Headline: Revenge on the US is sweet for Vladimir Putin
Sub-headline: The Russian president draws satisfaction from embarrassing America
Taking the temperature of ‘The Washington foreign policy establishment’ must have been a challenging, even a daunting task. Like Mr. Rachman, and the headline writers at The Financial Times, I engage in self-serving hyperbole. The ‘thought’ of the Foreign Policy establishment is not even broached, but its ’emotional state’ is the point of Mr. Rachman’s unverifiable speculations. The daunting task of a description of such sweep, on the range of the stunted American political spectrum, as represented in the Think Tanks of Washington D.C.! Or is this Washington foreign policy establishment’ just the small coterie of Mr. Rachman’s fellow pundits? The key to this essay is a kind of textbook psychoanalysis, an utterly bankrupt ‘science’, of Putin. But first thing first: the smirking Putin straight out of the Marvel Universe.
The Washington foreign policy establishment has experienced many emotions since the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki: incredulity, fear, anger. But foremost among those emotions is a profound sense of humiliation. Here was the US president disgracing himself on an international stage, while the Russian president looked on, smirking.
It wasn’t long in his essay before the ‘Putin’, shaped by a ‘West’, that has ‘weakened and humiliated Russia for decades.’ appears on cue!
For Vladimir Putin, inflicting this kind of embarrassment on America is deeply satisfying. The Russian president’s worldview is built around the idea that the west has deliberately weakened and humiliated Russia for decades. For Mr Putin, it is payback time.
But the patience of the reader is rewarded with this summation of the ‘Crimes of Putin’ :
In the US and UK, Russia is seen as a violent state that has annexed Crimea and waged an undeclared war in eastern Ukraine. The Russian response is that the western allies have committed greater acts of aggression in Iraq and Libya and have threatened Russia directly, by expanding the Nato alliance up to its borders. Russia’s annexation of Crimea is portrayed as a defensive measure in Moscow, designed partly to ensure that the Russian navy’s base in Sevastopol never plays host to Nato ships.
Mr. Rachman elides from his bill of attainder, the fact that ‘The West’ i.e. America failed or even betrayed the agreements made with Gorbachev, on the expansion of NATO. More inconvenient history! Here is how Mr. Rachman ‘explains’ the expansion of NATO, in that betrayal of the agreement with Gorbachev:
Mr Putin and his acolytes are wrong to blame all the setbacks that the Russian state has experienced since 1991 on western plots. The countries that joined Nato after the end of the cold war did so of their own volition because they had a deep fear of Russia, based on their own recent history.
In sum the Hegemon does at it likes !
Some of Mr. Rachman’s readers were witnesses to the ‘transition’ of the Soviet Union to Russia and the execrable @RussiaHand, Strobe Talbott, appointed by the Neo-Liberal Bill Clinton, as head of that ‘transition’: the Shock Therapy of Austerity, on the Russians, was a crime, a revenge on people of the Soviet Union/Russia at the least, led by Mr. Talbott and his coterie of Chicago Boys! All of this utterly inconvenient to the New Cold War propaganda cobbled together by Mr. Rachman.
Similarly, the economic and political chaos in Russia in the 1990s was not “imposed on Russia by the west”, as the Putinist ideology would have it. It flowed from the collapse of the Soviet system and later mistakes by the Russian government.
Mr. Rachman is one of the many ‘Midwives of Trump’ who pronounces on the psychologically unhinged Putin as fellow conspirator , with Trump, against the post war ‘rules based order’ and the concomitant crisis of the American Republic.
But now the American democratic system — triumphant in 1989 — is itself in deep trouble. Russia, meanwhile, is once again treated by a US president as a peer superpower.
Mr Rachman’s admonitory concluding paragraph is almost Delphic:
For Mr Putin, it is a moment of sweet revenge. For American liberals, it should be a cause for reflection. Much of what has gone wrong in Mr Putin’s Russia flows from its failure to deal with domestic problems in favour of an effort to blame the west for all the country’s woes. Now it is tempting for American liberals to blame Russia for their Donald Trump nightmare. But the real problems, in both countries, begin at home.