Your response came off as very condescending.
LGDB: It is what it is. And we've been through this before. I'm exactly as condescending to you as you are to Trump supporters. My appraisal of your political perspective, so far as I can tell, is pretty comparable to your appraisal of your average Fox News watcher. I imagine your opinion of them isn't anymore personally about them, than mine is of you. If I'm condescending to anything it's your political position. I think it's fundamentally wrong, contextually distorted, and generally misinformed. I'm being as polite as I can about that without sacrificing the content. And btw... feel free to return the favor.
You seem like an otherwise intelligent and kind person. I have no reason to think otherwise. But be prepared because you're probably going to find this response condescending as well. Any time you feel that way, try to tell yourself, I'm being hostile to your ideas not your ego. There's no way around that. I find some of your apparent political ideas plainly awful and harmful. It's not meant as some kind of personal attack. If it feels that way, suffice to say I'm not being reckless. I'm choosing my words very carefully.
Sure, but that is a bit of a quibble on my choice of terms. An excuse or justification can be darn near the same thing in many context. Although excuse makes it seem less legit, but I still think that is true.
Even if the justification is removed I doubt Putin and Russia change their strategy much although their approach may without the same sort of push back. I am not just making that up either. Fiona Hill, something of a Russian expert has indicated that while NATO has been a reason Putin's motivations reach beyond that.
“He’s said, repeatedly, that Russian and European borders have changed many times. And in his speeches, he’s gone after various former Russian and Soviet leaders, he’s gone after Lenin and he’s gone after the communists, because in his view they ruptured the Russian empire, they lost Russian lands in the revolution, and yes, Stalin brought some of them back into the fold again, like the Baltic States and some of the lands of Ukraine that had been divided up during World War II, but they were lost again with the dissolution of the USSR. Putin’s view is that borders change, and so the borders of the old Russian imperium are still in play for Moscow to dominate now.”
Now I am not saying this is a NATO existing having no impact at all because it did have a major one but I am of the mind that Putin is very much of the type to restore Russian glory, to me NATO is potentially pushing things that would happen anyway.
Now, it depends on the conflict in question, but in 2007 when NATO invited Georgia and Ukraine in it did lead to the invasion of Georgia and Ukraine was probably spared because it did not jump in right away.
Although I would still argue that NATO served a function outside of the fall of the Soviet's. After the fall Russia could not control its own borders or country and had nukes and the like so the probability of a failed state was high. When strong man Putin took over it for sure is a direct conflict but Putin also showed himself to be a strong man bad actor, so that hardly gives the countries united to stand against the Soviets the warm and fuzzies.
So to me it is logical that it stay together in some form. If Russia was a straight democracy and mostly peaceful than to me NATO would have been dissolved a while ago, but that is not the world we live in.
LGDB: To me this distinction between and justification is pretty meaningless. From what I can tell, an excuse is just a justification you either don't believe or agree with. Fair enough, but it runs the risk of begging the question. And more to the point, I think it just confuses the issue. From my position (a rare instance of us agreeing I'll wager)... there IS NO justification for the invasion. It's an overt act of aggression and a flagrant violation of international law. I'm not interested in justifying or excusing anything; I'm interested in understanding what causes played into the current circumstances, and who bears responsibility. Invariably the US and its NATO allies bear SOME of that responsibility. Admitting this doesn't somehow justify anything whatsoever to the other responsible parties like Putin.
And that's one of my main contentions here: thinking that if we bear responsibility for the current conflict that it some how means Russia doesn't, is just fallacious. It's based on a patent false dilemma: either we are responsible for the current circumstances or Putin is responsible for them. That would be foolish, and it obfuscates an otherwise obvious and nonnegotiable truth: WE are responsible for a 100% of our actions, and RUSSIA is responsible for 100% of theirs. Because I would have thought it was painfully obvious that Russia is responsible for their decision to invade, I would have thought accordingly it was facile, if not totally banal to need to make that explicit. None of my comments imply anything different. But what we're NOT talking about much in this threat is what OUR part in this has been. That is what's worthy of discussion, and what's more, we have a more direct responsibility to own up to it. As Americans we have direct influence over our own government (however marginal). Our moral judgments about the Russian foreign policy might be philosophically interesting, but I shouldn't have to remind anyone that you're more responsible (and thus culpable) for your own actions than your neighbors My original comments were about this, so if you want to talk about what-about-ism, I'd suggest, that any time someone bring up our actions that have helped create these circumstances, deflecting to Russia is an act of what-about-ism. Both things require discussion.
