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Fools Russians Where Angels Fear to Tread

2017 February 18
by Mandos

(NB: post by Mandos.)

Recent events suggest that, whatever they may have originally thought, the Trump administration is in the process of being pulled back into the overall historical attractor of US policy regarding Russia. The Russian establishment had made no secret of its preference for Trump and its belief that Trump was a person with which they could deal on a more even footing, a politician in a mold they understood, etc.

I’m not here to argue whether or not Trump (or Flynn) is some kind of Russian plant, an issue that seems to be occupying many others.  I gather that conclusive evidence on this matter has yet to be produced and that it so far lies in the realm of (negative) wishful thinking.  However, Russian policy-makers are already voicing disappointment that Russia-favorable entities in the Trump administration are increasingly weakened. The US state, particularly its intelligence community, are deeply set up for conflict with Russia, for better or for worse, and it turns out that the White House is only part of a large infrastructure, and any fantasies of an election resulting in a vast purge and house-cleaning were just that: fantasies. The intelligence community still believes to its core in the necessity of containing Russia.

However, one thing that is different now is the position of Western social liberals. Unfortunately, Russia had decided to back in spirit, if not always materially, movements that are identified with various strains of nationalist conservatism that are hostile to the goals and beliefs of social liberals. This is not only in the USA, but especially so in Europe, with the on-going rise of the Le Pens, the Wilders, and other groups in the world. Once upon a time, social liberal groups were principally parochial movements which were relatively indifferent on foreign policy questions regarding Russia, and to a very large extent also overlapped with anti-war movements — and so were once at odds with the intelligence community.

However, the apparent desire of Russia to return to a world of ordinary nation-state politics, and therefore its willing appearance (at minimum) of siding with conservative nationalist movements, have led to many social liberals now viewing Russia as mortal threat to their projects, and therefore, having a plausible motive to try to subvert political movements like that of Trumpism to their aims.  In this situation, social liberals (or “identity politics” movements, or whatever you want to call them) will quite rationally stake out a position that the devil you know (American intelligence forces) are better than the devil you don’t (Vladimir Putin). This is not helped by the appearance of things like Russia loosening its laws on domestic violence.

While social liberals have not lately been winning elections on their platforms (most notably, in the USA due to the Electoral College structure), it would be a mistake to assume that these groups have no power whatsoever. In fact, they have broad and deep bases of popular support (merely electorally inefficient), and those bases are being pushed into the arms of forces hostile to Russian interests. The combination of Cold War-style intelligence community conservatism with popular social liberalism is one that is likely to lead to an even more hostile neo-Cold War posture on the part of the Western establishment in the medium-term, unless in the short term Trumpism can generate the political competence required to coerce the establishment in the other direction.

For its part, Russia has been attempting to play, in the “further abroad”, a soft power role given that its other options are not effective. It is attempting to play the part of a rival global hegemon without actually being a hegemon. It does not currently have the cultural or technological reach to do so.  While it operates a technologically advanced, developed economy, it is still highly dependent on natural resource development and export. That means that the risks accruing from a strategy of using cultural divisions in the currently hegemonic Western social order are high: should social liberals gain the upper hand due to the inability of nationalist populism to operate the levers of state effectively, they will be confirmed in a resolve for further containment and suppression of a Russia that took sides against them.

65 Responses
  1. S Brennan permalink
    February 18, 2017

    I take this [see link] story much more seriously than the limp effort of neoMcCarthyism above:

    Here a clear violation of the “Logan Act” and the MSM doesn’t even bother to report it.

  2. atcooper permalink
    February 18, 2017

    They are largely arguments of inertia. Yes, the way things were is likely to be the way things are and will be. And yet strange and new things happen all the time.

    I find myself a begrudging admirer of the new prez. It’s kinda the reverse of Obama that way. I expected nothing, and am occasionally surprised.

    Rooting out the corruption in the IC is a tall, tall order. Until that happens, they amount to the new fourth estate. There’s way too much power in far too few hands.

  3. February 18, 2017

    I’d say that a return to old-school nationalism is a departure from inertia in the way that skidding backwards down a hill is a departure from inertia, but that’s a matter of taste, I guess.

  4. highrpm permalink
    February 18, 2017

    what is so wrong with old-school nationalism? the state of israel is showing the world the way.

  5. February 18, 2017

    Case in point.

  6. Richard McGee permalink
    February 18, 2017

    The Trump thing is difficult to parse. Is it confusion, incompetence, application of chaos theory? On the surface, it doesn’t cohere.

    It’s almost as if Lenin had decided to surround himself with a central committee full of Mensheviks, SRs, and the odd Tsarist. How the heck is this any way to run a revolution?

    At any rate, I’ll be viewing sweeping assertion about the Trump Insurgency with a lot more incredulity – at least until we begin to see more pieces falling into place.

  7. Peter permalink
    February 18, 2017

    It’s beyond laughable to read Mandos’ and other’s fantasies about the Clintonite party having any real actionable political power beyond disruption. The fact that many states are under republican control has nothing to do with the electoral college as does the fact that they control both houses of congress and appear to be able to keep that control.

    The Clintonite party is a headless shell stuck in denial and going nowhere and the rubes are not impressed by their recent maniacal behavior. The Party and its social liberal followers are not the primary force trying to undermine Trump now, it is the deep state Clintonite establishment also called the Borg who worship only one thing, Power which Trump and his supporters are beginning to take away from them.

    Putin tried for years to develop a partnership with the Borg and was rebuffed repeatedly with the Red Queen’s head rotating vomitus their last word. These are NWO zealots that can only be removed not negotiated with and Putin knows this.

  8. February 18, 2017

    Who said anything about a “Clintonite party”? Clinton, either one, didn’t even get mentioned in my post. They’re both history. What’s this about a Clintonite party?

