Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 28, 2018

Russia Without Putin

Filed under: Counterpunch,Russia — louisproyect @ 5:05 pm

For the longest time Vladimir Putin has assumed the role of an Ian Fleming super-villain in the imaginations of both liberal and neoconservative pundits. Like one of those well-worn set pieces in a James Bond novel, he sits opposite our British super-spy in a chess game with the world hegemony awarded to the winning side. Or in the case of a draw, multipolarity.

Any book on Putin and Russia that departs from these stereotypes would be most welcome. When it turns out to be a first-rate Marxist analysis, it should be added to your must-read list for 2019. The good news is that book has arrived in the form of Tony Wood’s Russia Without Putin: Money, Power and the Myths of the New Cold War, a ground-breaking study that departs from the lurid personality-driven narratives that are the stock-in-trade of MSNBC or the Washington Post. Additionally, for those on the left whose ideas are shaped by Stephen F. Cohen’s pro-Putin apologetics, the book will serve as a wake-up call to return to a class rather than a chess analysis. If Rachel Maddow is for the chess-master playing white, there is no reason to uncritically root for who is playing black. In keeping with the palette analogy, it is worth recalling Lenin’s citation of Mephistopheles’s words from Goethe’s Faust in his 1917 Letter on Tactics: “Theory, my friend, is grey, but green is the eternal tree of life.”

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  1. I must say that I am rarely as disappointed in Counterpunch articles than I was with yours. I don’t doubt that looking at Putin, and Russia, through a ‘class’ lens, is useful, nor do that there may be some useful aspects to the book that you have reviewed. But the way in which you go about hyping the book reveals both an apparent bias, and lack of understanding of recent, related events.

    I’m not going to spend time on any remotely comprehensive critique, but when you say things such as:

    “…for those on the left whose ideas are shaped by Stephen F. Cohen’s pro-Putin apologetics…”

    your bias is clearly evident. If you disagree with Cohen’s views, then let’s see some substance, rather than weak ad hominem attacks.

    Then this:

    “…For those accustomed to the idea that Putin’s scorched earth tactics in Syria…”

    “scorched earth tactics”? Say what? In stark contrast to the U.S., Russia was (and remains) in Syria LEGALLY. The Russians were extremely effective at combating ISIS. Putin deftly outmaneuvered the U.S., though to be fair, that’s not so difficult to do these days militarily, and prevented both the U.S. and Israel from obtaining their prized objectives.

    And finally:

    “Was flying the Russian flag over Crimea worth the sanctions imposed by the West? It may have solidified Putin’s voting base but only in the short term. If the price of oil takes another steep dive, the patriotic fervor so integral to Putin’s popularity might dive alongside it.”

    Wait – you imagine that Putin had a viable option? Are you not at all familiar with the history of Crimea?

    Comment by Tinky — December 28, 2018 @ 8:56 pm

  2. Of course I am familiar with the history of Crimea: https://louisproyect.org/2014/03/23/snapshots-of-crimean-tatar-history/

    As for Cohen, there was no point in spending 200 words or so to demonstrate how he serves the Kremlin’s repression at home and abroad. Here is my case against him, although I doubt it would make any difference to you: https://louisproyect.org/2014/05/02/stephen-f-cohen-is-not-the-man-he-used-to-be/

    Comment by louisproyect — December 29, 2018 @ 12:54 pm

  3. Thanks for the link, but it essentially serves to reinforce my initial criticism.

    You launch yet another ad hominem attack (a pattern developing?):

    “So with those memories, I was terribly disappointed to hear Cohen making the case for Putin the other night on George Noory’s “Coast to Coast” radio show on WOR, an AM talk radio station in NY that is now home to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. There was a time when Cohen’s usual venue was someplace like the PBS News Hour or Charlie Rose. How the mighty have fallen.”

    then complain about Cohen’s use of the word “collapse” to describe the events of 1917. Now, I’m no historian, but even if your point is accurate (setting aside that the word is also used in Wikipedia and other sources), it would be very weak tea at best.

    In summary, if that linked article is your “case” against Cohen, then I can quite confidently rest my case.