As to Fiona Hill, you can respect her all you like, but your including her here is a pretty curious kind of evidence. Hill worked at the NSC and came out of the Brookings Institute. Do you know anything about the latter? Neither things are disqualifying, but as such she's hardly some sort of independent source. My point is predicated on the notion that the United States foreign policy consensus for the better part of 30 years have led to these kinds of catastrophic outcomes, are deeply unjust and immoral ultimately, and the whole paradigm is basically disgraceful. People like Hill, hardly independently minded, represent faithfully that very consensus. She IS that consensus. She's an American chauvinist almost by definition, and it follows from that that she'd predictably downplay NATO's expansion being a precipitating event. You might as well be quoting Biden's SOTU address here. Or better yet, perhaps you'd like to quote Condoleezza Rice on her analysis of our war in Iraq.
It's also worth noting, that the only reason Fiona Hill is even being brought up here, insofar as it's the only reason she's a public figure whose interviews would garner attention from the main stream press, is that she resigned under the Trump administration and was highly critical of the buffoon POTUS. Thus becoming the 15 minute darling of Democrat partisans and apparatchiks, and the ambient center-lib PMCs whose brains have been thoroughly poisoned by Russia-gate conspiracies. Being anti-Trump and being a vaguely competent high level bureaucrat/public official seem to be the only two qualifications most liberals need to uncritically accept as valid political expertise.
And let me we clear. We CANNOT know if this invasion or the Kremlin's general orientation would exist as it does without NATO expansion. Your personal incredulity one way or another isn't a kind of evidence. Saying that NATO expansion wasn't the only cause is a given. Of course there are other causes. The fact that there are legitimate grievances by the Russians doesn't somehow imply that all their grievances are legitimate, or that they don't have any illegitimate grievances. But without some kind compelling evidence, how can you say that you think these other causes--like Putin's blood and soil, Russkiy mir, great nation BS--is what's really motivating to them. What are you, just going with your gut? And the idea that NATO expansion should be dismissed as a cause because the same result might have happened anyway is a totally untenable analytical standard. World War One MIGHT have happened regardless of rising nationalism and precarious military alliances. That doesn't mean that nationalism and military alliances weren't primary causes of the first world war.
I would argue that without the Soviet Union, and because after it's fall we were supposed to be responsible facilitating a democracy to grow in the old regimes place, NATO had no justification to exist. Now if you know the first thing about the years immediately following the fall of the USSR from Perestroika to its final and total collapse, you'll know this was an absolute farce. [And btw, this is just wikipedia level stuff, not my spooky socialist history.] Rather than actually help the Russians create strong democratic institutions--the kind that might have acted as bulwark against its more perverse or unstable political tendencies--there was no post-Cold War Marshal Plan for Russian reconstruction. We were much more interested in salting the Russkiy earth insuring that the globe would have us as the sole super power. That, and opening up their markets as aggressively as possible, privatizing the country as much as possible; prostituting out what was left of Russian public institutions like some garish fire sale for our capitalist firms. Forgetting the poverty this fertilized that, let's face it, we don't give a good goddamn about, it turned the former Soviet Union into an explicit kleptocracy. This is WHY Russia is ruled by oligarchs today, why it's run by a mercenary autocrat like Putin. A character that we didn't exactly install, but very much supported in his ascendency. Because pro-capitalist aristocrats with a penchant for brutally suppressing the popular decent of their own people in the name of concentrated wealth and international trade... are precisely the kinds of governments we prefer to do business with.
