A Philosopher's Blog

Russian Imperialism

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 5, 2014
Political map of Ukraine, highlighting Crimean...

Political map of Ukraine, highlighting Crimean Oblast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in 2008 I did a post claiming that Russia was still a threat and that our obsession with the war on terror would distract us from our more significant foe, namely the Russians. Now that Russian troops have entered Crimea and are poised to roll through Ukraine, it seems that by chance or understanding got things right. As a followup to that old post, I’ll say a bit about the current situation.

First, there is the fact that the invasion of Ukraine was easily foreseeable. Everyone knows the old tale about the scorpion and the fox: a fox and a scorpion are at the bank of a river and the scorpion asks the fox to carry him across. The fox is reluctant to do this since he is worried the scorpion will sting him midstream. The scorpion assures the fox he will do no such thing-after all, he would drown if the fox dies. Swayed by this reasoning, the fox swims out with the scorpion on his back. The scorpion stings him and they both die-the scorpion’s dying words being that it is his nature to do this. While nations are not ruled by instinct, nations do have definite general characters forged by their history. In the case of the Russians, it has become their nature to want a buffer between themselves and the West (thanks to folks like Napoleon and Hitler). As such, predicting that the Russians will try to control the countries around them is like predicting that the French will drink wine or that Americans will eat junk food. For the Russians, control seems best achieved by the use of military force-hence the invasion of Ukraine was eminently predictable. It is, as the scorpion would say, a matter of nature.

Second, there is the obvious fact that the West will not do anything militarily in the Ukraine. While the United States could probably push the Russians out of Ukraine if it came down to a conventional war, the Russians are still well-armed with nuclear weapons. While we would risk nuclear war to defend key allies like Britain and Germany, we almost certainly will not do so to defend Ukraine. As such, the Russians really only need to worry about two main things. The first is that Ukraine will fight them. While Russia can take Ukraine, Russia would probably not enjoy a protracted struggle in the region-especially with the possibility of an ongoing insurgency. The second is that the rest of the world will take economic action against Russia and do enough damage to her economy to make the invasion turn out to be a bad idea.

Third, Russia obviously wants to get back into the “grand game” of being a major power-perhaps Putin has dreams of restoring the Russian Empire and being a super-power once more. While some folks are claiming that Putin has already lost in Ukraine, it is unwise to make such a prediction. As noted above, a primary Russian goal is to have a stable buffer between Moscow and the West. Russia has never deviated from the strategy and almost certainly will not for the foreseeable future.

Fourth, critics of Obama and the United States have been taking the stock line that it was Obama’s weakness that allowed Putin to roll forces into the Ukraine and that if only Obama had been more bad-ass, Putin would have just stayed put in Russia. While this story has some appeal, the United States has historically avoided doing anything bad-ass towards Russia. Back in the Soviet days, we mostly just fenced via proxies and got bogged down in Vietnam. When the Soviets rolled tanks in to crush internal dissent in the Soviet Union, we did nothing. As such, Obama has been following a business as usual policy. Given that the Russians have nuclear weapons, this is not a bad idea.

Fifth, while Putin knows he can push hard under his nuclear umbrella, he surely knows that he cannot push too far. After all, just as we could push Putin to a nuclear strike, he could push us to the same thing. If Putin meets with success in Ukraine, he will most likely continue to expand. The main question is not whether the West will stop him or not but whether or not the Russians can afford this level of military operations and occupations. After all, we broke them by forcing them to slag their economy in a cold war against us. We then stupidly melted our economy  a bit with two wars and, but we can take the heat better than the Russians. Russia only now feels confident enough to push hard against the West. But, it remains to be seen if they can take the heat and if so, for how long. It is a new world and it is worth noting that the old ways might not work as they did.

Sixth, thanks to our fixation on the war on terror and with the political manipulations that resulted in billions of public dollars being dumped into the coffers of the well connected, we are not well-equipped to face up to the Russians while also dealing with the rest of the world. Our massive domestic and ally spying machine will be rather useless against them (which is not surprising, since it is also mostly useless against terrorists). Fortunately, our defense contractors have seen to it (for their own reasons) that we do still have a strong conventional force. But, we are not as well prepared as we could be. More importantly, we have been piddling away with the war on terror and making sure that billionaires become more wealthy when we should have been doing some real politics of the sort that Putin has been trying to do. Only better. I do, of course, approve of his view of shirts. Like him, I know that we must fight the cruel tyranny of the shirt.

Seventh, we should not forget about China while we are now fixating on the Russians.

Eighth, welcome back old foe. We’ve kind of missed you.

