What Putin Knows
Could Putin ever be trusted as an ally in the jihad war?
Here are some thoughts.
1) Putin can be trusted to act in his own self-interest. If we elect a patriotic American next year (i.e., never a Democrat), a win-win arrangement might be achieved with Russia. Europe and the democratic nations of Asia would follow.
2) Putin was trained as a KGB agent and a fast-rising career star before the Soviet Empire fell apart. He specialized in studying and infiltrating the West, particularly (West) Germany. He is personally sophisticated, speaks fluent German, and understands Europe and the Middle East as well as any national leader today.
In his words and public actions Putin presents as a classical Russian nationalist leader, using the Russian Orthodox Church as his main ideological support. What the Communist Party used to do for the Kremlin --- creating domestic direction and credibility --- the Patriarch of Moscow is now doing. If you doubt that, please check the web.
It is always possible that Putin is faking it, but he is a Russian nationalist, and those people have always allied with the Orthodox Church.
Eurosocialists like Obama will never understand it, but Russians know that Putin’s strong support for the Church -- building hundreds of new churches and monasteries -- creates deep credibility among the Russian people. As far as ordinary Russians are concerned, whether they are atheists or not, Putin’s support of the Church puts him on their side.
After the fall of the Communist delusion, the Russian Church and the state know they must work together. Putin believes that the Soviet Union was a noble experiment that failed, and he experienced the breakdown personally. That was traumatic period, with his own career at risk for years. Putin does not believe in Marxism, except as a way to sucker the Obamas of this world. He learns from the disasters of the past.
3) Putin can’t be trusted any more than any other politician, but he does have a bottom line as a nationalist. He has permanent interests. The United States and the confused and scattered leaders of Europe can appeal to his national and personal interests. This is not sentimental or even ideological, like the Soviet Union. It’s bottom line self-interest.
4) Russia is still in enormous trouble. The Russian economy is now crony capitalist, but systems like that tend to freeze, like the European Union. The apparent prosperity of Moscow and St. Petersburg is a mile wide and an inch deep. It drops off as soon as you travel away from the major cities. Male life expectancy in Russia is still a little over fifty years, because of endemic alcohol addiction. This is still a nation in despair, and Putin knows it in his bones.
Oil revenues are bound to decline as shale extraction spreads around the world. The Saudis are waging price warfare against other producers, but that is only a stopgap measure. Fracking is rellatively cheap, enormously profitable, and creates a safety margin that the world hasn’t had since the rise of OPEC. Maybe in the U.S. environmentalists will keep shouting about nonexistent “end of oil” scarcities, because their incomes and fantasy life are at stake. But China, India, and Russia are laughing at them, hoping we will kill our own production capacity to give them the big edge.
Russia is dependent on oil revenue right now, but the global market will decline. Putin is therefore stuck with a declining asset.
The West can help Putin for the same reasons we aided Stalin – as a very powerful and ruthless ally. Without Stalin’s tank regiments, the Western Allies would have had a hard time beating Hitler.
Putin has killed jihadis as long as he has been in power. He understands Muslim imperialism better than any other national leader today. That should be embarrassing for the West, but it’s true.
5) As we have just seen in Syria, Putin has done a remarkable job in building up his military. A lot of that is for show. But you can’t fake high-tech jet fighters, computer programmers, and tanks. They either work or they don’t. We do not know how many there are, but we know that the old Soviet military command economy is working, at a big cost to public prosperity. Putin could do Sputnik again, but he can’t make the consumer economy thrive. And his resources are dwindling, which is why he needs to become militarily and politically powerful again.
6) The United States and the West have the wealth to save the Russian economy, and to integrate it into world commerce, so that Putin’s self-interest will coincide with ours. That is the basis of a peaceful world. Given our pathetically weak political leadership, we need leaders with the vision and executive capacity to build an entente with Russia and China.
7) The most dangerous challenge for the future is exactly what Dick Cheney keeps telling us: it’s suicidal crazies with nukes. If the West still doesn’t get that, we’re doomed.
But a broken West is not in the interest of Russia or China.
A rising bunch of delusional nuclear caliphates in Persia, Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan is the worst case for world peace and prosperity.
Putin knows this and Obama doesn’t.
The Europeans are apparently beginning to get it.
That is the do-or-die question for the next election.