Russia is now in an alternate universe where Vladimir Putin recreates the Russian empire.

First published: February 2022.

It has an alt-foreign policy that refuses to recognise the borders of Europe and wants to magick them into a make-believe territory that attests to Russian greatness.

In other words, Vladimir Putin wants to recreate the Russian empire, once one of the largest in history.

Russia has alt-reality TV in the form of Mr Putin’s determination to have his military and intelligence chiefs and senior Russian politicians parade on the goggle box, salaaming his strategic wisdom.

It was obvious, as commentators have noted that the spectacle was not a live broadcast, but a choreographed sham — defense minister Sergei Shoigu’s watch showed that the Kremlin was lying.

Add to that the reality that spy chief Sergei Naryshkin appeared uncertain, which suggested some senior Russian officials might have serious doubts about the plan to invade Ukraine and take on the world order.

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Finally, of course, there is Tsar Vladimir.

Does he imagine he is the heir to Peter the Great, who oversaw Russia’s metamorphosis into a major European power? For his televised meeting, he chose the Kremlin’s ornate Hall of the Order of St Catherine. It was meant to underscore Russia’s former (and presumably future) imperial greatness.

Even Mr Putin’s soliloquy was an alt speech. As the Washington Post editorialised: “This is the way the postwar world ends, and the post-Cold War world, too: not yet with a bang, and not with anything close to a whimper, but with a rant.”

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Rashmee Roshan Lall, Journalist by trade & inclination. World affairs columnist.


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