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44 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on March 5, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Try viewing US and NATO aggression from the Russian perspective. World War 3 = NATO on the Offensive: 1994 – Present – http://wp.me/pPnn7-2gR

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      True-the Russians do have a legitimate worry that the West wants to roll over them. However, I’d be happy to see a more Western Russia.

      • apollonian said, on March 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        “Western” is dead–killed by Jews and those sympathetic thereto–it ain’t PC anymore, Mike, due to the diligent work of thought-controllers like urself, eh?

        “More Western”?–like more tolerant of homosexuals and Jews, eh?–and LESS Christian, eh? Ho ho ho ho

        • apollonian said, on March 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm

          The “West”: those who suck-along w. Israel–OR those who suck-along w. USA, which sucks-along w. Israel, ho ho ho ho ho ho

  2. WTP said, on March 5, 2014 at 10:31 am

    As such, predicting that the Russians will try to control the countries around them is like predicting that the French will drink wine or that Americans will eat junk food.

    or alternatively

    As such, predicting that the Russians will try to control the countries around them is like predicting that the French will surrender freedom or that Americans will fight for freedom.

    There, fixed it for you…and AJ as well.

    • T. J. Babson said, on March 5, 2014 at 10:41 am

      I do think Americans are getting tired of fighting for other people’s freedom, but I have no doubt that we are still willing to fight for our own freedom.

      Most of us will probably wear shirts while doing it, however :-)

      • WTP said, on March 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

        Ah…thanks for reminding me. God help me I so love this piece:

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 5, 2014 at 12:11 pm

        The only way to confront the shirtless menace is to go shirtless. We need to deploy our top models sans shirts and victory is assured.

      • apollonian said, on March 5, 2014 at 8:43 pm

        Wtf?–Americans are most stupid, idiot, brainless suckers, going along w. Israel, mass-murdering (over a million in Iraq) poor people who never did anything against USA, or anyone. Fight for our “own freedom”?–then that means dumping Israeli psychopaths down the toilet where they belong, for one thing.

  3. magus71 said, on March 5, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Putin’s done nothing that he hasn’t said outright he would do. The Russian problem is not that complex a problem. Economic sanctions are really all the US can do. Perhaps the protesters should have thought about what would happen if they removed their own government by force–someone with guns would fill the vacuum.

    The Ukrainian military doesn’t even want to fight, and reports show that several units are already surrendering. Crimea is 41% Russian. There is not much evidence that Ukrainians don’t want to be part of Russia, aside from the protesters who gained media attention–but they didn’t represent the group. To pretend as if the Ukraine is extremely important to Europe is bogus.

    And frankly I’ve pushed for a period of no American intervention to make the world realize why America is not as evil as the American left makes us out to be. Like a fast to make one appreciate food. Let Europe do something.

  4. magus71 said, on March 5, 2014 at 10:55 am

    “But, we are not as well prepared as we could be. ”

    Obama’s drawing us down to pre-WWII levels. Seems he thinks we’re too well prepared, Mike. That said, our navy is several orders of magnitude stronger than Russia’s and would be the decisive factor in a conflict in that region. The Black Sea Fleet is no match for what we’d throw at them. I’m not so critical of Obama’s actions recently so much as the constant criticism of his own country to the world. He does not understand that the world does not see this the way we do. he should keep things in-house.

    Way too many gratuitous shots at the War on Terror here. The biggest impact the WOT has on this situation is the rhetoric of self-loathing that resulted. This signaled the perfect time to move on Russia’s part.

    Just like I wrote about Iran 4 years ago or so: We will not do anything militarily. And I’m not for doing anything, because for one thing, we would not hit hard enough to finish the fight.

    • WTP said, on March 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

      The biggest impact the WOT has on this situation is the rhetoric of self-loathing that resulted.

      The self-loathing has been around much longer than the WOT. In fact, I’d like to see a war on self-loathing.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      We spend an amount equal to the next 10-12 countries combined for defense, but our spending is often not very wise. Too much is spent on the war on terror, too little on what we will need for 21st century warfare.

      Hitting the Russian’s militarily is not an option (unless we are ready for a possible nuclear war). However, we can shore up the Ukraine and give Russia some good reasons to step back. We also need to keep an eye on China-they are in competition with Russia and are no doubt hoping to get some advantage out of this situation. It is unfortunate that Russia is so corrupt and authoritarian-a democratic and less corrupt Russia would be a stabilizing factor in the region as well as an economic boon. Plus, they would make a useful counter to China.

