Russia 1; West 0

In 2014, in an e-mail to a friend in the US dated Sat, Mar 8, 2014 at 5:48 AM, I said:

Putin is a thug and a bully R***.  He only understands force.  Appealing to that guy’s better nature is like asking a crocodile to turn vegetarian.”

In 2016, a few months prior to the UK’s Brexit vote, in an e-mail to some friends dated Sun, 21 Feb 2016, 20:01, I concluded that:

“In terms of long-term political strategy and avoiding WW3, Brexit is one of the most asinine, myopic, blinkered, dunder-headed policy stances of the last 100 years.  Given that, and given that, in our ‘highly educated’ sound-bite age, policy is driven by tweets, insults and spittle, the chances of Brexit succeeding are quite high.

Having lived in England, it seemed obvious to me that Brexit could succeed; but not a single Irish paper predicted that the Brexit referendum would be passed.

I also noted that:

The EU-haters are irrationally optimistic about a future in which they seem to believe that all the benefits of union will be available without needing to be in the Union. That’s shaky enough territory; but there’s worse. They also assume that – for instance – Germany and France, or Germany and Britain will never again be at war. Granted, post WW2, such eventualities have up to now been very unlikely. But this was primarily – in my view – down to so much dreary everyday cooperation on small matters. The dull, polite, civilised normality of the EU has kept the Western European powers from kicking the shit out of each other for 70 years. Judged from a broad historical perspective, it’s been an outstanding success.

Remember, the Bear in the East is also off its chain. This is the silliest time ever to make the ‘argument’ that ‘divided, we’re stronger’.

Off its chain, alright. A mere 5 years later, as 100,000 Russian troops mass on the border with Ukraine and as Russian warships conduct <live missile testing off the Southern Irish coast>, suddenly, there’s the beginnings of a new rapprochment, as even the navel-gazing Brexiters begin dimly to realise the pampered, first-world-problem type idiocy of pouting and posturing about something as utterly inconsequential as the Brexit Protocol (which affords N. Ireland access both to the EU and GB markets) while Russian warships menace the Irish coastline:

Meanwhile, while the N. Irish DUP vows to resist free trade and prosperity at all costs, and Mr. Johnson’s Brexiters celebrate major achievements such as <pint glasses> and blue passports, and as, egged on by the orange-faced idiot, America splits itself in two, and as privileged morons the world over gather in the streets to bleat about the <“tyranny” of vaccines>, some real tyrants in the East, scarcely able to believe their luck at the multiple and manifest idiocies of their silly opponents, start to pull a few killer moves on the global chessboard.

Good and sobering article by Françoise Thom, lecturer at the Sorbonne; link <here>:

Reading the Western press, one is under the impression that nothing is happening. Westerners do not seem to understand what is at stake. They think that only the fate of Ukraine is being decided, which is of less concern to them than that of Armenia, judging by the pilgrimages of our presidential candidates. Many French officials find it normal that Russia should claim a sphere of influence. They resemble those who in 1939 believed that Hitler’s demands would be limited to Danzig.”  

She also points out the risks of engaging with Putin at all:

Finally, let us mention the democratic sacred cow that must be sacrificed: the absolute faith in the virtue of “dialogue”, which most Western leaders, from Florence Parly to Mario Draghi, continue to advocate in relation to Moscow. But nothing is more dangerous than these summit exchanges, which, whatever one may say, inevitably feed in Russian ruling elites either paranoia or delusions of grandeur and intoxication with power. If the West is firm, the Kremlin concludes that it wants to destroy Russia; if the West offers concessions, the Kremlin concludes that it is weak and pressure should be increased.

Very often the best policy with Russia is that of silence and distance: do nothing, say nothing and stand your ground. Clinging to dialogue at all costs, especially when Moscow keeps us at gunpoint like a madman holding a hostage, only shows our weakness and encourages the Kremlin to escalate.

She’s right.  The Russians only respect strength, and view all negotiations as zero-sum affairs. Win-win is a soft, liberal delusion.  Westerners are making the grievous tactical error that Putin even has a bona fide grievance; that there is something to “negotiate” about.

Putin doesn’t have a grievance; or at least, not one that is capable of being mollified by reason or fairness, ffs. He has a ruthless plan, and a series of cynical pretexts. He’s playing a long game, a game longer and wider than democratic Western politicians, with their miserable little 4 or 5 year terms, can ever understand.

And of course, as a mere trading group, the EU is largely ineffectual in the face of Putin’s dead-eyed revanchism.  To be otherwise, it would need to be a United States of Europe, with its own army and a unified foreign / military policy.  In other words, Brexiters and the EU’s own empty-headed nationalist populist tub-thumpers castigate the EU for failing to act like a federal entity, while simultaneously warning furiously about the dangers of the EU becoming one. 

Russia’s emboldened manoeuvrings expose both the myopia of Brexit and the piety that is Irish neutrality.  I’ve been saying it for most of my life – a federal USE is overdue. 

Could the West have handled things better?  Possibly, decades ago, by pumping in Western money when the USSR collapsed and perhaps thereby reducing the anarchy that allowed a bloke like Putin to rise to the top.

But I’d doubt it, frankly.  Just as Hitler underestimated the geographical scale of Russia, so too do Westerners make the mistake of assuming that Russian leaders think like they do.  At some point, Russia will out.  It’s in its nature.

Brace, brace.

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