Deconstructing Putin 644

I listened live to Putin’s speech yesterday with great interest.  Here is my own analysis, for what it is worth.

Putin was strongest in his accusations of western hypocrisy.  His ironic welcoming of the West having suddenly discovered the concept of international law was very well done.  His analysis of the might is right approach the West had previously adopted, and their contempt of the UN over Iraq and Afghanistan, was spot on. Putin also was absolutely right in describing the Kosovo situation as “highly analogous” to the situation in Crimea. That is indeed true, and attempts by the West – including the Guardian – to argue the cases are different are pathetic exercises in special pleading.

The problem is that Putin blithely ignored the enormous logical inconsistency in his argument.  He stated that the Crimean and Kosovo cases were highly analogous, but then used that to justify Russia’s action in Crimea, despite the fact that Russia has always maintained the NATO Kosovo intervention was illegal(and still refuses to recognize Kosovo).  In fact of course Russia was right over Kosovo, and thus is wrong over Crimea.

I was very interested that Putin made distinct reference to the appalling crimes against the Tartars in the 1930’s, but also to the terrible suffering of Ukrainians in that period.  His references were not detailed but their meaning was clear.  I was surprised because under Putin’s rule there has been a great deal of rehabilitation of Stalin.  Archives that were opened under glasnost have frozen over again, and history in Russian schools now portrays Stalin’s foreign policy achievement much more than his crimes (and it is now again  possible to complete your Russian school education with no knowledge the Stalin-Hitler pact ever happened).  So this was both surprising and positive.  Designed to be positive was his assurance that Crimea will be trilingual.  We will see what happens; Putin’s Russia is in fact not tolerant of its ethnic populations in majority Russian areas, and in fact contains a great many more far right thugs than Ukraine –  probably about the same  percentage of the population.

The 97% referendum figure is simply unbelievable to any reasonable person and is straight out of the Soviet playbook – it was strange to see Putin going in and out of modern media friendly mode and his audience, with their Soviet en brosse haircuts and synchronized clapping – obviously liked the Soviet bits best.

The attempt to downplay Russia’s diplomatic isolation was also a bit strange.  He thanked China, though China had very pointedly failed to support Russian in the Security Council.  When you are forced to thank people for abstaining, you are not in a strong position diplomatically.  He also thanked India, which is peculiar, because the Indian PM yesterday put out a press release saying Putin had called him, but the had urged Putin to engage diplomatically with the interim government in Kiev, which certainly would not be welcome to Putin.  I concluded that Putin was merely trying to tell his domestic audience Russia has support, even when it does not.

But what I find really strange is that the parts of the speech I found most interesting have not drawn any media comment I can see.  Putin plainly said that in his discussions with Kuchma on the boundaries of Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they hadn’t wanted to open any dispute with what they expected to be a friendly neighbor, and that therefore the boundaries of Ukraine had never been finally demarcated.  He said twice the boundaries had not been demarcated.  That seemed to indicate a very general threat to Eastern Ukraine. He also spoke of the common heritage of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in a way that indicated that he did not accept that Ukraine might choose a political future away from Russia.

Secondly, he said that on the day the Soviet Union broke up, Russians in many places had “woken up to find themselves in a foreign country.” Again from the context in which he said it, this referred not just to Crimea, and not just even to the rest of Ukraine, but to Russian nationals all over the Former Soviet Union.  I would be worrying a lot about this part of the speech if I was Kazakh, to give just one example.  Putin seemed to be outlining a clear agenda to bring Russian speaking areas of CIS countries back in to Mother Russia – indeed, I see no other possible interpretation of his actions in Georgia and Ukraine.

I think that we should start listening much more carefully to what he says. I also think that the weakness of the EU’s response to events gives Putin a very dangerous encouragement to pursue further aggrandizement.  I posted a few days ago:

The EU I expect to do nothing.  Sanctions will target a few individuals who are not too close to Putin and don’t keep too many of their interests in the West.  I don’t think Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovic need lose too much sleep, that Harrods need worry or that we will see any flats seized at One Hyde Park.  (It is among my dearest wishes one day to see One Hyde Park given out for council housing.)  Neither do I expect to see the United States do anything effective; its levers are limited.

The truth is of course that the global political elite are in the pockets of the global financial elite, and while ordinary Russians are still desperately poor, the money the oligarchs rip out of Russia’s backward commodity exporting economy is parceled around the world financial system in ways that make it impossible for the western political classes to do anything.  Whose funds would the hedge fund managers look after?  Whose yacht could Mandelson and Osborne holiday on?

Personally I should like to see a complete financial freeze on the entire Russian oligarchy.  The knock on effects would only hurt a few bankers, and city types and those who depend on them (cocaine dealers, lap dancers, Porsche dealers, illegal domestic servants).  Sadly we shan’t see anything happen. They won’t let Eton go bust.


