Dedicated Russian thread

An intriguing op-ed, that 15 more years of Putin could actually be a good thing for Russia-Western relations. The question is whether the leopard Siberian tiger is even capable of changing its spots.

'Vladimir Putin should brush off the cold war cobwebs in pursuit of a hard-headed look at national interests. Vladimir Putin is proposing to give himself the option of another 15 years in office. He could spend this time continuing to shake his fist at the west. Alternatively, he could brush away the cobwebs of the cold war and begin to recognise the challenge to Russian power from its friend and ally China.

'So far Mr Putin’s foreign policy has been tactical rather than strategic. Its goal has been to keep up appearances. Russia’s president heads a nation in decline, but one unwilling to cede its place at the top table of global affairs. There is nothing unusual about this. British prime ministers clung on to the idea they were one of the “Big Three” even as the empire dissolved around them. At some point, though, the pretence becomes unsustainable.

'Mr Putin has built his standing at home on the promise of restoring Russian prestige abroad. Above all, he has craved recognition for Russia as a match for the US. Nothing wounded him so much as former US president Barack Obama’s throwaway jibe that Russia had fallen to the role of a “regional power”. The Kremlin’s answer has been to sacrifice strategic interests to appearances. The unspoken price has been the acceptance of the role of junior partner in Beijing.

<snip>

'Although a second term for Mr Trump would be severely disruptive of the alliance, Mr Putin would be chasing dreams. Whether he enjoys defeat or victory in November, Nato will outlast this president. The question a strategically-minded leader in Moscow should be asking is why Russia continues to view the alliance as such a threat. Mr Putin would do better to look eastward to the ever more assertive foreign policy of Chinese president Xi Jinping

'On one level, the present Sino-Russian axis makes perfect sense. Both nations reject the American-designed postwar global order and repudiate the notion of a rules-based system rooted in western values. Both favour a Westphalian order in which the strong carve outs spheres of influence.

'For Mr Xi the gains speak for themselves. Moscow offers secure supplies of oil and gas to sustain the growth of the Chinese economy. The relationship provides strategic reassurance as Beijing confronts the US in pursuit of maritime hegemony in the western Pacific. Looking ahead, depopulated swaths of Russian Siberia offer an opportunity for economic expansion. Mr Putin’s forays in Ukraine and the Middle East are a bonus, distracting US attention from Chinese expansionism in east Asia. The advantages for Russia of such an unequal partnership are not so obvious. Yes, Mr Putin gets a comrade-in-arms for his denunciations of western liberalism but at the expense of watching Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative undercutting Russian power in central Asia. Mr Xi’s plan to open the Northern Sea route to Europe threatens to undercut Russian interests in the Arctic. An expansive view of China’s influence-building in eastern and central Europe would raise fears of strategic encirclement.

'Mr Putin is a creature of the Soviet KGB. It may well be that it is too late for him to escape his own nostalgia. But a leader planning to hold on to power for another 15 years might take the time for a strategic stock-take. The challenges and risks lie to Russia's east.'


(Financial Times, by Philip Stephens, 25 Jun 20)
I wonder if Putin has the temperament to stay the course to 2036. I've heard one or two reports that he's becoming bored with the day to day grind of being president and actually running the country. That is dealing with the nitty gritty of dealing with the economy, education, services, etc., and much prefers dealing with pet projects.
 
Rubbish. If they can substitute your ballot with a forged one they can do that whether you vote or not.

By not voting you are enabling something you claim to be against. You are a duck.
Probably living in the UK you don't understand how falsehoods based polit-technologies are working in modern Russia.
I would like to recall one case happened with one of the leaders of opposition party Yabloko in 2009.
Mr.Mitrokhin voted in Moscow (where he lives) of course for his own party Yabloko but he was surprised to discover that
(pro-Putin) "The United Russia" got 904 votes in his constituency
The Communists got 87 votes
(also pro-Putin) "The Just Russia" party got 29 votes.
Other parties, including Yabloko got zero votes.
Of course, mr.Mitrokhin complained and the 'lost' ballots (16 for his party) were 'found'.

