Saturday, August 30, 2014

Putin Completely Loses It Over START

Yes, you read me right, although this has not been reported in any English language media.  You are learning about it for the first time unless you follow Russian language media.

NTT, one of the Russian TV networks, has been producing a series of one hour shows that are basically making the case for an aggressive stance towards its neighbors and the West more generally.  Many issues have been dragged through and many claims made. One that has made  it into  the English language Russian media such as Russia Today is the claim that a promise was made to Gorbachev that NATO would not expand eastward if Germany was allowed to reunify.  Though the USSR made such a demand, no such promise was ever made and indeed Russia was invited to join NATO around 2000, which it declined to do.  However, this claim has been repeated regularly, and I see quite a few Americans repeating it also as if this justifies Russia violating its 1993 promise to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine if Ukraine would turn over its nuclear weapons to Russia, which it did.

Another theme that has been hammered a great deal are claims that Gorbachev was bribed monetarily by the westerners to bring about an end to the Soviet domination of eastern Europe and then to bring about the end of the USSR itself.  Raisa's spending sprees have been mentioned in this regard, although the first of those, which got the most attention, occurred when she and Gorby visited London in late 1984, prior to his becoming top leader.  This was when Margaret Thatcher declared that he was "a man we can do business with."  While it was widely reported at the time that she was using an American Express card, apparently that was false.  They simply turned the bills over to the Soviet embassy in London to pay for her spending spree.  No western money behind that one, although, of course, nobody can rule out that somehow Gorbachev may have received secret payments that nobody has ever heard of. OTOH, more likely this is just made up lies by the Putin propaganda machine.

Well, all of this is more or less par for the course, but a very disturbing event happened on one of these shows, a moment where more than on any other or for that matter pretty much any public appearance that Putin has ever made, he completely lost it and was yelling with a highly raised voice.  The topic is disturbing, particularly given that it appears that he was lying when he engaged in this conduct.  The matter involved the final nuclear  weapons reduction deal signed between the US and the still-then existing USSR, on July 31, 1991, only about two and half weeks before the August 19 coup that led to Gorbachev effectively losing power and the Soviet Communist Party effectively ceasing to exist.  It was the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, signed on that date by Gorbachev and then-US President George H.W. Bush.

Putin claims that this treaty was massively unfair, and that this was the ultimate betrayal and treason by Gorbachev, presumably also  for which he got paid off.  I would think that Gorbachev should stay out of Russia for the time being, given the garbage being spouted off about him by Putin and his flunkies, with some Russian legislators demanding that he be jailed for treason.

Was the treaty unfair?  The basis for making such a case is that the USSR agreed, and Russia carried it out with the treaty finally being fulfilled in 2001 just after Putin took over, to reduce its nuclear weapons stocks by a larger amount than did the US.  This is true.  However, the final outcome of this was that both nations ended up with equal sized nuclear weapons stocks, 6,000 weapons each, about a 30% reduction for the US and a 40% reduction for Russia (who inherited the nuclear weapons that had been located in Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan previously).  So, Putin is all enraged, and I mean seriously enraged, that this previous "advantage" was given up, although to this observer this seems like a pretty ridiculous advantage that did not amount to anything in practical terms.  Both sides had and still have enough nuclear weapons to totally destroy each other, as some Russian commentators have recently reminded us by pointing out that Russia is capable of "turning the US into nothing but radioactive dust."  Thanks, guys.

Another part of this speech that had  Putin yelling and screaming was a completely false claim that the treaty involved the US being able to tell USSR/Russia where it could have its military bases, without Russia having the same right with regard to the US.  This is just complete and utterly false nonsense.  The treaty did set up sites where each side could monitor the other's activity.  One of those curiously enough was in Ukraine, and after 1995, the US stopped using that site.  But, I do not see how this fits Putin's bizarre and apparently hysterical claim.

