One problem with spending decades cultivating fear among friends, foes and everyone in-between, is that success means you rarely get the truth. Sometimes, when the stars align and happenstance smiles on you, the truth is consistent with what everyone thinks you'd like to hear. In such cases, you're happy and those around you relieved. More often than not, though, people who've succeeded in becoming universally feared exist in an echo chamber of their own making. They can't escape confirmation b
7 thoughts on “Cartoon Tyrant”
It would certainly be an ironic twist of fate if the failure of Putin’s apoplectic demands for buffer regions is what ultimately transforms Russia itself into yet another Chinese buffer region.
I don’t know that China even has an off-ramp, here. They can’t really break with Putin as they don’t want the risk of political instability in Russia (not to mention the energy deals), but even taking an approach of feigned neutrality as with NK risks sanctions which would torpedo the economic growth that the ruling class’s power is predicated on. How long can China launder the economies of ostracized regimes before it reaches a tipping point for western democracies? How long will China be able to present itself as a neutral arbiter, even as its military buildup speeds ahead and the nationalism it’s fostered at home intensifies?
Ya know, this reminds me so much of the late-Roman period. As Rome faced a multitude of external threats and internal corruption, its borders shrunk, and the center of power moved east, to Constantinople. For a while, Constantinople was the center of the most powerful trading nation in the known world. Yet its ideology — orthodox christianity — was a pariah. It lost every ally it couldn’t hold through force or bribe, and faced constant pressure from the militant masses of competing, less hierarchical ideologies at its borders.
I wonder if this is another of history’s rhymes. Soviet ideology moved east, altered a bit, fused with the local ideology — “socialism with chinese characteristics,” you might say — resurgent for a time, yet ultimately susceptible to the same fatal weaknesses as its forebear: a byzantine theocracy.
How long can China…. ? As long as they offer up their natural resources and slave labor to our corporations, the Chinese atrocities will remain an internal matter. Xi and Saddam – no difference.
Yeah, but it involves balancing on a razor’s edge. The nationalism and economic growth that mollifies China’s billion places divergent demands upon its foreign policy. On one hand, it must act like a gentleman (as H points out) in order to continue its trade relationships with the West, on the other, it must push a degree of xenophobia and nationalist revanchism in order to keep the eyes of that billion looking outwards for its problems instead of inwards.
Putin had the same constraints, and he balanced it well until a month ago.
“…it must push a degree of xenophobia and nationalist revanchism in order to keep the eyes of that billion looking outwards for its problems instead of inwards.” Yes sir, and we have razor dancers too. When will we realize that Chinese, Russians, Arabs, Jews and most people of all the world’s cultures just want to live a moderate life in peace and reject all the hate monger bs that feeds the greedy war machine. Probably never, best we can do is disempower our local razor dancers.
Lots of ironies here. Recently, Trump was quoted as saying that he was a bit jealous of Putin because he could kill anyone he didn’t like any time he felt like it. Trump could only fire his detractors and other “losers.” The irony, of course, is that Trump was probably right about Putin and the fear of such easy retribution from the boss makes sure he won’t get bad news. Imagine the death toll if Trump had had that kind of power.
I think China can buy oil and other commodities from Russia without much Western backlash. The West actually needs China to do so, as otherwise Russia’s supply would effectively be removed from the market, sending prices higher than Western countries want.
China doing so by funneling USD/EUR to Russia at large scale would invite backlash, but both China and Russia have reasons to want to trade in yen.
Russia may not like becoming China’s quasi-captive supplier, but it will want to eventually replace much of the West’s technology, industrial goods, and consumer goods with Chinese substitutes. Military hardware uses lagging-edge semiconductors which China can supply, IT systems can use Huawei instead of Cisco, Linux instead of Windows, etc.
If you’re Xi, recalibrating your plans to take over Taiwan, securing a captive commodities supply that is being the reach of Western sanctions is probably valuable enough to justify the PR hit.
H-Man, the “nothing to lose” card Putin currently holds is the scary card. Right now he needs a win and to get that win, he holds all of those cards. Reduce Ukrainian cities to ruble which has been done but we are talking about obliteration via shelling and starvation; or throw some Syrian gas on a couple of cities; or finally drop a tactical nuke on some village. If he goes with Syrian gas or a nuke, he has bigger problems and no hole cards with a questionable win. Obliterate Ukrainian cities seems to be the hole card that will generate the “win” and “freedom” for eastern Ukraine. His approval rating in Russia is higher than at any other time during his rule.