Russia is remarkably resistant to progress, material and moral.
George F. Will : “The Primacy of Culture”, Newsweek; 18 January 1999 http://www.newsweek.com/primacy-culture-165542
Russia is remarkably resistant to progress, material and moral.
George F. Will : “The Primacy of Culture”, Newsweek; 18 January 1999 http://www.newsweek.com/primacy-culture-165542
Halifax Harbour. I think StaNavForLant was in town and we’re all boozing it up on the taxpayers’ dime on a German ship.
RUSSIA’S “CREDIT CRUNCH”. Remember “Russia faces ‘perfect storm’ as reserves vanish and derivatives flash default warnings” in January 2015? Mercouris explains why it didn’t: he and Jon Hellevig read reality better than the conventional pundits. Actually, Russia has quietly got rid of 30% of its external debt in two years. One more example of the perpetual underestimation of Russia’s strength, creativity and determination. A dangerous and provocative policy is being driven by people who know nothing, think they know everything and live in an echo chamber; they believe it’s safe to threaten Russia because they listen to each other telling each other that Russia is feeble. No, sanctions haven’t changed Moscow’s behaviour and have done more harm to the West; no, the Russian military is not a rusty hulk; no, there’s no opposition ready lead a people rising up against the hated “Putin regime”; no, Russia is not “isolated”. No, no, no: Russia is united, strong and well-managed. But put the headphones back on.
CRIMEAN TATARS. Actually, as Karlin shows, they are happy enough to be in Russian Crimea. I wonder how many of the Westerners suddenly so concerned about them (having never heard of them before) think they are the autochthonous inhabitants? Crimea itself is doing all right.
POWER. Last November “unknown” people (Right Sektor and Tatar activists – they took photos) blew up the power supply from Ukraine to Crimea. Full power has now been restored from Russia. So, water, power and food blockades have been successfully circumvented. All that remains is completion of the bridge; December 2018 is the target.
HOW STUPID DO THEY THINK WE ARE? Russian jets “threatening Estonian airspace… latest show of aggression…” And further down the page you learn the Russian aircraft were in international air space. OK that’s just the Sun, shrieking and stupid. How about this, then? “Britain’s defence secretary, Michael Fallon, described it [an earlier flight] as an ‘act of Russian aggression’“. Look at the map: to fly between Kaliningrad (Russia) and St Petersburg (Russia) involves flying pretty close to somebody. The audience is leaving; anti-Russian claptrap doesn’t pay the bills as The Guardian is discovering.
ADMIRED. These polls don’t mean much, but Putin’s No 6 position shows the propaganda isn’t working.
ABE VISIT. The first crack in G7 solidarity about Russia? Japan’s PM Abe Shinzo visited Putin in Sochi. Information about the meetings is slowly dribbling out. Possibly a new approach to the “northern territories” problem with Tokyo giving up territorial claims. Perhaps Tokyo wants to be an intermediary between Washington and Moscow. Maybe extensive cooperation proposals. Japan is hosting the next G7 meeting at the end of this month. It ought now to be apparent that Washington’s attack on Moscow, based as it was on arrogance, ignorance and wishful thinking has failed. We will see what develops.
WHO KNEW? NATO’s not just a centre for “stability generation” but a centre for music criticism too. Do you think it knew who the winner was going to be before it happened?
THE WISDOM OF THE RETIRED. Former US Defense Secretary Hagel says the next US president should make it a priority to talk seriously with Putin: “I’d be very careful with this. Because the centrifugal force of this is so subtle it take you right down into the middle of a situation that you didn’t want to be in.” I hope some day to hear this sort of thing from people who are on the job: it’s as if they take your brain away when you’re working and only give it back as a retirement present. But, some don’t get it back – Russia’s invading Latvia next May. Why Latvia and why next May? Why not all three this weekend? And Ukraine by the end of the month? Note how nervous NATO membership has made some people – wasn’t it supposed to be an assurance of security? “We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way.”
First of all, let me start by saying I don’t know why the American Establishment is so obsessed about Russia. I can’t think of any good reason why it should be. All Russia wants is a quiet life so that it can rebuild things – as Putin himself said, back before he was President:
That was not said by someone whose principal purpose is to re-create the USSR or the Russian Empire; it’s someone who wants to re-construct the defective “economic and social situation” of his country. And that requires peace and quiet. In the real world, Russia isn’t any kind of threat whatsoever to the USA. And, one would think, when the “Terror threat looms across the world” it’s a useful and necessary ally.