I find this seriously disturbing.  We have seen reports that Putin essentially lives in a bubble, surrounded by total sycophants.  He supposedly gets reasonably accurate intel reports, but who knows?  We have seen the Russians spouting absolutely looney propaganda in their media, such as the wild claim of now-deposed rebel Minister of  Defense in Donetsk, Igor Strelkov, that the downed Malaysian plane was full of already dead people.  I am very concerned that in his isolated cocoon, Vladimir Putin is beginning to believe some of his own nation's more ridiculous and phoney propaganda.  But this business of him losing it over totally false garbage about US-Russian nuclear treaties is extremely worrisome, at least to me, and it coincides with reports that indeed there has been a pretty much total breakdown in all cooperation between the two nations in terms of carrying out the successor to START, which Obama signed with then-President Medvedev in 2011 and struggled mightily to get barely ratified in the US Senate.  In any case, I find this development to be by far the most disturbing of all that I have heard about so far in the current deterioration of relations between Russia and the rest of the world, especially the United State.  I see nothing good coming of this, and potentially extremely bad things coming of it.

BTW, it appears that even most of the Moscow intelligentsia, usually cynical and critical of the government and able to see through obvious propaganda, is just sopping this up and totally accepting pretty much nearly all of it.  This is also a matter of considerable concern to me.  It is disturbing to essentially see an entire great nation just completely lose its mind in an orgy of aggressive frenzy, with this extending even to wild threats of nuclear destruction and false claims about supposedly unfair nuclear treaties unfairly arrived at.

Barkley Rosser


john c. halasz said...

The case isn't so clear-cut about NATO:

ANd, at any rate, the eastward expansion of NATO was geo-politically a bad idea, as George Kennan warned, and the Ruskies are not entirely wrong to feel betrayed and threatened by an aggressive-expansionist Western neo-liberal agenda, which may be even more delusional and incompetent than Russian propaganda. said...

Thanks, John. Interesting link. So in Feb. 1990 there were some statements by some western diplomats, particularly Genscher and Baker, promising no expansion of NATO if Germany was allowed to unify and join NATO, but then none of this was put in writing or stated in fully public forums. The situation is indeed murky.

It also becomes murkier because all this occurred while there was still a Soviet Union and a Warsaw Pact, both of which would later dissolve, not through machinations by the US or NATO, even if some would like to argue the contrary.

That said, the idea that any of this threatens Russia is absurd. Nobody anywhere is remotely talking about invading Russia as Germany did decades ago. Instead, Putin has made the joining of NATO by some of these nations a clearly justifiable move based on a rational fear that an aggressive leader would take power in Russia who would want to regain control over formerly lost territories.

It may well be that it was a bad idea to expand NATO, but I am reasonably certain that Putin would have annexed Crimea and overseen this invasion of Ukraine even if none of these nations had joined NATO. This is now just an excuse. Hey, he and his compatriots are angry. Well, they just violated written agreements to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine when they annexed Crimea. Why is this not enough for him and then? This NATO expansion?

In today's WaPo, Anne Applebaum confirms my basic post here. Completely wild talk is going on in Moscow. There are public figures calling for the "genocide," yes, the actual word, of the "race of bastards" or "idiots" currently occupying Novorossiya, once the Russians get control of it. There is serious discussion of nuclear strikes on Polish and Baltic cities, just to show that NATO is a big nothing. Oh, I guess you are right. That NATO expansion justifies nuclear weapons strikes.

Regarding the neoliberal agenda, please do not fall for the idea that either Russia or Ukraine are socialist. Both are corrupt oligachic capitalist economies. Putin has been claiming that the EU deal with Ukraine would damage Russia economically, but there is no way that damage would come anywhere close to what he has predictably brought down on his population in the form of the economic sanctions now being imposed.

But, oh, those should not happen. Russia should have full rights to just gobble up whatever parts of Ukraine it wants, after when it can go ahead and commit genocide on anybody who is an "idiot" there.

john c. halasz said...

I wouldn't put any trust in Applebaum, nor anything in the WaPo, nor much of the MSM, which is just as hysterical as what would can find on the pro-Russian side. (Applebaum is the wife of the Polish Foreign Minister and is now a Polish citizen. Just why the Poles are so anti-Russian and not anti-German is a puzzle).

