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26 March 2014


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William R. Cumming

The President trying for historical importance? A Clear and Present Danger?


I don't see what the big deal is in Obama calling Russia a regional power. This isn't surprising. It was alright for Putin to scoff nonchalantly at Obama's sanctions, but it's perilous gamesmanship if Obama nonchalantly marginalizes Putin's and Russia's global significance?

I really think they're trying to lure Putin into invading the remainder of Ukraine and having him choke on a long, bloody occupation. If he wants to play in a Man's world, he has to pay a Man's price. No more grandstanding on the periphery. His limits are being tested. Can he survive a Ukrainian invasion and occupation? I don't think so, but I will say I'm not going to cower and be frightened of this potential madman. I don't think he's one, but from the sounds of this post the admonition is we should tread lightly with this man because he may be unhinged and psychotic. Well, if that's the case, isn't it Putin that should be the target of a future assassination, not Snowden? If Putin is potentially unhinged and unpredictable…so much so if he's pushed beyond a certain point he'll push those nuclear buttons, then he has to go, right?

For the record, I don't think nuclear war is in the cards or even a remote possibility at this point. Obama laughed the notion off when the LaRouche goof accused him of trying to start a nuclear war in the press conference several weeks prior. And I don't think Putin is that stupid or unhinged or psychotic. But he does have an ego…one larger than the power his country can back up, and I do believe he is going to bite off more than he can chew.

He's no spring chicken. His aging despite work to the contrary and if he wants to make a name for himself in history, now is his time. What he thinks will be the defining pinnacle of his illustrious career may well be instead his nadir.

Obama's playing great chess right now. I have to give him credit.

The Twisted Genius

I share Jersey Jeffersonian's disgust. Obama's remarks are downright embarrassing. Those immature and dangerous remarks are something you would hear from a posturing tin pot dictator who's secretly shaking in his boots. I'd expect this out of North Korea, not the United States. Contrast this with the actions of Bush the Senior and James Baker as the WTO and Soviet Union imploded. No bombast. No gloating. Just a quiet and discreet promise not to kick a still dangerous adversary as she stumbled.


interested in trying to solve the Problem: the Swiss: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Swiss_try_middle_road_on_Russia_sanctions.html?cid=38244692

Perhaps there are other countries interested in this problem as well. The Czech Republic? Perhaps countries are waiting until after the Ukraine elections.

I don't understand Obama. He's a lame duck. He must realize that there is no Senate for D's now. He needs to be reining in NATO and at least hinting at diplomacy. (Yes: I think US politicians are clueless enough to trade the risk of war for a few congressional seats.)

David Habakkuk


An irony is that, in his Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly last December, Putin quite clearly prided himself on the absence of pretensions on the part of the contemporary Russian Federation to being a superpower in the style of the former U.S.S.R., or the contemporary U.S.A. I quote:

‘We have always been proud of our country. But we don’t have superpower aspirations; we don’t want global or regional domination, we don’t interfere with anyone’s interests, trying to play a patron, we are not going to lecture others. But we will strive to be leaders by defending international law, making sure that national sovereignty, independence and identity are respected. This is a natural approach for a country like Russia with its great history and culture, its vast experience in the area of different ethnicities living in harmony, side by side, in one state. This is different from the so-called tolerance, which is gender-free and futile.

‘Today many countries revisit their moral standards, erasing national traditions and boundaries between different ethnicities and cultures. Society is asked to respect every person’s right to freedom of thought, political views and private life, which are good values. But now people also have to treat evil and good equally, which is strange, because these are opposite things. Not only does such destruction of traditional values have negative effects on societies, but it is also anti-democratic to the core, because these are abstract ideas applied to real life despite of what the majority of people think. Most people don’t accept such changes and suggested revisions.

‘And we know that more and more people in the world support our approach of protecting traditional values, which have been a spiritual and moral foundation of our civilization and every nation. We value traditional family and genuine human life, including a person’s religious life; not just material, but also spiritual values of humanism and the world’s diversity.

