Are the 19th Century Men Winning?

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74 Responses

  1. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Good essay, CC. The distinction between tactical and strategic gains is particularly relevant.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    The thing is that politicians in democratic countries are at least somewhat bounds by the desires of their citizens after the election. What is happening in the Ukraine is horrible but I can’t see away to stop Russia outside general war and there is no appetite among the population of the the developed world for a general war at this point. We might try sanctions but Russia is large enough to be hurt but not crippled by them and will find plenty of markets for their exports elsewhere. The USSR managed to survive a long time with a screwy economy and sanctions against it.

    I agree with this essay, its also applicable to the behaviors of the Syrian, Iranian, and North Korean regimes among others but can’t think of a palatable solution to the problem.Report

  3. NewDealer says:

    LeeEsq brings up good points.

    We also can’t afford to intervene in the Crimea.

    • Creon Critic in reply to NewDealer says:

      I tend to come down on the more cynical side of budgeting: we pay for what we want to pay for. So the US and EU mobilize funds to intervene against Libya for instance. And a better, far more costly, example, trillions of dollars of resources mobilized in relatively short order to bail out major financial institutions. In economies the size of the US and EU, I’m very wary of arguments that these countries are at present in any way near to “broke”; the US is particularly advantaged by possessing the reserve currency.

      That aside, so even accepting Beinart’s we’re strapped for cash argument, there are methods of helping Ukraine with little cash up front, lowering trade restrictions for instance. The European foreign ministers agreed with the European Commission’s proposal, in addition to aid, to lower EU tariffs on Ukrainian goods. That was Monday, and I’m not sure what the dollar figure value is. But it is another (medium/longer term) means of providing needed assistance.


      • North in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I’m with Creon here. Beinart is indulging in hyperbole. If the American electorate decided that Crimea was a serious issue and meritted strong intervention then the economic clout that could be mustered would blow Putin’s socks off. To a lesser degree the same holds true for the Europeans. The problem is not lack of economic or fiscal might, the problem is lack of public will and frankly I’m not very sympathetic to the chest beaters when they claim that the public is wrong on this matter. Crimea is so up on Russia’s doorstep that you can smell Putin’s Grandma’s Borscht.Report

      • Barry in reply to Creon Critic says:

        “I tend to come down on the more cynical side of budgeting: we pay for what we want to pay for. ”

        Until an organization runs out of *all* of cash, credit and saleable assets, it can *always* afford what the people running it want, or need to get to pay off crucial interests.

        I don’t think that there’s ever been an exception that I’ve seen.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to NewDealer says:

      Is it a matter of the US being “broke” or of Russia having nukes?Report

    • NobAkimoto in reply to NewDealer says:

      This is ridiculous. Have you looked at Russia’s finances? It’s not really looking good for Putinistan, and the amount of US “brokeness” is pennies compared to where Russia’s heading. Who has a sovereign debt rating of BBB with a downward grade?

      Certainly not the US.Report

    • @newdealer

      I agree the US shouldn’t intervene militarily in Ukraine. But how is the wish not to intervene–not to spend the blood and treasure (of others, not me)–different from the “America Firstism” you sometimes criticize on these threads?Report

  4. greginak says:

    The French may not deliver 2 new helo carriers they were building for the Russians. If that happens that will be a significant hurt to the Russians. They are strong enough to bully their neighbors, which is bad, but their military capabilities are far less then they were in the 80’s. They can’t build their own capital ships and if this now means they can’t even buy them, that creates a long term problem for their navy.Report

  5. Slugger says:

    I have said this before. Russia has had strong, powerful he-man leadership since Ivan the first established the nation and set the tone for leadership. At least since the Congress of Vienna there has been the puzzle of Russia’s underperformance as a nation. Russia has a huge land mass full of natural resources, a people whose resilience and patriotism is second to none, and great genius in science, mathematics, physics, literature, music, dance, and sports. Yet it has never really led. In recent memory, its creation, the USSR, tumbled in the Cold War. NATO is in Warsaw.
    Is it possible that tough guy chest-pounding does not actually work? I think the WSJ should zip their fly, sit down, and use their brains. That actually works.Report

    • Barry in reply to Slugger says:

      “I think the WSJ should zip their fly, sit down, and use their brains. That actually works.”

