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Better Putin Than Weimar Russia

I must admit to being a bit baffled by Jon Basil Utley’s “Libertarians and Putin’s Catastrophic Corruption,” [1] wherein we are presented with a litany of all that’s wrong with Russia’s un-free economy: bribery, no respect for property rights, corrupt courts, dependence on imports—and, perhaps most disturbing of all, “lousy roads!” (I’d advise Jon to pay me a visit out here in the wilds of northern California if he wants to see some really bad roads).

I’m baffled because I have to wonder how this is different from the rest of the world, or at least most of it. Utley is describing the general condition of what we used to call the “Third World,” before political correctness eliminated that designation. That Russia has fallen into that category after the implosion of communism is hardly surprising: indeed, it was nearly inevitable.

I also have to wonder about the conclusion Utley draws from his indictment of today’s Russia. He writes: “Yet many leading libertarians have been very soft on Putin’s elimination of political freedoms and ruination of his country, excusing Russia because of NATO expansion and Western support for the overthrow of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed Yanukovych government. Some conservatives have even argued that Putin is an ally in supporting traditional ‘family values’ because of his public opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage.”

One has to ask: what “political freedoms”? Western neocons complain that Russia’s elections are rigged, although the evidence for this is sketchy, at best—aside from which it’s undeniable that Putin, for all his faults, is immensely popular in Russia. That’s why he’s still in power. The Yeltsin government that preceded Putin’s ascension was far worse in terms of corruption: the country was literally plundered by ex-Communist apparatchniks who “bid” on formerly nationalized industries without any competing bids being allowed. This led to the rise of the hated oligarchs, who propped up a drunken Yeltsin while he sold his country down the river—and for a pittance! It was looting, plain and simple. Putin’s popularity is based, in part, on the fact that he reined these crooks in. No, he didn’t inaugurate laissez-faire capitalism—but then again, neither has any country in the world, including our own.

Utley claims “Ron Paul defends Putin,” with a link pointing to a smear piece [2] in the National Journal that starts out: “It used to be that blaming America for crisis abroad was largely the province of liberals. That folk wisdom appears to be changing—just ask Ron Paul.” The article goes on to rail against the fact that the Russian propaganda apparatus picked up on Paul’s remarks, as if that alone was proof of Paul’s perfidy. But if we look at what Paul actually said, it turns out he was absolutely correct:

Just days after the tragic crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, Western politicians and media joined together to gain the maximum propaganda value from the disaster. It had to be Russia; it had to be Putin… President Obama held a press conference to claim—even before an investigation—that it was pro-Russian rebels in the region who were responsible. His ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, did the same at the U.N. Security Council—just one day after the crash.

Every word of this is true: the U.S. government and media didn’t wait two seconds before concluding the separatists and their Russian sponsors were behind the downing of the plane. Minutes after the incident Twitter was ablaze with anti-Russian propaganda: yet another example of the evil Putin’s perfidy!

The international investigation launched shortly after the crash still hasn’t reached a definitive conclusion, and one isn’t due until August. And even if—or rather when—the investigation cites the separatists as the culprits, it’s clear they didn’t intend to target a civilian airliner, which for some reason was flying over a war zone avoided by other airlines. In any case, Paul’s point remains valid: the rush to judgment was unseemly and indicative of a troubling trend—the Russophobia that is driving our policy toward the Kremlin.

Utley makes the argument that Russia is in danger of becoming a “failed state.” Yet Russia is nowhere near becoming anything like, say, Somalia, a classic failed state. And its current economic troubles aren’t only a result of its statist economic policies, although they do play a major role: the economic sanctions recently imposed by the Obama administration, with full support from congressional conservatives, are a major blow, precisely as intended by our new Cold Warriors. Utley never mentions the sanctions; indeed, his piece gives the pro-sanctions crowd moral if not explicit political support.

What kind of libertarian supports such sanctions? I’ll tell you what kind: over at the Cato Institute, we see a piece by Christopher Preble [3] opining that “the goal of the sanctions [4] should be a negotiated settlement to the Ukrainian crisis that favors western interests. Economic pressure raised the costs of Russia’s revanchism in Ukraine and might deter Putin from trying to foment trouble elsewhere along Russia’s border.”

In other words, the sanctions are a good thing: for the first time ever, the Cato Institute is endorsing what Daniel Drezner calls [5] the “weaponization of finance” in order to pursue Washington’s foreign-policy agenda. This didn’t even happen during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq! Which tells us that the Russophobia that has swept through Georgetown’s cocktail parties has breached the towers of what used to be the premier libertarian think tank, and Cold War II is in full swing. When Washington has regime-change on its mind, the pressure on anti-interventionists in the nation’s capital can be tremendous.

If we want to prevent Russia from become a failed state, imposing draconian economic sanctions is counterintuitive. Thanks to the Obama administration’s open hostility to the Kremlin, the joint U.S.-Russian program charged with tracing and securing “loose nukes” has come to a halt. Does anyone think Washington’s current anti-Russian hysterics are going to bring it back?

Russia is very far from being a “dictatorship,” as Utley avers. It’s easier for a new or “third” party to get on the ballot in Russia than it is in the United States. True, the major media are pro-government, but most of the media is in formally private hands. And our own media is concentrated in just as few hands—and doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to challenging the narratives spun by government officials.

Utley is right that Putin won’t be thrown out—but not because Russia is a dictatorship. It’s because he’s enormously popular, not because opposition parties are banned (they aren’t) or because his enemies are all in prison (they aren’t). Is Russia a Jeffersonian republic? Nope. But then again, neither are we.

American hostility to Russia is based on two things: 1) Putin’s scathing and largely accurate critique of U.S. intervention in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and his refusal to countenance NATO expansion, and 2) Putin’s offer of sanctuary to America’s number one political dissident, Edward Snowden. Of course, the neocons were ready for regime change when Putin denounced the U.S. assault on Iraq, but it wasn’t until Snowden’s hegira that the U.S. government got fully on board the regime-change train.

