Who’s Crazy?

by Dave Schuler on March 5, 2014

Much is being made of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reaction to a phone call with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin that Putin was “out of touch with reality”:

US reports said Merkel phoned Barack Obama on Sunday evening after speaking to the Russian president to press him to back down from his invasion of Ukraine and occupation of the Crimean peninsula.

“She was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. ‘In another world,’ she said,” the New York Times reported.

Perhaps a better, more diplomatic, less German way of putting it is that there wasn’t a meeting of minds.

In my view the ideas that President Putin has articulated lately are just the latest expression of ideas that go back well over two hundred years in Russia and, indeed, the entire Slavic world. I might characterize them by saying that national and ethnic identities are alive and well (if that’s the right word for it given European history) in today’s Europe.

Other than the very smallest European countries there are frictions between and among ethnic groups in every one of them. In Spain I’m aware of the Catalans and the Basques but I’m sure there are others. In the United Kingdom there are at least four. In France there are at least six. Even in tiny relatively homogeneous Denmark there are three and in Finland two.

IMO Chancellor Merkel’s version of the European project is one in which national and ethnic identities are subordinated to a common European (read: German) identity.

Who’s crazy?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

PD Shaw March 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006 in response to rocket attacks on its citizens, most thought Israel was justified on self-defense grounds, but as weeks passed without any apparent strategic framework to achieve its goals, the criticism mounted. I’m also beginning to think Putin has reacted, and not thought, and the various justifications that he’s offered are not necessarily consist with each other or the course he’s undertaken. Putin is now explaining that he’s in Ukraine at the request of the rightful leader hiding in Russia, which I guess makes this a punitive expedition to restore the crown, or for Parliament to take a proper impeachment vote.

... March 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm

PD, I think Putin was taken by surprise at the turn of events and that he reacted quickly to the opportunity to seize Crimea without thinking it all the way through. He knows he has it, he knows he can keep it, but he doesn’t know where to go from here.

Ideally, I think he would want a somewhat different government in Kiev, and acknowledgement of Crimea as either an autonomous territory in Ukraine (something along the lines of South Ossetia, perhaps), Crimea as a separate state, or Crimea as part of Russia. However, he’s going to have to figure out how his various adversaries in Washington and in the capitals of Europe are going to respond to see how things shake out. But I don’t think he will be allowing a return even to the old status quo (Crimea as part of Ukraine but with concessions to the Russian military).

I think Putin may well be playing chess. And to extend that analogy, the opponent did something unexpected (and incorrect) and has dropped a pawn for little or no compensation. But in winning the pawn the coordination of Putin’s pieces has been disrupted, and the strategical plan he had been following no longer comports with his piece placement. It’ll take him a few more moves to get coordinated again and consolidate his gains. Meanwhile, what will the opponent do? Will he panic and make more errors, or retrench to put up a better defense minus one pawn?

... March 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I’ve had to laugh reading some of the words of the diplomats today. Here’s a couple of my favorites:

Fabius, the French foreign minister, set out a different point of view Wednesday as he declared that sanctions could be in the cards.

“The invasion of one country into another is contrary to all international laws,” Fabius said via Twitter.

First, I guess it’s a sign of my fogeydom, but are we really hashing this out via Twitter like a bunch of teenagers?

Second, I’m guessing that the French foreign minister has a different view of merely BOMBING another country into submission. Or invading, if the French are doing the invading. Maybe Putin should reclassify the actions in Ukraine as a “redeployment”!

Equally funny was the following from Chuck Hagel, US SecDef, in testimony before the Senate today:

“It is a time for all of us to stand with the Ukrainian people in support of their territorial integrity and sovereignty, and their right to have a government that fulfills the aspirations of its people.”

Yes, like the way we supported territorial integrity for Serbia in 2008 and for Sudan in 2011!

Christ Almighty, these guys aren’t even very good at lying. And the hypocrisy is thick enough to choke on from down here in Florida. If Larry Flint came out as a born-again Christian while continuing to publish Hustler it would be far less hypocritical than the words coming out of the mouths of our own hideous leaders.

... March 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm

And for the record, laughing and choking at the same time is extremely uncomfortable.

Cstanley March 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I get the impression that Merkel and other EU leaders (and probably US) thought that Putin was more “modern” than he really is (ie, more in line with their own thinking.) Sure, they knew he had his own interests, but I think they are just realizing that his interests aren’t strictly economic, but ideological.

PD Shaw March 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Elipses, I don’t think its as bad as all that. The French were invited by the Mali government to help suppress a terrorist movement. That’s not considered an invasion or violation of the UN Charter.

The most hypocritical person in this story is Putin, because he personally made the full-throated case against humanitarian intervention in the New York Times last September in response to Obama’s intention to intervene in Syria. How about this line:

“The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.”

I read that editorial and think he is a bit crazy, even given most leaders are to some degree sociopaths. States don’t always act consistently over time, but people usually do.

... March 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I don’t see where anything Putin has done has been particularly ideological. Everything he done is what any Russian ruler since, roughly, Peter the Great, would have done, whether it be a Tsar, a General Secretary of the Communist Party, a modern President of Russia, or what have you. If you made me President of Russia I’d have probably done the same thing. They’ve got INTERESTS down there in the Black Sea, and that is irrespective of any other passing fancy of any given regime. Kerensky would have probably done the same thing given the opportunity and freedom from other needs.

... March 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm

PD, the French wouldn’t have been in Mali if they hadn’t first convinced us to fuck up Libya. France has also been involved in other actions in Africa in recent years, I believe in Chad.

But in Mali, if they’re fighting for the status quo, then they were doing what the Russians did. It’s just that the deposed President didn’t ask for Russian intervention soon enough.

The only thing that bothers me about this is that our leaders look like such buffoons, and probably are such buffoons. They really seem to think their shit doesn’t stink, when all the evidence is contrary to that. How many countries has the US been involved in the overthrow of a government in the last few years? How many has Russia been involved in? Looking at the numbers, we look like the worst of the two actors.

TastyBits March 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm

@Icepick

One thing about the French is that they never give a shit about what they do. They do whatever they want, and then, they forget about it. They will make up any dumb-ass excuse, and nobody ever questions it.

Having seen the French Foreign Legion in action, they are not trying to win hearts and minds. Never get within a rifle butt swing of them.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: