Do People Grasp Russian Authoritarian Thinking?

 

Buried deep in this comment thread was this exchange: One of our members, BalticSnowTiger—who is, I suspect, in the Baltics, but this is the Internet, so who knows–proposed:

Unless people in the West and far apart finally invest a moment to understand Russian authoritarian thinking, behaviour, strategy and the effect deterrence has all of this is moot.

One of our members, AIG–who is, I suspect, in America, but this is the Internet, so who knows–replied:

People do understand this.

AIG, I don’t want to simplify or make a straw man out of your argument. I suggest our readers carefully study that thread, and judge both comments in context. But my response is this:  Let’s try to make empirical, testable statements. I fear that the majority of the adult population–in most Western countries—has nothing like a sufficient understanding of Russian authoritarian thinking, behavior, and strategy.

Specifically, I don’t think you’d find, if you conducted a well-controlled poll, that most people in the West would instantly appreciate the following references, or have any clue what they mean:

  • The 1999 apartment bombings;
  • The Second Chechen War;
  • The murder of Litvinenko;
  • Abkhazia;
  • South Ossetia;
  • Nagorno-Karabakh;
  • Transnistria;
  • “One-party system, characterized by censorship, with a puppet parliament, no independent judiciary, and notable for its hypertrophied special services;”
  • “Siloviki structures in governance, clericalism and statism in ideology;”
  • “The rehabilitation of the Soviet past;”
  • “A state-sponsored global PR effort, in which  RT–and “Sputnik news” are Pravda. Rebranded, but otherwise the same;”
  • “Intensified official lobbying activities in the US through PR companies like Hannaford Enterprises;”
  • “A Kremlin pumping more money than you can imagine into various forms of public diplomacy: new media ventures to target international audiences; conferences to seduce Western opinion-makers; and NGOs in Western capitals dedicated to analyzing every real failing of Western democracy;”
  • “Former KGB officers running Russia. The FSB is just the KGB. No one really lost his job.” (Test that one in a poll, see how many know that. Bet you not a lot);
  • “The FSB monitors the Russian population electronically, controls the political process, creates front enterprises, and runs its own prisons;”
  • FSB: How many in the West even know what that is? A majority, you think? Doubt it;
  • “Putin’s Russia is dominated by former and active-duty intelligence offiicers.” Think the majority grasp that?
  • “Russia: an assassination-happy nightmare where detention, interrogation, and torture–right from the KGB handbook, no translation necessary–are used to silence journalists and businessmen who annoy Putin.” Let’s poll that statement. Think everyone knows that?
  • “Chekists.” How many Americans know that word? Or understand how it applies, in 2015?
  • “The export-appeal of Putinism as an ideology.” Familiar phrase?
  • “Former Soviet republics in Azerbaijan, Belarus and central Asia follow Moscow’s lead, as do Venezuela and many African and Asian countries.” Think people grasp that?
  • “The new geopolitical trend: undemocratic, oligarchic and corrupt national elites put up a nice facade of democracy with parliamentary trappings and a pretence of pluralism–a trick they learned from Putin.” Think people get that?
  • “Eastern Europe, where Kremlin-friendly politicians get all the campaign funds they need.” Does everyone know that?
  • “Otherwise sensible Americans finding Marine LePen sensible.”

I could go on, and on, and on. But if you show me a single, well-constructed poll indicating that “People understand this” in America–no less “the West”–I’ll gladly say, “Well, I was wrong.”

I will be so relieved to be wrong that I will weep with relief to be on the losing side of an argument. I want to believe you so badly that my pride means nothing–zero–to me on this one. Please, please, tell me I’m wrong.

If anyone doubts where I really am, I’ll grab a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper in Paris and take a photo of myself with it. But I could, as you know, manipulate that quickly, with photoshop. If anyone can think of a better and more convincing test, I am happy to do it. I don’t really care if it involves some kind of violation of my privacy.

I am an American citizen, in Paris. Terrorist attacks in Paris are rare. They do not terrify me. They do not make me want to flee. Seeing Sputnik news, in Paris, terrifies me–and makes me want to flee. But I don’t know where to run.

My passport says, “America.” That makes things clear: my first responsibility is to do everything in my power to get Americans to grasp this, no matter where I am. And to explain that they need to grasp this fast–and get the rest of the world to grasp it, too.

There are 177 comments.

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  1. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    Claire Berlinski:

    AIG:

    But, another problem that “conservatives” have here is that many don’t understand that their own constituents or “allies” are a problem here. As are the willingness to let short-term petty domestic politics, get in the way of long-term goals (i.e. as the GOP did in 1999 against Clinton…one of the most shameful performances of the GOP)

    Putin’s allies are “conservatives”, “libertarians” and all sort of “right wing” or “center right” parties in Europe. Many do it because of an ideological affinity for Putinism. Others do it for the sort-term political convenience of opposing existing parties in power. Putin’s allies include many of the “right” Parties in Europe, from UKIP to Le Penn in France or Orban in Hungary to Berlusconi in Italy to now even Sarkozy in France. All useful idiots…and many of them…”our” useful idiots.