The current wave of Russophobia is the most dangerous phenomenon since the wave of war hysteria that greeted the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We are in danger of creating a “Weimar Russia”—wracked by economic ruination, resentful of the West, and seething with ancient ethnic hatreds. So you think Putin is bad? You haven’t seen anything yet—just wait until you see his successors. The ultra-nationalists waiting in the wings are truly scary: the irony is that the scenario of a “revanchist, revisionist” Russia will turn out to have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Versailles Treaty, with its draconian terms designed to humiliate and impoverish a defeated Germany, ushered in Hitler and the National Socialists. Russia, defeated in the first Cold War, is being treated in a similar fashion. We have been down this road before—so why haven’t we learned the right lessons? If even the heroic Jon Utley, publisher of the nation’s leading anti-interventionist magazine—and a great friend to Antiwar.com [6]—hasn’t learned the right lesson, then I tremble at the future we have before us.

Justin Raimondo is editorial director of Antiwar.com.

39 Comments (Open | Close)

39 Comments To "Better Putin Than Weimar Russia"

#1 Comment By David Dickson On January 6, 2015 @ 12:49 pm

Without (yet) addressing the premise of the article, I will just advise you on one thing, Justin:

Never underestimate the badness of Russian roads.

I have been to Siberia–specifically, southernmost Siberia, near Lake Baikal, close to the Irkutsk greater metropolitan area. I have also been to northern California. As bad as the latter may be, it’s like comparing a bad apple to a rock masquerading as an apple.

Regarding one of your points, I would say we simply characterize how we are treating Russia differently. We are not punishing them for their loss of the Cold War twenty-three years ago; we are punishing them for their current invasion of a large country of 46 million people on Europe’s borders. If they can do something like that without drastic cost, similar things will happen in the future.

You cite “stability” as a reason to back off from the sanctions we currently enforce against Russia. Well, I (and most of Washington) cite the same principle, but toward the opposite argument. Russia’s aggression towards those who oppose the interests of President Putin (and his blatant lies in service of said aggression) are inherently destabilizing. If it is necessary to risk a rift and loss of cooperation with his government in order to show him the costs of treating international borders as suggestions to be amended by Russo-nationalist sophistry, such is the cost of maintaining. . . well, stability. Of the long-term variety.

#2 Comment By SteveM On January 6, 2015 @ 12:51 pm

Exactly. And the locus of the current contempt for Russia sits between Barack Obama’s ears.

Obama is pathologically contemptuous of Putin because Putin explicitly challenges the narcissistic illusions of superiority that slosh around his besotted, self-absorbed brain.

Russia has lot of problems alright. But with petulant, immature hacks like Obama in the Oval Office, so does the United States.

#3 Comment By collin On January 6, 2015 @ 12:54 pm

It is true that Putin Russia is not the great evil of Weimer Russia or even any mention of Stalin or Hitler. The actions of Putin has not brought Russia to the brink or threaten the global structure.

However, we should note the HUGE drop of the ruble is still pointed to Putin’s decision to interfere militarily with Ukraine. The basics of the Russian economy pointed to a recession but it should have not been a financial crisis. I am hoping the population slowly turns against Putin’s actions and realize during the next election to change course. (By turn away I thinking of what the US did to Bush in 2006.)

#4 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On January 6, 2015 @ 1:07 pm

Russia, defeated in the first Cold War, is being treated in a similar fashion.

It is a good piece but I am extremely weary from all kinds of simplified, if not altogether vulgar, historical analogies. I said it many times and I will repeat it again–we are observing a catastrophic systemic failure of US foreign policy “elites” to more or less coherently identify even basic factors forming Russia’s present state. Forget about grasp of the (Russian) reality. Russia is not Weimar Germany and she saw times way harder than today’s. Without understanding the nature of the present Russia’s national debate there is no grasping of what is going on and why Putin is immensely popular even today. In fact, his popularity is contingent not on the “compromise” on Ukraine but on quite the opposite. In fact, he is expected by overwhelming majority of Russians to finish off a degenerate economic model and, maybe, address (don’t hold your breath though) finally the issue of Yeltsinizm. People are waiting.

[7]

#5 Comment By mightypeon On January 6, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

From Russias pov, they very clearly did not start this confrontation, are loosing this confrontation precisly because they did not start it, and have already lost so much, and so blatantly, to US meddling that they are basically fighting for 2 goals:

1: Establish that, if Russian assistance is ineffective of protecting the power of a democratically elected leader, it can at least protect the lives of former loyalists.
2: Impose a measure of costs on those that destroyed a massive and pretty unprecedented Russia monetary, financial and political investment, especially considering that the attackers themselfs gain nearly nothing, other then Russias detriment, for themselfs.

According to the Brookings institution, Russia was supporting Ukraine with “observable” 5-10 billion dollars per year at least. Taken together with other major one time infusions, Russian investment/aid/subsidies/prefered resource deals with Ukraine are worth around 400 billion.
Russia also expended considerable political capital, for example Russian efforts at making Russia autark as far as defence products are concerned were stalled, because Ukraine demanded and got “treated like domestic producers” access to the Russian defence market.

Uncharacteristically for Russia, these invesments were actually well within what is considered to be “acceptable” ways of garnering influence in another country. What Ukrainian leadership opted to do with that was, broadly speaking, not Russias business.

The problem from Russias pov was that this already gave the Ukrainian goverment what it wanted. Appropriatly, Ukraine now sought to secure comparable deals from the European Union.
This was also completely legitimate on their part. The issue was that the EU offer for Ukraine was so hilariously bad that some Russian officials believed it to be a EU message that is like “We officially do not give a **** about Ukraine in practice”. When Yanukovich tried to make Lemonade out of Lemons by using the EU agreement to bargain for better conditions from Russia, Russia refused to budge, apperantly felt insulted (would have been different had the EU offer actually been good). Yanukovich then did the “if you dont deal with me, deal with the nutcases from Lviv” stunt, and actually managed to use this to extract sizeable additional concession from Russia, mostly in monetary nature.

