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. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Hello, Ms. Berlinski,

    I’m fairly sure we do not know each other, for one, because I am not American. A friend of America, I could say, but that sounds so ridiculous… I think I do grasp how various types of people view Americans; maybe some about how Americans look at themselves; I certainly grew up with strong feelings about America & am an admirer. But I have studied a lot of American history, & there is less to admire as you go…

    I think I should thank you for thinking I have a good ear; I’m sure I owe you thanks for your kind words. May I also take the chance & praise your very witty novels?

    But not all of life is pleasantry, so let’s return to the kind of unpleasantness that makes realism necessary. To some extent, political judgment is independent of political loyalty or even affection. It works like any other part the mind. I’d go so far as to say that being an enemy to America today is simply being an enemy to civilization; lots of people who may fear America or contemn her or simply dislike the vulgarity of democracy would nevertheless defend her if they had sense. & yet there is nowhere to be seen such a defense, even in speeches.

    I do believe democracy is the cause of this forgetfulness. Democracy tends to love young people, but old people are the only one who really care about the past, without which remembering things, including promises, is difficult. Other countries are not really democratic–think about Japanese society–so that duties are more seriously treated than freedom. Freedom might require forgetting what one owes to others. I’m thinking also of the relation between relationships we do not choose, but into which we are born & the past which binds us. Freedom & democracy are about the future…

    You are right that American fickleness has made many suspicious, fearful, & daring, too. But we always have to balance that against the great security America has given mankind, for the good & evil alike. America has forced freedom & democracy nearly everywhere without first asking, will it be for the good? But America is a country with people, not God, & not even God said about each thing created that it was good…

    You have a political class that will not take the coming wars seriously until they are humbled–or so it seems to me. But you also have a partisan divide &, within one party, people take pride in realism & security. This may offer an opportunity–at least some part of the public discourse could be serious about serious dangers. I’d say, this were far worse in Britain in the 30’s, for one example…

    • #151
  2. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Xennady:

    This is why I said you were tedious.

    Quoting you, “A guided missile destroyer today is multiple times more powerful than a cruiser was, 30 years ago.”

    That inspired my original comment, but now you see no difference between a cruiser and a destroyer.

    You’re still ignoring the point. That’s ok.

    Did you notice you used the exact same link I used to make mypoint? Which, again, is that the weapons used now aren’t new and magical- they’re evolved versions of older weapons that have been in service a long time.

    And you still don’t understand what you’re reading there. Other than the diameter of the missile and the general layout…the weapons have nothing in common.

    You still don’t understand how missile technology has evolved, and why SM-2 missiles are installed as the main weapons even in the newest ships not only of the US, but of most of our allies.

    I did not say they were the same, because they’re obviously not the exact same weapons. It should be obvious to you that one RIM-66M-5  of now can engage exactly the same number of targets- one– as a RIM-66J of ye olden times of 1985. That’s why the numbers matter. 

    And that’s what you’re not getting. This…is not the case :)

    Pure and simple. The typical ship from 1985 could only engage 1 or 2 targets simultaneously. Today, they can engage dozens. That’s the difference in radars and guidance of today vs 1985.

    And about the F-22, the planned buy was cut from 750 down to 187.

    Surely you can understand that 750 is less capable than 187

    I guess spending trillions of dollars in Iraq then, may not have been such a smart idea ;)

    “Hagel previously announced that if spending caps remain in place in FY 2016, then the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USSGeorge Washington(CVN 73) would be retired early, dropping the number of carrier strike groups to 10.”

    More about the plan,here:

    “Due to Budget Control Act of 2011 requirements to cut the Defense Budget for FY2013 and subsequent years, plans are being considered to decommission some of theTiconderoga-class cruisers. For the U.S. Defense 2013 Budget Proposal, the U.S. Navy is to decommission seven cruisers early in fiscal years 2013 and 2014.’”

    So the USN shrinks again.

    So what you’re telling me is that you’ve never heard of the Ford class of aircraft carriers??

    About that Chinese CV: Three.Plus a couple LHDs, etc.

    You see the trendline, right? USN, smaller, smaller, smaller. Chinese Navy, bigger bigger, bigger.

    OMG. Kiev class carriers which are museum and casino ships in China. LOL

    You’re somehow imaging that the more numerous ships of 1985 couldn’t even have as many anti-aircraft missiles as the fewer ships of now, which is insane.

    LOL. So what you’re telling me is that you have no idea what the USN compliment was in 1985?

    Talk about imagining.

    And you’re completely ignoring the Iowa-class battleships that were in service then, which certainly was not insignificant.

    An Iowa class battleship which carries exactly…zero…anti-air weapons?