We LIKED that Putin was a strong man. That was the point. What we didn't predict (or at least didn't want to believe because there's little to avoid it without reforming our own system) was that Putin was going to take a hard nationalist turn, especially around the early 2000s. As it happens, it was pretty predictable that Putin and the rest of the Russian elites weren't going to be indefinitely satisfied with being a US vassal state who had to prostrate their own nationalist interests for the larger neoliberal hegemony. That's an inherently precarious position, but denying Russia a sphere of influence and continually antagonistically threatening to expand NATO only served to aggravate a situation that was always going to be fraught under the best of circumstances. And even if the elites and oligarchs are completely cynical, and the Russian nationalism is all just a line you feed to the kinds of people vulnerable to false promises of recreating a once great nation, the fact is we stoked those conditions of desperation and poverty that made the Russian public vulnerable to it. It's like laying out a bunch of dry kindling and then getting angry at the fire.
As to the world we live in... the idea that we live in a world where Russia is an unstable mostly bellicose country, and that that's contrasted by our country being democratic, freedom loving, and an global agent of peace is at best a myth. But more likely just bald American exceptionalist propaganda. At risk of sounding condescending, I submit to you that that's as fatuous and divorced from reality as just about anything you'll from any Qanon conservative. Now if you feel like that's an unfair characterization of your position, then by all means this doesn't apply to you. But regardless things in the world are quite the contrary. The US isn't a democracy. It's an oligarchy with a few more liberal amenities. The US's freedoms are mostly hypothetical, especially when compared to most other developed nations, including Russia. And the idea that we're mostly peaceful is just a willfully ignorant canard.
think full restoration of the Soviet Union is probably false but refer to the interview I provided above from a Russian expert. She is pretty sure that Russia see's the various former Soviet countries and their boundaries as fluid.
Even if that does not mean invasion it means trying to install friendly Russian governments or puppet governments.
LGDB: Again, Hill isn't to be taken too seriously, but as far as Russian thinking that the current boundaries are fluid, I think that's perfectly fair to say. The problem here is this characterizes the US government's position entirely and noncontroversially. And that's not some what-about-ism; installing puppet governments is our explicit policy with some slightly less honesty, more flowery language. Would you like a list of coups or attempted coups we have supported if not down right orchestrated? This is just you run of the mill unvarnished American history. We cannot possibly criticizing Russia for wanting to emulate the very foreign policy that we would otherwise defend without embarrassing ourselves here.
No, but he does not have to. If you look it up you will see that Belarus is controlled by a strong man authoritarian who is very friendly to Putin and Russia already. Why bother with annexing it if they are already major allies.
I think within the last few days their was a push to update their Constitution to allow more aid to Russia and allow their military to move more freely through or something along those lines.
It meets Putin's objectives either way. So, there is no sense to annex them like you are saying.
In general Putin seems to view the boundries as fluid with other countries and the goal is to take over, create puppet governments or ones that are friendly to Russia in the area. And Belaruz already fits the bill.
LGDB: Yeah, I'm well aware of Belarus and Russia's relationship. That's why I bring it up. My point here was that reestablishing old Soviet borders isn't likely given how Russia treats its allied nations. The idea that it's somehow illicit for Russia to want its immediate neighbors to be its allies or to try and influence the internal politics of neighboring countries for its own ends might be unseemly to you, but it just so happens to be the modus operandi of every major nation on the planet. It's Russia's aggression that's an issue. That's what is completely unacceptable. Annexation and aggression are the problem; that Russia wants Georgia, Finland, Ukraine etc. to have the same relationship with it that it has with Belarus is precisely what common sense should lead you to expect any major power wants.
Sure, but that is a one sided evaluation of it that ignores concerns that NATO countries would have about Russia's behavior. Russia would view it as a threat regardless of the motivations, but NATO would have incentive to keep on keeping on given historical behavior, the leadership and actions as well.
If NATO was not there than it could also potentially make things worse as well because coordination may be harder and not already set up.
I do not think this is totally either or, but just because Russia see's itself as justified does not mean that they totally are in the way they think they are either. As justifications forms are not too hard when one starts quoting national security.
Hell Putin called the Ukraine government Nazi's to play on the Russian publics fondness and former glory from WW2.
