Q & A

Premise: Russia is standing up to the West!

Q: Why is it standing up to the West?

A: Errr….. Uh… Because of hegemony!

Q: How is it standing up to the West?

A: It is blocking NATO expansion!

Q: Why is NATO expansion bad?

A: Because they want to encircle Russia!

Q: They already have Russia more or less encircled and that hasn’t hurt Russia in any measurable way. Russia has worked with NATO plenty of times before.

A: But when they TOTALLY encircle Russia, they will attack!

Q: Why would they attack?

A: Because of…HEGEMONY!  Yes! Hegemony!

Q: How is Russia stopping the “hegemony” from doing anything right now?

A: It’s opposing the expansion of NATO!

Q: Yes but why is that good?

A: Because if NATO encircles Russia, then they will invade and subjugate her!

Q: Why would they do that?

A: Because they need to expand their hegemony.

Q: How is Russia opposing this “hegemony…” You know what, never mind that for now. Suppose they attack and subjugate Russia. Then what happens?

A: Then the hegemony will be stronger!

Q: That’s assuming a lot, but what will the “hegemony” do then that it can’t do now? Is Russia preventing the hegemony from doing something it wants to do?

A: Yes! It’s opposing the expansion of NATO!

Q: But why…Never mind.

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25 thoughts on “Q & A

  1. CityZen

    Q: So, NATO is not a threat to Russia, is that it?
    A: That’s right, no threat.
    Q: So why the expansion?
    A: People like security.
    Q: What makes them so insecure?
    A: Well, Russia mostly.
    Q: So Russia is a threat?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Why?
    A: Because it’s aggressive.
    Q: Why is it aggressive?
    A: It wants to rebuild the empire, the USSR, it wants to expand and occupy other countries.
    Q: Really? Why would it want to do that?
    A: Because it’s aggressive.
    Q: Does it lack resources?
    A: No. But it’s nationalistic.
    Q: So it wants to invade other nations because it’s nationalistic?
    A: Yes. It attacked Georgia.
    Q: So why didn’t it go all the way and take Tiblisi and the whole country?
    A: Because it was afraid of retaliation by the US, for example sanctions.
    Q: I see, so it’s aggressive and nationalistic but capable of some rudimentary calculation and cost/benefit analysis?
    A: I suppose so, yes.
    Q: Why hasn’t it invaded and taken over all of Ukraine yet, given it’s clear military superiority?
    A: It’s afraid of more retaliation and sanctions.
    Q: So is it still a threat to Ukraine?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Why?
    A: Because it’s aggressive.
    Q: But it already has sanctions against it, and can fully expect even more if it invades. So why would it invade and take over Ukraine?
    A: Because it’s aggressive.
    Q: So it’s not really worried about sanctions?
    A: No, it’s aggressive.
    Q: So why is it waiting? Ukraine is getting resupplied by NATO; now would be a good time to invade, while they’re weak.
    A: Because it’s afraid of more sanctions.
    Q: Ok, I got that. Back in August, when the rebels had the Ukraine military and paramilitary on the run, why did Moscow demand a stop to hostilities? The “rebels” wanted to go all the way to Kiev and were cursing Putin for twisting their arm to go to Minsk. Why would Russia do that?
    A: Because they’re tricky.
    Q: I see, so they’re aggressive and afraid and tricky.
    A: Yes. And also, Russia is a threat to NATO.
    Q: Why?
    A: Because Russia is a nuclear power and they threaten to use nukes all the time.
    Q: Why wold they use nukes on NATO? Isn’t NATO a nuclear club?
    A: Yes, but Russia wants Poland and the Baltics. Because it’s aggressive.
    Q: Really? But aren’t Poland and the Baltics part of NATO, which is a nuclear club – an alliance where 3 members are nuclear powers, bound to protect all other members in case of attack.
    A: Yes, but Russia would use nukes first.
    Q: Actually, Russia does not have a first-strike (pre-emptive attack) policy. But the US does, actually.
    A: Yes, but the Russians are tricky.
    Q: I see. And the US is not tricky?
    A: No, it’s not.
    Q: Doesn’t having all these small nations, surrounding Russia, inside NATO allow them to thumb their noses at Russia (because they know Brother America got their backs) and avoid diplomacy by way of resolving potential disputes.
    A: No. They’re the good guys.
    Q: Will they always be the good guys? What about having all that military hardware available on hand for all times in the future … what if some crazy government gets elected or some kind of accident happens and they look to blame Russia?
    A: No. They’re the good guys.
    Q: So there’s no inherent risks to military build up, etc.?
    A: No. They’re the good guys. And Russia is aggressive. And afraid. And tricky.
    Q: Ok, thanks.