The U.S.S.R. was the successor to the Russian Empire and the fact that it broke up doesn't mean that geo-political and historical concerns of the Russians have similarly disintegrated. And it is possible, in an unbiased fashion, to take those into account. The Ukraine, which is historically a highly divided territory and prone to upheaval is the end of the great Eurasian steppe and strikes at the heart of historical Russia, with which the eastern part has long been associated. And what the Russian side wants, (which isn't just a matter of vilifying Putin personally, which is infantile), is a "Finlandized" and federalized Ukraine, which is a rather reasonable proposition, if not quite on maximal Russian terms. Crimea is a side-show. And you should be looking at the entire history since the end of the Cold War, not just at today's (often hysterical and distorted) headlines. The "West" has broken a whole series of implicit promises and in fact it's not wrong for the Russians to perceive the goal as the disintegration of Russia and its reduction to a defeated backwater. You can find quotes from Dick Cheney back who he was Defense Sec. expressing precisely such an aim, and subsequent arrogant and aggressive U.S. international behavior only re-enforces that point.

Ukraine is a bankrupt kleptocracy and things will be bad for ordinary Ukrainians either way. But in purely economic terms, the initial Russian offer was better than the EU/IMF proposal, which amounts to a land and resource grab on behalf of MNCs. And now the Kiev coup government is expending its non-existent resources on an "anti-terrorist operation", which having failed through sheer incompetence and corruption, it declares as a Russian invasion.

In the meantime, the sanctions will have little effect on the Russians long term, except to force them to rearrange their economic affairs more securely, and the counter-sanctions will hurt the EU more than than the EU can hurt the Russians, even leaving aside the gas issue. Say what you want about Putin, he has proven often an very tactically adept operator. Which can't be said of his Western counterparts, and their hysterical propagandists. said...


I am aware of Applebaum;s biases, but you should realize that my original post here most definitely did not come from US MSM. I repeat, this is the first time this has been reported anywhere in English language outlets to the best of my knowledge, and it comes from primary sources. Putin really did lose it while talking about START. And aside from Applebaum, the remarks about incinerating the US have been both widely reported and I know were made based again on my own primary sources. It is unpleasant to think that this stuff is going on, and you can say that Putin is "a tactically adept operator," which he mostly seems to be, but this ranting about nuclear weapons, which definitely happened, is not tactically adept at all, except in some sort of Nixonian way of scaring hell out of everybody so that he can get away with doing whatever he wants.

And, sorry, but I am unaware of anybody on this side calling for genocide of Russians, despite some heated rhetoric. Nor am I aware of anybody making up such utterly fantastic nonsense as that there dead people in the plane that was shot down. This was not only spouted by Strelkov, but repeated many times on Russian media. This is frankly insane stuff, but it is being reported in the Russian media seriously. I really see no justification for any such nonsense, and certainly a failure of NATO to hold to some verbal promises made early in the negotiations over German reunification that never appeared in the actual agreements do not justify any of this.

Yes, Russia assumed the mantle internationally of the former USSR after the breakup, along with the nuclear weapons of "The" (hack, cough) Ukraine. Personally, I have no problem with a "Finlanized" Ukraine, but they have been grabbing territory there, starting with Crimea. It was Russian citizens who started this further uprising, and without Russian military support, it would be kaput by now. This is how proper Finlandization is to come about? (And Russia is a kleptocracy along with Ukraine.)

Excuse me, but Putin has people gunned down in the streets of Moscow and poisoned in other places. He is a villain. None of this garbage is justified, none of it.

Frankly, there are reasons for the US and Russia to cooperate, on many matters. They have at times in the post-Cold War era, but it is Putin who has chosen to withdraw from this. I know that the US has pulled stuff he did not like with in some cases him having good grounds to, most notably the US invasion, which I always opposed and criticized publicly from before it started. But, Cheney is far from being in charge of US policy anymore.

I would be careful about pushing the line that the initial offer by Russia was better than that from the EU. The main reason for that is the old "Do our bidding and we'll give you cheap gas" game, which the Ukrainians have gotten understandably tired of, particularly given that Putin has shown repeatedly that he views gas as a political weapon to be cut off whenever he gets annoyed with anything they do. You are aware that this has gone on, are you not John?

I really do not know what the US should be doing about all this. Maybe Obama should have ignored the gays and gone to the Olympics? There is much reason to believe that the failure of not only Obama but other western leaders to show up for his egomania show substantially inclined Putin to start gobbling up Ukraine after his puppet fell from power. And it was not a "coup," John. That involves a takeover by military, and that is not what happened. You may not like the current Ukrainian government, but if you want to call it a "coup governmnent," then you really just spouting silly propaganda. said...

"most notably on the invasion of Iraq" that should have read.