From their pov, Russia had legitimatly won the influence tug of war using appropriate non violent means and by going through the proper channels. This is not business as usual for Russia, and that they used major concessions to entice cooperation could be seen as a major improvement in Russian behaviour towards its neighbours.
And also by greatly outspending the European Union.

What happened next send shockwaves throughout the Russian high state.

To be continued.

#6 Comment By Johann On January 6, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

This is a pre-emptive response to anyone who may say that WWI Germany was not a problem until it was appeased by Chamberlain. Hitler would have taken Czechoslovakia whether he was appeased or not. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive. The worn out Munich moment analogy has always been based on a false assumption.

#7 Comment By Johann On January 6, 2015 @ 2:48 pm

correction – post WWI Germany.

#8 Comment By VikingLS On January 6, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

“We are not punishing them for their loss of the Cold War twenty-three years ago; we are punishing them for their current invasion of a large country of 46 million people on Europe’s borders.”

There are lies and there are damned lies. This one is a damned lie. Ukraine is not on Europe’s borders it’s in Europe totally. Out of those 46 million a plurality saw the person they voted for thrown out of office by a US backed coup and THEN some of them opted for secession.

Now maybe Russia deserves punishment for it’s involvement in Ukraine, but so do the US and the EU. Perhaps this war will be one in which all parties are defeated, it’s damned well deserves to be one.

#9 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 6, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

“… we are punishing them for their current invasion of a large country of 46 million people on Europe’s borders. If they can do something like that without drastic cost, similar things will happen in the future.”

But Russia hasn’t invaded. Russian troops are where they always were in peacetime. An undemocratic coup was fomented by Nuland/Kagan et.al. of the smoking phone conspiracy, choosing and rejecting the post coup leaders. Eastern Ukrainians, ethnic Russians, were to be ethnically cleansed. Even the Czech president is mortified by the current candlelight Bandera/Nazi torchlight processions in Kiev.

Isn’t all this occurring on the Russian border, not western “European” (seeing that Ukraine had historically always been linked with Russia, from its founding) of a Russia that recently sought to be integrated with Europe but was rebuffed through remote control of Europe’s various puppet leaders, largely financially influenced by Washington and Wall Street? Aren’t all of NATO’s partners merely junior partners to the controlling majority financial and military interest on the other side of the globe?

Remarkably, the Russian sensibility has to be that it is Russians who are under siege, with all the aggressive talk from what Putin still hopefully and politely termed “our partners,” for “regime change” in Russia itself, attendant upon the official policy of “full spectrum dominance” that will allow enforcing hegemonic prerogatives upon every single piece of the globe. As John Kerry signaled in Kiev, “there is not any place on the earth that is so small as to not be crucial to United States interests” and thus stage managed to further those interests.

But which “United States interests” are those? Certainly not of the “real Americans,” that is, we the 300 million ordinary citizens of the United States, whose lives are intentionally being destabilized by our own financially controlled government’s nuclear-tipped quests far abroad for “dragons to slay.”

From the Russian viewpoint of the American-instigated Kiev coup, “If they can do something like that without drastic cost,” what similar things will happen in the future?

The American oligarchy’s deep belief in a geopolitical Domino Theory makes it appear probable that its hired leadership intends the dominos to keep falling through endless NATO absorption (the figleaf acronym for the transition to imperialism) in a great geopolitical game for financial and military global hegemony.

“I am hoping the population slowly turns against Putin’s actions and realize during the next election to change course. (By turn away I thinking of what the US did to Bush in 2006.)”

Yet regardless of what our population wanted for a change of course, this only proves that the rudder of policy is not under our control. From the recent experience of hope but no change, except in defining it as “chump change,” it appears that there is no possibility of any leadership being allowed before the electorate that does not serve our own oligarchy’s interests. Stalin is infamously attributed to have not cared about elections as long as he got to count the votes, but the American riff on that is that the only votes that can be counted are for duopoly candidates that the American power establishment has already vetted for loyalty to their own interests, rather than to democratic accountability.

“One man, one vote one time,” here has become “one man, one vote, once every four years” in which nothing meaningful changes after we vote, whatever we think our choice might have been.

#10 Comment By Zhidobanderovtsy On January 6, 2015 @ 7:58 pm

Putin sets up his “managed democracy” electoral system so it favors wacko opposition parties KPRF Communists and LDPR xenophobes and then Russians feel obliged to vote for Putin as the “least worst” candidate.

Now, Raimondo figures that Obama and the West should be intimidated by Putin into supporting him because HE is now the lesser-of-evils??

No way! Obama and the West need to gird their loins, tell the truth and prepare for the worst from both Putin, his acolyte xenophobes and Russia’s wacko panoply of homophobes, xenophobes, racists, and misogynists.

US radical left (aka formerly “progressives”) now getting into bed with the far-right American/European neo-fascists.

Read about how this far-left-+far-right convergence is revealed by Anton Shekhovtsov: [8] and by Majka: [9]

And by Christ Majka: [9]

#11 Comment By Jeremy On January 6, 2015 @ 10:11 pm

I find it odd that Mr. Raimondo views opposition to Putin as some neocon cabal considering the number of neocons who have expressed admiration for Putin themselves (they like how he apparently keeps the Muslims down). It seems Putin has foolish admirers from all over the political spectrum.

#12 Comment By Jeremy On January 6, 2015 @ 10:16 pm

Fran, you accuse Euromaidan (which I’m not a fan of, by the way) of being inspired by fascism and Nazism, yet Putin’s own actual fascist and neo-Nazi supporters believe the Jews are behind Euromaidan.

#13 Comment By Henry Larsen On January 6, 2015 @ 11:49 pm

> From the recent experience of hope but no change,
> except in defining it as “chump change,” …

I predicted already in November 2008 that the only change to be seen would be all of the people who changed their minds about the wisdom of having voted for B. O.