    The  51 FFG-7s alone could conceivable deploy 2040 Standard missiles through their Mk 13 launcher

    There weren’t 51 in service in 1985. And 51 Perry class ships can carry  1,836 SM-1 missiles, of the medium-range version only. A single Burke today can carry as many as 384 ESSM missiles, which are the modern equivalent.

    Oh and a Perry class could only engage 1 target at a time. So, talk about incomparable technologies.

     and the last ten DDG-2s could add another 400 through theirs

    Charles F. Adams class…from the 1950s. Don’t worry, they’re all counted in the numbers I gave above.

    Don’t even get me statrted about the octuple launcher for Sea Sparrows,

    Short-range missiles.

    on at least the 31 DD-963s (I assume it was also on the DD-997, but I don’t care enough to check), and a 61-spot VLS was installed on the first 24 of them.

    In the late 80s and early 90s.

    That’s another 1464 in the VLS, plus 8 times 30, which is a trillion, because I can play math games too.

    You sure can. Dates, however, seem to be a problem. Also understanding the difference in guidance and missile models between ships in 1985 and 2015.

    You can’t even get the basic classifications correct, which actually matters. 103 guided missile frigates in 1985? Nope. 15 cruisers building now? Nope.

    That was a typo on my part. Destroyers, of course :)

    Anyway, at this point its obvious that “conservatives” like you are more than willing to invent any sort of reality to score political points and say “Obama did it!”. If you have to use 30 or 40 or 50 years worth of USN history to do it, no problem. Obama did it…30 years ago! If you have to ignore reality and technology, no problem…Obama told Raytheon not to develop a new missile that was sufficiently different from older versions.

    And that’s how we get to the situation, like in an older thread, where someone actually said “Obama has reduced the USN to nothing”

    A very fitting point, in a thread about propaganda.

    • #152
  3. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Ekosj:I realize I am very late to this party.But I feel I have to clear up some factual differences as regards American opinions about Russia.

    AIG asserts that Gallup polls indicate that 63% of Americans view Putin unfavorably.This is correct and comes from a Gallup poll done in March 2014.He goes on to argue that these numbers are comparable with views of the old Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

    Polling questions are fascinating things and one must be careful about the exact wording. In March of 2014 Pew Research did a more in depth poll.It asked whether the respondents viewed Russia as an adversary. This is in the exact same time period as Gallup’s ‘favorable/unfavorable’ poll.

    The results?Only 26% viewed Russia as an adversary.

    At the height of the Cold War nearly 90% considered the Soviet Union to be ‘unfriendly’ or an ‘enemy’. Moreover, in March 2014 over 50% thought the US ‘should not get too involved’ in the situation in Ukraine.

    So I think Claire is right to be concerned.

    fewrfwer

    It’s one thing to say whether you view Russian or Putin positively or negatively.

    It’s another to say that you should view them as the “enemy”.

    I don’t have to “like” Saudi Arabia to not consider them an “enemy”.

    Do we really think Russia is an “enemy”? Not really. Russia is an annoyance.

    • #153
  4. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    James Gawron:

    AIG,

    It’s wonderful that you are so impressed by the economic sanctions. The Russians don’t seem so impressed

    You have some insight in Russia that I don’t know about, which tells you that they are not impressed?

    and now have come much closer to annexation of eastern Ukraine.

    They’re exactly where they were in September 2014. They already annexed that part since then.

    Europe rots from the inside out and you are as happy as a clam with your sanctions.

    What do the two have to do with each other?

    Sanctions didn’t work on Iran and they won’t work on the Russians. Iranians and Russians have something in common. Claire I hope you are listening, they are more than willing to cut their nose off to spite their face. Sanctions to them are like swatting a Bengal Tiger across the nose with a rolled up newspaper. You may not get the response you were expecting. No worries though, I’m sure you’ll have a massive supply of statistics and excuses when disaster ensues. Inaction is such a fabulous policy. Always plenty of reasons not to do anything.

    I suppose you’re right. Economic warfare on the Soviet Union did…nothing. Nope. They weren’t impressed one bit.

    Better start WW3 Jim, while we still have a chance…before Obama eliminates the US military entirely. I hear, the Navy is already gone ;)

    • #154
  5. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Hi Claire re: We do, in fact, do things like persuade Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons, and then make it very clear why no one should ever do this. We do, in fact, look for the legal loopholes that might get us out of this–instead of thinking, “The way this will look to everyone in the world but us is, “Nuke up as fast as you can.”

    I really have to take issue with this. (1). There were no Ukranian nuclear weapons. There were Russian nuclear weapons on Ukranian soil. My understanding is that the Ukranians did not have the codes required to use them. Those were closely held by the Russians (as well they should have been). Everything of yours that I’ve read suggests this is not the sort of thing that esacpes your attention. So, why create the straw man with the language about “…persuade Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons”?