    Comment by Tinky — December 29, 2018 @ 5:22 pm

  4. I think we have differences on the term “ad hominem”. In my view, George Noory’s show is the last place for a serious historian to appear. Every night, it is devoted to UFOs, ESP, witchcraft, creationism, and all other manner of balderdash. If pointing this out is an “ad hominem” attack, I plead guilty.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 29, 2018 @ 5:30 pm

  5. I appreciate the dialogue, but surely you can understand the important distinction between the substance of a person’s political argument(s), and the clothes that they wear, the music that they like, or their favorite baseball team. The fact that Cohen appeared on a forum that you disapprove of is equally irrelevant to the substance of his political views.

    He writes for The Nation, appears on The Real News network, CNN, etc., yet you are dismissing his views on the basis of him having appeared (once, presumably) on a forum that happens to also cover topics that are widely considered to be radical? And you don’t see how that is equivalent to an ad hominem attack?

    I’m not trying to argumentative, but rather to understand if you actually have any substantial reasons for dismissing Cohen’s views own Russia and Putin. And the answer, at least thus far, is a resounding “no”.

    Comment by Tinky — December 29, 2018 @ 5:49 pm

  6. You are probably not as familiar with Cohen as I am. In fact, he never writes articles nowadays. Every single thing he has “written” for the Nation was transcribed from his appearances on the John Batchelor show. Batchelor is an ultrightist who in all the years he has been on the air has hardly ever had a Black guest. In addition, he is a fanatical supporter of Israel who broadcasted there when the IDF was bombing schools and homes in Gaza. He cheered Israel on. Cohen has focused almost exclusively on Ukraine in these appearances, repeating Kremlin propaganda. In fact, Russia has oppressed Ukrainians since the days of Catherine the Great and Cohen’s arguments are consistent with the Great Russian Chauvinism Lenin denounced. I am not sure you know much of anything about Ukraine but it would behoove you to do some reading before proceeding much further.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 29, 2018 @ 5:55 pm

  7. Well, you’re nothing if not consistent, at least with respect to ad hominem attacks. Need I really point out that Batchelor’s views and behavior are utterly irrelevant to Cohen’s views on Russia? Or that making the claim that someone is “repeating Kremlin propaganda” is not a serious form of criticism?

    With regard to Cohen’s views on Ukraine, while it is refreshing to see you actually bring the (central) topic into the conversation, if you could offer at least one or two specific criticisms, then we’ll finally be getting somewhere.

    Comment by Tinky — December 29, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

  8. Of course it is relevant. Part of the rightwing, especially those figures aligned with Trump, are pro-Putin. Max Blumenthal goes on Tucker Carlson to denounce Mueller’s investigation as McCarthyite and Cohen goes on another rightwing talk show to say the same thing.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 29, 2018 @ 8:07 pm

  9. Regarding Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. There is one, and only one major reason for this which for some extraordinary reason most of the commentators have omitted to point out.
    Militarily it has to remain in Russia’s hands because it is their only warm water port and is therefore of major strategic importance providing them with a gateway to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

    Comment by David McCaffrey — December 29, 2018 @ 11:40 pm

  10. Wait – you consider Max Blumenthal to be a “right wing” figure?!

    Comment by Tinky — December 29, 2018 @ 11:58 pm

  11. Obviously not, except for the pro-Putin, pro-Assad stuff.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 30, 2018 @ 12:00 am

  12. Nearly nothing here is accurate—a facile analysis befitting something from the american MSM (see New Left Review Nov 2015) for example

    Comment by yuri — December 30, 2018 @ 12:25 pm

  13. Yuri, there is no limit on words here. I imagine you are talking about the Szelenyi article but other than that I have no clue what your point is.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 30, 2018 @ 5:09 pm

  14. #9 (David)

    Yes, that was the basis of my original question.

    #11 (Louis)

    Again, I give you credit for patiently engaging critics on your own blog. But having said that, I have now given you numerous opportunities to provide a substantial criticism of Cohen’s position on Putin/Russia re: Ukraine, and you have failed to do so. Cohen backs up his positions with facts and cogent arguments, and I am still waiting for you to do the same.

    Comment by Tinky — December 30, 2018 @ 5:37 pm

  15. David,

    Sorry to butt in here … But, am I correct in understanding your point being that if Crimea was part of the Russian empire in the past, then it should return to the Russians? Is that what you’re saying?

    If so, as an Iranian, I’m all the way with you: Let’s bring back the Persian Empire!

    While we’re at it, let’s bring back the British Empire, the Habsburg Empire … Hell, let’s go all the way, bring back the Holy Roman Empire!

    But, I may be jumping to conclusions here regarding what you actually meant.

