Out of the blue

‘It’s not a question of whether he [Putin] will attack, but where.’ So writes Mikheil Saakashvili on the website of Foreign Policy magazine this Friday. According to the tie-chewing former president of Georgia,

In Crimea, eastern Ukraine, South Ossetia, or anywhere else Putin considers Russia’s backyard, territorial gain has never been an end in itself. Putin’s goal today is the same as when he invaded my country in 2008: to tighten his grip on the levers of power in Russia. Whenever Putin’s domestic popularity dips, he either escalates an ongoing conflict or launches a new offensive.

Saaskashvili doesn’t mention his own responsibility for the 2008 Russo-Georgian War or the fact that Putin wasn’t even president of the Russian Federation at the time. He also doesn’t mention that Russia’s other recent military ‘adventures’ didn’t just come out of the blue. The Georgian war came after years of civil conflict in South Ossetia; the war in Donbass after a violent revolution/coup in Kiev; the Russian military campaign in Syria after four years of civil war in that country. In no instance, did Russian troops just appear out of nowhere in a country which was otherwise completely stable. But that is what Saakashvili would have us believe Putin is now planning.

For Putin’s poll numbers are falling. It’s true that they’re still at a level which would cause just about any Western leader to jump up and down with joy, but they’re down from what they were a couple of years ago. And, if you follow Saaskashvili’s thesis, that means that the Russian president will looking for something to divert his people from their domestic travails. And what better than a short, victorious war? For as Saakashvili says, ‘Putin is both predictable and logical: Invading a weaker neighbor delivers a cheaper and faster ratings boost than, say, improving Russia’s dystopian health care system.’

Again, let’s put aside the unfortunate fact that Putin has responded to his recent decline in popularity by announcing reductions in defence spending and a renewed focus on domestic policies, such as health care and infrastructure. Let’s assume our ex-Georgian friend is right. There’s still a problem. Who could Putin invade next? Attacking a NATO member would be too dangerous, says Saakashvili. Putin won’t do that. Therefore, he concludes, ‘Russia’s most likely target in the near future is either Finland or Sweden.’ He continues:

I do not expect Russian tanks to roll into Helsinki or Stockholm unopposed. But it would be relatively simple for Moscow to execute a land grab in a remote Arctic enclave or on a small island, like Sweden’s Gotland, considering the strategic capabilities Russia has built up on its northern flank. After all, who would go to war over a frozen Baltic island or piece of Finland’s tundra. NATO wouldn’t, but Putin would.

So one day, we’ll wake up and discover that Russian troops will have occupied part of Finland or Sweden, with no warning, and despite the fact that Russia has no quarrel with either country and claim on any of their territory. Really? Does anybody believe that? This is nuts.

I realize that picking on Saakashvili is perhaps not fair. It’s been clear for a while that his grasp of reality is a little shaky. But my gripe isn’t really with him. Foreign Policy is normally regarded as a respectable journal. It’s the sort of thing you find on the bookshelves in airports. People read this guff. The editors ought to feel some sense of responsibility for what they publish, and not print absolute hokum which inflames international tensions on the basis of pure fantasy. But it seems like they don’t any more.

Maybe I’m just a typical grumpy old man, imagining that things were so much superior ‘when I were young.’ Perhaps my memory is faulty and journalistic standards weren’t actually any better back then. But when it comes to things Russians, they’re pretty poor right now. No self-respecting journal should be publishing inflammatory nonsense like this. Foreign Policy’s editors should be ashamed of themselves.

10 thoughts on “Out of the blue”

  1. “Russian Public Opinion Research Center, Russian voters’ trust in Putin has fallen to 32 percent—the lowest level since 2006.”

    I saw that poll a few days ago, and I was surprised. I don’t think western polling orgs ask “do you trust Turmp?” or “do you trust Obama?” – or do they?

    One could trust institutions, but individual politicians? Meh. As they say: in God we trust, all others pay cash…

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    1. This poll is, as far as I can tell, unique to Russia. Unlike the usual approval rating polls, where questions are formulated as “do you approve of politician X” or similar, with answers being yes or no, in this poll the question is “whom among the politicians would you trust with taking important decisions” with no answers provided – anyone who named Putin did it on their own, not just checked a checkbox. For comparison, Navalny, the “main opposition leader”, polled this trust at 1,6% (and distrust at 1,8%). This poll foes a remarkable job at showing that there are only three truly popular politicians in Russia (who are both famous enough to be named by respondents and liked enough to be significantly more trusted than distrusted) – Putin, Shoygu and Lavrov.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. From Andrei Martyanov:

    The whole article is worth reading:

    https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/2019/03/south-front-say-what-ii.html


    This is not to say that Russia doesn’t have problems, she sure does. Some of those problems are serious and require long term solutions. But let’s start with small detail SF decides to obscure for its readers, here is a quote from transcript of SF video based on this alarmist and defeatist piece:

    According to VCIOM, a state pollster, in January 2019, Putin’s confidence rating was only 32.8%. This is 24% less than in January 2018 when it was 57.2%. At the same time, the confidence rating of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was 7.8%. The approval rating of his cabinet is 37.7% while the disapproval rating is 38.7%. Opposition sources show data, which is far worse for the current Russian leadership.

