from Russia with bias

Yes he can(((

with 13 comments

Putin is great at duping people who say “don’t cry wolves”, me included. Each of his steps is so cautious, well-camouflaged and open to multiple interpretations that many observers fail to register his extremely dangerous overall trajectory. He probes and if he doesn’t meet any resistance, which almost always appears to be the case, he presses on. You can’t really say when exactly he dismantled Yeltsin-era democracy in Russia, but at some point it just became clear as a day. Acting in the same covert manner, he has dismantled the existing world order, but the world is yet to realise that.

The lesson we can learn from Putin is – think the unthinkable. It had been unthinkable he would invade Crimea, yet he did so. It had been unthinkable he’d start a war in Donbass, yet he did that, too. It had been unthinkable he would send regular troops to Ukraine, yet now it is sufficient to shuffle through Russian soldiers’ accounts on social networks or talk to their desperate relatives to figure out where they are and what they’ve been up to in recent weeks.

So it is totally worth acting on the assumption that nothing is inconceivable and whenever you pose a question about Putin’s ability to do something even more evil, the answer is likely to be positive. Yes, he can try to create a land corridor to Crimea by invading swathes of Ukrainian territory. Yes, his troops may march on Odessa and all the way to Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria. Yes, he can send tanks to seize Kiev and keep moving further west. The truth is we don’t really know who this men is and what he wants, whether he is driven by instinct or design, is he sane or suicidal and if there is anyone in his entourage or in Russia as a whole who can stop him.

He won’t tell us, but it is equally conceivable that he has reached the point where he wants to stop. It is quite possible that we should believe the head of the Russian Duma foreign committee Alexei Pushkov when he says that both sides are suffering “war fatigue” and that ceasefire agreements signed in Minsk last week signify “a logical end of the war”. But that already looked like wishful thinking when the rebels started shooting at Ukrainian positions near Mariupol on Saturday night, while the official Twitter feed of self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic @press_dnr announced that a full-out assault on Mariupol was under way.

All in all, Russia has made very little gain in eastern Ukraine – rebels control only parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, there is no land corridor to Crimea, while the settlement plan outlined in Minsk agreements looks suspiciously favourable for Ukraine. Rebel-held territories remain inside the country and there is no  suggestion they’ll get the same rights as, for example Serb-held territories under Dayton agreement in Bosnia. It might be that Putin has just taken a break.

But if that’s not the case, there is no room for complacency. The world was shocked when Russian troops invaded Georgia in 2008. At that time, the Russians could have marched all the way to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, but they stopped short of doing so and agreed to the EU-brokered truce. Was it conceivable at the time that Putin will repeat this adventure on a much grander scale and with a much bigger and stronger ex-USSR country, such as Ukraine? But he did so and there is no guarantee he won’t decide to do something even more unthinkable some years later, even if Ukraine and Russia agree on the terms of permanent settlement now.

Who is Mr Putin? The question asked by a Western journalists when the new Russian leader emerged out of nowhere in 1999 still remains valid. Fifteen years after his sudden ascent to power, political scientists and media commentators still have no language to describe the political system Putin has built. Constant references to KGB, Soviet nostalgia, Russian imperialism, totalitarianism or nationalism are only helping to advance his cause by concealing the regime’s real, non-ideological nature. Putin’s Russia is built on unrestrained greed and the desire of very mediocre, but ruthless people, like himself and those around him, to live above the law and commonly accepted rules of decency. It is a Mafia state covered in moth-eaten and mismatching ideological rags. The culture Putin and his entourage belong to has much more to do with the ganglords of the 1990s than with the Communist leaders or KGB agents of the 1970s. This is reflected in their lifestyle, language and even musical tastes.

The person best suited to explain Putin’s political behaviour would be a conflict expert specialising in the Russian penitentiary system and criminal underworld. This behaviour is characterized by the perpetual brinkmanship, whereby your success is measured by your ability to raise stakes to mind boggling heights without losing nerve. It is also characterised by playing victim in a situation when in fact you are the perpetrator. The latter behavioural strategy lies at the heart of the blatant brainwashing Russian people are currently subject to. Russia is like a Latin American slum ruled by a powerful ganglord. Inside, it feels like a safe and relatively prosperous bubble, as long as you don’t start questioning what makes it safe and how public money is distributed. The outside world is full of enemies and risks – only the boss knows how to deal with them.

