Crisis in Norstrand


James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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100 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    The crucial actor here is Norstrand’s president for life:


  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    It’d be necessary for me to have a better understanding of Norstrand’s government before I can really begin to answer your question. Is it democratic? Are both ethnic Americans and ethnic Norsts represented? What options were available to the ethnic Norsts other than violent overthrow?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

      The Norst president who had to flee the country, Vic Yankovich (fourth cousin thrice removed from his weird cousin Al) was democratically elected. Ethnic Americans and ethnic Norts are represented. The ethnic Americans are in the minority overall, but–I should have mentioned–are in the majority in the province in which the U.S. has a strategically critical naval base; it’s primary Pacific base. (I’m going to go edit the post to add that now.)Report

  3. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Is Norstria the rest of the country sans Crunyan, the new name of the country after the overthrow, or something else?Report

  4. NobAkimoto NobAkimoto says:

    You misspelled “Cuba”.Report

    • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to NobAkimoto says:

      Or maybe “Texas”. Both of those are actually pretty interesting psychological stand-ins for your Norstrand. I think, too, it’s probably important to note the degree to which Norstrand had a role in forming the modern national mythology of America: ie let’s say in our hypothetical its major naval base was where the Star-Spangled Banner’s imagery came from.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NobAkimoto says:

        I personally approach this largely from a strategic angle. Otherwise, I find myself unlikely to support much of any action (except refugee status and/or transportation). Which might leave me less than patriotic, though part of my response is predicated on doing what’s best for the USA rather the Norsts (within reason).Report

  5. Avatar Will Truman says:

    How the US would respond depends on facts that I don’t really have at my disposal regarding our capabilities, our intelligence on Russia, and so on. So I can only say what I would think of the situation in Nortstrand. Note that I have not yet read the link, because I’m not sure if that would color my thinking in a way it shouldn’t.

    This seems like a cross between 60’s Cuba and present-day Ukraine. Our options would seem to be:

    1) Full-scale invasion. Because of the Cuba parallels, I am skeptical of this one. If the Norsts are the majority and the coup either (a) enjoys popular support or (b) would become popular out of US solidarity (which I’d think likely), it strikes me as a losing battle.

    2) Sea embargo. Unless the coup puts down plans for a new democratic regime, there is some moral legitimacy towards leaning hard on them. Whether that’s a good idea or not, I’m not sure as it depends on intelligence I don’t have access to, but it would at least potentially be a tool in the arsenal. Embargo until the former government is restored or elections are held. This runs into some if the same problems as (1), on the other hand, because it would likely be seen as antagonistic and could assure that any elections that are held do not go our way.

    3) Crumyan Independence, or territorial status, or something. Take back the part that has the most Americans, keep our naval base there both for the strategic reasons we had them there in the first place and to keep an eye on Russian bases that develop. The viability of this strategy would depend on how viable a Crumyan state is.

    4) Try to negotiate with the new government, using the threat of one or more of the above, to allow Crumyan to exist as an autonomous territory. They officially fly the orange and cyan (?), but can govern their own affairs to the extent that (a) the “Americans” are safe and (b) our naval base remains in tact.

    There may be more than these four options, but they are what come to mind.Report

    • Oh, there is of course (5) which is do nothing or allow the new regime to go forward with refugee status for the “Americans” (and transportation for those who actually are American citizens). I didn’t mean to discount this as a consideration. I was just looking at the things we might do rather than mostly not do. I might ultimately land in support of (5).Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

      Americans should see all of these actions as outrageous yes? Intolerable to the international community, and proof that their country needed to be isolated and contained?Report

      • From a moral standpoint (I was thinking more from a position of strategy), it depends in large part on what the new government looks like. If their only sin is a refusal to cooperate with us in favor of Russia* then the basis for doing anything is almost entirely strategic. If they’re talking about wiping out the American-Nostrandians (I should have gone with this instead of the quotes, my bad)… that changes things.

        * – Notably, the intent to install a reasonably democratic election. The degree of democracy involved would be in dispute, and the conditions we place on it could be unreasonable. If the coup enjoyed popular support, this shouldn’t be a very high bar, but I’d expect there to be the intent to raise the bar as much as possible. Whether this flies or not depends on things that likely have to do with things other than the merits of the case.Report

      • I should add that the moral problematic nature varies between the numbers. For #1 and #2 (and #4 to the extent that it relies on #1 or #2), the moral case is pretty weak so long as there is an even vaguely liberal government in place (the category in which I would put Russia – unacceptable by our standards, but not outside the lines of what I am talking about). #3, on the other hand, actually has something behind it.

