Nobody should be surprised that Putin has decided to go full-on neocon. It didn’t take me much time in Russia to realize that Putin’s alleged opposition to the arrogance and military bullying of the Bush regime wasn’t really based on any concern for national sovereignty, something undeniable by 2014, nor was it based on any principled opposition to imperialism and militarism. Putin and his fans, fair-weather or otherwise, were angry that the US was able to engage in such treachery while they were not. We have seen how any criticism of militarism, war, or imperialism flies right out the window when it’s happening under the tricolor.
Back in the days of the Iraq insurgency, many of us who opposed it believed it would lead to some sort of collapse- the empire would stretch itself too thin, sacrificing living standards on the home front to sustain a never-ending war. I remember people predicting that Bush would invade Iran after reelection in 2004. Some predictions were even more alarmist, saying that Bush would launch an invasion of Iran in 2004 so that he could call off the elections. Yeah, that was a negatory on both of those predictions, but there is some truth to the idea that the wars cost America big time not simply in money, but in living standards.
Of course America had a lot longer to fall, and while there are grave concerns facing American workers today, on paper at least, the economy is growing. Not so in Russia. At no time has Russia’s post-Soviet economy seriously rivaled that of the US, nor of most European countries. Even some former Soviet republics and Eastern Bloc nations can boast higher living standards than Russia or at least most Russians,and inflows of Russian immigrants testify to that. Even if things are roughly the same on an economic level, the greater degree of freedom seems to seal the deal.
This is why Putin’s latest military adventure is so insane. Russian military spending is out of control and what gains it can possibly obtain cannot possibly make up for this. The inferiority complex and obsession over the idea of being a superpower are increasingly driving the little president to punch above his weight, particularly as the Russian economy continues to decline, reversing what gains Putin could (somewhat spuriously) claim in the mid-2000’s. While it appears that the Kremlin is putting its war in Ukraine on hold for the moment, it will still have to pay to prop up its pseudo-states in the Donbas, just as it pays to prop up Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia.
It was speculated that Putin’s plan was to set up the possibility of a “reset” at the recent UNGA gathering, but this is unlikely. Russia most likely isn’t able to really take the fight to ISIS in any decisive way, at least with the resources they have in country now. At best they can prop-up Assad and perhaps prevent a bloody end for him and his family, but this doesn’t really help Putin that much. At best he’ll gain some PR points at home with the vatniks, but Russian history shows that the population does not in fact endure indefinitely for the sake of its leaders. Go back in time to 1920 and ask Nicholas II if you don’t believe me. Oh wait, even if you could travel back in time to that year, you wouldn’t be able to ask Tsar Nicky because he was dead. Not so smart now, are you, time traveler?
Once again the supposedly brilliant strategist who always outfoxes the West has gone and stuck his dick in an anthill for what appear to be, at best, really naive motives. Russia may soon go from steady decline into free fall. That’s what happens when you write checks your army and economy can’t cash.