      There’s a certain point where the answer to any argument that a party makes is ‘they’re full of sh*t, full stop'[1].

      [1] Usually, if the party manages by accident to make a good point, others will be making it as well. IMHO, it’s rare for a fullash*t party to make a good argument at the same time the non-fullash*t parties aren’t.Report

    • Kim in reply to Slugger says:

      To point to russia’s failure as a result of the top is to ignore the inherent conservatism of the Russian peasant, which has also done much to hinder progress — both directly and as a result of supporting strongmen.

      People first, not great men.Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    Russia: Crimea is Russia. We’re taking it. Do something about it, bitches.

    Ukraine: Holy shit!

    EU: We scold you, Russia! Harshly!

    USA: Yeah. What them Euro-dudes said. You think Florida takes it? seems to easy to pick the overall favorite…

    Russia: we’re annexing it! You can’t stop us!

    USA: fine.

    Ukraine: What? “Fine?”

    EU: we scold you AGAIN, Russia!

    WSJ: We’re wimps oh noes!

    USA: whatevs.Report

    • Unfortunately for Russia, the play has three acts.Report

      • North in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Yeah, we’ve left off some acts.

        Crimea: Thanks for taking me in Russia, enjoy my warm water port. Now I am in need of electricity, water and a bridge to connect me to the rest of my fellow Russians. Also here’s a bill for my pension obligations.

        Russia: Holy crap! Why aren’t any of my business initiatives doing well? Why are all my non-extractive businesses not taking off?

        International Business Community: First off, setting up shop in a potential war opponent is bad for business. Also we’re well aware that those grabby hands aren’t limited to seizing pro russian former Russian border regions. Thanks, we’ll park our money in some country where we think we may be able to get it back. Hey America, want our money? We’ll pay you to keep it safe for us.

        America: Sure, whatever, make me a sandwich while you’re at it.

        International Business Community: A sandwich? Hell with that buddy, here’s ten choices of sandwiches with deluxe sauce options and a generous layaway plan!

        America: Okay fine, you can pay me to look after your money.

        Russia: Yebat’ vashu mat’!Report

      • Chris in reply to Creon Critic says:

        The second act may be set in Estonia.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @ Chris – how so? Estonia is EU, and action by Russia there would certainly have to stir the EU and US. I am certainly more familiar with Estonia (not by much, but some) than I am with Ukraine and Crimea. That’s partly because I have an Estonian acquaintance, but also partly because when the Curtain fell, Estonia frickin’ flew towards the West as fast as it could, and there have been lots of articles in tech-centered publications about Estonia and tech/intenet stuff, so you’d start to see people who are less interested in ‘world politics’ and more interested in ‘internet’ start to pay attention to what was happening. But I know you are more up on the history there….what do you see as potentially happening?Report

      • Chris in reply to Creon Critic says:

        The Russians are starting to talk about protecting ethnic Russians in Estonia now.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Strangely enough, the nine most terrifying words in Russian are ALSO “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”Report

      • Chris in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I assume that Russia wouldn’t be crazy enough to invade Estonia the way they invaded Ukraine, but I imagine that they’re going to put pressure on former Soviet states like Estonia by saying, “South Ossetia! Crimea!”Report

      • North in reply to Creon Critic says:

        There’s no way. Messing with Ukraine is one thing but if you fish with Estonia you’re fishing with the EU itself directly which means you’re fishing with Germany which means you’re fishing with the markets that buy and sell an enormount of your stuff. There’s nothing in Estonia that’d be worth that kind of anguish for Putin.Report

      • Matty in reply to Creon Critic says:

        when the Curtain fell, Estonia frickin’ flew towards the West as fast as it could

        Based on things I was told when I visited a few years back all three Baltic states have a history of linking national independence with strong links to the west. The British navy played a role in securing their independence after World War I and the general culture has tilted west since the Teutonic knights.Report

      • Kim in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I think since the Hanseatic League, actuallyReport

  7. North says:

    The desperate distress scream of the endangered blue striped neocon puffbird. “We’re relevant, we’re still relevant! Listen to us we’re relevant!!!” Someone should call the IFAW.Report

  8. Damon says:

    Oh dear me…Russia behaving like the US in foreign policy. Can’t have that.

    harumph harumph. American exceptionalism and all that….harumph.

