Putin mentions Gandhi: proof he loves Hitler!

I was going to write today about a new report by a British think tank called the Council on Geostrategy, but then I came across something even worse (I know, it’s difficult, but it’s true!). So I’m going to have to put the report to one side while I discuss the particular horror that it is Bruno Macaes’s latest piece for the New Statesman. https://www.newstatesman.com/world/asia/2021/11/is-vladimir-putin-preparing-for-war

First off, there’s the cover – a fairly stock cartoon of the evil Vladimir Putin. Quite what he’s doing to the world here isn’t very clear, but it sure ain’t good. And then there’s the title ‘The Agent of Chaos. Is Putin preparing for war?’ After that, you don’t really need to read the article. You’ve pretty much got it all already.

Still, the content of the article that follows really blows the mind. And boy, does it! At this point, I should no longer be surprised by the rot that comes out of the British press, but somehow they keep managing to pull of stunts like this one, leaving me reeling in astonishment. I was actually somewhat stunned.

In the article, author Bruno Macaes, a former Portuguese politician, recounts how he attended Putin’s recent speech at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi (proof positive, if anybody wanted it, that being invited to Valdai doesn’t mean you’re a puppet of the Kremlin). The speech ‘got to the heart’ of who Putin is, Macaes says, before going off on a weird detour. He tell us:

‘“After the death of Mahatma Gandhi, there’s nobody to talk to,” the Russian leader sarcastically joked in 2007. There have been many interpretations of this reference. For some, it was no more than a grim witticism. Others think it was an oblique reflection on the dominance of realpolitik and the futility of international dialogue. As a long-time observer of Russian politics in Washington recently told me, it could be a veiled reference to the two men Putin regards as his soulmates: Stalin and Hitler, both of whom died around the same time as Gandhi did. In other words, it was a private joke. “Even Putin knows better than blurting that out,” said the source.’

Yikes! Stalin and Hitler are ‘the two men Putin regards as his soulmates’!!! Where is Macaes getting that from? From the fact that he once quoted Gandhi apparently, and that Stalin and Hitler ‘both died around the same time as Gandhi died’!! What?? How does that make sense? What have the dates of their deaths got to do with anything? In any case, Hitler died in 1945. Gandhi in 1948, and Stalin in 1953. That’s not exactly simultaneously. Besides that, hundreds of millions of other people died ‘around the same time’. Absurd doesn’t begin to describe this one.

Perhaps even more disturbing than this crazy logic is the fact that it comes from the mouth of ‘a long-time observer of Russian politics in Washington.’ If you want to know why US policy towards Russia is so screwed up, there you have it. For if that’s the quality of Washington’s seasoned ‘Russia hands’, there’s really no hope.

Still, Macaes runs with the Gandhi analogy, quietly dropping Stalin and Hitler along the way (after all, it’s kind of hard for Putin to be all three at the same time). Putin and Gandhi are alike, he says, for ‘both he and Gandhi are slayers of empires. Both are disrupters of the status quo.’ And to back this up, he mentions Putin’s admiration of philosopher Ivan Ilyin, saying that, ‘Some have argued that Putin models ­himself on Ilyin’s description of the archetypical Russian leader – a strong personality able to contain the excesses of the Russian spirit, too vital and expansive to be restrained by mere rules.’

At this point, Macaes is digging himself even deeper into a hole. Putin is not a ‘disrupter of the status quo’, or at least there’s not much evidence that he sees himself as such. Rather, a close look at his rhetoric, and that of other senior Russians, suggests that the Russian leadership sees itself as pushing back against the West’s disruptions of the status quo. Insofar as Putin is ‘revisionist’, it’s a matter of revising the revisions of the West and reverting to the status quo ante.

And as for the Ilyin stuff, I don’t know where Macaes is getting that from (unless perhaps it’s from Timothy Snyder), because it sure isn’t in any bits of Ilyin I’ve read. Ilyin was big on the rule of law. The idea that the ruler (or anybody else) should be unrestrained by rules was anathema to his philosophy. Macaes just has this plain wrong.

No surprise there. But let’s move on, for next Macaes mentions Soviet poet Joseph Brodsky, and uses him to develop the thesis that chaos and power are closely related: power is needed to end chaos, but it therefore needs chaos to justify itself. And this, supposedly, is the key to understanding Putin.  

For you see, Putin isn’t interested in eliminating chaos, says Macaes. He doesn’t think it’s possible. In fact, a bit of chaos suits him just fine. Take Belarus, for instance. As long as it was stable, Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko avoided getting too close to Russia, and was something of a thorn in Moscow’s side. Now that things have gotten a bit unstable there, Lukashenko is suddenly having to play buddy-buddy with Putin. Indeed, ‘In despair, Lukashenko is destined one day to offer the Belarus state to Putin.’ The more the ‘chaos grows’, the better for Putin.

Likewise with energy, says Macaes. Europeans who want to buy Russian gas have got it all wrong, thinking that trade leads to mutual dependence. But Putin doesn’t want it that way. He’s not interested in being a reliable supplier. Rather, ‘Putin has shown that he believes energy crises are useful reminders of Russia’s geostrategic power.’ Macaes concludes:

‘Some leaders side with order, others choose chaos. Putin believes that nature has a preference for chaos, so the latter are destined to win. Russia may be a sick man but a sick man with a gun is still a dangerous man, and in a world in turmoil we may all end up sick anyway. That is the Russia Putin plans to leave behind.’

This is wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start. Suffice it to say that Macaes fails to produce any evidence that Putin favours chaos. This isn’t surprising because if you study his rhetoric, you find that he never says anything of the sort. Nor do those around him. Nor do official Russian documents. Quite the contrary. If there’s any message to come out of them, it’s an obsession with stability. Over and over and over again, Putin and his officials return to this theme: ‘We want stability’ As I’ve think I’ve mentioned before, the word ‘stability’ actually appears over 20 times in the latest version of the ‘Foreign Policy Statement of the Russian Federation’, which lays out the broad outlines of Russia’s official view of the world.

