July 19, 2018 – SPENGLER ON RUSSIA

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We get fooled by Russia. We enjoy their accomplishments in Western idioms of literature and music and assume Russians are just like us. But those creations come from a thin veneer; a tiny percentage of Russians. Scratch below the surface and you will find xenophobic thuggish paranoid peasants. And they got there in the natural way – by geography.

Russia is located in the middle of the Great Northern European Plain that stretches from Germany all the way to steppes of Asia. There are no mountains or seas. Just an endless rolling landscape. There are no barriers to entry. No protection. Since the beginnings of Kievian Rus in the ninth century, Russian has fought in 158 wars. Here’s the list in Wikipedia. They fought with all their neighbors; The Byzantine Empire, Poland, Prussia, the Mongols, Lithuania, Sweden, etc. etc.. Five Romanov Czars, and Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov just before them, all fought with Sweden. Nine times Russia fought with the Byzantine Empire. And when that empire was history, Russia fought sixteen times with Turkey. 

Many of these were existential wars and in more than a millennium they formed the Russian psyche and its preference for a strong central state that could police the borders and protect the country. No wonder they prefer order. No wonder they persecute apostates. No wonder they like Putin. 

Our political ancestors lived on an island that was, with some exceptions, free of the fear of invasion from without. Our ancestors had more fear of tyranny from within. So, they wrote the Magna Carta. They wanted to control and temper the central state. They

nurtured the idea of representative government responsible to the citizens. We can pretend we are clothed in virtue, but if our culture developed and grew on the bountiful soil at the inhospitable intersection of two continents we would likely think like Russians.

Trump must have great intuition. His thoughts on Russia exhibit nuanced sophistication as he struggles to find a way for the two countries to exist together in the 21st century. The present enmity from the chattering classes is little more than a nuisance. David Goldman, writing as Spengler, comments on recent events with Russia. The title is; Once Again, President Trump Is Magnificently Right—This Time About Russia 

President Trump offended the entire political spectrum with a tweet this morning blaming the U.S. for poor relations with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity,” the president said, and he is entirely correct. By this I do not mean to say that Russia is a beneficent actor in world affairs or that President Putin is an admirable world leader. Nonetheless, the president displayed both perspicacity and political courage when he pointed the finger at the United States for mismanaging the relationship with Russia. …

… Unfortunately, the delusion that the United States would remake Russia in its own image persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations. I have no reason to doubt the allegations that a dozen Russian intelligence officers meddled in the U.S. elections of 2016, but this was equivalent of a fraternity prank compared to America’s longstanding efforts to intervene in Russian politics.

The United States supported the 2014 Maidan uprising in Ukraine and the overthrow of the Yanukovych government in the hope of repeating the exercise in Moscow sometime later. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland pulled whatever strings America had to replace the feckless and corrupt Victor Yanukovych with a government hostile to the Kremlin. She didn’t say it in so many words, but she hoped the Ukraine coup would lead to the overthrow of Vladimir Putin. Evidently Nuland and her boss, Hillary Clinton, thought that the Ukraine coup would deprive Russia of its Black Sea naval base in Crimea, and did not anticipate that Russia simply would annex an old Russian province that belonged to Ukraine by historical accident. …

… Russia is in crisis, but Russia always is in crisis. Russia has a brutal government, but Russia always has had a brutal government, and by every indication, the people of Russia nonetheless seem to like their government. If they want a different sort of government, let them establish one; what sort of government they prefer is not the business of the United States. America’s attempt to shape Russia’s destiny, starting with the Clinton administration’s sponsorship of the feckless, drunk and corrupt Boris Yeltsin, had baleful results. So did the State Department’s attempt to manipulate events in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014. …

… Nonetheless, it was America that made a mess of relations with Russia, and President Trump’s tweet this morning was right on the mark. You can usually gauge the merits of this president’s public statements by the decibel level of the protests. …




Here is a good article Spengler wrote for the Asia Times in 2008.

On the night of November 22, 2004, then-Russian president – now premier – Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding “Orange” revolution in Ukraine. “They lied to me,” Putin said bitterly of the United States. “I’ll never trust them again.” The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West. 

American hardliners are the first to say that they feel stupid next to Putin. Victor Davis Hanson wrote on August 12 [1] of Moscow’s “sheer diabolic brilliance” in Georgia, while Colonel Ralph Peters, a columnist and television commentator, marveled on August 14 [2], “The Russians are alcohol-sodden barbarians, but now and then they vomit up a genius … the empire of the czars hasn’t produced such a frightening genius since [Joseph] Stalin.” The superlatives recall an old observation about why the plots of American comic books need clever super-villains and stupid super-heroes to even the playing field. Evidently the same thing applies to superpowers. 

The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them. That is what the informed Russian public believes, judging from last week’s postings on web forums, including this writer’s own

These perceptions are dangerous because they do not stem from propaganda, but from a difference in existential vantage point. Russia is fighting for its survival, against a catastrophic decline in population and the likelihood of a Muslim majority by mid-century. The Russian Federation’s scarcest resource is people. It cannot ignore the 22 million Russians stranded outside its borders after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, nor, for that matter, small but loyal ethnicities such as the Ossetians. Strategic encirclement, in Russian eyes, prefigures the ethnic disintegration of Russia, which was a political and cultural entity, not an ethnic state, from its first origins. …


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