Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Why This Idolisation of Putin?

 

shutterstock_181590386I chose that word carefully: idolisation. We in the West are enthusiastically and appropriately critical of our own leaders. That is fair enough, given the amount of ammunition with which they provide us. But we seem to view the enemies of the West as super-beings, chess masters in a real world board game.

Based on much of the media coverage, you’d think that Vladimir Putin has manipulated things ever so cleverly, whereas the reality is that he has messed up big time.

Yes, he now has Crimea, but that is a consolation prize for what he lost: the rest of Ukraine. Go back a couple of years, what did he have then?

He had a puppet government in Ukraine, or, at the least, a very malleable one. He could turn the stopcocks on the gas pipelines whenever they seemed a touch uppity. What Putin wanted, Putin got.

But he overreached. He forced the Ukrainian President to go back on a planned agreement with the EU and, instead of bending the country to his will, his puppet was overthrown and he lost the whole country. He has seized some of it back — Crimea — but this was a crude attempt to salvage something from a plan gone badly awry.

He seems to be hesitating, now, on the subversion in eastern Ukraine. Europe is planning to provide energy support to Ukraine. Capital flight from Russia is estimated as approaching a quarter of a trillion dollars. That comes to more than 10 percent of the annual GDP of the nation.

Our democratic leaders certainly have plenty of flaws, but so do authoritarian ones. It’s just that they are not so readily pointed out.

There are 32 comments.

  1. Jason Rudert Member

    Good point, SD. I think part of it is the idolization of power that’s all too prevalent here. The fascination with Putin is of a piece with Thomas Friedman and Barack Obama saying that they’d love to see the US run the way China is, you know, just for a month or so.

    • #1
    • May 9, 2014, at 6:32 AM PST
    • Like
  2. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    Stephen Dawson: He forced the Ukraine President to go back on a planned agreement with the EU, and instead of having Ukraine behave, his puppet was overthrown and he lost the whole country.

     The reason Putin forced Ukraine to reject the EU deal is that had the agreement gone through Ukraine would have been more closely integrated into Europe. This sort of thing is zero-sum game. If Ukraine was more closely tied to Europe it would be less in the Russian sphere of influence. This wouldn’t have changed things dramatically overnight, but after a decade or two of integrating into Europe Ukraine would no longer be under Russia’s thumb.

    Putin recognized this and is playing a long game. While he would undoubtedly have preferred for the Yanukovych to remain in power and the entirety of Ukraine to remain a Russian satellite, having the entirety of Ukraine integrated into Europe would have been bade enough to justify the risk.

    • #2
    • May 9, 2014, at 6:42 AM PST
    • Like
  3. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    As things stand, I don’t think Putin’s done all that badly. He’s taken the Crimea (which is of vital strategic importance to Russia) and may well take Eastern and Southern Ukraine, leaving Kiev the capital of a landlocked rump state which can be European without causing problems.

    • #3
    • May 9, 2014, at 6:42 AM PST
    • Like
  4. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    Stephen Dawson: I chose that word carefully: idolisation. We in the West are enthusiastically and appropriately critical of our own leaders. Which is fair enough, given the amount of ammunition with which they provide us. But we seem to view the enemies of the West as super-beings, chess masters in a real-world board game.

     I don’t see much “idolization” of Putin. I would characterize the sentiment you call idolization as a recognition that Putin has, thus far, been much more successful at pursuing his goals than have his opponents. It’s true that Putin has not been without missteps, but compared to Obama’s almost superhumanly effete approach to foreign policy he does appear to be a chess master playing on a global board.

    • #4
    • May 9, 2014, at 6:51 AM PST
    • Like
  5. Franco Member

    I don’t really know enough about the politics of this, but I do agree that our media makes our enemies/rivals into real-life Bond villans, with every new development evidence of the consummation of their evil master plan. Come to think of it, the Koch brothers are thought of that way too.