Moreover, if you look at the specific cases Macaes cites, the facts demonstrate the exact opposite of what he claims. Take energy, for instance. Russia hasn’t pursued chaos here. In reality, the Russian gas company Gazprom has consistently favoured long term contracts with its European clients. It wants to lock them into stable, long-term relationships with fixed prices. It’s the European Union that has rejected this and has pushed members to ditch their long-term contracts. Meanwhile, it’s hard to see how you can interpret the billions of dollars that Russia has invested into pipeline projects such as North Stream 2 as a devotion to chaos. Surely, if anything they prove the opposite – a desire to establish a stable, long-term relationship.

As for Belarus, it certainly isn’t Russia that has been destabilizing it. Putin didn’t tell Lukashenko to give himself 80% of the vote and spark a failed revolution. He didn’t tell him to have a border dispute with Poland. And so on, and so forth. Moreover, even though Russia and Belarus don’t always get along as well as they would like, Putin hasn’t responded by trying to sow chaos in Belarus, but rather has accepted Lukashenko as president in an effort to keep things stable.

In short, it’s all a load of nonsense. Mind you, Macaes’s model of chaos reinforcing power is not entirely useless. For when you come to look at Western foreign policy, you suddenly find it’s quite relevant. A classic case of projection, you might say. But a discussion of that will have to wait for my next post!

61 thoughts on “Putin mentions Gandhi: proof he loves Hitler!”

  1. “particular horror that it is Bruno Macaes’s latest piece for the New Statesman”.

    I thought that piece was a satire of the typical Russophobe…


    1. Plenty of really sucky stuff on Russia out there. Another issue is how well the BS carries on.

      Compare to David Frum’s recent Atlantic piece noted here:


      In terms of getting further puff props, I sense Frum’s screed has gotten more play.

      Over the weekend, CNN’s Jim Acosta had a puff segment with Frum on the latter’s article. Atlantic Editor Jeffrey Goldberg approvingly tweeted Frum’s piece.

      A left of center venue known as Portside propped Frum’s article without posting the Eurasia Review rebuttal. To date from its website, ditto JRL.

      If not already done, expect MSNBC to feature Frum as it did Applebaum on her article concerning the categorization democracies and dictatorships.


  2. It is typical of the introspective way of looking at the world that Western politicians such as these to think that any order other than their own would be chaos. “Apres moi, le deluge,” said King Louis XV of France. Therefore, any order after the Western chapter would have to be chaos.
    To associate Putin’s actions or strategy with chaos-seeking – while in reality it is to seek maximum stability within a world that will likely undergo chaos as these once-empires go into their death throes – is pure projection.
    The Chinese century is starting out with a pretty amazing track record over the past 50 years by the Chinese government, alleviating poverty, building and improving income for the majority of their citizens, and cementing decades of wealth-building into the future by long-term infrastructure outside their borders, connecting Eurasia. We see no desire for war there, and even joined with the Russians, there is an intentional minimizing of war and upheaval.
    These type of reflections therefore reveal more about the writer and his culture than about the one upon which the writer reflects.


  3. Such a shame. I have really enjoyed comments from Macaes on China where he speaks with authority and a reasonableness quite unusual in mainstream media.

    I think it goes to show that this Russia madness is not lack of intelligence, it is simply paid for.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s exactly what I was just pondering michael. You see, when someone starts spouting complete nonsense IN WRITING – in other words, having had plenty of time to consider and reconsider – there may only be 3 explanations:

      1) the person doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know (incapable of fathoming his own ignorance = complete moron)

      2) the person realizes that he is spouting nonsense, but goes ahead with it anyway because there is some sort of personal gain he stands to make from it (=dishonest, corrupt)

      3) an otherwise reasonable person is overcome by extremely strong emotions (perceives extreme threat, acute mood disorder) clouding judgment

      I simply can’t believe #1 – in my experience, complete morons never make it far enough in life to make themselves heard the way those people do. #3 would be pretty exceptional, too.

      So of necessity, it leaves us with #2. Not necessarily paid (corrupt), but definitely dishonest.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lola,

        Your analysis would make sense, if it was appropriate to look for ‘rational’ explanations.

        However, it may be more appropriate to think of attitudes to Putin in the West as the product of a kind of wave of ‘mass hysteria.’

        As to Bruno Maçaes, it may also be relevant that he studied at Harvard under Harvey Mansfield, a leading ‘West Coast Straussian.’

        A piece he published back in December 2019, headlined ‘Welcome to the new Springtime of the Peoples’, suggests to me that he may be a classic example of the kind of ‘intellectual’ who should never be allowed near any position of political influence.

        It may also provide some clues as to the origins of the – palpable – hysteria so evident in the piece Paul is discussing.

        (See https://unherd.com/2019/12/how-2019-became-the-year-of-protest/ )


      2. @davidhabakkuk – I just posted a reply but due to some glitch it posted at the bottom of the comments thread…


      1. I was also banned, that is any of my comments just were quietly deleted, from naked capitalism, after I had argued against their policy to have no links to SCF placed in comments.


      2. BTW, that’s why it’s good to get SCF articles re-posted at Eurasia Review (ER).

        I know of at least two instances where Russian based, primarily for the Russian market InoSMI, posted ER articles that were initially in the SCF. I’m under the impression that InoSMI has never referenced SCF articles.

        As for the US censorship, some of the SCF commentary is darned good at debunking the preferred Anglo-American mass media narratives.

        In terms of overall reach, the SCF is small potatoes when compared to RT. It’s always easier to beat on the little guy.

        The lack of outrage over what has transpired (Mate, Greenwald, RT, et all) reminds me of the WW II related quote about (pardon my getting it not quite right) of:

        First they went after the Gays. I didn’t say anything because I’m not Gay.

        Then they went after the Communists. I didn’t say anything because I’m not a Communist.