LGBD: As I've said if NATO countries have this concern then they should have been more invested in not letting Russia fall into kleptocratic disarray, such that every incentive for Russia to become the bellicose, autocratic, desperate nightmare it is today wouldn't have been so thoroughly baked in. But let's except that as you seem to want to have it the West headed by the US had nothing but good intentions in their management of the fall of the Soviet Union. Best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. There was a perfectly reasonable détente between Russia and the West. That was the series of buffer countries that existed independently and free of Russian influence that would NEVER be allowed the join NATO like Ukraine, Finland, Georgia, and so on. This was a completely reasonable compromise, and you can't say with an sense of integrity that we've not continuously flirted with expansion and given no reasonable guarantees. And by the way, if we'd like not to escalate things to the precipice of nuclear war, this is precisely the détente that our leaders should explicitly trying to reestablish.
The United Nations is not the most useful organization when Russia has a veto.
And I would disagree with a fair bit of this as having a pre-existing military alliance makes it easier to coordinate than starting with a mostly blank slate. Just like there are other non military orgnizations that make coordination easier like the G7 and so on. It is better to have the systems than not.
And it is not like Russia has been a very good actor to make it's neighbors confident of its good behavior.
LGBD: The UN is a useful organization for diplomacy. Which is precisely what is required now. Even post crippling sanctions. The UN ISN'T a good organization to unilaterally impose our will on rival nations. It's not meant to be that.
The idea that the NATO exists in order so that way can better coordinate our militaries even as a secondary purpose, is like saying a car exists as a device for homeless people to have sex in. It serves that function, sure, but that's not WHY it exists. And more to the point, you could easily create an organization that helps to facilitate military coordination whose major premise wasn't that the Russians need to be contained at all costs. And the problem isn't the coordination, the problem is the very realistic threat that this kind of alliance building would represent to any nation on the other side of it. And the obvious problem of maximalizing the consequence of even minor conflicts, such that even territorial disputes or skirmishes between smaller nations means the potential threat of nuclear war.
And if you think Russia not being a very good actor reduces confidence in its neighbors about its good behavior, why wouldn't you expect our worse behavior to have a very similar chilling effect on Russia's faith in our intentions?
Sure, but does that mean all other countries get a free pass to do as they want? Hypocrisy on the world stage is hardly a new concept. It is still not a justification for new poor actions.
Despite China and Russia enjoying pointing them out to make excuses for their actions. The US and Europe are hardly perfect and one can argue that China is more pragmatic in some sense in foreign policy. They do what they think is best for China, to Hell with humanitarian concerns. When you start accounting for those and getting involved things get merky and messier. It also makes them easier to make excuses for very bad behavior.
LGBD: Of course it doesn't mean that. But if we're even attempting ethical coherence, we have to accept that all countries (at an ethical level) have precisely the same amount of free passes to excuse their actions. We simply can't exempt ourselves from the same standards that we're literally about to starve potentially millions of Russian civilians over.
And the issue here is worse than our moral ledger and how hypocrisy comports with that. The issue is that we should expect that rival nations will predictably mirror our foreign policies as a matter of simple political physics. If we reserve the right to unilaterally invade other nations under false pretenses; ignore the sovereignty of nations; and place our own capitalistic prosperity above the democratic will of foreign peoples... and then excuse it all with a bunch of ad hoc, flimsy bunk... then we should expect other nations to operate precisely according to that paradigm. The reason to me it's an incoherent position to suggest that admitting our own fault here is tantamount to justifying Russia's culpability is because Russia in this case is simply mirroring the principles our own foreign policy. Russia is unequivocally executing wanton political violence at a mass scale, and declaring itself to have the unilateral right to undermine the political sovereignty of other nations by force. Ultimately the reason we find this unacceptable is because we assert that the only nation that has such a right is our own.
If Russia and China enjoy pointing out the abuses of other nations to make excuses for their own policy, then I'd say they're in good company. If anything they're simply not as sophisticated about it as we are. It's not as if we were awarded our position as global hegemon and sole super power because we're so clearly righteous that all the nations of the world voted us in and we're simply executing the duties of our lawful global office. We have our position because of raw and arbitrary power, and we maintain our position through its use. It should come as no shock that ascendent nations like China and India, and still gargantuan military forces like Russia would prefer that the world were organized according to a multipolar power distribution. That they each to each think it only right to preside over their own sphere's of influence. What are we to tell them? We can't have that because we've been so noble and just, and done some such a wonderful job they should all submit to our global dominance and love it?