    • #5
    • May 9, 2014, at 7:11 AM PST
    • Like
  6. Guruforhire Member

    Maybe he only really wanted Crimea due to cultural heritage and a strong domestic bond with it that pre-existed the concept of Ukraine.

    Sometimes its not about us, or even international politics.

    • #6
    • May 9, 2014, at 7:32 AM PST
    • Like
  7. Seawriter Member

    Russia is not now a superpower. Strategypage states it could be if it reassembled Rubik’s cube (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. This is long-term Russian goal (the article linked was written in 2004). Russia is accomplishing the most difficult step – reabsorbing Ukraine. (Belarus would welcome reunion once Russia has a land bridge, and Kazakhstan’s geography mean once Ukraine and Belarus again are part of Russia Kazakhstan can easily be scooped up.

    Was Russia’s seizure of Crimea part of a deep-laid plan. Not really. It was an opportunistic move on Putin’s part, to distract attention from domestic problems. An analogy is Argentina’s seizure of the Falklands in 1982. I suspect Putin was as surprised as anyone at his own success.

    What it has done is reveal the weakness of the US, the EU, and NATO. Firm action before Russian intervention – movement of a US Army Airborne Battalion to Kiev – would have deterred Putin from grabbing Crimea. Now? He feels he might as well keep pushing.

    Note he has not moved Russian tanks into Ukraine. The reason? The Russian Army lacks the readiness. Putin depends on Western irresolution for his prize.

    Seawriter

    • #7
    • May 9, 2014, at 8:01 AM PST
    • Like
  8. Carey J. Inactive

    Guruforhire:

    Maybe he only really wanted Crimea due to cultural heritage and a strong domestic bond with it that pre-existed the concept of Ukraine.

    Sometimes its not about us, or even international politics.

    Putin has never struck me as the sentimental type. His pissing and moaning about the poor ethnic Russians is the same sort of trash Hitler talked about the Sudetenland. 

    • #8
    • May 9, 2014, at 8:02 AM PST
    • Like
  9. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    Guruforhire:

    Maybe he only really wanted Crimea due to cultural heritage and a strong domestic bond with it that pre-existed the concept of Ukraine.

    Sometimes its not about us, or even international politics.

    The concept of the Ukraine is centuries old.

    I agree that it isn’t about us, but it is about strategic interest.

    • #9
    • May 9, 2014, at 8:06 AM PST
    • Like
  10. Done Contributor

    I would comment here, but Sal has covered everything I would have said.

    Instead I will juggle chain saws for the next few minutes for everyone’s entertainment.

    • #10
    • May 9, 2014, at 8:47 AM PST
    • Like
  11. John H. Member

    Exercising comparable care, I hope, I’d choose the word “awe.” Something less deliberate, more mentally disorganized. Putin seems despotic and he seems exotic and that is more than enough to bowl over most American journalists. He’s white like us, only he’s not like us! And he is playing something like a great game, which no American politician does at all.

    He may not be playing his game well, but “statecraft” has gone out of the American vocabulary if it ever was in it, so who in the U.S. is equipped to gauge winning or losing? He may also be playing on a different (i.e., longer) timescale, and no American journalist could ever comprehend that. Incomprehensibility just makes it all seem more…awesome!

    • #11
    • May 9, 2014, at 10:05 AM PST
    • Like
  12. Matthew Jamison Inactive

    Idolisation is the right word to describe the reaction I see among some of my right-wing friends on Facebook, particularly when Putin rhetorically beats up on gays or makes a display of his Orthodox piety. Looks like Vlad underlined that chapter in Machiavelli about how the Prince should give the appearance of religion without letting it in any way restrict his freedom of action.

    Free people should be able to see through this. May it never be said that we have made ourselves useful idiots for a foreign tyrant.

    • #12
    • May 9, 2014, at 10:43 AM PST
    • Like
  13. Mallard Inactive

    I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help it on some level:
    It’s fun watching Vlad shove BHO’s nose into a warm fresh pile of dog waste!

