Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Putinism considered as an ideology

By way of comments in Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, we have this analysis from conservative commentator Anne Applebaum: video and PDF.

It fascinates me how the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has begun to shift alliances among Western intellectuals. I previously would have had no reason to quote Applebaum, and I am not sure I trust her (defender of child rapist Roman Polanski, adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute) even now. But she may have some good ideas.


The Blog Fodder said...

I read Applebaum’s article. One hates to admit it but for once, the conservatives may have it right. I do not think Putin intends to take over the world (that is America’s aim, isn’t it?) but he does intend to rebuild the Russian/Soviet empire to as close to its broadest borders as possible. If I were a country that was one under direct Moscow control, I would be very frightened.

And if indeed, he does intend for Euraisa to stretch from Lisbon to Vladivostok, then I too fear for the world.

Russians have always feared the West and as a result have acted in ways to make the West fear Russia.

We just live one day at time but all Ukraine is very afraid.

sglover said...

First, don't trust Applebaum. Ever. Her essay had nothing blatantly dishonest -- rare for her -- but neither did it have anything that hasn't been said by other, more astute writers. Check out Daniel Larison (among others) for a sane view of the situation in Ukraine and the western response. Just the other day he wrote about a Pew poll that showed that most Americans (as in, more than half) quite sensibly oppose very much U.S. involvement. It's Beltway Caesars like Applebaum who are stoking hysteria. What, did you expect them to changed their stripes since their brilliant Iraq disinformation campaign?!?!

Second, the notion that Putin wants to rule Eurasia from Atlantic to Pacific is something out of an LSD dream. The notion that he's interested in reoccupying even places as close as the Baltics is idiotic hysteria. Even those who despise him acknowledge that Putin's no fool. So more than most people he's aware that Russia hasn't the military, economic or cultural resources to pull off what Stalin did in 1940. In any case, the costs would vastly outweigh any benefits.

My prediction is that Putin's made as much of a move as he's going to. He won't try to gin up a Crimea-like plebescite in Donestk and Kharkov. He probably if he wanted to, but my hunch is that he'll find those Russophilic regions more useful **in** Ukraine, where they can influence whatever emerges from Kiev. The annexation of Crimea fits the general pattern of **all** of Putin's military interventions: Essentially **defensive**, and strictly limited in scope.

One thing you're not going to get from the likes of an Applebaum is the backstory of western obtuseness. NATO expansion, Kosovo, idiotic missile defense deployments have been discussed elsewhere (which is not to say they should be discounted as provocations). But Der Spiegel has a very illuminating article about how the EU's blithering idiocy sparked the whole Maidan demonstration in the first place:

Pay particular attention to the end, where the cluelessness of the "Enlargement Commissioner" is discussed. I've always had a lot of sympathy for the EU project, but if Ukraine is any guide it looks like Brussels functions as some kind of brain-dead automaton.

Speaking of brain-dead, "aid" for the provisional government in Kiev seems to be on the verge of approval. Naturally the IMF gets to call a lot of the shots, and so, inevitably, AUSTERITY is on the menu, because it always works so well. So the new Kiev government, which the west is ostensibly so hot to support, gets to announce 50% fuel price increases during its first month in power.

If you're going to issue ultimatums to Russia, and pledge openhearted support for our new Freedom Partners (tm) in Kiev, then -- in for a penny, in for a pound. But DC and Brussels seem a lot more interested in spewing laughably inane threats and "helping" on the cheap. Putin doesn't have to be a strategic genius to see the hilarious mismatch between words and real intentions.

The Blog Fodder said...

sglover, I live here and have a small idea what has been and is going on, having been on Maidan. You sing the Russian song book very well, as do many others in the West while leaving us to our fate at the hands of Putin. Of course he is not going to absorb eastern or any of Ukraine. He will install his puppet dictator and with Russian troops keep him there. He wants the old Russian Empire back and has said so.
Ukraine by and large is much happier with out new government than we were under any of the previous administrations and with any amount of luck the IMF will force the reforms we needed 20 years ago but could not get past the business men and criminals in the Rada. Ukraine buys gas at $400 mcm and consumers pay on average $84 per mcm. A rate hike is highly over due. Insterad of subsidising everyone, subsidies will be made to low income families such as pensioners to offset the increases. Gas is gas and safety nets are safety nets, as it should be. All the pundits and amateur pundits seem to thing the Ukrainian people are just lumps of dirt to be moved around by whoever feels like it. As to Putin being satisfied with his gains to date, that is what everyone though about Hitler after he and Russia split up Poland.

sglover said...

Was I "singing out of the Russian song book" when I said that your remarks about Russian dominion "from Lisbon to Vladivostok" were, um, crazy? OK, then I guess I'm a Putin stooge. But let's say Putin and Russia really does "want" this grand new empire -- it is remains a physical impossibility. And no matter what you or I or anyone else believes about the Putin, nobody thinks he stupid or insane.

I don't live in Ukraine, but I know and communicate with people there, and some of them are frightened by the new gang in Kiev. The fact is that there **are** some extremely vicious Svoboda types among the ministers, and while they're not a majority, their numbers aren't trivial. There's mistrust -- justifiable mistrust -- all around. So it remains to be seen just how "happy" Ukrainians are with the new regime. It's a very safe guess that when the IMF's idiotic austerity creed bites, there are going to be many UNhappy Ukrainians.

The IMF ideology is a measure of how totally clueless western governments are. They want to prop up a **provisional** regime. The popularity and legitimacy of this regime is, right now, very delicate. Perhaps right now is not the best time to require that regime to impose austerity? Forget about the economics. This is going to be a huge political burden. It's reminiscent of how the German officer corps suckered the Weimar government into single-handedly signing the Versailles Treaty, so that the civilians would take the blame.

One more thing: If you're going to tell me that the new regime is going to be a big change from the "business men and criminals in the Rada", would you mind explaining just what you expect from Poroshenko and Timoshenko? Cuz it looks like one of those two is going to be your next "leader".