      We need to play to win big, rather than futzing around so much. Putin, though a bit of a thug, seems to get the idea of trying to go big. But, he might have made an error in the Ukraine (as many pundits claim). Then again, he might come out ahead. If he can reclaim the Crimea and split the Ukraine, that will be a win for the Russian empire.

      • magus71 said, on March 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm

        Again, let Europe do something. They’re the ones that love Obama. Yes we spend more than the next 12 countries–we produce more than the next 12 countries.

        “Hello, this is the UN. If there is an emergency, please hang up and dial the United States, then bitch and complain about everything they do. Thank you and have a nice day.”

        Sorry, let the world burn for a while. The rest of the world having no skin in the game is harming America. I only draw the line with Iran–which cannot be allowed to get the bomb, despite your equivications.

        • apollonian said, on March 5, 2014 at 8:39 pm

          Magus: quit repeating Jew/Israeli prop. for goodness sakes. If Iran (80 million people) can’t have nukes–why should that sewer Israel? U’re just being played, and they don’t care a whit about goyim like u, comrade. Everything that happens is planned most carefully by CFR, Trilateralists, and Bilderbergers–they don’t care if Iran gets nukes, though Israel might. U owe loyalty to USA–NOT that sewer terror-state, Israel.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on March 5, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Will anybody in the press have the cojones to ask Kerry/Obama whether they still think the Russians are our partners in getting Assad to destroy his chemical weapons?

    • apollonian said, on March 5, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      Wtf?–press is TOTALLY CONTROLLED by CFR, Trilateralists, and Bilderbergers–just like Obongo. Syria is just a side-show, BLATANT aggression by USA, NATO, and Israel, as usual.

  6. T. J. Babson said, on March 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Europeans still generally love Obama. I’m wondering when they will come to realize that Obama has been a total disaster for their national security.

    Heaven forbid, Europeans may even have to bring back the draft…

  7. magus71 said, on March 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Can anyone think of a single success in Obama’s foreign policy?

    Georgia
    Russian Missile agreement
    Benghazi
    Arab Spring
    Libya
    Crimea
    Israel
    Iran
    Egypt
    Iraq status of forces agreement failure

    Where is the success? All of the above areas have been fairly significant losses for us. Can anyone list the successes? How has wot prevented Obama from performing better in these areas?

    • apollonian said, on March 5, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Magus: he’s certainly “succeeding”–only not in the way one would usually or ordinarily expect–fm yrs ago, for example.

      For the powers behind Obongo (CFR, Trilateralists, and Bilderbergers) script his every move and word, never doubt–and their purpose is WORLD GOV. and dictatorship, hence destruction of USA, it’s Constitutional and economic system, it’s sovereignty, etc.

  8. magus71 said, on March 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    One of Russia’s biggest weapons: RT. Russia’s state sponsored media outlet, populated by American and British journalists. Fully supporting the stories of Julian Assange, Michael Hastings, and Snowden.

    “In Russia, former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky criticized RT as “a part of the Russian industry of misinformation and manipulation”. Andrey Illarionov, former advisor to Vladimir Putin, has labeled the channel as “the best Russian propaganda machine targeted at the outside world. On the other hand, prominent Russian officials such as Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov are strong advocates of RT.”

    Yet they win awards every year.

    September 2006 – The 10th “Golden Tambourine” International Festival for Television programs and films[160] awarded RT’s documentary People of the Bering Strait in the Ethnography and Travel category
    June 2007 – The 11th “Save and Preserve” International Environmental Television Festival[161] awarded its Grand Prix to RT’s Meeting with Nature series.
    September 2007 – Eurasian Academy of Television and Radio[162] awarded RT with the Prize for Professional Skillfulness
    November 2007 – RT’s report on the anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe received a special prize from the international 2007 AIB Media Excellence Awards[163]
    April 2008 – RT’s daily studio show Entertainment Today hosted by Martyn Andrews and Anya Fedorova receives a special diploma from the board of the Russian Entertainment Awards[164]
    September 2008 – Russia’s most prestigious broadcasting award TEFI to Kevin Owen in Best News Anchor category[165]
    November 2008 – Special Jury Award in the Best Creative Feature category for a Russian Glamour feature story at Media Excellence Awards in London[6]
    January 2009 – Silver World Medal from the New York Festivals, for Best News Documentary “A city of desolate mothers” [166]
    August 2010 – First nomination for an International Emmy Award in News category for its coverage of president Barack Obama’s trip to Russia.[167]
    November 2011 – Martyn Andrews and the weekly “Moscow Out” arts and entertainment show awarded the “ShereMedia Award” for Best Lifestyle Program[168]
    August 2012 – Second nomination for an International Emmy Award for its coverage of the international Occupy Wall Street movement.[169]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RT_(TV_network)

  9. magus71 said, on March 5, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Where does Mike and the rest of the left get the idea that ourt current spending is so out of whack with most of American history?

    http://i.cfr.org/content/publications/July2013/010_national_defense_1948.png

    • magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 9:48 am

      Anyone? Bueller?