        When they proceeded to go against the Jews and Roma, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t Jewish or Roma.

        Then they went after me and there was no one left to say anything.


  4. “What?? How does that make sense?”

    Propaganda does not have to make sense, it has to inflame, instill fear arouse hatred and relies on ignorance of the punters.


  5. Why The New Statesman files this particular article under “World/Asia” tag? Are they relegating both Russia and the Ukraine to the “opressive” Asia, as opposed to the “Enlightened Europe”, to which they, according to the newsies, does not belong?

    “author Bruno Macaes, a former Portuguese politician”

    Aka weaponized migrant from the country, that, first, England, then the UK regarded as its own “near abroad/Ye Olde Alliance”. Probably still butthurt at losing Portugese colonies to the Reds.

    “That’s not exactly simultaneously…”

    Hey, I have a better one! Using the Forbidden and Dark Arts (i.e. “Oracle of Bacon” site), I now have irrefutebale proof of Kevin Bacon’s connection to Gandhi. You see, Gandhi is a character in the “Rajanna” (2011) movie starring M. Nassar, who was also in the “Fair Game” (2010) starring David Andrews who was in “Appolo 13” with… get ready for that!.. Kevin Bacon!

    As you can see, Putin actually meant Kevin Bacon with his, uh… 2007… quip. After all, 2007 to both 2011 and 2010 is virtually the same as 1945 to 1948 and 1953, amirite?!

    “The idea that the ruler (or anybody else) should be unrestrained by rules was anathema to his philosophy.”


    I don’t expect you to answer me, Maestro, but, still – remind me what Ilyin wrote about general Lavr Kornilov’s violation of the existing legislation as pertaining to the military personell?

    “Putin believes that nature has a preference for chaos, so the latter are destined to win. “


    “Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized.”, Sir. T. Pratchett, Interesting Times

    “Putin didn’t tell Lukashenko to give himself 80% of the vote and spark a failed revolution. “

    A coup. Not a revolution.


  6. Since the USA plans not to recognize Putin should he be elected again, the problem vanishes on its own. No Putin, no chaos and strive. Simple. Like the EU not speaking to Luka because he isn’t actually there. As some smart guy in the US once said: we make our own reality…and poof, Luka, Putin, Maduro….just gone.


    1. Ron Suskind: The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ […] ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’


  7. Re: “In the article, author Bruno Macaes, a former Portuguese politician, recounts how he attended Putin’s recent speech at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi (proof positive, if anybody wanted it, that being invited to Valdai doesn’t mean you’re a puppet of the Kremlin).”


    The Valdai Discussion Club has included folks at the top of its structure, who aren’t so sympathetic to Russian concerns.

    On the one hand, this could be trumped as being open minded. On the other, some constructively critical pro-Russian views of good quality have yet to get a Valdai invite.


  8. Eh, so nice to see that “Kremlin observers” are so well informed. Russia could not match Anglo-American (read five genocidal imbeciles) Kremlin observers. Based on historical experience decision was made that Anglo observers will not be in Kremlin. They are scatered all over the shop – in nuclear strike command stations. You will not hear any of their opinions. But you might be aware of their existence. It will not last long – we promise.


  9. I enjoyed reading Bruno Macaes’ article as I am a subscriber to the New Statesman. But what appalled me was how utterly all over the place and incoherent it was. Gandhi … Stalin … and Hitler and the bit about chaos, there being no meaning to life, etc. Never mind that Putin outright states again and again that he fears chaos. He inveighs mightily against the Russian revolution and the 1990s both times of chaos – whatever else one might think of what came out at the end. Indeed his fear of disorder is why the Russian government has refrained from being supportive of the 6 January 2021 insurrection because it does not want to give any legitimacy to those kinds of ideas – even when such events suit the Russian government’s ends of destabilising the United States so that the United States is less able to act in the foreign policy sphere and destabilise things for Russia – or elsewhere for that matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tried to track down the Brodsky quote for some context; no luck, either in Russian or in English. Macaes uses this same quote in his 2018 book “Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order” ( p 196), but again fails to provide a proper reference (admittedly, I only saw it on Google Books, so could have missed smth).
    Let me know if anyone has better luck!


  11. Reading this, I was vaguely reminded of some kind of historical relationship between Gandhi and Hitler. I googled it and found this link.
    It turns out, Gandhi had written a couple of letters to Hitler, trying to talk some reason into him and turn him away from the path of war. The British government intercepted the letters, so Hitler never got to read them. I’m sure if he had read them, he would have gone, “Oh, I’ve been a bad boy. Gandhi is right. I should become a man of peace.”

    British government were worried (maybe understandably) that India and Nazi Germany might form a natural alliance, against British imperialism. With India joining the Axis, that would have been another blow against England.

    Aside from that, one can only speculate what Putin meant when he made that crack about Gandhi’s death. I am guessing he was just riffiing on the standard stereotype about Gandhi being a man of peace. (I think reality was more complex than that, but whatever…) And now all the world leaders that he has to deal with are war-mongering sabre-rattlers, so he misses Gandhi. Maybe that is what he meant (?)

    As for the Brodsky quote: If Lola can’t find it, then I won’t bother looking. It probably doesn’t even exist! Or maybe he meant the poetry of Tiutchev.


    1. Eh, British government. You mean the government that helped Hitler take over Germany? To fight commies you know. Or is it government that organised several pandemics (not genocides, they would never…) that depopulated two continent completely and some parts of other two continents? What Putin complained about is not warmongers and sabre-rattlers he has to deal with. He complained about having to deal with people without any principles whatsoever.


