Saturday, July 15, 2017

Russia Prefers Being Hated to Being Ignored

This is actually a reasonable article about Russia from a professor. I thought that wouldn't happen again in my lifetime, frankly.

While I think the professor minimizes the military gains that Russia can make on the eastern periphery of NATO, taking advantage of a generally far weaker Russia's military superiority at the point of contact (note that Putin's "overreach" in Crimea has still left him firmly in control of Crimea), he is right that America and NATO are stronger and that negotiations with Russia to diffuse tensions and find points of common interest should not be ruled out.

Surely we both have an interest in not taking each other out to the ultimate advantage of China, no?

This is about right:

What we are watching, in my view, is an uneven struggle between a real superpower and global hegemon, the United States, and a regional hegemon, Russia, that feels it has been backed into a corner.

That's it. Russia is far weaker. I've long said that. Russia is only a threat based on nukes and geography that puts their power close to targets in eastern NATO, and leaves American and NATO power far from those targets.

And Russia "feels" like they've been backed into a corner. America has largely ignored Russia in fact until Crimea. It wasn't long before Crimea that we withdrew our last tanks from Europe!

How many people over the last fifteen years have claimed America was "distracted" by the Middle East to the exclusion of all else? I don't think that is true, but we clearly had no interest in seeking conflict with Russia while we fought in CENTCOM. Sometimes I think Russia is just insulted that they were a lower priority for America than tin-pot thugs and terror groups.

The author says that Russia wants to be taken seriously. I think that is almost right. Russia could be taken as seriously as America takes Britain seriously--as a weaker partner. But Russia cannot accept that role with the memories of being a superpower still firmly in their DNA. Which is funny considering that Russia has quietly accepted being a junior partner of China.

America-Russia tension is purely based on Russian paranoia and hostility to the West which poses no actual military threat to Russia despite the potential of America and Europe to use dominant economic power to mobilize and deploy the military power to invade Russia.

Russia may worry that the example of Western democracy undermines Putin's autocracy, but that's their problem and not ours if their people are drawn to the West's example of democracy and rule of law.

And I worry far more about China than I worry about Russia in the medium term. (in the short term I worry about Russia and North Korea; in the long term I worry about Western cohesiveness and resolve to defend the West).

But new-found Democratic hostility to Russia and their relentless drive to prove Trump and Putin are best friends severely damages America's ability to lessen tensions with a country that should at best be an irritant and at best a partner--if not friend because of their autocracy--in pursuit of common interests.

I'm no friend of Russia. But a war with them would be dangerous and risks leaving China the last power standing. Nobody (other than China and certain other rogue states) should want that.

I'll add one point of caution that limits American-Russian alignment. China has claims on Russia's Far East. Surely nobody would suggest that the ultimate goal is to bring a non-paranoid Russia into NATO and put NATO's frontline on the the Amur River, would they?

The best we can hope for is that Russia and America aren't enemies who sometimes operate together on an ad hoc basis for common goals.

I'll note that the author is a University of Michigan professor in political science and history (which I double-majored in while there). I don't know his politics. But the article is certainly reasonable. I'll take that. Kudos.