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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Prestige Behind the Imperial Ethic

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Russia has once more affirmed its status as a great power and bolstered its authority in the world on President Vladimir Putin's watch. Shortly after the State Duma condemned the relocation of a World War II memorial in Tallinn, the valiant defenders of the Bronze Soldier provided us with a textbook example of how to fight injustice.

They looted the Wool & Cotton, Sportland and Hugo Boss stores late last week in the Estonian capital. They looted a wine shop and burned a few cars. One defender of the monument was stabbed to death during the riot. Dozens of people, including police, were injured. A female police officer's leg was broken. Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip received a death threat by e-mail.

There's nothing new about Russian attempts to implement policies aimed at restoring the country to greatness.

One recent example was in 2005, when thugs in Poland beat up the children of Russian diplomats and stole their mobile phones. Putin sharply criticized the actions of Polish authorities. A few days later, patriots beat up three Poles -- two diplomats and a journalist -- on the streets of Moscow.

Another case was in September 2006, when Georgia detained four Russian military officers on suspicion of espionage. Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili identified the officers as senior members of the General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU. The Defense Ministry immediately refuted the insinuation in the Georgian media that the GRU was involved in intelligence gathering. Then again, under Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the GRU may well have been involved in some other activity, such as cactus farming.

Putin responded with a call for measures to protect the rights of native vendors in our markets. After that, Russia declared war -- not against Georgia, but against Georgians living in Russia. The crackdown dealt Georgians a crushing financial blow that benefited the cops, and the deportation process claimed several lives.

Now Estonia is feeling the heat.

It should be noted that Russia reacts to external challenges in a very selective fashion. The Kremlin saw nothing amiss last July when a North Korean missile landed in Russian waters near the Pacific port of Nakhodka.

When Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Moscow for a recent official visit, he announced upon landing at the airport that his movement would not recognize Israel's right to exist, thereby rendering senseless Russia's attempt to draw him into the negotiating process. Once again, the Kremlin took the slight in stride.

In other words, Russia never takes offense when a so-called rogue state spits in its face.

There's no point even talking about the official reaction to events here at home. The parliament was unmoved last week when the remains of six Soviet World War II pilots buried at a memorial in Khimki were unearthed by a bulldozer, the gravestones were tossed around, protesters were beaten by police and the remains went missing. No one called for a boycott of goods from Khimki or for the mayor to be declared persona non grata.

Countries that were once part of the Soviet empire -- Poland, Georgia, Estonia -- are another matter entirely. When something happens there, the wrath of Putin, the Russian police and bands of curiously elusive avengers is always ready to rain down on those who forget the words of the old song: "Our armor is strong and our tanks are swift."

And this wrath delivers tangible results. After its diplomats were beaten up, Poland, for example, began talking about allowing the United States to install interceptor missiles on its territory, a move that infuriated the Kremlin. Georgia appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and the Kremlin still can't figure out why.

Both of these examples clearly demonstrate how Putin's foreign policy bolsters Russia's prestige and restores its former imperial greatness.

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