        This is sort of where I break ranks with a lot of people, in that I think Crimea and other eastern Ukrainian provinces should be allowed an election to determine their fate. A real election, though. Any moral legitimacy behind #3 would similarly require such an vote. Which is another thing that would be in dispute, as I suspect whichever side would lose the Crumyan vote would dispute the parameters of that vote (whatever the parameters happen to be) and/or allege fraud.Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

        It seems, to me, at least, that the greater problem inherent here is that in the current international system and its orthodoxy there’s a sort of “state indivisibility”. Partitioning can be helpful in a lot of scenarios, but it’s never, ever the default course of action for whatever reason.Report

      • Don’t we know the reason?Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

        I think it’s just one of those lessons the international community has decided to try to forget about even after how shelving Vance-Owen during the Yugoslav conflict was eventually seen as a complete catastrophe. And let’s be honest, self-determination in the way Russia wants to chop up Ukraine would lead to a chopped up Russia.Report

      • Your last sentence touches on what I think. There are, to be sure, strategic reasons to prevent Crimea from voting to join Russia, but there are much stronger reasons to prevent sections of countries from thinking that independence is just a vote away.

        The UK and Canada are not begrudged giving Scotland and Quebec the the vote. But Catalonia? Veneto? Mum’s the word.Report

      • Though I am not nearly so well-versed on all of this as you are. That’s just my reading of it.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    I tried to write a paragraph about the US supplying large amounts of natural gas to a large Russian military treaty ally who has no alternate supplier, two-thirds of that passing through a Norstrand pipeline, but couldn’t manage anything coherent. There are a lot of threats and counter-threats going on there.Report

  7. Avatar Stillwater says:


    What’d you make of Putin’s speech? On the one hand, it’s a call to a world of rules. On the other, he seems quite defensive and not entirely honest about why Russia acts outside the rules. On the third hand, his speech, and what it means for international politics, and his critique of the US, and his subsequent critigReport

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:


      subsequent critique of Russian actions and motivations leaves me thinking that Kissinger (I think?) when he said that international relations is defined by straight power concepts. I mean, the whole thing just gets so muddled. Reminds me of something TVD used to say all the time: Our problems remain epistemological.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

      I think people should pretend it was given by President Obama in reaction to the Norstrand Crisis.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        Hmmm. I’m inclined to take it a bit more seriously than you do, but I hear ya.Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

        Ah the strangeness of international anarchy.

        This whole thread is a very good example of what Luc Ashworth describes here:

        Though as Alex Wendt has reminded us over and over again, anarchy is what states make of it.Report

      • I think people should pretend it was given by President Obama in reaction to the Norstrand Crisis.

        That’s partially why I didn’t follow the link. I figured that’s where you were going with it, and wanted to approach it as blindly as I could (how would I, as an American, approach this).

        I am a bit curious as to your more specific take on it, though. I assume, given your worldview, that you do not view this as any sort of vindication of Putin. But were you going a step further, to criticize the precipitating events the same way that Russians are the “bad guys” in Norstrand?

        In any event, I really appreciate the exercise.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:


        From the linky:

        Enlightenment approaches to politics were fatally flawed because they were never able to reconcile their domestic political agenda with international politics.The net result of this flaw has been the maintenance of an international sphere of politics that remained governed by pre-Enlightenment and conservative ancien regime norms.

        I like what I’m hearin. Tell me more! (I’m feelin a bit lazy and don’t wanna read the whole article.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:


        Have you read the speech? He says a lot of pretty compelling things in it. It’s certainly a way better speech than I’ve heard any American politician give in recent memory.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        Slowly but surely, I think we’re wandering back toward a Kissingerian “realism”.

        I used to think that there was a special place in Hell for Kissinger. Now I’m wondering if he wasn’t right, given the alternatives.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:


        That’s a big part of what Putin’s speech is getting on about. A world without rules is a world defined by power and is therefore justified in exercising power. (His example is getting the bomb to ensure self–defense.) But along the way he says that the US and the post-cold-war allies used power they achieved to violate the rules as they saw fit. So the anarchy he’s reacting to can be pinned on not only the US (and it’s allies) as actors, but on a power structure which attempts to maintain US primacy as the global power structure.