Steven Kopits said...

This is an interesting and worthwhile post, Barkley.

As for you, John, I can only tell you that many have contended that Hungary is also properly part of the Russian orbit. Do you agree with that, too? Should we cede that back to the Russians, along with Belarus, the Baltics, and Kazakhstan?

Nice Hungarian name, Halasz.

john c. halasz said...

A comment box isn't the place to sort out all the issues here. But...

Personal villification of Putin is pointless. He owes his power to his ability to balance the various factions in the Russian power elite and isn't somehow an all-powerful dictator in the mold of Stalin, (and even there ...). If it weren't Putin it would be someone very similar. See Stephen Cohen one that point.

Most MSM "news is highly distorted and contains a variable degree of propaganda. It must be read at cross-grain and from multiple opposing sources to get any clear surmise of what might really be going on. You could cite Fox News and much else in the American corporate media to find entirely crazy irrational views expressed, just as you can cite Russian official media.

If Putin indulged in some nuclear saber-rattling, no doubt it was to make a deliberate point about the stakes involved, since the Western side seems to think it can coerce the Russians to do their bidding. And calls for nuclear weapons use have been heard on the Western and Ukie side as well. Further, it's not just START thaqt is at issue, but a history of repeated insistence on placing missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, with the abrogation of ABM, etc. There are ample cumulative reasons for growing Russian distrust of Western "intentions".

You might start the relevant post- Cold War history with the imposition of "shock therapy" on Yugoslavia and Russia, with the violently chaotic results, to get aqn idea of the cumulative Russian point of view and their sense that the West has repeatedly violated or twisted understandings and promises, despite Russian attempts at cooperation, (most recently in Syria).

The Maidan events can legitimately be characterized as a coup, just as the Egyptian events. mPutin had been called in by the West to get Yanukovich, (who was scarcely Putin's "man"), to agree to a compromise. The next day the Parliament was violently stormed, yes, by far-right gangs, and the agreement vanished, followed by a hastily organized "demonstration" election, to claim "legitimacy". That was anything but an orderly political process and the imposition of IMF/EU "austerity" on a bankrupt and utterly corrupt nation can only mean deep impoverishment for its people and the "privatization" of the countries resources in the hands of foreign "investors".

U.S. foreign policy elites, when they haven't pursued utterly malevolent courses of action, have been sophomoric and sheerly irresponsible. Which is a pity, because a more respectful approach to international issues, which might have solicited Russian cooperation (as with, e.g., Iran might have gone someway toward repairing U.S. induced catastrophes and chaos. As it is, the Russians have been driven into an oppositional stance irretrievably, and counter-alliances to U.S. imperial hegemony will more rapidly form, against ostensible U.S. and EU interests, in a more conflicted multi-polar world.

john c. halasz said...


Hungarians aren't Slavs and have never traditionally been part of the Russian "sphere of influence", but, to the contrary, rather Slavophobic. (Though they have been traditionally rather friendly to the Poles, probably on account of Istvan Barthory and Jan Sobieski). Admiral Horthy was semi-forcibly allied with the Nazis and the Hungarians reaped the results. But nowadays, Orban, a rather unsavory character, is making pro-Putin noises and, more comically, the Jobbik party is all in a tizzy against the Ukrainian fascists, because of their oppression of Trans-Carpathia. said...


Some items I agree with, but plenty I do not, some of which are way off.

I see nothing wrong with villifying Putin if he does evil things. I think Bush is a villain too. Disagree? And while there is certainly a tendency in Russia for strong leaders to emerge, there is no reason why they should be tolerated when they start invading their neighbors.

I fully agree that MSMs must be viewed with caution. You, however, seem to miss the point that the main source for my post is the Russian media. Some of this, except for the WaPo column by Applebaum, taken with due grains of salt, although my Russian media sources support it, is not US MSM, but primary sources ignored by the US MSM.

I agree that the US was wrong to abrogate the ABM, and that is a legitimate complaint by Putin. However, However, on your claim that there have been calls for nuclear weapons use by anybody in the West or Ukraine, you are dead wrong. If you want to stick with that claim, you had better provide a source. No, the talk of "incinerating" and "genocide" and attacking cities in Poland with nuclear weapons or anywhere is coming entirely from the Russian side, and this is what has me most upset. Putin is evil for both engaging in such talk and not criticizing the wilder versions of it by his citizena. This is outrageous and utterly unacceptable.

