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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

One Man's Unipolar World

On the eve of his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Vladimir Putin told Arab news channel Al-Jazeera that Russia "no longer had any disagreements with Arab countries"; during last Saturday's security conference in Munich, Putin criticized what he referred to as today's "unipolar world," which "bears nothing in common with democracy." In short: With Iran and Syria we haven't any disagreement, but with the United States -- we have.

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This wasn't news for the Russian media, but it must have come as a bit of a surprise for those at the Munich conference. Prior to this, the export version of the Kremlin's ideology ran more along the lines of "our friend, George."

The modern world is not unipolar -- it is free.

It is a world in which U.S. corporations build factories in China and logistical centers in New Delhi because it is more profitable. It is a world in which executives from Morgan Stanley or Salomon Brothers hold teleconferences with associates all over the globe -- from Bangkok to Moscow to Paris. In this world a surgeon performing an operation in Cairo can be assisted via satellite by a consulting physician in Los Angeles.

None of these conditions are elements of political control or direct orders from U.S. President George W. Bush or British Prime Minister Tony Blair. This is less activity in which any country is free to participate.

Those who aren't interested -- countries like North Korea or Venezuela -- remain on the outside and tell their people about the inherent superiority of their nation, the cursed gringo, the need for a "defensive" jihad or the dangers of a unipolar world.

These countries do not form a second axis of power, because getting Venezuela and Belarus, for example, together in this way would take more than occasional visits by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Minsk. There would have to be at least some economic ties between the countries. And it is hard to imagine a prospering Belarussian investment bank conducting conference calls with partners in Pyongyang and Tehran.

Not long ago, Russia stood on the threshold of that open world. True, the country faced a number of difficulties, including a corrupt legal system and oligarchs like Boris Berezovsky with direct access to the Kremlin leadership. But Russia also had lots of shortcomings in 1913, with a power vacuum at the top and the figure of Rasputin, beside whom Berezovsky looks pretty tame, enjoying the favor of the Tsar.

But Russia still managed to start out along a fairly enlightened path in 1913. Then in 1927, with the end of the New Economic Policy, it turned in the opposite direction. Russia also took a relatively progressive tack in 1999, but it now appears again to be doing an about face. But Putin does still deserve some credit: In contrast to Vladimir Lenin or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, his chosen path is most likely motivated not by ideology, but by psychology

The thing is that Bush doesn't run this unipolar world full time. Perhaps he acts as chief on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays -- that is, following every new Kremlin charge against Khodorkovsky or prior to a Putin visit to Saudi Arabia. But on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, when Putin meets with Bush, the unipolar chief becomes "his friend, George."

The Kremlin makes too many mistakes and then blames them on the machinations of its enemies, driving Russia farther and farther from the open gates of the free world. The country's growing international isolation is thus more the result of its leaders' phobias than of any ideological program. Such isolation might help to delay a national catastrophe, but it won't avert it.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.