    Reply
    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      Let me help you out there:

      Strawman.

      Strawman.

      Strawman.

      Strawman.

      etc. etc.

      NATO didn’t forcibly expand. Other nations wanted to join NATO. The wisdom of doing so is debatable.

      It is also true that certain small nations bordering Russia tend to overreact to the threat Russia supposedly poses, but if you take into account Transdnistria, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and now Ukraine, you can understand why that is. Russia has been involved in creating numerous frozen conflicts on the basis of “self-determination,” something it has violently suppressed in its own territory.

      It has been my assertion that Russia is not a military threat, and that it only engages in aggression where and when it can. Of course that makes Russians far angrier than accusing their country of aggression.

      There’s also one final word on NATO expansion. With probably one notable exception(Turkey), most NATO countries are functioning democracies with much higher standards of living and greater respect for the human rights of their own citizens. Russia and its allies, on the other hand, are arbitrary and generally treat their citizens like shit. So if we live in this “multipolar world,” which bloc would you prefer to live under?

      Reply
      1. CityZen

        Russia has “created” all these conflicts, really? (It’s aggressive … got it.) Oh, but I see you have a nice little qualifier there: it has been “involved in creating” … hmmm, now that’s rather different isn’t it? Created vs. “involved in creating”. But you really must decide: either Russia is ultimately, entirely responsible for generating all this tension in the post-Soviet space (which is hardly a rational or realistic reading of recent history … last I checked, the ATO was Kiev’s bright idea, etc. etc.) OR Russia is somewhat less than fully responsible, in which case the post-Soviet space happens to be a dangerous neighbourhood that Russia happens to live in (which makes NATO expansion into that region at the very least questionable).

        I love hearing this vision of NATO as this voluntary club of nice guys; it’s really so touching. Of course, in nominal terms, it is voluntary, who would deny that? But it’s simple: there’s no God given right of nations to join the damn thing, that’s an absurd idea, as if joining occurs in a perfect little vacuum with no external effects … as if Ukraine joining is exactly the same thing as Iceland or Barbados joining. This is absurd, but whatever.

        As for the last point: correlation vs. causation.

      2. Big Bill Haywood Post author

        “Russia has “created” all these conflicts, really? (It’s aggressive … got it.) Oh, but I see you have a nice little qualifier there: it has been “involved in creating” … hmmm, now that’s rather different isn’t it? Created vs. “involved in creating”. ”

        Typically semantic bullshit. By your logic, the US isn’t to blame for the overthrow of Allende in Chile. Russia’s involvement in frozen conflicts can be seen as an aggressive move because they have intervened in the sovereign affairs of other countries- something Putin always likes to preach against.

        If the US backed a separatist movement in some other country, do you mean to tell me that you wouldn’t call that aggression?

        “But you really must decide: either Russia is ultimately, entirely responsible for generating all this tension in the post-Soviet space (which is hardly a rational or realistic reading of recent history … last I checked, the ATO was Kiev’s bright idea, etc. etc.) OR Russia is somewhat less than fully responsible, in which case the post-Soviet space happens to be a dangerous neighbourhood that Russia happens to live in (which makes NATO expansion into that region at the very least questionable).”

        False dichotomy, ridden with errors. First of all, Igor Girkin himself took responsibility for the war in East Ukraine. Girkin, Borodai, and several other leaders of that movement are now back in Russia, as they are Russian citizens. It’s clear that these people took over whatever organic movement might have existed in the Donbass.

        As for Kyiv’s response- how is it any different from what Russia did to Chechnya? What were they supposed to do? Say “Okay, violate our sovereignty and take a piece of our country.” Are you aware that it is actually a crime in Russia to even publish talk of referendums for more federalization or separation of regions in Russia?