    (2). The 1994 agreement with Ukraine is a wonder of clarity. There are no “legal loopholes to get us out of ” anything. The words on the page are crystal clear and the US is living up to every one of them. The Russians are in flagrant violation of their end of that deal. But nowhere in that 1994 agreement is there even a hint of a promise of US protection of Ukraine vs Russia. That is the kind of thing conferred upon NATO members. So again, why continue the meme that the US was somehow unfaithful here? Maybe it “looks” like we were unfaithful because people who should know better have ratcheted up expectations of what that agreement actually said to a point well beyond what the words on the page clearly say.

    • #155
  6. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Ekosj:Maybe it “looks” like we were unfaithful because people who should know better have ratcheted up expectations of what that agreement actually said to a point well beyond what the words on the page clearly say.

    You’re right, let me rephrase.
    We did, in fact, sign the START treaty on July 31, 1991. It entered force in 1994, and expired in 2009. We did, in fact, expand a massive diplomatic effort–along with Russia–to persuade the three Soviet successor nuclear states to eliminate their arsenals or transfer them to Russian control. There was, in fact, huge resistance to this in Ukraine–which at the time had some 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads—considerably more than Britain, France and China combined. It was pretty much our largest foreign policy objective at the time to secure these–back in the days when we had entirely manageable foreign policy problems, and things like this were viewed as “our most important objectives.”

    Belarus and Kazakhstan joined the NPT and ratified START I “as is.” Ukraine was a whole lot more resistant. It experienced, in fact–as the documents say, “intense domestic debates over how to deal with its nuclear inheritance.” In 1992, the Ukrainian parliament was expressing “pro-nuclear views.” We tried to bribe them with  $175 million in dismantlement assistance. Didn’t work. The Ukrainian government insisted on “administrative management of the nuclear forces.” What we’d now call “Ukrainian nationalists” in the Rada–and some in the executive branch, –opposed denuclearization. They thought keeping the weapons  would be the basis for  a nuclear deterrent, and seemed insanely determined to worry about Russian encroachment on Ukrainian sovereignty. We struggled mightily to get those crazy Ukrainian nationalists to see sense. We put the screws on them as hard as we could–as did Russia. In 1993, in fact, 162 Ukrainian politicians signed a statement of their preconditions for ratification START–they would only dismantle only 36 percent of its delivery vehicles and 42 percent of of the warheads. They wanted Ukrainian control.  Almost as if they didn’t trust their neighbors, for some meshugganah reason. We smacked our heads: idiot Ukrainian nationalists. 

    We kept twisting their arms and offering them money and begging them. Finally, it worked–in fact. The Ukrainian Parliament finally ratified START I and the Lisbon Protocol in 2003, but with such serious reservations, as the documents say, “as to place Ukraine’s commitment to join the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state in doubt.”

    There are lots more details. But our diplomatic efforts were massive. In the end, we managed to bribe, arm-twist, and cajole Ukraine to remove Soviet-era nuclear weapons from their territory, send them to disarmament facilities in Russia, and sign the NPT. In return, Ukraine was “reassured by the leaders of the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom of its security, sovereignty, and the inviolability of its border.”

    I can go into a lot of detail on this and make it as precise as you want. It’s hugely well-documented. But the more we do, the more we’ll get to the original conclusion: The lesson of this story is either, “Well, come on, we never really promised them anything,” or “Never give up the nukes–and if you don’t have them already, get them.”

    It’s now quite well-known how to build these things. Many countries are now quite worried about their disturbingly unstable neighbors and expansionist local hegemons. I really don’t envy our next generation of earnest young diplomats who have to sit across the table from their counterparts and say, “Trust us, really.” I’m glad that’s not my job.

    • #156
  7. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    AIG:

    James Gawron:

    AIG,

    It’s wonderful that you are so impressed by the economic sanctions. The Russians don’t seem so impressed

    You have some insight in Russia that I don’t know about, which tells you that they are not impressed?

    They’re exactly where they were in September 2014. They already annexed that part since then.

    What do the two have to do with each other?

    I suppose you’re right. Economic warfare on the Soviet Union did…nothing. Nope. They weren’t impressed one bit.

    Better start WW3 Jim, while we still have a chance…before Obama eliminates the US military entirely. I hear, the Navy is already gone ;)

    AIG,

    Buuusssssshhhhhhhh!!!!!  OOOOOWAHHHHH!!!!

    You know, just not to be forced to endure one more of your sniveling posts I think I would start WW3.

    http://youtu.be/NFkryh6hC-k

    I feel so much better now.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #157
  8. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Titus Techera:I think I should thank you for thinking I have a good ear; I’m sure I owe you thanks for your kind words. May I also take the chance & praise your very witty novels?

