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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

I Don't Care "What Putin Wants"

Upgraded and adapted from an exchange in the Moot:

A reader prompts: "The hawks are cheerfully shrieking indeed, but at least some of them make good points: What Putin Wants Shouldn't the West finally get its act together and nip an emergent Ruso-Eurasian power bloc in the bud before Putin's despotism claims another mountain of skulls or a dozen?"

I reply:
Depends on what the "nipping" consists of. Too many variations on the "nipping" available seem to amount to building comparative skull piles. I think Russia should be marginalized economically and diplomatically for behaving badly, kicked out of talks and the G8, assets frozen, boycotts and so on -- moves that would be rendered more forceful the less badly we behave ourselves, by the way -- and encouraged to see how better behavior is better for everybody.
I must say I'm getting nervous about the foregrounding of Putin biography in the building narratives right and left about what is afoot -- I don't doubt that the overabundant majority of political leaders/celebrities are narcissistic to sociopathic (including our own, including our better ones), and hence rather monstrous, but I don't think history is ever properly grasped in terms of a pageant of monsters with superpowers.
Russia is a sprawling corrupt scarcely functional power dependent on ties with the notional representative democracies and seething with stakeholders the dynamics among which are the motor of its politics incomparably more that "what Putin wants." Part of the reason it is now tricky to marginalize Russia is that multilateral diplomacy over Syria, Iran, North Korea, the EU project are already entangled in Russian dynamism in tension with these pre-planetary nationalistic military moves Russia is making in the sphere of its one-time influence as the Soviet Union. That tension is real, and while it is tricky for us, as I said, it's even trickier for a Russia that needs to be more planetary in its politics and knows it even when it is acting otherwise for the cameras. That said, Putin seems to me like the KGB thug he was trained as. Is this news to anyone?
America has no legitimate interest entering into anything like another ruinously costly immoral conflict with a dysfunctional nuclear power because our own hawk thugs have comic book narratives to peddle to make us think their dicks are big. People offering vaguely ominous or heroic insinuations about strength that presumably translate to more than diplomatic and economic marginalizations need to put up or shut up.
I agree that the West needs to get its act together. And the West will finally get its act together when we/they marshal the will to make corporations pay taxes and penalties for their climate crimes and then invest the money in renewable infrastructure to afford a sustainable Western civilization. Eyes on the ball, people.


Esebian said...

That's all fine and dandy, but you must admit Putin and his oligarch cronies hold so much power over the disenfranchised Russian populace stakeholder politics are dead in the water over there. He can wreak a lot of damage if he just so pleases.

How can for example we Europeans transition to green energy if he shuts down the oil and gas and plunges us into a new Great Depression?

Shouldn't we cut off the head of the evil beast and then look how both we and them can survive and prosper? But maybe that's just the childish punish-the-bad-guys part in me speaking.

Dale Carrico said...

I don't want more lives and more commonwealth spent in my name killing bad guys and innocents unlucky enough to be live near bad guys, whether I agree with the prevailing wisdom that they are indeed bad or not (as I do agree Putin is plenty bad). There are always better alternatives. If Europe wants to use Putin as their excuse not to transition into a sustainable civilization they would find another excuse were Putin not available. And I do say that as someone well aware that Europeans are generally well ahead of my own daft fellow citizens and government in working toward that urgent end.