  9. bob mcmanus permalink
    February 18, 2017

    Anybody else read the saker around here? Deplorable he may be I check in once in a while. For the record, I really don\’t like Saker or his commenters, but still might learn something there, at least as much as I can without actually visiting Breitbart.

    Without giving much argument here today, I tend to agree more with Mandos about the social liberals than with Peter. This comes in part from my understanding of neoliberalism which has hard and soft variants, and even the hard variants like Hayek and Friedman are more socially liberal than the religious or ethnic conservatives. And I consider the \”social liberal\” aspects of neoliberalism, the \”Free to Choose\” compromised libertarianism more important, the driving force behind the economic hegemony, being a bottom-up kind of analyst.

  10. markfromireland permalink
    February 18, 2017

    It is attempting to play the part of a rival global hegemon without actually being a hegemon.

    Even by your standards that’s a singularly foolish misrepresentation of the facts.

    it is still highly dependent on natural resource development and export

    No it isn’t.

    1: It’s generating enough internally to be able to manage quite nicely without export income.

    2: It’s certainly generating enough not to have to worry about the income derived from exporting to NATO countries.

    3: The money it makes from exporting to China is nice but it’s nice in the sense of being the icing and the cherry on the cake. See also point 1 above.

  11. VietnamVet permalink
    February 18, 2017

    Yes, the Great Game is back on. Globalist Oligarchs in the West desire Russia’s resources. Naturally Russia will support Nationalist groups to counter them. This is in their national interest. The really strange thing is seeing Democrats scapegoating Russia for their election loss. The party would rather rake in the plutocrats cash than care about the best interest of Americans. We who served in the First Cold War remember the old joke; “There is stupid. There is really stupid. Then there is a war with Russia.” Globalists are risking nuclear war to hoard more wealth.

  12. atcooper permalink
    February 18, 2017

    Ah yes, the notion that history has a direction rears its head. Were prior attempts at global organization practice runs for this late 20th century variant?

  13. EmilianoZ permalink
    February 18, 2017

    The alt-left, by which I mean the anti-neoliberal left, which I think includes the Bernistas, readers of this blog, of Naked Capitalism and various other alternative news sources, the alt-left has nothing against Russia. The alt-left wants peace with everybody. The alt-left wants the US to cease its imperial role. The alt-left welcomes Russia as an equal power in a multi-polar world.

    The alt-left hasn’t had any electoral success yet (contrary to the alt-right with Trump) but it is a growing power. The Dem primaries have shown that the alt-left is now roughly equal in numbers (if not in power) to the neoliberal left.

    The alt-left understands the grievances of the alt-right. Where they differ, and this probably makes them irreconcilable, is that while the alt-left puts the blame on the rich, the alt-right scapegoats the people of various darker shades.

  14. Pelham permalink
    February 18, 2017

    I’m not sure (but I’m open to contrary evidence) that Russia is really trying to play the role of global hegemon.

    It is asserting its authority in its near-abroad, notably in Ukraine with considerable justification.
    And Putin does seem to have some political traction across Europe. But that appears to be about it as far as it goes.

    That aside, it’s certainly true that there’s an alarming “combination of Cold War-style intelligence community conservatism with popular social liberalism” that can’t lead anywhere good, especially if liberals use the accompanying new McCarthyism to plant themselves back in the Oval Office and Congress.

    I suppose this must be the new calculus of the Deep State Democrats: Combine the usual identity politics with the new red-baiting to win elections, thus allowing them to disregard the progressive/populist wing of the party, such as it is. It’s scary, yes, but it’s also clarifying.

  15. VietnamVet permalink
    February 18, 2017

    February 18, 2017

    Thanks. I never ran into this before. I agree 100%. This needs to spread. I now have an identity; alt-left.

  16. jo6pac permalink
    February 18, 2017

    VietnamVet Thanks for the comment

    EmilianoZ Yes I read those sites and would say I’m a member of the Cockburn & Glen Ford and others left.

    There are few sites out there that give the Russian view something that we all should read to understand the Russian people.
    Fort Ross, funny named after Fort Ross in Calif. It’s written in Russia.
    RT News

  17. jo6pac permalink
    February 18, 2017

    Deep State is American citizens true enemy. matt Stroller talked about and this covers it.

  18. Peter permalink
    February 18, 2017


    As far as I know the Clintonites created the alt-left brand as a derogatory slur of anyone even slightly to the left of their cult of personality. True Leftists don’t need to divide the left any more than it already is and the alt label just conflates you with the alt-right by design.

    Some of the Berners tried to force Sanders to actually represent a left pole but he loved his Queen and her party more than the rabble who thought they were going somewhere with that sheepdog. It might be rash to draw conclusions about the now dispersed Berners because of the primary vote numbers. I think about half of these folks were just Clintonites on assignment to liven up the dead boring campaign. The way the majority of them scurried back to the Queens camp seems to support that conclusion.

  19. V. Arnold permalink
    February 18, 2017

    MFI above covers it nicely; Russia is playing chess while the U.S. plays checkers.
    If one is not familiar with the Heartland and Rimland theories; Mackinder, Spykman, and Mahan; then the game at hand cannot be well understood.
    The U.S. knows, but fails to understand, the game and thus plays it badly, to put it mildly.
    Russia, China, and Iran are crucial; the U.S. knows it but can’t control Iran.
    It’s too late in any event…

  20. Hugh permalink
    February 18, 2017

    Russia has a nominal GDP around 7% that of the US, roughly on par with that of Australia. You can look at it as in the lower range of mid-sized economies or the upper range of small economies. About 30% of its GDP is oil and gas exports. So no, Russia is in no sense a hegemon, and yes, it is heavily dependent on commodity exports which make it extraordinarily vulnerable both to sanctions and economic downturns.