Your history of shock therapy is wrong. Nobody "imposed" shock therapy on anybody, although it was strongly urged by IMF and some western advisers. I suggest you read _Comparative Economics in a Transforming World Economy_ by me and my wife. We discuss in detail how this was done in the various countries, and there were great variations, with many of them choosing not to "shock" themselves. Ironically, the nation that was gradualist on an important part of it, Poland on privatization, has wrongly been labeled for years as a paragon of "shock therapy." In Russia, they went for rapid privatization, their own decision not imposed on them by anybody, and they got massive corruption and oligarchs out of it.

And there was no shock therapy of any sort on Yugoslavia. You are really ignorant when you say something like that and should be more careful about bragging about how much history you know. Yugoslavia tragically broke up into all kinds of warfare and suffered great economic losses, but this was due to its own internal economic crises and ethnic conflicts. It just broke up without any "shock therapy," unless by shock therapy you mean breaking up politically.

Clearly one can debate what a "coup" is, but most dictionaries have it as a seizure of power, usually backed up by the military, by a small group. There had been demonstrations in the street for some time, violently put down by the military with many dead. When Yanukovich fled, it was his own party that ruled him out. What followed him seems to have been legally selected with a now democratically elected government in there. Calling it a "coup" government just makes you look like the worst sort of gullible footpad for the worst sort of Putin propaganda. Are you going to start telling us that there really were dead people on that plane next?

Oh, and I have not heard what happened when Mubarak was overthrown a "coup." Usually coups are inside jobs not responding to massive and prolonged street demonstrations.

BTW,on the matter of Syria, I agree that the US and Russia did cooperate there. In case you did not notice, Obama has been resisting long and steady pressure from the neocons to intervene there forcibly and was critized for his deal with Putin. I think there is much room for cooperation between Russia and the US in the Middle East, but this becomes difficult when Putin starts violating solemn agreements by invading neighbors. said...

Regarding which parts of eastern/central Europe Russia has had in its sphere of influence (of course Hungary was in its sphere of influence 1945-1989), Poland is the one that was for a long time. It is funny that Putin is putting out a history of Novorossiya, which was first taken and identified by Russia under Catherine the Great. Putin seems to think that tsarist claims are relevant today. Anyway, it was Catherine who participated in the partition of Poland, and Russia got a big chunk including Warsaw. That commentators in Russia are now suggesting nuking a Polish city is most ironic in this regard.

john c. halasz said...

Yulia Timoshenko was caught on tape and acknowledged it, fantasizing about nuking the eastern Ukrainians, for one, and there have been all sorts of calls for highly militarized responses to "Putin's invasion", when, in fact, whatever the level of under-the-table support provided unofficially, there has been no such thing. Rather the Kiev launched an "anti-terrorism operation" against the eastern rebels and then is losing on the battle field. And the MH17 matter is still unresolved, and almost certainly not "Putin's" doing.

The IMF program in the winter of 1988-89 for Yugoslavia is generally reported as a version of "shock therapy". To say that such IMF programs are "voluntary" is rather a stretch. The result was the destruction of the workers-self-management system, mass industrial unemployment and the loss of legitimacy for the CP, which had sponsored and was identified with that system. Into the vacuum of ideology and power stepped the ethnocentric extremists.

As for Russia, my recollection was that the Germans and the French briefly floated economic plans to deal with the situation, but they were quickly shunted aside in favor of the U.S./IMF sponsored plan, which was little short of disastrous. What other options might have been possible is a matter for counter-factual debate, but Yeltsin's armed attack on the parliament received U.S. endorsement. Meanwhile, IIRC Poland had half its foreign debt forgiven, some $24 bn, as presumably a model pupil. Neither Hungary, nor Yugoslavia received such grace.

And no, focusing on individual egos is not a good method for forming judgments about political regimes and international affairs. said...

Well, you have a point about Tymoshenko. There is only one minor problem: Ukraine has no nuclear weapons. They gave them all to Russia on a promise the latter would respect their territorial integrity. So, this is just hot air from her. Russia, OTOH, has thousands of them, so talk about Russia using its nukes is quite a different matter. Nobody from any western nuclear power has engaged in the sort of nonsense Tymoshenko was rattling on about, although she is pretty awful.