> … the American riff on that is that the only votes that
> can be counted are for duopoly candidates that the
> American power establishment has already vetted for
> loyalty to their own interests …

There’s a famous old cartoon in which two American power establishment figures are discussing the results of an election. One says to the other ‘What do you mean, who won? Both of the candidates were ours!’

> … “one man, one vote, once every four years” in which
> nothing meaningful changes after we vote, whatever we
> think our choice might have been.

‘If voting actually made any difference, do you really think they’d let us do it?’ — anonymous

#14 Comment By Richard Parker On January 7, 2015 @ 1:56 am

Russia is as democratic as Chicago. It just has a lot more oil and nukes.

#15 Comment By EstonianWolf On January 7, 2015 @ 7:24 am

This article is utter nonsense by someone that has no idea about Russia, except for RT news maybe.

For those, who say that Maidan was a CIA plot: you overestimate the power of CIA (or any intelligence service) by magnitudes. They have NEVER been able to start revolutions. At best, they can somewhat accelerate or slow down the ongoing processes, but there’s no way they could *initiate* or *plan* Maidan (or Tahrir or Moscow 1991).

The best proof is very near you: Cuba. If CIA could not overturn an enemy at its door (and they *really* did try hard), then what makes you believe they could be more successful in places like Kiev or Tbilisi? It’s ridiculous.

No proof about Russian troops in Ukraine? Take *any* public interview of Igor Girkin-Strelkov in Russian media. He is a citizen of Russian Federation, Colonel of FSB, who was in charge of “separatist” forces in Donbass until fall. What else do you need?

#16 Comment By VikingLS On January 7, 2015 @ 8:17 am

@Jeremy

I keep hearing this accusation but the only conservatives of any kind I’ve heard express much admiration for Putin are Pat Buchanan and Peter Hitchens.

#17 Comment By Johann On January 7, 2015 @ 10:54 am

No way! Obama and the West need to gird their loins, tell the truth and prepare for the worst from both Putin, his acolyte xenophobes and Russia’s wacko panoply of homophobes, xenophobes, racists, and misogynists.

Oooh, yes, we must prepare ourselves for the invasion of the Russian homophobes, xenophobes, racists, and misogynists!! Hollywood and our other culture warriors have worked so hard to bring the US culture to where it is. All will be lost if we don’t destroy these people in Russia before they spread their poison over here. Especially now that they have RT America. <—– Sarcasm.

#18 Comment By VikingLS On January 7, 2015 @ 11:23 am

@EstonianWolf

Victoria Nuland was recorded on the phone discussing which figure they wanted to run Ukraine after Yankovich was ousted before it happened.

Maidan probably wasn’t initiated by the CIA, but accelerating it was more than sufficient for the State Department to get what it wanted, albeit very briefly.

Russia didn’t initiate the separatist movement either, but it did take advantage of it.

Ultimately blame for what’s happening in Ukraine doesn’t lie with the US, the EU or Russia. In the end this is the fault of the Ukrainians.

#19 Comment By VikingLS On January 7, 2015 @ 11:30 am

I’ll add a caveat, the Crimean secession looks like it was planned in advance and there was no question where the little green men came from.

#20 Comment By Mightypeon On January 7, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

The western meddling was very very blatant, (although Stratfor oversells it by calling it “the most obvious coup of history”, quite a number of Soviet coups, 2 times in Czecheslovakia for example, were more blatant) Nuland was caught on the phone hand picking future leaders, and color revolutions against comparably open nations is something the US has become pretty good at. As I understand, the actual CIA does not like the color revolutionaries very much.

One can also often guess who is behind an action by looking at its effects. An American finance minister for Ukraine speaks (who worked for the US state department btw.) pretty drat loudly in this regard.

The utter puppetization of Ukraine has a good side too though. Because the Georgian imported health minister (some Georgians I know are just glad the guy is now messing up someone elses country) does not speak Ukrainian, some of Ukraines giant 21 ministries cabinet dont speak English, so Russian (which everyone speaks) had a comeback as Ukraines cabinet language.

From Russias pov, the blatant western interference also killed the Budapest Memorandum. The West completely ignored its written commitments to not interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine. Russia felt, since the West was shredding the memorandum, that obliging to it while the west does not was a suckers game.

What is unique is that the thing is so incredibly obvious. The US used to care for having at least somewhat plausible deniability in its subversive actions, in Ukraine they completely did away with that.

#21 Comment By Mightypeon On January 7, 2015 @ 1:40 pm

@Viking LS

Concerning the Crimean operation, the Russian general staff had contingency planning for how to secure the biggest Russian base outside of Russia. This plans worked pretty well, tactically speaking. They were a disaster strategically since they put the onus of being “puppets of a foreign power” on the new opposition, and alienated the “non Russian” identity of Ukraine. It also gave leeway for the new regime to violently repressed the leaders of the old regime. This then proceeded to create a leadership vacuum for the new opposition that got filled by Russian adventurers like Strelkov etc.

Ukraine used to have 3 distinct identities, one that was Russian, one that was “not Russian but also not against Russia” and one that was “Anti Russian”. Crimea turned the “not Russians” against Russia.

What really scares me is that Maidan basically replaced a goverment of thieves with 3 goverments of murderers. Kyiv, “Novorossija” and Kolomoisky in Dnipro all murder, but all of these are still somewhat rational actors.

I mean, there were some streamed parts of the recent budget debate in the Rada. When Oleh Lyashko sounds like a sane man, something is deeply and perhaps irredeemably messed up.

The thing is, after the next violent takeover in Kyiv, whatever comes next will propably be even worse.

#22 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 7, 2015 @ 2:01 pm

“…you accuse Euromaidan (which I’m not a fan of, by the way) of being inspired by fascism and Nazism”

Kerensky and the Social Democrats who came to power in Russia in the initial 1917 revolution weren’t Bolsheviks like Lenin and Stalin, either. But such violent men and their followers came to play an important part and made their own coup in October against democracy.