      1. More on Brodsky. Browsing around looking for the quote, I came across the essay he wrote in 1972 upon request from “The NY Times”. Apparently he was expected to denounce SU. This is what he wrote:
        “Мне предложили уехать, и я это предложение принял. В России таких предложений не делают. Если их делают, они означают только одно. Я не думаю, что кто бы то ни было может прийти в восторг, когда его выкидывают из родного дома. Даже те, кто уходят сами. Но независимо от того, каким образом ты его покидаешь, дом не перестает быть родным. Как бы ты в нем — хорошо или плохо — ни жил. И я совершенно не понимаю, почему от меня ждут, а иные даже требуют, чтобы я мазал его ворота дегтем. Россия — это мой дом, я прожил в нем всю свою жизнь, и всем, что имею за душой, я обязан ей и ее народу. И — главное — ее языку. ”

        Wow, what a man.

        You can read the full text in Russian here: http://izbrannoe.com/news/mysli/iosif-brodskiy-pochti-vsyakoe-gosudarstvo-vidit-v-svoem-poddannom-libo-raba-libo-vraga/

        The essay was translated by Carl Proffer and published in NYT («Say Poet Brodsky, Ex of the Soviet Union: “A Writer is a Lonely Traveller, and No One is His Helper”» («The New York Times Magazine», 1 October 1972). I couldn’t find the link to EL text.


      2. Lola, it seems like Brodsky wrote those political musings in 1990, making predictions about what the world would look like a few years hence. He got some things right, other things wrong, well he was no Baba Vanga, who always got EVERYTHING right, haha.

        Anyhow, for those who don’t read Russian, here is my modest translation into English of this particular paragraph that appears to have inspired our friend Macaes, it’s from the beginning of section #7:

        1995 will be similar to 1905 in Russia, just as 1990 is already similar. For the country this will be a period of working out new constitutional norms and the struggle to preserve the territorial perimeter. It is completely unimportant, who will stand at the head of the state. More than likely it will be the same guy who is there today [yalensis: is he talking about Yeltsin?], provided he doesn’t lose his mind or crash for some other reason [yalensis: like drink himself to death, for example?] That latter variant of his demise is more probable than the prediction that he will fall victim to a power struggle, because it’s hard to conceive that it would enter anybody’s head to struggle for power given that kind of chaos and all the contradictions which will reign in the country for at least the next decade. To a certain degree, both chaos and contradictions are a guarantee of stability of the government seeking to bring order and solve problems. The volume of problems facing the head of the Soviet government is simply monstrous, because this volume is directly proportional to the 7-decade experience which created them…”

        yalensis: And that’s where I stopped reading, because he lost me there with that 7-decade thing… Never read Brodsky before, now I know why, what a windbag!

        Still, it’s enough to figure why Macaes likes this quote so much. I think Macaes is looking at Brodsky’s prediction of the future, where a man like Putin will come to power against this backdrop of chaos [which he himself helped to create, by the way], but by partially restoring order he ensures his own survival and prolonged power, because people know there is something much worse than him to fear…


      3. Hey Yalensis, thanks for this translation. I can’t translate literary texts into English – I only learned the language in my mid-20’s, so it’ll never be quite up to scratch…

        This essay is indeed bad; it’s not typical for Brodsky to venture into prophet business; when pressured into political/social activism, he’d usually excuse himself. I guess it was one instance where he needed money, perhaps, or just finally lost himself, being cut off from his roots. Forced emigration after 30 is no piece of cake.

        Anyway, the point is, he was writing it mere months before the August coup – so USSR was still there and Gorbachev was still the man. So the country he’s talking about is USSR, not RF. Which makes his pronouncements all the more irrelevant.


    2. >> Gandhi had written a couple of letters to Hitler…

      Yalensis this is brilliant! Remember the Dudley Moore&Peter Cook sketch, “Frog and Peach”? It rivals the best of Monty Python I think https://youtu.be/U8xHONeJY_Q

      Cook: .”…shortly after World War Two. Do you remember that? Absolutely ghastly business. Absolutely ghastly. I was completely against it.

      Moore: “Well, I … I think we all were.”

      Cook: “Yes, well, I wrote a letter!”


      1. Haha! Lola, eliding from Hitler/Gandhi communication to the Frog and Peach shows an advanced level of intellectualism which I appreciate.

        Cook/Moore were brilliant comedians in their day. I assume you have seen their 1967 movie “Bedazzled”? Such a great take-down of religion and modern culture. Cook is hilariously deadpan as the Mephistopheles character.

        (If you haven’t seen this film, you must find it somewhere, I think it’s on youtube, but it has to be the 1967 original, not the later remake, which was not good.)


      2. I certainly did see Bedazzled, it’s a classic! It’s been a while though – 15 years ago I think? I’ve been wanting to watch it again, along with “Dr Strangelove”.


  12. According to Doctorow

    “Now, in the latest remarks to come from the Kremlin, it would appear that we all, my peers among Western commentators and I, have been wrong-footed. Putin has now said as clearly as conceivable within the traditional language of international diplomacy that if the USA puts offensive missile systems onto Ukrainian soil, thereby cutting the warning time of attack on Moscow to 5-7 minutes, then the Russians will station their hypersonic attack missiles on surface and submarine vessels within 5-7 minutes striking distance of Washington, D.C.

    In short, what we potentially now have before us is the Cuban Missile Crisis Redux. Only this time the gamblers with the fate of the world are playing with the cards face up.”


    1. Good! The U.S. has already crossed so many red lines.
      I am very pessimistic, though. I think there is almost certainty that the U.S. will start a war against Russia. I hope I am wrong, but that’s the way it is looking.


    2. The most likely development is a repeat of 1962- Russia’s acquisition of a base in the Caribbean region and the stationing there of missiles. Just as US foreign policy has driven China, Iran and Russia (and now Belarus) into each others arms so it seems to be urging Venezuela, Nicaragua and Boiivia (to make no mention of Cuba) to compete for the honour of hosting hypersonic missiles.
      The State Department is, simultaneously, it seems doing all that it can in the way of urging China to do the same thing and establish missile bases of its own in America.
      The aim would appear to be to provoke wart at any cost.