    Oh, this conservative understands that problem. Only too well.

    Agree.

    I do not agree. It’s an old saying that all politics is local- and attacking as mere stooges of Putin the various political parties of Europe who have emerged to oppose the incipient tyranny of the European Union is just silly.

    And wrong. I further note that the present political establishment of the EU is the same bunch of fools who arranged for Europe to become dependent on Russian natural gas.

    Seems like some opposition to that idiocy is in order, and it doesn’t seem to be coming from the mainstream parties of the EU.

    • #31
  2. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    My my my. It sounds as though Americans are not competent to make their own decisions. Given the wall to wall coverage, periodically, of what is happening in (yawn) the Ukraine, don’t you think that if Americans were going to get it, they would have gotten it by now?
    What is the proposed mechanism for enlightening them? Or, as has also been discussed, enlightening a subset? Hopefully those would be elected representatives.

    • #32
  3. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    AIG:

    in Europe most people will fall for anything that is anti-American.

    No, that’s just false–factually. I’d like to prune comments like this off the discussion. It is certainly true that the far-left and the far-right in most European countries dislike America. There are many different strains of anti-Americanism in Europe, too–some of which are deeply sinister, some of which are trivial. I don’t find trivial prejudices against Americans deeply sinister. I would find it humanly abnormal to encounter someone who doesn’t, basically, have them about every foreign country.

    The kind of anti-Americanism that worries me most is the kind based on reality: It comes in the form of, “The US doesn’t seem to have a consistent foreign policy that makes sense. American self-confidence has taken one massive hit after another in the past decade. We’re going to end up living here: How much can we trust that Americans will remain interested in us? They’re always an election away from ‘a new foreign policy.’ We have to live here no matter the outcome of that election. They keep calling each other ‘low-information voters’–and we’re supposed to trust them, they know what they’re doing?”

    I encounter that kind everywhere these days, I’m afraid. It’s a new kind: It’s not like the old kind. And you can say, “Terrific, they’ll assume the burden of their own defence,” or you can wonder, as I do, what is actually happening right now Debaltseve.

    “Of course we can open fire (on Debaltseve). It is our territory,” Eduard Basurin, a senior rebel commander, told Reuters.

    Okay, that’s logical–everyone opens fire on their own territory, right? Totally normal thing to do.

    • #33
  4. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    I’m with Claire on this one:  We have a serious problem with Russia that isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves.  Vladimir Putin has put Russia on a course that will either lead to war in Europe — or to surrender.

    May I respectfully disagree with AIG about how we won the Cold War since I was — so to speak — standing there when we did it.  Yes, we did crush them economically.  But we also waged proxy war against the Soviet Union — not only in Afghanistan but in places like Mozambique, Angola, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. And we worked hard to bring along our European allies, who were too frightened to help us.  It was the totally of everything we did that, in effect, exhausted the Soviet Union.

    Today our problem isn’t “Russia” so much as it’s “Russia Led by Putin”.  As I wrote last year:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/08/how_to_solve_the_putin_problem.html

    if we can get Putin’s rear end out of the Kremlin — feet first would be fine with me — it’s unlikely his successor would be as aggressive.

    Those of you who’ve written that the economic pressure we’re putting now on Russia is working are, in fact, correct.  But we need to vastly increase this pressure, and we need to do it now.  So I’m also in sync with those of you who’ve suggested that we’d accomplish more by canceling the oligarchs’ credit cards and freezing their bank accounts than by sending tanks to Ukraine.

    We can argue all day about the details, but let’s not lose sight of Claire’s point that this is something that deserves far more attention than it’s getting.

    • #34
  5. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    We’ve pressed Reset, and the matter is closed.  The Executive Branch Press Corps will prune any further speculation along these lines.  Next question.

    • #35
  6. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    Funker530 provides (video and) commentary on the farcical agreement taking shape in Ukrainistan.  Oh, sorry — a bit too real?

    It ceded ground held by the so-called rebels, there was no timeline given for the pullout of Russian troops and equipment, and the cease-fire, that begins tomorrow, will only be applicable for “particular districts.”

    While the peace deal was being discussed, Russia sent 50 tanks, 40 missile batteries, and numerous armored personnel carriers across the border into the contested region.

    Claire is right — this is a disaster on tiptoes.  Of course, some of us thought that we should have opposed Russian forces when they invaded one of our most consistent allies, Georgia.  Public pitch: “Any military gear of yours found on the sovereign territory of Georgia, a US ally, 48 hours from now, will be forfeit.”  A real leader can make that sale.  The idea is to have a reputation stout enough that you don;t have to back it up. Well when trouble insists on having its way with you, you have two choices, and neither is good.  When you’re weak and everybody knows it, well, you only have one.

    Yeah, yeah, I’m a hothead.  What do I know?  We’ll just let the State Department handle this.  Oh, until it’s too late to salvage anything and we just get to send more Americans to die for what a couple of testicles could have fixed years earlier.