        Really, his speech is worth a read.Report

      • Still, working through it in between Lain needing my attention.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:


        Yah. It’s a long read. I’m still working my way thru the Q&A section.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James Hanley says:

        “but on a power structure which attempts to maintain US primacy as the global power structure.”

        When you’re the fourth biggest in both area and population, and have a 1/4 of global economic output, you’re going to be on the top of the global power structure. China may have a decent beef along these lines, but not Russia. Legacy global power structures allow Russia to punch way above its weight. (and for that matter, China is largely included in legacy global power structures – it’s Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil (in that order) that should be annoyed at the current state of affairs).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:


        Did you read the speech? Or are you pilching comments of mine to express a view about Putin you already hold?

        I’m fine if its the latter, actually. But look, Putin is basically saying “if this is the way the US wants to play it, them I’ma play it that way, and they better not bitch about it“.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James Hanley says:

        Like Will T, I am also still working through it. Though it’s Red Zone and making tacos, not a baby, that has been competing for my attention.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        I’m very serious about that.

        What do you think is the U.S.’s general response to Putin’s speech, and to his goals for Russia?

        What do you think is the U.S.’s general response to that speech by Obama, and to his goals for the U.S.?

        How should the rest of the world view the same speech if given by Putin and if given by Obama?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        Well, if your presumption is that the only way to view it is ideological/nationalistic/partisan-based, then you’re absolutely correct.

        I guess I question the premise. Seems like it begs the question.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        It’s actually worse than that. All you’ve done by this exercise is to reinforce and exacerbate folks ideological/nationalistic/partisan orientations.

        Seems to me, anyway. I mean, this is an ongoing battle between me and Others, but in a nutshell, *criticizing* folks for being overly partisan won’t change those folks views. So the only reason I can think of for why people do it is as a form of signalling.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        if your presumption is that the only way to view it is ideological/nationalistic/partisan-based,

        Really? You think that’s what I’m arguing?

        I’m not sure if I’m that bad a writer, or if you’re that unimaginative a reader.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        Here, I’ll quote for you:

        What do you think is the U.S.’s general response to Putin’s speech, and to his goals for Russia?

        What do you think is the U.S.’s general response to that speech by Obama, and to his goals for the U.S.?

        How should the rest of the world view the same speech if given by Putin and if given by Obama?

        You tell me where I got it wrong.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Of course there’s no way you could be misinterpreting that. No way at all. Because you can see exactly what the words mean, regardless of what the author thinks he intends. Maybe we can have a stimulating conversation about texts and authors, and see who orgasms first.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        Then me where I got it wrong, James. All this “you could certainly figure it out if you weren’t such an X” isn’t helping.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        Shrug. What have I ever gained from playing your game of 120 questions? You’ve got my statement–accept it or don’t.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        your game of 120 questions?

        In this subthread, you’ve asked four rhetorical questions, I’ve asked one: for you to clarify what you mean by all these rhetorical questions.

        Seems like a fair ratio to me.

        More to the point, you apparently think I’m being either deliberately obtuse (so you can ignore me) or you think I’m so undeliberately obtuse that I’m worth leaving in the dark about the point you’re actually making. Just pointing that out, ya know?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Let’s focus on the issues instead of me, ok? I’m not what’s interesting here.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

      “On the third hand…”

      Norstrandians have three hands? KILL THEM ALL!!!Report

  8. Avatar North says:

    Depends on what side the butter their toast.Report

  9. Avatar David says:

    Three caveats to add some realism to your thought experiment:
    1) Norsts and Americans are overlapping ethnic categories in important ways – that is, much like being a Texan, many people considered (pre-crisis) that they were simultaneously American and Norst, and didn’t view the two as being widely in conflict.
    2) During World War II and shortly afterwards, conflict between Axis and Allied powers included some local strife that tended to pit Norst and American groups against each other in some ways. For many, the current conflict retains overtones of the earlier one – American colonialism from the Norst lens, and Norst support for the Japanese empire from the American lens – and their media play this up in reporting.
    3) The overthrown governor was Rod Blagojevich.Report

  10. Avatar Damon says:

    Hell, we’ve invaded other countries for less. Surely there are some real americans in this country, maybe studying medicine, that we should secure, oh say, by sending in a few battalions of marines and a carrier strike force.Report

  11. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Regardless of what the US would do (and it would probably take some form of military action, going by prior US actions in international situations of far less direct pertinence to them), any military intervention – whether to achieve Crumyan secession or a change of government – would be plainly illegitimate according to ethics and international law.