    Well, I know for a fact that I did not invent you–you really are a Ricochet member. But I also know that if you’ve read those novels (and the second one, in particular) you’ve got to know that I could have invented you. I just don’t quite know what to make of that. I think my conclusion is that back when I wrote that, I was already hearing that voice around me–a lot–but it had not sunk in yet that this was not just “an interesting voice that would make for a great character in a novel.” It was a geopolitical trend. However, if you read that novel, I suppose you know that deep down, I suspected that. And honestly, it took reading what you wrote to make me see what I was doing: writing fiction because I couldn’t handle the truth. The truth is that the world is full of people who sound like you–and sound like you for a good reason.

    • #158
  9. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    AIG,

    Once again you remind me why I described you as tedious.  My apologies to Claire if that again seems like an ad hominem attack, but it also seems an apt description.

    I suggest you stop wasting your time responding to anything I say, as I will certainly cease wasting my time responding to you.

    • #159
  10. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Ms. Berlinski, I do think there is more than the usual insight in your novels & I was very surprised to read your second–pleasantly surprised, as you might imagine. I do not think novelists these days would care to imagine how I might see things. I do not know how you came to that imagination, but I suspect it has something to do with being an expat–this is not to say you’re not American, only that the name requires some qualification. An American might give me a nod or shake my hand, but he would not see what I see-

    • #160
  11. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Xennady:AIG,

    Once again you remind me why I described you as tedious. My apologies to Claire if that again seems like an ad hominem attack, but it also seems an apt description.

    I suggest you stop wasting your time responding to anything I say, as I will certainly cease wasting my time responding to you.

    While I agree with much of what you say, I agree that we all agreed to follow the rules.  See how agreeable I am?

    • #161
  12. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    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.”

    Well, you’re framing this as a “the average Western person needs to understand this”.

    I don’t know why the average Western person needs to understand this. The average Western person doesn’t know who Putin is. Nor should they care. US policy shouldn’t be guided, or dependent, on what the “average person” knows or thinks.

    Short of an actual US military involvement, all other measures of force are a waste of time.

    This is an issue of…Russia being Russia. Russia was always the anti-West. Was always run by psychopathic dictators. Russia got money, and reverted to doing what it always does.

    So what’s the solution to that, then? Crush their economy.

    Second issue: I notice you are directly or indirectly implying in some of your posts that somehow I’m spreading “Kremlin propaganda”.  Saying that we shouldn’t start WW3 over a turnip field in Donetsk, isn’t “Kremlin propaganda”.

    Third issue. You mentioned in earlier posts that the problem with the US strategy is that we aren’t in “lock step” with some of our “allies”. But that’s…a good thing…given what these “allies” are doing vis a vis Russia. Why would I want the US to be guided by the wills of France or Germany?…

    Fourth issue. The majority of the pro-Putin propaganda in the US comes from…libertarians and conservatives. Ron Paul types and Pat Buchanan types. … So, idiots.

    I agree with almost everything you’ve said here.  I’ve snipped it just for length, not content.

    • #162
  13. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Xennady:AIG,

    Once again you remind me why I described you as tedious. My apologies to Claire if that again seems like an ad hominem attack, but it also seems an apt description.

    Nope. That was another ad hominem attack, in a form lightly disguised to create plausible deniability.

    Recall: There are rules against ad hominem attacks on Ricochet. I have both a responsibility to stop ad hominem attacks on Ricochet and the power to do it. I don’t have to bluff: think about it. It’s in my interest to stop them, it’s the right thing to do, and I can–so I will.

    I’m in total agreement with you about rules, responsibility, power, deterrence, and the importance of nipping aggression in the bud before it gets out of hand. I’m also in charge here. So our policy on ad hominem attacks will be applied. On this rule, my economic interests and values line up, the law is clear, and I can eliminate a threat to order by pressing a button.

    I’m the America you used to know, remember me?

    Don’t mess with America.

    • #163
  14. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Hi Claire. Thanks for taking us through the history of the thing. Very valuable. But my points remain. The weapons in Ukraine were Russian weapons. They were under Russian command and control. (My car may be parked in your driveway, but that doesn’t make it yours…especially so if I still have the keys and the ignition shutoff codes.). The Ukranians could not use them. But neither did they have the means secure them. It seems clear, then, that it was in America’s best interests that 1900 nuclear weapons not remain in Ukraine under such nebulous circumstances. I am am an American and make no apologies for putting American interests first. I understand that Ukraine has their internets as well, but that’s why there were negotiations.

