Want to understand Russia?
Think of a giant pendulum that’s swinging, ever so slowly, to and fro. It’s been happening for centuries here.
It swings one way and Russia looks west towards Europe, and the country sees itself as an undeniable part of European civilisation.
Other times, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and Russia looks east. Its rulers slam Western civilisation, Western values and declare that Russia’s future lies with Asia.
Remind you of someone?
With Vladimir Putin, the Russian pendulum has firmly swung to the east.
That’s hardly surprising: his decision to invade Ukraine has left Russia a pariah in the West and his country battered by Western sanctions. US President Joe Biden has called Putin a “murderous dictator”; UK Prime Minister Liz Truss previously dubbed him “a desperate rogue operator.”
China’s president, however, uses quite different language.
“My dear old friend!” exclaimed Xi Jinping. The two leaders met on the sidelines of a regional summit…