And certainly Josef Stalin, who did fight the Cold War, would recognize Putin’s gambit and applaud it more than he would approve of anything Lenin or Marx said about it.
While it’s true there isn’t much that separates Russia and the West ideologically today, it would take someone very ignorant of Russian history to see the Cold War only in terms of a struggle between communism and capitalism.
Rather, Russia has always had a strain of “messianic” thought, especially in regards to the Christian religion—which communism was just a form of alternate religion in Russia—that sets Russia up as the Third Rome, destined to save the world by its global rule.
“The Russian messianic conception,” wrote Russian émigré Nikolai Berdyaev, “always exalted Russia as a country that would help to solve the problems of humanity and would accept a place in the service of humanity.”
To Berdyaev, socialism and communism—as with other Russian messianics, which some say include Putin-- were just character parts of the overall role of Russia as savior of the world.
Indeed, some welcomed the break up of the old Soviet Union, as it was delaying the Russian mission of neo-internationalism.
Russia, say some exponents of this neo-internationalist school of thought, because it has one foot in the West and another in the East, can serve as the bridge between all regions of the world.
“Following the Western geopoliticians,” writes Victor Yasmann, “the Russian Eurasians believed that there is no natural border between the European and the Asian parts of the continent. They accepted the geopolitical precept that Russia, as the central part of the continent, formed a natural bridge between East and West, North and South. According to this geopolitical formula, those who control the heartland also control Eurasia (or, to use their terminology, the "World Island"). Those who control the World Island dominate the world.”
This north-south, east-west dominion is at play in Putin’s moves in the Ukraine and Georgia.
To say, as Miller does, that simple proximity to eastern Europe gives Russia a great advantage in eastern Europe is to admit that simple proximity alone is the biggest advantage Russia has-- AFTER the advantage of facing a foe in the United States who doesn’t want to fight over the Ukraine.
After all, Russia is closer to Germany than the United States is, but undoubtedly the United States would fight over Germany.
Or would we?
And that is what Putin and his fellow messianics must ponder now.