    If the US had, several years previously, poisoned a pro-Russian president of Norstrand, that would also be a key consideration in understanding the Norstish protests.

    The US would have every right to organize a strong international push for nationwide elections to be held, and urge compromise regardless of the outcome of those elections in order to reduce the risks of future violence.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to KatherineMW says:

      The US would have every right to organize a strong international push for nationwide elections to be held,

      Do you mean Russia?Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to James Hanley says:

        I thought in Norstrad you said the pro-US government had been overthrown by more pro-Russian people. In that situation, the US would want there to be new elections (if the previous government couldn’t be restored) rather than the folks who led the revolution remaining de facto in charge.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Oh, I get you. I was confused by that coming immediately after the possible U.S. poisoning of a pro-Russian president, and thought you meant the U.S. would have the right to push for elections following their doing that. My bad. Carry on.Report

    • It seems to me that the right of Norst self-determination and the lack of a right to Crumyan self-determination is sort of a hole in international law.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        I honestly don’t think so. Saying that any part of any country that wants to secede can do so for any reason is a recipe for chaos.

        Self-determination as Wilson envisioned it was disastrous when implemented in Europe. No matter how small of pieces you break a state into, there will be people in some parts of the successor states who think they’re part of the wrong country. Yugoslavia is the prime example.

        You get to be in a country. You get to vote for the government of that country. You don’t get to secede because other people in the country disagree with you and the majority elected someone you don’t like.

        I can understand secession as a lesser evil when there have been serious human rights violations committed against one group in the country, and there’s so much bad blood between different groups in the country that they can’t manage to live together peacefully. But even when that condition exists (e.g., South Sudan separating from Sudan), secession doesn’t generally lead to peace – now there’s just a lot of different, smaller ethnic groups in South Sudan fighting amongst themselves.Report

      • A lot of the time,though, the disaffected group is of a distinct ethnicity, culture, or history.

        I wouldn’t expect any group whatever to be able to secede, but when they can credibly say “we are a people (distinct from those people)” it’s hard for me to support national boundaries to be set in stone.

        I think the Crumyans, as the Crimeans (and Scots, Quebecois, and Catalonians), have a case along those lines.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

        Following up on Katherine, the nation-state was the great ideal of the late 19th through mid-late 20th century. People are now wondering if the era of the nation-state was just a phase. Even if Scotland had separated, and even if Catalonia separates, they want to be part of the EU, which would constrain their sovereignty. Ironically, the EU may make such nationalistic splitting safer, but precisely because they’re not seeking to be totally independent nation-states on the 19th century framework.Report

      • I actually had a Linky Friday or two on how increasing internationalization makes secession more viable.

        Notably, Scotland joining the EU and sacrificing it’s sovereignty thusly would have been voluntary.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        A lot of the time,though, the disaffected group is of a distinct ethnicity, culture, or history. I wouldn’t expect any group whatever to be able to secede, but when they can credibly say “we are a people (distinct from those people)” it’s hard for me to support national boundaries to be set in stone.

        I feel that having people from a variety of cultures and ethnicities is a good thing for a country. It means that everyone has to recognize that all of their norms and assumptions about the world aren’t universal, and learn to live with people who are different from them. It expands our views of what can be considered “normal”. If a person or a province or a country’s attitude to being around people who are different from them is “we need to separate ourselves from these people”, it’s just going to make them more insular and more suspicious of anyone who’s unlike themselves.

        I think diversity, and immigration, and multiculturalism are healthy and desirable things. Breaking off every ethnicity into their own country just makes it easier to divide things into “us” (“our” country/ethnicity) and “them” (everyone who’s not us).

        In addition to that, and as a more concrete objection, it’s rare for countries to be completely divided into having people of one ethnicity in one geographical area, and people of another in a completely separate area. Usually they’re a bit more mixed up then that, so with every new country you introduce, there will people who want to split off from it because they’re now the minority ethnicity in the new state. Look at Yugoslavia breaking into continuously smaller pieces. (Québec had a related problem in its previous referenda, with the Cree [who were a minority either way] saying that if Quebec left Canada, they were going to leave Quebec and stay part of Canada. Predictably but ironically, the Quebec separatists insisted that the Cree had no right to do that.)

