2014 March 17 Monday
What Vladimir Putin Thinks

Vladimir Putin has ended the crisis over Crimea by making Crimea part of Russia with a stroke of a pen. No need to worry any longer. The fate of Crimea has been settled. Obama says this move only deepens Russia's diplomatic isolation. But who needs a lot of diplomats around anyway? Barack is being very mean to Vladimir. Do you know what Barack did? Barry froze Vlad's Netflix account. Think Vlad is upset about that?

The seizure of Crimea can be looked at as forward defense. Putin is convinced there is a 'Destroy Russia' project. The guy has got to protect his country against Western liberalism. Seems reasonable to me.

Putin on Western governments:

“They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right.”

Global liberal manifest destiny. Someone has to stop it.

What I think about Vladimir: On the one hand he is a tyrant ruling a corrupt state. On the other hand Russia is in a very precarious position with a declining population and so many countries on its very long land borders. Some neighbors (e.g. China and the EU) are very powerful and it has plenty of enemies who would like to cut it down for sport. Some are activists in the US State Department who want to play with the world. US economic advisers supported the kleptocratic dismantling of state industries and helped do the Russian people great harm in the 1990s The US hasn't shown Russia's security needs much respect and holds a dual standard for the US's own Monroe Doctrine domination of the Western Hemisphere versus the US position that Russia shouldn't project power beyond its border.

I look at Putin and think what folly the US government has shown in dealing with Russia. The US government overplayed its hand and did so for a country (Ukraine) which is not essential to US security. Now Russia has responded and Obama can't do much but sputter about it.

Oh, and one other thing: international law. How important is it? Some people argue that Putin, by violating international law, has made the Chinese violent seizure of Taiwan more likely along with other undesired outcomes. Could be. But really? I mean, how much are the big players really restrained from cross-border escapades due to international law? I can't claim to know. But the US seems to manage to intervene in many countries militarily without international law holding it back. However does the US manage to do that? Is it the nature of the interventions, like, say, not adding to the official US territorial reach? Or does it just have enough allies willing to support its interpretations of international law?

Crimea is only a part of Ukraine because in 1954 Ukrainian Nikita Krushchev switched which republic it was part of in the USSR. That seems like a dumb reason to make it part of Ukraine today. If I lived in Ukraine the main reason I could see for wanting it to stay part of Ukraine is the hope that the Ukrainian government will become less corrupt and more functional than the Russian government. What are the odds of that?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 March 17 11:13 PM 


Comments
bob sykes said at March 19, 2014 4:42 AM:

As to Russia's declining population, Europe, China, Japan and Korea have exactly the same problem. It is also true that there is no natural border anywhere in Eurasia from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and all Eurasian countries are always at risk of invasion. Try this link to see what the problem is,

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=14d_1348362692

This is an animation of the changes in Europe's borders since about 1100 AD.

21st Amendment Absolutist said at March 19, 2014 5:58 AM:

Heh, Russia is home to all the pirate sites. Putin will be watching the next season of Game Of Thrones long before 0bama.

RS said at March 19, 2014 8:42 AM:

Solid post, agree with everything including the need for a counterweight to US's hypomanias.

In other news, this news is so over. (IMHO.) Russia has the cards.

I ran across some interesting history I'd had no idea of:
http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-03-17/sanction-russia-we-ve-tried-this-before

As the U.S. and the European Union consider the expansion of sanctions against Russia for its likely annexation of Crimea, a potential Santayana moment looms: in this case, a possible repeat of the imbroglio that ensued in 1981-82 between the U.S. and Europe over the building of the Soviet Union’s Siberian Gas Pipeline. It’s an episode with sobering lessons for both sides.

At the time, the deal to build a 3,000-mile pipeline to bring Siberian gas to Europe was the biggest East-West project yet undertaken. European leaders saw it as a chance to diversify Europe’s energy sources away from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries while advancing Ostpolitik -- the German strategy of engagement with the USSR.

Cold Warriors in Washington, however, were nervous and unhappy. During the summer of 1981, the Reagan administration’s National Security Council tried to forge a coordinated response to the pipeline, which also represented a commercial opportunity for market-leading U.S. firms and technology.

[...] A rift between the U.S. and Europe on pipeline sanctions began to widen. When the U.S. decided in late June 1982 to apply sanctions to any U.S. technology or licensee, France’s foreign minister said the decision “could well go down as the beginning of the end of the Atlantic alliance.” France, among other countries, refused to go along. A few months later, in a face-saving compromise [etc]

Russia has the cards more than in 1981. There's an energy crunch on, and as Gary Brecher just pointed out, nowadays Russia can just sell all that hydrocarbon to PRC. (Of course PRC's ascendency is a cause of the energy crunch, but isn't the whole enchilada.) Finally, while it's true Russia is pretty screwed up, at least its not in debt like PRC and EU-US.

RS said at March 19, 2014 8:47 AM:

Solid post, agree with everything including the need for a counterweight to US's hypomanias.

In other news, this news is so over. (IMHO.) Russia has the cards.