644 thoughts on “Deconstructing Putin

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  • Paul Barbara

    @ John Goss: No sweat; I most assuredly did not misunderstand you; I was re-inforceing your reply, and giving it a bump!
    I’m sure we are not worried about being mis-classified as ‘Conspiracy Theorists’; I suppose they would call the ‘Gulf of Tonkin’ or the murderous Israeli attack upon the USS Liberty ‘Conspiracy Theories’, never mind ‘Operation Northwoods’! Hmmmm, Lavon Affair?

  • John Goss

    Thanks for the bump Paul Barbara. And thanks for the clarification A Node regarding the trillions! I wasn’t sure relying on memory which is not as good as it once was.

  • Macky

    Resident Dissident; “Making more straw men again”

    No straw men at all; you have self-confessed to having double standards; & I offered you a chance to prove that you have previously condemned Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights or Turkey’s invasion & occupation of the northern Cyprus, in any way at all, nevermind the frenzy way you are condemning Russia over the Crimea, and you have pointedly failed to do so.

    “My concerns about the multiple abuses inflicted by Putin on the ordinary Russian people by Putin and his oligarch friends”

    Does your touching concern for “the ordinary Russian people”, mean that you also advocate some “humanitarian bombing”, as this seems to be the outcome iro your concern for the ordinary Syrian people.

    “But most definitely not when it comes to Russia – hence the gross hypocrisy”


    “Strange you don’t apply this principle to the Ukraine”

    ?? Perhaps you have answer yourself with “Also sovereign rights do not override human rights or treaty obligations”

    “I have posted regularly on what is happening in Russia – you chose to ignore what I have to say”

    No, I have challenged it mostly, like I’m doing now.

    “But that is not an excuse to extend the treatment to all NGOs as I have pointed out – many of those targeted have no links to the US or political causes”

    Ok, examples please.

    “the comment was clearly directed at the article on spiked on-line not the second blog that you linked to”

    I indeed stand corrected, and acknowledge that I thought the quote come from the latest article I linked to; anyhow the guy you labelled as having “precious little knowledge about Russia”, not only has written many books around the themes of his Political Sociology speciality, but also has his own Site with an extensive list of published articles, some with quite interesting subject headings;

    “When are you going to write something of substance on Russia rather than just parroting the party line and engaging in disruptive trolling against those who don’t share your view”

    The day I resort to sock-puppeting is the day you had claim I engage in trolling, until then, stop being the deceiving hypocrite.

  • Paul Barbara

    The West’s threatened financial sanctions have really got poor Putin tearing his hair out. Or maybe not, perhaps?
    ‘Russia Announces Decoupling Trade From Dollar’:

    Even more reason for the UK to switch to the good ‘ole
    ‘Bradbury Pound’! No wonder so many Banksters are dying in one way or another – suicides, ‘suicidings’, and murder.
    Anyone want to venture some start-up capital for a wheelbarrow factory? Maybe I should try Alan Sugar.

  • Evgueni

    From the horse’s mouth: Putin considers the Ukrainians and the Russians to be one people, inseparable etc. This rings a bell, I think there was another chap with similar ideas in the 1930s (about the German people). Putin forgot to ask the Ukrainians if they agree. According to him, Western Ukrainians have an inferiority complex (due to not having enjoyed 300 years of Moscow rule). But it is strange, I am a Southern Ukrainian with family from the South and East of Ukraine and yet I seem to have the same faulty notions about Ukrainians being emphatically not the same as Russians. I share these faulty notions with my friends from Odessa.

    One-dimensional mad lefties take note (only joking, I have no illusions about your cognitive abilities).

    The reference in Ukrainian is more comprehensive than the only English language one I have turned up (too early, probably). Google translate is barely comprehensible.,+Russians+%27Same+People%27

  • Macky

    Despite Evgueni’s predictable resort to Godwin’s Law, the most important part of the Putin Q&A session, was the following;

    Q: MARIA SITTEL: More from anxious pensioners. “If the West refuses to purchase gas from Russia, how will that affect people’s well-being, especially that of pensioners?” – Lyudmila Budarina, Tambov Region.

    A: VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have to say that oil and gas revenues make up a large part of the Russian budget revenue. This is a serious component for us in addressing economic development, budget funding for our development programmes and, of course, and meeting of our social commitments to our citizens.

    I’ll tell you what. I am not sure that I’ll get the figures right, but, if my memory serves me correctly, the bulk of oil and gas revenue comes not from gas but from oil. In terms of the dollar equivalent, our oil revenues last year amounted to $191-194 billion and gas revenues to about $28 billion. See the difference? 191 from oil and 28 from gas.

    Oil is sold on world markets. Is there any way to do us harm? One may try. But what would be the result for those who would attempt to do it? First of all, how would this be done? Of all the countries in the world, only Saudi Arabia has the real potential to increase production and thus bring down world prices. Saudi Arabia’s budget assumes a price of $85-$90 per thousand cubic metres.

    Q: KIRILL KLEYMENOV: President Obama has already visited them.

    A: VLADIMIR PUTIN: I’m sorry, I meant oil, not gas. The budget assumes a price of $85-$90 per barrel, and our budget, I think, $90. So, if one goes below $85, Saudi Arabia will be on the losing end and have problems. For us a drop from $90 to $85 is not critical. That is first.