I do know, and my quotations collection shows, that hostility to Russia never stopped – or even moderated – after the USSR collapsed. Even in 1990 there were people insisting that nothing was real was happening because Russia, in its very essence, was expansionist, dictatorial and hostile to “our values”. Any so-called changes were only illusions calculated to gull the simple-minded. The only possible Russia was an Enemy Russia: all Russians qua Russians – never mind the absence of the temporary Soviet carapace – imagined, thought about, dreamed of, was enmity to Us and to Our Values. Russophobes – not Russia-fearers really, but Russia-haters – had little audience as long as it seemed that Russia was sinking into insignificance. With the revival of Russia’s prospects this century the Russia-haters have come to dominate the discussion.
We hear that Russia is an “existential threat” to the USA. That charge, at least, is true: Russia’s nuclear weaponry could obliterate the USA and render it uninhabitable for decades or centuries. (At the same cost to itself, of course). But the UK, France or China could cause unacceptable damage, if not outright obliteration, too. But Washington doesn’t worry about the first two and is not obsessed about the third. And one would think that Russia’s nuclear might should have been a reason to treat it with circumspection. Apparently not.
To any objective viewer Russia is not the aggressor. Those who believe that “Putin wants a new Russian empire” should – but never do – explain why it missed the chance to put Georgia into the bag in 2008. Those who believe Russia has invaded Ukraine, never explain why why the invader still hasn’t managed to get past the Donetsk Airport. A strange reluctance to take the full mouthful: a reluctance that cries out for an explanation. But no explanation is ever presented: in their vision Russia is forever reaching but never grasping, powerful but impotent, determined but indecisive.
It’s not Russia that expanded its military alliance up to the “doorstep” of the USA. It’s not Russia that has fomented, or tried to foment, “colour revolutions” in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Guatemala or the USA itself. Russian military bases do not surround the USA. Its media is not full of stories about Obama’s mistresses, offshore accounts, “information war“, “hybrid war“, troll factories, thuggish propensities, hatred of homosexuals, determination to conquer neighbours, bare chested macho posing, persecution of rock groups, murder of opponents.
So, why this bizarre fixation with Russia? As I said, I don’t know: there remains something deeply irrational about it; something buried deep in the dark that can’t quite be seen.
But, forthwith, I put forth a list of possible reasons.
American lefties dislike Russia because it rejected socialism; indeed the Soviet experience stands as an indictment against the whole scheme.
Righties dislike Russia because, communist or not (and how many think it still is?) it’s still Russia.
Americans have to have a rival, an opponent, a counter, an enemy even. It’s geopolitical chiaroscuro: the City on The Hill must shine in the Darkness.
Russia is the right size of opponent. To be obsessed with Venezuela (“national security threat” though it is declared) would be unworthy for such a “great” and “winning” country. China is too big and, because it owns so much of the US economy, too dangerous, to provoke. Russia is of sufficient size to be a worthy target.
Russia is a safe target (or so Obama thought a year ago). US-Russia trade is small and there is little cost to being sanctimonious against Russia: bashing Russia gives a pleasing sense of moral superiority without uncomfortable consequences.
Maybe Russia is an ungrateful child? In the 1990s there was much talk about US aid and advice reforming Russia, the “end of history” and all that. Russia was, evidently, on the edge of becoming “just like us”. But it didn’t and such back-sliding cannot be forgiven.
Russia is a convenient palimpsest on which to write the presumptions you brought. Martin Malia wrote a fascinating book showing how Westerners from Voltaire onwards found Russia to be the perfect exemplar of whatever it was that they wished it to be. So, in Russia you can find whatever you’re looking for: a “geostrategic foe”, for example.
Given that today “human rights” have been reduced to little more than applauding sexual preferences, (Watch this Ukrainian video on why the Dutch should have voted Yes, if you think I’m overstating things) Russia is so old-fashioned that all can hate it.
They’re just trapped in it – they’ve been crying wolf so long and so loudly, they can’t stop.
The people who actually run the USA (the White-House-and-Congress/the-Deep-State: your choice) know that the USA is losing the industrial production capacity that made it Number One. Their solution, so the theory goes (Pepe Escobar’s Empire of Chaos theory), is that the only way to keep the USA (relatively) on the top is to depress the others. Chaos and instability on its borders will bog Russia down. Europe can be bogged down by using the Russian threat – in this respect, the sanctions against and by Russia are hurting Europe more than anyone. At the end, the USA will still be king of the hill even if the hill is smaller.