        “I love hearing this vision of NATO as this voluntary club of nice guys; it’s really so touching. Of course, in nominal terms, it is voluntary, who would deny that? But it’s simple: there’s no God given right of nations to join the damn thing, that’s an absurd idea, as if joining occurs in a perfect little vacuum with no external effects ”

        First, I never said that. What I said is that there were nations who wanted to join. They were neither invaded nor occupied. It matters not whether there is some kind of “right.” One must ask though, why is it countries line up to join the EU and NATO, instead of the Customs Union, the CSTO, etc.?

      3. Big Bill Haywood Post author

        Let me also point out that Russia had a lot of other options of how it could deal with NATO, the EU, etc. In many ways it was in a prime situation under Medvedev between 2008 and 2011. Russia could have used its oil and gas capital to repair infrastructure, boost healthcare, etc. They could have fought corruption, encouraged independent startups, etc.

        But that would mean letting other Russian citizens get a taste of power without having it handed to them by Putin, something that threatens him. So projects continued to be wasted, money kept getting siphoned off, and the country continued to degenerate until such time as now, when Russia no longer has an advantage due to its resources.

        With no ideas and because he is unwilling to let go of power- Putin has given his people a paper tiger, and paid for it with their future.

      4. CityZen

        Well, it’s either “semantics”, or I’m disputing your version of the facts; the difference is between Russia initiating conflicts or getting drawn into them. That is the most basic matters necessary to decide, in conjunction with whether Ukraine is essentially a civil conflict (with international dimensions, as they say) or essentially an inter-national conflict. You tend to frame your arguments based on the latter; I happen to think the facts indicate the former. I understand your position, I just disagree with it. (The very fact that you point to Girkin as an authority on events in the early stages of the conflict

        Lastly, your rhetorical strategy is quite funny: you’re one of those guys who once read a list of “argumentation fallacies” somewhere, and now think everyone else’s thinking is “bullshit” and can’t possibly be based on well reasoned or well informed premises but mist instead fall into one or another category in a list of “morons” you’ve come up with. So, you got yourself a blog to let everyone know how right you are. Good on ya mate.

      5. Big Bill Haywood Post author

        I’m sorry was there supposed to be a coherent argument in there somewhere?

        “Well, it’s either “semantics”, or I’m disputing your version of the facts; the difference is between Russia initiating conflicts or getting drawn into them.”

        Russia wasn’t “drawn” into any of these conflicts, with maybe the exception of Nagorno-Karabakh where it sort of plays both sides from time to time.

        As for Russian involvement in Ukraine, this is something denied only by the Russian government at its highest levels.

        “Lastly, your rhetorical strategy is quite funny: you’re one of those guys who once read a list of “argumentation fallacies” somewhere, ”

        Actually I’m the last person to resort to that. If a fallacy fits, wear it.

        Bullshit doesn’t refer to people’s thinking either. It refers to deliberate attempts to obscure truth and create phony narratives, whether they be positive or negative about Russia(in the case of this blog).

      6. CityZen

        Last comment from me: you don’t seem to have noticed that everything I say is perfectly compatible with also attributing a level of blame, even a significant level of blame, on Russia for these various conflicts. What I don’t accept is that Russia is exclusively to blame, simply because the facts don’t support this and arguing to that effect means engaging in all kinds of rhetorical excesses (e.g., Russia is inherently aggressive, etc.) On the other hand, despite some of your objections to people like Lucas (etc.), your entire output is ultimately oriented in one direction: “blame Russia”. What are the facts? It doesn’t really matter: chances are good Russia did it.

        Yes, balance for the sake of balance is bad strategy; but knowing this doesn’t turn lack of balance into good strategy.

        Sorry but I don’t think I’ll be returning to this blog.

      7. CityZen

        Oh, incidentally, you would do well not to assume you’re to only well travelled, multi-lingual person you’ve met here, who hence has a monopoly on coherent argument. This might make you an exception as an American, but many others among us speak more than one language and have lived in more than one place.

      8. CityZen

        Oh, and I see you just seriously compared the ATO to Russia’s reaction in Chechnya, seriously. Well, for one, it took 3 years for Russia to intervene; it took Kiev 10 minutes.

