Streetwise Professor

March 29, 2014

Putin is From Mars, Obama is From Venus, and Germany is From Denial

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:25 pm

Yes, I know the meme is cliché. But clichés become cliché because they capture some basic truths.

Have any doubts? Just compare Putin’s speech on Crimea to Obama’s speech in Brussels.  Compare what Lavrov says to what Kerry says.  Compare the different versions of the various phone conversations between Obama and Putin released by the Kremlin and the White House, most especially the readouts of yesterday’s conversation: the immediate question is “are these people talking about the same phone call?”

Obama is all about diplomacy, community, talk, de-escalation, agreement on mutually beneficial terms.  Putin is all about grievance, righting historical wrongs, battling dark forces (i.e., Ukrainian fascists and Nazis and Western interlopers), winner take all.

The reason their conversations seem disjointed is that they are.  They start from totally different premises, totally different world views.  They are talking past one another.

Oh.  And Putin is doing more than talking.  He is acting.

And this means that  Obama’s Vensuian lets-talk-about-it-and-get-to-win-win approach is utterly without foundation.  For it presumes that your would-be interlocutor and partner-to-be is operating from the same assumptions, premises, and world view as you are.

When that’s not true, the jaw-jaw Venusian approach will be about as constructive as any conversation between two parties speaking mutually incomprehensible languages.

And what’s more, the advantage in this type of contest between Mars and Venus is decidedly on the Martian side in the realm of international relations, where third party enforcement is absent. Especially when the Martian side can deploy little green men on its doorstep against a far weaker neighbor.

Before writing this, I Googled “Putin is from Mars Obama is from Venus,” to see if anyone had used this meme recently. I didn’t find that on the first several pages of search results, but I did find several pieces saying that the US (and hence Obama) is Mars, and Europe is Venus.

Yes, the US-and even Obama-are positively Martian compared to the Euros. And that’s precisely a major problem. Because it means that the Euros are absolutely dead-set against doing anything to confront Russia. And Obama is completely willing to defer to them.

And the worst offender is the nation that was once the most militantly Martian on earth: Germany.  Rather than recognize the similarities of Putin’s Russia to the bad  Germany of old, and understand the need to oppose and deter such conduct, Germany is hell bent on imitating its appeasing opponents of decades past.

Two depressing articles tell you all you need to know.

German businesses whine about sanctions, and complain about the West (!) escalating tensions with Russia. Germany swears it’s not soft on Russia.

My knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology is inadequate to figure out what Europe (and especially Germany) are if Obama is Venus to Putin’s Mars.  I guess I have to back further.  To Egypt.  Because Germany is from Denial.

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  1. “Rather than recognize the similarities of Putin’s Russia to the bad Germany of old…”

    Um… Putin’s been at the top of Russian politics for ~15 years.

    By that time, Adolpf had conquered or intimidated Western & Central Europe, driven to the outskirts of Moscow, driven into Stalingrad, got driven back to Berlin, and hollered “Wo sit Steiner?? Wo ist Wenck??” amid the crashing of Zhukov’s and Koniev’s artillery. Compared to Adolpf, or even George II, Vladimir has been extremely parsimonious in his use of armed force.

    And the military spending of the alliance against Russia that Alfred Thayer Mahan dreamed of exceeds Russia’s by a good 12:1, and the US Armed Forces are almost double the size of the Russian Armed Forces.

    Sorry, you give no indication that Vladmir’s ambitions are even remotely similar to Adolpf’s. Or even Kaiser Billy II’s.

    Comment by PailiP — March 29, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

  2. Professor,

    Many Western commentators may have failed to pick up on the fact that Putin said русский (russkiy) something like 30 times and российский (rossiyskiy) a handful of times. English does not make the distinction between the two. In fact, previously russkiy was practically taboo in Russian official speak. Only applicable to русский язык (Russian language). Everything else was always rossiyskiy. FWIW, the Ukrainian language does not even have the word for russkiy. For the language it’s rossiyskaya mova, for the ethnicity it’s katsap, moskal, which are basically “nigger”-level.

    Germany has its hands full with PIGS.

    Comment by So? — March 29, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  3. “extremely parsimonious in his use of armed force” are u serious? do u ever heard anything about Chechnia? “Various figures estimate the number of civilian deaths at between 30,000 and 100,000 killed and possibly over 200,000 injured, while more than 500,000 people were displaced by the conflict, which left cities and villages across the republic in ruins.”(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia),that’s about only first Chechen war and he had 1 more and after he started wars against neighbours
    2008 Ethnic cleansing in Georgia according HRW. Is not that enough? But why someone should care about this people, right? Only thing some will care is nominating Putin for Nobel prize for peace! (maybe for “extremely parsimonious in his use of armed force”)
    “By that time, Adolpf had conquered or intimidated Western & Central Europe” i am sure Putin is intimidated not only Europe, but US as well, cause what kind of “sanctions” are this? Do not let 12 or 20 or even 30 people entering US and ban of opening bank accounts in western banks? “Putin is From Mars, Obama is From Venus, and Germany is From Denial” That’s all it is!
    Thanks to author for Most realistic short analysis!

    Comment by Nick — March 29, 2014 @ 8:36 pm

  4. Putin was not in charge in 1994-1996.

    Chechnya invaded Dagestan in 1999. Georgia attacked South Ossetia without prior warning or ultimatum. Both got off lightly. Because Putin is a softy. Gandhi level.