‘Of course, this is a conservative position. But as Nikolai Berdyaev said, the meaning of conservatism is not to prevent moving forward and upward, but to prevent moving backwards and downward, into chaotic darkness, back to the primitive state.’

(See http://rt.com/politics/official-word/presidential-address-federal-assembly-177/ )

The last thing I would want to do is to suggest that people should take what Putin says at face value, still less that they should agree with him. However, it really would help if people in the West bothered to read what he says – and also show the most fleeting interest in the influences to which he clearly points.

Back in the Eighties, attempting to explain what was going on in the Soviet Union, Professor Stephen F. Cohen recommended to his readers Berdyaev’s 1937 study of ‘The Origin of Russian Communism’ – a recommendation for which I have remained grateful.

Anyone who puts ‘Nikolai Berdyaev’ into Google will rapidly come across an anthology of English translations of his writings, including fascinating articles written at the time of the 1917 Revolution. From a 1917 article entitled, in translation, ‘Has There Been in Russia a Revolution?’:

‘The Russian people continues to decay out of a lack of strength, from a tyrannic anarchy, from churlish ignorance and darkness, from a lack of organisation and discipline, from the absence of guiding constructive powers. The “Bolshevik revolution” is one of the moments of the falling apart of old Russia, one of the transformations of the old Russian darkness. In all this there is no similitude to revolution, to democracy, to socialism, to any sort of deep change in society and the people. All this – is a subtle and vicious masquerade. The principles of arbitrary rule and despotism continue their triumphant march and they incite to orgy. In the old Russian arbitrary rule there was too much of the anarchistic and too few objective legal principles. And at present the anarchy and arbitrary rule are killing every right, every objective and legitimate truth. In old Russia there was not a sufficient respect for man, for the human person. But at present this respect is even less so. In entire classes of society man is denied, the person is not respected, and in regard to the classes of society admitting the revolutionary assertions, there is committed a spiritual homicide, which all too easily passes over into a physical homicide. The oneness of the human race is denied to a larger degree, than during the time of slavery. Even during the time of the slavery of serfdom, even during the time of the serf-owning right privileged Christians all the same still saw in both serfs and serf-owners a man, the image and likeness of God, i.e. at a particular depth they surmounted all the conditional and class oppositions and impediments. The present vicious and malicious division however into a world “bourgeois” and a world “socialistic” is an ultimate betrayal of Christianity and an ultimate denial of man, as one race in God. In this likewise can be seen a requital for old sins, for old discord and falsehood, but it would be madness to see in this something new, creative, transformative of life. The convulsive and monstrous end of the old man is impossible to conceive of as a principle of a new and better life.’

(See http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1917_284.html )

That was what Berdyaev meant by ‘chaotic darkness’.

Laura Wilson

I'd say that Obama was being realistic. But, as you note, not terribly diplomatic. To his credit, he hasn't waxed eloquent on Putin's Christianity, eyes, or his "Pooty-Poot"-ness!

It's hard to know which opinion is/has been more damaging for the poor souls stuck within Russia's region of greatest influence.

Babak Makkinejad


Mr. Obama is correct that the Russian Federation is a regional power: she is a regional power in Europe, a regional power in Near East, a regional power in Central Asia, and a regional power in East Asia.

I would say that a regional power in 4 important regions of the world must be considered a global power.


This paper by P. C. ROBERTS brings in both sadness and fear:

It describes unequivocally the incompetence of the US principal decision makers. The incompetence is the inevitable result of unaccountability.

The Twisted Genius


"I would say that a regional power in 4 important regions of the world must be considered a global power."

You are absolutely correct. That is an excellent way to characterize Russia's position in the world.

William R. Cumming

Thanks DH for this comment! Important IMO!