    1. Well, it is all fine and dandy, and the picture looks rather grim, that is until one gets to actual poll as is reported by reputable Ria.Ru (in Russian). Once one begins to look at numbers the picture becomes rather very different. For starters, the so called “confidence rating” in Putin is slightly differently formulated in Russia and sounds as Наибольшим доверием, that is Most Trust. Well, 32.6% of Russians have MOST trust in Putin. How many of them have simply trust or trust Putin somewhat remains up for a debate, but actually, the number which matters is good ol’ Approval Rating which for Putin is….drum roll…62.2%, with 28.8% disapproving. So, when we divide 62.2 by 28.8 we get 2.16 times more people approving than those disapproving. Why SF “forgot” these numbers remains a complete mystery to me, because although lower than usual, 62.2% is a robust, in fact vast majority, approval rating for a President, even if one considers a number of painful (granted debatable) economic decisions which were made in 2018.

    https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/2019/03/south-front-say-what-ii.html

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  3. Note №1: “Foreign Policy” is crap. No, I did not just mistake them for the Foreign Affairs magazine. FA is a low quality partisan crap written by no-brainers that just can’t be better. “FP” is an ideological mouthpiece of the Blob, and, therefore, is a deliberate attempt to produce a mountain of crap – happily consumed by their intended auditory despite the fact that they should know by know the whole “FP” game.

    Note №2: To quote Vladimir Mayakovsky’s immortal lines:

    “If the stars are lit
    Then someone needs this”

    You yourself, professor, had spent quite a lot of bytes on this blog to chronicle the newest interest of the Collective West (and The Best People In It) to the Scandinavia. Namely – you described in half-a-dozen posts various attempts to set up “think” tanks, “propaganda watchdogs” and to pass the water various “reports” for a serious works of analysis, the aim of which remains the same – scare Scandinavians senseless of the Big, Bad Russia, and drive them to the NATO (formally). Because the Empire needs constant growth, and someone’s “neutrality” (no matter how bogey) is no longer sufficient. In the battle for the military budget allocations there could be no bystanders.

    Note №3. In light of points 1 and 2, it is only logical to resurrect the eternal vagabond Mishiko. He fits right in for the intended purposes of the FP. Yes, the Editorial Board thinks their readership are a bunch of brainless morons with the memory of the goldfish. Said readership did nothing to prove otherwise. They can use linguistic deception with ease and – voila! International hobo-president becomes the respectable voice of the West, with the audience none the wiser.

    Note №4.

    “I realize that picking on Saakashvili is perhaps not fair. It’s been clear for a while that his grasp of reality is a little shaky.”

    To put it mildly – there are serious reasons for this:

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    1. Addition:
      “FP” is an ideological mouthpiece of the Blob, and, therefore, is a deliberate attempt to produce a mountain of crap – happily consumed by their intended auditory despite the fact that they should know by know the whole “FP” game.

      Are or were you aware that FP author Stephen M. Walt published a book last year in which he devoted one chapter to the definition of the “Blob”. He devoted close to 20% of the text to this definition.

      Paul Robinson mentioned it once in passing. Or at least he was the first that made me aware of the “blob” vs let’s say the “Borg”.

      I enjoyed your video, by the way. Reminded me of Mehdi Hasan’s interview on Al Jazeera:

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  4. The same can be said of Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show on CNN:

    “But my gripe isn’t really with him. Foreign Policy is normally regarded as a respectable journal. It’s the sort of thing you find on the bookshelves in airports. People read this guff. The editors ought to feel some sense of responsibility for what they publish, and not print absolute hokum which inflames international tensions on the basis of pure fantasy.”

    *****

    They (FP and GPS) periodically have decent enough features, which in overall terms aren’t as often as what they push.

    The National Interest is the best of them, albeit with some legit qualms – some of which are detailed:

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/07112016-realists-on-russia-analysis/

    https://www.eurasiareview.com/08042016-fuzzy-history-how-poland-saved-the-world-from-russia-analysis/

    https://www.academia.edu/37358188/Michael_Averko_Consistency_and_Reality_Lacking_on_Crimea

    Back to Foreignpolicy.com, Susan Glasser’s piece on Sergey Lavrov is an example of hypocritically applied hack journalism:

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/russias-role-in-the-world-gauging-moscows-active-foreign-policy/5361015

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  5. FWIW, I prefer when you express your frustration with “silly” western journalism and opinion pieces. I don’t expect the editors of FP to care one whit what you think. However, your readers deserve clarity. It’s better for everyone that contempt be expressed when contempt is deserved.

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  6. In light of prior comments, this won’t surprise anyone here: The cover story in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs (yes, FA not FP) is ‘The New Nationalism’; the cover pic is a couple dozen brandished, clenched fists; yet I can’t find a word, anywhere in the entire issue, about the neo-Nazi-backed regime that CFR-endorsed globalists installed in Ukraine in 2014. Imagine that.

    Like

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