The Maidan protestors probably weren’t for all the killing that Ukraine’s become involved in since, under many of the same oligarchs that they protested against. All that’s happened is shifting loyalties calculated on the best financial advantages for them. The protestors, egged on by $5 billion invested in a coup as admitted by Nuland, who also said “F— the E.U” shows that the idealistic reformers of the protests were, like Kerensky and the Social Democrats, “useful idiots.”

Is that how we are viewed by our own oligarchs, too?

I don’t think the “Arab Spring” was inspired, either, by the totalitarian militarists who overthrew democracy with the tacit behind the scenes and financial support of our own oligarchy’s political actors, but that’s how it is.

The only folk who believe in democratic accountability are the common folk of any nation.

#23 Comment By Reality On January 7, 2015 @ 3:20 pm

One has to ask: what “political freedoms”?

Uh… freedom of the press for one.

#24 Comment By stepan On January 7, 2015 @ 4:20 pm

The sanctions, the more solid we round the president are stronger.
And every day, in the people, the opinion is more increasing, and can launch on them the rocket…

#25 Comment By Damein Zakordonski On January 7, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

I am still waiting for Justin’s expose on Strelkov and some his lesser minions. Isn’t it strange that a libertarian of his ilk cares little to write on a Russian FSB agent who commandeered the military revolt in Eastern Ukraine, especially one that focuses on military incursions made and arranged by foreign powers. Why does he pretend that he doesn’t exist or played no significant part in the matter.

I have asked for a comment on many occasions and all I come across are his continued apologies for Putin.

Strange, don’t ya think?

#26 Comment By Alberto Dietz On January 7, 2015 @ 11:08 pm

Game, set, match Fran Macadam.

#27 Comment By Jeremy On January 8, 2015 @ 3:50 am

@VikingLS

I’ve seen Fox News guests and talking heads praise Putin on more than one occasion.
There are also the various online commenters I’ve witnessed on right-leaning sites (especially on Breitbart.com) who like Putin in spite of otherwise supporting neocon foreign policy.
On the other hand, they probably only feel that way because Obama is in the White House.

But I do think Raimondo isn’t wrong that there are worse people than Putin just waiting in the wings in Russia.

#28 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 8, 2015 @ 5:52 am

The Maidan got cookies from Nuland. Kind of a “let them eat cake” moment, for others less innocent and idealistic got a lot more than that.

#29 Comment By mightypeon On January 8, 2015 @ 10:47 am

Strelkov is a character for whom considerable indications exist that he is not actually aligned with the Russian High State.
He does have ties to certain Russian Oligarchs with interests in Eastern Ukraine, that moved to secure their assets (and loot the assets of others) by force.
They also tried to induce Russia to invade Ukraine via “Leadership from below”. Strelkovs likely Oligarch Sugar daddy is under house arrest now, and when Russia actually intervened, the first thing they did was to remove the adventurers and give their support to resistance leaders that are actually from Donbass and can speak for it.

Seriously, the guy is a friggin Monarchist. That is kind of like stating that the Obama administration is directly behind the actions of an ex CIA member who happens to be a Tea partier.

#30 Comment By Regan On January 8, 2015 @ 7:35 pm

Utley’s piece was quite sloppy and I think Raimondo does a good job pointing out the faults.

But, I also want to point out that Raimondo says, “Utley never mentions the sanctions; indeed, his piece gives the pro-sanctions crowd moral if not explicit political support.”

But, Utley does mention them:

“The oil-price decline and Putin’s self-destructive corruption have done far more damage to Russia’s economy than any economic sanctions from the West. So now it would be better to ease up and not push Putin into more desperation or give him excuses to blame the West.”

#31 Comment By Justin Raimondo On January 9, 2015 @ 6:33 am

Regan: I stand corrected. Thanks for pointing that out.

#32 Comment By Dmitry On January 11, 2015 @ 5:02 am

“and, perhaps most disturbing of all, “lousy roads!” (I’d advise Jon to pay me a visit out here in the wilds of northern California if he wants to see some really bad roads).”

Man, you make me laugh. And yes, I’m from Russia and i am libertarian. All text is really hilarious.

#33 Comment By vienya On January 11, 2015 @ 3:20 pm

Putin is definitely authoritarian and he clearly likes power and to be in charge.He’s no saint and I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side. But I think he is an intelligent man and knows that his country is in dire straits and he would like to see Russia survive the next years.
If the Russians are to survive they need to regain their roots and their history and tradition, their spirituality and their pride, all the things that were stripped from them either by communism or the aftermath. Putin knows that following the path that western Europe and the U.S. have taken over the last months is not the answer for Russia.

#34 Comment By Timotheoy On January 11, 2015 @ 6:36 pm

thank you- very much, Raimondo, for your resonablity

your, western rusophobija insult us

your people had titanic victims (for you)

never again

remember 29 Aug 1949

(i`m rus)

#35 Comment By Alexey Strelkov On January 12, 2015 @ 6:21 am

I can’t believe my eyes – a reasonable and argumented article! From the AMERICAN Conservative!
I always wondered why Western media accuses Putin of corruption, authoritarianism and stuff like that while claiming that it was better before him. It’s the opposite! Yeltsin was a mean drunk with a popularity rating of about 5% who shelled his own parliament. Putin is popular BECAUSE he is not Yeltsin.
It is true that Russia is a presidential republic, but Putin is not the only politician here. I bet that if you ask any average European or American to name at least one of them, you will get nothing. Why? Because for some bizarre reason mainstream Western media is obsessed with Putin – Putin is behind everything, Putin makes every decision, Putin is personally spying on dissidents and so on, and so forth. It kind of making him look like an omnipotent and omniscient evil god=)

#36 Comment By Mightypeon On January 12, 2015 @ 6:11 pm

What happened from a decidely machiavellian perespective:

1: Russia did not intervene in 2004/2005. This was an actually peacefull protest with a strong populist base that actually had sizeable support in the East (Kernes of Kharkov for example) and that largely, if not to 100%, observed the rules established by the Ukrainian consitution.
The “Maidan” was quite different from the orange revolution, both in terms of goals, memberships, employed tactics and the degree of foreign involvement.