    What’d you think would happen trying to destablalize a country on Russia’s borders?Report

    • Creon Critic in reply to Damon says:

      How many post 1945, foundation of the UN, annexations has the US engaged in? I believe the answer is none. (There are also all those post 1954 Russian agreements on Ukraine’s territorial integrity: Helsinki Final Act, Budapest Memo, Russia-Ukraine Friendship Agreement.)

      What’d you think would happen trying to destablalize a country on Russia’s borders?

      Because Ukraine had the temerity to negotiate an association agreement with the EU? How dare they try and set their own foreign policy without getting Russia’s assent? It is like Ukraine thinks it is a sovereign country.

      Really, who do you hold accountable for destabilizing Ukraine? The US? The EU?Report

      • Damon in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Who needs to annex? We just overthrow an existing state, regardless of whether it’s duly elected or not:

        Iraq (twice)
        Central and S. America. Do I need to go on?

        We told Russia that we’d not sign nato agreements with eastern block then went back on our word. We’ve been destablizing Ukranie. Russia is the only country, besides China, that can push back against our actions. Folks expected they wouldn’t?Report

      • Barry in reply to Creon Critic says:

        “How many post 1945, foundation of the UN, annexations has the US engaged in? I believe the answer is none. ”

        Not really a key point, since the number of places which the USA wants to actually *annex* was not big post-1945, assuming that there were *any*.

        Now, how many times did the US ‘stablilize’ a foreign government in what the US regarded as one of ‘our’ countries? That probably couldn’t be counted on the fingers of both hands, and that’s included quite a bit of mass murder and torture.Report

      • Damon,
        Grabbing bits of other country’s territory is a big norm violation in a way that quite a few of the interventions you mention aren’t. Several of the interventions on your list had UN Security Council resolutions (Iraq I, Libya), UN Charter self-defense justification (Afghanistan), or at least strenuous efforts on the United States’ part to pursue diplomatic avenues. A few, Iraq II, Iran (deposing Mosaddegh), various interventions in the Americas are far sketchier and skirt the bounds of international law if not violate it altogether. That’s a fair point.

        Now, do those past norm violations on the United States’ part license current norm violations on Russia’s part? Do they provide a warrant for Russia to break the agreements I mentioned (Helsinki, Budapest, etc.)?

        How has the US been destabilizing Ukraine? In what way? How was the US the root cause of the various popular uprisings, protesting corruption, protesting the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement pullout, and protesting the mistreatment and abuse of protesters? (The State Department certainly had a continuous “parties should exercise restraint” position during the course of the Maidan protests. But that’s kind of boilerplate, don’t shoot people in the streets stuff.)

        Altogether, I think you’re overstating the US factor and understating the endogenous, Ukrainian factors in the recent instability.

        We told Russia that we’d not sign nato agreements with eastern block then went back on our word.

        I’d suggest that’s a more complicated story.

        This is admittedly the pro-West position, but where did the US and NATO put those alleged commitments, no east-ward expansion of NATO, into signed international agreements? In international agreements, the way Helsinki, Budapest, etc. are in writing?

        Russia is the only country, besides China, that can push back against our actions. Folks expected they wouldn’t?

        Well, Russia has a menu of push back options. It is worth questioning this particular route and pointing out its blatant illegitimacy and the various lies being told to justify it. For instance, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic reported to the Security Council yesterday that human rights violations against Russian-speakers in Ukraine were “neither widespread nor systematic”. A pretty important point given one of the planks of Russia’s justification was protection of a Russian-speaking population supposedly under threat. It is also worth questioning if this particular route will frustrate larger Russian foreign policy objectives. Was it really advisable for Russia to push back in this way?Report

      • Damon in reply to Creon Critic says:

        @Creon Critic
        “Grabbing bits of other country’s territory is a big norm violation in a way that quite a few of the interventions you mention aren’t.” Fair point. Talk to me about Diego Garcia. And don’t use the fact that the British did it because it was done so we could have a base. We’re complicit is this 100%.