    In terms of its foreign policy, it was able to annex the Crimea because 90% of the population is Russian, it had a large naval base there, and Crimea is attached to the rest of the Ukraine by a narrow land bridge. Its involvement in Syria has been confined to fairly indiscriminate aerial bombardment from protected bases. As for the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, it is rather an example of Russian weakness. This was an industrial area, albeit with declining industries, with a Russian-speaking majority. While it was able to disrupt Ukrainian control, it was not able to establish any real control of its own over the area. Yet Donbasa is right on its doorstep, near the whole of its European armed forces. All Putin has accomplished there is to destroy a region of its neighbor, partially depopulate it as ethnic Russians move to Russia proper in the process changing the ethnic composition of the area, create an inveterately hostile neighbor in the Ukraine, stir up the Poles and the Baltics, and get them to invite the US and NATO to expand their bases eastward closer to Russia.

    So to recap, the Crimea was a gimme. Putin’s Syrian adventure is really very limited in nature. And his Donbass involvement has pretty much blown up in his face. Indeed it can be argued that Putin’s ongoing involvement there is more about keeping a flow of Russian refugees from turning into a flood.

    Putin is a dictator, a thug, and a murderer. I have no sympathy for him. But aside from its arsenal of nuclear weapons, and let’s be real clear, nuclear weapons are essentially defensive in nature, a deterrent against invasion, Russia presents no threat to the US or NATO. At most Russia and Putin can rise to the level of an irritation as in Syria, but again Syria is not and never was a major US interest. And elsewhere, we are talking at most a minor irritation.

    So when I see the current Russia hysteria, I look at who is generating it for whose benefit. My conclusion is that, all in all, I think our politics have jumped the shark. If you saw or read the transcript of Trump’s latest news conference, you know what I mean. At the same time, the Democrats, neocons, and intelligence community drumming up Russia as the next Great Satan to somehow discredit Trump is equally ludicrous. It’s like taking your car to a garage to get it worked on. One group of mechanics says, “No problem,” then starts up chainsaws and approaches your car. Another group says, “We got this,” and grab sledge hammers and baseball bats. Just so, we the people want our country fixed while our political classes, no matter how they divide themselves up want to wreck it. I expect something similar is happening in Europe as well.

  21. V. Arnold permalink
    February 18, 2017


    You and Ian have particularly negative views Of Putin, often calling him evil; very prejudicial.
    If Putin is a murderer; what does that make of almost every U.S. president of the last 200 years?
    Very Russophobic of you and definitely not a balanced presentation.
    As to Donbass and Ukraine? You write as though the U.S., aka Nuland, had nothing to do with the destruction of the region.
    The largest pervayor of global terrorism is clearly the U.S.A..
    I think the facts would bear out that the U.S. has murdered more humans than any other country on the planet; either directly or through its sanctions. 500,000 children in Iraq alone, before 911.
    Just listening to the utter bullshit spoken by U.S. presidents and elected officials in comparison to Putin and Lavrov is striking. Lavrov and Putin are true statesmen worthy of the title unlike the clown show in the U.S..
    You might want to listen to the Valdi speech of 2012 by Putin.

  22. Peter permalink
    February 18, 2017

    I don’t think Australia is a good fit to compare with Russia economically although their GDP’s are close. Australia produced that GDP number from about 25 million people while Russia requires 140 million people to reach that output a huge productivity and lifestyle difference.

    A more realistic comparison would be with Mexico which produces nearly the same GDP with 110 million people.

  23. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Peter & Hugh

    Those are just meaningless number which account for nothing.
    One cannot understand a culture by counting numbers.
    Russia (and Russians) have very little debt. Russia’s reserves are around $400 million U.S. dollars.
    Nabulina, the minister of Finance has done an amazing job bringing Russia through its financial crisis and out the other side. Russia is the largest grower of wheat on the planet.
    In any event, before comparing Russia to other, find out about its culture, history, and very multicultural society.
    Before pointing out the mote in the eyes of others get the beam out of your own…
    I was married to a non-us born Ukrainian for a decade. Oregon has a huge Ukrainian community of which I was involved enough to understand their values; which are far removed from American society.

  24. Ché Pasa permalink
    February 19, 2017

    I’m probably more of a Russophile than most simply because the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Russian Federation have been an interest of mine since I discovered the anti-Soviet propaganda we were being fed in the 1950s was mostly lies and falsehoods whipped up by our government so as to ensure that we young ones would never fall into the error of Soviet communism.

    Accusations against Putin as a “thug” and “murderer” are rarely balanced with the fact that he is widely admired in the RF and some of the Soviet Union’s former republics as both a political and economic master player. He and his government brought the Russian people back from the brink of utter catastrophe to a level of security and prosperity and well being they hadn’t seen since Soviet times.

    While he’s called a rightist and a fascist and worse, Putin appears to be an odd combination of a technocrat, a czarist and a Soviet leader. He is versed in statecraft and he does it very well. He seems to be very detail-oriented, knowledgeable, and a strategic thinker, and he generally acts benign toward the Russian people. Opposition is allowed but is strictly controlled, and at least from appearances, that’s the way the Russian people want it. Serious opposition could destabilize the State, and Russia would be right back where it was under Yeltsin and the Chicago Boys. They don’t want to go back to that, despite the pressure from the neoLibCons in the West.

    The Russians are well aware of the fact that the US was actively trying to undermine and subvert the Soviet Union, and it’s been doing the same with the Russian Federation. Putin has used those facts to inspire patriotic fervor focused on protecting the Motherland and on his own person as The Protector of the State and the Constitution. I expect him to be granted sainthood by the Russian Orthodox Church to boot.

    Putin seems to enjoy czarist trappings. He makes full use of the Kremlin palaces, for example, and he he seems to relish immersing himself in the splendor of gold and crystal and overwrought design available to him from the days of the Czar. Trump’s fetish for gold and crystal and overwrought design seems tacky by comparison.

    The symbols of czarist rule have been revived in Putin’s Russia, but many of the symbols of Soviet rule have been preserved. Lenin’s tomb is still on Red Square, covered up for Victory Day parades — parades which celebrate Soviet troops and the Soviet victory over the Nazis — but otherwise it is still a major tourist attraction in Moscow.