Breaking this narrative requires a major effort by the West to reach out directly to the Russian people with a message that would be both a stern warning and an offer of a viable alternative. As the history of Eastern Europe (and not least of Ukraine) shows the only incentive, which makes people rise and kick out rogue regimes, is the prospect of European integration – however remote, but real. But it takes a much more far-sighted and intellectually advanced Western leadership to start talking about integrating Russia. At the moment, the Kremlin is convinced – perhaps rightly – that it is dealing with the weakest set of Western leaders in history.

Written by fullofbias

September 10, 2014 at 8:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

13 Responses

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  1. So far one of the best articles about putin. One thing i don’t get it is that previous dictators such as Hitler and Mao had massive support from local population. Nowadays how is possible that putin has strong internal support considering that people travel more, there is internet , TV, mobile phones and on top of that many Russians have family and friends in Ukraine and other countries abroad.
    Are Russians that gullible?

    Oscar Palmquist

    September 10, 2014 at 9:37 am

    • Thank you! I think Russians are a nation utmostly exhausted by a century of constant trauma, of which the last decade was actually the best years. They feel rejected by Europe and (perhaps rightly) assume that democratization will lead to a major deterioration in quality of life and political destabilization. If the West had a plan for Russia, that would be different.


      September 10, 2014 at 9:47 am

      • Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite. Joseph de Maistre

        hftpm (@hftpm)

        September 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm

  2. He’s a petty autocrat who knows how to be a successful autocrat. Russians live better than they used to and apparently have no inherent yearning for liberty or perhaps just suppressed from 7 decades of totalitarian rule. There have been Putins before and there will be more. Bad guys exist and we are perpetually surprised when they show their true colors. Putin has damaged Russia in more ways than can be counted. Close to pariah status.


    September 10, 2014 at 11:45 am

    • Yes, but they seem to believe their living standard improved because of him? They do not get the fact that it was – above all – the price of oil, low during the era of Yeltsin and high during the era of Putin. But that is changing now with oil price set to fall long term again.


      September 10, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    • Externally, Putin is following the guidance of Lenin perfectly: “Probe with bayonets. If you encounter steel, withdraw. If you encounter mush, continue.”


      September 10, 2014 at 6:52 pm

  3. Sometimes i think that Russians cannot really live in normal, democratic society. They have to be ruled stronghandedly, and they just want to believe to everything that their authorities tell.

    Never Summer

    September 10, 2014 at 3:42 pm

  4. Agree with the first comment. This is the best analysis of Putin I’ve ever read. Well done and best regards from your former colleague!!!

    Goga Vardeli

    September 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm

  5. Leonid — there are many Americans like me who have no interest in fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian, who are awake and aware of Z. Brzezinski and other elitist globalists plans to dismantle Russia dating back to the ‘Grand Chessboard’, who know that the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ on Maidan were murdered by Andre Parubiy’s snipers along with Berkut riot police, that Odessa was a premeditated progrom of anti-Kiev activists shot, stabbed and burned alive with impunity by red-duct tape wearing Right Sector thugs, and that there are real Wolfsangel wearing Nazis in the Azov Battalion who laughbly tell the idiot journalist Simon Ostrovsky that the Wolfsangel stands for the Ukrainian national idea and not the SS.

    I’m going to enjoy your howls when Scotland secedes from the UK, and the EUSSR tyranny starts crumbling with the Greeks, Spaniards, and Hungarians rising up against the pathetic postmodern tyranny in Brussels you think offers the Ukrainian people anything other than more debt and southern European style mass unemployment.

    PS Ukraine has no gas this winter and all that reverse flow crap paying almost the same price to Slovaks or Poles for gas as what Gazprom offered it at won’t work. Enjoy the heating riots in Zaporozhe and Kharkov this winter when Ukraine runs out of natural gas and realizes its ‘ATO’ bombed all the coal mines and coal train bridges in Donbas.

    American Kulak

    September 10, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    • American Kulak, I must admit you are one of the best Kremlin trolls I have read during last months and I have read lots of them. Keep up the good work of spreading Kremlin propaganda.

      Russian Kulak

      September 11, 2014 at 10:06 am

      • Yes, naturally – everyone who simpers that oh, this is just the wisest analysis I have ever read has street cred out the wazoo. Anyone who disagrees must have been paid to do so, because the shining truth is so self-evident. What a simplistic philosophy. The only thing remarkable about it is that is so widespread. Enjoy your fool’s paradise.


        September 12, 2014 at 4:09 am

    • much the way i see it too.. i guess i will be labelled accordingly by the western trolls, lol..


      September 11, 2014 at 6:49 pm

  6. quote from your post: “It is also characterised by playing victim in a situation when in fact you are the perpetrator.” this would describe the usa and europe in equal measure here too..


    September 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm

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