        “Now, do those past norm violations on the United States’ part license current norm violations on Russia’s part? Do they provide a warrant for Russia to break the agreements I mentioned (Helsinki, Budapest, etc.)?” Liscense? No. But the lack of perspective about the activities of other parties gives a distored perspective that “the big bad russian bear” is behaving SO much more differently than other parties are, and that’s just BS.

        “Signed agreements”? You mean like laws and stuff? To paraphrase-“treaties/agreements” are just “scraps of paper”.

        “Was it really advisable for Russia to push back in this way?” I sure as hell don’t know, but then again, I don’t get paid to do that kind of work.Report

    • j r in reply to Damon says:


      Someone has been reading too much Moldbug.Report

  9. Kolohe says:

    First of all, Putin isn’t acting like a 19th century man. He’s acting like an 18th century woman

    “In the face of a state wielding power at the end of a gun, what shield is international law or international institutions like the OSCE and UN? What good is the liberal internationalist vision of US foreign policy if it can’t get Russia out of Crimea posthaste?”

    The barrel of a gun, under international law, got Kim Il Sung out of South Korea, Sadaam out of Kuwait, and, per the current administration’s own spin, Asaad to give up his chemical weapons. International law alone has given us the multigenerational Arab-Israeli dispute, numerous civil wars in Africa, and the rest of the situation in Syria. (the barrel of a gun without international law gave us Kosovo and Libya (x2))

    “This point is most evident in Russia’s demonstrated isolation on the United Nations Security Council; Russia alone voted against the March 15 UN Security Council draft resolution.”

    And China abstained (as I thought they would). The international community is thus not quite fully united on this issue.

    “One of Russia’s long-term aims is a successful Eurasian Union with Russia as the central node. ”

    Putting aside as to whether or not the European Union has been ‘successful’ on its own metrics – and whether or not it is truly viable – the Eurasian project is still going along more or less as planned. Moldova and Belarus are still besties with Russia, and the Stans are mostly onboard (esp as US and other ISAF presence wanes as Afghanistan logistic demands wind down). China will still continue to be somewhere between frenemies and friends with benefits. India’s longstanding relationship is still intact. And there’s still plenty of opportunity for Russian influence outside it’s immediate near abroad in the Axis of Not Evil But We Don’t Like The West Because Reasons – e.g. Iran, Venezuela.

    “Various initial phase punishments are already underway. The prospect of the G-8 turning into the G-7, freezing prospective Russian membership in the OECD, and stopping negotiations on freeing trade and reducing visa restrictions.”

    I still don’t get what kicking Russia out of the G-8 does, because I still don’t get what benefit having Russia *in* in G-8 does, but I get that these are all measures of disapproval.

    “what multi-national corporation CEO can look to Russia as a site for investment?”

    The same ones that went to the PRC after Tiananmen and the Third Taiwan Strait crisis?

    Finally, it’s worth noting that in the post-1945 international order, the USSR annexed the three Baltic republics, a fact that the US never recognized, but also didn’t really do anything about. So, this has happened before, and this will happen again. It is indeed the cold logic of political will and military power – costs and benefits.

    Russia’s also making noises at Estonia now (and there was the ww2 memorial incident & response back in 2007). Russia knows that pulling the same stunt in that direction *will* cause a NATO military response. And thus will just make noises, working the refs, biding its time. (though, everyone is right, that time is something Russia doesn’t really have).Report

    • Creon Critic in reply to Kolohe says:

      the Eurasian project is still going along more or less as planned

      Reading a Putin explanation of his vision for the Eurasian Union from 2011, I can’t help but laugh out loud at some of the passages post-Crimean intervention.

      Fourth, the Eurasian Union is an open project. We welcome other partners to it, particularly CIS member states. At the same time, we are not going to hurry up or nudge anyone. A state must only join on its sovereign decision based on its long-term national interests.

      In this respect, I would like to touch upon an important issue. Some of our neighbours explain their lack of interest in joining forward-looking integration projects in the post-Soviet space by saying that these projects contradict their pro-European stance.

      I believe that this is a false antithesis. We do not intend to cut ourselves off, nor do we plan to stand in opposition to anyone. The Eurasian Union will be based on universal integration principles as an essential part of Greater Europe united by shared values of freedom, democracy, and market laws.