    The anti-Russian/anti-Putin hysteria being whipped up in the West is truly bizarre, or it would be if it weren’t for the fact that the destruction of the Russian Federation has been a neoLibCon goal for many years as part and parcel of the hegemonic project that continues no matter who is in the White House or governs Europe or Britain. According to that project, Russia must be destroyed. And then China. Trump only seems to want to reverse the order of destruction.

  25. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Ché Pasa
    February 19, 2017
    Very nice post CP. Me too (Russophile).
    The thing that really chaps my ass; respected commentators like Hugh call Putin a murderer and they cannot possibly know this as true or false. They have just bought what they HEAR, from MSM.
    Knocked the shit out of my esteem for him as a commentator. and any other sycophants who echo this unverified garbage.
    Even Ian buys into this crap…unbelievable.
    Putin is evil; oh please…

  26. Ché Pasa permalink
    February 19, 2017

    @V. Arnold

    I have no specific knowledge of Putin’s murderous thuggishness, but the truth is, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. Just as the US government engages in murderous thuggishness as its routine and bloody practice. But what goes on in Russia, and how its government governs is their business, not mine. The majority of the Russian people seem to be more than satisfied. And it really is up to them to decide. Those who buy into the Russia=Putin=evil canard uncritically are victims of propaganda. I think both Hugh and Ian have better understanding than that, but they don’t always say so.

    As for the hysteria over “Russian hacking” and “election interference” I’ve said all along, “So?”

    Whether they did or didn’t should make no difference at all. If our elections were not as screwed up as they are, outside interference from any source wouldn’t be an issue. It’s only an issue for two reasons: 1) our elections are bad jokes; 2) it’s propaganda to deflect from the bullshit and to generate hatred of the Other.

    Well, I don’t buy it.


  27. Hugh permalink
    February 19, 2017

    V. Arnold reminds me of the old legal saw that if the facts are on your side, pound the facts, and if the facts aren’t on your side but the law is, then pound the law, and if the law and the facts aren’t on your side, then pound the table.

    Putin and Lavrov, statesmen? Give me a break. Lavrov was talking last week in Munich about respecting sovereignty, etc., etc., but has Russia respected Ukraine’s or Georgia’s sovereignty? of couse not. Apparently, only Russia’s borders are sacrosanct in Lavrov’s view. Everyone else’s are up for grabs. And self-determination à la Crimea? How come that doesn’t work with Chechnya?

    V. Arnold’s take also reminds me of Chomsky. I have often criticized Chomsky for his peculiar neo-colonial view of history, one which ascribes all the ills in the world to US foreign policy and which effectively erases everyone else’s history and capacity to screw up.

    I think progressives need both a coherent and realistic world view, one that applies the same principles to everyone. When they don’t, they simply undermine their credibility and doom themselves to marginality. So if you want to criticize US foreign policy, feel free, but don’t act like the world wasn’t a fucked up place before we came on the scene or that a lot of its fucked-up-ed-ness has nothing to do with us. Other parts of the world have their own histories, and a lot of those histories long before we came along weren’t nice, and they still aren’t. And if you can’t even see what kind of a thug Putin is, then don’t act surprised when virtually the whole of the electorate writes you off as unserious.

  28. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    @ Hugh

    Lame response; you still blame Russia for the Maidan and Nuland’s U.S. sponsored coup in Ukraine.
    Your mis-reporting the facts on the ground further demean your standing.
    Character attacks are the last resort of scoundrels, which your fast becoming…
    Frankly, you’ve just burned the last bridge of your credibility.
    Pathetic, just pathetic…

  29. Jay permalink
    February 19, 2017

    I think this goes beyond Russia, really. Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon is on record indicating that the fights of the future will be with China and the Muslim world. Given the geographical location of Russia, the bitter history between Russia and the Muslim world, and the long border between Russia and China (the Russian joke being that Chinese are sneaking across the border in small groups of a hundred thousand), it’s pretty easy to see why the administration would try to cultivate Russia as an ally. Well-positioned allies who are motivated and able to fight are the very best allies.

    The defense establishment has had more than enough war with Islam, thank you, and does not want war with China for the simple reason that we’d lose. But the Pentagon needs an enemy, otherwise people start asking tough questions about its budget. They like Russia for that role, partly from inertia but also because Russia knows the game. Putin knows how to whip up nationalist sentiment with news-grabbing provocations without actually escalating to a devastating war.

  30. February 19, 2017

    It’s really funny, but predictable, the direction in which this discussion has gone. Aside from the bit about Russia’s somewhat alarming apparent relaxation of domestic violence laws, and the fact that a very large portion of its economic interaction with the world outside its borders is via the natural resources trade, I didn’t really say or intend to say much about what sort of rulers Putin or Lavrov or Nabulina or whoever really are. And yet, the discussion has instead turned largely around the extent to which I have not given Putin the appropriate credit for being the saviour of the human race against a monstrously Hitlerian “Clintonite” (once again, I never mentioned Clinton and am hard-pressed to see how the Clintons are relevant here…) menace. This, by people who regularly castigate Trump opponents for apparent hysteria.

    The only explanation I can give for this peculiar phenomenon is the simple search for villains and heroes. The mostly successful efforts of the US establishment to thwart and deflect opposition to, yes, fairly deadly foreign policy choices has led the good frustrated people here to demand a hero correspondent to this sort of villainy. Unfortunately, Putin is not that hero, but that won’t stop them.

    Putin is the current competent ruler of a vast and brutal empire. An empire that is yes, multicultural, as empires of that geographic size almost necessarily must be. My point in the post is that part of his strategy has been to look for allies in Western countries that can lever Russia’s opponents (for better or for worse) out of power. The allies he seems to have chosen perhaps only coincidentally reside on one side of a major social debate in the West — placing a multicultural empire on the side of anti-multiculturalists. And my point was, that has political consequences, because the multiculturalist, social liberal side’s main weakness is right now geographic concentration, and only secondarily popular depth of support, contrary to what many people here seem to think.

