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  • Jim.

    Re: Russia “detaching” Germany from the Atlantic alliance…

    Occasionally an article from Der Spiegel crosses my radar screen. One on the fall of the Soviet Union was the most recent. The fascinating thing was not necessarily about the Russians, but the German self-image reflected in the article.

    One central point of the article was the how Gorbachev, when the USSR was in extremis, tried to stave off bankruptcy by floating a loan from Germany. The whole tone of the article seemed to be, subtly but pervasively, “Germany uber Russia”. That isn’t the only Der Spiegel article I have read that reflects that “Germany uber anderes” point of view.

    I doubt that Germany is thinking in terms of being a client state of Russia. It may well be looking around to rearrange European politics; it is practically inevitable that that would mean looking East rather than looking West, considering how heavily tilted West it has been since the end of the second world war.

    In any case, if Germany rearranges its foreign policy, it will be because it is to Germany’s advantage, not because of Russian pressure. It will also be to some arrangement where Germany takes more of a leadership role (as “befits” a country of its economic clout), not an arrangement where Germany bows to a superior.

    That’s my impression of what the Germans are after, anyway.

  • rkka

    “There are also a number of areas in which our interests come into conflict.  The US does not want the Russians to rebuild something like the Soviet Union by incorporating former Soviet republics into a tightly centralized sphere of influence.”

    Ah, yet another American determined to defend Baltic/Ukrainian independence… to the last Balt/Ukrainian. A quick comparison of the Russian population decline rate (pretty much zero) and the Baltic/Ukrainian decline rates (about 0.7%/yr for Ukraine and a terrifying 1.2%/yr in Latvia (births are down a full 25% since 2008, due to austerity policies highly praised in the pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post)) shows that this is not only a long-term loser, but isn’t even good for the supposed beneficiaries.

  • rkka

    Oh, and by the way, when Putin took office, Russian deaths exceeded births by ~958,000.

  • higgins1990

    “Russia is what it is, the logic of international politics is what it is…A firm, balanced and businesslike posture offers the greatest prospects of achieving our national interests in dealings with the Russians.”

    Well said. The Russians do this with us, by the way.

  • Peter

    ” But we [Via Meadia] are genuinely pained if not greatly surprised to find that there are policymakers and legislators who were truly taken in by Kremlin sock puppetry during the Medvedev years.”

    Amen, Brother Mead!

    You know, it could be argured that one of the greatest to U.S. national security is the drips we have in the State Department and foreign policy establishment.

    Maybe it’s becasue they’re too Ivy League inbreed. Or maybe it’s that few, if any of them, have ever had a real job in their lives.

    What do you think? Maybe it’s a combination of both, but whatever the reason, we need fresh air in those morbid groups.

  • Kris

    That’s right, [email protected]! If only those Baltic/Ukrainian untermenschen realized that what they need is Massa Putin’s firm and benevolent bullwhip to guide them…


  • Alan Soulo

    I agree that Germany will do what’s good for Germany and they have access to the North Sea energy if Putin gets to thuggish with his oil. Putin is almost easy to deal with he is so proud of being a gangster. I always wondered if he wanted to hit the refineries and ports in the Persian Gulf just to make his oil worth more. The Chinese are the only ones who would even possibly do anything about it, at least with this guy Obama in the Oval Office. I am not sure if Putin even thinks it is a “common interest” to keep the Jihadists in check. He knows the Israilis will take out Iran’s nukes and other than that the turmoil in the Middle East always plays to Russia’s advantage. I believe Putin is doomed in the long run like a lot of people do…but he is relatively young and he can create a lot of evil before he and his henchman are gone. This guy is the heart of the most ruthless days of the KGB back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He is a narcissist of the worst kind and has no morals about systematic torture and rape to control civilian populations. I wish Cheney was here now!!!

    CHENEY 2012!!!!! CHENEY 2012!!!!!

  • JDComments

    “A firm, balanced and businesslike posture offers the greatest prospects of achieving our national interests in dealings with the Russians.”

    Aside from a little tweaking for allies, shouldn’t that be the way all foreign policy is run?

  • Robert

    The russian people have known of this plan from the onset. My wife is a russian citizen and she told me of this plan years ago! Is our state department so inept that they didn’t see this coming?

  • Red Steve

    I’d about sell my citizenship (precious to me, at least) to read an article about Russian foreign policy stances without the term ‘zero sum’. However true or not it may be, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be a step up in Russian-American relations when each side trusts that the other will act in its own interests, not out of spite against the other.

  • rkka

    “That’s right, [email protected]! If only those Baltic/Ukrainian untermenschen realized that what they need is Massa Putin’s firm and benevolent bullwhip to guide them…


    Precisely the response I expected. Entirely fact-free, but abundant in empty snark.

    Though the “Baltic/Ukrainian untermenschen” bit is a tad over the top. Is there a Godwin in the house?