    So what should the result of all this enlightening and informing be?  A policy, no doubt, and we somehow think that this administration will carry it out?  These people have shown that they will do exactly what it takes to buy off a critical number of votes, and no more.  What principles they do hold, and are willing to fight over, are not likely to help with anything we might support here at Ricochet.

    And they are the ones who disposed of Bush’s policies, eliminated any gains made and salted the ground to ensure that nobody can engage in foreign adventurism again.  Oh, unless it’s to combat jihad in Iraq…   So there’s that.

    Alright, I’m rambling.  I’m furious, of course.  I think I said here some months ago that what will happen in Ukraine is whatever Putin wants.

    • #36
  7. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Claire Berlinski:

    AIG:

    So, I take it then that you are not in favor of the critiques that Ricochet members have been making of Obama’s request from Congress on ISIS?

    Hell no, I am not. I must have missed that debate. And it’s not even the ballpark debate we need to be having, is it? The debate is, “How do we destroy ISIS without empowering Assad, Iran, and Russia?”

    I would guess the rational strategic perspective is this: start from the top: Put Russia back in the cage. Then you have no Assad–and a much less threatening Iran. After that, ISIS is a nasty, nasty problem–and no way we’ll clean that up from the air (you loving the look of Libya?)–but at least Russia will think a bit before seeing Syria as a terrific place to send Americans home in body bags. That is precisely how they now view it.

    Unfortunately, this all has to be done at once, and now. And without screwing any of it up. And meanwhile, we also have quite a number of other emergencies on our hands–which in more normal times would be viewed as such. What happened in Yemen would usually be “the news,” not “oh, as a passing footnote … ”

    Claire, how do you view Lee Smith’s opinion that our middle eastern strategy should be completely focused on opposition to Iran and it’s proxies?  While ISIS is a threat, Iran is the one close to being a nuclear  power and has directly or indirectly killed many Americans.  Of course this administration is pursuing the complete opposite course from this proposition, apparently thinking (I think mistakenly) that Iran can be a ally against threats like ISIS.

    • #37
  8. Crabby Appleton Inactive
    Crabby Appleton
    @CrabbyAppleton

    It’s cultural. It is custom and tradition over time. Vasily Grossman in “Everything Flows” and in his other writings frequently refers to Russians’ legacy of a thousand years of unfreedom. One can’t really expect an entire culture, especially its political one to change overnight (overnight being from c 1993). Westerners don’t have anything close to that tradition so of course it’s difficult, unless they attend to current Russian history, to appreciate that.

    • #38
  9. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    AIG:

    jetstream:

    Russia’s economy?

    You know that’s not a response, right?

    About 70 sorties per day. But hey, whatever number I give you, you’ll say…tis but a scratch!

    So what would be the point

    So we have moved from strikes to sorties? Is it your claim that U.S. warplanes are making 70 strikes per day against ISIS? Can you provide a credible reference?

    I’m not certain of how the arithmetic is tabulated, but I think a single MK-82 counts as a strike.

    The point about Russia’s economy is that the U.S. private sector is inflicting the majority of the damage to the Russian economy inspite of Obama’s best efforts to constrain the U.S. private sector.

    • #39
  10. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Xennady:

    I do not agree. It’s an old saying that all politics is local- and attacking as mere stooges of Putin the various political parties of Europe who have emerged to oppose the incipient tyranny of the European Union is just silly.

    It is not an incipient tyranny. It’s a massively over-regulated bureaucracy, and the single currency has proven a mess. But it’s not a tyranny, nor will it be. Using the word “tyranny” to describe it leaves us without a suitable vocabulary to describe real tyrannies.

    In the case of local politics, I agree, and will speak locally. Marine LePen is my local Putin stooge. Not merely that–she’s that and more!–but that is, really, the most interesting thing about her. So I find Americans who are thrilled about her perplexing: what do they think she stands for? I have the feeling she’s managed to persuade many Americans that she’s in favor of something they really believe–but what?

    • #40
  11. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Claire Berlinski: In the case of local politics, I agree, and will speak locally. Marine LePen is my local Putin stooge. Not merely that–she’s that and more!–but that is, really, the most interesting thing about her. So I find Americans who are thrilled about her perplexing: what do they think she stands for?

    We think she stands for the kind of national pride that is required for a society to stand and fight for its future. That pride can be dangerous, certainly. But without passionate nativists, Europe will die from the demographics alone.

    I am no Francophile. But even atheistic runaway hedonism trumps an Islamic caliphate.

    • #41
  12. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Concretevol:

    Claire, how do you view Lee Smith’s opinion that our middle eastern strategy should be completely focused on opposition to Iran and it’s proxies?

    I’ve watched this strategy at work for years. I’m old enough to remember the Iran-Iraq war. I know people who survived the bombing of the Marines Barracks in Lebanon. I’ve been watching us tolerate the Saudis as they export Wahhabi venom around the globe (first because they were a bulwark against communism, then because they were a bulwark against Iran, and always because they were “moderates” in OPEC pricing). I’ve watched us pretend–for a decade–that Turkey is liberalizing, because they were very skilfully able to exploit the general sense that “As long as you’re not Iran–whatever.” We’ll pay for that for a long time, and so will Turkey.