        You have so many facts, you don’t quite know what to do with them.

    2. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      “Q: Does it lack resources?
      A: No. But it’s nationalistic.”

      Here’s a particularly good example of a ridiculous strawman. Nobody in power is saying this. Russia this year annexed part of a sovereign country, after years of blubbering about national sovereignty. Nationalism has nothing to do with it.

      Nationalism in Russia is merely a government propaganda technique. In reality, you could not find a less nationalistic nation, as its society is highly atomized and the gap between the elite and the majority of people is ridiculously wide.

      Reply
    3. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      People like you also ignore one of the most important silver linings of NATO. In the aftermath of the collapse of Great powers in 1917-1918, Eastern Europe was a hotbed of nationalism and chaos reigned until about 1922 with the Treaty of Riga and the establishment of the USSR. As we saw in 1989 onward, nationalism is still a major problem in the region.

      But now that countries have joined or are joining NATO, there are numerous old conflicts which can now no longer be reopened. Serbia lost Kosovo, but now it will never lose Vojvodina or the Sandzak. Hungary and Slovakia can’t attack each other. If some delusional idiot becomes president of Poland, they can’t possibly imagine retaking Vilnius, parts of Belarus, or Ukraine- the alliance simply wouldn’t allow it because everyone would be sucked in. Eastern Europe is full of petty rivalries and “I don’t care if my cow is dead so long as my neighbor’s cow dies too” logic- but as they join or associate with NATO and the EU, the ability to turn those into violent, military conflicts, recedes and in some cases- disappears.

      Now obviously you could argue about the wasteful construction of bases or the idiotic demand that all members spend 2% of the GDP on military obligations, but the idea that NATO is on some kind of march to Barbarossa is nothing but a Russian fantasy.

      Like so many other examples, Russia’s paranoid delusion leads it to engage in behavior which then fulfills its own prophesy.

      Reply
      1. CityZen

        “But now that countries have joined or are joining NATO, there are numerous old conflicts which can now no longer be reopened.” … That is exceptionally, blindingly … galactically naive.

      2. CityZen

        People tend to focus on NATO Article 5, but many don’t seem to have noticed that after Serbia and Libya and (arguably, given the sheer length and mismanagement of the conflict) Afghanistan (and earlier, Cyprus), NATO has almost entirely given up on one of it’s most important founding principles, namely Article 1 … no one talks about that anymore. Sikorski will drone on about Article 5 obligations, but I haven’t heard him (or his wife) ever mention Article 1, ever.

        Your assumption that NATO is inherently peaceful, both internally and externally, is just that … an assumption based on certain status quo conditions holding indefinitely. And I don’t know, I’ll pull some “wild” examples out of my ass here, but just suppose the West experiences another, or even worse, shock as it did in 2007/8, and throw in some Islamic nutbar getting in a lucky shot somewhere with mass casualties … suddenly, moods sour considerably. So people look around and notice they’ve got this thing called NATO, and think: hey, missions!

        I read your FAQ and blog intro, and thought: wow, this looks very interesting. I really love the idea of “no BS”, not catering to either “side” in this “debate”, etc. etc. And then I actually started reading though the blogs … you drone on and on and on about how you’re surrounded by nationalistic bumpkins, but you seem to have entirely forgotten that you left a place full of the same. Your core fallacy is assuming rationality exists somewhere other than where you are (in your case, Russia); the very same fallacy you attribute to those seemingly pro-Russian, anti-US-hegemony type people outside of Russia … they too think there’s more rationality in places other than they happen to be.

        But let me guess: you’re right, and they’re wrong. Ok, got it.

      3. Big Bill Haywood Post author

        “Your assumption that NATO is inherently peaceful, both internally and externally, is just that … an assumption based on certain status quo conditions holding indefinitely.”

        Never said that. I simply pointed out that the existence of NATO keeps several countries from attacking each other or getting into military adventures unilaterally. Are you seriously expecting Greece to attack Turkey, or Hungary and Slovakia to go at it any time soon?