      • WTP said, on March 6, 2014 at 11:02 am

        The better question is, what difference does it make? More money or less money, the argument itself is a fallacy. The point is what do we need to do the job today and what is reasonable in relation to our position in the world economically and relative to viable threats. Other countries Mike references are either enemies whom we may need to confront simultaneously or allies who exist under our umbrella of protection.

        The left is constantly harping on defense spending as wasteful in order to distract from other government spending that is wasteful. Yet HHS and SS consume more and I would argue are more wasteful.

        • magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 11:53 am

          But they lie about the econmics of it. That’s important to point out.

      • T. J. Babson said, on March 6, 2014 at 11:30 am

        What kills me is that liberals hate defense spending and call it a drain on the economy (see Mike’s remark “We then stupidly melted our economy a bit with two wars…”) but love other forms of government spending and call it a “stimulus.”

        • WTP said, on March 6, 2014 at 11:34 am

          It’s the old guns-vs-butter argument they fall back on. Which does have some merit, however they fail to account for the collateral damage, the moral hazards and disincentive to work that result from their social programs.

        • magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

          But TJ, we can’t allow them to say that we’ve massively increased defense spending because it’s not true.

          • T. J. Babson said, on March 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm

            How about if you include all GWOT spending? The TSA, Department of Homeland Security, NSA, CIA, etc.?

            This is “defense spending” but not strictly speaking DoD spending.

            • magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm

              Well I’d have to look at that in the past, too.

            • WTP said, on March 6, 2014 at 1:57 pm

              combine Homeland Security @ 1.5% and National Intelligence @ 1.4% of budget with DoD and DoD/HS/NI are still third budget-wise behind HHS and SS.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_United_States_federal_budget

              What bothers me most about the cuts to Defense is they want to spend that money elsewhere and on top of that add $1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) in new taxes. What the left, and by left I mean Mike and his fellow travelers, fails to understand is that the government doesn’t create jobs. They see that money getting spent to hire someone to do (often busy) work, but do not see the opportunity cost in that the money is no longer being employed to create wealth. Guns vs butter is a fallacy. TJ, do you get this article? It’s more than just about income gap. Sorry, it’s a bit long..

              the misleading model of wealth we learn as children; the disreputable way in which, till recently, most fortunes were accumulated; and the worry that great variations in income are somehow bad for society. As far as I can tell, the first is mistaken, the second outdated, and the third empirically false.

              http://paulgraham.com/gap.html

            • magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 1:59 pm

              Don’t forget, this DOD spending includes our soldiers living in enemy territory for longer than ever. This cost a lot. And we still can’t touch how much we spent during Vietnam, Korea WWII.

            • magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 2:07 pm

              I do know that the CIA budget is miniscule compared to DOD.

            • T. J. Babson said, on March 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm

              I personally don’t have a problem with defense spending. A lot of the money goes toward workforce development and high tech R&D. Both good investments.

            • T. J. Babson said, on March 6, 2014 at 3:47 pm

              “TJ, do you get this article? It’s more than just about income gap. Sorry, it’s a bit long..”

              I do indeed like the article. It is a great model, and something we can aspire to, but I don’t believe it is an entirely accurate picture of reality.

              For example, in my opinion an Ivy League degree carries entirely too much weight. Many companies only want to hire from these schools. How can you prove that you are good if you never get a chance to show your stuff? How many people working for McKinsey did not come from the Ivy League? Practically none, I’d venture to guess. And where is it written that every Supreme Court justice has to come from Harvard or Yale? That’s just total bullshit.

              I am all for equality of opportunity, and then let the chips fall where they may. I am against elitist clubs like the Ivies that tend to protect the elites from competition.

            • T. J. Babson said, on March 6, 2014 at 3:52 pm

              Why should an institution like Harvard that gives an edge in admissions to children of alumni be given tax exempt status? That’s bullshit, too.

            • WTP said, on March 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

              For example, in my opinion an Ivy League degree carries entirely too much weight.
              To my mind, that’s simply a variation on the Daddy Model of Wealth which is fading away in a similar vein to Stealing It. But that’s where people place their value. One could make the same argument for athletes and movie stars. The problem is in that we put so much value on such an education. Though my wife once worked at a $15/hr job grading standardized tests with a woman who got an Ivy League degree in playing the cello.

