Putin is ascending, insofar as he is expanding his and Russia’s power and sphere of influence. It continues to be unlikely that sanctions will drive him to the bargaining table. His popularity will grow, and the stakes will seem too high to directly oppose him. Thus, he will be successful with his strategy of territorial expansion in the name of refighting WWII. The West’s only response will be to whine and impose limited monetary and trade sanctions. What Putin offers back is a clear goal of Greater Russia that makes historical sense to his constituency. His behavior reveals a nuanced and polemical understanding of the trajectory of these historical forces and a willingness to play his hand out on the world stage.
Babe the Blue Ox stopped by this week to watch a televised stream of Putin holding a press conference about why he’s invading Ukraine. We both just loved watching it. It’s just so much more sophisticated and interesting than anything you get here. And, I must say, it’s a good piece of rhetoric. See if for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ayu3Ecdbl0Q or read the transcripts courtesy of the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/transcript-putin-says-russia-will-protect-the-rights-of-russians-abroad/2014/03/18/432a1e60-ae99-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html.
Think of Obama talking. No, really. Close your eyes for a moment and picture it. Can you imagine him actually getting into it like Putin does? Obama’s mired in DC hipster-American-pop-crypto speak. He speaks the language of JayZ and Beyonce, selfies and the NBA. Compare that to a leader who respects his audience enough to delve into history, use sophisticated logic, speak in metaphor, and in general, be intelligent. Intelligence in discourse gets my vote.
70 years ago I rolled up my sleeves alongside the Russians and together we turned the Nazis from the most terrifying killing machine the world had ever known into Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz. The Soviets sacrificed more lives in that conflict than anyone. Wikipedia puts “total Soviet population losses due the war (sic) at 26.6 million.” The US has got nothing close to that in our collective memory. So while we were curling up with our situation comedies and blithely forgetting how we ended that conflict, the Ruskies were firmly caught in the crazy-making historical remnants of that nightmare.