    I understand that our resources are finite, our language skills limited, and our lives precious. I know we can’t solve every problem. My view is that yes, Iran and its proxies are the top priority–but if we treat them as the only priority, we’ll discover that while we focused on that, the rest has metastasised. Or metastasised even more than it has.

    I know we don’t want to be involved in any of this. I don’t think we have much of a choice. What do you think will happen when these Syrian refugees grow up? They’re kids, now. What do you think they’ll be in 10 or 15 years if we pursue the policy of “focus on opposition to Iran and its proxies?”

    Assad is Iran’s proxy. If we pursue that strategy, we arm ISIS. An ISIS state doesn’t sound like a desirable outcome or a natural ally.

    A reasonable foreign policy toward that region should start with this truth: no good options, and certainly no simple ones. But we’ve been playing these powers against each other for as long as I can remember. I can’t think of single success: it has either been a humanitarian catastrophe, or a crushing military defeat for us–and yes, whatever the situation in Iraq might have been, it can now only be described that way. With every iteration, the region grows more radical and dysfunctional and disordered.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sell anyone on this idea, but we need to take every one of these crises seriously, now–including Libya, including Yemen–and focus on them all. I just don’t see a choice. It is reality. No point blaming anyone, now, because it has to be solved. I see no conceivable solution but blood, toil, sweat and tears. There is no easy way out. We’re the only country that could possibly impose any order on the region. Forget democracy–that is not a reasonable goal in our lifetimes. Stemming genocide and preventing nuclear might be a reasonable goal.

    But I’m not even sure we can.

    • #42
  13. Lensman Inactive
    Lensman
    @Lensman

    Claire Berlinski:

    [Snip]5 I believe it is a hugely important decision. I would like to hear good arguments for and against it in the US media. I’d like the gravity of this decision to be deeply understood. I don’t think any aspect of American policy–not even foreign policy–should be left to experts in Washington who know better. I just haven’t seen huge evidence that they do. We, the People, must watch our idiot government. Always. And treat them as “our idiot government.” Always. Because that’s what Americans do: We allow our governments to serve us, and assume that if they’re good at anything, it’s probably just a mistake. The job of the Fourth Estate, above all, is to do this. I think many of them have forgotten this. My confidence in the US media has been deeply, deeply shaken. I don’t know where to look or to trust for a serious debate about this.

    [Snip]
    Beyond that, I am opening the discussion, and hoping to learn from it.

    The foundational problem you spotlight with your original post and this comment is that the ignorance of 98% of the American electorate (and probably about 90% of CongressCritters) of what Putin and Russia have been doing for the past 15 years is only exceeded by their ignorance of the history of the Bolshevik Revoluti0n, genocide in Ukraine, the Eastern Front in WWII and the dynamic balance between the KGB, the Red Army and the Communist Party during the Cold War. The last endured for 70 years, ending only with the collapse in 1989 when the KGB was the only power center left standing.

    I attribute two reasons for this, one mundane and the other ideological. (1) The history books used in high school history classes, and/or the course of instruction, cover the events of the past 100 year superficially and with minimal analysis; and (2) The anti-anti-communism of the Democrats and the American Left for the past 50 years or so. (Remember Sen. Scoop Jackson? He couldn’t get nominated, much less elected, by today’s Democrats).

    The two reasons are inter-related, mostly because of who writes the history books (with the notable exception of William Bennett’s masterful American history textbooks.)

    The American people are poorly informed as to the history of Russia/USSR because the academic and media elite (intentionally or negligently) make it that way. I believe it’s intentional, probably because I saw the start of all this on my college campus in the late 60’s. And that university was not as left wing as the elite schools (Harvard, Yale, etc.) which the administration considered its “peer institutions”!

    • #43
  14. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    iWc:

    I am no Francophile. But even atheistic runaway hedonism trumps an Islamic caliphate.

    There won’t be an Islamic caliphate in France. The UMP is the party that–if it gets its act together–would best be able to handle France’s real problems. The problems are its out-of-control labor unions and high taxes, which are a massive impediment to growth. France needs economic growth, and the usual remedies apply. LePen’s idea is trade barriers. She’s also unelectable, which makes the point moot. No one would go into a coalition with her, and no how, no way, could she pick up enough votes to govern without one.

    She can’t and won’t be elected, but here’s her website, and here’s her foreign policy. Google translate is perfectly serviceable–you’ll get the gist. Does that make sense to you?

    Here’s the UMP’s defense policy, to show the contrast.

    Here’s their policy on Europe and the EU.

    Their labor policy.

    That’s a much more serious response, isn’t it? Not perfect, obviously, but serious. The sign of a party that isn’t just a protest vote, and might actually be ready to take power.

    • #44
  15. liberal jim Inactive
    liberal jim
    @liberaljim

    Ex KGB official becomes president and his opponents turn up dead or imprison, I don’t see a lot to figure out, thugs ruled the USSR and now rule Russia.