    1. But wait! there’s more breaking news…
      Was just skimming this piece which covers the breaking news you mentioned, about Putin’s announcement.

      The additional info is that Lukashenko just made a sensational announcement of his own: Minsk is ready to offer Moscow to place atomic weapons on Belorussian soil, to counteract these NATO advances.

      Lukashenko seems to be strongly in Moscow’s camp right now. Oh, and to think that he used to be neutral between Moscow and NATO.
      Gee, I wonder what possibly could have happened in the interim, to turn him against NATO?


  13. First off, there’s the cover – a fairly stock cartoon of the evil Vladimir Putin. Quite what he’s doing to the world here isn’t very clear, but it sure ain’t good.

    Looks like standard life-force-extraction to me.

    Though it is curious that it’s the Americas getting spaghettified rather than the part of the world this “agent of chaos” is usually said to afflict…

    (This probably isn’t the kind of “insightful” comment you’re looking for)


    1. JT that’s brilliant. Life-force extraction it is. Putin is using some kind of advanced machinery to extract the life force from the planet.

      Although, as every sci-fi geek knows, such machines always boast a “Reversal” switch. Hopefully Putin is aware of this simple fact, he would say to his henchperson: “Whatever you do, don’t let them press that reversal button… [and this is the part where the henchperson betrays him] aaagggaaahhh! I am being spaghetti-fied… aaaaa… It’s horrible… On the other hand, I taste damn good with a side of clam sauce.”

      [you inspire me]


      1. Actually, I’ve sometimes thought of writing a piece about Stargate as an analogy of Western foreign policy – they’re always going to some foreign planet/galaxy, overthrowing the regime, and causing total chaos. Arrive in Atlantis – wake up the Wraith, all hell breaks lose. Run into a nano-based lifeform that is minding its own business, inadvertently send it on a rampage, then decide that the only way to deal with it is xenocide. And yet, somehow when committing xenocide, we’re still the good guys. Would make a good IR paper.


      2. The forces behind the R2P are in essence neo colonial. Not directly occupying the country, but by interference making it possible to destroy the existing power structures (together with many of the populace and infrastructure and assets) – that in many cases were suppressing freedoms, sometime in favour of social stability based on the ethnic or religious diversity in the targeted nation, sometimes to keep an elite that is extracting wealth solely for its benefits – in favour of a foreign elite.

        The principles of the Peace of Westphalia have long gone to the garbage dump of discarded ideas with the development of a rapacious capitalism that as Lenin pointed out is the highest form of capitalism. Either as a direct colonialism or the creation by the means of R2P or regime change
        The same imperialism with different methodology.


      3. “Stargate as an analogy of Western foreign policy – they’re always going to some foreign planet/galaxy, overthrowing the regime, and causing total chaos.”

        Good recap of late 90s – early 00s zeitgeist. Also – add weaponized migrants. They are a must, to show that treason pays.

        OTOH, right now “Stargate-verse” will be Cancelled by the Politically Aware People of the West, cuz:

        – It promotes a consiracy theory (“Ancient Aliens”!), which, in turn, de-powers and culturally appropriates the lagacy of the…historically roughshod… people’s

        – While the premise had been based on the Cold War “Twillight Struggle” for the Third World, the (Global) War on Terror de-heroized the whole thing.


      4. “The principles of the Peace of Westphalia have long gone to the garbage dump”

        People (pundits and their readership) waxing poetically of the Westphalian system That We Have LostЪ. Does not understand it. First of all – it applied *only* to Europe.

        Second – there is nothing in it against intefereing in other nations internal politics (e.g. France’s suppor for the Stuart pretenders; France’s, Russia’s and Britain’s “auction” to win over Swedish MP to change country’s policy; Russia and France tug-of-war to get their candidate elected as the king of the PLC… and consequent war over the results; etc, etc).


      5. Wasn’t there an old 1970s Doctor Who story about a planet having its life-force sucked out of it with Tom Baker as the Doctor and either Mary Tamm or Lalla Ward as Romana? The concept is not new.


      6. Hey, Jen, I am sure you are right. Doctor Who has dealt with this precise situation many many times. As in, planets having their life-forces sucked out of them by some baddie.

        The Doctor usually fixes this situation by reversing the polarity of the neutral flow. Just another day at the office….


  14. David, I see your point. And thanks for the link – that 2019 essay was definitely not as bad. There is a line between harmlessly musing about things, and making specific claims about specific people based on absolutely nothing (not to mention quoting from irrelevant sources you clearly never bothered to understand). That’s intellectual dishonesty.

    It is clear that in this latest article, Macaes isn’t arguing any intellectual points, but rather is performing a ritual dance for his tribe. While such rites are well known, there is no excuse for a relatively advanced person to pretend that it’s somehow the same thing. It is, again, intellectually dishonest. I refuse to believe that he – or the editors of The New Statesman – don’t understand the difference.


      1. Lola,

        I certainly do not want to make excuses for Maçaes, or indeed the ‘New Statesman.’

        However, I would be cautious about assuming that either he or indeed Jason Cowley, who edits that paper, retain much sense of the difference between making an intellectual argument and performing a ‘ritual dance for the tribe.’

        Time and again in recent years, including among very old friends, I have come across people who I have thought perfectly rational, and who, on many issues, I have every reason to believe remain so, with whom, when one begins discussing Vladimir Putin, it is as though a bulb has been switched off in the brain.

        As to Maçaes, without wanting to get into too many ‘cans of worms’, the fact he was taught by Harvey Mansfield at Harvard is important.

        One can find that figure discussing Leo Strauss in the transcript of one of a series of conversations with Bill Kristol, a leading ‘neoconservative’ and son of one of the architects of ‘neoconservatism’, Irving Kristol, available at


        There is a truly bizarre history here. Before he came to the United States, as is evident from a letter he wrote in May 1933, Strauss, although Jewish, was a self-proclaimed ‘fascist’, who insisted that the only serious ‘critique’ of Nazism had to be from within a ‘fascist’ perspective. (Whether Kristol, born in 1920, had already become a a ‘Trotskyist’ by that time I do now know.)

