Streetwise Professor

January 5, 2008

The Appetite is Sharpened by the First Bites

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:54 am

I like Edward Lucas a great deal. His instincts on Russia are usually right on (and hence I am looking forward to his forthcoming book.) He is an excellent writer. He also exhibits a calm and easy demeanor, in contrast to the sometimes pugnacity of, oh, I don’t know, say, me.

In a recent column, however, I think Edward’s good nature and optimism have led him astray. In his Economist piece “Eastern Europe 2008”, he writes:

Third would be some glimmers of hope from Russia, both in its treatment of opposition activists at home, and its neighbours. Given the Kremlin’s overwhelming domestic support and the ease with which it gets what it wants from the outside world, it is tempting to hope that it might start taking things a bit easier.

I take the more pessimistic–and I believe, more realistic–view that bolstered by domestic support, the Kremlin is likely to view the lack of resistance by “the world” (specifically, western Europe and the US) to its recent bellicosity as an invitation to demand more and more; to speak even more stridently; to act even more aggressively. That is the nature of the species that currently inhabits the Kremlin. The ambition and greed and delusions of grandeur of the current Kremlin set are unlikely to be satiated by its recent gains. Appetite comes with eating, and methinks that Putin’s recent gains on the world stage are likely to whet his appetite, not sate it.

I hope Edward is right, but fear he is decidedly wrong.

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