Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Putin on the Ritz

What did he say?

We are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of military force in international relations. One country, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.

Actually, I’m guessing there are few readers here that haven’t at this point heard those words, translated from the mouth of Vladimir Putin, but what was he trying to say?

Not that it isn’t fun and easy to talk smack about the US these days, but what did Vlad the impeller hope to accomplish by pissing off his host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and a good number of her invited guests, including such uncontained hyper-users as Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Senator John McCain, and his mini-me, Joe Lieberman?

This is what occurred to me yesterday: Putin ain’t talkin’ to them. I think Putin senses a unique opportunity to strengthen Russia’s position in the world, both as a trading partner and as a political and military leader, precisely because it is so easy to despise and/or fear US aggression.

Who else has the might (and will, and track record) to really stand up to the greedy and rapacious “world’s only remaining superpower?” By positioning Russia (once again) as the big boy of the anti-American family, a bulwark against United States hegemony, the gold standard, the Ritz of American opposition in a world of so many Holiday Inns and Motel 6’s, Putin has struck a cord with so many less powerful countries.

And Putin is striking that cord with an eye to striking a deal. Russia will extend their aid and clout and the protection of their nuclear umbrella to countries that want to stay away from or stand against the US, but Putin will likely expect something in return. It could be resources, it could be influence, it could be a place to put a forward military base, but whatever the request, Russia will have bought its way into another country. Russia will have broadened its sphere of influence. Russia will have nurtured a client state.

While the US is going around making enemies, Russia is looking to make friends. . . with benefits.

I’m not saying that Putin’s goals are particularly noble, but I think his strategy might prove to be effective. It not like he isn’t getting help from the overstepping United States. Hell, thanks to the Bush Administration, we pretty much offer 24-hour room service when it comes to delivering heaping platefuls of fear and loathing. And with every threat leveled at a sovereign nation, with every unfulfilled promise of aid, infrastructure, or democracy, with every dead Iraqi (or Palestinian, or Lebanese, for that matter) it’s as if Bush himself has placed another turndown mint on Putin’s pillow.

(cross-posted from guy2k)


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