According to people with knowledge of Mr. Putin’s conversations with his aides over the past two years, the president has completely lost interest in the present: The economy, social issues, the coronavirus pandemic, these all annoy him. Instead, he and Mr. Kovalchuk obsess over the past. A French diplomat told me that President Emmanuel Macron of France was astonished when Mr. Putin gave him a lengthy history lecture during one of their talks last month.
“This is not a war with Ukraine. It’s a confrontation with globalism as an integrated planetary phenomenon. It’s a confrontation on all levels — geopolitical and ideological. Russia rejects everything in globalism — unipolarity, Atlanticism, on the one hand, and liberalism, anti-tradition, technocracy, Great Resetization in one word, in another. Of course, all European leaders are part of the Atlantic liberal elite. And we’re at war with just that.”