For some reason – it’s observable, even if it’s not explicable – Americans personalise everything. And, out there, visible everywhere, is Vladimir Vladimirovich. On Wednesday the Panama Papers are about him, on Thursday they are by him. Putin Derangement Syndrome sells papers and animates talk shows. Just in the month of April, for example, we have been told that Putin is going out with Murdoch’s ex-wife; we have seen both versions of the Panama Papers story; told that Dutch voters were thought-controlled by him, that he has a secret army in Europe and an army of “spy dolphins“. Putin Derangement Syndrome is getting crazier and crazier.
We cannot forget sheer profitability. Billions spent on an F-35 fighter, a Littoral Combat Ship, unending tank production, trillion-dollar nuclear weapons program and billions and billions more cannot be substantiated by fighting a handful of “terrorists” equipped with small arms, road-side bombs and suicide vests. Without a serious enemy, justifying big contracts, how can generals hope to get a second high-paid job in retirement? The enormous US military sector needs a capable and convincing enemy. And, other than Russia (or China – remember the pivot to Asia?), what is there?
There is the argument that NATO is one of the principal ways that Washington maintains its dominance over Europe and the EU. The easiest and simplest justification for NATO is a return to its earliest purpose, as Lord Ismay wittily put it, “To keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down”. The director of Stratfor has opined that the “primordial interest” of the USA has been preventing any sort of condominium between Germany and Russia. The Russia-the-eternal-enemy position provides both a justification for the continuation of NATO and a prophylactic against a Berlin-Moscow axis. It ensures a Europe that cannot stand on its own.
Sheer laziness. The 24/7 news cycle needs material and it’s always easiest to stick with what you have. Because Russia filled some time yesterday, it should do so again today. There’s always someone available to tell you that Putin is corrupt, or Russia is about to invade some country, or Russia is about to collapse, or Russians are hungry or some other click-bait headline. Better than celebrities and their drug or marital problems because it gives that soupçon of gravity that makes the audience feel it’s not wasting its time. The steady diet has its effect and so Russia-the-eternal-enemy comes to be casually accepted.
It’s clear that Putin’s team is serious and so many Western leaders are not. Also, and this cannot be denied, the team is successful. This minor country that makes nothing, where no one wants to live and which is dying is setting the course. Meanwhile, in the West…… This must infuriate the Western Establishment and that is a motive for the unceasing attempts to demean Putin & Co. It is “magical thinking“: if they repeat the charm loudly and often, maybe Russia will go away and no Western population will have to contemplate the possibility that national governments might actually do what they are paid to do.
The state of mind in the Obama Administration is not made better by million-view YouTube videos comparing his work-out style with Putin’s. Nor pages of sneering cartoons contrasting a macho image with a feeb. Nor pages of “Putin beats Obama”. It has been some time since people gushed over Obama’s “glistening pecs“. It would also go some distance to explain outbursts like “White House criticizes Vladimir Putin’s posture” or flippant – and self-deceiving – dismissals like “regional power acting out of weakness” or “Russia is the outlier“.
A subset of the above is the realisation that the Putin team has out-manoeuvred Washington at every step in the past few years. Washington was not able to overthrow Assad in Syria. The US Navy will not have a base in Sevastopol. Ukraine is a failing nightmare and its chances of joining NATO are probably lower than they were ten years ago. The sanctions regime against Russia has backfired. Russia survives low oil prices. The Moscow-Beijing axis is stronger than ever. Russia is not “isolated”. The Western Alliance is surely weaker than before. And this returns us to the “magical thinking” that we see manifested in Washington’s confused and contradictory utterances.
So abusing Russia satisfies many needs for the American Establishment: a safe opponent to swagger over; a contrast that can be painted as dark as you like; an object of feel-good moral righteousness; a sullen teenager who won’t listen to Daddy; a blank slate on which to write; a pretend enemy we can make a fortune out of; a useful bogeyman to frighten allies into obedience; gossip for pseudo-intellectuals. Many things at once.
But, the cost is rising.
What has changed is the conviction that Russia is a low-cost opponent. It’s very interesting to read things like this “If Russia Started a War in the Baltics, NATO Would Lose — Quickly” and “I am very concerned about the increasing risk of loss of U.S. military technological superiority” from the US defence establishment. Perhaps it’s just an attempt to screw more money out of Congress but these are certainly not things that could have been said in 2000.
It’s amazing the effect that a few insignificant boats in the Caspian Sea had, isn’t it?
His political career has been all about being anti-Chechen. It was Mr Putin who restarted the war against their independence. His coarse but popular slogan was: “We will bomb them even in the crapper.”