        Or partitioned countries end up fighting over the areas with mixed-ethnicity or third- or fourth-ethnicity populations, such as India and Pakistan with Kashmir.

        Then you’ve got the issue of cross-cutting ethnic identities, where some people might identify more with their ‘race’ and some with their ‘religion’, and the two don’t always correlate.

        No matter how small you try to chop a state, you’re not likely to get a completely homogenous one short of mass ethnic cleansing or declaring each person the Independent Republic of Himself/Herself.Report

      • I’ve nothing against multiculturalism, but if you have secession movements, then the multiculturalism isn’t working, or is projected by the secessionists not to work. If people are still so segregated that the ethnic divisions are still comparatively clear, the union is suspect. Secession is a big deal. Quebec voted against it. Scotland voted against it, despite a ridiculously thumbscaled electorate. If secession has popular support*, I don’t think a minority region should be held hostage in the name of multiculturalism.

        I don’t support carte blanch when it comes to secession. The concerns of the minority within the region are significant. As well as what, precisely, a country plans to do with its independence. These are the points where the Confederacy fails. The former would be a strong case against a secession today of the South.

        But I can think of a lot of other states where the reasoning is straightforward. If you’d like, I can list out some scenarios and what criteria I’d be looking at. (Mostly within the US, which is where I have devoted the most thought and have the most knowledge.)

        But I’d argue that the starting point out to be good-faith negotiations for partition, rather than clutching to national boundaries that often don’t recognize the cultural and tribal differences within them. The Yugoslavian model was not sustainable (with anything less than an iron-fisted government), and I’ll take the seven successor states. I just wish it hadn’t required so much blood to get there.

        * – As an aside, I think 50% is too low a threshold for secession. If you have a vote that could easily overturn, such a drastic step should not be taken. I don’t know what the appropriate threshold is, but it ought to include over 50% of all voting-age citizens (a non-vote effectively counting as a “no” vote), and I’m probably bump it up to at least 60%… though I’d need some input before coming up with the exact number.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        I agree that a 50%+1 majority shouldn’t be enough to bring about secession, and that a 2/3 vote in favour of secession (or, alternatively, 50% of all eligible voters, rather than 50% of votes) would be reasonable, along with reasonable assurance of protection for minorities within the new state’s borders.

        I just don’t want to see secession used as a response to fairly minor grievances like disliking the winner of an election. (One of the big arguments in the Scottish referendum was that they needed independence because the Conservatives being in power meant they “weren’t represented”. Never mind that large parts of Scotland voted for the Lib Dems, who were part of the coalition government.) Or as a strong-arm tactic to win political concessions from the federal government. Or as a way for a currently resource-rich part of the country to secede from a resource-poor part of the country. Or as a way for an ambitious person to carve out a new realm for himself when he hasn’t got a shot at ruling the whole country. It’s a serious decision, it’s had bad consequences more often than not, and it should only be used as a remedy to serious problems.

        We couldn’t have gotten the successor states to Yugoslavia without severe bloodshed, because their higher level of ethnic homogeneity is the product of ethnic cleansing. In Yugoslavia, there weren’t clearly defined ethnic borders. If you’d broken it up into the seven current states at the moment of Tito’s death, you’d have 7 ethnically mixed states.Report

      • Sounds like we are not as far apart as we seem. A few related thoughts:

        To clarify, I’m talking about moving the threshold to above 50%+1 and counting non-voters as no votes. While I am (obviously) sympathetic to secessionist movements (when popular, with reasonable rationale), it shouldn’t be based on a temporary mood.

        While frustration with Cameron was a rallying point for Scotland, there was a lot more going on with it than that. Prime Ministers come and go, and I believe quite firmly the Scots know that. Some of the institutional realities, though, remain regardless. It gets to the difference between different perceptions of fairness. It’s the source of a lot of consternation in the US with our federalism and our senate. But federalism and the senate are at least ways of dealing with it. The UK is limited with what it can do with the former and would not submit to the latter (with good reason, their situation is different than ours).

        That, combined with pride, a thumbscaled electorate, an extremely tone-deaf opposition, and a very optimistic view of their oil situation, makes something like Scottish independence feasible despite all of the great many financial and logistical reasons that it was a very, very bad idea for Scots from a material standpoint. And even then, of course, the vote failed.

