefer that anyone but Vladimir Putin win the election in Russia, even if that meant a Communist restoration under Gennady Zyuganov. Which sounds odd on the face of it.
After all, Zyuganov could prove even less compliant than Putin has proven to be since his initial election to the presidency in 2000.
Vladimir Putin, it must be remembered, was America’s staunchest ally in the immediate wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, has reduced the danger of US forces in Afghanistan finding themselves stranded by permitting their re-supply through Russian territory, and brought Russia into the World Trade Organization, thus paving the way for Russia’s fuller integration into the global economy. A Red Kremlin is unlikely to cooperate with Washington to the degree Putin has.
Nevertheless, Washington is intent on de-legitimizing the current Russian government – even if that were to result in Communist rule.
Although this appears unlikely one must deal with the relevancy of the second most powerful political group in Russia nowadays, the Communist party, which achieved almost 20 percent of the votes in the 2011 parliament elections for the Duma.
Washington’s reason for harboring such ambitions has to do with ideology and grand strategy. In the former instance, the destabilization of Russia is its own reward, a sign to the world of the inevitability of the triumph of progressive, secular materialist American values and the futility of resistance.
Putin has contradicted that narrative with his insistence on defending Russian national interests. From Washington’s point of view, this is an impertinence that cannot be permitted to continue.
There is no place in Washington’s revolutionary, utopian view of the world for the concepts of national interests, spheres of interest or balances of power.
Where geo-strategy is concerned, Russia must be strategically encircled and thereby reduced either through dismemberment (the Yugoslav model), or the imposition of an Orange Revolution leading to the setting up of a US-compliant regime in the Kremlin (the Ukrainian model). After all, you cannot very well encircle China (clearly a US geo-strategic aim: witness its recently announced deployment of forces to Australia), if you do not first make sure that Russia is fully compliant.
None of this is meant to suggest Washington is expecting a Zyuganov victory, merely that it will move to exploit that victory to further its long-term goal of encircling Russia with a view to eliminating it as an independent actor in world affairs. Whether Putin wins and is politically hobbled by efforts to de-legitimize his victory, or loses the election to Zyuganov, Washington’s long-term goal of dragooning Ukraine and George into NATO and the deployment of new American missile forces on Russia’s doorstep would move that much nearer to realization.
In the (unlikely) event Zyuganov were to win in March, Washington could rally support among the America public and its European allies for these and other strategic moves against Russian interests by pointing to a revived Red menace.
The frustration that many Russians feel with their political system is fully understandable.
It fails to adequately address the real concerns of people about issues of day-to-day life, basic civil liberties and social justice. It needs to be reformed. But there are other issues as well – issues of global politics and economics that touch on Russia’s very survival as a coherent, intact cultural entity in a world full of actors hostile to her interests, and intent on her disintegration and reduction to satellite status. Russian voters need to keep this in mind when they go to the polls on March 4.
The writer is a consultant in international public advocacy and governmental affairs. He served as special advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Reagan administration.