      • Kolohe in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Wow, who would have thunk that a 1) politician 2) autocrat 3) ex-KGB officer wouldn’t be totally honest and aboveboard in his pronouncements on plans and intentions?

        “If you like your pro-European stance, you can keep your pro-European stance!”Report

    • Badtux in reply to Kolohe says:

      I seriously doubt that NATO would do a thing if Putin pulled a Crimea on Estonia, just as they did nothing when he sent the Russian Army into Georgia. The reality is that none of the former Soviet republics are going to create the level of concern among European populations needed to rouse them from their anti-war stance. If Russian tanks crossed the border into Poland there would be a response, immediate and quick, because that feeds into hundreds of years of fears of Russian troops marching all the way to the Atlantic, but Estonia? A country that has spent only a few decades NOT under Russian rule during the past two centuries? For realz? Not happening.

      Not that I expect Putin to pull a Crimea on Estonia. He seems more content to pull a Finland on Estonia — i.e.., allow them to continue to be independent as long as they remember their independence is contingent on a special relationship with their powerful neighbor.Report

    • NobAkimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

      It’s rather interesting how “internationalist” the likes of Alexander I and Nicholas I were in the mid-19th century. They were deathly afraid of nationalism, it’s true, but they loved the idea of great power accord.

      Also on China’s abstention in the UNSC probably has more to do with say Birobidzhan than agreement with Russia. Gander and goose and all that.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe says:

      He’s acting like an 18th century woman.

      Ii is a truth universally acknowledged, that a country in possession of a large standing army must be in want of a warm-water port.Report

  10. DRS says:

    Damon is right, of course – not that anyone will admit it. Ukraine and the Crimea are on Russia’s border and contain several million Russians: whatever you think of Putin’s actions (and they are appallingly antiquated, almost Tsar-ish in their ham-fistedness) the issue of the former Soviet republics relations with Russia has been festering for years.

    Is it so hard for Americans to imagine what they would think or how they would react if there were border issues that impacted a few million Americans in a former dependency? Or if that dependency was to join an adversarial association? What if Mexico or Canada signed a military treaty with China? I’m pretty sure we’d hear about it.

    Americans tend to view these crises as isolated incidents that blow up out of nowhere with no warning, but I agree with Daniel Larison that America’s tendency to take for granted its right and duty to encourage anti-Russian elements on the grounds of democracy-building (or whatever the latest buzz word is) ignores the effect this has on Russia. Remember Georgia? The government that thought it was Israel and could act accordingly? Yeah, slightly wrong about that, weren’t they?

    There are many times when the best thing America could do would be – nothing. This is one of those times.Report

  11. Badtux says:

    The question is what is the core strategic goal here? If the strategic goal is to integrate Russia into Greater Europe, clearly that goal has failed. But what if Putin has a different strategic goal in mind? What if his strategic goal is, in fact, to re-unite the former Soviet states into a new Greater Russia? He has in fact given interviews where he stated that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the worst disaster for Russians since the Mongolian invasion of Rus in 1238. It may well be that he doesn’t want a *literal* reuniting of all of the former Soviet states under the Russian flag, but he certainly appears to be inclined to remind them that in the greater scheme of things, their role is to be subservient to Russia. And Ukraine’s lack of any viable military response to the seizure of the Crimea, and their possible complete annexation by Russia if they did dare attempt a military solution to the crisis, is sure to reinforce that lesson for the remainder of the former Soviet states.Report

  12. Kolohe says:

    @badtux true enough about Russia gaming Montreux with ‘aviation cruisers’. The whole treaty to begin with gives Russia special standing by design, and of course, like anyone else, they’re going to exploit every loophole. And Turkey is right now one of the more unreliable NATO allies, and the latest twitter thing is one example of the Ergodan administration being no friend of the West or Western values.

    On the other hand, Turkey guards it’s Straits prerogatives quite vigorously (which was the main point of Montreux, to keep that jealously manageable and mostly peaceable). Moreover, Turkey and its predecessors have never been friends of the Russian Federation and its predecessors, except for about 5 minutes in 1945.