    • #13
    • May 9, 2014, at 11:23 AM PST
    • Like
  14. Seawriter Member

    Mallard: It’s fun watching Vlad shove BHO’s nose into a warm fresh pile of dog waste!

     It is like being back in school where the annoying little twerp that has been hassling you all day runs afoul of the class bully.

    You feel a surge of pleasure when the bully first lights into the twerp (who deserved it). Then, when the bully keeps on going past the slap or two the twerp earned, there is this lurch in you stomach when you realize the bully is not going to stop until the twerp’s face has been ground into jam on the gravel walkway. At which point, despite the disdain you feel for the twerp, you know what is being done is just wrong.

    Putin has passed the Just Wrong stage. It does not matter how much Obama is the annoying twerp. The bully has to be reined in.

    Seawriter

    • #14
    • May 9, 2014, at 11:50 AM PST
    • Like
  15. Mallard Inactive

    100% in agreement with you Seawriter. Unfortunately hundreds of thousands are now, or will in the future “pay the price” for our Commander in Chief: Israelis, Syrians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans, Tunisians, Ukrainians, Koreans – the list is long & growing.

    • #15
    • May 9, 2014, at 12:50 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Casey Inactive

    Based on much of the media coverage, you’d think that Vladimir Putin has manipulated things ever so cleverly, whereas the reality is that he has messed up big time.

    Depends on your point of view.

    By jerking Barack’s chain he has made himself into the most important man in the world. If his goal is to be the most important man in the world then I’d have to say he’s succeeded wildly.

    • #16
    • May 9, 2014, at 2:51 PM PST
    • Like
  17. Doctor Robert Member

    Mr Dawson, you see it all basss ackwards. Mr Putin is in control. He has shoved the noses of Obama, Clinton, Kerry and Merkel into the dirt; abundantly demonstrated American and Western European impotence; gained the Crimea; and will have all of Ukraine by June 1, unless we take some actual measures, like moving all those American troops who are presently wasting our money and their time in Germany, to the Ukraine-Russian border. (I almost typed “Soviet border”.)

    I don’t idolize Mr Putin but I respect him. He’s a real leader, a real man, a man who loves his country and is willing to take risks for what he perceives to be his country’s best interests. Imagine what the US could be like if we had a leader like Putin again instead of the pathetic metrosexual America-hating twerp who occupies the Oval Office.

    • #17
    • May 9, 2014, at 4:14 PM PST
    • Like
  18. Percival Thatcher

    You don’t have to be a grand master to win at chess, you just have to be ready to capitalize on the other guy’s mistakes. Putin is up against Barry, Kerry, and Hagel: the Three Stooges of international politics.

    Putin is pausing now because taking the rest of Ukraine doesn’t get him much. From what I understand, they had pretty bad economic problems before this all started. If he gets it without fighting for it, fine, but he’ll end up with more headaches than he has already once he takes over.

    • #18
    • May 9, 2014, at 5:50 PM PST
    • Like
  19. Miffed White Male Member

    Guruforhire:

    Maybe he only really wanted Crimea due to cultural heritage and a strong domestic bond with it that pre-existed the concept of Ukraine.

    Sometimes its not about us, or even international politics.

     What’s the Russian word for “Anschluss”?

    • #19
    • May 9, 2014, at 6:03 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Putin’s leadership is exceptional only in comparison to Obama’s weakness.

    • #20
    • May 9, 2014, at 6:25 PM PST
    • Like
  21. John H. Member

    Miffed White Mal

    What’s the Russian word for “Anschluss”?

    If Russian Wikipedia is any guide, it’s Аншлюс. There’s something creepy about Russians, or anyone, borrowing German words as is. As if the idea behind the word needed not so much prestige as punch. Anyway, I have no idea if Russians right now are using that word to describe what’s going on right now.