    As long as what passes for policy is mere reaction, no meaningful progress will be made.  Cut the price of carbon based fuel sources by 80% and these thugs and want-to-be thugs become manageable and subject to easy neutering.  Open public land to exploration and reduce some of the waco environmental regs.  Couple this with modest sanctions on Iran and Russia and the probability of anything but modest use of military force is the most likely out come.

    I understand why utopia grasping liberals don’t reach for obvious solutions, but conservatives never do either.  I’ve concluded that the priority is to promote ones political career at all costs and journalists play along because they are aware of who butters there bread.   You mentioned you have lost confidence in the press – sleeping beauty it is about time the prince kissed you.

    • #45
  16. St. Salieri Member
    St. Salieri
    @

    To some extent it comes down to the unknowability of it all.  How can a rational policy be constructed with so many variables, this is what scares the bejebus out of me.

    I mean I’ve read Russian literature, history, and politics in translation for the last twenty years of my life as a dilettante armchair autodidact, and it has only been maybe 5% of my reading, and my sense is…that, I can’t figure the damned place out.  Nothing makes sense to an outsider.

    If I play the what-if game, and think of the dozens of novels, journal articles, reports by pundits, and magisterial histories by experts and talking to former missionaries, immigrants, and travelers, I’ve done, and I’ve got nothing, beyond, I don’t get the place.  It seems sorta graspable and yet totally not.  Would it matter if I spent my whole life studying the place, I don’t even get Pennsylvania, and trust me, I’ve spent my whole life thinking, reading, and living there (except the last year and a half exiled to my own personal Siberia, known as Montana).

    Now if I’d spent the last twenty years mastering the language, reading 500% as much, including working in archives and primary sources, traveling there, talking to people from there, and working in the field, I’d have some sense…right, hopefully, about Russia; but I’d still be one human mind looking at 1,000 years of history, and filtering through my own lense, and my own biases.  So, let’s say I take that potential knowledge, and I can combine it with some great analytical skills that I know I don’t possess, and now I also have a desk in the state department or CIA or some place that matters (wherever that is), and I’m daily interacting with a couple of other dozen experts trying to devise some sort of US policy.

    How will this help sort out the mess in Yemen?

    My point, I don’t think that when a nation’s reach has become (by the forces of history, human will, divine providence and a jar of mustard) global we can devise a rational policy that even begins to cover all the variables.

    Problems beget solutions, which beget problems, which beget solutions, which beget problems.

    I think that we can’t, that we will always be flitting from one band-aid to another, the unintended consequences of any grand strategy will be disastrous for someone, likely us, in the long run, if not the short…

    The premise that we tackle all of the Middle East in one comprehensive policy seems like hubristic madness.

    The only way to settle this hash is to reduce it to national interest, and yet, as you and others argue, that has not settled things well for us or the world, but what other rational lense is there – increasingly, I think there isn’t, save one.

    If I’m wrong, just one middle-aged crank blah-blahing on a Sunday afternoon, if I’m right, what do we do, because, ignoring things will not help either.

    How do you formulate a strategy that a purely national approach will fail, and that attempting a grand-strategy cannot be rational, but must be attempted to avoid allowing a vacuum that will create even more evil.  Piecemeal addressing at least the concerns you’ve specifically outlined, and constructing a grand-strategy knowing it’s inherent limitations.

    This brings me to one conclusion:

    If we wish to stay on the global stage and try to manage the action of other powers to prevent reaping the whirlwind of chaos and bad-players with limited resources who at least will become dangerous regional hegemons, we must acknowledge that this will require tremendous resources and treasure and blood, and acknowledge and behave as an imperial power does and embrace it.  We must by force, and through direct control seek to dominate the globe in accordance to our will, and we must openly acknowledge we are doing this and why and to what end.  To some extent we did this in the Cold-War, but we possess less national resolve on those lines now. If we cannot, and we will fail at this because all such attempts fail, then we must retreat and watch the disaster unfold.

    I despair, because I do not think we have the will to do the above, in any meaningful sense, from a populist support of national greatness or from an elite desire to enforce our will.

    • #46
  17. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    St. Salieri:I despair, because I do not think we have the will to do the above, in any meaningful sense, from a populist support of national greatness or from an elite desire to enforce our will.

    I’m not going to like the comment, for obvious reasons–but I’ll certainly say that I think I know what you mean.

    • #47
  18. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Claire Berlinski:That’s a much more serious response, isn’t it? Not perfect, obviously, but serious.

    I don’t know French, but I would suggest that at this point, France needs people who really, really care about France. People who are willing, in extremis, to risk their lives. This is not “serious” or “adult”. It is about passion.

    Is the UMP comprised of those people?

    • #48
  19. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    AIG:

    3) Russia’s nuclear arsenal stands at about 2,300. Ours at about 1,900.

    Wrong. Russia’s nuclear arsenal is 8500 (wikipedia) while the US stands at 7700. It is unknown how many are operational, but US deployed strategic weapons are 1900-ish with about 200 deployed tactical weapons. Russia has 2300 deployed strategic weapons with a further 2500 tactical weapons held in a reserve capacity.