    “Well said. The Russians do this with us, by the way.”


    Though some in DC pine for the days when “Okay Boris, here’s what you’ve got to do next. Here’s some more [excrement –ed] for your face.” was considered an adequate basis for US-Russian relations. Most of the outrage of the Anglosphere foreign policy elite and punditocracy stems from the fact that the Russian government no longer do.

  • Anthony

    At least Putin, unlike Mayor Mike, complied with the term limits law!

  • ken

    Red Steve has it right. It’s not just the Russians that are looking out for THEIR own interests but the Chinese, the French etc etc. Just keep in mind that every actor out there is working to advance their own interests and not necessarily to harm American interests (though that may be a consequence) and adjust your policies accordingly.

  • Skep41

    The problem with these lefties is that they spent their entire youth admiring the Soviet Union until the day it fell apart; at which time they labeled the hard-line communists ‘conservatives’ and proudly took credit for the communist collapse. Laura DeAndrea Tyson wrote her Doctoral dissertation on the wonderful economy of Ceausescu’s Romania. The letters ‘KGB’ never left the lips of these pinkos as they assured us the communists were ‘just like us’. These lefties raged at Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ remark. So a rump government composed of former KGB agents is just a ‘peace partner’ to them, the same as in their minds a government of homicidal maniacs in Gaza and the West Bank is a genuine participant in negotiations for a settlement in the Middle East. The problem with Russia is that it is collapsing demographically. High Moslem birthrates mask the almost complete lack of births amongst ethnic Russians. An unbelievable rate of chronic alcoholism and a health care system that has collapsed have produced a 56 yr average life span. In ten years Russia will be a majority Moslem nation where the ethnic Russians are fighting for survival.

  • “But we are genuinely pained if not greatly surprised to find that there are policymakers and legislators who were truly taken in by Kremlin sock puppetry during the Medvedev years.”

    The same can be said of those Moscow-based commentators who have been pushing articles about tensions in the tandem, and suggesting that Medvedev would stay on for a second term, for the past six months.

  • Robert Dupuy

    I don’t know if we are sentimentalizing Russia, but we surely haven’t made the mistake to sentimentalize democracy.

    What if the people decide? If they choose, they can elect Putin.

    We ignore one very inconvenient fact, that Putin won his elections with popular support. There wasn’t another candidate that won, who do you suppose he robbed of their rightful claim to the presidency? What former chess champion Kasparov? LOL, that was a joke.

    Anyway, no – Russians genuinely love Putin, and under their constitution he can run again, and no doubt he will win.

    I agree with the point about seeing things as a zero sum game. An unfortunate trait of Russians, now shared by most americans.

    But life isn’t really – zero sum. So I hope you convince them otherwise someday, but more importantly – remind Americans.

  • The coverage on this was truly hilarious. The news seemed to actually think it was a squeaker whether Medvedev would approve of Poot’s moves. Since when does Madam disagree with Waylon? And if she does? Off to the kindling pile! Medvedev may be the finest man ever to grace a high office but he walks around with a gun to his head and clearly, he knows it.

  • Rick Jones

    Russia in the modern age has traditionally been an expansionist power. There was the hope in the 1990s under Yeltsin that it had turned over a new leaf and would be content to join Europe in some fashion and concentrate on modernizing Russia and raising the living standard. No such luck.

    Mead is correct in recommending the pragmatic approach. However, we in the West should never give up on giving comfort and aid to democrats in Russia in their long twilight struggle to bring Russia into the modern world. The fact that Obama and the State Department does not understand that it is being gamed by Putin and Medvedev is both shocking and disturbing.

  • First of all, many thanks for a superb essay and for the commenters’ various posts (many of which are quite good – Jim.’s first comment in particular being dead-on, in my opinion).

    “Nor do we like the idea that Russia could use its energy resources to detach Europe and especially Germany from the Atlantic alliance.”

    If that isn’t one nasty behemoth of a geopolitical nightmare, I don’t know what is. And how easy it is to imagine dog and tail trading places! – say, a Germano-European-managed or -orchestrated Russia, its resources increasingly at the disposal of a very continentally- (rather than Atlantically-) minded Germany. A Germany quite willing to borrow a page from the 19th-century American experience of “limitless” frontier expansion. It would be, if I’m remembering correctly, an outcome very much in keeping with Hitler’s own admiration of an American settler-driven land empire, as opposed to the older Western European pattern of maritime expansion. At the same time, this “New Order” could hardly afford to treat ALL pre-existing inhabitants as just so many Red Indians – or Jews and Slavs? – to be disposed of. On the contrary, I should think a new, eastward-facing Europe would be happy to work with demographically dominant or “stronger” nations (like the Russians?), at the expense of “weaker” or dwindling peoples (like rkka’s hapless Baltics). (Here I keep being reminded of John Foster Dulles’ grim, almost apocalyptic pre-WWII dichotomy of “dynamic” vs “static” nations; small wonder he opposed “dynamic” America’s tilting towards Britain and France in the 1930s).