        “but you seem to have entirely forgotten that you left a place full of the same. ”

        I haven’t forgotten anything- in fact I make this comparison all the time. Take the kind of flag-waving patriotism around the beginning of the Iraq war. Now imagine that those people control the entire media, every single major outlet is basically Fox News. Imagine that people get attacked and beaten for blogging against the war. Anti-war groups are labeled “foreign agents.” President Bush announces his third term, after swapping with Cheney.

        I’m terribly sorry if you have no experience here, but there is a quantitative and qualitative difference in the mentality of jingoism in both countries. One of the most important differences, however, is that here that kind of attitude has the backing of a state which is limited by nothing.

        “Your core fallacy is assuming rationality exists somewhere other than where you are (in your case, Russia);”

        I suppose that would be a fallacy, were I making that assumption. I’ve traveled much of the Eastern hemisphere and am familiar with many diverse cultures. Russians are not unique in some ways, but then again, I live here. Also it is true that most people are probably irrational. What is unique here, however, is that the government, schools, and media actually openly and enthusiastically work against any semblance of rationality.

        Believe me- When I return to the States some day, I’ll again take up the fight against our domestic idiots.

      4. Asehpe

        CityZen, I don’t understand. So your only argument for disliking the comparison of Ukraine’s ATO to Russia’s Chechen war is that Russia waited three years? I.e., all the other things are equal — locals don’t have the right to secede, excessive force is being used, with disregard for the costs on local civilians, etc.? If so, how can you possibly justify dismissing the comparison if the basic difference is “Russia waited longer”? (Besides, the economical conditions at the time explain the waiting quite well… Russia certainly wouldn’t wait three years now if one of its federal subjects suddenly declared independence, don’t you think?…)

    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      So you’re now going to claim that Russia fans don’t claim that Russia is somehow standing up to NATO/US/Anglo-American/Anglo-American-Zionist/neo-liberal/insert your choice here/etc. hegemony?

      I’m basing these questions off of things I have seen and heard for years, both from inside and outside of Russia. Indeed, I myself used to make arguments based on this “multi-polar”-style argument. I’ve yet to hear any staunch Russia defenders make arguments in favor of Russia without at some point bringing up the idea that Russia is some kind of a counterweight to some sort of hegemony or imperialistic ambition.

      By contrast, I have yet to see people making arguments that Russia is aggressive because it is nationalist. The fear comes from actions taken by Russia going back to the 90’s resulting in frozen conflicts. Coupled with what Russia is doing today.

      I don’t know if you’ve been following the news, but since March Russia’s president and many of its intellectuals have been openly claiming the right to conquer territory that used to belong to the Russian empire(something they actually did at the time), even mentioning countries like Poland or Finland in the same discussions. Personally I know that Putin doesn’t have the balls to mess with any NATO country, but when you look at what his military has been doing(in fact today they just had sudden exercises in Kaliningrad) and what he has been saying, how could you be surprised?

      Putin and co. deliberately posture and try to show the world how powerful they are militarily, then they whine when people see that as aggressive. This is insane.

      Reply
  2. Bandersnatch

    CityZen… what precisely is your point? Outline exactly what you dispute. Are there any facts out of place? What exactly has been prevaricated? Are you attempting to claim Russia is a victim of the political maneuvers of NATO? What IS she responsible for? Oh and…what IS he opposing exactly? From where I’m standing you’re just carping.

    Reply
  3. Big Bill Haywoodg

    “Well, for one, it took 3 years for Russia to intervene; it took Kiev 10 minutes.”

    LOL WUT? What exactly is this based on? Russia wasn’t in the best shape to mount military campaigns after 1991. In 1993 they were too busy gunning down their own citizens in Moscow, remember?

    “Oh, incidentally, you would do well not to assume you’re to only well travelled, multi-lingual person you’ve met here, who hence has a monopoly on coherent argument. ”

    You haven’t really made much of a coherent argument here. It’s either inaccurate comparisons or strawmen, such as the following:

    “What I don’t accept is that Russia is exclusively to blame, simply because the facts don’t support this and arguing to that effect means engaging in all kinds of rhetorical excesses (e.g., Russia is inherently aggressive, etc.)”

    I’ve never made such an argument on this blog, and had you spent more time reading it you would know this. See, when I call something a strawman I explain why.

    Reply

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