Babak Makkinejad

You are quite right in calling attention to Putin's speech, specially the part in which he emphasizes commitment to the family as a foundation of any civilization. And I think many Basic Laws, Constitutions, and Fundamental Laws all over the world also have explicit provisions in regards to family; e.g. Iran and Ireland.

By the way, take a look at this:




"For the record, I don't think nuclear war is in the cards or even a remote possibility at this point." What's your level of toleration for the risk of nuclear war? 1%, 2%, 3%. What is it? Would you describe yourself as a neocon? Are you an anti Russian Ukrainian or other partisan? Were you ever in the US military or IC? pl

Babak Makkinejad


In the land of the "Perfidious Albion"


Paul Shearer (the man in the ad' is (also) a journalist who lives in the East End of London, near Brick Lane.

Before becoming an actor, then a journalist, he did degree in...IT at the University of Cambridge.


Official Washington is just LOL ridiculous. Puny Iran has been painted as the latest incarnation of Nazi Germany for the past decade. Now Putin is dissed as nothing more than a regional power!

If nothing else, our august "leadership" delights in strutting its abject ignorance!

I'm hoping that BO was simplytrying a circuitous end around to trim neocon chickenhawks' beaks--Let's hope BO was saying that getting your feathers ruffled by Putin simply isn't worth it.

Of course, it's equally likely that BO was just engaging in some dangerous trash talk--like "f*** the EU!" Whatever BO said, his record shows that his words mean absolutely nothing. Problem is, some people still listen to him.


Kyooshtik: Is your post satire? Or are you just channeling Rachel Maddow?

Putin doesn't need to invade Ukraine, he just has to turn it into another Greece, i.e., another EU economic sinkhole. Bail in, EU, Bail in!

By great chess, you mean Obama planned to alienate Egypt and Saudi Arabia, frighten the NATO border states, and watch helplessly as Putin took Crimea from Ukraine?

Someone, somewhere is also playing "great chess" by exchanging a queen for a rook without additional compensation. However, most people would consider that move a blunder.


\is the "Regional Power" meant to bait Putin?


cloned poster

What else could it be? pl



I don't watch Maddow. Why is she mentioned? pl



"The exact numbers of nuclear warheads remain a subject of estimations and ongoing constant discussion depending on their respective source. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia possesses 4,650 active nuclear warheads, while the U.S. has 2,468. Alexander Khramchikhin, an analyst at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis said Russia has 3,100 nuclear warheads while the U.S. has some 5,700. According to 2011 data from the New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms facts sheet, the United States has the largest number of deployed nuclear weapons in the world, 300 more than Russia." wiki on Russian nuclear capability


Excellent description of Russia's situation. In some sense, Russia has always been exactly that, rather than a "global power" in the sense US has been. With the exception of the Cuban missile crisis, Russia has not been willing or able to deploy serious military capabilities very far from its own territory perhaps since the time of Alexander I or Nicholas I. Its enormous size meant that just looking after its own "regional interests" meant getting involved in a lot of different places, however.

Alba Etie

Col Lang
Possibly because on foreign policy she appears to be a mouth piece for the Administration & neocons ..

William R. Cumming

Slate speculating that the Crimea adventure may prompt China to move on Taiwan! Another Regional Power?



I just don't see nuclear war manifesting. What would prompt it? A limited squabble in Ukraine where there are several thousand deaths on both sides isn't going to spark a nuclear war. If the U.S,, or NATO, were to invade Russia proper or Russia were to invade a NATO country, yes, that would be potential grounds for a nuclear war, but let's be honest, that's not going to happen. Am I a Neocon? Not on your life. Did I serve in the military? Irrelevant to my observed opinion.

I'm an American who will get my President's back, regardless of whether I like him or agree with him, before I get the tyrannical leader of another country's back. I consider the latter treasonous. I am not a traitor. I am an equal opportunity critic. Putin's a bully boy with too much unchecked power and a Western chip on his shoulder. He may be an expert chess player, but he's obviously insecure and it shows.