    I would not discount NATO’s resolve were Russia to start acting (militarily) on its western frontier. Georgia and Ukraine are geographically, politically, and economically remote from “Europe” (as it denotes a security zone). The Baltics are not.Report

    • Badtux in reply to Kolohe says:

      Uhm, please consult a map. Estonia is not adjacent to any Western nation and is more geographically remote than Ukraine and Georgia, which, remember, directly adjoin Turkey and its major NATO bases. Estonia is better integrated into Western economies (Skype came from there, remember?), but it is a small nation whose re-absorption by Russia (which owned it for roughly 150 of the past 200 years) would trouble Germany (in particular) but probably not to the point of a military response. Especially since Germany will shiver greatly and have blackouts if Russian gas is turned off (the German attempt to generate all their electricity from renewables has been both a success and a failure — because renewables cause significant fluctuations in output, Germany is heavily reliant on Russian gas to fuel gas-powered electrical generation plants to provide the baseline power needed when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining).

      Now, if Russian tanks crossed the border into Poland… that’s Germany’s next door neighbor. The response would be swift and certain, shivering in the dark be d*mned. But there’s no indication that Tsar Putin has any desire to move in on any areas that weren’t historically part of the Soviet Union — and no indication that NATO has the stomach for intervening militarily on the behalf of former Soviet republics that are forcibly reminded that they’re part of Russia’s “sphere of influence”.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Badtux says:

        “Uhm, please consult a map.”

        Please consult your Mahan. And your NATO member list.Report

      • Badtux in reply to Badtux says:

        You have a lot of reverence for pieces of paper. Pieces of paper have power only if there are men with guns willing to back them up. Otherwise their primary value is as toiletry.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Badtux says:

        That’s amusing, my antipodal avian amigo, as that’s the crux of my argument against Creon Critic’s series of posts on the Crimea situation. (and particularly the characterization of the post-1945 world order)

        Clausewitz 101, my sartorially flawed friend. War is politics by other means. Pieces of paper define the terms of the politics involved. There are two pieces of paper I have brought up in this thread, the Montreux convention and the NATO treaty.

        Violating the Montreux convention is easy enough, but I have said that Turkey would have a hard time with it. They also have the military capability to make any Russian violation costly. The western powers could also violate it, but then that obviates the West’s argument that Russia’s actions in Crimea are ‘illegal’.

        Discarding a core principle of the NATO charter is a much bigger deal. It’s already been an alliance searching, mostly in vain, for a real purpose since 1991. If it allowed Russia to violate the security and/or territorial integrity of one of its member states – well, that would defeat the whole point of why they got together in 1949.

        A Russian incursion into Estonia would give the neocons the fight with Russia they never had, the liberal internationalists the treaty obligations they predicate their foreign policy views on, and the realists the evidence that Russia is becoming a real threat that must be dealt with. (nobody cares what people that think the US should just mind its own business think, because they’re split into hippies and racists and so won’t form a voting block).

        Now, will Russia do something drastic in Estonia? No, because the Kremlin has made this same calculation. Along with the knowledge that NATO has maneuver and logistic capability around the Baltics that is doesn’t have in the Caucasus or the Black Sea.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Badtux says:

        A Russian incursion into Estonia would give the neocons the fight with Russia they never had, the liberal internationalists the treaty obligations they predicate their foreign policy views on, and the realists the evidence that Russia is becoming a real threat that must be dealt with.

        I see it as just as likely that the neocons would be delighted to have the USSR back, if only to justify military buildup again. Instead of fighting the last war, they’d rather fight the cold one again. You can’t do that with the Middle East. You’d need the USSR for that.

        Liberal internationalists would rather talk about Israel/Palestine than Putin. Sub-Saharan Africa. Exploitation of Central America. NATO? That’s a Reagan-era invention. It’s time for a new international treaty. Maybe this one can include people of color rather than focusing so extensively on Europe.

        The realists? I think they miss the Cold War even more than the neocons. You can’t cut a deal without a partner worth cutting a deal with, after all… and the Baltics are a small, small price to pay.

        I see Putin re-establishing a USSR 2.0 (not as good as the original but, hey, what is?) and people nudging here or there to make that happen even as they officially denounce it.Report

  13. KatherineMW says:

    “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” declared John Kerry on March 2 as Russia began its conquest of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Though he didn’t intend it, the U.S. Secretary of State was summing up the difference between the current leaders of the West who inhabit a fantasy world of international rules and the hard men of the Kremlin who understand the language of power.