  31. Peter permalink
    February 19, 2017


    Economic power is probably more important than military power in the competition between the US and Russia so these numbers and comparisons show the scale of that divide. The USSR at its height had a GDP one half the size of the US while Russia today has a GDP of about one fifteenth of the US. Russia under Putin has recovered dramatically from the desolation after the breakup of the USSR and their economy may come out of recession this year.

    Russia needs foreign investment to expand its productivity that is why your comment about them being debt free is actually bad news for them, no one will loan them needed money.

  32. Tom permalink
    February 19, 2017

    @ Peter

    No, Russia doesn’t need foreign investment. It needs to raise taxes, starting by ditching the flat tax and implementing a progressive income tax.

  33. nihil obstet permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Question on economic comparisons: I understand the bigger GDP-makes-stronger statement, but doesn’t simple comparison leave out the effectiveness of the production? Given the enormous U.S. waste of its productive facilities, especially in maintaining the level of military spending on such items as the F-35, bases around the world, and annual military forays into 70% of the world; the makeup of the GDP including a large counterproductive financial segment and the accounting of intellectual property as productive; how does the U.S. stack up against potential competitors? As 1929 and 2008 demonstrated, you can have collapse without reference to the underlying productive strength. And these days, I rather doubt that the U.S. could quickly become the current day equivalent of “the arsenal of democracy” as it did in the 30s.

    And I might add, it is so obvious that each of you is absolutely right and noble, and those who disagree with you are cretins and the spawn of the devil that you don’t really need to burden my reading time by pointing it out at any length. I don’t think it’s just a style preference, but a feeling that the comment section gets less useful and informative when such obvious truths become the central topic.

  34. Peter permalink
    February 19, 2017


    I’ve read Putin’s speeches in the last few years and he and or his speechwriters have done a good job of stating their case. His criticisms of the US have been effective if easy shots to take. I’m not sure that effective speeches equal statesmanship and no one seems to be calling on him to play that role. He and his regime were adept at outmaneuvering the US/Europe in Crimea and manipulation the US in Syria which shows they are clever.

    One thing that is consistent in his speeches is his stated desire for Russia to partner with the US/Europe and together embrace the New World Order without some of the extremes displayed by the US. This approach sounds moderate and farsighted but Putin’s actions in Syria show he can be just as extreme as the US when Russia’s remaining imperial interests are threatened.

  35. montanamaven permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Great discussion and I enjoy the different viewpoints as to whether Russia is actively supporting certain leaders because they are nationalists or whether Russia is trying to keep a strong defense of her borders. Or both. But I would like to address the 2008 “Russia invaded Georgia deal”. Correct me please if I’m wrong. But my understanding was that Georgia went into South Ossetia and the Russian Peacekeepers there chased them back into Georgia. The Georgian president Mikheil Saakoshvili talked to John McCain several times a day so there was speculation that McCain might have egged him on. Why? in theory to make John McCain look tough during the 2008 campaign. Saakoshvili, by the way, had his Georgian citizenship taken away and is living in Ukraine. Here’s one story from Huff Post:
    Did McCain Help Bait Russia into Georgia?
    “Now that the dust is settling the big question about the dust-up in Georgia remains: Why was Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili so stupid to start this war?

    There are a couple of theories. One is Saakashvili was under the mistaken impression the US military, even NATO, would intervene if Russia fought back after Georgia entered the breakaway province of South Ossetia on 7-8 August, devastating Tskhinvali, and according to Moscow, killing a number of Russian peacekeepers.”
    And b over at Moon of Alabama pointed out that the pictures of Russian tanks entering Eastern Ukraine were actually the Russian tanks entering Georgia in 2008.

    It’s also pretty strange that McCain can talk to presidents in Georgia and Ukraine anytime he feels like it because why? Is it because they are not our enemies? But Russia technically is not our enemy either. So, as Spock would say, none of this is logical. It makes my head hurt.

    I am also confused as to where the evidence is that Russia is backing “nationalist” movements if “nationalist” is a code word for bigoted racists homophobic misogynists. I thought Russia was cautiously optimistic about Trump because he didn’t compare him to Hitler and thought it might be better to be a trading partner than a foe.

    I look forward to reading Putin’s Valdi speech as suggested. I read his speech to the UN 2 years ago and found it very thoughtful. In that speech he said that the Russians had learned a valuable lesson from the mistakes of the USSR. They should not have gone around the world trying to force their ideology on others. Nations should decide their own type of government without being told that there is a right way or a wrong way. Now if that’s just talk and they are still going beyond meddling and are actively seeking to impose some sort of doctrine on other nations, I guess I need to keep studying this. But they are no longer communists and they no longer are neo liberals. They seem to me to be trying to work out something that is more of the synergy that Martin Luther King Jr talked about in his “Where do we go from here?” speech. “Communism forgets the me and Capitalism forgets the we”.

  36. Lisa permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Same old, same old….

    “Vice President Mike Pence has met with the president of Ukraine and assured him of U.S. support. Pence’s office says he “underscored U.S. support” for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and underlined that the U.S. does not recognize “Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation” of Crimea.”

    “Vice President Mike Pence is reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the security of the Baltic states in a meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.”

    Tick, tick, tick…..

  37. britzklieg permalink
    February 19, 2017

    this doc should be used w/subtitles on and the volume down. Russian-over English dub is maddening.

  38. britzklieg permalink
    February 19, 2017

    @ montanamaven

    this doc should be used w/subtitles on and the volume down. Russian-over English dub is maddening.

  39. different clue permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Every time I see Hugh doing Hasbara for the antirussianitic racist antirussianites, I suspect he must have some personally parochial special-interest motivated reason to lie and lie and lie about
    the source and causes of tensions between the Russian Federation and the DC FedRegime.