    The product of those negotiations ( yes- arm twisting, cajoling and monetary incentives are fair play ) was the 1994 Budapest Memo. In that agreement
    the US promised that WE will not violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Period. Full stop. And we have not. So to claim that somehow WE acted in bad faith is just untrue. And the contention that America has acted in bad faith, made by people who should know better, only makes a bad situation worse.

    Now the Russians are also party to the 1994 Budapest Memo. They also promised to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. THEY are in clear violation of that agreement. What penalties are spelled out in that agreement with regard to violations? Well, if someone nukes Ukraine we promise to go to the UN Security Council to request help for them. But that doesn’t apply here. Other than that … Nothing. Zip. Nada.

    Call me crazy. But I believe these agreements are important… That they actually mean something. But that something is exactly what they say. No more. No less. America is living up to every word of the 1994 agreement. The Russians are not. Again, to claim that somehow WE acted in bad faith here is just untrue. And the contention that America has acted in bad faith, made by people who should know better, only makes a bad situation worse.

    All this is not to say that I think America’s response to the situation in Ukraine and Russian expansionism is general has been correct. I believe Russia (under its current fascist government) is a dangerous American adversary. I believe that it is in America’s best interest that Russian expansionism should be confronted and opposed at every turn. In particular I believe that Ukraine should be provided with additional arms and training and funds … Not because we are somehow obligated to do so, but because it is in our best interest. And I think you are correct that the majority of the American people don’t see things that way; as demonstrated by the Pew Research poll. There is lots of work to be done on that front before American policies change.

    We do not want countries around the world to conclude that they need to ‘nuke-up’ as soon as possible. If they do so it is because America fails to perceive Russia (and Iran and ISIS) as a threat and act accordingly…not because we somehow back-stabbed Ukraine. We are guilty of quite enough without having that laid at our door as well. Because that we did not do. And pretending that we did just makes it harder to forge the united front necessary to contain Russia.

    • #164
  15. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Ekosj:

     Not because we are somehow obligated to do so, but because it is in our best interest.

    I basically agree, but would change the wording slightly. We are obligated to do what’s in our best interest. No one else will. Fine for the British to say, “Dear me, we seem to have lost the Empire, but at least there’s America.” So what’s the plan here–Australia to the rescue? There is no such thing as an International Supreme Court with really fair and impartial judges. It doesn’t hugely matter to anyone whether we’re “strictly speaking right on the points.”

    I don’t think a single American born deserves this mess. I don’t think any American alive is responsible for what Putin is doing. But he’s doing it anyway, even though it’s not fair. And lots of Russians think he’s terrific, and it’s about time Russia had its day in the sun.

    They’re not all evil people, either. I’m thinking of a young ethnic Russian mother I know–Latvian, and if you know this story you know about ethnic Russians in Latvia. She’s married to a Turk. They’ve got a beautiful baby girl. Sitting with her a few years ago in Istanbul and she’s telling me, in all seriousness, about how Putin makes her  hopeful, and how she’s glad Russia has a better reputation again. Beautiful young woman, with a baby girl. Married to the most decent, hardworking, smart guy you’ll meet. And my very serious hope for Turkey–seriously, because this is far more realistic than our policy in Turkey has been–is that more women like her marry more guys like him. I am absolutely certain she’s communicating basic, decent values to Turkey, and she’ll stick with that job. It’s clear to her that she has no choice. I really trust her to act in her own interest and promote a Turkey that’s basically decent. She’s stuck there.

    Now, the trick here is getting Americans to see that we are quite a bit like her. We have an interest in a world that is basically decent–and no way off this planet. None. There’s a bit of a lag time between the rest of the world and us, but there’s no way really to get off the planet.

    We do not want things getting to the point where I have to shoot her. I don’t want to shoot a young mother with a child, for God’s sake. But if this stuff gets too far out of hand, that is, of course, what I’ll have to do. Or, let me be honest: I could not pull the trigger on her. Not in a million years could I kill a young mother with a child. But someone will. It will have to be done. And that won’t, in my eyes, be foreign policy triumph. Whether we committed to it or not, whether it’s fair or not, this is the world.

    I would have made many of the same mistakes we’ve made in foreign policy had I been in power at any given time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, so you can blame me for all of them, blame Bush, Obama, Reagan, America, our universities, Islam, Putin–none of it helps. This is the world, and it isn’t fair.

    We deserved to win the Cold War–but we didn’t. I got that wrong and celebrated far too soon. And we will not deserve to be nuked. But if we get things like this wrong, of course we might be. Some non-hysterical and serious awareness of that possibility would be good. Of course we wouldn’t deserve that. That lovely Latvian mom doesn’t deserve to die. I don’t deserve to be run over by a bus, but my knowledge that I don’t deserve that doesn’t keep me from looking both ways before I cross the street.

