Tuesday, March 04, 2014


"They imagine the world as a new interconnected world where climate change is the biggest threat and they are shocked that the Russians actually are interested in territory."
-Charles Krauthammer

There's a lot of speculation about why Russia keeps ignoring the rest of the world and doing what it wants.  Some people are completely baffled by what Vladimir Putin is doing and cannot understand what on earth the pattern is.
Some predict another world war, some fear invasion of other countries in the east, some think its part of a plan to rebuild a Soviet Union.  There are plenty of guesses and lots of speculation going on out there.
People on the left are particularly confused, because they honestly did believe what President Obama said at the UN in 2009, when he claimed that no nation should or can dominate another in the 21st century.  That's old thinking, as Secretary of State John Kerry claims, 19th century thought.  We just don't do that any more.
Some in the press, pundits and so on are claiming no one could possibly have predicted this, although Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Michael Totten and many others can and did predict this years ago.  It was not hard to see coming for a lot of reasons, not the least of which the need for Russia to have a port for their navy that is open year-round.
But the key to understanding this is something Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov explains quite well in a series of tweets:
Years of West acting mystified over Putin's strange moves "being bad for Russia" ignore this. He doesn't care if it's good for his survival.
Putin can do that because he isn't interested in Russia's diplomacy or Russia's well-being, only his personal power & wealth of cronies.
I'll say it again. Stop trying to imagine long-term plans in Putin's actions. For 14 years, he always looks only at short tactical outcome.
The key to understanding Russia is to view the entire country as being run by organized crime.  Yes, I know, ha ha congress, but the fact is, this is exactly the situation in Russia.  They are literally run by a syndicate of mob bosses, with Vladimir Putin as the boss at the top.  He's not a dictator in the classic sense, because he's not running the country as a tyrant.  He's running it as a business designed to make him and his cronies as rich as possible.
Its true that Vladimir Putin, like many Russians, longs for a vastly powerful Russian Empire, for Russia to be the world's only superpower.  They feel humiliation over their 70-year attempt to create a new system of government ending in total failure and collapse.  They feel belittled by the ease and riches which the United States projects.
But their main method of running things is exactly like a New Jersey crime family: ruthless, swift judgment with absolute control by the people at the top that can do anything they want to anyone they want and enjoy all the benefits.
These guys are mostly old communists, folks who were in power when the Soviet Union collapsed, but for the most part they've abandoned their communism for a more practical system of cut throat ruthless business.  Russia is a massive criminal enterprise, except with a fundamental twist: they run the country so its not illegal.
Imagine Tony Soprano in charge of the country, and his buddies as the cabinet.  Imagine their system of running things, gaining benefits, and dealing with enemies as a government.  That's what you get in Russia.
Now, the people of various Eastern European nations might want to break away from the power and influence of Russia, but to do so is to repudiate Russia's power.  It is a direct defiance of the former Soviet Union and disrespects the bosses in Russia.
Not only that, but it is a legitimate threat to the money that the Russian government gets from them.  If your country produces things that are sold to Europe, Russia doesn't want you to stop paying tribute and join the EU, they want you to stay under their control.  What happens to a business that stops paying tribute to Tony Soprano?
I'm serious here.  You don't burn the business down, because it means no money ever again from them.  You don't kill the owner, because then he can't run the business.  So you lean on him.  Mess up a kid, break a few things, threaten him with something dire.
So when The Ukraine or Georgia threatens to split away too much from Russian dominance, well its time to lean on them.  But you don't invade and bomb them into oblivion, you just take a piece of them away, to remind them who's in charge.
The end goal here isn't statecraft or world opinion or some higher noble calling.  Its money.  Money and power, and what benefits Vladimir Putin (and his friends).  Someone causes you too much trouble, well drop some polonium into their salt shaker.  Some country rebels against your control and wants to join the EU, come stomp on them, a little.
Russia doesn't need to invade Poland or whatever other nation that is being discussed.  They don't even want to, because invasions are expensive and controlling an invaded country difficult and frustrating.  Mostly because its expensive.  That money could be better spent on chicks and caviar and gold plated bidets.
All you have to do is remind countries that they simply are not capable of fighting back against Russia and that nobody, anywhere, is going to protect them.  That's the most important bit.  These countries have to be reminded that they are utterly defenseless and alone in the world if they go against Russia.
See, the EU is busy ruling on what wood cricket bats can use and fining airplanes for putting out too much carbon emissions, but they are worthless when it comes down to actual power.  They are like a group of knitting ladies discussing the correct way to cook beans when a robber comes in the house.  Russia is more than willing to use any amount of force necessary to maintain its power and riches for its mob cabal in power, they do not care what anyone else thinks.
And this is the part that drives the left crazy.  They honestly believe that "world opinion" and esteem on the planet matters to everyone as much as it does to them.  They cannot conceive that someone might simply not give a damn what the UN thinks or what the world opinion of them is.
World Opinion and 50 cents can buy you a candy bar, its utterly devoid of importance.  Maybe if Russia wasn't supplying Europe so much of their gas and power, there would be a problem with how people view the country.  But the fact is, the EU cannot apply any economic leverage to Russia, because Russia has them by the base of their snardlies.
Any time they try to squeeze, Russia will shrug and squeeze back, and that hurts the EU far more than it will Russia.  This is what the Soviet Union was lacking before; any sort of economic leverage.  They had nothing anyone wanted or needed, so they couldn't prevent all those sanctions.  Now Russia has all the leverage it needs.
In fact, if some scientist discovered some amazing new energy source like an "arc reactor" such as in Iron Man, I would not at all be surprised to find they died in a lab accident that destroyed all their work.
Understanding what Putin is doing and will do next isn't really that hard at all.  And in this case, it was particularly easy.  The Ukraine is a mess economically, and has been run by looting tyrants for years.  The Crimean Peninsula speaks Russian, flies Russian flags, has a Russian navy at Sevastopol, and is essentially a Russian outpost in the Black Sea.  They didn't fight back, they welcomed the Russian forces.  When the Ukraine put a new guy in charge of their Navy, he immediately defected to Russia.
This wasn't a risk at all for Putin, it was a shrug of martial strength to make sure their interests were protected.  Yes, a strong show that we'd fight and kill to stop him would have made him rethink the position.  Russia is banking on nobody wanting a war and nobody wanting to fight any more.  He's relying on the west being passive and weak
But there's zero political and emotional support for protecting the Ukraine, and they don't even seem to want to protect themselves.
The bottom line is that Russia isn't expansionistic, they aren't trying to rebuild the Soviet Union, and they aren't looking to invade any other countries.  They don't need to or want to.  They just want to make sure all those nearby nations continue to obey and pay tribute.
Really the only thing that people need to learn from all this is that President Obama's "smart diplomacy" is unequal to the task of dealing with a hostile world, and that their vision of a 21st century where everyone gets along because we're all interconnected economically is naive and false.
And ultimately, everyone needs to remember how the people who warned about this were treated.  Remember the contempt and dismissal, the condescending arrogance they were treated with.  "The cold war is over, that was the 70s, you throwback idiot."
The left was so absolutely sure and totally confident they were right - and still certain that the USSR was never really a threat or all that bad to begin with - that they were contemptuous toward someone who pointed out the contrary.
And now who's laughing?
Vladimir Putin, all the way to his solid gold bidet.

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