Reading on Russia Roundup: another attempt

Why do I bother trying to resurrect something that clearly is better off dead?

Hulk Smash Stupid Russia Theories (NYU Jordan Russia Center)

The election of Donald Trump is the mother of all American political disasters, a craven, yellow streak down the back of the body politic.  The debasement of public discourse is, at this point, no surprise, but who would have expected it to trickle down to the American media’s coverage of Russia?

As if the 2015 speculation that Putin has Asperger’s weren’t enough, an offhand comment by Henry Kissinger now has pundits turning to Dostoevsky in order to explain the man they so mysteriously find mysterious.  Of course,  it’s wonderful when current events gets people to turn to the classics.  I myself am often inspired by Kissinger’s career to recommend Dr. Strangelove.  And recently, Ani Kokobobo proposed a very intelligent reading of Trump’s rise through the lens of Dostoevsky’s Demons.

But Dostoevsky and Putin? The comparison is both too easy (“He’s Russian, so let’s bring in Dostoevsky”) and too weak.  Dostoevsky famously delves into the inner lives of his characters, providing them a psychological depth that rewards rereading.  The endless speculations about Putin are based on the exact opposite phenomenon: a near-total lack of access to his inner life.

Is a Russian Political Crisis Coming? (Gordon Hahn)

American necons’ and neolibs’ idealism and hubris continue to fog our perceptions of Russian politics. Francis Fukuyama expressed American post-Cold War ideological triumphalism in his The End of History and the Last Man, but upon reexamination he expressed deep regret in regards to his and his neocon comrades’ “naïve super-optimism” about our ability to social engineer in our own image  a world populated by very different national cultures and civilizations. Those who bought and continue to buy into the utility of American foreign supremacy, ubiquity, omniscience, aggressive democracy-promotion and revolutionism are almost bound by their optimism to expect the emergence of color revolutions in countries most opposed to U.S. hegemony.

Russia under President Vladimir Putin is such a country, though it does not seek America’s destruction as many nowadays believe or at least claim. Pro-Western analysts are often misinformed by their hatred of Russia and disinformed by their Western colleagues’ ubiquitous strategic communications operations. Thus, there has been a veritable flood of articles predicting Putin’s death, illness or overthrow produced by such adepts from the ‘Washington consensus,’ as I have detailed elsewhere. According to such writings, Putin should have been six feet under, behind bars, or hanging from a rope on a lamp post long ago. Even the respected Russian analyst Nikolai Petrov predicted the collapse of Putin’s regime by April 2017 – five months from now and counting.

Comic Book Teaches Migrants How to Behave in Moscow (Awful Avalanche)

The Mayor of Moscow has come up with a new way of addressing the problem of migrants.  Like many capital cities of the world, Moscow has a migrant problem.  People flock there, both legally and illegally, in search of jobs.  Often the result is culture clashes, inter-ethnic tensions, and even fights sometimes.

According to this new initiative, by the end of January the Moscow Mayor’s office will begin to disseminate 50,000 copies of a 100-page comic book aimed at an audience of migrants.  The comic book is in Russian, and the drawings are done by certified artists.  This government Purchase Order shows that the municipal government allocated 7 million rubles for this project.

Trump’s Team Looks Smarter on Russia (Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky)

Rex Tillerson made it clear at his confirmation hearing that he is not a fan of Vladimir Putin. That surprised many…

From Obama to Trump: Cold War Averted. What Now? (Nicolai Petro, Center for Citizen Initiatives)

Obama’s foreign policy legacy is marred by the failure to improve relations with Russia. This failure is due primarily to his administration’s inability to envision Russia as anything but an obstacle to U.S. interests. Time and again, at key junctures, his administration failed to provide innovative leadership that might have moved Americans beyond the assumptions of the Cold War, and instead fell back on conventional stereotypes about Russia.

Why the Reset Failed

The “reset” serves as a model for the failure of the entire Russian-American relationship. From its inception the Reset rested on the flawed assumption that there was a rift between the values of the Kremlin and the Russian people that West could exploit. Its object was not to engage Russian officials in an open dialogue about values but instead, as the policy’s chief architect Michael McFaul explained, “to establish a direct relationship with the Russian people” over the Kremlin’s head. [2] As a result a golden opportunity to change the tenor of Russian-American relations by engaging in a real dialogue was lost.