I ran across some interesting history I'd had no idea of:
http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-03-17/sanction-russia-we-ve-tried-this-before

=====
As the U.S. and the European Union consider the expansion of sanctions against Russia for its likely annexation of Crimea, a potential Santayana moment looms: in this case, a possible repeat of the imbroglio that ensued in 1981-82 between the U.S. and Europe over the building of the Soviet Union’s Siberian Gas Pipeline. It’s an episode with sobering lessons for both sides.

At the time, the deal to build a 3,000-mile pipeline to bring Siberian gas to Europe was the biggest East-West project yet undertaken. European leaders saw it as a chance to diversify Europe’s energy sources away from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries while advancing Ostpolitik -- the German strategy of engagement with the USSR.

Cold Warriors in Washington, however, were nervous and unhappy.

[...] A rift between the U.S. and Europe on pipeline sanctions began to widen. When the U.S. decided in late June 1982 to apply sanctions to any U.S. technology or licensee, France’s foreign minister said the decision “could well go down as the beginning of the end of the Atlantic alliance.” France, among other countries, refused to go along. A few months later, in a face-saving compromise [etc]
=====

Russia has the cards more than in 1981. There's an energy crunch on, and as Gary Brecher just pointed out, nowadays Russia can just sell all that hydrocarbon to PRC. (Of course PRC's ascendency is a cause of the energy crunch, but isn't the whole enchilada.) Finally, while it's true Russia is pretty screwed up, at least its not in debt like PRC and EU-US.

SlargTarg said at March 19, 2014 12:47 PM:

An different persective for why the Russians are doing what they are, and what the ethnic Russians caught outside of Russia after the breakup of the USSR face:

This is from an Alexander Solzhenitsyn interview in 1994:

Solzhenitsyn on Russia, America, and Ukraine

Imagine that one not very fine day two or three of your states in the Southwest, in the space of 24 hours, declare themselves independent of the U.S. They declare themselves a fully sovereign nation, decreeing that Spanish will be the only language. All English-speaking residents, even if their ancestors have lived there for 200 years, have to take a test in the Spanish language within one or two years and swear allegiance to the new nation. Otherwise they will not receive citizenship and be deprived of civic, property and employment rights.What would be the reaction of the United States? I have no doubt that it would be immediate military intervention.But today Russia faces precisely this scenario. In 24 hours she lost eight to 10 purely Russian provinces, 25 million ethnic Russians who have ended up in this very way–as “undesirable aliens.” In places where their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers have lived since way back–even from the 17th century–they face persecution in their jobs and the suppression of their culture, education and language.

Meanwhile, in Central Asia, those wishing to leave are not permitted to take even their personal property. The authorities tell them, “There is no such concept as ‘personal property’!”And in this situation “imperialist Russia” has not made a single forceful move to rectify this monstrous mess. Without a murmur she has given away 25 million of her compatriots–the largest diaspora in the world!


Check it out said at March 19, 2014 5:21 PM:

Great post Randall. I agree all the way.

Furthermore, the E.U. doesn't really have much to offer to Ukraine anyway, so Ukrainians should consider looking at Russia in a friendlier way. And yes, I believe Putin is right when he talks about how the West countries have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones, and that is narcisism. In other words western society has grown pretty ill. It's good to at least know.

map said at March 19, 2014 6:42 PM:

Crimea actually belonged to the Ukraine centuries ago. The Ukrainian leader asked Peter the Great to help him with fighting the Tartars. Peter did, but Russia never left. Returining the Ukraine to Crimes was the right thing for Khruschev to do.

Another problem: there is nothing in Eastern Ukraine: no agriculture or industry. It's the population the Russians will have to feed without the West.

Bob Arctor said at March 20, 2014 12:40 AM:

map said at March 19, 2014 6:42 PM:
"Another problem: there is nothing in Eastern Ukraine: no agriculture or industry. It's the population the Russians will have to feed without the West."

That's just outright false; Eastern Ukraine is vastly, vastly wealthier than Western Ukraine. The overwhelming majority of heavy industry in Ukraine is in the Don River Basin, located in the the far east of the country.

It took me less than thirty seconds to find this information; please do some basic research before you post next time.

The Dude said at March 20, 2014 12:53 PM:

Putin: "“They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right.”

And he is right, of course. Hashem did choose them. And Hashem sent them to be a Light unto the Nations. And Hashem set them to Heal the World. And when Moshiach returns in the Fullness of Time, every knee shall bow and every King of the Nations shall be brought low.

This is nothing new. It is in their scriptures. It has been since Moses brought the Written Law and the a Oral Law down the mountain from Hashem.

Vicky Parland knows it. Every year she prays for Moshiach to come and for the exiles to be ingathered to Eretz Y'Isroel.

If I were Putin I wouldn't dick around. Theycertainly aren't.

Wolf-Dog said at March 20, 2014 6:20 PM:

Clearly, many Russians are worried that if Ukraine enters the Western sphere of influence, then although Ukraine is not Russia, this will encourage many regions in the interior of Russia to secede in order to join the EU. But it is probably worse: let's recall that especially Germany encouraged the pro-EU movement in Ukraine, and probably many Russians feel (with good reason) that if Russia is engulfed by chaos and disintegrates, Germany will get Russia's raw materials at fire sale prices, essentially re-colonizing Russia by means of political manipulation instead of military invasion, but attaining essentially the same century-old German goal of gaining the raw materials of Asia.

