About Putin

Everybody is fixating on big, bad Putin who supposedly tyrannizes the sweet, innocent Russian people, making them do bad things. But it’s the other way round. I’m not saying Putin is a victim here but he’s still in power because he keeps invading. He invades like clockwork when his approval ratings dip. After a pile of corpses, the ratings go up.

Putin was quite different in 2002-5. Not a great statesman or a brilliant intellectual but he was looking for other things and achieving them. But he started losing support. Since then, he ratchets up whenever the public appetite for blood spikes.

God, if only Putin were the problem here. If only. Obviously, I despise him but he’s not the problem. He’s a tiny pimple on the left buttock of the problem.

The real problem is that people need a purpose. They need a story that they tell themselves about who they are. For large groups, a shared story is crucial. Ukrainians were going to hell in a basket when they came up with the story of “we are going to become part of the Western civilization.” Then they rallied up around that, and you see the results. The Russians’ shared story is “we are misunderstood and nobody likes up because we are too superior.” It’s a massive, collective pouting fit.

Everybody knows how Germans reacted to the humiliation of WWI and the Weimar Republic. Russia is experiencing the same feelings but they are much older and, consequently, go much deeper. And by much older, I mean much MUCH older.

16 thoughts on “About Putin

  1. i saw a video interview(last week) with Stephen Kotkin( he wrote a few books on Stalin) where he made the point that Putin is doing what the bolsheviks did in the 1920s and 30s- reassemble the russian empire. the Russians lost it at the end of WW1 and they got it back in a generation. Now they are trying again. If true it makes the idea of peaceful negotiation pointless. And the problem is bigger than that malignant dwarf.

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    1. Kotkin is a brilliant scholar. I highly recommend his books on Stalin.

      Yes, it’s absolutely true. This is the goal and none of what’s happening is situational.

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      1. Re Kotkin, is this also good “Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970–2000” or would you recommend only books re Stalin? You usually don’t recommend Western analysis of FSU.

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  2. “Putin was quite different in 2002-5”

    I’ve seen a reference or two to a change around 2012 (for the worse) do you know what might have changed around then (or was the change earlier….)?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Putin is not the only one with a poor approval rating who would potentially benefit from some distraction from domestic issues.

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    1. Absolutely. It’s an enormous piece of luck (or is it?) that Trudeau and Biden can now easily distract their electorate from their own enormous failings.

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      1. I’m in the UK, Johnson as well.

        Though Macron has been diminished and Scholz has finally agreed that Germany should honour its NATO commitments (cough, did someone say Trump policy!)

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  4. If the Russians are so bloodthirsty, why is it that the Russian media are apparently not allowed to use the word “invasion”? Doesn’t that mean that Putins perhaps fears that the population would not really be happy with all the killing and destroying? It is so hard to imagine that the Russians wouldn’t feel sorry for the Ukrainian civilians. I mean I already feel like this is happening to people similar to me, wouldn’t that even more be the case for the Russians? Are they really this far gone? I just can’t wrap my head about this.

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    1. The Russians need to portray themselves as victims to try to justify the war to their people. Like Clarissa has said, there is a sort of national victimhood.

      I don’t think it’s completely hopeless. Russian soldiers haven’t been able to kill unarmed civilians while looking them in the face. Ukrainian civilians would not have been able to stop German tanks during WW2 by simply blocking them on the street. I’m aware how low a bar this is.

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