Понимание Путина

“Vladimir Putin 14 February 2008-7” by Kremlin.ru. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_14_February_2008-7.jpg#/media/File:Vladimir_Putin_14_February_2008-7.jpg

I want you to try (yet another) of my little thought experiments. It goes like this:

Suppose that China began forming military alliances with various nations in South America, and eventually signed a defense treaty creating the Sino-American Defense Organization, or SADO (admittedly a terrible name). Let’s say that at the same time the various nations of South America formed the Pan-American Union. They adopted a similar set of laws and a single currency, and did so with China smiling benevolently on the whole affair.

If this happened, we might start to get understandably nervous, much as we did when the Soviets were fooling around down there during the Cold War. Of course it’s no longer the Cold War, so no problem, right? We’d eventually adapt and come to accept what’s happening down there, though we probably wouldn’t like it.

Then suppose that the Sino-American Defense Organization began moving north. First Panama joins up, now putting what we’d view as Chinese proxies in charge of the Canal. Then they move up more, with Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and other nations joining up. As they do, they also begin trickling their way into the Pan-American Union. Now we have a whole set of nation states that are apparently in league with China. But they’re still not touching us, so that’s ok, right?

Well, then suppose that Mexico starts making noises about joining, and as they’re doing that, there’s an uprising in Mexico City. This uprising claims to be about replacing a terrible government that isn’t responsive to the people, and puts in place one that’s much more responsive to China. Ooops, I meant to say, “the people”, though for all we know, that’s as in “The People’s Republic of Mexico”.

Now we’d really lose our minds. Here we’d have a potentially hostile country directly on our southern border that’s being influenced by another country that’s our ideological enemy, and that’s regularly competing with us in the global marketplace. Forget nervous; we’d be scared out of our minds.

Replace China with America, SADO with NATO, the Pan-American Union with the European Union, and Mexico with Ukraine and you begin to understand what Russians in general, and Putin in particular, might be thinking, and why they might be lashing out.

“But!” you might protest. “America and the European Union aren’t like that! We’re friendly, benevolent countries that only want freedom and peace!”

A reasonable point, but this is where the China analogy somewhat falls apart, because China hasn’t launched an illegal, unprovoked war against another country in a fair amount of time. We, on the other hand, have, and did so with much help from the EU.

So try to put yourself in Putin’s shoes. Try to actually think like him. While he is yet another in a long line of Russian dictators, he’s neither insane nor evil. He’s reacting to what he genuinely believes is a threat to his country. Thus Russian actions in Georgia, thus their actions in Ukraine.

I’m not saying this is in any way justifiable. Russia is jumping at shadows, and Putin is a dictator. Russia needs to calm down and Putin needs to step down. Democracy can and should come to Russia, and by that I mean real, solid democracy; not the mocking of it that currently exists with rigged elections and dissenters being punished.

But until that happens, we need to try and understand why Putin thinks the way he does, and we need to deal with him that way. The Cold War is pretty much over, and we need to avoid restarting it, and understanding Putin and treating him and his position with respect, is the only way to do that.

Oh, and for the record: him invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea had nothing to do with any “weakness” on the part of Obama. If it did, you have to ask yourself why he also invaded Georgia during George W’s time in office.


John McCain – Warmongering Buffoon

John McCain is a man I once respected. He seemed like a decent, moderate Republican. The sort that I might disagree with, but could still think highly of.

Then came the 2008 Presidential Election. That was when he pandered, shamelessly, to the worst aspects of the Republican party, and when it came time to make the most important choice of his political life, that of vice-president, he picked a clueless jackass who he’d only barely ever met or talked to. Since then he’s basically disintegrated ever further, and now has just become a warmongering buffoon, almost a parody of what he used to be.

His current suggestion is that we should start arming the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia/Russian-backed revolutionaries. This comes in the wake of a Malaysian Airlines plane being shot down over Ukraine, apparently by the revolutionaries (on a side note, I’d hate to be the insurance company that covers MA right now). This idea is, to put it mildly, irresponsible and stupid.

Does McCain forget what generally happens when we fight proxy wars against Russia/the Soviet Union? It usually ends badly for pretty much everyone involved (here, here, here). Does he really think that further destabilizing an already unstable situation is really wise? Does he really believe that turning a brush fire into a firestorm is a good idea?

McCain is, in a word, a buffoon. We are lucky as hell he didn’t get elected in 2008, because if he did, we’d likely have troops not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Iran, Syria, and now possibly Ukraine, plus God knows how many other places. He wasn’t suited to be president. At this point, he’s not even suited to be a Senator. He’s barely suited to be dog catcher. I really hope that we change our senators soon.

I Kraine, Ukraine

Here is a little video on Ukraine.

Here’s how I think this is going to go down at this point. Crimea will leave Ukraine and become part of Russia again. For Crimea this is probably a better deal, but surprisingly, I think it might be better for Ukraine as well. Why? Because basically Crimea is the poor, impoverished part of the country that depends on the rest of the nation to hold it up. Basically this would be like the US losing Alabama and Mississippi. Ukraine will then spin toward the EU as fast as it can possibly go, because they certainly aren’t going to want to have anything further to do with Russia.

Meantime, Russia will have taken on a place where about 15% of the population is made up of Tartars; an ethnic group very hostile to Russia. Say hello to the new Chechnya. And Dagestan. And other such places. They also will have a large ethnic Russian and Ukrainian population that might not be too happy to be a part of Russia. Remember, just because your parents were Russian and lived in Russia doesn’t mean you want to. The younger generation certainly doesn’t want to.

It is also important to understand the limits of American power. There is not now, nor was there ever, anything we could really do to stop this, other than not expanding NATO. To Russia that was a bad idea. It’s like if Mexico had joined the Warsaw Pact. We wouldn’t have tolerated that, and they weren’t going to tolerate NATO in their backyard forever. We can and should suspend Russia from the G8 for a few years and not attend the G8 summit in Sochi, but beyond that, we can’t really do anything more, and shouldn’t do anything more, especially sanctions.

All that said, this is going to be a net loss for Russia. Five, ten years down the line, this is going to look even to most Russians (who are, at best, lukewarm on the idea), as a mistake. I could be wrong, but I’m fairly convinced that this is a short-term victory, and a long-term loss.