    According to FAS Russia has 8000 warheads total and the US has 7300 but that is FAS.

    • #49
  20. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    AIG:

    Claire Berlinski:

    The issue here is not just the military. Of course no one in his right mind thinks we can win a war–conventional or nuclear–with Russia. The question is how to persuade Russia that the price of pursuing traditional Russian expansionism is not worth it–and do so without ending up in a conventional and nuclear war. I am not persuaded that we are deeply serious about this, yet.

    Ok. Fair enough.

    Gee Claire, I think we could win a conventional war with Russia. Take a look at this article and focus on the training regime – Russian tank crews fired on 3 rounds per year while US tank crews are considered proficient if they fire 120. Pilots got 30 flying hours per year while US fighter pilots get about 300 – Airlift pilots considerably more.

    Then take a look at their logistical planning – execrable.

    Nope, not a big leap to think about it. Even nuclear war is becoming thinkable and every decrease in the arsenal makes thinking about it easier and easier.

    • #50
  21. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @BalticSnowTiger

    AIG:

    Claire Berlinski: I could go on, and on, and on. But if you show me a single, well-constructed poll indicating that “People understand this” in America–no less “the West”–I’ll gladly say, “Well, I was wrong.”

    Every “poll” I’ve seen of the US public on Putin indicates a deep unfavorable view of him.

    Gallup has him at 63% unfavorable.

    YouGov at 70% unfavorable.

    This of course, despite the fact that majority of people don’t know much about him. But as I said earlier, this isn’t really an issue because US foreign policy isn’t a “popularity contest” to be determined by polls. Nor should we realistically expect that Americans ought to know such details as you listed about a place that impacts their daily lives…not at all.

    Of course, these 63% or 70% unfavorable views aren’t out of line with unfavorable views of the US population on the Soviet Union, even during the height of the Cold War: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749146?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    fewrfwer

    Even in the mid 1980s, the negative view of the USSR in the US peaked in the mid 70%. So at worst, we can say that the unfavorable views of Putin today are about at the same levels as they were during the Cold War regarding the Soviet Union.

    So it doesn’t appear to me that there’s some unusual groundswell of positive support for Putin in the US. Of course, 10-15% of the population will have “favorable views” of just about anything. So when I say “people do understand this”, or when BalticSnowTiger says “people don’t understand this”…the real question is, which people? Only certain people need to understand this.

    AIG –

    thanks for referring back to what we once discussed. It goes without saying that it matters for certain people to understand this. конечно. Selbstverständlich.

    We are discussing this here at Ricochet which given its illustrious and widespread group over time may well matter more, and maybe we land a lucky punch in tipping over someone’s view.

    It is with delight that I read your arguments. Once more, there is a large overlap and we continue to agree on many items. [Small exception, there were two roads, not just the E40/M03 but also the sufficiently wide and actually well defensible Skeleva river road to Debaltseve. – I will send you a separate note, the idiocy of the Ukrainian national guard/army command was worse than expected. They must drive their friendly observers white glowing mad]

    A lot has been written in the meantime which merits a few questions and comments. Given that you mentioned it, this is first and foremost a European problem in not having heeded the experience of certain Eastern European countries who thanks to a partial U.S. victory towards the end of one of the cold phases of the Long War managed to attain their freedom.

    Now to the red meat. When did anyone of you last face a Russian counterpart in negotiation? When a Russian military or security officer? Not the movie characters, powerless oligarchs or even crooks of any sort, just the barebone officers. If you did, I am sure you are always reminded of what you knew and possibly experienced in the past. There is no change at all. For all its riches, beauty, culture, the many hardworking individuals, which shall be appreciated the Russian society’s best examples of an atrocious, binary sense of Russia vs the world can be found throughout its security and military cadres.

    Ukraine, the Borderland, is not just some mythical place for the Russian soul. It is the border towards an assertive, expansive dictatorship with arms. As amateurish and uncouth some of the transitory political class in Ukraine is this border zone has to be defended. Otherwise the next borders falls (not your regular domino theory, pure Russian doctrine). The next move stirring the pot will likely be close to Rybnitsa, and boy the Romanians are training heavily for it.

    We both remain in agreement in regard to the necessary long-term economic approach.  But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, without visible deterrence and willingness to commit troops (please refer to the Partnership for Peace notion involving a variety of NATO country contingents on a rotating/segmented/specialised basis in the other thread) we are handing the gains made and thus the freedom of a number of democracies to the Kremlin. However, if we want to have the hearts and minds of people across Central & Eastern Europe with us, eradicate the already growing sense of foreboding and trigger an upswell of democratic support for conservative parties we have to show actual force now.

    So, please make the case with your congressmen, senators, friends in the establishment for a balanced approach of (1) unrelenting economic pressure and (b) deterrence with U.S. troops in theater (and making use of NATO & OSCE – and, no, troops does not mean we have to end up in a shooting war). Beyond that, do not forget the key to that actually working (3) culture & communication, we have to counter the propaganda.

