In 2007, in my 60th post on SWP, I wrote a post about Putin and the Euros, titled “A Man in a Hurry.” If you look at Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, and the utterly pusillanimous European response to this aggression, that post from more than 7 years ago is quite clearly prophetic, to the last jot and tittle.
The closing paragraph:
I think that most Europeans, and those few Americans who seem to pay much attention to these issues, are nonplussed by Putin’s audacity in large part because they are projecting their attitudes onto him. They cannot envision why someone would engage in such seemingly short sighted actions. As a recent Newsweek story puts it, they wonder why Putin is risking severe “blowback.” However, their attitudes have evolved and developed in a completely different institutional, economic, and political environment than Russia’s. The Euro-American environment is much more conducive to taking the longer view that the unsettled (and unsettling) environment that characterizes Russia today. So, the Europeans–and Americans–should be ready for more “surprises” from Putin–which shouldn’t be surprises at all.
My main question is why a blogger, and amateur student of Russian politics, could figure this out, but the State Department, the intelligence agencies, the national security community, the vast bulk of think tanks, and the editorial pages of every major US paper couldn’t. And why they haven’t been able to do so despite all that has happened since. Georgia. The castling move whereby Putin resumed the presidency. The unrelenting crackdown on civil society. It’s one thing to ignore reality when it’s lying around. It’s another to ignore it when it is hitting you in the goddam face.
I’m not claiming genius. Quite the contrary. This shouldn’t have been that hard. I’m claiming common sense and a willingness to look objectively at reality.
But maybe that’s the problem. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were unable to do that for the reason I mentioned in that old post: a dominant mindset in which the bien pensants projected their own self-image onto Putin. A failure of a navel gazing elite. (We would be better served by a naval gazing elite, but since history ended that’s apparently so passé.)
This, frankly, is why we are where we are today. Which is totally f*cked, by the way.
While I’m in this mood, I will also take credit for being among the first to advocate what is now becoming recognized as the only real way to hit Putin and the Russian elite where it hurts: an aggressive investigation of all the dirty money these bastards have squirreled away around the world.
Sadly, although this is widely recommended, the Germans and the British are going to fight this tooth and nail. More on that later.
Postscript. Speaking of Putin as a Man in a Hurry, imagine my surprise to read Matthew Kaminski’s WSJ piece last night in which he said that Crimea was Putin’s appetizer, and characterized Putin as “a man in a hurry.” Perhaps it is just coincidence, but more than 24 hours before I had written a post in which I had said that Crimea was Putin’s appetizer, and that I had long said that Putin was a man in a hurry. Surely a coincidence, except for the fact that the only references I can find to Putin being a man in a hurry are things I wrote. Also probably a coincidence that 24 hours after I wrote a post saying that the EU had “midwifed” a deal with Yanukovych and that the ultimate outcome would probably be him ruling over a “rump state” in eastern Ukraine, Andrew Peek in the Fiscal Times uses the exact same words to express the exact same ideas. It’s not like “midwifed” and “rump state” are everyday expressions.
Sorry. Perhaps this is self-indulgent. But this happens with some frequency. Too often to be purely coincidence. Citation/acknowledgement is the coin of the realm in academia, and as a result, using without attribution is tantamount to grand theft, which is why it gets under my skin. But I guess journalism and academia are quite different. In fact, I don’t guess: I know. Journalists (and many bloggers) are the biggest lifters of the work of others that I know of.