I will vote during the next parliamentary election (the next year) when there will be a lot of observers from different parties, when the whole process of voting and ballot counting will be much more transparent.
Just now I prefer not to take part in this political circus and to contribute to the 'impression' that crowds go to support Putin and the authorities.
 
Probably living in the UK you don't understand how falsehoods based polit-technologies are working in modern Russia.
I would like to recall one case happened with one of the leaders of opposition party Yabloko in 2009.

Mr.Mitrokhin voted in Moscow (where he lives) of course for his own party Yabloko but he was surprised to discover that
(pro-Putin) "The United Russia" got 904 votes in his constituency
The Communists got 87 votes
(also pro-Putin) "The Just Russia" party got 29 votes.
Other parties, including Yabloko got zero votes.
Of course, mr.Mitrokhin complained and the 'lost' ballots (16 for his party) were 'found'.
Possibly not, I live in a country that respects the rules of law and democracy, despite the complaints you will see.

However, not voting in case your vote is stolen makes absolutely no sense.
 
Possibly not, I live in a country that respects the rules of law and democracy, despite the complaints you will see.
I know, that manipulations with voting (like one happened in Manchester with postal voting) is rare exceptions. In Russia it is alas a norm.
However, not voting in case your vote is stolen makes absolutely no sense.
Many prefer not to visit polling stations at all. And permanently empty polling stations themselves is a demonstration of attitude of the people to the authorities, to pres.Putin. Btw, the authorities established the whole week for voting to make turnout as high as possible.
In fact the only major party in Russia that firmly against is the Communist party. But their rating is not high.
Now it is impossible to beat Kremlin's polit-technologists. But I hope that it will happen later - during the parliamentary elections.
 
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I know, that manipulations with voting (like one happened in Manchester with postal voting) is rare exceptions. In Russia it is alas a norm.
So because Manchester had issues with postal voting with the largest proportion of the problem being posts votes that weren’t submitted, you’re also not going to bother to vote?
 
So because Manchester had issues with postal voting with the largest proportion of the problem being posts votes that weren’t submitted, you’re also not going to bother to vote?
No, the Manchester story is irrelevant for me. I don't wish to take part in the political circus. It is my choice

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Zhopa

War Hero
I wonder if Putin has the temperament to stay the course to 2036. I've heard one or two reports that he's becoming bored
At the risk of sounding more and more like the Grinch, I read things like that too, only many many more than one or two, and we ignore them because we know the people writing them (a) are fabricating the whole thing because they have no possible way of knowing what Putin is feeling, and (b) are doing so because they really, really hope Putin will go away (and consequently work very hard over the course of years at thinking up reasons why he might, none of which ever actually come true).

Often the reason they hope he will go away is because they equally misguidedly believe, also on the basis of zero evidence whatsoever, that with him gone Russia will by default become a much nicer place, both to us and to its inmates.
 
I know, that manipulations with voting (like one happened in Manchester with postal voting) is rare exceptions. In Russia it is alas a norm.

Many prefer not to visit polling stations at all. And permanently empty polling stations themselves is a demonstration of attitude of the people to the authorities, to pres.Putin. Btw, the authorities established the whole week for voting to make turnout as high as possible.
In fact the only major party in Russia that firmly against is the Communist party. But their rating is not high.
Now it is impossible to beat Kremlin's polit-technologists. But I hope that it will happen later - during the parliamentary elections.
To perhaps paraphrase what you are saying, you are hoping that empty polling stations will discredit the government in ways that easily fabricated results cannot.
 
In timely fashion, I've been reviewing chapters for a product designed to tackle nonsense commonly spouted about Russia, because the authors are fed up with having to demolish the same myths and fallacies every single time they start a conversation. By coincidence, the one I've just read is about exactly this - the notion that the threat of China must lead to a more cooperative relationship between Russia and the West.

It says the only people who believe in this are the ones who think Russia behaves according to Western logic and rationality, and therefore must eventually "come to its senses", i.e. do what the West thinks it should. It further points out that there is zero overlap between these believers and people who have been paying any attention to what Russia consistently says and does.
There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking among certain quarters for our two "problems" of China and Russia to somehow solve themselves by having the two get into a tiff, driving Russia into the arms of the West and somehow in the process reforming Russian politics.