        Secession requires some pretty strong motivation. Despite all of our talk in the US, there is very little actual support for the idea in any state. It gets a little less difficult when the state that someone is threatening to leave is itself unstable, but that’s an issue of stability (which, to be sure, potential secession doesn’t help, but also is unlikely to be the primary cause of).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

      I’m down with saying “this is what should happen and this is what people should stop doing” but I’m not sure I’m down with going so far as to say “and therefore we should go to war to make that happen”.

      Unless, of course, saying “this is what should happen” is very likely to be quickly interrupted by someone screaming “AND THEREFORE WE SHOULD GO TO WAR!”Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t favour war against Russia. I do favour some very serious economic sanctions (e.g.: Europe stops buying any Russian oil; other OECD/NATO countries donate money to European countries to help them cope with the economic fallout of that). I realize the chances of that are slim to none.

        But there need to be consequences, because Russia has broken the most fundamental rule of post-World War II international law: that it is illegitimate to acquire territory by conquest or to change national borders by conquest. (Israel has broken the same rule, which is a major factor in my strong critiques of it’s actions.) The similar principle of international relations, that war for aggressive rather than defensive purposes, was blatantly flaunted by the US in Iraq and was a huge part of why I found that war so egregious.

        When a country openly treats war as a way of gaining strategic advantage – rather than defending itself, an ally, or a neutral party – it implicitly threatens the entire world by breaking the implicit agreement that countries will not just invade each other whenever they feel they can benefit from doing so. When a superpower does so, it’s exponentially more dangerous.

        The US did not face serious international consequences for the invasion of Iraq, and I believe that was a serious factor in emboldening Putin to take his current actions in Ukraine. Iraq created a “new reality” as the neocons wanted: that a superpower can do what it wants. Russia’s just following that logic. A line needs to be drawn if any country that’s not a superpower wants to have any security at all.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Maybe the Ukrainians should kill more Russians as they’re worshipping at church?Report

  12. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I’ve now read Putin’s speech (but not the Q&A). Color me underwhelmed.

    I’m tempted to call the Vikram Bath Analogy Police, but most people have already covered why their are holes in the construction of Norstrand. (including the addendum). (and I rather like analogies, in fact). Suffice it to say there are enough devils in the details (like, for instance, we would now ‘give up’ Puerto Rico if they voted for it), to make any mirror image a funhouse one.

    On the speech itself, nothing Putin said in his speech is anything new from what he and other assorted characters have been saying since 1991. Heck, Hugo Chavez made his bones on such speeches. (and of course, characters like Castro and Mugabe have been banging the same drum since even before the Cold War was over, and kept right on doing so). And the history. Oh, the bad history. It makes Rush Limbaugh’s children book series look like Walter Cronkite reporting.

    So, needless to say, it doesn’t have my vote for speech of the year.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kolohe says:

      Chavez? Venezuela?

      That’s really all that Russia and Putin matter?

      Of course it’s bad history, but that’s not even relevant.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James Hanley says:

        I’m saying that if no one has heard similar cri de coeurs over the last twenty years (many of which given by Putin himself) why would anyone listen to it now? Especially when Russia’s power is at its low point under Czar Vlad Numero Uno?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        I read those two speeches as related, but substantively different. The realist view has become much more pronounced, the emphasis on the lawlessness of the U.S. is much more pronounced, he’s shifted from saying the unipolar world hasn’t really happened to saying unipolarity is the cause of instability in the world.

        And despite his bad history and his self-serving interpretations of events–and how much of a realist speech would it be if he didn’t take that approach?–the basic truth about the U.S. and unipolarity is not wrong, and its truth is not going to be lost on the world beyond our borders.

        The U.S. media are already saying Putin has made a strategic error in speaking so rudely about the U.S. The U.S. media, as usual, are predominantly dimwitted morons unable to see this from other than a rah rah yay America perspective. I know that’s not your perspective, but I think by comparisons to Chaves you’re underplaying the significance. Venezuela was a pain, but we weren’t afraid to act against it. The Russian bloc may have only 1/10 the economic strength of the western bloc, but we’re scared to act against them.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James Hanley says:

        There hasn’t been any mainstream headline coverage of this speech that I am aware of – ebola and isis and tng shirts are the only foreign policy stories that have floated to the top of the daily cycle over the last couple of weeks. (The only place I saw cover the Hungary Internet tax was John Fishin Oliver) So I don’t thin this speech is making any contemporaneous waves.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        here, here, here, here, and here. And then there’s here, suggesting the speech deliberately was ignored by some of the media. Also, The Economist.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:


        I read those two speeches as related, but substantively different. The realist view has become much more pronounced, the emphasis on the lawlessness of the U.S. is much more pronounced, he’s shifted from saying the unipolar world hasn’t really happened to saying unipolarity is the cause of instability in the world.