    Second, we are on very good terms with Saudi Arabia. We may, for example, differ in terms of our views on Syria, but we practically have identical positions on the development of the situation in Egypt. There are many other things where we see eye-to-eye.

    I have great respect for the custodian of the two Muslim shrines, the King of Saudi Arabia. He is a very clever and balanced man. I don’t think that our Saudi friends would make any abrupt changes to harm themselves and the Russian economy.

    Furthermore, they are members of OPEC, where we have many supporters. It is not that they have sympathy for us, but that they have their own economic interests and sharply reducing production – which can only be done in a manner agreed upon within OPEC – is a fairly complicated business.

    Finally, in the United States, which is developing shale gas and shale oil production, production costs are very high. These are expensive projects. If world prices tumble, these projects may turn out to be unprofitable, loss-making and the nascent industry may simply die.
    And one last point. Oil is priced and traded in the world in dollars. If prices fall, demand for dollars will plummet and the dollar will start losing its significance as a world currency. There are very many factors involved. The wish to bite us is there, but the opportunities are limited. That said, some damage can be caused.

    Now about gas. We sell gas by pipeline (most of our sales are by pipeline) mainly to the European countries that depend on Russian supplies to cover about 30-35, 34 percent of their needs. Can they stop buying Russian gas altogether? I don’t think that this is possible.

    Some of our neighbours, very good neighbours with which we have very sound relations, such as, for example, Finland…Finland gets 90 percent of its gas from Russia. Some countries that used to be called People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe depend on Russian gas if not for 90 percent, then for 60, 50 or 70 percent of their needs.

    Can supplies be stopped altogether? I think that this is totally unrealistic. But one can do this at one’s own cost, by hurting oneself. However, I cannot imagine such a situation. Therefore, of course, everyone is keen on diversifying their sources of supplies. Europe is talking about greater independence from Russia as a supplier, and similarly we are beginning to talk and act to become less dependent on our consumers.

    However, so far, there is a measure of balance between consumers and suppliers. The only problem is transit countries. And the most dangerous part, of course, is transit via Ukraine with which we have tremendous difficulties in agreeing on energy problems. But I hope that we will be able to bring things back to normal, considering the contracts that have been signed and are functioning.

  • Ruben Rosenthal

    Mr. Murray
    Could please elaborate your comment that: “…..Russia has always maintained the NATO Kosovo intervention was illegal(and still refuses to recognize Kosovo). In fact of course Russia was right over Kosovo, and thus is wrong over Crimea.”

    Self determination was the common pledge of both albanian kosovars and russian crimeans. However there was an urge then for some sort of external interventian in Kosovo due to widespread reports of oppression and killings of the ethnic albanians. Were there other quick options to take then to avoid the continuation of massacres, like we or not NATO intervention? Of course there has been the usual western hipocrisy as just few years earlier in 1994, outside Europe, Hutus began slaughtering the Tutsis in Rwanda, the West did nothing about it, and hundreds of thousands Tutsis died.

  • Macky

    Ruben Rosenthal; “However there was an urge then for some sort of external interventian in Kosovo due to widespread reports of oppression and killings of the ethnic albanians. Were there other quick options to take then to avoid the continuation of massacres, like we or not NATO intervention?”

    I think you will find that it was really only after the NATO bombs starting falling, that the massacres started to happen, here’s an article that give details of two highly recommended books, that you give you an accurate understanding of what happened iro this conflict;

  • Macky

    Resident Dissident; “Garbage – please stop your feeble attempts at rewriting history”

    You would very much like it to be “garbage” & “rewriting history”, but it’s the “official narrative” of the illegal NATO attack on Serbia, that you & your fellow cruise-missile “Humanitarians” believe in, as if it was the gospel truth , that is the real garbage & an obscene rewriting of history.

    Exactly like the situation in Syria today, Western backed, supplied, and even transported, Islamic terrorists, joined in a civil war that had been already been instigated by the West, by encouraging the secession, & premature recognition, of Slovenia and Croatia; both Croats & Bosnian Muslims had launched repeated terrorist attacks, including massacres long before even your Wiki account even starts, for example September, 1991, when some 120 Serbs in the town of Gospic were abducted and massacred, or the 1995 “Operation Storm” in which hundreds of Serb civilians were killed; for sure the MSM made sure that the name Arkan is now well known, how many people know about the names Ceku, or Nasir Oric ?

    I did not state that no massacres occurred before the NATO attacked, because a civil war had already stated, but my point was that the NATO made an already bad situation, infinitely worse, as this is what lead directly firstly to bitter Serb reprisals, then to massive ethnic cleansing by all sides. The truth of this is documented in various studies, as in the two books reference in my previous link; the narrative that the NATO attack was right & just is based on the biased rewriting of history that cast the Serbs as Nazis, and the other sides as victims, whereas non-partisan people who were there & witnessed the facts that our MSM ignored or distorted, tell us the polar opposite, ie the truth;

    (Bonus link for your enlightenment;

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