How the war became a Russian way to escape from the world into a "psychic refuge".
Part 3. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here
9. Analyze it. Russia in a mental asylum
A psychologist, like an analyst, is a person who sees, as it were, the invisible, but no less real for that. The author had a chance to devote many years of his life to both professions.
9 months before the invasion, the author wrote that the main Russian argument that would be presented to the “President of the Peace” Zelensky would be war. That material only mentioned the Yugoslav scenario. The hypothesis still needed to be clarified.
Observing where the negotiations and theses of the parties involved were drifting in the pre-war months, the author already understood what kind of “trauma” Russia was in. It became clear that it was she who would “act out” (in psychology - acting out).
Therefore, about 40 days before the war, the author already described in detail the scenario of what would happen, and what happened. Russia clearly followed the Yugoslav scenario, where it illusory saw itself no longer as a country humiliated and frightened by 1998-2001, but as a victorious side .
The only caveat is that I assumed that the scenario of a “full-scale“ remote ”strike on significant military-industrial facilities, arsenals, and possibly on individual Ukrainian units” would be the baseline . And that "Russia may try to achieve the almost complete destruction of the military-industrial potential of Ukraine and most, if not all, heavy weapons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
And only then, probably, with a complete preponderance in heavy weapons, will she try to “solve problems of a completely different scale. Punching a corridor to the Crimea, creating Novorossia and even moving into large cities - not only Mariupol, but also Kharkiv, Dnipro or Kyiv.
Also, the author assumed that the advance would be concentrated from the eastern direction (which seemed more logical, and what Russia later came to).
Russia, on the other hand, relied on impudence and "glued" both phases (remote strikes and ground invasion), and also dispersed forces. Which, in fact, significantly worsened the situation for her, because. Led to:
- immediate imposition of tough sanctions,
- the rapid increase in the severity of these sanctions,
- explosive growth of solidarity with Ukraine,
- rapidly growing qualitatively and quantitatively Western supplies,
- huge Russian losses in personnel and equipment.
Near Kyiv, the Russian military, in fact, "played out" the scenario of the June 1999 forced march on Pristina, mentioned in the previous part of the material.
Frankly, I was surprised that Alexander Chaly, who also mentioned the Yugoslav scenario as possible in Ukraine, assigned it 5% of the probability. I estimated the probability to be well over 50%.
I will also not hide the fact that I am still convinced that the war in the winter of 2022 could still have been avoided. The persistence of Russian illusions about influence and “greatness”, as well as “face” could not bring eternal peace to Ukraine. But it could give quite a lot of time for a deep restructuring of our country. If such a restructuring in Ukraine took place (it is still in question), it would be meaningful and energetic.
But now for the bigger picture.
Simplifying a little and slightly supplementing what was said in the first parts of the material, I will remind you of the essence of what was said.
From the author's point of view, the fate of Yugoslavia, Milosevic, his security and party-bureaucratic entourage became the defining moment that predetermined the current position of Russia.
The “Milosevic and Co. Incident” gave rise to a new psychological reality that enveloped the Russian security elites in a blanket impenetrable to common sense . And they were “finished off” by the cases of Saddam, a figure who was once quite loyal to the West, but one day ended, despite this, badly. With "too obedient" on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, Gaddafi and others (whereas the plot with Assad gave rise to illusory hopes for a successful confrontation with the "weak" West).
Through the prism of the mentioned cases, any competition with the West has come to be seen as posing the ultimate threat to a significant part of the power elites.
The Russian power elites, consistently concentrating more and more power in their hands, could only come to the conclusion that:
- They also can repeat the fate of Milosevic (or Saddam, or Gaddafi), his power and ideological environment. Which leads to conclusions:
2. Only they themselves can guarantee that this does not happen. It also follows from what has been said:
3. Security forces under any circumstances should never lose power.
Ukraine joining NATO unreasonably complicated the situation and the task for them. Even in the “Anti-Russia” format invented by the Russian propaganda, our country did not threaten the interests of the Russian “deep people” in any way. As well as the interests of a liberal-minded business. It threatened exclusively the security forces who relied on coercion, as well as part of the business and bureaucracy affiliated with them.
The question is why did such a huge “crowd” follow the security forces, sometimes even with dancing and triumphant ecstasy 7/10 or even 8/10 Russians followed?
In the well-known, incl. in the post-Soviet space, the work “Psychic refuges. Pathological organizations in psychotic, neurotic and borderline patients” John Steiner provides valuable material for understanding what is happening with Russia. Happening both now and centuries ago.
“The obstacles to maintaining contact and the obstacles to progress and development are interconnected... Both arise from the deployment of a special type of defensive organization by which the patient seeks to avoid intolerable anxiety. I call these defense systems "pathological personality organizations" and use this term to designate a group of defense systems that are extremely durable and help the patient avoid anxiety by avoiding contact with other people and with reality . This approach has led me to a detailed study of how defenses function, in particular how they interact to form complex and cohesive defense systems.
The analyst observes psychic retreats as those mental states of the patient in which he is "stuck" and is in isolation, out of reach”.
Much can be clearly seen in this lengthy quotation. Russia's inability to maintain contact with the outside world, inability to develop, tendency to form extremely complex and cohesive defense systems. As well as the tendency to "get stuck", isolation and the desire to stay out of the reach of the "knights of the long table."