    Though he didn’t intend it, the Secretary of State was providing an impeccable illustration of the concept of “irony”. Or perhaps “hypocrisy”. It’s not as if we’ve all forgotten than he supported the “invasion of another country on a completely trumped-up pretext”. The return of 19th-century-style international relations was an avalanche set off by the United States.Report

  14. NobAkimoto says:

    Starting with John Kerry onward, anyone using the term “19th century fashion” probably needs a history lesson.

    The 19th century was the century of international accords and Great Power peace. It would be helpful if folks were historically cognizant, at least.Report

    • The period he has in mind could be the long 19th century, which did not lack for great power conflict.

      Even restricting the period to 1801-1900, there’s the Franco-Prussian War and the resultant stockpiling of animus for future conflict and score settling. Alsace-Lorraine comes to mind.

      Last, great(er) power behavior towards lesser powers during the period could hardly be called magnanimous – China didn’t fare well, Mexico didn’t either, nor did the Ottoman Empire.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Worth recalling, however, that when Russia tried this stunt in the Black Sea region in that time period, it was a coalition of the two ascending great powers of the UK and the Second French Empire that gave it a thorough beatdown in the Crimea.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Creon Critic says:

        And generally speaking, partitions and other types of landgraps were more prevalent in the preceding two centuries. The partitions for Poland spring immediately to mind, but so do the Seven Years War, War of Spanish Succession, or Great Northern War.Report

      • Well, there is sufficient contrast with the 19th century. I mean, this month Luxembourg holds the presidency of the UN Security Council. Can you imagine Luxembourg at the Congress of Vienna, much less opening proceedings and casting a vote.

        Yes, there are permanent members of the UNSC, so even in today’s structure all states aren’t quite created equal, but Luxembourg’s theoretical Congress of Vienna representative would have been laughed out of the room. The other UNSC presidents this year, Jordan (January) and Lithuania (February).

        What agenda setting power at the top table could the Luxembourg, Jordan, and Lithuanias of the world possibly hope to have in the 19th century?Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Creon Critic says:

        Not as much, though smaller states and German principalities actually had a fair amount of voice during the Vienna proceedings, partly because restoring the status quo (and putting back buffer states) was part of the whole thing. Lest it be forgotten, too, that the United Netherlands was one of the armies that went after Bonaparte at Waterloo.

        I’m not saying the Vienna system was perfect, or that small powers were treated well in it, but they weren’t run completely roughshod like the 18th and 17th century systems did. (Or for that matter, most of the 20th century system did)Report

  15. Michael Cain says:

    Random thoughts based on my obsession…

    Didn’t Crimea just do what some of the conservative base would like to do? Some number of Mississippians (just as an example, there are other states that would do as all) appear to want to vote to secede from the US, and then petition to join something that’s not the US.

    There are ongoing rumors that some of the folks in the northern tier of Mexican states would like to see those states secede from Mexico City and become US protectorates of some sort (state, territory, whatever). The proximate cause right now is that the Mexican federal government can’t protect them from the drug cartels. What is the response — both by the US government and by conservatives — if a Mexican state declared its independence and then asked for asylum?Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Cain says:

      “Of course we can protect you from the drug cartels. We’ll start by shooting your dogs.”Report

    • Matty in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I’ve heard of secession movements before but not of US states wanting to join another nation. Aside from anything else, where would they go? Crimea is culturally and demographically more like Russia than Ukraine but is Mississippi more like Mexico or Canada than it is like the rest of the US? I doubt it. Or maybe they want to go further afield and petition to join the Russian Federation, that would be interesting.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Matty says:

        I suppose it’s a more than technical difference, but most of the US states who make noise about seceding from the country seem to assume that they’ll all band together and form a bigger country. If you look at the areas where the secession petitions got the biggest response, mostly it’s a case of “the Confederacy will rise again.” Plus Indiana, where the idea seems relatively popular.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

      “What is the response — both by the US government and by conservatives — if a Mexican state declared its independence and then asked for asylum?”

      How do you say “The Alamo” in Spanish?Report