    Given what Hugh knows that we know that everyone knows about the DC FedRegime conspiracy to install a NaziNazi Banderazi coup regime in Kiev, I think the lengths that Hugh goes to pursue his own special agenda against the Russian Federation, whatever that special agenda might be . . . would cause me to have zero sympathy for that special agenda . . . whatever it is.

    That’s what happens when you let the Ends sanctify the Means and your Means decay into pure deceitful Hasbara.

  40. wendy davis permalink
    February 19, 2017

    @ britzklieg this is James DiEugenio’s ‘A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See’, february 13, 2017, consortium news. i confess that some of this information was new to me, but far easier to read than watching the video. i had to chuckle at thierry meysann, in his homge to herr trump, noting that as a foil to the corrupt poroshenko, “he met with and his pumping for (banderist) yulia tymoshenko to replace him!” eventually, yats and nuland weren’t able to control their neonazis, lol.

    @ lisa with regard to The Bear, after reading some of mad dog mattis’s and tillerson’s comments from both brussels and munich last week, i wonder if his cabinet hasn’t been assimilated by the borg.

  41. wendy davis permalink
    February 19, 2017

    also, re: the russian economy, you might find pepe escobar’s ‘The pivot to China’
    Trump remains hostage to his own election rhetoric, legacy of past policies. Meantime, Beijing is delivering its strategic vision for a new Pax Sinica’ (or any of his other related essays) of interest.

    “Add to this the progressive interpolation of OBOR with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. The EEU is fully institutionalized, complete with bureaucratic layers, while OBOR is still a loose experiment in progress. As Xi and Vladimir Putin have stressed, OBOR and EEU are ultimately complementary – and that adds an extra dimension to the Russia-China strategic partnership.”

  42. reslez permalink
    February 19, 2017


    You’ve now repeated your aspersion about Russia’s supposed relaxation of domestic violence law without supporting evidence. NC ran an article by John Helmer which goes into great detail on this subject. In the article Helmer explained the Russian public’s widespread opposition to domestic violence and simultaneous support for the change to the law:

    A Moscow social policy analyst commented: “The reason there is so much public support for a fine for this offence has nothing to do with the Church; nothing to do with Mizulina. Foreign critics have missed the point. Russians understand their police very well. They know that if there’s no money incentive, there is no enforcement. That’s why first-offence beatings aren’t followed up, but traffic violations are. If the local militia can see their chance to collect money from complaints, they will do it with alacrity. Every Russian understands this. Foreigners don’t.”

    Your post ignores the fact that Western media have a vested interest in drumming up hatred among the cultural left against Russia. This means all reporting about supposedly dastardly Russian actions are subject to spin and nonsense. Yet you seem not to have taken this into account and parrot the mainstream canard about Putin’s supposed support for domestic violence. You may not agree with Putin or the Russian public on this subject, but to say they support wife beaters is nonsense — directly equivalent to the media hysteria against Iraq during the run up to the second Gulf War.

  43. Hugh permalink
    February 19, 2017

    nihil obstet, most economies are extremely wasteful. Even comparing standards of living can be tricky if those standards are not sustainable. An economically oligarchic, politically dictatorial Russia is a lot more inefficient than the US or other Western or East Asian country by almost any measure.

    The US of 1929 was an exporter while the US of today is an importer. In major economic downturns, producers usually fare a lot worse than their customers.

    It is important to remember that Yeltsin was a Russian nationalist and he broke up the USSR because the Great Russians were about to slip from a majority into a plurality in the old USSR. By cutting loose the SSRs, he effectively restored the Great Russian majority in the largest SSR, Russia proper. Outside of a deal to keep the naval base in Sebastopol in Crimea, he did not really show much interest in the fate of pockets of Russians in the old SSRs, like South Ossetia. So you could say he botched the breakup. But from an international law standpoint, Crimea and the Donbass were and are part of Ukraine and South Ossetia was and is part of Georgia. Europe, in particular, has had a long and extremely costly history from countries deciding unilaterally to redraw their borders or create Greater States by incorporating ethnically and linguistically similar populations residing in neighboring states. That different sets of rules should be applied to the US and Russia or that US foreign policy should be trashed and Russian foreign policy exalted are positions that are neither logical or fair and which I pointed out are precisely of the type that will keep progressives marginalized, and as long as they adhere to them, deservedly so.

  44. Peter permalink
    February 19, 2017


    We can’t totally reject the Borg’s attitude about Putin’s Russia because much of their bile filled attacks are based on fact but certainly not all of them. What’s important is how Trump plans to ‘deal’ with Russia knowing they are no more innocent than we are. What we are seeing now is the peak of this hostility and rhetoric from both sides and actual negotiations and friendlier dealing can walk back that hostility leading to some agreements.

    I see that Pepe is still selling his Chinese silkoil dreams for fun and profit along with the benevolent not belligerent China delivering trainloads of consumer junk to Chinese run strip malls along their foreign development projects. I read that these Chinese investment funds can be used much like the IMF and WB are used but wise people tell us that won’t happen.

    The huge planned development dollar numbers Pepe mentions sound impressive but I saw another Chinese announcement that may be telling. China has canceled construction plans for some 80 coal fired power plants some already under construction apparently because they won’t be needed. Projected growth in demand for electric power doesn’t exist as their economy and growth slows. The Chinese government counteracted some of the effects of low growth by pumping huge amounts of investment into large public construction including cities for millions that sit empty but that kind of bubble can’t be maintained.