It comes across to me as just exactly that, wishful thinking. So long as the world has nuclear weapons, Russia can maintain an independent line against all comers as there are limits to what degree they can be threatened by anyone.
 
To follow on from my post above:

For the greatest part of the historical record, Chinese civilisation developed separately from civilisation(s) at the other extremity of the Eurasian land-mass. It can also be argued that for much of the time China was more materially and scientifically advanced and far more centralised and continuous (imagine the Roman Empire staying centred on Rome and maintaining and expanding its grip on the Mediterranean Basin, the Near East and Europe.

This latter item is the crux of the matter concerning the greatest difference between Chinese and "Western" worldviews. While western historical development has emphasised the benefit of competing power centres leading to innovation across all spheres of human endeavour and the equation of personal political and economic liberties with progress and mutual benefit, Chinese historical development has emphasised the benefit of centralised authority and power and the subjugation of the individual to the State leading to peace, stability and prosperity.
With the centres of modern Western civilization also being the birth places of Naziism, Fascism, and Marxism, I'm not too sure that the "West" has a great claim on being the natural home of human liberty. At least it's not when you look over a long enough time horizon rather than focusing on the past couple of decades.

Historically, much of the West has a record of absolutist government, reinforced by religious authority being firmly under the thumb of the state and acting as a propaganda agent for state power.

Our modern liberties owe more to changes in society, where rising income and education levels have created demands to give the average person more say in how government is conducted. We've seen the same play out in other parts of the world as well.

I would not be surprised to see the same happen in China. We won't have seen much of it yet, as society there is still in a massive transformation, the scale and speed of which the world has never seen before. Such a change may not follow the same path as we have in the West, but it may achieve an equivalent result. It is most likely to happen after those holding state power are discredited in some fundamental way, and I don't mean in terms of some foreigner posting angry Tweets in a harsh font or some other foreigner giving a critical speech in London at an institute that no one in China will have heard of.

However, let's imagine a fully democratic China, with freedom of speech and all the other totems we associate with it. Now imagine the new elected Chinese government comes around and say "We are the biggest democracy, the largest economy, and the proud holders of an ancient and continuous civilisation with art, literature, and music as good or better than anyone else's. It's time for you in Europe to accept our leadership of the free world, follow our diplomatic initiatives, swallow the terms of trade treaties as we propose them, sign defence treaties with us, and just generally do what you're told, just like you've been doing for the Americans up until now."

Do you think that will go over well? Do you think the Americans will just swallow their pride and say "well fair's fair, we can't really complain about any of that".

Or do you think that we'd find some other reason to say that the Chinese can only qualify as paid up members of the club that runs the world so long as they accept a seat at the back and don't get any ideas about having a major say in how the club is run?

The 20th century was an historical anomaly in that the world was pretty clearly divided into the "goodies" and the "baddies" in two major show downs, and the goodies won on both occasions, or at least outlasted the baddies. Cast your eye over a greater span of history however, and the world looks like a much different place.
 
At the risk of sounding more and more like the Grinch, I read things like that too, only many many more than one or two, and we ignore them because we know the people writing them (a) are fabricating the whole thing because they have no possible way of knowing what Putin is feeling, and (b) are doing so because they really, really hope Putin will go away (and consequently work very hard over the course of years at thinking up reasons why he might, none of which ever actually come true).

Often the reason they hope he will go away is because they equally misguidedly believe, also on the basis of zero evidence whatsoever, that with him gone Russia will by default become a much nicer place, both to us and to its inmates.
I don’t personally think with Putin gone that Russia will somehow transform into a democratic western friendly nation. There are too many entrenched factions that have come into power through the post soviet and Yeltsin years and consolidated during Putin’s terms.

As for Putin becoming bored, I agree that we don’t know what he’s thinking but I guess some commentators come to their conclusions from watching him and how Russia has developed. I think where I got to hear these reports from are foreign correspondents based in Russia. Whilst they have a better chance at divining intentions I guess they aren’t infallible.
 
