Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Old Brutes vs. the New Agers

In all the uproar about Russia's annexation of Crimea, I've detected more hypocrisy and deception, and sheer incompetence and provincialism, on the Western side than on Putin's. On his side there's brute force and a driving historical ambition far beyond anything any Western leader would recognize. He's a throwback. He is, after all, the leader of the world's most enigmatic, paranoid, and dysfunctional nation; he's the incarnation of his country, as his people expect him to be. Russian leaders have always been underestimated or just misunderstood by the West, which lacks their "Asiatic" ruthlessness. (Sorry, but Churchill's words: think of Stalin and FDR. Winston was more of the realist.)
Plus, Putin's an ex-KGB colonel. No touchy-feely stuff there. Realpolitik is the name of the game.  
Anyway, I thought Peter Hitchens made an excellent point in his blog, and came up with the first really good historical parallel I've yet heard:

On precedent, I feel, increasingly that one has to look at Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus. I’ve no doubt that Turkey had a case for this, and that it was popular with Turkish Cypriots, and I can quite see why the USA never took serious action against Turkey about it. But the fact that Turkey is a NATO member, and remains one, has not been frozen out of this body ( a much more  coherent and significant gathering than the G8) and has not been subject to sanctions, knocks all the stuffing out of the objections to Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. You simply cannot condemn one without condemning the other, or excuse the one without excusing the other. The parallel is made all the stronger by the fact that Turkey imprisons far more journalists than Russia, holds political show trials, is aggressive to its neighbour Syria, fomenting rebellion there,  kills anti-government demonstrators, is spectacularly corrupt, and has an increasingly autocratic head of government.
Read the rest here.

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