Streetwise Professor

August 19, 2014

A Couple of Quick Russia Hits: Putin’s Natural State & Selling E. Europe Down the (Don) River

Filed under: Economics,History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:09 pm

Back when I started to blog about Russia in 2006-2007, I often pointed out that Russia under Putin was an archaic “natural state” rather than a modern one. The idea of the natural state was set out in work by North, Wallis and Weingast. In essence, it is a state with a distributed and diffuse potential for violence that is prone to break down into internecine conflict between armed factions. The only way this is avoided is to bribe the various factions with rents and privileges granted by the state (to give them a stake in maintaining the status quo rather than grasping for total control), and to keep them in an unsteady equipoise by pitting each against the other.

An article in the Moscow Times provides a very good description that brings home that point. This description of Putin’s version of the natural state cannot be bettered:

Putin’s staffing policies are based on the principle of “loyalty in return for corruption.” Bureaucrats in the government, law enforcement and military are practically granted the right to steal and forbidden just one thing: criticism of the president.

The greatest enabler of Putin’s natural state is Germany, and most notably its appalling foreign minister, Steinmeier.

This piece by Dustin Duhez lays out in detail the intellectual underpinnings of Steinmeir’s beliefs and strategy. It is a very disturbing, but worthwhile read. In a nutshell: Steinmeier’s overriding objective is to maintain strong relations (especially commercial relations) with Russia, and is willing to sacrifice everyone between the Oder and the Don to do so. In other words, he is willing to sell eastern Europe down the river: the Don River, specifically.

Keep this in mind when watching Merkel’s visit to Kiev. At best she is equivocal and conflicted. At worst she is objectively pro-Putin.

Neither of these articles should be missed. One gives a good analysis of what makes Putinism tick. The other shows how the most powerful state in Europe works overtime to keep it oiled and wound.

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  1. Rather than appeasing Putin- Germany could crush Russia with an OpenAccess society. Why not unilaterally create a free-trade-zone with Russia. Offer working visas and german citizenship to any Russian who comes to Germany to work productively. Free movement of labor and open bank accounts for any Russian. Putin is asymmetrically weak- handing out privilege (rent) to small group of cronies, and keeping a 100 million Russians oppressed. Sanctions attack the small group of cronies, and there is not appetite to counter Putin militarily. Instead, Germany (as proxy for EU and USA) should address the Russian masses. Offer Ukrainian’s EU entry immediately (like the quick referendum Russia offered on Crimea), and capture the prize of the people. Offer the same deal to Russian people, and the “natural state” of Russia will crumble.

    Hitting Russia with Economic Sanctions, German dithering, and military red lines (which are never honored) will only increase the power of Putin’s natural state.

    Comment by scott — August 20, 2014 @ 4:54 am

  2. @SWP, thank you for pointing out these two articles. I have read them with great interest and I could not agree more than this with the article concerning Germany foreing (mis)polocy. One could even add the latest revelations in a German book concerning Frau Ribbentrop’s past related to her agitprop activities during the DDR era. It is so sad that the so called motor of the EU is so Putinesque. Just keep an eye on TTIP. I am more than sure that it will be Germany and France the first to oppose to it 🙁 Maybe Germany had to suffer 50 more years as a Warsaw pact country in order to have a more sober look at the real politics.

    Thank you, Germany for sacrificing all of your partners and friends, just as Obama did it!

    Comment by Europeo — August 20, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

  3. As one guy who was involved in the construction game in Sochi told Radio Free Europe:

    “In Russia, one is either an accomplice or a victim.”

    Plus, the Rasha has always depended on a small coterie of brutal thugs who are literally willing to do anything – kill, steal, rape, etc. It’s been clothed with various “religions” – Russian “orthodoxy”, “communism” – to justify it, but it boils down to reliance on a few deranged brutes for the benefit of a few deranged brutes.

    For example: lenin had stalin – who was a bank robber and a murderer. There are many more examples.

    What is absolutely astonishing is that anyone in the West would defend or even support Putlerism today.

    But then again, one can still hear liberals whining even today: “if only lenin had picked Trotsky, everything would have been OK.”

    Scott, above, has it right – a few thugs keep 100 million Russians oppressed.

    Comment by elmer — August 21, 2014 @ 8:53 am


    “… After months of ratcheting up pressure on Vladimir Putin, concern is mounting in Berlin and other European capitals that an emboldened Ukraine’s military successes in the east are reducing the chances of a face-saving way out of the crisis for the Russian leader.

    As a result, the focus of German-led diplomatic efforts has shifted, according to senior officials, towards urging restraint from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and averting a humiliating defeat for pro-Russian rebels, a development that Berlin fears could elicit a strong response from Putin….”

    New Axis, anybody?

    Comment by Gene — August 21, 2014 @ 10:29 am

  5. If there is one thing that is sure here, it is that Frau Ribbentrop is not comming to Ukraine withe good intentions.
    By accepting the Berlin meeting, Ukraine just ignored it’s best friends – Poland, Lithuania, Romania and the USA. From then on, everything looks more and more like a farce.

    Comment by Europeo — August 21, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

  6. At least in Bulgaria they have a sense of humor.

    Comment by scott — August 22, 2014 @ 2:02 am

  7. @scott. That is amusing. @Europeo-props to Bulgaria.

    As I Tweeted Wednesday: Eastern Europeans will stop vandalizing Soviet monuments when Russia stops vandalizing countries.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 22, 2014 @ 5:32 am

  8. We call this a monument of dictature. IMO it has no place at the headquarters of our capital. If russians adore, they are free to put it on a ship and get it back home, then place it right next to Lenin and Stalin’s monuments 🙂

    Comment by Europeo — August 22, 2014 @ 7:21 am

  9. Hell, they are even selling themselves!

    Comment by Sotos — August 22, 2014 @ 11:53 am

  10. With regards to Scott’s proposal, I’d say that letting Russians into any country would be the height of madness. I’d rather see a blanket ban on Russian travel including a ban on overflights.

    Comment by Andrew — August 22, 2014 @ 10:29 pm

  11. August 23rd is the International Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism/Putinism/Nazism. Rather sad that 75 years after Molotov–Ribbentrop, the world has such a weak immune reaction to this disease.

    Comment by Ivan — August 22, 2014 @ 10:56 pm

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