    Now, where is the Voice of America? Why do we not broadcast on all airwaves and satellites the key arguments of ours and our images with force? Why do we not name and shame those daily, publicly and across all media channels who aide, abet, and facilitate the Kremlin propaganda? And why the heck do we not do this in RUSSIAN?!  It does not bloody help enough if we solely do this in Polish, Hungarian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serb or Greek. Yes, we need to reiterate the message to the Orthodox countries in that group, and yes Hungary needs a push, but if the Polish-Amrican community together with Rome and Washington cannot assist pro Freedom parties in dismembering the campaign of the Putin financed Social democratic beauty queen by exposing here, then it is our own fault.  – Rant over.

    Again, AIG, your dedication to reason, somber and detached analysis is sincerely appreciated. We also need to lead and inspire the people, our people, the free people of Europe. This is an original American task. I wish we could do this by ourselves, but the best we have in terms of grinding, consistent, hard-working European leadership and management for now is Merkel/Schäuble – Hollande seeks redemption in foreign policy, Cameron awaits Boris, Spaniards fear the election, Italy’s Renzi has too many friends, and the Polish go from scandal to scandal.

    We fail when it comes to defense and having a strong military deterrence.  But Europeans need a friend. A good guy. With guns. As Peter Robinson stated, if it had been for the State Department President Reagan would not have given the speech, would not have demanded to ‘… tear down that wall’. So, it needs gall and gumption, too. We have to communicate what we want. Merkel can threaten to leave a meeting, she knows Putin well enough, knows how important Germany is for Russia (not just the other way round), but next time it does not matter.  S.O.S. America.

    • #51
  22. user_657161 Inactive
    user_657161
    @SimonTemplar

    iWc:

    Claire Berlinski:That’s a much more serious response, isn’t it? Not perfect, obviously, but serious.

    I don’t know French, but I would suggest that at this point, France needs people who really, really care about France. People who are willing, in extremis, to risk their lives. This is not “serious” or “adult”. It is about passion.

    Is the UMP comprised of those people?

    Kak dala Tavarishee?  Is America comprised of these people?  What happens to our national security postiion once the flyover-rednecks agree with the east and left coast that America is not worth fighting for?  Seems like if we’re not there already, then we’re moving very quickly in that direction.

    • #52
  23. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Voice of America: I LOVE the idea of spreading American ideals, especially to people who get an endless diet of nonsense.

    But is a government radio station what we need now – what with the internet having such broad access?

    • #53
  24. TeeJaw Inactive
    TeeJaw
    @TeeJaw

    What about those polls that show a considerable percentage of Americans don’t know in what century the Civil War occurred?  Or what side was against slavery? How are they ever going to know a thing about Russia, much less how Russians think?

    But maybe you’re not talking about the masses. Maybe you’re just talking about the cognoscenti of politics.  I doubt they know much about Russia and/or its thinking either, and I’m sure they don’t know much of anything on your list.

    • #54
  25. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @BalticSnowTiger

    iWc:Voice of America: I LOVE the idea of spreading American ideals, especially to people who get an endless diet of nonsense.

    But is a government radio station what we need now – what with the internet having such broad access?

    Beyond all the sprawling youth and intelligentsia, the people you need to reach include those large swathes of left over Russian minorities across the Baltics and those aged losers of transition across all of Central Eastern Europe who iron in front of classic television sets (fed by cable, satellite, terrestrial), fix their 20 year old, bought-used German Mercedes 200D in their garage or work in a logistics centre, or wood processing factory listening to radio. You have to ensure that the 48 year old female factory accountant going home to her two kids with 550 LATS (USD 890) gross per month somewhere outside of Riga will not only be bombarded by 16 pro-Russian newscasts. Yes it is hard and will take time to rebuild the brand, but people are inherently curious and if you have something to offer about the country people remain most interested in, the U.S.A, then tell them what matters.

    The BBC fails to grasp it that for all its faults and left leaning appeasement views it has at least the shade of credibility from a distant past AND the technical grip. Deutsche Welle attempts to broadcast wider and deeper but without a doubt has no brand. Voice of America is what those people still remember. They aspired to find ways to listen to it in the dour 1980s.  If government has the right guys and gals doing it, this can be done. Please do not rely on Rupert Murdoch for that. If you want private involvement, creativity for additional channels and means to communicate, and funding, do go and talk to your owners/founders/CEOs in the West, Cook, Brin, Zuckerberg. Make them understand that Uncle Sam needs them. Probably helps sorting out other issues with them first. In the meantime, get on the bloody radio and telly tomorrow and tell the European and the Russian minorities in the East/NorthEast why freedom, its defense, and facts matter.

    In war government, the state seriously matters for a number of core functions. This is the Long War, some people simply tuned out and forgot, you need a government backed broadcast. Given that I share the disdain for NPR if you want, have the U.S. army do it, openly, brazenly. They had the best radio stations people tuned into for at least the music across Western Europe for a long time.  Get going. Free Europe needs you.

    • #55
  26. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    The problem with VoA is that the government opposes it. Remember when they arrested the guy in South Korea for ballooning radios across into the North?