The inflation rate in Yugoslavia had been gradually accelerating all through the 1980s and in 1989 was 1256%, hyperinflation. This was not due to any IMF plan. Read our book on the details of how that came about. I happen to have been a fan of their worker-managed system, but they destroyed it with their own internatlly foolish policies. You are out to lunch on this and need to do some more studying.

Poland actually had a mixed policy, partly rapid "shock," partly gradualism, especially on privatization. Hungary's was more gradual on all fronts, others were more "shocking." Hungary did just fine, one of the better transistions, although its current leader is taking it down the drain.

Russia did not need to follow any of these plans. Its leaders chose to do so, and I have already commented on what went down with that.

Oh, and you may think MH17 is "unresolved," but most analysts think it was rebels using Russian supplied equipment. They were possibly drunk and probably thought they were attacking a military aircraft. Mistakes happen, hick. So, no Putin did not pull the trigger himself, but it is near certain he allowed the military supplies to be sent that were used, and he certainly did so for the Russians who walked in and started this whole uprising in eastern Ukraine.

john c. halasz said...

O.K. So didn't I say that all these matters couldn't be dealt with satisfactorily in a comment box?

As to Yugoslavia, I didn't know the inflation rate, nor do I know the CA balances and the accumulated external debt. My basic understanding is that the Yugoslav regime had geared itself up to export to the EU, but a combination of slow EU growth, tariff and non-tariff barriers and quality problems, -(remember the "Yugo"?),- had gotten them into trouble. In addition, they faced a high burden of military spending, to deter any Soviet invasion, de facto encouraged by the West. So Sachs' "shock therapy" recipe, initially test driven in Bolivia, had been designed specifically to deal with hyper-inflation. How was that not an issue with Yugoslavia? On the other hand, there are other ways to deal with hyper-inflation, such as simply replacing the currency, as with the Renten-Mark or the Cruzeiro/Real switch or the ill-fated Argentine currency board. Just why was this path "chosen" and who made the choice? Rather than tell me how ignorant I am, (since I am far more observant than most), and refer me to your book, why don't you take the time to explain the case in a post right here, since I think bankruptcy for sovereign nations is still a live issue and something like chapter 11 rather than chapter 7 is a much needed international reform. At any rate, the Yugoslav tragedy is far from the finest hour of the U.S./NATO/EU, and its results and the hypocrisies have been observed far and wide, not least by the Russians. And it is the long concatenation of events, not punctual present events that count now, in determining respective POVs.

john c. halasz said...

(cont.) As to Hungary, my recollection is that it accumulated a large external debt, starting with the "Goulash communism" reforms under Kadar, and has been laboring under that ever since. Swiss currency mortgages, an insane idea, sunk the economy before Orban seized power.

As a native Chicagoan, I can tell you that Poland benefited from the "Polish lobby". Czechoslovakia, which never should have been split, also has done fairly well. But most of the rest of eastern Europe is still a basket-case. Ukraine most of all.

So there are wing-nut ideas expressed in the Russian media. So too in various Western media. Why attribute them to Putin or responsible members of his government, any more than Sen. McCain is the same as Obama? And why assume that Obama is any less insulated than Putin? I can appreciate that your wife is ex-Soviet and that you and she, against all odds, might still be susceptible to "motivated reasoning". But there are no good guys vs. bad guys in the Ukraine crisis, only various degrees and kinds of bad guys, including the Western interference.

But Putin is a sharp operator, even if a bad guy. The idea that he supplied the Ukrainian rebels with a Buk is nonsense, if you have read the technical specs. Either the rebels captured a Buk from the Ukrainian army and accidentally shot MH17 down, or the Ukrainian Army did likewise. You seem too keen to take what the Western media takes as fact, at face value, when the evidence is far from in. (And the Ukrainian Army violated the U.N. resolution to allow inspectors in the day after it was passed). But just to give some examples of sharp moves by Putin, he responded to EU sanctions with Russian sanctions on agricultural imports. That harms EU CAP far more than Russia, since it merely forces Russia to find alternative imports, from, say, Argentina or Brazil, or invest in its own domestic agricultural sector, a short term pain for a long term gain. And then the next round of Russian counter-sanctions is to forbid over-flights of Russian air-space from sanctioning countries, which means that Asian countries will inherit that Euro-Asia air routes, worth billions. Did his counterparts think of that in advance? And the humanitarian relief convoy was a stroke of rhetorical genius, since it was obviously needed, as per the U.N., and the Ukrainian side obstructed it, paranoically. I can see why such moves cause shit-fits, and increases his vilification, but that might be the intended point: deal with me or else... That Western unilateralists don't want to deal isn't his fault, but rather their blindness.