2: Russia learned a lesson from 2004/2005. Instead of micromanaging odious Ukrainian politics, Russia moved in to shape the economic situation in such a way that, from the Ukrainian point of view, association with Russia became an economic no brainer.
This is documented in a couple of studies of the brookings institution. Their estimate of total aid (hidden and not) of Russia to Ukraine, especially post 2004-2005 is in the ballpark between 5 and 10 billion dollars per year. This is still and understatement, since a number of things are missing here. Ukrainian industry was treated by Russia in the same way they treated Russian industry, so Ukraine had full access to Russian industrial orders. These were pretty genorous terms, and offering such terms in return for influence is how civilized nations get influence.

3: Russia offered considerable other concessions to Ukraine (concerning visa free travel, work permits, how remittance from Ukrainians working in Russia to Ukraine are handled etc. one should also add that Ukrainian citizens could rise to the highest positions in the Russian administration etc.) which the west was completly unwilling to even consider.

4: Russian support for Yanukovich in 2014/2013 was actually lukewarm at best. Had Ukraine gotten rid of him using either consitutional (as in, win a fair election) or “traditional” (as in, Yanuk gets a dose of previously undiagnosed Diabetes) means, Russia would not have batted an eyelid.

5: The EU offer was horribly bad, and is as a matter of fact so bad that even Poroshenko has not signed the economic part of it yet.
Because everyone knows that the economic part of the EU association agreement is economic suicide. Even the western media gets that by now (Der Spiegel had title story on that), and the awnser to the question “What do you call a protestor who overthrows a goverment because that goverment didnt sign an agreement that would be economic suicide” is pretty unflattering for Maidan.

6: Ukraine tried to use the horribly bad EU offer (had the EU offered what Ukraine is now getting because of “Russian aggression” in terms of loans etc., it would have been different) to get an even better deal from Russia. Putin initially tried to call that bluff, but later gave in to Ukraine.
An important result of this was that, due to Ukraines attempt of deceiving Russia concerning the desireability of the EU deal, the benefits and drawbacks of joining the EU vs. joining the Eurasian Union werent exactly openly and honestly discussed, including in the nominally “pro Russian” media. (And Yes, Yanukovich totally foisted himself by his own petard there).
Had they been, it would have been obvious that Ukraine is not going to sign that agreement, and that would have ended Ukraines attempt to bluff Russia.
Ukrainian leadership at that time propably thought it was safe, because the deal was so bad not even an Ultra-nationalist would sign the economic portions.

7: Some actors in the west meanwhile got an idea of the size of Russian investments into the situation (which were massive) and especially US American ones (lets face it, the important thing about Nulands much cited 5 billions is that 5 billions over 25 years is a pittance comparably), analyzed the current situation on the ground, and saw this as a situation in which Russia has a huge invesment, but temporarily really bad cards. They assesed the odds of a successfull coup as pretty decent, and decided to escalate things. The coup worked, and even if it didnt, the US would suffer no meaningfull loss. That the US in reality does not give a f**k about Ukraine is what makes them so potent. They can happily screw over all other players (They have so gained control of Ukraines finances, literally f****d the EU and then f****d Russia some more), and a mixture of power and distance means at least no short term blowback.
The Russian loss in late February was massive. The US was “playing Poker”, and their decsion makers propably saw this as “Haha, we won! Now on for the next round somewhere else where the Russians arent the prime foes, perhaps we may even cooperate”.
The Russians are playing Chess, saw this as a terrible, terrifying attack and deemed it a precursor for a direct attack on Russia later.
Russia very much adheres to “men should be treated generously or destroyed, since they can take vengeance for minor/medium injuries, but not for fatal ones”. To Russia, the coup was a medium injury. Too serious to laugh it away, but not serious enough to prevent Russian payback. From their perespective, the US American action only made sense if the USA was commited to utterly devastating Russia midterm, in order to avoid Russian payback at a time of Russias choosing. There were a lot out of US editorials and communications that reinforced this Russian belief.

8: Russia now panicked. This had several reasons: First, the “pro western” faction in Russia was basically put in a position were they had to commit suicide if Russia was Imperial Japan. They had previously convinced the Russian leadership that Russia could be a part of the west, play according to western rules, and still have influence beyond their borders. Russian actions prior to February were completely legal and legitimate, and not only in their eyes. They were also really expensive, not just monetarily but also in setting back important Russian goals in other sectors. Russia, rightly, perceives the February coup as proof that even if they use democratic and economic means, the west will use force and subversion to void such peacefull investments whenever it suits there interests and whereever such investemtns are not protected by Russian arms.
This lead to a wave of conversions away from a “western integrist” mindset among the high state, as well as to some personel and pecking order changes in the Russian High State. Secondly, there was an impetus to at least protect a part of the Russian investments in Ukraine. Thirdly, the Russian hawks wished to impose costs on the west for affecting Regime change against Russias vital interests (and also to the massive detriment of Ukraine, even if Russia would not counteract).
The Russian high state did, at this point, view the pro Western Ukrainians as western puppets, largely because it had a pretty good idea on just how bad the EU deal was. The perception of the Western Ukrainians was different due to a number of factors, but if you drill down, the Russians are pretty close to the truth concernign the EU agreeemtn
As far as Maidan demands for a less corrupt administration etc. went, Russia was in no way seeing herself an obstacle to that. A wealthy, pluralistic and non corrupt Ukraine with intensive ties to Russia would have been an immense asset, and also something Putin could use to threaten Russian Oligarchs with to improve his interal position. Russian self perception and how Russia was perceived by epsecially western Ukrainians varied hugely, and for actually quite understandable reasons from the West Ukrainian side but thats another topic.
Even f.e. Polish sources remarked how ridicolously optimistic the west Ukrainians are about the impact of the EU association.
A fourth reason for Russian urgency/panic was that Russia wants that East Ukraines industrial complex is maintained. This is an area that is of use for Russia, and from which they gain influence. Western reforms will be crushing those industrial complexes, partly by voiding Russian/Ukrainian trade deals, partly by imposing energy scarcity. This complexes could be crushed quickly, but rebuilding it would be prohibitvly expensive.