    Comment by Reza — December 30, 2018 @ 6:12 pm

  16. Tinky, my reference to Cohen consisted of a single sentence. The article was not intended to analyze his position on Russia. I have written many words on Cohen but there was no reason to recapitulate them in my review of Tony Wood’s book. In any case, if you google “Louis Proyect” and “Stephen F. Cohen”, you will find plenty of references to my fact-checking of Cohen, including this one: https://louisproyect.org/2014/07/23/stephen-f-cohen-on-the-2001-ukrainian-shoot-down-of-a-civilian-airliner/

    Comment by louisproyect — December 30, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

  17. <blockquoteThe fact that Cohen appeared on a forum that you disapprove of is equally irrelevant to the substance of his political views.

    When a figure of any alleged intellectual repute (e.g. Max Blumenthal appearing on Fucker Snarlson) appears in a forum conducted by a right-wing sociopath, the fact that he or she lends his or her repute to the sociopath is unmistakable and it is not “ad hominem” to comment on it. These are not disinterested fora for pure research.

    It is profoundly–indeed, contemptibly–dishonest to suggest otherwise.

    “Warm water port” my ass. The question is whether the Ukraine has the right to national self-determination. Or is the gangster Putin only searching for his lost rubber duckie?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — January 3, 2019 @ 6:43 pm

  18. “The question is whether the Ukraine has the right to national self-determination.”

    That is exactly the question that these guys are not ready to answer in the affirmative. They think Self-Determination is OK only when we like their politics. If we don’t, they have no such rights.

    Sad really how the ‘left’ can sound just like the imperialist right.

    Look, people have a right to self-determination even if they want to go the fascist route. It’s up to the people of the said nation to sort that out.

    Tinky and David types have no problems with a theocratic dictatorship in Iran (for example) having the right to self-determination (even if Iran’s regime is raping and pillaging other nations in the neighborhood), but Ukraine doesn’t have that right. They can’t even apply the same standards for who can apply for this Self-Determination thing.

    If we reject the Right to Self-Determination for anybody (because the said people are acting contrary to our political liking), we are creating a two-tier system. Nations that have that right, and nations that don’t.

    But, that is exactly the logic of imperialism! Some nations (the U.S., Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, etc.) have a right to declare ‘spheres of influence’ (meaning, “We can violate any nation any time we deem necessary”) and other nations have fewer rights than others. Anybody who goes along with this logic is going along with imperialist logic. Simple.

    David, Tinky, you guys are a bunch of imperialist dick suckers. Fuck you and the Ford Pinto you drove in on.

    Farans, man, Happy New Year, brother!

    Comment by Reza — January 4, 2019 @ 1:56 am

  19. Farans–

    “These are not disinterested fora for pure research.” LMAO! Please do name a few of those, presumably on which your preferred observers appear.

    ” The question is whether the Ukraine has the right to national self-determination.”

    And you imagine that Putin is solely, or even largely responsible for that problem?

    Reza –

    You don’t have the slightest clue about my views (or those of David, for that matter) beyond those expressed specifically on this thread. And, as it happens, your conjecture is laughably wrong.

    You obviously also lack any trace of class.

    Comment by Tinky — January 4, 2019 @ 4:18 pm

  20. I apologize to Louis for using ‘low class’ language.

    Tinky, Exhibiting crass language may prove lack of class. However, exhibiting supportive language for tyrants (under the guise of “access to warm water”, what a joke!) proves lack of humanity. I’ll take “low class”.

    Comment by Reza — January 4, 2019 @ 5:43 pm

  21. Putin is a “tyrant”? The only people who use such over-the-top language are propagandists.

    As to your “warm water” nonsense:

    a) I never used the phrase

    b) Sevastopol is obviously important to Russia’s navy, and they have a legitimate lease that expires in 2042

    Comment by Tinky — January 4, 2019 @ 7:45 pm

  22. “Sevastopol is obviously important to Russia’s navy, and they have a legitimate lease that expires in 2042”

    So, having a legitimate navy base (in Ukraine’s Crimea) makes it OK to annex an entire region of another country in violation of international law. Hmm … I’m pretty sure that’s imperialism. That’s aggression. That’s tyranny. I don’t even need to bring up the murders of journalists and opposition figures in Russia (I’m afraid you’d find an excuse for that too!).

