The West has lost it big time, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin told a meeting of Russia’s ambassadors from around the world visiting Moscow for consultations. “Domestic socio-economic problems that have become worse in industrialized countries as a result of the (economic) crisis are weakening the dominant role of the so-called historical West,” Putin told Russia’s overseas mission heads.The west’s economy has been holed below the waterline, Putin said, and the problems that we see today in the European Union are “tip of the iceberg of unresolved structural problems that is facing the entire world economy.”The social and economic decline of the west does not, however, mean that Russia can relax its vigilance. A wounded beast is dangerous, and the west, thrashing around in various efforts to avert its inevitable decline, is likely to cause trouble. Indeed, this is already happening as the dying west resorts to unilateral actions and forceful intervention (read: Libya and Syria) to keep its influence in a changing world.Putin scores some points, and this is certainly not a moment at which either the US or the EU looks much like a paragon of wisdom or a world-changing economic miracle.And as a preview of the diplomatic line Russia’s President expects his diplomats to take, it’s not particularly encouraging. The Obama administration can press the “reset” button all it wants, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be getting much love out of Moscow anytime soon.But longtime observers of the Russian scene — and students of Russian history — are not going to be very surprised by this speech. Russian political oratory has a rich history of this kind of west-bashing. In fact, under the communist period in which President Putin’s mind was formed, it was official state dogma that the capitalist west was inexorably headed for the rubbish heap of history.“We will bury you,” said Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War. Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev: this kind of analysis and rhetoric was pretty much the bread and butter of Soviet rhetoric from 1917 almost right up to the moment when the Soviet Union itself came crashing down.And then as now, the other half of the message was there: the west was rotten, poisoned, crippled by deep socioeconomic crises which it had no ability to overcome — but it was deeply dangerous because of this, and Moscow could not relax its vigilance.This kind of thinking didn’t come into Russia with the reds. Imperial Russia in the age of the czars was full of analysis about the rotten quality of the west and the inevitable triumph of Russia’s superior theological, social and political ideals.Putin’s speech isn’t telling us that there’s anything new happening Russia; on the contrary, Alexander III could have given almost the same speech in 1885 as could a long list of Russian philosophers and novelists.During that time, the west has passed through many crises, and some of them led to horrible depressions and devastating wars. The “contradictions” in the various western systems have led to huge changes, and it is likely that once more today many of our key institutions and ideas will have to change as we go through our own capitalist version of perestroika.But what’s equally striking through these decades and generations is that despite all the problems of the west, Russia has never caught up. Rotten and messy as the west is, Russia never quite achieves the clear superiority it continues to pursue.Will President Putin end up being as disappointed by the perverse tide of history as his predecessors going back into the 19th century, or at long last will he be the leader who steers Russia past the unspeakable west? The future is a closed book, and anything can happen, but at Via Meadia we think that among the many problems we in the US need to worry about, being overtaken by Russia is low on the list.