        Well put. I agree. I agree with the rest of your comment, too. It’s what I was vaguely hinting at somewhere else on this thread, but lacked the ability to clearly articulate.

        +1 to the whole thing!

        I guess I view the speech as something of a departure (perhaps even a radical departure) from the norms governing contemporary (post WWII, say) international relations, where the US is accorded an extraordinary amount of deference. In this speech, Putin, as you summarize, criticizes the US and allies (correctly, seems to me) for creating the instability that (circularly) drives the continuation and resulting justification of policies intended to preserve the US’ role as global superpower. I think the distinction between Putin’s speech and stuff Chavez has said is (maybe) in the depth of negative critique as well as the target. Putin isn’t bitching so much as pointing things out and asserting that given those facts, he – and other national leaders – are gonna act in entirely predictable ways.Report

  13. NobAkimoto NobAkimoto says:

    I have to join the chorus of people not impressed by the speech. Putin’s always had this sort of “alternative to the unipolar order” style cri de coeur, generally hinged around the indispensibility of a non-US centre of power in the world system, but that’s all it is. It’s talk, by a declining power, not much better off in the new global rankings of states than the UK or France, trying to reassert that its classification as a Great Power isn’t an error.

    Now, perhaps it’s not fair that the international norms seem to be pushing in the direction of minimizing US global hypocrisy as opposed to Russian hypocrisy, and that raison d’etat seems to be treated differently by western states when conducted by a member of the OECD rather than a member of the BRICs. What else is new?Report

  14. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I think that a substantial fraction of the American people would be pushing for some kind of rebuke to Russian “meddling” and supporting the Crumyan drive for independence. These voices would, of course, be echoed by interventionists in Congress; I have no doubt that Senator McCain would be pushing “arm the rebels” rhetoric endlessly. That said, I think the American response would be very different to the events that happen next.

    In particular, the US media and public would be very skeptical of government statements that paint the Norstrandians (who still mirror the US racial and religious demographics) as neo-fascists aiming to establish a genocidal state. Especially after the Norstrand election yields a tiny minority of votes to the fringe neo-fascists parties. Yes, the US president would portray himself as a democratic redeemer, but I don’t think the American public would buy it (again, this is crucially because the Norstrandians are also WASPs). Likewise, if an “arm the rebels” strategy did go ahead, the public would not support a clandestine operation with American troops concealing their US ties; and it would quickly turn on the US government after a passenger flight passing over Norstrand was shot down by these rebels.

    I think this is due in part to the liberal ideals of the American people, as well as a highly motivated opposition in Congress, and an independent press.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to trizzlor says:

      @trizzlor A lot of it would hinge on the coup. If they’re going from democracy to democracy, why the coup? Why do they expect different results? There are good and bad answers to these questions.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Will Truman says:

        If they’re going from democracy to democracy, why the coup?

        This is a good point, but I think it’s important to note that Norstrand is a fledgling democracy without effective checks & balances. Many former leaders are sitting in jail and a former president on tape ordering the assassination of a journalist who was then beheaded. A coup is basically how you get corrupt people out of power in Norstrand (and, yes, sometimes into power).

        But my point is that Prof. Hanley’s analogy is focusing on the wrong problem. There’s nothing wrong with the US advocating for Crumyan sovereignty, encouraging democratic elections, even funding opposition leaders. If Russia doesn’t like it, perhaps they can put a chill on some other agreement we need make us rethink which is more important. That’s how global politics works.