    If the U.S. pulls the same annexation move on Japan’s Okinawa (where the U.S. has legitimate military bases), I doubt you’d call it ‘legitimate’. Or, even closer to home, maybe you would support a U.S. annexation of the region surrounding Guantanamo Bay in Cuba?

    You’re just an imperialist at heart, man. You think imperialism is just the foreign policy of certain countries, and not a world system.

    Comment by Reza — January 4, 2019 @ 8:40 pm

  23. Your arguments cannot be taken seriously when you make absurd, and obviously false equivalencies between the U.S. and Russia. The latter was reacting DEFENSIVELY to raw U.S./NATO aggression, while the U.S. has engaged in rank worldwide imperialism for many decades. Furthermore, the “annexation” of Crimea, a country that was a part of Russia for a very long period of time, was done with the support of the wide support of a population.

    Comment by Tinky — January 5, 2019 @ 10:16 am

  24. Furthermore, the “annexation” of Crimea, a country that was a part of Russia for a very long period of time, was done with the support of the wide support of a population.

    You don’t seem capable of understanding how this took place. Catherine the Great and subsequent Russian heads of state, including Stalin, colonized the Ukraine and the Tatar-majority Crimea with Russian-speakers. China has done the same thing with Xinjiang. I deal with all this here: https://louisproyect.org/2014/03/23/snapshots-of-crimean-tatar-history/. This is now the second time I have drawn your attention to this article that you seem averse to reading, like a vampire’s fear of garlic.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 5, 2019 @ 2:02 pm

  25. “The latter [Russia] was reacting DEFENSIVELY to raw U.S./NATO aggression.”

    First it was access to warm waters, then the legitimate navy base, and now it’s all defensive. In all cases, you agree (assume, take it for granted) that some nations are lesser-nations and can be invaded and parts (or all) of them can be annexed at will. That’s the logic of imperialism. You can’t weasel your way out of this, Tinky.

    You either support the idea that ALL nations are equal, regardless of size, proximity or distance to bigger powers, religion, language or whatever. Or, you’re an imperialist. The Japanese imperialists used your exact logic to invade and occupy parts of China, under the guise of keeping Asia free of Europeans. It was “defensive”!

    Comment by Reza — January 5, 2019 @ 5:29 pm

  26. Louis –

    We’re discussing Putin and contemporary Russia. There has been a large percentage of “Russians” inhabiting Crimea for over 100 years, and a huge majority for over 70 years. Those facts are clearly relevant to the context of the recent annexation.

    Reza –

    It appears that you are unable to form anything close to a reasonable analogy, and your black and white understanding of the issue is an impediment to useful discourse. There are important matters of degree, and if you cannot understand why, for example, it is far more urgent that the world rid itself of American imperialism than the minuscule Russian version, I see no point in further discussion.

    Comment by Tinky — January 5, 2019 @ 6:15 pm

  27. Of course it is relevant. Russia sees Ukraine in the same way that JFK saw Cuba. Just because Russia has been much less of a colonizing power than the USA, that does not mean that the left should support it bullying weaker nations on its periphery.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 5, 2019 @ 6:33 pm

  28. “Your black and white understanding of the issue is an impediment to useful discourse.”

    All you’ve done is throw up a bunch of evasions, which indicate to me that you are just trying to weasel your way out of this.

    And your patronizing tone tells me you must be a white male from European descent, who thinks you should lecture lesser people from Eye-ran. I won’t repeat my “no class” suggestion, but you’d have deserved it if I did.

    Comment by Reza — January 5, 2019 @ 9:56 pm

  29. Louis –

    Unlike Reza, I appreciate your ability to stay on topic, and avoid (revealing) personal attacks.

    I’m glad to see that we agree that contemporary Russia, in terms of imperialism, is not remotely comparable to the U.S. However, you can surely see how the Cuba comparison falls somewhat flat, given that it shares none of the deep connections with the U.S. that Crimea does with Russia.

    Reza –

    I don’t give a fuck if you’re from Pluto, and the fact that you imagine that I do reveals a form of insecurity that apparently further distorts your ability to argue cogently.

    In any case, if you really had a serious argument to make, you wouldn’t resort to sophomoric ad hominem attacks. So why don’t you piss off, and allow Louis and I to continue our useful dialogue.

    Comment by Tinky — January 6, 2019 @ 11:54 am

  30. However, you can surely see how the Cuba comparison falls somewhat flat, given that it shares none of the deep connections with the U.S. that Crimea does with Russia.

