Friday, March 14, 2014

Putin, just another Krushchev?

I wrote earlier that I could understand, at least a little, Putin's thinking in Ukraine - he wants the old USSR border countries under his control as a military protective border zone, and he sees himself as an important historical figure setting the course of history between east and west.  

But really?  Didn't the collapse of the USSR mean anything to him?  If we were to observe just Putin we would think that authoritarian rule is an intrinsic part of Russia.  Following in the footsteps of the old USSR he is closing down the free press, imprisoning and killing political opponents, and invading neighboring countries.  I guess he misses the good old Cold War where Russia, or more importantly Russia's leader, was really, really important.

The idea when the Soviet communist empire collapsed was that the world was no longer under the threat of crushing totalitarian Communist tyranny.  So, now, Putin wants the world to be under the the threat of crushing Putinist tyranny.

I just finished the book "Ike's Bluff", a history of Eisenhower's foreign policy in the '50s.  It was clear that his Russian adversary, Krushchev, was a weak man in charge of a weak country who used bullying and threats to dominate.  All Krushchev really had was nukes and a lot of military, but the rest of his empire was unsound and weak.  Indeed, Krushchev did everything he could to keep scrutiny out of the USSR because the weakness of his hand would be exposed.  

I think it is much the same for Putin.  He is a weak man ruling a weak country who has to strut around with his shirt off and frighten people.  He doesn't want anyone to look behind the curtain to see how vulnerable and disfunctional Russia is.  

I've got an idea.  Why doesn't Putin decide to live in peaceful harmony with his neighbors?  Then he wouldn't have to assert control over the former USSR border countries as protection from attack.  

And who knows?  That would make him a really important historical figure.