        What would be wrong is if the US sends in a clandestine army, takes over the Crumyan media, stages an election where the only options are “yes” and “absolutely!”, rigs the outcome, continues to support rebels outside of Crumya that shoot down a passenger jet, and then covers up the crime scene. Whatever your opinion of the American public, any single one of these acts would be inexcusable to the president’s opposition and the media. There would certainly be resignations, if not outright impeachment. Which is to say, a savvy US president simply wouldn’t do these things.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        I agree with your first two paragraphs, trizzlor. As for the third – the US has sent in forces (overt or covert) in order to remove governments that did things it didn’t like many times in its history, under less provocation than “Norstrand” is giving it. It has supported (and does support) plenty of dictators. If the rebels it was backing shot down a passenger jet, it would just say they were a different group of rebels, unaffiliated with the people it was supporting (see: American support for the Syrian rebels followed by outrage at ISIS).

        A savvy US president would have much better PR/propaganda, and be much less obvious about it than Putin has been, but none of those actions with regard to Norstrand would be particularly unprecedented. Eisenhower overthrew the elected governments of both Iran and Guatemala and is remembered as a good, moderate, responsible US president. Reagan backed terrorists in Nicaragua and death squads in El Salvador and is lionized. None of those countries did anything more than have political movements the US didn’t like, and jeopardize US economic interests in their countries. HW Bush invaded Panama to remove a president for drug trafficking, when that president’s primary partners in said drug trafficking had been the CIA, and HW Bush is treated even by Democrats as one of the good, moderate, responsible Republicans. And that’s without even getting into Vietnam (which was mainly on the Democrats, lest it seem like I’m singling out the Republicans here).Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Will Truman says:

        You’re correct to point out that US presidents had a lot more leeway for an undemocratic foreign policy up to the fall of the USSR. Perhaps this is how Russia sees us now and why they’re more comfortable with clandestine and undemocratic tactics. But Iran/Contra was prosecuted and Panama (or any operation since) didn’t include any of the things I mentioned, which I find to be an important trend.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

        Whatever your opinion of the American public, any single one of these acts would be inexcusable to the president’s opposition and the media. There would certainly be resignations, if not outright impeachment

        I’m far less sanguine.

        Iran/Contra was prosecuted

        Misdemeanors, probations, pardons, reversed convictions, a handful of felonies with the longest prison sentence served being 16 months. Source. Yay, America!Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yay, America!

        I think you miss my point: America 30 years ago was still better at investigating clandestine operations than Russia today.Report

  15. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I think my creds as a foreign policy realist, unencumbered by the inconvenient anchors of ideology or principle, are fairly well established. Around these parts I’m the guy who asks, “so what if ISIS forms an actual autonomous state? Wouldn’t we be able to live with that?”

    So whether the U.S. would or should tolerate encroachment by Russia into Norstrand is a wholly different question than whether the U.S. should or can do much of anything about Russian encroachment into Ukraine. Don’t try and trap me into the foolish and deadly game of principled foreign policy decision-making. That kind of thinking is what done got us dragged into the Vietnam, what that is.Report

    • as a foreign policy realist, unencumbered by the inconvenient anchors of ideology or principle

      Not sure if you meant it this way but this reminds me of a remark a professor made in an intro to international relations class, so-called “Realism” is very good name selection on the part realists. After all, who wouldn’t want the positive associations with the word realistic?

      But of course realism in an international relations context constitutes a set of assumptions, definitions, and areas of focus like any other school of thought in the field. Like any theory, decisions have to be made about what to foreground and what to leave in the background. Realism being just another school of thought in international relations just as constructivism is a school of thought.

      To self-identify as a realist is to highlight precisely your chosen theory’s “anchors of ideology or principle”, not to announce that you don’t have said anchors. And it is very much arguable whether realism’s outlook constitutes either an accurate analytic description of the (present-day) international system or provides wise prescriptions for foreign policy.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Creon Critic says:

        I’m something of a realist in IR terms (although I don’t think it’s completely explanatory by any stretch of the imagination). But it’s true that “realism” is more a clever marketing slogan than a demonstrably accurate descriptor.

        Still, I do think our friend, Burt, had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.Report

      • With sobriety, I do agree with the general “realist” proposition that insistence on uniformity of principle is likely to wind up doing more harm than good. So the basic position that we might analogously construct a mirror image of the Russia/Ukraine situation strikes me as at best as only partially possible, and even destined to be of limited utility.Report

  16. Avatar Matty says:

    What I find fascinating is while in the end the analogy appears to be to Ukraine there are so many places it could be. Honestly when I read “The ethnic Americans are a minority, in Norstrand, but constitute a majority in the Crumyan province, which also contains the U.S.’s largest naval base in the Pacific, a strategically critical asset.” I thought we were discussing Ireland.Report