    • #21
    • May 9, 2014, at 6:43 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Miffed White Male Member

    John H.:

    Miffed White Mal

    What’s the Russian word for “Anschluss”?

    If Russian Wikipedia is any guide, it’s Аншлюс. There’s something creepy about Russians, or anyone, borrowing German words as is. As if the idea behind the word needed not so much prestige as punch. Anyway, I have no idea if Russians right now are using that word to describe what’s going on right now.

     Isn’t that pretty much exactly what happened in Crimea?

    • #22
    • May 9, 2014, at 7:11 PM PST
    • Like
  23. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    He is a thug, and like every thug, he needs to continuously beat on someone to remain a thug. His has completely destroyed all the “liberal” opposition in Russia. All that is left is the Communists and the ultra-nationalists. He needs to attract their supporters to his side. His party dropped massively in the last elections, while the ultra-nationalists won big. 

    So, he does what every thug always does. Find a weak victim and beat up on him. Russian society is only capable of understanding and following such a “leader”, so this is 100% for internal consumption. 

    As for Crimea, it has 0 “strategic value” to Russia. This isn’t the 18th century where sailing ships were the only means of communicating with the rest of the world, plus he already “had” Crimea. No, this is purely for internal propaganda. Nothing “genius” about it. When your nation is made up mostly of people who only understand violence and strongmen, this is what you serve them. 

    Not to defend Obama, but what “else” could the US have done? What did Bush do in 2008? Nothing. Nothing other than isolation is needed in response to a thug.

    • #23
    • May 9, 2014, at 10:35 PM PST
    • Like
  24. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    To “understand” Vladimir Putin you have to understand the “muzhik”. No particular “genius” is required to run the muzhik. Force and propaganda is all that is needed. There is no better political tool to run a country of people who have no free press, never experienced political freedom, and don’t want to, then nationalism and foreign aggression. This is what such nations feed on. This is the last 4 centuries of Russian history. 

    And yes, it is shameful that anyone on the “right” would ever idolize or have anything positive to say about a thug like Putin. A “real man”? Excuse me? A murderer who jails his opponents is a “real man”? A “real leader”? No thank you. I don’t want “leaders”, least of all like that creature. 

    There are, of course, certain people both on the Left and “Right” who are only comfortable with “power” and with being “told” what to do from “men of authority”. I don’t personally think there is any room in American conservatism for that sort of sentiment. Free people don’t need powerful leaders to tell them what to do. Muzhiks, perhaps.

    • #24
    • May 9, 2014, at 10:51 PM PST
    • Like
  25. donald todd Inactive

    1. There is a portion of the Russian psyche that demands a buffer between Russia and the rest of Europe. There is some history there, WWII being the most recent example of an attempt to protect Mother Russia.

    2. As long as Russia has a significant number of nukes which can be launched from the ground, from the sea, or carried by aircraft, it is a superpower. Its ability to project its non-nuclear power might be in some question, but if you have the capacity to nuke the northern hemisphere into an imitation of the surface of the sun, you are a superpower.

    3. The new czar appeals to significant numbers of Russians in several areas, including his personal masculinity. A part of his appeal is to getting Russians to think of growing their population, when they have been shrinking it for several decades.

    4. He is a fool however. When the Chinese need additional living space, Siberia comes to mind. Lacking a population, the Russians will eventually have to cede it to Beijing.

    • #25
    • May 10, 2014, at 5:19 AM PST
    • Like
  26. Seawriter Member

    AIG: As for Crimea, it has 0 “strategic value” to Russia. This isn’t the 18th century where sailing ships were the only means of communicating with the rest of the world, plus he already “had” Crimea.

     Ah . . . no. Crimea has significant strategic value. Russia’s fleet is based in Crimea. Also, while sailing ships no longer exist, most goods travel by sea for at least part of the way between extraction and ultimate sale. People do not. Goods do. Rail, air, and road transportation are auxiliary transportation. Seaports are vital to great powers, and Russia aspires to again be a great power.

