Amongst President Vladimir V. Putin’s motives for invading Ukraine, his view of himself as being on a historic mission to rebuild the Russian Empire has at all times loomed massive. On Thursday, Mr. Putin went additional, evaluating himself on to Peter the Nice.
It was a brand new, if fastidiously staged, glimpse into Mr. Putin’s sense of his personal grandeur.
Mr. Putin on Thursday marked the 350th anniversary of Peter’s start by visiting a brand new multimedia exhibit concerning the czar in Moscow. He then held a town-hall-style assembly with younger Russian entrepreneurs and opened it by reflecting on Peter’s conquest of the Baltic coast throughout his 18th-century battle with Sweden.
Mr. Putin described the land Peter conquered as rightfully Russian.
“He was returning it and strengthening it,” Mr. Putin stated, leaning again in his armchair, earlier than hinting with a smile that he was now doing the identical factor in his battle in Ukraine. “Nicely, apparently, it has additionally fallen to us to return and to strengthen.”
Mr. Putin stated that when Peter based the town of St. Petersburg on the captured land, “not one of the nations of Europe acknowledged it as Russian.” That comment gave the impression to be a transparent reference to the current day, when no Western nation has acknowledged Moscow’s declare to Crimea, a lot much less to the elements of jap and southern Ukraine Russia has seized within the final three months.
Mr. Putin appeared to recommend that the West, because it did centuries in the past, would finally come round and acknowledge these areas as Russian.
Peter, Russia’s first emperor, has at all times been an object of fascination for Mr. Putin, who himself comes from St. Petersburg. The Russian president retains a bronze statue of the czar by his ceremonial desk.
However in current days, Russian officers have been selling the comparability between Mr. Putin and Peter with particular vitality; the governor of St. Petersburg on Thursday stated that he felt the identical satisfaction for right this moment’s Russian troopers in Ukraine “as we take satisfaction within the reminiscence of Peter’s warriors.”
There may be not less than one historic drawback with the official Putin-Peter comparisons.
The czar is understood for opening Russia’s “window to Europe,” constructing St. Petersburg in a European mildew and bringing Western expertise and tradition to Russia. Mr. Putin’s Ukraine invasion, many Russians concern, has slammed that window shut.
Final week a Russian journalist requested the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, whether or not the window to Europe was closing. He responded: “Nobody is planning to shut something.”
On Thursday, Mr. Putin repeated that message in his assembly with entrepreneurs, insisting that Russia wouldn’t shut itself off from the remainder of the world because the Soviet Union did. Even when the USA and the Europe Union don’t need to do enterprise with Russia, he stated, nations in Asia, Latin America and Africa will.
“Our economic system will likely be open — whoever isn’t will likely be robbing themselves,” Mr. Putin stated. “It’s not possible to fence off a rustic like Russia, and we’re not planning to place up a fence like that round us ourselves.”