Friday, December 10, 2021


Gary Kasparov over at The Dispatch is pretty vehement about disagreeing with Fox News in general and Tucker Carlson in particular, about Ukraine. For the record, he likes neither what Trump nor Biden nor Obama has done about Putin, and I believe I recall he didn't like what Bush 43 did either. He doesn't have much confidence in Americans getting this right.

The best thing that could be said about Tucker Carlson’s love letter to Vladimir Putin on his show Tuesday is that it didn’t sound any better in the original Russian. It sounded much more like a work of translation than anything original, because we’ve been hearing it all from Russian state TV for years.
I don't pretend to be good at understanding international relations, nor when a firm approach versus a cooperative approach is better in dealing with countries which seem aggressive. I do have a few things worth noting. There is a strain of conservatism that sees Putin as a strong leader whose primary interest is in what is best for Russia, which we should generally respect as a self-interested party we "can do business with," as Margaret Thatcher once said of Gorbachev. If he is ruthless, that is regrettable, but frankly, we've seen worse, and we don't have to get into a standoff over these things. I have no special insight into Vlad, but I think that is never the way to look at dictators. They may start out as concerned primarily for the nation they love, but that goes south, quickly or slowly.  Ceausescu was likely not just blowing smoke when he stated he wanted Romania to be great in the late 60's, and Saddam Hussein was probably sincere in his original desires for Iraq's place in the world. Even those such as Castro, who wanted "the people" to be able to protect themselves from the rapacious capitalists, can be seen as something other than a person with a desire for power. With someone like Hitler it is harder to tell, as he was already paranoid when he started. But certainly his speeches played to that sentiment of Greater Germany, and that is what attracted people.

But unchecked power makes people desirous of control over ever-greater territory, whether the physical terriotry of other people's countries, or the internal territory of the daily lives of citizens, and this leads - inevitably? - to paranoia. Also, people doing everything you say, or even things they think you might have hinted at, or they suspect you will be happily surprised at rather necessarily builds arrogance and entitlement. So I don't buy the idea that Putin is just trying to do what is best for Russia, because his actions against his own people speak against that. He is not merely fending off the implied aggression of NATO, whatever else is motivating him. Russia as a whole tends to be paranoid, in its international affairs, and Putin fits that picture.

I don't know what to do about any of it.  There as been a suggestion that we at least be prepared to use nukes.  Sure, what could possibly go wrong with that?


mc23 said...

Imagine China establishing a military alliance with Mexico or other Central American nations, maybe even with parts of an imaginary Canada that's fragmented in different nations.

I can see Nato expansion being a red line with Russia.

james said...

I don't know exactly what we can do either. I don't know what sort of trade sanctions would be useful, given that fossil fuels are such a huge chunk of Russian exports. Even if the local government was honest (I've heard lots of complaints over the years), it isn't obvious that we could ship them anything useful in significant quantities--we're not exactly neighbors, and our transport capabilities have deteriorated anyway. The Soviets planted lots of Russian colonists--how reliably pro-Russian they are I have no idea, but at least in theory they make the to-be-appropriated territory friendlier; and there's nothing we can do about that either.

Putin, as pointed out, just wants slightly more expanded borders than last year, and than the year before, and ... just like empire-builders from pretty much forever.

A number of our senators and their families would lose a gravy train, and that may make for a push to so something--anything.

If we promised to help the Ukranians, would anybody believe us?

Grim said...

We aren’t going to do anything about it because, in spite or perhaps because of the National Security bureaucracy being focused like a laser on this for years, we are completely out of position to stop it or slow it down. Putin has been slowly reclaiming ‘Russian’ areas that happen to belong to other nations since 2008. He’s got a barely deniable mechanism for doing it that makes it politically feasible to pretend that we don’t all know what he’s doing. He has nukes of his own, so there’s a good reason to try not to notice what he’s up to until ‘it’s too late’ do do anything about it. (The Yes, Minister playbook.)

Obama let Putin waltz into Syria, Crimea and Ukraine, being handcuffed by the need for Russian cooperation to supply the Afghanistan mission. Bush blindly let him take South Ossetia, while a third of the Georgian Army were deployed with us in Iraq.

The only things we might have done were all traded away by the Biden administration, which is now begging Germany to reconsider Nord Stream 2 when we could have left sanctions in place. Now even economic threats are empty because Russia will dominate European energy markets, and thus can muscle its way out.

Narr said...

Remember when Obama/Biden used to sneer and call Putin a loser? Remember when Obama baited Trump at that roast, sooo secure in the knowledge that Trump was a loser? Remember Biden talking about thrashing the cad Trump behind the bleachers? Remember Obama's red lines?

That's the Dims (and most GOPe-dopes). Mouths as big and irresponsible as their egos, and all the strategic acumen of blowfish.

Even if I could be persuaded that Putin represents the sort of threat to us and our interests that so many claim, it's already clear that our ability to do more than posture is about nil.

mc23 brings up a good analogy. I'd wager that if we asked Putin or Xi for advice, they'd suggest that maybe dissolving our Southern border wasn't a good idea.

We've reached the stage of imperial overstretch that Paul Kennedy wrote about in the 80s.

sykes.1 said...

Carlson's monologue on Ukraine is the first and only sane and truthful commentary to appear in the news media.

Korora said...

Would Vlad the Putin or Emperor Winnie the Pooh want to give us good advice, though?

Narr said...

Korora--'twas a joke. Substitute any rational leader of your preference.