In its fundamental assumptions about Russia, therefore, the Reset was really little more than a variant of containment, the policy that has guided American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union for more than half a century, and that has not been fundamentally challenged in the twenty-five years since its collapse.



One comment

  1. That’s a good batch. Well done, J.T.!

    I’ll try to be brief.

    1) Eliot Borenstein:

    I say this not out of admiration for Putin, whose years in power have set his country on a depressingly authoritarian path, but out of disappointment in writers who equate him with his (admittedly hilarious) SNL caricature.


    SNL also had this in their “Russian portrayal”:

    If you find this “hilarious”, then I assume you are also laughing your ass off at black-face minstrel shows. Because that’s the equivalent to them.

    “…but if you get on his bad side, he has all the finesse of a fleet of fighter jets carpet bombing Indochina.”

    Good boychik! Never dare to say the dreaded word VietNam – or your readers might be triggered.

    2) Gordon Hahn.

    “Even the respected Russian analyst Nikolai Petrov predicted the collapse of Putin’s regime by April 2017 – five months from now and counting”

    Petrov was never a “respected” analyst. Just another flunkey, who are dime for a dozen in the Jean Jaques caffe, or in the Higher School of Economy. They (and their Ukrian analogues) are dutifully predicting Russia’s collapse because this is what the West want to hear – this feeds Western ego, and helps to pay for meatballs and Byelorussian sea-food (and occasionally smuggled slab of hole jamon) for the kreaklian masses. Lev Nathanovich Sharansky every other week has a blogpost beginning with now traditional “Падение режима неизбежно…”.

    “…it is likely to come after 2020 when Putin already will have been re-elected and inaugurated as Russia’s president in 2018 with four more years to go before he is faced with the prospect of another ‘operation successor’ as he did in 2011-12.”

    Russian presidential term is 6 years, not 4.

    “In society, civil society is too weak and divided to mount a challenge to the present regime, without a major catalytic event.”

    Correction – the civil society is only now emerging. Strangely enough, it didn’t form during the Blessed 90s of the unrestricted democracy. And as it emerges, don’t count on it to be a copy of the Western liberal one.

    “There is little to no significant willingness to participate in political protests against the system.”

    Since when a protest against the government had become a chief trait of the “civil society”?

    3) Bershidsky.

    “A negotiating process based on clearly drawn lines, which are backed by readiness to apply force, is not equal to support for Putin’s human rights abuses and cross-border escapades. It can’t be the beginning of a beautiful friendship; there are too many deeply rooted differences. But it can be the start of a more realistic, more predictable relationship — the best both nuclear powers can hope for given their current irreconcilable differences of ideology.”

    True. But a borderline heresy for any faithful neocon/neolib. Because Russia is an “existential threat” to them. We are simply not allowed to exist. Anything less in the foreign policy smacks of appeasement to them. Thanks largely to such propacondoms like Bershidsky himself.

    4) Nicolai Petro.

    Bravo! A thorough grilling of this Clintonite silliness aka “Peregruzka”.

    Still, the author shies away from dropping some anvils – which should be dropped. Pray tell me, who benefited more from the Reset? The USA got the New START Treaty, the northern distribution network feeding NATO supplies into Afghanistan, a U.N. sanctions regime on Iran, delaying the S-300 sale to Iran, abstention on the Libya resolution in the UN. Security Council, counterterrorism cooperation, etc. What did we, Russians, got from that deal? Dima Medvedev got a new iPhone and ate burgers and fries with Obama – oh, how adorable!.. What did *we* got? Nothing.

    In fact, the silent agreement of Medvedev and his Kremlin based liberals to allow Libya’s rapine is what ensued their downfall and Putin’s return. No more liberal experiments, no. The moment this happens, the West thinks they’ve found a new Gorby, who will become their yes-man for a bunch of glass beads. Not anymore. That’s why we are enemies – because we refuse to fit into the American World Order (and Biden was basically saying just that at Davas, only replacing “American” with “Liberal” – but we got the message).

    Look, when all is said and done – we won’t be allies and friends. Not now. Maybe, much, much later. So how about just giving each other a couple of years of toning down the aggressive rhetoric, before IT hits the fan?

    Liked by 1 person

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