    Foreign policy really isn’t about “deserve” and “fair.” This is the situation, fair or not.

    • #165
  16. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Hi Claire. I’m sure there is an appropriate quote from The Bard that would fit perfectly here … But lets try this one instead:

    “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?” – Oddball. From ‘Kelly’s Heroes’

    • #166
  17. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @BalticSnowTiger

    Claire Berlinski:

    Ekosj:

    Not because we are somehow obligated to do so, but because it is in our best interest.

    I basically agree, but would change the wording slightly. We are obligated to do what’s in our best interest. No one else will. Fine for the British to say, “Dear me, we seem to have lost the Empire, but at least there’s America.” So what’s the plan here–Australia to the rescue? There is no such thing as an International Supreme Court with really fair and impartial judges. It doesn’t hugely matter to anyone whether we’re “strictly speaking right on the points.”

    I don’t think a single American born deserves this mess. I don’t think any American alive is responsible for what Putin is doing. But he’s doing it anyway, even though it’s not fair. And lots of Russians think he’s terrific, and it’s about time Russia had its day in the sun.

    They’re not all evil people, either. I’m thinking of a young ethnic Russian mother I know–

    Now, the trick here is getting Americans to see that we are quite a bit like her. We have an interest in a world that is basically decent–and no way off this planet. None. There’s a bit of a lag time between the rest of the world and us, but there’s no way really to get off the planet.

    We do not want things getting to the point where I have to shoot her. I don’t want to shoot a young mother with a child, for God’s sake. But if this stuff gets too far out of hand, that is, of course, what I’ll have to do. Or, let me be honest: I could not pull the trigger on her. Not in a million years could I kill a young mother with a child. But someone will. It will have to be done. And that won’t, in my eyes, be foreign policy triumph. Whether we committed to it or not, whether it’s fair or not, this is the world.

    I would have made many of the same mistakes we’ve made in foreign policy had I been in power at any given time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, so you can blame me for all of them, blame Bush, Obama, Reagan, America, our universities, Islam, Putin–none of it helps. This is the world, and it isn’t fair.

    We deserved to win the Cold War–but we didn’t. I got that wrong and celebrated far too soon. And we will not deserve to be nuked. But if we get things like this wrong, of course we might be. Some non-hysterical and serious awareness of that possibility would be good. Of course we wouldn’t deserve that. That lovely Latvian mom doesn’t deserve to die. I don’t deserve to be run over by a bus, but my knowledge that I don’t deserve that doesn’t keep me from looking both ways before I cross the street.

    Foreign policy really isn’t about “deserve” and “fair.” This is the situation, fair or not.

    Once more, seconded. Next.

    So, where do we go from here? How do we communicate the dire need for action. What is the platform? Can we please discuss the who, when, how, what and then get going? Who amongst the Republicans can make that as simple, clear and rational as Reagan did, e.g. as noted on the plane to the RNC nomination convention when according to Ken Adelman asked by Stu Spencer why he was doing this ‘… to end the Cold War’). Start with a few and then work down the list.

    > Win the Long War with collectivism and fascism.

    > Contain Russia.  Engage India and deter China. Defeat radical Islamism. Prevent Nuclear Proliferation, Defend our Allies.

    > Spread Free Speech, Promote Trade and Capitalism, Create Wealth as a Base of Security.

    In short: defend the free world from its enemies.

    I am sure that a good, professional speechwriter can coin this in worthy fashion.

    Obviously, all that pathos does not help here much (may be as helpless as notions of despair), but amongst all the serious and important details about which calibre of what weapon or ammunition is more or less deadly, whose at fault or not, who knew or still does not, we must not forget what is at stake. Let’s revert back to the root of the conversation and the issue, if we are aware, we agree what is at stake, and know our goal, we have an obligation to pursue it, and then arrange for the million of necessary steps taken and support/goods etc procured.

    • #167
  18. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Well said BST!

    > Win the Long War with collectivism and fascism.

    > Contain Russia. Engage India and deter China. Defeat radical Islamism. Prevent Nuclear Proliferation, Defend our Allies.

    > Spread Free Speech, Promote Trade and Capitalism, Create Wealth as a Base of Security.

    Now there is a foreign policy framework that many Americans would support if it were laid out that clearly. Especially if defined as something that America can do and must do, for ourselves and our future.

    Meets Oddball’s criteria: No negative waves. Righteous. Hopeful.

    I’d be interested to hear thoughts on who could best articulate that message. Most of the current crop of Republican hopefuls seem short on foreign policy credentials. But maybe that’s not altogether a bad thing. Neither will they have any embarrassing connections to how we got to this sorry state. Thoughts?

    • #168
  19. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Xennady:AIG,

    Once again you remind me why I described you as tedious. My apologies to Claire if that again seems like an ad hominem attack, but it also seems an apt description.