        In 1933, moreover, Strauss had a complete contempt for the notion of ‘universal human rights.’


        How he then became a defender of notions of ‘natural right’ against ‘relativism’ and ‘historicism’ is an interesting question.

        Making confusion worse confounded, it was through Strauss, and his pupil Allan Bloom, that Francis Fukuyama acquired his belief in the ‘end of history’ nonsense. This had its roots in an interpretation of Hegel by the Russian émigré Stalinist-turned-EEC bureaucrat Alexander Kojève (aka Aleksandr Vladimirovich Kozhevnikov), according to which history ended in 1806, with Napoleon’s defeat of the Prussians at Jena.

        (What a shame that those barbaric Russians, with some help from other ‘dead enders’, including the Lords Nelson and Wellington, defeated the ‘vanguard’, and set back progress by so many decades! One hates to think of the horror that Fukuyama must have felt, if he ever started reading ‘War and Peace’! Doubtless he would ‘snapped shut’ such a subversive text, very rapidly.)

        To cut a long story short, in the wake of the retreat and collapse of Soviet power, a very great many people in the West, who did not have much in the way of a ‘sense of history’, brought into this nonsense.

        The result, was to my mind, rather well described in a response to Strobe Talbott by Alexander Lukin in February 2019, when he suggested that that figure’s – palpably laughable – claims about the policy that the Clinton Administration pursued towards Russia in the ‘Nineties reflected an ideology he called ‘democratism’ – which, he pointed out, ‘had a strong structural resemblance to communism.’

        (See https://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-united-states-got-russia-wrong-42977 .)

        So, you see, we are dealing with people who thought they were living in some kind of ‘realised utopia’, in which all the world would become like them.

        One of the things that Putin’s ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ alike represent is a challenge to this kind of ‘neo-Brezhnevism.’ And then, the patent successes of contemporary China have made that challenge all the more perplexing and alarming.

        Accordingly, confronting what has happened at the level of rational argument is threatening – much as any serious discussion of what had happened in Hungary in 1956 was for those whom we used to call ‘tankies’ here.

        In my view, ‘democratism’ became another ‘opium of the intellectuals.’ It may be deeply unhelpful that, confronted by the patent need to ‘kick the habit’, so many have preferred a kind of ‘ritual dance for the tribe.’

        But I do not think I am making excuses for anyone, if I suggest it may not be such a surprising one.


      2. Well, David, it looks like you may be right after all – it’s not #2 but #3 then!

        One of the most acute types of threat (after direct physical threat) is identity threat. Seems like this is exactly the factor that’s at work here.

        It’s a very interesting phenomenon – I remember reading about people using it where all rational arguments fail – e.g. in navigating intractable conflicts, like Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don’t have references at hand, but if you’re interested, I’ll look them up.


      3. Lola,

        If you had time to look up references to ‘identity threat’ in relation to Israel/Palestine, I would be interested.

        It seems to me that the concept may be useful, in making sense of a quite wide range of situations. In the case of Maçães – got all the accents that time! – the ‘extremely strong emotions’ are a palpable fact, as they are in so many Western responses to Putin, and ‘venality’ is not obviously an adequate explanation.

        And if that was all that was at issue, one would not expect what appears to be a complete refusal to read what the subject of the article has written, but more subtle forms of distortion.

        Of course, given the strange ‘groupthink’ which has taken over the Western ‘MSM’, there are strong ‘venal’ incentives to write crap. But I do not think that the kind of ‘marching in lockstep’ quality can be explained purely in terms of such calculations.

        Thinking about the notion of ‘identity threat’, it seems to me that it might be possible to use the concept to reframe the account which Lukin gives of Strobe Talbott – also that doing so does not lead to very comforting conclusions.

        If someone starts off making a ‘clusterf**k’ – and I have always thought that the combination of support for ‘shock therapy’, intervention in Russian elections, and NATO expansion, with which Talbott was intimately involved, was peculiarly ‘toxic’ – then to acknowledge the error is liable to be a threat to their identity, as well as to their claims to be entitled to position, power and influence.

        Again, different kind of considerations interact.

        Accordingly, confronted by information which raises questions about what one has thought and done, a personally ‘rational’ strategy may be a combination of ignoring it, or interpreting it in a way which minimises the damage alike to one’s sense of self and position.

        So, making Putin a scapegoat for the fact that things have not turned out as they were supposed to, in the way that Lukin describes, may in one sense be a quite ‘rational’ strategy for people like Talbott, and Michael McFaul.

        Unfortunately, however, the effect is to make impossible the kind of ‘course correction’ which is necessary, if the ‘ship of state’ is to be ‘steered’ in a way that has some chance of avoiding unfortunate encounters with hidden reefs, icebergs, whirlpools, etc etc.

        And then, of course, there is a further range of considerations which come into play, when what is at issue has to do with ‘narratives’ which have become central to the identity of collectivities, including nations – such as Lincoln’s notion of the United States as ‘the last best hope of earth.’

        If one is looking at the way that people in Washington, and London, seem incapable of abandoning the notion that ‘régime change’ is an appropriate response to governments they dislike, despite the fact that time and again it has turned out to make no sense not simply in terms of ‘moral’ but of ‘Machiavellian’ considerations, then the concept of collective ‘identity threat’ may be helpful.

        It may also be helpful in relation to the curious manner in which so many in the West seem happy to continue pushing Russia and China together. As Lukin notes, on this matter Trump started out attempting to pursue a strategy which was perfectly ‘rational’ in terms of a cynical conception of American interests.

