Like a great man once said something similar . . .

Only one with a heart of stone could fail to be moved by the spectacle of the leaders of Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states standing by Saakashvili last week at a rally in Tbilisi. But Putin is not Hitler or Stalin; he is not even Leonid Brezhnev. He is what he is, and that is bad enough. In the 2008 election, he made a joke of democratic procedure and, in effect, engineered for himself an anti-constitutional third term. The press, the parliament, the judiciary, the business élite are all in his pocket—and there is no opposition. But Putin also knows that Russia cannot bear the cost of reconstituting empire or the gulag. It depends on the West as a market. One lesson of the Soviet experience is that isolation ends in poverty. Putin’s is a new and subtler game: he is the autocrat who calls on the widow of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. To deal with him will require statecraft of a kind that has proved well beyond the capacities of our current practitioners.

David Remnick, “Boundary Issues,” The New Yorker, 25 August, 2008.

Surely, many of the archetypes and historical reference points of the last century are no longer germane in this era, which not especially like the 20th century. It is demoralizing that so many writers can only muster up Hitler or Stalin when making historical comparisons. 

4 thoughts on “Like a great man once said something similar . . .

  1. Putin is a KGB thug with a degree in economics. Russia’s future is brighter than many think, they have come a long way, all be it slower than former East Germany. The only good thing i see coming out of the Russia’s militant, and aggressive stance toward the U.S. is the reluctance of the American people to vote for senator McCain. McCain has been to vocal and aggressive toward current Russian policy, and America realizes the pattern when we meddle in foreign political affairs. Nobody wants the Cold War.

  2. That’s not what the polls are saying. McCain seems on the contrary to benefit from Russia’s agressiveness, being seen (wrongly, imho) as the one who could better answer such a crisis in the future.

  3. 2 Alphast:

    I saw those polls within 3 hours of that post, believe me when i say that they should be taken with a grain salt. Just wait until the debates kick-up, and McCain starts to rev up the cavalry, and Obama sits back and says “it is not our business”… “we are not the world police!” You will see U.S. public opinion show its true levels of comprehension. Those polls released this week are/were based on the prediction of who who could handle such a hypothetical conflict more effectively. In the debates, you will see all this change when Sen Obama depreciates the prospect of going to war, and as just an ethnic Russian and Georgian affair. Despite American interest in the Azerbaijani pipeline, no politician will bring such a reason as a natural resources as the motive for engaging in war. McCain and conservatives will have to rely on freedom and democracy, but due to the reality that Georgia is unaffiliated with NATO or the EU, what pressure is their for the U.S. to respond? GUAM certainly hasn’t led to military support from capable nations such as Turkey, so why would the U.S. respond? This is chess, and Russia knows that they must play by the rules, and with South Ossetia being overwhelmingly of Ethnic Slav decent they have more than mere pretext to have made their move.

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