But it is not in the interest of the United States to let Russia disintegrate. If Russia disintegrates, it won't just be Germany that will get stronger by gaining control of parts of Russia's raw materials. China and Japan would then gain control of the Eastern parts of Siberia rich in minerals. In addition, if Russia is engulfed by chaos, the 200 million Turkic Muslim peripheral states will then help the Muslim minority inside Russia to gain power in many regions. Russian nukes would also fall in the hands of unknown groups. EU should be very careful what it wishes for, because it might get it.

No i don't said at March 21, 2014 12:51 PM:

I don't know what "The Dude" is talking about, but it's pretty clear to me that Moses probably didn't even know how to write his own name, much less write any "Law" nor the first books in the Bible. I can almst imagine seing Moses in the desert writing in hiroglyphs on sheep skins or bark... That is only possible in one of them low budget movies.

Stay focused Dude.

RS said at March 21, 2014 7:29 PM:

> Clearly, many Russians are worried that if Ukraine enters the Western sphere of influence, then although Ukraine is not Russia, this will encourage many regions in the interior of Russia to secede in order to join the EU.

So they can be like Spain? Or Italy with it's [national debt : GDP] still rising despite a lasting budget surplus? Greece with its . . . Greece? Russia isn't paradise, but it is a lot richer than Ukraine. Sure, a lot of West-Ukes are very nationalist and very eager to work in EU. Those were big factors. But Ukraine has been poor forever, and just went bankrupt. That's at least as important a factor. Russia's very non-bankrupt.

I wouldn't say Russia is in a totally sweet position long term. Sure, probably the other powers would like to undermine her if they could and grab the resources. But it's just not a country of sensitive souls. They will kill and die. Imagine how bleak was barbarossa. 50 M got killed by the end. The humiliating war with Finland had caused incredible, and justified, pessimism. World expertise assigned them very long odds. Just imagine the psychology of the darkest hour in that episode, just before stalingrad : surely everyone being mobilized at that hour, or already in the field, pretty much expected to die -- fast, or slow, and pretty likely in vain. Yet they did not freak out. I think they would take mega punishment from fate again if they had to, and inflict same.

My favorite movie, Zerkalo, is almost incredibly non-plaintive about barbarossa. Granted, the director was not in combat, being a shade too young, though he did half-starve. A few people are shown who break down. But the war mainly seems to register as a mindless tsunami of half-apocalypse. It's just this big terrible thing that happens. After it ends, Russians are not hysterical. They aren't in some new psychological world. Instead they seem to revert to their previous frame of mind. It's like "wow, some huge tragedy happened, as tragedies will. Practically everyone got killed. It was bigger and worse than anyone dreamed of ; otherwise, much like cataclysms past." Compare this with America's response to 9-11, something of a slow-burning socio-psychological freak-out. I realize it is a work of fiction largely emanating from a single man, not rigorous history or social science, but I find it illustrative. He was not a callous man, Tarkovskij, but rather sensitive and melancholy for a Russian.

I also think there is a large difference in outlook between them and the nonslavic parts of EU ; they are far more traditionalist. I don't think 90s-10s France, England, Belgium, Holland in particular, are something they really admire at all.

I don't see how you can cognize Germany as a real power for the future, or necessarily a real . . . anything . . . what with its ~1.1(?) TFR for ethnic Germans. Makes me sad as heck, because I love Germany.

RS said at March 21, 2014 7:51 PM:

Did you know how few Russians speak passable English? I think it's 5% or maybe less. Of course it has been much more traditional to learn French there for centuries, and I'm sure the cold war was also a factor. I still think it makes a statement about who Russians understand themselves to be. Try to find someone under 40 in a German city that cannot converse in English. In Denmark, due to Danish being a small language community (6M?), /everyone/ speaks English. I don't know what the case is in the Baltics or Poland but I'll bet plenty of people are fluent in the cities. Georgia, I believe, actually started a state policy of large-scale English language acquisition.

map said at March 22, 2014 5:43 PM:

Bob Arctor,

You're reading propaganda from Sputnik. Ukraine was once called the breadbasket of Europe and it was the wealthiest and most productive region of the former Soviet Union, even before Crimea was given back to it back in the 1950's. The agricultural value comes from the quality of the soil. The only other area of the world where such soil exists is in the American Midwest.

In fact, when Stalin starved Ukraine by looting all of the agricultural product, he dumped the output on the world market and caused agricultural prices to collapse.

Crimea is primarily a resort area where Communists kept their seaside dachas. Whatever "industry" exists is old and largely obsolete, having little value because Russian factories produce little of value. Taking Crimea is a pretense for taking the rest of Ukraine and, subsequently, its agricultural production (when developed.)

Incidentaly, Western Ukraine has its two largest cities: Kiev and Lvov. Since when are major urban areas dirt poor?


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