Imperial Hubris

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.

8 thoughts on “Imperial Hubris

  1. Aleks

    I seriously hope you’re right about this. To me it seems like Putin appears in any power vacuum that exists, and starts shit up there.

    Leaders of western powers were “gravely concerned” with the annexation of Crimea, with invasion of Ukraine. And they are just as “gravely concerned” with Putin’s bombings of Syrians. As far as walking the walk, nothing happens. Nobody wants to stop the bully from invading tiny helpless states. Nobody inside Russia can change this either. What is the next logical step for Putin? After his victorious bombings of NOT ISIS in Syria, will he liberate some other, near-Russian state from fascists, while literally cannibalizing his own people?

    Today the paper Svenska Dagbladet published info on that some sort of submarine was inside the Stockholm archipelago, and some sort of ground operation was apparently conducted from it. Neither Sweden or Finland are in NATO. Both Sweden and Finland, just like Ukraine were partners with other western forces in Afghanistan. Did it help Ukraine, when they got invaded? No, it did not. Everybody said “this is Russia’s back yard, we’re gravely concerned, but we won’t do anything”. Nothing will be done about Syria too. The talks that Russia and USA hold now about not shooting each other’s planes in Syria, dividing it up into areas of interest, did that not happen some 80 years ago, between two other nations?

    Will Russia move further, grab land from other countries? It might. Belarus is in a strange position now. Russia wants an airforce base there. And what happens if Belarus has it’s own little Maidan all of a sudden, with or without said base? Resistance to Lukashenko is coming, especially in these pre-election times, when people all of a sudden get more interested in politics than usual.

    Russia was not expected to make a move on Crimea, nor was it expected to inject military force into Donbas. Yet it did. And it did go to war in Syria, while everyone else pretended that it didn’t happen.

    I am beyond gravely concerned right now.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I too am concerned about Belarus in particular, but we must remember that Putin is not exactly the equivalent of a bully, since a bully relies on his own strength. Putin relies on a system, one which is already hopelessly corrupt and unstable.

      1. Aleks

        Now I’m not the one to claim that I can read Vlad’s thoughts, but what if he really thinks that he can do it? That he has the system in working order, and that things will go “ok”? Can we really rule this out?

  2. Pingback: Russia Syria - PubliNews

  3. TRex

    Russia under Putin is heading rapidly towards a shooting war with the west. The mindless aggression and strategy of sabotageing the existing order to take advantage of the resulting chaos is a recipe for war.

  4. Ampersand

    “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?”

    Scale of the intervention in Syria isn’t really comparable to the World War I though is it? One featured the total mobilisation of virtually the entire country; the other probably won’t affect that many people outside of the military.


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