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December 15, 2016


peter h

The key to this is Trump's pick for defence Sec., General Mattis, whose views are no secret.Take Russia. Mattis thinks the rise of aggressive nationalism there is a threat. He believes that where China feels their security interests would be best served by stability, Russia believes they’d be safest with a region of instability all round its borders. The EU created the invasion of Ukraine, he thinks, by starting a process of slow outreach to the country without any provision at all for the inevitable Russian response. Start the outreach by all means, if you’re ready to handle the response. But what does the flaccid, impotent cry of “Putin is nasty” achieve when you’re not willing to confront him.

But in the longer – not very much longer – term, Russia is catastrophically weak, and it will be with Putin or without him. Its economy is contracting. It has a demographic collapse caused mainly by internal social dysfunction. It has the longest land borders of any country in the world to defend, and the greatest number of Jihadis within them of any country outside the Middle East. The nationalism Putin is cultivating is weak on the fringes of the Federation where Russian identity is weakest, and so could form part not of external belligerence now but of internal collapse.

They have a lot of nuclear weapons and a culture of threatening to use them (one broadcaster who spoke about reducing America to radioactive ash was hired immediately by the state information agency). The world does not need a collapsed Russia with nukes in the hands of various nationalist and, possibly, religious factions.

So while it’s a form of great self-satisfaction for many people to turn denouncement of Putin into performance art at the moment, it is in the interests of the West to get into a position where we can help to support Russia. The starting point there is to be friendly, ally in common causes – maybe against ISIS because Russia does have a serious Jihadi threat – and try to turn them into a less belligerent country, and maybe an ally kept afloat by western economic support.


Yes, Peter, an unstable Russia could be very problematic. But right now Putin is in charge and he seems to see belligerence as a useful course of action, viz. Ukraine, the Baltic states, Poland, Syria, etc. I don't know that ("mere") money would be persuasive.

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