With the centres of modern Western civilization also being the birth places of Naziism, Fascism, and Marxism, I'm not too sure that the "West" has a great claim on being the natural home of human liberty. At least it's not when you look over a long enough time horizon rather than focusing on the past couple of decades.

Historically, much of the West has a record of absolutist government, reinforced by religious authority being firmly under the thumb of the state and acting as a propaganda agent for state power.

Our modern liberties owe more to changes in society, where rising income and education levels have created demands to give the average person more say in how government is conducted. We've seen the same play out in other parts of the world as well.

I would not be surprised to see the same happen in China. We won't have seen much of it yet, as society there is still in a massive transformation, the scale and speed of which the world has never seen before. Such a change may not follow the same path as we have in the West, but it may achieve an equivalent result. It is most likely to happen after those holding state power are discredited in some fundamental way, and I don't mean in terms of some foreigner posting angry Tweets in a harsh font or some other foreigner giving a critical speech in London at an institute that no one in China will have heard of.

However, let's imagine a fully democratic China, with freedom of speech and all the other totems we associate with it. Now imagine the new elected Chinese government comes around and say "We are the biggest democracy, the largest economy, and the proud holders of an ancient and continuous civilisation with art, literature, and music as good or better than anyone else's. It's time for you in Europe to accept our leadership of the free world, follow our diplomatic initiatives, swallow the terms of trade treaties as we propose them, sign defence treaties with us, and just generally do what you're told, just like you've been doing for the Americans up until now."

Do you think that will go over well? Do you think the Americans will just swallow their pride and say "well fair's fair, we can't really complain about any of that".

Or do you think that we'd find some other reason to say that the Chinese can only qualify as paid up members of the club that runs the world so long as they accept a seat at the back and don't get any ideas about having a major say in how the club is run?

The 20th century was an historical anomaly in that the world was pretty clearly divided into the "goodies" and the "baddies" in two major show downs, and the goodies won on both occasions, or at least outlasted the baddies. Cast your eye over a greater span of history however, and the world looks like a much different place.
While I agree with much of what you say, I believe that the central plank of your above argument is unsound. Namely:

Our modern liberties owe more to changes in society, where rising income and education levels have created demands to give the average person more say in how government is conducted. We've seen the same play out in other parts of the world as well.
The conditions for material and scientific advancement were enabled in the way competition was encouraged in the fragmented rivalries of a European civilisation divided on itself. This competition in itself was enabled by the fragmentation of centralised authority and in a self-reinforcing spiral also led to further dilution of centralised authority. Yes, there were reverses in this process, notably the reconcentration of power with the counter-reformation and the autocratic regimes that grew in continental Europe after the Treaty of Westphalia. However an international rules based system of governance evolved. Such a process could not have occurred in China given the historical conditions therein.

And the only places we have seen this play out in is where Western European standards have been put in place and allowed to flourish. Hong Kong is an example of this. It is also an example which is anathema to the centralised authoritarian regime in Beijing, which in its attitude to power is a direct successor to the Emperors of yore.
 
Interesting piece in FP about Russian-Mongolian relations:

It is highly ironic that Moscow cannot see the wood for the trees. Moscow is already working in China's long-term interests in its antagonism towards the West. Mongolia is already in the Chinese sphere of influence, as is Russia, though the Kremlin carthorse can't see past its self-imposed blinkers.
 
While I agree with much of what you say, I believe that the central plank of your above argument is unsound. Namely:



The conditions for material and scientific advancement were enabled in the way competition was encouraged in the fragmented rivalries of a European civilisation divided on itself. This competition in itself was enabled by the fragmentation of centralised authority and in a self-reinforcing spiral also led to further dilution of centralised authority. Yes, there were reverses in this process, notably the reconcentration of power with the counter-reformation and the autocratic regimes that grew in continental Europe after the Treaty of Westphalia. However an international rules based system of governance evolved. Such a process could not have occurred in China given the historical conditions therein.

And the only places we have seen this play out in is where Western European standards have been put in place and allowed to flourish. Hong Kong is an example of this. It is also an example which is anathema to the centralised authoritarian regime in Beijing, which in its attitude to power is a direct successor to the Emperors of yore.
Post medieval Europe saw increasing centralisation of state power, not de-centralisation. The very period you refer to was marked by the opposite trend you ascribe to it.