I will say, my opinion is evolving as anyone's should. A month and a half ago, I thought nuclear war was possible. Today, I don't.


Mr. Habbakuk:

I don’t know whether we have to believe anything the Vladimir Vladimirovich has to say. I don’t think he’s addressing us primarily at all.

Kliuchevskii, the last of the great pre-revolutionary Russian historians, used to say that “when the State grows fat, the people grow thin.” From Peter’s time (most explicitly), the driver of the modernization of the Russian imperium was and remains the Russian State, invested with a sort of civilizing mission, standing above parties, factions, classes or particularist interests, a superordinate power that excluded, co-opted, closely regulated or actively repressed any initiative of civil society. The old regime came to stand on the slogan of “Autocracy, Orthodoxy and Nationalism” – though for most of the subjects of at least the Russian parts of the Empire, the figure of “the good and just Tsar” or “Little Father” as the guarantor of their interests was of primary importance. After 1917, the “shining future” of the revolutionary catechism struggled to replace the previous mythologies and, at least for those first generations who survived the civil war, de-kulakization and collectivization, the purges and the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), there was probably a lot to recommend it. For the first time, ordinary citizens had mass access to literacy, medical care, education, professional achievement and a share in national progress that was openly acknowledged and celebrated.

The Russian State has collapsed twice in the 20th century. There are all sorts of factors that must be adduced as having conspired to produce these outcomes, but I am most struck by the degree to which, in both cases, the mass of citizens/subjects simply stopped participating in these mythologies.

The Yeltsin interval that was so lionized in the Western media and, frankly, salivated over by its corporate interests, proved to be a total disaster for Russia and set up the context of the fragmentation of power that Putin had to counteract during his first terms. This is obvious. The President of the Russian Federation is attempting to rebuild the Russian State’s capacity to act in the "Petrine" manner, both in terms of its internal modernization and its external relations with other states. That effort would seem to me to necessitate a reconstruction of a sort of “national idea” associated with the Russian ethnos: he is been banging on the old nationalist drum for some time now. I always assume therefore that, in these sorts of speeches, he is addressing a domestic audience as much as, if not more than a foreign one. The announcement of the Crimean annexation, in this connection, appears to have been enormously popular among the former.

As far as Berdyayev’s characterization, I’m just not sure (his somewhat rosy view of the era of serfdom strikes me as an odd bit of nostalgia). In Russia's intellectual history, he was a "Westernizer", as I recall, but this was not obviously a dominant strain. "In the old Russian rule, there was too much of the anarchistic and too few objective legal principles." This is quite true and even a cursory look at the "Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire" in three series is a good demonstration. But another way of looking at what Berdyayev is saying, of course, is that Russian absolutism, understood as the personal authority of the ruler, had far deeper roots from that which long held sway in the West (I am thinking of Louis XIV), and pervaded not only the direction of state affairs, but the whole hierarchy of social relations. In particular, institutions and laws had no autonomy other than as extensions of the will of the Grand Prince-Tsar-Emperor – these were what Stalin later called "transmission belts". But it was not only a matter of the higher state administration under the old regime: relations between lord and peasant, between peasants and their own elected officials, between factory owner and worker, between state functionaries and their "clientele" all bore the deep imprint of this same sense of the primacy of the personal contact based on their relative positions in the hierarchy of authority.

It seems to me that this is a constant in a sort Russian consciousness. It has its good points and bad points. I try to understand it and not to judge too much. P.A. Stolypin, the last of Nicholas II’s more far seeing Prime Ministers (1906-1911), once said that Russia needed twenty years of stability to iron out an increasingly dangerous internal situation. He was, I think grossly underestimating the time necessary, but he didn’t even have twenty years. I think this is the position in which the current President of the Russian Federation and the Russian policy elite find themselves.

scott s.

BK --

I would suggest that Russia is better thought of as a land power. US grand strategy from WWII is to use maritime power to avoid competing directly with land powers, following the way of the UK.

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