  45. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    different clue
    February 19, 2017

    Well said and spot on…

  46. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    nihil obstet
    February 19, 2017

    Yes, Russia gets far more bang (literally) for the buck in its production.
    Though the west (U.S.) was shocked by Russia’s advanced weaponry, as demonstrated in Syria, they are loathe to admit it.
    Threads like this one, bring out the Russophobes in full force. It’s an example of the effectiveness
    of 70+ years of U.S. propaganda on the evil Russian people. Pay close attention to the adjectives used to describe all facets of the Russian federation and people.
    Almost no one has a clue as to the character of Russian people and unlike Usians they have character.
    Also laughable are the comments re: Russian behavior in Syria, WTF?
    Russia is there at the invitation of Assad (yeah the butcher of Syria) while the U.S. slinks in the Syrian netherlands giving support to ISIS, Al-Nusra, and Al-Qieda.
    The duplicity and downright betrayal of the U.S. is so hypocritical as to be laughable if not so tragic. Butchers of the western hemisphere have no legitimate standing, IMO…
    So, keep on, keeping on, in demonizing Russia and its people.

  47. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    February 19, 2017

    Russia needs foreign investment to expand its productivity that is why your comment about them being debt free is actually bad news for them, no one will loan them needed money.

    Neo-liberal economic horse pucky.

  48. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    February 19, 2017

    And I might add, it is so obvious that each of you is absolutely right and noble, and those who disagree with you are cretins and the spawn of the devil that you don’t really need to burden my reading time by pointing it out at any length. I don’t think it’s just a style preference, but a feeling that the comment section gets less useful and informative when such obvious truths become the central topic.

    But it’s so amusing to watch. 😛

  49. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    February 19, 2017

    Yep, I follow Helmer’s Dancing with Bears, and read that article.
    Your comment just reinforces my repeated attempts to debunk the mis-reporting on Russia and her people.
    Usians just don’t get how damaged they are after hundreds of years of propaganda.

  50. Peter permalink
    February 19, 2017


    Russia has gone a bit neoliberal with austerity cutbacks and public private partnerships. They have their wages under control down to a salary of $433 per month average.

    Because it’s a family business Putin’s son-in-law is c0llecting the new trucking tax that the truckers were complaining about a few months ago, but they have no debts.

  51. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017


    With no context your comment is meaningless…

  52. V. Arnold permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Oh, and austerity is not, in and of itself neo-liberal.
    In the past when I’ve been in heavy debt; I’ve had to cut back on spending. Once out of debt, I may choose to keep an austere lifestyle and save my money for security in the future. I am no neo-liberal.
    Nabulina is a very savvy finance minister who has cut inflation from over 10% to slightly over 5% in a very successful financial policy. She could hardly be termed as neo-liberal.
    The dollar amount you mention has no context without housing, food, and utility costs.
    Another tell is the strength of the Ruble; it went from the 80’s to now, about 63 to the dollar.
    the key to this game is, once again, Mackinder, Spykman, and Mahan’s Heartland/Rimland theories, which every one here chooses to ignore; at there own peril I might add…

  53. February 20, 2017

    Austerity in the sense of a government deliberately behaving as though it were equivalent to a family or private business instead of the battery of the economy is closely associated with neoliberalism if not a sine qua non. At the very least, when everyone else is saving, the government should not be.

  54. February 20, 2017

    reslez: Yves Smith right in her preamble reveals a certain degree of shallowness and refusal to engage with the underlying approach of modern identity politics that is hard to take anything she writes or promotes on the topic seriously, I’m afraid.

    I looked through the rest of the article, and it does not seem to contradict what I said: the Russian legislature passed a bill in response to pressure from forces that support a certain form of social conservatism. I said nothing about whether or not the Russian public supports that philosophy — merely, that these forces are in ascendency in Russian politics. This is a very common situation alas; Russia is not alone in having a legislature that is significantly more conservative than the public.

    The rest of the article is in “the Cossacks work for the Czar” territory and whoever that guy is, from the text he is either a victim of or deliberately feeding the strange hero worship of Putin that you see around these parts. Nothing about Russia’s problems is Putin’s fault, he’s only ever portrayed badly by the nasty “Clintonite” imperialists, etc, etc. No one said that the USA didn’t have a hypocritical establishment; but the idea that Putin is not part and parcel of the same power structure that passed Mizulina’s bill is difficult to sustain unless you subscribe to that very shallow demonology.

  55. Peter permalink
    February 20, 2017


    Your excerpt shows that some Russians are defensive about the bad press from this strange woman beating for a fee ruling. The ‘you don’t understand us’ line is old and the idea that the Russian public has much if any input in lawmaking there is no more believable there than it is here. The idea that their police would actually be more responsive to this crime because of the fines is clever thinking but everywhere the police fear responding to domestic disputes because they are one of the most dangerous situations they encounter.

    I read an interview with I think one of the sponsors of this ruling a while ago and he stated or at least inferred that women like children needed occasional disciplining when they misbehave which is their nature and men shouldn’t be heavily punished for using this needed tool.

    Now that there is a set price charged by the state for wife beating some men can plan ahead and put aside money for their ‘time to smack the woman budget’.

  56. wendy davis permalink
    February 20, 2017

    @ Peter: i’m not understanding your first paragraph at all, but at to pepe: yes: he knows how to read maps as well as halford mackinder did (see V arnold). you may have read that about chinese investment funds, but that ignores the asian infrastructure investment bank and brics bank’s lower interest rates with no built-in neoliberal austerity resets as w/ the IMF and world bank (see greece, italy, and others). or at least that’s the way they were set up.

    for some, not all economics and global influence are zero sum, and cooperation is better than abject competition. i’ll have to leave your chinese junk/strip malls alone for now, as i don’t want to go back and see exactly what you’d said. except to say that products made in the developing world and china aren’t always junk, and are sadly all some of can afford.

    but you made cancelling coal power plants ound like a bad thing, lol! but srsly, having read that china’s been leading the globe in renewables, i did a bit of poking around and found at reuters: “China’s energy regulator has ordered 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coal-fired power projects, with a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, its latest dramatic step to curb the use of fossil fuels in the world’s top energy market.

