Some observers have been prepared to write off these plans as Potemkin posturing—or new and creative ways to transfer more of Russia’s state funds into private hands through creative, corrupt schemes. Certainly, any expansion of the military budget represents enormous opportunities for graft. But it would be a mistake to dismiss the clear evidence that this buildup is restoring capabilities to the Russian armed forces that had been lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the last eighteen months, Russia conducted military exercises on a scale not seen since the end of the Cold War (such as the recently concluded military trials in the Far East). While still highlighting problems with command and control systems and with equipment, these nonetheless have also demonstrated that the reforms are starting to have an impact, and that Russia is capable of fielding a more mobile, effective force.
According to Ilyin, a strong authority is in part justifiable as the necessary precondition for the meaningful possession and use of individual freedoms. So in the end it would be as simpleminded to condemn him as a totalitarian as it would be to believe his theories are without their shortcomings and inconsistencies. Too, the extent to which Ilyin’s thought serves as an Eastern Orthodox locus in a new multipolar world—as opposed to being mere ideological window-dressing—remains to be seen. Yet one thing is certain: Unless and until Western elites extend to Ilyin some of the sympathy and open-mindedness they have heretofore reserved for the Prophet Muhammad and the Castro family, they will be unable to offer intelligent and worthwhile criticism about the doings of Moscow.