    I suggest you stop wasting your time responding to anything I say, as I will certainly cease wasting my time responding to you.

    No problem. As long as we don’t make anymore claims that the USN has been reduced to “nothing”.

    • #169
  20. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @BalticSnowTiger

    May I suggest, in reverting back to the original topic of Russian Authoritarian Thinking (and what it entails today) to have a brief look at two articles from the past few days which may provide additional background to what we are facing, obviously different shades and views from various angles:

    John Thornhill in the FT Feb 6, ‘Vladimir Putin and his tsar quality’

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/48b6a350-ad29-11e4-bfcf-00144feab7de.html#axzz3SBdGZ1Sf   [the link may end up at their pay wall]

    Thornhill curries his sober review of three books on the topic

    – Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?, by Karen Dawisha

    – Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s No. 1 Enemy, by Bill Browder

    – Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, by Peter Pomerantsev

    The first and third one I can personally recommend for what it’s worth.  The second one is still on order. Dawisha is a need to know. Pomerantsev covers the cynic domestic media set-up which besides what Thornhill relays as part of the long term plan of Putin’s regime has certainly facilitated the foreign propaganda build-up.

    and

    former British ambassador Tony Brenton in the Telegraph, same day, ‘I’ve looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes – and he won’t back down”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/11396409/Ive-looked-into-Vladimir-Putins-eyes-and-he-wont-back-down.html

    • #170
  21. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @BalticSnowTiger

    As to the ‘the who, when, how, what…’

    If The Corner’s Eliana Johnson is to be believed and one reads it is confirmed, we have one young go-to guy now with Mr. Walker’s campaign, Mike Gallagher, one may hope that besides his good credentials (Go Pack Go!) he has a Sempei, too.

    ‘… Gallagher will serve as the day-to-day lead on all foreign-policy issues …

    Gallagher, 30, is a Princeton University graduate who spent seven years in the Marine Corps. He deployed to Iraq’s Al Anbar province twice, where he worked as a counterintelligence officer and served as a member of the CENTCOM assessment team gathered by General David Petraeus, which conducted a wide-ranging analysis of American military strategy in the Middle East and Central Asia. He also happens to be a native of Green Bay, Wis.  Gallagher has worked with the John Hay Initiative, a group of former Romney foreign-policy advisers who are coordinating and conducting briefings for potential presidential contenders, as a part of its working group on the Middle East. ‘

    Source: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/414038/walker-hires-foreign-domestic-policy-leads-eliana-johnson

    Claire – any news on the Foreign Policy platform? How would that fit into the thread based conversation set-up here? An established  Foreign Policy Corner @ Ricochet?

    • #171
  22. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    BalticSnowTiger:

    Claire – any news on the Foreign Policy platform? How would that fit into the thread based conversation set-up here? An established Foreign Policy Corner @ Ricochet?

    I’m lobbying for it, the response has been very positive, and I’ll keep lobbying for it. If it fails to happen quickly, it will because resources are stretched, and other fixing other problems (like the long list of bugs that drive Ricochet members nuts) are higher on the agenda.

    That wasn’t meant to be a complex metaphor to describe American foreign policy–although once I wrote the sentence, I realized it was.

    • #172
  23. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    BalticSnowTiger:- Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?, by Karen Dawisha

    – Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s No. 1 Enemy, by Bill Browder

    – Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, by Peter Pomerantsev

    Here’s an interview with Miss Dawisha on her book, from liberty-law, for whoever is interested in her.

    • #173
  24. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    BalticSnowTiger:

    OK, so: On a foreign policy section, let’s figure out how to do it so that as soon as we get the tools, we can finish the job. My thought, basically, is to organize it in the obvious thematic ways:

    1) Current foreign policy crises by region, sub-headings … fill in the list.

    2) Institutional problems: reconciling the idea of “foreign policy” with “democracy,” long-term.

    3) The Institutions we’ve got, and what to do with them (the military, State, Congress, Senate, the Constitution, that guy no one remembers in the White House, various intelligence agencies, subcommittees, how these things work …

    4) How to make sense of what’s being reported in the news, and what to do about the way lots of things aren’t, really.

    Then let’s figure out how to manage these various threads so that things that are factually accurate and useful emerge: the goal is to have something at the end that could serve as a useful guide to foreign policy beyond a tiny corner of the Internet here on Ricochet. The key here is somehow to prune off things that are factually inaccurate, make the things that are more accurate rise to the top, and come up with really rock-solid arguments for weighting priorities in an intelligible way. These have to make sense both to voters and policy-makers. I’d like it to result in “Americans having more useful tools for thinking about these issues than they have now.” One way to define a useful tool would be, “It would result in Americans being less surprised.” I put stress on that because it seems to me a lot of things that have come as a surprise to Americans (certainly including me, on many issues) shouldn’t have. It seems very strange to me .