    May I remind you that based on your logic, Israel has the right to the land it currently occupies.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 6, 2019 @ 1:52 pm

  31. Tinky,

    I was going to piss off, but …

    Before doing that, I wanted to present a very simple principle, which I did, and which you refuse to engage. The principle is that ALL nations are equal and no nation-state has a right to invade, occupy and annex any other nation or any part of it.

    Do you agree with this principle or not? It’s a simple yes/no question.

    Comment by Reza — January 6, 2019 @ 5:44 pm

  32. Tinky,

    I may seem lacking in class to you, but we the Iranian people know Russian imperialism like you’d never know it. That’s because we were neighbors for hundreds of years. If you want to know an imperialist power, you’d have to have taken the shaft from it. Just like you don’t know a slave-owner unless you’ve been a slave. And we have taken the shaft from Russian imperialism for two hundred years.

    If you are sincere, and if you don’t assume you know everything, you may want to educate yourself on the following two treaties forced on Iran by Russia, one from 1813 and from 1828:
    1) Treaty of Gulistan (1813) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Gulistan), by which Russia took out huge sections of northwestern Iran, through war, and a treaty by which Russia got the exact terms that a colonialist/imperialist power would exact from a dominated nation.
    2) Likewise with the Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Turkmenchay)

    I tried in three different iterations to get an answer from you on a universal principle of ‘Right of Nations to Self-Determination’. You got hung up on the analogies, making them into excuses to not answer a basic question.

    This is the last time I’ll ask. Do you believe in the Right of Nations to Self-Determination?

    This issue *IS* a black and white issue. Some issues may not be so black and white. But, this one IS! There are only two possible answers here. What is yours?

    Comment by Reza — January 6, 2019 @ 11:42 pm

  33. Reza –

    Sure, in a perfect world. But we live in a world that, as you obviously know, is not remotely close to perfect, and as such, I tend to think about these kind of issues in a less idealistic manner. Of course I don’t approve of what happened to Iran in the 1800s, any more than I approve of the Native Americans or Aborigines having had their land stolen from them. But there is zero chance that parts of Iran, or Australia, or the U.S., or countless other countries, all of which were taken by force, will be returned to the descendants of those who had a legitimate claim.

    I am not a reflexive defender of Russia or Putin, but relative to the U.S., their contemporary imperialism is trivial. In fact, it has been largely, if not exclusively defensive in nature.

    It isn’t relevant to discuss what happened 200 years ago when we are discussing Putin, and contemporary politics and foreign policies.

    Louis –

    I’m afraid that I don’t see how Israel and Palestine are analogous to Russia and Crimea. Please elaborate.

    Comment by Tinky — January 7, 2019 @ 1:14 am

  34. Crimea was deluged with Russian settlers under Catherine the Great. The Czars that came after her continued the practice. So did Stalin when he wasn’t busy expelling all the Tatars from Crimea during WWII. Probably the Zionists got their ideas about ethnic cleansing from Stalin, especially since he was a key supporter of the formation of the Zionist state.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 7, 2019 @ 1:46 am

  35. Tinky, Thank you for answering the question.

    In reply: In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need the Rights of Nations to Self-Determination. It would be a perfect world.

    I’m not being facetious. It is exactly in THIS world that we need to recognize and support the right of nations to self-determination. It is a principle created exactly for the age of imperialism. Not for a perfect world.

    Thank you again for clarifying your position.

    Comment by Reza — January 7, 2019 @ 3:29 am

  36. Reza –

    Thank you for ratcheting down the rhetoric. I see your point, but again, it seems to me that prioritizing is unavoidable, and that fretting about Russia’s (largely) defensive actions on its borders, while the U.S. maintains 800 military bases in 70 countries around the world, is a very poor allocation of resources.

    Many of the related problems worldwide are either directly or indirectly related to the U.S., and so the potential for support in your quest is vastly greater. I’m not suggesting that Russia’s actions aren’t meaningful, nor that Crimea’s independence wouldn’t be preferable, but relative to the carnage caused by the U.S. it really is a trivial issue.

    Louis –

    Interesting, thanks. I am entirely sympathetic to the Palestinians, and consider their plight to be far worse, at least in a contemporary context, than that of the Crimeans. Though I don’t deny the importance of understanding history, I see Gordian knots all over the world in terms of how lands were conquered, re-conquered, settled, and re-settled. So I am not convinced that going back more than a few decades while attempting to address contemporary problems is likely to prove useful.