    Our own government backs the exclusive media of tyrannies and imprisons those who want to expose people to new ideas.

    • #56
  27. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    Claire Berlinski:

    Xennady:

    I do not agree. It’s an old saying that all politics is local- and attacking as mere stooges of Putin the various political parties of Europe who have emerged to oppose the incipient tyranny of the European Union is just silly.

    It is not an incipient tyranny. It’s a massively over-regulated bureaucracy…

    I thought that’s what he said.

    • #57
  28. user_657161 Inactive
    user_657161
    @SimonTemplar

    Instugator:

    AIG:

    Claire Berlinski:

    The issue here is not just the military. Of course no one in his right mind thinks we can win a war–conventional or nuclear–with Russia. The question is how to persuade Russia that the price of pursuing traditional Russian expansionism is not worth it–and do so without ending up in a conventional and nuclear war. I am not persuaded that we are deeply serious about this, yet.

    Ok. Fair enough.

    Gee Claire, I think we could win a conventional war with Russia. Take a look at this article and focus on the training regime – Russian tank crews fired on 3 rounds per year while US tank crews are considered proficient if they fire 120. Pilots got 30 flying hours per year while US fighter pilots get about 300 – Airlift pilots considerably more.

    Then take a look at their logistical planning – execrable.

    Nope, not a big leap to think about it. Even nuclear war is becoming thinkable and every decrease in the arsenal makes thinking about it easier and easier.

    Concur without comment.

    • #58
  29. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Xennady

    Once again you demonstrate that you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, which is equally infuriating and tedious.

    For one thing 30 years ago was 1985. Not only are the guided missile destroyers of today not magically more powerful than guided missile cruisers of yesterday, they often have (and had) the exact same weapons. In fact the Ticonderoga-class CGs were based on the Spruance-class destroyers, with the same hull design and powerplant. Their planned replacement, by the way, was so expensive that the planned thirty was cut back to three. So the navy resumed building a modified version of the 1980s Arleigh Burke design, lacking any better alternative.

    Worse, China is now building up their own navy, including aircraft carriers, and a destroyer design quite similar to the Arleigh Burke-class, including a phased array radar system, either stolen or designed locally.

    Meanwhile, most of the present US Navy was built during the 1980s and 1990s, meaning those ships are going to need replacement rather soon.

    But they won’t be replaced. So I bet by 2025 China will have a navy as large or larger than the USN is now, if nothing changes.

    And it seems nothing will change, because the people running the US, from Barry on down, can’t imagine any real threats to the US, or don’t care about them.

    Except for those Tea Party people, that is. They’re terribly afraid of those people.

    Russia? China? No problem.

    I’d say here you demonstrate that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    1) The Bukres are all ships build in the 1990s and 2000s. With planned construction to go on for several more years. They are the most cutting edge ships in the world.

    2) You don’t understand the difference between a Ticonderoga class and a Spruance class.  Hint: one is an ASW platform the other is an anti-air cruiser.

    3) 30 years ago, in 1985, the mainstay of the USN were the Belknap, Leahy and Virginia class cruisers; the Spruance, Adams and Farragut class destroyers; the Knox, Brooke, Garcia and Perry class frigates.

    You may very well not see a difference between those platforms and technologies that were the mainstay 30 years ago…and the Burke class of today. But that perhaps means you shouldn’t be talking about it, then.

    4) How long do you think is the lifespan of a typical Burke class destroyer? Can you tell me how many new ships the USN has build in the last, 10 years, and how many are building, and how many are planned?

    I won’t hold my breath for an answer.

    Pretty much everything you’ve said here is fantasy and doesn’t correspond to reality. That’s all I got to say about that.

    • #59
  30. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Claire Berlinski:

    The kind of anti-Americanism that worries me most is the kind based on reality: It comes in the form of, “The US doesn’t seem to have a consistent foreign policy that makes sense. American self-confidence has taken one massive hit after another in the past decade. We’re going to end up living here: How much can we trust that Americans will remain interested in us? They’re always an election away from ‘a new foreign policy.’ We have to live here no matter the outcome of that election. They keep calling each other ‘low-information voters’–and we’re supposed to trust them, they know what they’re doing?”

    I suppose that’s a two-way street, isn’t it?

    I’d suggest it starts first with the GOP and “conservatives” realizing what a horrible idea Iraq was, and how it…was…based on a lie and fabricated propaganda. Second, it goes on with people realizing that petty politics aren’t what should come before US interests, so 90% of the foreign policy debates occurring in Ricochet, are precisely the cause of this “confusion.

    Of course, it doesn’t help when the “conservative sphere” of news and internet websites and blogs….is chocked full with fantastical made up stories and imagined crises about our supposed failures everywhere…all for the purposes of cheap political points.

    I guess it doesn’t help when John McCain does one thing, and then once Obama starts doing the same thing, the GOP switches gears and says “we’re now opposed to this sort of thing!”

    Not exactly possible to have a coherent foreign policy, if the intent is to score cheap political points.

    • #60
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