From TPM Reader VI …
Regarding your post today about Russia – it should not at all be underestimated despite weak economy and diminished status. I wrote to you in August of 2008 during Russia’s incursion into Georgia, saying that they also have ideas for Crimea and the Baltic states. You actually published my comment during those days.
Russia’s foreign policy is almost completely driven by paranoia of its leaders and not through strategy or calculation for their rational interests. The attempted attack on US election was a retaliation based on Putin’s belief that Russian political opposition was/is entirely funded and organized by United States. State Department more specifically, and Hillary Clinton even more specifically.
Invasion of Ukraine was a response to an anti-Russian, US-organized Ukrainian revolution, as perceived by Putin. One consequence of that was the shooting down of Flight MH-17. That could have just as easily been a US jet filled with Americans. And United States would then have to respond to a terrorist attack perpetrated by Russia against United States.
Russia has used its air force to bomb civilian population in Syria which sent hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees into western Europe. This was done quite intentionally – and has helped cause Brexit as well as a real threat of destabilization of the European Union as a whole.
The threat from Russia is that it acts irrationally and possesses enough modern weapons to be very dangerous. The United States must treat Putin as a dangerous paranoid that he is. Push back and hard. Appeasing a paranoid or assuring that his paranoia is unfounded does not work – it just makes things worse.
It probably goes without saying that there’s stuff here I do not agree with. But I don’t think it’s that far actually from what I wrote earlier. Radically diminished power, paranoia and lots of heavy weaponry is dangerous. As I wrote, I have a pretty dark view of contemporary Russia as a global actor. But I don’t think we can understand the situation or act on it wisely without appreciating both the recklessness and aggression and the weakness. Indeed, it’s the radical loss of power, international prestige and geopolitical influence which drives much of the aggressive behavior.