Sunday, May 14, 2017

To Say the Russians Lack Nuance is the Understatement of the Decade

Truly, as I've noted, Russia believes that it can have only vassals or enemies on their border.

The attitude that Russia should never miss an opportunity to expand its empire is NATO's best recruiting tool:

However, it is in the post-Soviet space, and particularly Ukraine, where Khramchikhin sees a critical imperative to adopt a strict “no more Mr. Nice Guy” approach. He maintains that “the idea of an independent Ukraine is Russophobic by definition. That is, either Russia and Ukraine are one country, or they are enemies.” Khramchikhin decries Moscow’s supposed pre-2014 policy of meekly “funding Ukrainian Russophobia”; only the “openly anti-Russian” coup in Kyiv in February 2014 bestirred Moscow to give Ukraine the treatment it deserved. Even then, Russia contented itself with half-measures—“we should have acted with the Donbas precisely the way we did with Crimea.” Now, concludes Khramchikhin, it is time to cease the mindless twaddle about “fraternal peoples” and treat Ukraine as an outright enemy. Russia should not gratify the Kyiv regime with a direct invasion, but simply give the tottering Ukrainian government a timely push and allow the enemy’s internal contradictions to take their course. “Our goal,” he concludes, “should be the collapse of the current Ukrainian state and its regime, and their consequent complete political and territorial reorganization.”

Of course, as the Bennett writes, Ukraine's fate in large measure--apart from the question of whether Ukraine will include the Donbas or Crimea in the near future--depends on whether rule of law can overcome corruption that could weaken support for the Kiev government (most critically among Ukraine's Russian-speaking people who have decided Ukraine is better than Putin's Russia).

The West must struggle for a free and prosperous Ukraine for the sake of the Ukrainians and to keep Russia's borders--where Moscow tolerates nothing between vassal or enemy--from moving west.

Maybe one day the Russians will be less Russia-like.

And maybe one day some Americans will stop enabling Russians from being Russia-like by excusing their attitude:

So should we understand and accept Russian solutions to their paranoid fears regardless of where the Russians draw the line of security du jour? Do that for long enough and we'll be talking about Hadrian's Wall as the frontline against the Russians.

Fine. Understand that the Russians are a paranoid nuclear-armed mess, which makes them aggressive and perhaps even 100% convinced that their aggression is really defensive in nature.

But that does not mean we have to accept the Russian aggression that flows from being a paranoid nuclear-armed mess.

Don't enable the Russian paranoia--as too many Western analysts do--by going along with their dark fantasies of nefarious Western plots against them.

As Bennett notes:

I was struck by one Western commentator who noted, in an inept bow toward evenhandedness, that there is, after all, ample historical precedent for Russian troops tromping about Ukraine. One should hasten to add that there is also precedent for American forces tromping around the Caribbean, or German armies tromping through Belgium. Moscow doesn’t deserve a pass for reverting to malevolent historical type in Ukraine, and no one should consider Russian intervention in Ukraine, any more than these other “precedents,” as representing any kind of normative—and therefore excusable—behavior.