Russia is not a shallow country. The opening pageant for the Sochi Olympics set Russian skill at ballet against the music of Russia’s great composers in an idealized (to say the least) depiction of Russian history. Still, it was quite beautiful. Contrast this to the bathetic clowning at the London Olympics, with James Bond and Elizabeth II sky-diving into the stadium.
Putin’s seizure of the Crimea has made him an object of opprobrium in the United States and a hero at home. He has revived the old pre-1914 nationalism with some degree of success. This was never a pleasant thing (as my ancestors who suffered in the Russian Empire well knew), but it is the only identity Russians appear to have after the fall of Communism. The attraction of this kind of national renewal should not be underestimated. The West thought that it dealt a blow against dictatorship at Maidan, but only succeeded in boosting the popularity of Russia’s dictator to an extent few considered possible.
I do not know whether Putin will succeed. But I am sure beyond the shadow of doubt that if we keep making billionaires out of scum like Dr. Dre, we will fail. There was something better than Russian-style nationalism once. It was American patriotism. If we forget it, the land will puke us out.