    Seawriter 

    • #26
    • May 10, 2014, at 6:01 AM PST
    • Like
  27. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    Sorry Seawriter, but I’m not sure you’re up to date on Russia’s navy or trade routs. The Black Sea Fleet is the smallest and least significant of Russia’s fleets. Plus, the Russians already had unrestricted access to Sevastopol. 

    Second, virtually 0 trade occurs through the Crimean ports towards Russia. Sevastopol itself has very limited and very small facilities for cargo or trading (its mostly a fishing port, and a naval port). There are only some small dry cargo facilities there. Pretty insignificant. Same with Kerch. 

    Third, Russia has other ports in the Black Sea: Novorossisk. And of course, you don’t need to have “control” of Ukrainian ports to have trade go through there towards Russia. There were no restrictions. 

    Fourth, naval trade by Russia is insignificant. The Black Sea is the least likely place for Russian trade to occur. By far the biggest commercial port in Russia is St. Petersburg, and even that is tiny compared to European standards. Here is a map which gives some idea of the trade volumes in the Black Sea

    So I don’t think the “strategic value” arguments hold. Especially since no one was limiting Russia’s access to these places. This is all aimed at the average “muzhik”, who is driven by nationalism and cheap illusions of former grandeur and fights against “Nazis, Fascist, Banderists and windmills.” 

    We’re dealing with a very low level of intellect here. Not a high level of genius.

    • #27
    • May 10, 2014, at 3:38 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Seawriter Member

    AIG: Sorry Seawriter, but I’m not sure you’re up to date on Russia’s navy or trade routs.

     Well, if you say so, I guess it has to be true.

    • #28
    • May 10, 2014, at 4:45 PM PST
    • Like
  29. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    Seawriter:

    Well, if you say so, I guess it has to be true.

    Well, it’s not a matter of opinion. You can check these facts for yourself. You can go ahead and Google “Russian Navy” and look at the various Russian fleets. The Black Sea Fleet is the smallest and least significant of the 4 major fleets. 

    You can Google about Russia’s commercial ports and traffic. The image I attached above shows the shipping volume going through the Black Sea vs. other ports. It is much smaller. Overall you can Google the amount of volume of trade that goes through ships to Russia. It is pretty small. Plus, as I pointed out, Russia has other ports in the Black Sea, mainly Novorossisk, which is Russia’s main oil terminal and by $ amounts the largest Russian trading port (St. Petersburg and Vladivostok are much larger in terms of capacity). 

    So, the arguments of “naval strategic significance” don’t hold because the Black Sea Fleet isn’t all that “significant”, nor was its presence in Sevastopol threatened. The arguments for trade are also not significant, since very little “trade” actually occurs through Sevastopol or Kerch. Heck, there are 3 bigger ports in the Black Sea, Novorossisk (Russia), Mykolaev (Ukraine) and Odessa (Ukraine). 

    The “significance” comes in the minds of Russians in terms of nationalism, and re-living past glories. I.e., pure political pandering to his ultra-nationalist voting base. 

    But, to demonstrate the “genius” of Putin, one has to consider that since he took over Crimea, there has been $250 billion worth of capital flight from Russia, about 250 times the revenue of Russia’s main port in terms of $ in Novorossisk (about $1 billion). Genius! 

    • #29
    • May 10, 2014, at 7:00 PM PST
    • Like
  30. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    AIG: But, to demonstrate the “genius” of Putin, one has to consider that since he took over Crimea, there has been $250 billion worth of capital flight from Russia, about 250 times the revenue of Russia’s main port in terms of $ in Novorossisk (about $1 billion). Genius! 

     How long do you think the capital will remain flown? Things are uncertain at the moment, so capital seeks more stable markets. I’d be willing to wager that six months from now things will have settled into a new normal and capital will have returned to Russia.

    • #30
    • May 10, 2014, at 7:24 PM PST
    • Like