    Putting the power projects on hold is a major step towards the government’s effort to produce power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and wean the country off coal, which accounts for the majority of the nation’s power supply. China’s annual demand growth for power will slow to 3-4 percent, according to Wood Mackenzie, down from double-digit growth in recent years as energy intensive industries like glass and metals contract.”

    da wiki’s ‘renewable energy in china’ entry says:

    “China’s renewable energy sector is growing faster than its fossil fuels and nuclear power capacity. In 2015 China became the world’s largest producer of photovoltaic power, at 43 GW installed capacity. China also led the world in the production and use of wind power and smart grid technologies, generating almost as much water, wind, and solar energy as all of France and Germany’s power plants combined. Whilst China has the world’s largest installations of solar and wind power its energy needs are so great that in 2013 renewables provided just a little over 20% of its power generation, with most of the remainder provided by traditional coal power facilities.”

  57. Peter permalink
    February 20, 2017


    The heartland/rimland theory was an interesting cartographer’s fantasy a hundred years ago when Russia was the empire in the heartland. The problem was they were socially, technologically and politically backward and even the USSR never overcame that retardation.

    Hitler and the Germans could have made something of the heartland as a center for world domination but that plan died in the Russian winter.

  58. Peter permalink
    February 20, 2017


    China is also converting to natural gas power generation and that with the solar/wind will help them to reduce their choking air pollution problems. I don’t think they have solar panels that work at night or wild generators that work without wind so they need the gas fired plants to generate the about half of each day that solar doesn’t produce. The big natural gas pipeline deals with Russia seem stalled or cancelled with the Chinese securing better prices elsewhere thanks to fracking.

    The cancelled coal power plants were needed for increasing growth that is now not expected to occur and much of the big plans for their investments were to be financed by that growth. The silk road is sold as a shared development plan but in reality it is a protected conduit to feed resources, oil and minerals back to the mainland and with reduced growth those demands will fall.

    The Chinese are hard bargaining capitalists as their recent oil/trade deal with Iran shows. The Iranians needed to sell large amounts of their stored sanctioned oil and the Chinese were willing to buy but only if Iran opened it’s consumer markets. The first mile long silk road train to arrive in Tehran was stuffed with cheap consumer goods that when in the marketplace will destroy the local small business production just as their shiploads of cheap shoes sent to Africa destroyed local shoe production there. These are the same Chinese who some people believe will act like altruists when one of their client states can’t make its development loan payment.

  59. rkka permalink
    February 20, 2017

    Before thuggish murderer Putin took over Russia, deaths in Russia were exceeding births by almost a million a year, with no end in sight. Then he told the likes of Anders Aslund & the Harvard Boys to pack sand, and took down Cheney’s golden boy Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

    Since thuggish murderer Putin took over, yearly deaths have declined by about 350,000, and births have risen by about 600,000, so that births now slightly exceed deaths every year. And Russia is just about the only country in Eastern and Central Europe for which this is true.

    The future belongs to those who show up for it, and before thuggish murderer Putin Russia had no future. Now Russia does, unlike Balts, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Bulgarians, etc., whose economies are still run by ‘FreeMarketDemocraticDeformers’

    Help me out here, Hugh & Mandos, whats the term for those who kill hundreds of thousands a year through their ‘Austerity’ economic policies?

  60. Peter permalink
    February 20, 2017


    Putin has to be very selective about who he has had killed at home so he doesn’t upset that delicate death/birth ratio. He seems quite comfortable even proud of the deaths he has perpetrated in Syria where he can group the women and children in with the terrorists.

    Russia’s population today is very close to what it was one hundred years ago which shows something continues to be very strange in their society.

  61. Rkka permalink
    February 21, 2017

    You know Peter, the funniest thing that happened last week was that Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, according to whom Russian bombs & missiles have seekers specifically for hospitals, tweeted that the Islamic State in Modul uses hospital buildings for headquarters & munitions dumps, so spare me the BS about Russia grouping women & children with the terrorists in Syria. In Syria as elsewhere the terrorists group themselves with women & children in order to use them as human shields, though it’s no surprise that you fall for it.

    And it would be nice if you could provide actual evidence of Putin killing anyone at all inside Russia.

  62. V. Arnold permalink
    February 21, 2017

    February 21, 2017

    Nice posts. As should be obvious by now, Peter’s bias is Russophobic and worse; mis-informed along that very bias line.
    I gave up answering.

  63. Peter permalink
    February 21, 2017


    I’m sure Kenny has been to Mosul to verify those claims but Russia is not bombing anywhere in Iraq but in Syria where they publicly and often brand any rebels as terrorists and just deny any civilian deaths they cause which seems to be enough for their sycophants. The Russians bombed whom and wherever they pleased with intent to break the resistance of the people, rebels and civilians alike just as Assad does with his barrel bombs.

    The US is using this same calculus in al-Raqqa and Mosul so I wasn’t singling out the Russians just showing they can behave just like us.

    People who propagate or parrot the nonsense about hospitals as headquarters or stockpiles must think everyone else is as stupid as they are. The people running the IS are known to be quite bright so a hospital would be the last place they would use for anything but a hospital, that they know will probably be bombed.

  64. chris collins permalink
    February 22, 2017

    Again Putin is smart and a much better global chess player then other world leaders. Honestly like I said before I would love to be partners with Russia. But Putin seems to be angling for a long game here that does not bode well for Europe, and in the future us as well. I agree most of the negatives in DC are just old cold war ideas starting back up, but there are legitimate concerns with giving in to much to Putins plans.

  65. rkka permalink
    February 23, 2017


    Putin has said himself that he does not intend to lift a finger against the US/NATO/EU unless their action impinges on Russian interests. Saving the world isn’t what the Russian people hired him for. There is no taste for empire among Russians now, not even in the Baltics, and Mr. Putin understands that. He believes that US/NATO/EU policies are unsustainable and self-defeating, and his main priority is preparing Russia to deal with the stagnation and possible collapse of Russia’s most important trading partner, the EU.

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