    Comment by So? — March 29, 2014 @ 9:16 pm

  5. And Ukraine gave Crimea as birthday gift to Mr.Putin?

    Comment by Nick — March 29, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

  6. “Georgia attacked South Ossetia without prior warning or ultimatum” Hahaha! South Ossetia or “Shida Kartli” is a part of Goergia recognized by 99%of world countries! Before Russian invasion and occupation in August of 2008 it was recognized as part of Georgia even by Russian Federation!

    Comment by Nick — March 29, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

  7. Hahaha! South Ossetia or “Shida Kartli” is a part of Goergia recognized by 99%of world countries! Before Russian invasion and occupation in August of 2008 it was recognized as part of Georgia even by Russian Federation!

    Russia needs South Ossetia like another asshole. Russia withdrawing its bases from Georgia in 2007 well ahead of schedule, Americans goading Saakashvili made his head swim. The rest is history.

    Comment by So? — March 29, 2014 @ 10:08 pm

  8. “The rest is history” Yes, agree with that!Changing borders in the middle of Europe in 21 century is a history as well! That’s what Europe really deserved because of weakness and dependence on Russian Gas!They deserve having friend who fires Russian historian and professor of philosophy from Moscow university after comparing Russia’s intervention in Ukraine to Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia before World War II!

    Comment by Nick — March 29, 2014 @ 10:50 pm

  9. German dependence on Russian gas is vastly overstated. So is Ukraine’s in fact (50% of energy is nuclear). Ukraine’s south-east is simply not worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier to Germans, that’s all.

    Comment by So? — March 29, 2014 @ 10:58 pm

  10. Germany has been and remains the largest Russian natural gas buyer. The total volume, including trading in this country, reached 34.0 billion cubic meters in 2012.
    BY IEAI(International Energy Agency) For Germany the biggest import source was Russia which supplied 39% of natural gas imports, next was Norway on 35% and the Netherlands on 22%.

    Comment by Nick — March 29, 2014 @ 11:33 pm

  11. Who’s talking about the bones of any Pomeranian grenadiers? At most, the bonus of a Frankfurt banker.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — March 29, 2014 @ 11:41 pm

  12. SO? You are such a lying dirtball.

    The Russians withdrew from Georgia under intense diplomatic pressure.

    They were not well ahead of schedule at all. In addition they did not close the airbase at Gudauta in Abkhazia, which was also part of the agreement.

    They were 6 years late in the end

    At the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Istanbul Summit of November 1999, agreement was reached that the bases would all be evacuated by Russia before July 1, 2001.

    Vaziani was handed over on June 29, 2001. Akhalkalaki was not handed over until June 27, 2007, and Batumi on November 13, 2007.

    They were also trying to force the Georgians to extend the base withdrawal until well into 2012.

    That’s when the EU and US stepped in with diplomatic pressure.

    The Russian military want Abkhazia for Omchamchire, a back up naval base, and South Ossetia to control the southern end of the Roki tunnel.

    Comment by Andrew — March 30, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

  13. @ PailiP

    I hate to be a pedant but there’s no p in “Adolf”.

    It’s not exactly a little known name FGS. Adolf is up there with only a handful of others – Madonna, Cher – known instantly by their first name alone.

    Comment by Green as Grass — April 1, 2014 @ 2:58 am

  14. @ Green as Grass,

    I’ll be difficult:,16641,19390102,00.html

    Comment by AP — April 3, 2014 @ 11:00 pm

  15. You might want to read this ( from a former US Ambassador to Moscow, before rushing to judge German policy quite so harshly.

    US policy post-WW2 was – understandably – also to boost Germany and Japan economically but keep them militarily weak. When the Cold War ended, and US troops withdrew from Germany, the German’s built their Russian policy on exactly the same basis as that which had worked with France, economic integration. Arguably, this is more enlightened, and longterm less damaging, than replacing American divisions with German ones, even in the face of unilateral action by Russia.

    Comment by Adrian — April 5, 2014 @ 2:31 am

  16. @Adrian. The Matlock piece actually contradicts the Russian narrative. Explicitly contradicts it, in fact. The crucial point, which I have been made before here and on Twitter, is that the expansion of Nato was driven by eastern European fears of Russia. Fears based on long historical experience. Poland and the Baltics, and Romania and Bulgaria were banging on the door asking to be let in. It wasn’t an imperial US pressuring them. Indeed, in the cases of Georgia and Ukraine, Nato demurred at bringing them into the fold.

    But just as the west has too often mirror imaged Russia, Russia mirror images Nato and the US. It projects its way of dealing with small states on its borders on the US and the Nato countries. That way, of course, being forcing them into obeisance.

    And sorry to break this to you, but Russia ain’t France. Expecting that a policy that worked with France could be applied to Russia is beyond asinine. If such a belief was indeed what drove German policy, that’s another reason to criticize them.

    Your last statement about replacing American divisions with German ones is incomprehensible, and appears to have originated in your head, as I certainly never suggested it nor do I recall anyone else recommend that.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 5, 2014 @ 6:05 am

  17. @Adrian-Matlock doesn’t use this rather derogatory term commonly used to describe it, but he does mention Bush I’s “Chicken Kiev” speech. Rather than scheming to break up the USSR, the US supported Gorbachev’s attempt to keep it together. As Matlock notes, it was Russia and the other republics that terminated the USSR.

    The US was mainly in a reactive mode in the 1990s, responding to the dizzying events there in a rather ad hoc way.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 5, 2014 @ 7:52 am

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