Vanora Bennett “Putin’s belligerence will detonate more Chechen bombs” The Times (UK) February 7, 2004
Laziness, mostly. I can’t be bothered to approve them and police them. In any case, most of my things are published on other sites that do allow comments.
The current dramatic economic and social situation in the country is the price, which we have to pay for the economy we inherited from the Soviet Union.
Vladimir Putin “Russia at the turn of the millennium”, 1999
CORRUPTION. Imagine an internationally respected survey showing equal levels of perceived corruption in Russia and the USA. The Ernst and Young 44th Global Fraud Survey finds 34% of Russians and 34% of Americans saying “Yes” to the question “that bribery/corrupt practices happen widely in business in their country” (a bit better than the world average of 39%). (Page 44). Especially interesting given Washington’s proclivity to use corruption accusations as foundations for regime change operations.
RUSSIA INC. We always hear that “Russia is declining“. Well, it isn’t. This from a member of Harvard’s Belfer Center, uses several different measurements to show Russia’s improvements since 2000; during this time most of its competitors have slipped. All pretty evident to commentators not living in Laputa. Speaking of which, some Russian sarcasm: “Backwards Russia under Putin’s Regime“.
NEW LAUNCH PAD. The Vostochniy Kosmodrome in the Amur region in Russia’s Far East just had its first launch. Video shows a brand-new blast deflector pit before it’s all burnt and dirty.
NATO. While a cynic might argue that NATO must return to the more profitable business of keeping the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down because fighting “terrorists” equipped with road-side bombs cannot ensure the retirement emoluments of generals, NATO itself is more sententious: it “safeguard[s] the freedom and security of its members through political and military means“. But a study shows rather little enthusiasm for even the most basic of its original functions: over half the Germans, French and Italians polled don’t want to fight to defend Poland or the Baltics. The authors bemoan this reluctance to rush to the colours at a time, say they, when “the Russian military has begun a campaign of intimidation against its neighbors”. Of course, they cannot imagine the possibility that these citizens simply don’t believe what they are told about Russian “aggression” and all the rest of it. To my mind, all the clatter about “Putin trolls” and Russia’s “information war” – the part of it that is not simply distraction and projection, at least – comes from the realisation the Party Line is not selling very well. In the old days they jammed our broadcasts, we didn’t worry about theirs. I find the poll results rather encouraging.
LATEST FAKE ATROCITY. “MSF says deadly air strike hit Aleppo hospital“. But the Russian MoD has published satellite photos showing the same damage was there a year ago. It’s all lies, propaganda and manipulation. Every now and again, even the tame WMSM admits it. A BBC reporter has quit – she can’t stand it any more. Very fishy story indeed: Kuwaiti incubators all over again.
CRACKS IN THE CARAPACE. Every now and again one can hope. A piece in the Boston Globe argues that conflict with Russia is against the US’ interest. The author says Clinton’s decision to expand NATO – “America’s worst foreign policy choice [after the Iraq invasion] of the post-Cold War era” – “was made haphazardly… He never convened a top-level meeting…” Just as Kennan said – “light-hearted“. And “How NATO became one of the most destructive forces on the planet” in Salon. But these will soon be compensated for by a hundred pieces on Putin’s troll factories or other junk.
UKRAINE. While on the subject of “information warfare”, we learn that Hromadske TV, which describes itself as “a joint project of Ukrainian journalists… objective and unbiased information“, turns out to be almost entirely funded by foreign governments. Wake me when you next see a Western media outlet say “foreign government funded Hromadske TV reported…”. Not Der Spiegel, nor NYT, nor The Guardian. The word громадське means “open” or “public”.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. The Baltic ports are apparently suffering quite badly – and it’s not as if their economies were all that exciting before – from loss of Russian business. The US has a stockpile of unconsumed dairy products because of cheap European imports. Russia has passed the USA as the world’s number one wheat exporter. Russian tourists to Turkey are a tenth of last year. I continue to maintain that the net effect of the sanctions are more damaging to the West than to Russia. The French parliament evidently agrees – it has voted to end them. Not that, in the EU, it will make any difference. Any more than the Dutch referendum – swiftly overruled in parliament – did. Another indication the Official Line isn’t selling well.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada
It is not possible to have a strong state without respect for human rights and freedoms. (Между тем сильное государство немыслимо без уважения к правам и свободам человека.)
Putin address to Federal Assembly, 8 July 2000
Definitely worth a watch. Who says there’s any consistency to American — I hesitate to use the word — policy? Troops, on the other hand, on the ground wearing boots. Not the same thing at all as boots on the ground. Which isn’t happening. Except for a few boots. You figure it out.