9: The Russian high state assesed its options, and actually used the SVR to do a “pre poll” on how Crimeans would view seperation from Ukraine. SVR came up with about 80% in favor, and assesed that the restive Crimean Tatars could be bought out by concessions (which isnt exactly what happened later). Russia moved into Crimea, got their referendum, and found no shortage of people willing to work with them and for them. Unfortunatly for Russia (more so for the Crimean Tatars), these people had a considerably less pragmatic view of Crimean Tatars then the Russian high state did.

10: Russian planners failed to assess at all how events in Crimea would play out in the rest of Ukraine. Russias actions had the following effects, all of them being detrimental to Russias interests:
A: Russia had now intervened more directly then the west did before. This resulted in the current opposition getting the “stooge of a foreign power” label which had rested squarely on the current goverments head before.
B: The Crimean operation was perhaps too successfull, and Russia was propably too generous in terms of promised economic concessions. Unrest in Donbass, Odessa, Mariupol and Dnipro began, and the protestors believed, incorrectly, that Russia had their backs.
C: The new goverment also believed that, and thus moved in against any “seperatist” with harsh measures that should not be tolerated by anyone concerned about human rights. People disappeared, both real and potential opposition leaders were imprisoned, bounties for “seperatists” were given and the really harsh repression was outsourced to what can be described as Nationalist “not yet death but getting close to that” squads. This created more additional unrest, resulted in equivalent actions of the opposition and the arrest of opposition politicians also resulted in a political vacuum.
D: The West ignored that repression, propably also because they were focused on the Russian actions in Crimea.

11: While the Russian high state was kind of scratching its head on what to do now, Ukraine (understandably) went into a nationalist frenzy.
So did certain groups within Russia, particularly Oligarchs with business interests in Ukraine. Strelkov is, among the high state, regarded as an Oligarch expy, and he and other adventurers such as him moved in to fill the void in Ukrainian opposition leadership.
They didnt live in Donbass, and thus had far less to loose from an escalation than the actual Ukrainian opposition. They then proceeded to have a large part in directly and indirectly increasing hostilities. Other actors on the pro Western side also had a part there.
People in the area generally accept the existence of a “third force” that intends to prolong hostilities, however, the actual “third force” (in my opinion, this is difficult to prove) is not a bunch of Speznaz (as west Ukrainians believe) or American financed Polish mercenaries (as the East Ukrainians believe) but can more accuratly be described as extreme extremist elements that are affiliated to both respective sides.

There is considerable historic precendent for substate actors attempting to control the states behavior by putting the state into situation where it has to use force or loose considerable assets. Strelkov is kind of a kin to the Japanese Major who basically managed to start an undeclared war with the Soviet Union at Kalkin Gol because it looked good for his career prospects (Japan lost, but the Major got moved to Tokyo where he, chastened by his Kalkin Gol experience, went on to propagate a war with the USA). Sam Houston would also come to mind here (more successfull example).

12: The West perceived the actions of Russian non State actors as epic Russian deception and treachery by the Russian state, and punished Russia as if the Russian high state would be doing the intervention.

13: This put the Russian High State in distinctly sub par position. It hadnt intervened yet, but was punished as if it had, and, because it had not yet intervened, was unable to actually control the insurgents in the South East in a meaningfull way and thus also unable to prevent further punishment. They could have left them to die, but such a move (ignoring the obvious fallout in Russian internal politics for the argument) would be seen as weakness by both the west and by other actors and simply invite more aggression against Russia.

14: Russia intervened, and quickly and effectively brought and end to the goverments attempts of destroying the Ukrainian opposition. Upon leaving, they ensured that people like Strelkov got out of power, and enabled a transition towards local leadership for the 2 peoples Republics. There was an earlier attempt to cut Strelkov loose, which ended with Strelkov catching a rumor of it, leaving Slavyansk (and claiming that as an “epic fighting military withdrawal”, it worked because noone, not Russia, not Ukraine and not the Donbass leadership expected him to do that), turning up in Donetsk and making his removal without the presence of High State aligned forces impossible.

One should add that Russia went out of its way to explicitly show that it didnt intend to conquer Novorussija for the opposition, or military effect regime change in the capital on their behalf. Both of these options are well within their military capacities.

Prospects for the future:

What the west, at least most of it, completely fails to get is that the sanction regime and the concerted action against Russia, coupled with unacceptable demands to Russia, could well result in a situation where Russia decides to conquer some extra bargaining chips while it still has currency reserves. This will even more be the case if Russia is continously “punished” for things she has not done yet.
Another big problem is that the West has a horrible horrible track record of keeping any kind of commitments it made to a “non western” actor. While the Domino theory is much maligned, from Russian Hawks pov, they can either fight the west in Ukraine now until the west goes somewhere else, or wait and have to fight the west in Russia at a time of the wests choosing.

Accepting Western demands concerning Ukraine now would, in a best case scenario, mean that Russia looses all influence beyond her borders and is then left alone. Given how rich and appealing Russias natural resource endowment is, and given how deeply entrenched Anti Russian elites are in the west, this is really unlikely to happen.
A more realistic scenario results in another Yeltzin style period in Russia. The last such perioud caused between 2 and 4 million premature Russian deaths in terms of excess mortality/life expectency reductions etc., this is simply not acceptable for any meanignfull Russian actor.

An important fact in favor of “no world war 3” is that Russia is a lot more stable then Imperial Japan, and has far more degrees of freedom economically before options boil down to “attack” or “capitulate”. Also, historic Soviet precedent shows that the Russians were one of the rare empires accepting considerable contraction without going all out in a last ditch attempt.