    In any case, thanks again for the respectful dialogue. I will keep an eye on your blog and am sure to learn more.

    Comment by Tinky — January 7, 2019 @ 11:15 am

  37. Tinky,
    There are a couple of points I’d like to highlight, now that we’re having a conversation.

    1) Things that happened two hundred years ago didn’t just disappear. Historical events that shape the course of the development of social formations don’t just lose their ability to shape future developments after a few years or even decades. Historical events have cumulative and very long-term effects.

    A great example is the 1953 CIA coup that overthrew our democratically elected prime minister. Now, in the overall scheme of things, you’d think that a mere coup (among many tens of others around the world) shouldn’t have had that much of an effect. But in fact, it did have a huge impact that continues to shape our historical development to this day. This goes to your point about American imperialism being very vicious. I agree.

    But, I was trying to point out that long before the U.S. got involved in our affairs, the Russians had been driving the shaft for a much longer time. Russian aggression and imperialist moves against Iran basically de-developed Iranian society, the effects of which we witness to this day, in the economic structures that were shaped, making dealing in trade the dominant mode of earning a profit (buying and selling things) as opposed to investing in productive industries.

    2) Although it is true that currently the U.S. imperialism has been the dominant one for the past century (give or take a decade), other imperialisms have been around for long. Imperialism, in my efficient definition, is simply a system in which you are either the under-dog or the top-dog. And there are only two choices; something the Japanese, for example, well understood once they decided to ‘open up’ to the rest of the world. Their first outings were attacking, occupying and eventually colonizing Korea and parts of China.

    So, there can be *more than one* top dog. Societies and countries have for long been the targets of a more powerful neighbor. So, in the age of capitalistic imperialism (as opposed to imperialism based on mercantile or slavery systems of extraction of value), the same thing applies.

    Whoever can push around whomever will do so. If Iran can push their weight around in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan, they’ll do that and claim the top dog position in that little corner of the world. They used to push around far more people a couple of thousand years ago, and I’m sure all those people would love to see the backs of the Persians doing it again. If Russia can push around people in Ukraine or Chechnya, or Syria they’ll do that too.

    The point being that, you can’t go relativistic on this. You are being relativistic from your own particular point of view, in my humble opinion. Everybody’s pains and sufferings are important and matter. Once you start assigning levels of importance to different people’s suffering, you’ve begun acting unjustly.

    Apologies for the long-windedness. And thank you for pushing me to be more civil and more productive.

    Comment by Reza — January 8, 2019 @ 12:41 am

  38. Reza –

    Regarding #1, I agree with you, but it is a bit of a straw man, as I never suggested that historical events were not important in terms of shaping current affairs. However, even if, for example, I were to accept your understanding of early Russian imperialism as it relates to Iran, and I have no reason not to, it doesn’t strike me as being particularly relevant to contemporary Russia, or to Putin’s actions. Russia is not in any meaningful sense an expansionist imperial power at this stage, and Putin has wisely been focussing on strengthening internal fundamentals, and positioning the country to be as self-sufficient as possible. If it weren’t for naked U.S. aggression, Crimea wouldn’t have been an issue, either.

    As to your second point, I agree that, as you put it, everybody’s pains and sufferings are important and matter. However, while I have sympathy for the minority of Crimeans who are not ethnically Russian, and who are understandably unhappy with recent events, it would be actually be more logical for them to direct their resentment towards the U.S. and NATO, for reasons that we have discussed.

    I am not attempting to completely excuse national aggression, but very much like individuals (human or animal) who/which are typically non-violent, when cornered, their behavior can be expected to change.

    I don’t buy for a second Israel’s claims of “self-defense”, and for reasons that I expect you will find obvious. Nor do I consider the U.S. national “defense” to be anything other than an Orwellian euphemism for “offense”. But in Russia’s case, given the actions of the U.S. and NATO over the past couple of decades, I genuinely don’t see how they could have reasonably responded otherwise after the coup in Ukraine.

    I do also agree with you that countries with the most power tend to aggressively expand their spheres of influence. But rather than assigning different values to those who are suffering (which I have not done), I am simply pointing out that from a practical standpoint, reducing the influence of, or forcing changes in U.S. foreign policy would have by far the greatest practical impact on the dynamic to which you are so sensitive.


    Comment by Tinky — January 8, 2019 @ 2:41 pm

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