              Why should an institution like Harvard that gives an edge in admissions to children of alumni be given tax exempt status?
              I’m a bit conflicted on this. Given my somewhat limited exposure to the Harvardly educated, well as P.T. Barnum used to say why should a sucker be allowed to keep his money? I expect the MommyAndDaddy money to run out faster for this generation of IV leaguers than it did for M&D. Especially where it was all Granddad’s money in the first place. Though the tax exemption status of Harvard and most other such institutions is, as you say, a problem.

            • T. J. Babson said, on March 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm

              Alums give money to Harvard and deduct it from their taxes.

              Harvard invests the money and makes huge profits from its huge endowment, all tax free.

              Kids of Alums are accepted at Harvard.

              Kids are hired by Goldman Sachs and other similar firms (who only hire from Ivies).

              Rinse and repeat.

              “Only the little people pay taxes.”

            • T. J. Babson said, on March 6, 2014 at 4:57 pm

              I actually have no problem with the above except the taxpayer subsidies.

  10. magus71 said, on March 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Also, number of DoD personnel in total has declined since the 1960s.

    http://i.cfr.org/content/publications/July2013/020_dod_personnel.png

  11. apollonian said, on March 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Russia-Ukraine Problem?–Ho Hum

    It now turns out there’s serious info and evidence (see http://www.infowars.com/order-out-of-chaos-gladio-snipers-behind-killings-in-kyiv/) the snipers who murdered both protestors and police in Kiev recently, bringing-down the Ukrainian Pres. Yanukovych, were actually Gladio-style Western operatives. Of course Russians were on top of it all along.

    And note the proper suspicion for conspiracy is the on-going take-over by the “globalists” of Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateralists, and Bilderbergers.

    Observe further, one purpose of all this seeming ominous activity is, much as anything, to FEAR-MONGER, thus providing continuing pretext and excuse for police-state and ever-higher military spending. Never doubt Putin and the Chinese are FULLY on board, and co-operating w. the globalist oligarchs behind NATO for this necessary fear-factor, keeping the people under thumb of security-state, willing to have their rights usurped, violated, ignored, reduced.

    Note the economic conditions are simply getting worse, as usual, doomed for imminent collapse, actually, esp. for the currency, and the fear-mongering tends to keeping people’s mind and eye off of the horrible reality.

    To be sure, however, it is true Putin, Russians, and Chinese are surely determined not to be treated like poor Qaddafi, Assad, Saddam Hussein, et al., used by the “globalists,” only to be discarded at some expedient moment like used play-things (like Yanukovych, for example).

    To my mind, these side-shows, like what’s now happening in Ukraine, are mere reflections upon the un-stable economic, hence political situation, Obongo having now destroyed the health system and stone-walling for his criminal and TRAITOROUS violations of the Constitution–like w. present IRS scandal, “fast-and-furious” arming of drug-cartels to under-mine 2nd amendment, murder of the US ambassador to Libya at Benghazi, etc. Mike’s above essay really seems quite puerile, mixed-up, and old-fashioned for its orientation and issues references. Putin himself pt’d out the desperate economic situation of USA, ho ho ho Worst enemy of American people is the US gov. (ZOG), as usual.

  12. magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Just as I said with Egypt: fomenting revolutions in which you can’t or won’t control the outcome is an enormous foreign policy gaff by Obama.

    SIR – The trend in recent foreign policy by the major Western democracies has been to encourage revolution. The Arab Spring has produced nothing but discord and mayhem on an international scale, while events in Ukraine promise ever more dangerous prospects.

    Vladimir Putin can afford to smirk when he looks at those who oppose him: a weak American president, a powerless EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, a divided British Government, a French president who lacks credibility and a German chancellor who poses no military threat.

    The division of Ukraine should be accepted. Western leaders should stop posturing and turn their attentions to correcting the many problems that face them at home, while at the same time strengthening their economic and military defences to meet future threats.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/10678606/Weak-Western-powers-should-not-continue-to-fan-revolution-abroad.html

  13. magus71 said, on March 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Let’s not forget, too, that America is one of a handful of countries that meets its NATO defense spending requirements. NATO requires that members spend 2% of GDP on defense. America spends between 4-5% Big whup. Several countries outside NATO spend twice that percent. And we’re the only good country in the world that actually takes initiative agaisnt evil outside its own borders. All the others look at us when something bad happens.

    That defense spending is the cause of our ailes is pure leftist propoghanda.


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