You mentioned "personal political and economic liberties" as being an important element in economic development, and yet in Europe until relatively recently these were not particularly widespread.

On the international stage, the record of Europe is that of a group of ruthless predatory powers who went out and conquered, occupied, and exploited much of the world. I'm not going to complain about them doing that, as it was well within the norms of the time, and it led to the world in which I am satisfied to live.

However, to describe the historical record of post medieval Europe as "an international rules based system of governance" only makes sense if those rules consist of "land your troops in a foreign country, slaughter all opposition without mercy, and impose your government upon them". Or in other words, "the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must". I'm not sure that this is the world order that I would like to see prevailing in the present age.

Of course we don't do that any more. Except of course when it suits us to do that, in which case we decide we get the right to dictate who gets "regime changed" next.

You are looking at Europe through rose tinted spectacles, and just picking out the bits of history that suit the thesis you wish to advance. Have a look at Europe from the perspective of the 95% of the world that doesn't live there and you might come to a different conclusion.
 
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Post medieval Europe saw increasing centralisation of state power, not de-centralisation. The very period you refer to was marked by the opposite trend you ascribe to it.

You mentioned "personal political and economic liberties" as being an important element in economic development, and yet in Europe until relatively recently these were not particularly widespread.

On the international stage, the record of Europe is that of a group of ruthless predatory powers who went out and conquered, occupied, and exploited much of the world. I'm not going to complain about them doing that, as it was well within the norms of the time, and it led to the world in which I am satisfied to live.

However, to describe the historical record of post medieval Europe as "an international rules based system of governance" only makes sense if those rules consist of "land your troops in a foreign country, slaughter all opposition without mercy, and impose your government upon them". Or in other words, "the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must". I'm not sure that this is the world order that I would like to see prevailing in the present age.

Of course we don't do that any more. Except of course when it suits us to do that, in which case we decide we get the right to dictate who gets "regime changed" next.

You are looking at Europe through rose tinted spectacles, and just picking out the bits of history that suit the thesis you wish to advance. Have a look at Europe from the perspective of the 95% of the world that doesn't live there and you might come to a different conclusion.
Context is everything. I did not state that there was an international rules based system in post-mediaeval Europe, only that the history of Europe and European expansion enabled one to emerge eventually, which it did in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The emerging concept of rule of, by and with a codified international law, imperfect though it is, considerably discomfits those who would rather make the rules as they go along to suit themselves, because it imposes constraints. That is why even the U.S.A. which was behind much of the push for its adoption has not fully accepted that it too needs to be bound by it, if it is to work.

Probably the greatest difference in Western, European influenced civilisation is the developed sense of societal introspection, which enables openness to criticism, acceptance of fault and liability for past mistakes thus giving it the ability to progress without loss of face. Whereas for example other cultures with different histories find it difficult to do so.
 
Context is everything. I did not state that there was an international rules based system in post-mediaeval Europe, only that the history of Europe and European expansion enabled one to emerge eventually, which it did in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The emerging concept of rule of, by and with a codified international law, imperfect though it is, considerably discomfits those who would rather make the rules as they go along to suit themselves, because it imposes constraints. That is why even the U.S.A. which was behind much of the push for its adoption has not fully accepted that it too needs to be bound by it, if it is to work.

Probably the greatest difference in Western, European influenced civilisation is the developed sense of societal introspection, which enables openness to criticism, acceptance of fault and liability for past mistakes thus giving it the ability to progress without loss of face. Whereas for example other cultures with different histories find it difficult to do so.
The idea of a rules based system that constrains everyone is a reaction by middle powers to untrammelled exercise of power by great powers. These middle powers believe they have enough influence to shape what those rules may be, but not enough to stand alone without them. You don't need to reach back to the counter-reformation or the Treaty of Westphalia to explain that.

The US and China both see themselves as great powers, and Russia are clinging on to that status by the tips of their fingernails. None see any benefit to themselves in maintaining an international order that may restrain them. Look at the recent threats by the US against members of the International Court in the Hague as a prime example of that.