Gordon said...

That said, the idea that any of this threatens Russia is absurd.

You need to try to gain perspective. Not everyone who grows up in America and with the idea of American exceptionalism has the same outlook on things.

Russians see a nation that has spent the last 25 years completely shredding international law. Invading, toppling, droning, and torturing anyone who doesn't except US hegemony. All the while pushing US bases right up to Russia's borders and most recently helping to topple the elected government in Ukraine.

I dare say that if Putin had behaved even remotely like this that we would be at war already. said...


What US bases "right up Russia's borders"? (note, except for the oddly isolated wedge of Kaliningrad, Poland is not on Russia's border, and I do not think there are any bases in the Baltics, and there certainly are none in Ukraine). US has shredded a lot of laws, however, particularly when we invaded Iraq in 2003.


IMF did exacerbate the problems in Yugoslavia, but it was heading for a crash. In 1945 the ratio of income in Slovenia to Kosovo was e to 1, but was 9 to 1 by 1989. Output had been outright declining for several years by 1989, along wiht inflation accelerating. IMF did not help, but they were going down thanks to a mass of internal contradictions. Some accounts out there, notably Chussodosky are exaggerated. He has a bad track record on many matters.

People in Ukaine look to Poland as what they would like to be. Super nationalist western Ukraine was under Polish rule between the wars and under Austrian rule before then, never under tsarist Russian rule, unlike rest of Ukraine. Poland did break western rules, not only by being slow to privatize, but also maintaining social safety nets. I remember Jeffrey Sachs whining at the 1994 AEA meeting about those darned ungrateful Poles failing to cut their social safety nets. Really.

Hungary did well in the transition, but got into trouble mroe recently. That is when their foreign debts tied to housing bubble stuff with foreign banks got out of control. They have 120% debt/GDP now, was at 70% in 2008, which is where Poland is now. said...

But all this who sid what to whom or promised what to whom back in 1990 really is not that relevant to the current situation, despite loud whining out of Moscow. The bigger picture is the following, in my view.

A century ago there were five self-proclaimed empires and maybe two unproclaimed ones in the world when WW I started. The self-proclaimed ones were the Austro-Hungarian, the German ("Kaiser" means "Caaser," aka "emperor"), the Ottoman, the Russian, and the British (Queen Vic took the title "Empress of India" after the putdown of the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857). The unproclaimed ones were the French, officially a republic, and the American, also officially a repulbic.

So, WW I did three of those in: the Austro-Hungarian, the German, and the Ottoman, broken into pieces and turned into republics, with any overseas colonies (Germany) taken from them. The Russian survived by turning itself into the USSR, after losing some bits of territory here and there (Finland, Baltics, its Polish holdings, some other slivers here and there). The UK and France both not only survived but expanded, as did the US a bit, mostly by occupying some pieces of these former ones, notably of the Ottoman in the Middle East (Sykes-Picot) and former German colonies (US got Saipan in the Pacific).

Over time the colonies of the UK, France, and US would mostly become independent, although the US in particular would continue to run a de facto empire after UK and France lost most of their colonies in the 60s.

What happened in 1989-1991 was tha the old Russian Empire broke up largely from its own internal nationalist upheavals, with its de facto empire expanded into eastern Europe after 1945. The Russian Federation effectively continues to be a rump of the old empire given all the nationalities still in it, but what is going on now is largely a giant revanchist whine over this breakup. They need to grow up and deal with it.

Final tidbit on that out of Russian media. One pundit was justifying Ukrainian intervention by comparing it to Germany and Sudetenland, not realizing that this just plays into a nasty Hillary comparison I shall not point out, but they really need to stop talking abouth how the Ukrainians are the "fascists." said...

Ooops! In 1n 1945 the ratio of income in Slovenia to Kosovo was 3 to 1. Sorry about my typo.

I am done with this thread, about to do a major post.

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