In a post last Friday, I pointed to a Harvard professor’s belief that the U.S. and China could be at war with each other in the next decade.

The two most popular comments on the post thread brought up the eventual possibility of a conflict with Russia, as well.

In light of that possibility, I decided to bring to your attention something about Russian president Vladimir Putin that may very well contribute to a future U.S.-Russia conflict: his reading list.

As reported by Maria Snegovaya in the Washington Post last year, Putin assigned the following three books to Russia’s regional governors:

1) The Philosophy of Inequality, by Nikolai Berdyaev

2) The Justification of the Good, by Vladimir Solovyov  

3) Our Tasks, by Ivan Ilyin

What is the common theme linking these works? According to Snegovaya, “The main message of these authors is Russia’s messianic role in world history, preservation and restoration of Russia’s historical borders and Orthodoxy.”

The above thinkers and some of their contemporaries saw Russia as a “third Rome” (ancient Rome and the Byzantine Empire being the first two) destined to reunite the spiritually incomplete East and West. In Ilyin’s mind, according to professor Paul Robinson, the Russian revolution was a speed bump along the way due to “the spiritual failings of the Russian people.” Putin now sees it as his calling to rebuild Russia, and may see it as his calling to return Russia to its imperial birthright and its spiritual mission to the world.

As the title of another Washington Post article claimed, “America doesn’t understand Putin.” Indeed, steeped in pragmatism, many Americans today have a difficult time fathoming that a modern world leader could be motivated by historical, cultural, and religious sentiments.

But Vladimir Putin may very well be that leader.   

[Image Credit: The Office of the President of Russia]