In addition, Domino theory based Russian doomsayers understate, just like the American domino theory doomsayers regarding south East Asia, that the “west” is not a monolith and has some faultlines.
There are also other players, China being the most important of those, who have absolutly no interest in Russia capitulating to the west. India is trying to walk a tightrope between preventing a Russian capitulation and also preventing a Sino Russian alliance. Japan is a special case. They want a strong Russia that complicates the situation for China, they also want a docile Russia, they want to get those Islands back and they want access to Russian resources and the Russian market. They know that getting all of that is an illusion, but Russia may actually offer a pretty good deal (now is the best time ever to make deals with Russia for everyone else), and Putin is slated for a visit to Japan in early 2015. Russia is actually in a decent position to exploit Japanese nationalism. They wont hand the Kuriles over, but agreeing on a demilitarisation regime (Russia would be hard pressed to defend anything on the Kurils against the very capable Japanese submarine force), would give the Abe goverment some pretty big nationalist props. Russia could sell this to China as an attempt of trading some Islands China doesnt care about for a decent chance of fraying US-Japanese ties (now, some Chinese factions see US influence as restraining the Japanese, but the Zhongnanhai is opaque, and it is hard to tell with them).

Such powers (notably China and India) have scant inclination to pay Russia for doing something Russia would do anyway, and some of these powers would prefer that both sides loose (Turkey imho), but they will likely support Russia to keep it from capitulating.

Excessively few players by contrast had much sympathies for Imperial Japan.

Russias option may increase further if western attempts to isolate Russia become overly hamhanded. Erdogan has absolutly no love for Russia/Putin, but will react with considerable amounts of hostility if the west “orders” him to break ties.
The West can do that with Bulgaria, if they try that with a regional power, it will very likely backfire.

#37 Comment By Boris N. On January 13, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

It’s naive to believe that libertarians or any other political power in America and in the EU sincerely regret the bad economic and political condition of Putin’s Russia and want to make Russia a 1st world country. If Russia get rid of its bad sides that guarantees an inevitable economic boost for Russia. If Russian GDP per capita were like in America or Germany that is as twice as it is today that would make Russia a world hegemon with the third economy after the USA and China. Do Western elites indeed want this? Absolutely not! If somebody blame Russia for its bads, just ask them if they want Russia to be the third global economical and political super-power and most likely you’ll see how hypocritical countless defamers of Russia are. Practically Putin is very convenient for the West, he is slowly and steadily making the country into another Latin banana republic but with snow and cheap oil and gas, which is all the Western elites need. The problem of Putin he is not too obedient as supposed to be. A rebellious slave usually makes the most furious rage from his master.

#38 Comment By Boris N. On January 13, 2015 @ 4:27 pm

David Dickson,
The American elites punish Russia for what Russia is not supposed to do, for what America and only America are allowed to do. Only America is allowed to invade any country and overthrow or install any government and regime from old forgotten Vietnam to Lybia and Syria. Russians lost the Cold War why do they still dislike the post-Soviet status quo and artificial countries like Ukraine and Belarus and their borders made by Stalin’s commissars in 1920s-30s? Yes, it is a very good question! But it is a cultural thing and Americans will hardly understand this. Ukraine, Belarus and Northern Kazakhstan are Russian in the same way as California and Texas are American. Without these parts the Russian nation is a divided nation like West and East Germany.

I’ll try explain it with US realities. Imagine that in 1921 political power in the USA was seized by communists. They decided to divide the too big USA and created a dozen semi-independent republics from Southern and Western States. In 1991 Americans overthrown 70-years communist rule but the republics became independent as well and the US lost half of its pre-communist era territory. Then in 2014 in one of the most important former republics, the South American Republic (SAR), a group of Mexican ultra-nationalists with the help of Russian, Iranian and Chinese intelligence overthrown the pro-US government of the SAR, installed the anti-US regime and began a campaign for “Mexicanisation” of the SAR, which means either exile of pro-US English-speakers or their assimilation. Washington decides to annex Florida from the SAR and inspired separatists from Texan province of the SAR. But the SAR new government decided to commence an “anti-terrorist operation” in Texas, which caused massive losses amongst Texan civilians and practically a genocide. This is what exactly happening in Ukraine now. What do you reckon from this point? Do you consider the world must punish the US for its “revanchism”? Would you call the US a threat to the world?

You know, when Putin, an aging authoritarian president, the “Godfather” of Russian oligarchs, began to act like a real Russian ruler in the spring of 2014, his rating was thriving. After the Crimea and Putin’s first purely Russophile Crimean speech, every Russian hoped for a new great era for Russia. He literally tried to turn back the course of history. Even anti-Putinist Russian patriots began to sympathise him. But now, after most probably Novorussia failed, many Russians are finally disappointed in him, he was just bluffing and playing on Russian national emotions, but again turned out to be a cunning and power-loving authoritarian demagogue. When in April 2014 he said about Novorossia from Odessa to Donetsk, but in December said he wanted united Ukraine, but just without the Crimea (just for its naval bases, but without Novorussia the Crimea is exclave with great logistical problems, “a suitcase without a handle”), it is evident how weak and petty he has always been. He simply does not know what he really wants. Hardly a new national leader but another CEO of “Russian Oil Oligarchic Federation Ltd.”

#39 Comment By rediez77 On January 18, 2015 @ 1:03 am

What Mr.Raimondo writes is far closer to reality than most analytic pieces in US media today.
1. Yes, Putin not a Hitler, but nationalism is on the rise there, so if you can’t reach agreement with Russia today, tomorrow you may find nobody willing to talk.
2. Russian reality is far from perfect, but what you’re expected from us? Bulding new Switzerland for 20 years?
We live in another country now, people are very positive about future, and plainly speaking we love Putin not for his blue eyes.
3. As friend of America from Reagan times I must admit your arrogant foreign policy and one-sided rethoric turns russians from your friends to enemies. I hope for good, but I know when the times comes
I will be happy to receive my AK. At least we must thank you to help us remember who we are…