You seem to think so, but I tend to think current action makes more sense than past ones. The US should have been held more accountable for Iraq and Afghanistan but not sure that an organization to punish the US for its treatment of Indigenous people or slavery have much weight despite the weight of the tragedies themselves.
Russia will use NATO as a justification, but it is also true that they have chosen methods that pretty much point to them continuing to be a risk and needing to be countered as well. Working against democracy most places, backing some terrible regimes and so on. Hardly reason t olet down their guard on them IMO.
And if there was another agreement with another name it would amount to about the same thing in the end, although perhaps with less teeth as their would not be the common defense aspect, which I will admit could cause another world war but also is a heck of a deterrent if Russia does not want to world coming at it.
LGDB: I'm not sure what connection you're making with Iraq and Afghanistan and slavery and genocide. If you're point is that we should be held accountable, then certainly.
Most of this I've already addressed, but is it your position that what drives our foreign policy is an abiding support for democracy abroad? Is the idea that our support of the Saudi war and quasi genocide in Yemen is out of serious commitment to democracy? That our 20 year boondoggle in Afghanistan was because we believe in democracy so much? Our support for the apartheid of Israeli occupation is due to an over abundance of democratic principles? I hope that doesn't sound too condescending. It's meant to sound like I have open contempt and disgust. Not for you personally, but for the idea. Thinly veiled and implicit as it is.
---the late great Donald Blake
This is a well-written post with several good points, but I’m ultimately not sure how much NATO is to blame simply because we can’t read Putin’s mind so it’s all very speculative. Yes, dissolving NATO and (much more importantly in my mind) instituting a Cold War Marshal Plan would have helped, but would it have prevented a Putin just 13 years later? NATO is anti-Russian but it’s not a threat to the very existence of Russia. In my mind, NATO is at best 10-20% in the contribution to the Russian decision-making process. Invading Ukraine will only reinforce the need for NATO and make it stronger, not weaker. My own speculation is that Putin wants Ukraine’s wealth of tapped and untapped natural resources (lots of rare earth metals and grain).
And in general, I think it is important to examine moral equivalency and indeed U.S. history is replete with atrocities from killing Native American to slavery to segregation to ill-begotten wars to stuff like the Tuskegee study. In terms of this crisis though, I’m not sure how helpful it is. Basically, history shows that concentrations of power frequently turn into atrocity. Hitler and WWII and the Holocaust of course killed tens of millions. Stalin killed millions, probably tens of millions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excess_mortality_in_the_Soviet_Union_under_Joseph_Stalin
). Mao killed millions, probably tens of millions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_Revolution
). Genghis Khan killed millions, probably tens of millions. We have Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge killing millions of Cambodians. Alexander the Great probably killed at least a million (which was a much larger percentage of humanity existing at the time with a world-wide population under 200 million compared to 40 times that today). The Rwandan genocide killed over half a million. You can go on and on (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genocides_by_death_toll
). So humanity does unspeakable things, and the U.S. has done unspeakable things. It becomes too mind-bogglingly abstract to measure who is worse. But at this moment in time, at least the U.S. doesn’t assassinate, jail, or disappear non-violent dissidents like Russia and China do. The U.S. still has a relatively free press. Even our misguided wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan weren’t to take the land there for ourselves. Yes, we’re awful in our support of the Saudis and Israelis. We’re not saints whatsoever, but there is still a distinction even if it’s just that our system puts constraints on our leaders that Putin and Xi don’t have. Like I said, power often turns into atrocity.
In any case, Putin may have overreached here. Even if he takes Ukraine, he may well have destroyed the Russian economy with the world’s response – sanctions, currency devaluation, stopped bank transactions, air spaces closed down, cultural and sporting events cut off. His only hope is that China props Russia up financially by buying its oil. Cancel culture means most of the world has cancelled Russia. Putin may also face a costly insurgency in terms of Russian lives and money within Ukraine for years. How will Russians react to all of that, particularly powerful, wealthy Russians and military leaders? How long can Putin stay in power if the will of his people turn against him?
How to make an entrance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49xWJJvpjzI
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