        As says, concluding of his article, it is questionable whether, in the long run, Americans, any more than Russians, will feel reason to feel gratitude for the way that Talbott, and so many like him, put a ‘spanner in the works.’ But in terms of what one might call ‘ego preservation’, it may still have been a ‘rational’ strategy.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok David here goes:

      In 2014, some research by Israeli psychology professor Eran Halperin&associates made a big splash: it was published in the prestigious PNAS, followed by columns in “The Times of Israel”, “Los Angeles Times”, etc.
      (https://www.pnas.org/content/111/30/10996; https://www.timesofisrael.com/ads-that-hype-the-conflict-may-help-solve-it-study/

      In a nutshell: Halperin&Co used a rather counterintuitive approach called “paradoxical thinking” to successfully soften adamantly held conflict-related beliefs; as Halperin himself put it, “instead of challenging people, we say, OK, we agree with your views. But let’s take them to the extreme”.

      In 2017, they followed up with a study looking at the specific psychological mechanisms responsible for “paradoxical thinking” success (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29052459/ – there is a link to full-text pdf).

      Turned out “identity threat” was key!

      Conflict-resolution interventions based on the paradoxical thinking principles, that is, expressing amplified, exaggerated, or even absurd ideas that are congruent with the held conflict-supporting societal beliefs, have been shown to be an effective avenue of intervention, especially among individuals who are adamant in their views. However, the question as to why these interventions have been effective has remained unanswered. In the present research, we have examined possible underlying psychological mechanisms, focusing on identity threat, surprise, and general disagreement. In a small-scale lab study and a large-scale longitudinal study, we compared paradoxical thinking interventions with traditional interventions based on providing inconsistent information. The paradoxical thinking interventions led rightists to show more unfreezing of held conflict-supporting beliefs and openness to alternative information, whereas the inconsistency-based interventions tended to
      be more effective with the centrist participants. Both studies provide evidence that the effects were driven by identity threat, surprise, and lower levels of disagreement.”

      The article is academic, perhaps a bit dense for a non-specialist, but definitely no rocket science. Happy reading!


      1. Lola,

        Unfortunately, the follow-up piece requires quite a hefty payment, but I have looked quite carefully at the original article. It needs a lot more thought, but for, what they are worth, some initial reactions.

        A good while back, Paul brought up the work of an American ‘IR’ theorist called Richard Ned Lebow – I think it was in connection with questions to do with why people fight wars. An interview that figure gave back in 2013 makes what appears to be one of his central themes in an accessible form: that in addition to the motives of interest and fear, on which ‘realist’ theorists have commonly focused, it is necessary to grasp how important concern for ‘self-esteem’ is in explaining not simply how individuals, but collectivities, including states, interact.

        (See https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/161413/Theory%20Talk53_Lebow.pdf .)

        As important as questions of motivation, it seems to me, are ones relating to the ‘information’ on the basis of which individuals, and collectivities, make decisions. This is an issue which the Israeli study raises, in a very interesting way. And perhaps arguments about ‘identity threat’, to whose importance it is pointing, can usefully be linked to ones about ‘self-esteem’ – both individual and collective.

        The ‘main idea’ of their ‘campaign’, the study’s authors write,

        ‘was to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a positive experiential factor, underlying Israeli Jewish identity, as opposed to the attempt to persuade the public that the conflict has negative outcomes on the society.’

        Clearly, they are deliberately presenting this argument in an exaggerated form. However, it is important that conflict, and a sense of being under threat, does very commonly serve as an ‘integrator.’ A problem then becomes that a sense of external threat can actually be, in some sense, ‘a positive experiential factor’, while also having ‘negative outcomes on the society.’

        It may then be interesting to bring into the picture an – influential – Russian ‘foreign policy intellectual’ whom Maçães quotes in his article, Sergei Karaganov, and look at some interesting exchanges between that figure and interviewers from the ‘VZGLYAD’ site, back in 2019. One of the most interesting, to my mind, ran as follows:

        ‘VZGLYAD: The search for an external enemy for solving internal problems is intensifying around the world. But this is a rather commonplace strategy: it worked in the Soviet Union and it worked in America.

        ‘S. К.: In the Soviet Union we could not exist without an enemy, nor can we do so in Russia,because genetically we are a country that has constantly been fighting and defending. If we take this out, everything will crumble. One of the reasons why we fell apart at the end of 1980s and in the 1990s was that we had decided that no one was threatening us anymore. So unfortunately, we need a certain level of external threat for society to organize itself.

        ‘It was believed that democracy did not require an external enemy, but look at what is happening around. They are artificially and feverishly thinking up an enemy …

        ‘VZGLYAD: This is not always a reasonable policy … ‘

        (See http://karaganov.ru/content/images/uploaded/2020161a7452063a1a10f40f0dd92e8c.pdf .)

        And this does indeed raise a range of rather important issues, among the question of how to avoid allowing a sense of threat which may indeed serve as an ‘integrator’ making one do daft things.

        Here, it may be of interest to note that some of the concerns which I think underpin the Israeli study, which I think it is fair to say was produced by ‘peaceniks’, are echoed by some clearly very able people in Israeli ‘military intelligence.’

        A few days ago, the ‘Times of Israel’ published a long interview with Danny Citrinowicz, who was head of the Iran branch in the Research and Analysis Division of the country’s Military Intelligence from 2013 to 2016 – which is a kind of ‘no holds barred’ attack on the approach taken by recent Israeli governments to the Iranian nuclear programme.

        (See https://www.timesofisrael.com/he-led-idf-intel-gathering-on-iran-was-ignored-and-fears-israel-is-now-paying-price/ .)

        The account Citrinowicz gives of why his country’s government has pursued what he sees as self-destructive policies brings out the way in which ‘identity politics’ can make impossible the kind of ‘hard empathy’, which is necessary if one is to operate in the real world, in which, commonly what is required is find the ‘least worst’ of a range of unpalatable options.

        Instead, it is liable to leave one hopelessly caught between grotesque exaggerations of what may be very real threats, and fantasies about providing some kind of definitive solution to them. A relevant exchange:

        ‘Q. So now even the military and intelligence worlds in Israel don’t understand the Iranians?