But what may seem like a coincidence to the layman is not such to the psychologist. The psychologist understands that he is dealing with pathology and sees the “pattern”, the structure, the symptoms.
“The patient's perception of the refuge is reflected in the descriptions given to him, as well as in the unconscious fantasy... It can take an interpersonal form, usually an organization of objects or partial objects that is ready to provide protection. It can be an image of a commercial organization, a boarding school, a religious sect, a totalitarian government, or a mafia gang. In the description, elements of a tyrannical or perverse character are often clearly visible, but sometimes the patient idealizes this organization and admires it,” the psychotherapist expands the picture.
I will allow myself one more lengthy quote from Steiner, as it is very important for understanding Russian politics and Russia's "collective unconscious":
“Shelter-provided relief comes at the cost of isolation, stagnation, and retreat, and some patients find this condition distressing and complain about it. Others, however, accept the situation resignedly, with relief, and at times with disdain or triumph... Sometimes, when the patient recognizes the fatal nature of the situation, the refuge is felt as a painful place, but much more often it is presented as a pleasant and even ideal place. Whether the shelter is idealized or experienced as an unrelenting torment, in any case the patient tries to stay in it, preferring it to other, even worse states, for which he sees no alternative .
Most patients have a certain movement, when they show themselves out of the shelter with all the precautions, only to return there again as soon as any problems arise. In some cases, during these periods of escape from the shelter, a true development is possible, and such patients are able to gradually reduce their tendency to flee .
This quote contains a huge piece of Russian history, at least in its western “direction”. Seek out of the taiga (crossed out) of the shelter and by all means run back into it. Experience relief and triumph where the outside world will see the horror of the real situation. Idealize your wooden toilet, the violence of large and small oprichnina, inequality nurtured on lawlessness, injustice, preferring them to "other, even worse conditions, the alternative to which he (the patient and citizen) does not see" .
Therefore, the world, in which there is a place for dignity and freedom, is so incomprehensible and frightening. As well as competition, unpredictability, mistakes, i.e. everything that hits the illusion.
“Refuge turns out to be an area of the psyche where you can hide from the collision with reality, where fantasy and omnipotence can exist unhindered, where everything is permitted,” writes John Steiner. And we see in this quotation the entire pathology that is now unfolding externally and internally.
Therefore, in the distorted logic of the Russian establishment or the notorious "deep people", the boundaries of blocs change not because of the interest of the peoples of the joining countries, but exclusively "at the behest" of the "almighty patrons". Indeed, the opinion of the Russian people was not asked about such things. But it is Russian.
“In any case, the patient is afraid of possible changes and may respond to attempts to take him out of the asylum with even more radical withdrawal”, - here, like in a drop of water, one can see the Russian reaction to the West’s attempt to take Russia out of the “asylum”, offering openness and reforms, on that the country responded with a "radical withdrawal" into even greater isolation.
10. The world is divided. Interest vs Like, Dislike
I suppose, readers have already suffered enough :) psychological terms. Further, the author will try to move on without such complex psychotherapeutic illustrations. But, continuing to develop the actual picture seen through Steiner.
Russia's 45th place out of 64 in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking (Rating of global competitiveness), for a country of unlimited resources and "unprecedented scientific breakthroughs" (in the military-industrial complex), i.e. 8 places below Indonesia, 10 places below Kazakhstan and 13 places below the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are also the machinations of enemies. In a society of rent, totally controlled by the security forces, it is rather difficult to do justice to the importance of efficient business, unscrupulous thought, and any other soft power.
The author wrote about the close connection between the methods of conducting foreign and domestic Russian policy in the previous part. For example, when he mentioned the special role of fate before the foundation of the "liberated" Donbas and Mariupol. Here I will only add that the emerging topic of the fight against nationalism (strange for people promoting the “Russian world”) and actions without regard for civilian casualties are a transparent hint to the Russian national outskirts. The Kremlin "will not stand up for the price."
The author will urge the thoughtful reader of analytics to pay attention to one detail. Such behavior is not typical for developed countries, where foreign policy is often made very tough, incl. military means. But neither such nor comparable rigidity is transferred to internal territories and domestic politics .
Picture 1. Divided world.
Let's look, dear reader, at The Economist's map of the world "divided" by the question of the current war .
Outside Africa, mired in a de facto unfinished colonial era. And without touching India, whose official position turned out to be ambiguous. Despite the fact that 60% of the population did not approve of Russian aggression and only 40% approved, and 63% of respondents approved of Zelensky's leadership, while only 44% approved of Putin. However, as well as Kazakhstan, whose, even moderate, support for Russia today seems disputable.
So what can we notice? In fact, we have a cast of the world, in some regions of which (shaded in thick or pale blue) interest clearly prevails , in others (red spectrum) coercion dominates .
Speaking of interest, the author means not only market interest, but also the ability of citizens to freely show interest and experiment in relation to the mass of things - in science, in culture, in the spiritual, in the personal. Everything that turned the West into a soft power leader.
Here, too, there is a fundamental and consistent predisposition to build social relations by being interested, and not by forcing .
And if you do not run into convenient references to Russia, the author, as an analyst, will ask the thoughtful reader the question - where, in what part of the world (or with what part of the world), Ukraine itself is actually located now? Where and why will it be tomorrow?
To be continued