The search for some sort of "cultural" factors is just beating about the bush rather than addressing the more relevant questions such as what stake does China have in an international order which was dictated by Western powers? What place to they have in defining this world order that is commensurate with their size and power? Why should they bow down to this international order if their closest rival, the US, do not?

My own country Canada places great store in preserving a rules based order and international institutions as a central pillar of its foreign policy. The objective of that policy is to restrain the actions of the great powers, particularly the US, who of the great powers affects us the most. What hope is there for that to succeed though in the face of a US whose current president operates on an explicit principle of being constrained by no one outside of the US?

There was some hope at one time of the EU becoming an independent balancing force in the world, but it's clear that they are for the foreseeable future destined to be as dysfunctional and internationally irrelevant as the Holy Roman Empire.

Unless the UK are planning on re-launching the British Empire in the post-Brexit era, I don't see anyone on the horizon who can act as a balancing force to convince the great powers that it is in their interests to operate within a new international system of rules.
 
Context is everything. I did not state that there was an international rules based system in post-mediaeval Europe, only that the history of Europe and European expansion enabled one to emerge eventually, which it did in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Apparently we can not speak about any 'rules based system' in 50's when the colonial system continued to exist.
During the wars in Algeria and Vietnam the 'rules based system' also hardly existed.
Hardly the Falkland war was a result of the 'rules based system' as well.
And if you say that bombings of Belgrade was conducted according to the 'rules based system' and that Iraqi war was unleashed within the concept of the 'rules based system' then would you be so kind to describe these 'rules'?
From my point of view the 'rules based world system' never existed and as maximum there were (are) some its elements.
We live in the complex and imperfect World where collisions of interests of different players results in sometimes turbulent processes that can not be explained by any rules.
How creation of independent Kosovo could be explained? Why parts of the EU member state is controlled using military force by two NATO members? According to what rules exactly? Why still the ME problem is not resolved within the 'rules based system'?
Unless the UK are planning on re-launching the British Empire in the post-Brexit era, I don't see anyone on the horizon who can act as a balancing force to convince the great powers that it is in their interests to operate within a new international system of rules.
I strongly doubt that any single player of the World stage could impose just and fair the rules based system. Anyway it can not be done in one day. However, well known and recognised mechanism for it exists. It is UNSC.
 
Apparently we can not speak about any 'rules based system' in 50's when the colonial system continued to exist.
As did the USSR.
During the wars in Algeria and Vietnam the 'rules based system' also hardly existed.
Czechoslovakia and Hungary ring bells?
Hardly the Falkland war was a result of the 'rules based system' as well.
British sovereign territory.
And if you say that bombings of Belgrade was conducted according to the 'rules based system' and that Iraqi war was unleashed within the concept of the 'rules based system' then would you be so kind to describe these 'rules'?
It’s been discussed before repeatedly and of course ‘humanitarian intervention’.
From my point of view the 'rules based world system' never existed and as maximum there were (are) some its elements.
If you live in a ‘might is right’ country, you may feel that way.
We live in the complex and imperfect World where collisions of interests of different players results in sometimes turbulent processes that can not be explained by any rules.
It is imperfect, but the U.N. is all we have plus alliances to defend against aggression such as Crimea, E Ukraine, Transnystria and S Ossetia.
How creation of independent Kosovo could be explained?
As above, humanitarian intervention.
Why parts of the EU member state is controlled using military force by two NATO members? According to what rules exactly?
Which two countries?
Why still the ME problem is not resolved within the 'rules based system'?
Lots of places are in turmoil, not just the Middle East. Imagine Kuwait still occupied by Saddam. Would he have stopped there?
I strongly doubt that any single player of the World stage could impose just and fair the rules based system. Anyway it can not be done in one day. However, well known and recognised mechanism for it exists. It is UNSC.
At which Russia throws out vetoes like confetti despite the use of CW.
 
Which two countries?
Part of the EU member Cyprus are under military occupation of two NATO member states. You know them pretty well.
Formulate me a rule according to which the occupation can be justified.
 

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