        ‘A. Correct! I think they don’t understand this. They don’t understand the nuances. Iran is not a monolith. [Former hardline Parliament Speaker Ali] Larijani is not like Raisi. And I’m sorry, but they don’t wake up in the morning and think about how to destroy Israel. It doesn’t work like that in Iran. But we’re imprisoned [by the politics of this all], and everything gets mixed up.

        ‘In Israel, when the Iranian president is moderate, they tell you that he’s weak and a puppet. When the president is an extremist, they say that he decides everything and eats cake after ordering people to their deaths. It’s a basic misunderstanding of the Iranian system.’

        It seems to me possible that one of the things which the authors of the study you cite may be trying to do is exploit the fact that, although relatively few will follow the logic through in the way Citrinowicz does, there may be very many in whom there is an underlying awareness that ‘identity politics’ has become a very ‘double-edged sword’ for Israel.

        This exchange then brings me back to what Karaganov says to the ‘VZGLYAD’ interviewers. It is obviously relevant that he comes out of ‘ISKAN’, whose then head, Georgii Arbatov, at the time when Gorbachev was introducing ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’, repeatedly made, in various forms, the suggestion one of its purposes was ‘to do a terrible thing to you’ – ‘deprive you of an enemy.’

        Having been involved in these arguments at the time, I was witness to the deep reluctance with which very many people in London, and Washington, confronted this prospect.

        And I would later discover that, among those with whom I had some kind of contact, it was precisely those who were the most determined to find ways to resist it who would go on to have the most influence on post-Cold War policy: on this side, I think particularly of Chris Donnelly, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Norman Stone, and Mark Laity, and, on the American, Richard Perle.

        An ironic effect of this is that what started with a realisation on the part of key figures, like Arbatov and Yevgeny Primakov, of some of the ways in which the focus of the Soviet system on an ‘external enemy’ had had ‘negative outcomes on the society’, ended up being taken as validating readings of the Cold War and its ending by people in the West who had been revealed as clueless.

        A further ironic effect is that the United States, which was very widely perceived as having been a stabilising factor in international relations in the post-war world, in particular in relation to Western Europe and key parts of East Asia, has increasingly been perceived as an agent of chaos, actual or potential, in more and more of the world.

        A final irony is that this, hardly unnaturally, means that the sense of ‘external threat’ it creates comes to serve as an ‘integrator’, not only within, but between, the countries to whom it proposes to bring the benefits of ‘democracy’: including not only Iran and Russia, but, increasingly China.

        A quotation from Goethe which Putin used in his Valdai speech to drive home the – rather evident – fact that the post-war Cold War assumption of an indefinite Western ‘hegemony’ was delusional is used by Maçães as explaining why he has come to ‘play the role of evil demiurge, the great tyrant Yaltabaoth, the Son of Chaos.’

        What this illustrates, I think, is the way that ‘identity threat’ is central to the utter inability – and here the article is extraordinarily interesting precisely because in its very absurdity it is a kind of ‘reductio ad absurdum’ – on the part of so many in Western ‘élites’ to make any sense what has been happening in the world over the past decades.

        And it also may perhaps illustrate some of the reasons why it naturally leads to what is called ‘projection.’

        Anyone who had taken the trouble to look at all closely, with a reasonably open mind, into the history of American, and British, policy in Syria should be aware – as indeed some intelligent people in the Israeli military have been – that whatever resulted from the attempt to topple Assad, it was not going to be stable rule by ‘moderate Islamists.’ (Any more than in Iraq, Libya, or indeed Chechnya.)

        Likewise, any reasonably objective assessment pointed to the truth of an argument made by Putin at the United Nations in September 2015: that, putting it in slightly different words, people who think they are the ‘dog’ can end up discovering that they are the ‘tail.’

        However, anyone who, for whatever reason, does not want to confront the fact that Western policy was actually producing ‘chaos’, can argue that everything in Syria would have been fine, had not the Russians first prevented the United States from intervening, back in 2013, and then intervened themselves, two years later.

        In pointing to the possibility that the hysteria clearly evident in Maçães’s writing may reflect inne doubts that have to be suppressed, the ‘off the wall’ arguments that Paul dissected raise the question as whether the defences against ‘identity threat’ are as secure as they appear.

        Whether what the authors of the study to which you are linked are trying to do to ‘breach’ these in Israel does or does not have useful lessons for people with equivalent problems elsewhere is a matter that needs more thought.


  15. “Andrew Marr to join New Statesman as chief political commentator..”
    Today’s Guardian headline marks the depths of the New Statesman’s descent.


  16. This is not going to end well.

    If I hadn’t foolishly given up my ten acres in the Green Mountains, I’d be building a nuclear bunker right about now.


  17. “Some leaders side with order, others choose chaos. Putin believes that nature has a preference for chaos, so the latter are destined to win.”

    I see, so appealing for the return to the UN Charter and International Law as forged and refined over half a dozen decades instead of its total obliteration by the ‘novichok on the block’, the ‘rules-based international order’ as defined by the 1% clique within UN nations is a preference for chaos.

    Glad I understand it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s the West that brought chaos to Russia, with its shock therapy. I won’t argue against it, as I’m a believer in ‘no pain, no gain’, but it’s Putin that still, to this day, is battling with stabilizing the last vestiges of its aftermath. No man that has uttered ‘evolution is preferable to revolution’ can fill the suit these western ‘pundits’ would fit him in. Best they suit themselves in it.

    They live in an upside down world, where black is white and might is right, then cry the sky is falling when they’re confronted with reaping a mere modicum of what they themselves have sown.

    These people are hopeless. They are unredeemable hegemons bordering on lunacy. Prepare for the worst. It’s soon reaching its crescendo.


  19. “Macaes’s model of chaos reinforcing power is not entirely useless.”

    This reminds me of Sakwa’s statement, “There is a fateful geographical paradox: that Nato exists to manage the risks created by its existence.”


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