Washington, DC’s law legalizing possession of marijuana went into effect at midnight last night, in what Russian authorities say is the first step toward complete societal collapse. The Moscow Times reports:
“When the authorities take their cue from the sinister interests of the population, what happens is everyone becomes a drug addict,” Yevgeny Bryun, the ministry’s chief drugs specialist, was cited as saying Thursday by Interfax news agency.
There is much that is emblematic of Russian attitudes toward the West packed into that one sentence. There is a thoroughgoing suspicion of democracy and a pervasive faith in the ultimate wisdom of a paternalistic state. There is the conviction that the West is terminally decadent and the equally strong belief that Russia is holding the civilizational line in the face of an imminent Western collapse. And then, of course, there is the PR/propaganda tone—the snide superiority, both meant to reassure domestic audiences and to ruffle feathers abroad.Finding statements like these is a big part of the fun of being a Russia watcher, but they also raise a troubling question: to what extent are these fantasies of Western decline actually believed in the halls of the Kremlin? Vladimir Putin may so far be playing the West like a balalaika in Ukraine, but will he go too far and grievously underestimate the West’s ultimate capacity to respond?