    For some reason, too, I have very little trouble imagining this New Order mending fences with the sort of emerging Sino-Saudi-Paki (evil?) axis explored in a previous WRM post. After all, might they not perceive a common enemy – or at least a common competitor – in the US? If not the “Anglosphere” as a whole? And what better incentive could they all have for rationalizing and streamlining the resources of the Eurasian interior, and to the benefit of all major local buyers – er, powers? Some might argue, of course, that a Germano-Russo-European combine – notice how I’ve already written off the EU as we know it? – would have even better incentive to work with India and Iran against an SSP axis. Yet somehow I doubt it. Germany – and not least its most Russophile elements (e.g., General Hans von Seeckt) – has enjoyed techno-military ties with China going back to the early days of the Nationalist government, if not earlier. Nor can I imagine any rationally-motivated China letting its “fears” of India stand in the way of improving ties with Russia and Iran. I mean, surely if there’s one thing geopolitical Goliaths can agree on, it’s the need to eliminate the common obstacle of a bunch of scattered or isolatable Davids?

    The key here for US, I suspect, lies in SOMEBODY persuading the Chinese that they’ve far more to lose from a radicalizing and imploding – or implosion-exporting? – Pakistan than from a stable, modern, secular India (assuming, in India’s case, that the modernity and the secularity haven’t already become inversely proportionate). And THAT, in turn, may depend on China’s ability to see itself more as a specific, concrete nation and territory, to which jihadists pose an existential threat, and less as a globe-straddling, corporately-organized civilization for which jihadists may be geostrategic assets and business partners. The same may be more or less true of Russia – in which case their real interest lies emphatically in partnership with the West, NOT with an eastward-facing Germany. In either case the key – I more than suspect – lies in persuading these two great powers that, humanly speaking, they’re far better off regarding themselves as national entities, whose populations are finite and therefore valuable, rather than as corporate and civilizational entities whose peoples are infinitely disposable. I just wish I knew whose gifts of persuasion we could rely on. Ours seem to be in a state of steady depletion since George HW.

    In any event, should both “axes” ever coalesce and combine, in an effort to limit the reach or leverage of Anglospshere, then personally I fear greatly for – quaint old diplomatic phrase! – the “liberties” of Central Asia. And naturally, in time, for the political freedom of the whole Euro-Asian land-mass. Not, mind you, that there would necessarily be nothing to celebrate. No doubt the result would prove to be an amazing triumph, on an unprecedented scale, of ONE version of the American Idea – namely, the American Geohistorical Model of the 19th century. Albeit at the expense of the American Nation – or for that matter any nation – as we presently know it (right, as if anyone still cared . . .) And lo, the lifelong horror of that grand old geopolitician Mackinder – a unified Eurasian continent able to command (no, you idiot – AMERICANIZE!) the globe – will have become a reality.

    And a special thanks to WRM for those two, IMO, wonderfully Churchillian closing paragraphs. HE – unlike FDR or General Eisenhower – was never a sentimentalist about Russia.

  • Bart Hall (Kansas, USA)

    I’ve studied quite a bit of Russian history and was at one point reasonably fluent in the language.

    Putin impresses me as a re-constituted tsar (aka emperor after 1721) much in the mould of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and particularly Alexander II (reigned 1855 to 1881) who though an autocrat was most certainly a reformer, for which he eventually paid with his life.

    Russia most certainly could do — and has done — vastly worse than our putative Vladimir IV.

  • The Moskow Times: Estonia’s GDP per capita is about 20 percent higher than Russia’s at current exchange rates. This difference was about the same when both states belonged to the Soviet Union. Estonia’s strong growth performance shows how limited Russia’s advantage is from its vast oil revenues, even when the oil price is close to an all-time high. The predicted growth rates for the next few years are similar at about 4 percent a year, though Estonia is more likely to outperform than Russia. / Estonia GDP growth 2011 – 8,5 %! /

    Leonid Parfyonov about Russia, 2010: Now Estonia from which we in 300km, it is less than in a month will be in an euro zone. Here that it has made for these 20 years and that we have made for 20 years. It in the NATO, in the European Union, in Shengene and in an euro zone.

  • KineticExpediency

    “We are genuinely pained if not greatly surprised to find that there are policymakers and legislators who were truly taken in by Kremlin sock puppetry during the Medvedev years.”

    Hasn’t this been the mantra of the New York Post? Many of our policymakers and legislators have skillfully played the part of useful idiot.

    I suppose it’s a good thing NATO blasted Libya back into the stone ages. I’ll bet that Vladimir Putin fellow is shaking in his Russian boots.

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