    I know. Not easy. Precisely why no one does it, and but also why it has to be done.

    Thoughts?

    • #174
  25. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    For what it’s worth, nothing I can say to anyone here about American foreign policy will be as convincing as the half-hour conversation I just had one of the many hardworking immigrants here in Paris.

    He’s from Poland. “He’s KGB. I’m old enough to remember waiting on lines. We had nothing. I remember what it was like. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

    So, I asked him–what should Americans do? Then I said the magic words: “I’m a journalist.”

    The mystique of “an American journalist” had an effect I know pretty well. It still gets very strange and undeserved respect. The thought behind it is, “I might be able to talk to the White House through this magical intermediary before me–the American media.” And a conversation that until that point had been–in his mind–“obviously, we both know how serious this is” changed. I suddenly became the one who had the power to get Americans to take this seriously. So, this was his statement to the American media:

    “I don’t know. Do something. You’ve got to. If you can, do it without more war. More pressure. But be careful, don’t start a huge war.”

    I am really tired of seeing that pleading look in people’s eyes, and I know what it means. It means, “You are so powerful. You are the only ones who could stop this. But please, please don’t screw it up.”

    At that point, I’m thinking–even if we can’t stop him, could we bring on the smoke and mirrors, at least? At least enough that in ten years’ time, people still get a bit serious when they speak to “an American journalist, who might be an amazing purveyor of influence over the American people, who we know are very powerful?”

    You know, sorry to sound like Obama here, but I didn’t build the reputation for power and influence that America has. I inherited it. And if we’re going to do “late-stage de-imperialisation,” as our foreign policy, fine, let’s do it–responsibly. We don’t have to wonder what “hasty de-imperialisation” looks like, we know.

    You know what would make us truly the greatest empire the world has ever seen? To be the first empire ever to beat a thoughtful, orderly and responsible retreat, leaving order in its wake, after which everything is even better, freer, and more prosperous in the Seat of the Empire, and the whole world is better off for it.

    I could be sold on that policy. I just want to see the plan for it.

    • #175
  26. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Claire, I am seeing you descend into Jewish Intellectual Disease (JID).

    JID afflicts intelligent people, by making them think that if they just collect the right information and deal with it properly, then the right decisions can be made and executed.  But in the runup to making those decisions, one gets notions in one’s head that until the information is clear and unambiguous, one should not jump to any precipitous actions. It is based on the fallacious notion that if we only had the right information, we can make the right decisions to produce the right result.

    The net result, of course, is a lot of thinking and planning – and no decisions.

    Our foreign policy is much easier to do than you are making it out to be. All we have to do is assert the principles that make America great, and promote those principles worldwide. [edit. just made this its own conversation on the Member Feed]

    Hence, Ink and Guns. We could use the free market to put a bounty on the heads of the leadership of rogue nations. Recidivist Terrorists getting you down? Here is a Market-based Rule of Law way to eliminate the problem! Want to protect Christians the world over? Establish and defend Cities of Refuge. Voila! City-state building from the bottom up! Heck, let’s use the Free Market to build little Americas all over the world. Now THAT is bang for the buck!

    We cannot, and should not even try, to micromanage the world. That is not the American way. Let’s make it possible for the free market to solve all our problems.

    • #176
  27. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Claire Berlinski:I could be sold on that policy. I just want to see the plan for it

    You may be asking too much. There is also something else here–you seem to hope that with minimum risk or involvement, American foreign policy might bestow on the world what the world has never seen. Order, where & when it was installed, was installed by blood & treasure & what Clausewitz calls the iron will of the commander. The assumption that order is spontaneous & somehow inheres in human beings everywhere, which seems to be the bare minimum of latter-day liberalism, denies human action because it denies that circumstances have a power to overthrow human designs. It’s political pantheism–some kind of universal force will work its work so we do not have to do it.

    Americans should live with the burden of your democratic ambitions. How can you talk about liberation for every burdened or tortured man, woman, & child & then take it back when it gets people’s hopes up, beyond anything they had known before, except in church?

    Those ambitions should be moderated, the rhetoric should be more serious about the great difficulties of this world–Americans should not be in the business of delivering the world from its hardship. Remember WWII–the terrible world destroyers like Patton & Macarthur were quickly supplanted by generals like Marshall, best known for bribing a continent into forgetting that some had slaughtered, raped, & pillaged the others. Lots of good things for people who badly needed them; & the implication that justice would be abandoned. Maybe that is the origin of the worst injustice–ingratitude. You might see in love of American ambitions this ingratitude in the making-

    • #177
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