I’ve been waiting for Putin’s speech to be translated. I have a partial translation courtesy of The Guardian leading me here. Why is it when Putin is setting out a new course in Russia’s relations with the West I have such difficulty finding out what he said?
I come at this because I have been reading that Putin has forsworn any further action against Ukraine based upon reported summaries of his speech. Then another report I read seemed to contradict this. So until I get a full translation it will be difficult for me to talk intelligently about it.
I’ve read he said that Crimea went over without a shot being fired. Of course right after his speech his orders to begin cleaning up Crimea were put into effect as his forces attacked the Ukrainian bases
wounding killing at least one Ukrainian soldier. We have to be totally on the alert dealing with Putin since he is a brazen liar playing to the xenophobia of the Russian people whose popularity soars with each new aggression.
These are dangerous times. When a close ally of Putin starts waving the nuclear threat then you have to recognize that Russia in some respects is every bit a closed kingdom as North Korea. One way is that it will brook no dissent.
The great trouble that lies ahead is the inability of the West, including the U.S. to recognize the type of people we are dealing with. Tom Friedman called the Russian people great but when over 80% approve of Putin’s aggressiveness that statement has to be taken with a grain of salt.
I suppose what bothered me most over the last day was the statement by Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, when asked why the European sanctions, even in comparison to the tepid U.S., sanctions, seemed so weak, replied: “YES, the United States is from Mars and we are from Venus. Get over it.”
That Mars/Venus dichotomy is set out in an article well worth reading. It was written in 2002 by Robert Kagan: “Power and Weakness” wherein he stated: “It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory — the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.”
Radek Sikorski went on to say:“Europe is closer and will therefore pay a bigger cost for sanctions against Russia”.
Robert Kagan would say: “A better explanation of Europe’s greater tolerance for threats is, once again, Europe’s relative weakness. Tolerance is also very much a realistic response in that Europe, precisely because it is weak, . . . “
Kagan wrote in 2002. Europe as a military power has continued to decline. Now with the invasion by Russia of Ukraine it realizes not all European nations will play by the rule of law; it cannot respond militarily; it even fears applying sanctions because of its closeness to Russia; all that is left is to appease Russia. Robert Kagan Would have predicted this. He noted: “But appeasement is never a dirty word to those whose genuine weakness offers few appealing alternatives. For them, it is a policy of sophistication.”